Sports Strength

The Bengals Climb In Final NFL Power Rankings

By this time next week, the 102nd NFL regular season will have already come to a close. Beyond the novelty of being the first Week 18 in NFL history, this final slate of regular season games will be the final chapter of what’s been the most exciting playoff race the NFL has had in a long time. Below are our latest power rankings before we enter the last week of this NFL season.

1. Green Bay Packers (13-3)

Another Sunday means another win for the Packers. Because of their 37-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, they’ve officially clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC, giving them bye week during the Wild Card Round and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)

In order to regain the AFC’s No. 1 seed that they lost Sunday, the Chiefs’ defense has to rediscover its previous success after consecutive shaky outings against the Los Angeles Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals.

3. Los Angeles Rams (12-4)

At this point, the Rams have proven both their toughness and their talent. Riding a five-game winning streak, the Rams are fresh off a road win against a hungry Baltimore Ravens team that’s fighting for a playoff spot.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4)

Despite the bizarre mid-game departure of wide receiver Antonio Brown, during an unexpectedly close game against New York Jets, Tom Brady and Co. avoided all distractions by producing a last-minute game-winning drive.

5. Dallas Cowboys (11-5)

While it’s tempting to say “same old Cowboys” immediately after their 25-22 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, that response would be a mistake. The newly-crowned NFC East champion is closer to being the team we watched win their previous four games than the lackluster unit that took the field on Sunday .

6. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)

Every year, a dark horse makes a deep playoff run and emerges as a serious Super Bowl contender. This year, the Bengals seem poised to become that team. The young AFC North upstart just won their first division title in seven years and Joe Burrow and JaMarr Chase are already arguably the league’s most dynamic quarterback-wide receiver duo.

7. Buffalo Bills (10-6)

The Bills deserve a lot of credit for taking care of business during a snowstorm and defeating the pesky Atlanta Falcons. With a win this week, the Bills would clinch their second consecutive division title, which is essential for a chance at an extended postseason run.

8. Tennessee Titans (11-5)

For the first time in franchise history, the Titans have won the AFC South in consecutive seasons. Even better news: superstar running back Derrick Henry could be returning sooner rather than later.

9. New England Patriots (10-6)

Yes, the Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t the most imposing opponent, but the Patriots deserve some style points for beating them so thoroughly. Over the course of their 50-10 romp, the Pats offered a reminder that they’re still a dangerous squad, especially in the cold, hostile Gillette Stadium.

10. Indianapolis Colts (9-7)

The Colts may have blown their first chance to punch their ticket to the postseason, but they’re still in a good spot, having won six of their last eight games. One minor hurdles remains between them and the playoffs: a road date in Jacksonville, a place the Colts haven’t won a game since 2014.

Sports Strength

The Cowboys Are In The Top Three of Week 17 NFL Power Rankings

With two weeks remaining in the regular season, nearly every team’s future is now clear as day, with the only question being how will their season conclude? With several teams amid their final push towards the postseason or a high first-round pick in next year’s Draft, chaos is the only thing guaranteed at this time of the year. Below are our latest power rankings before entering Week 17 of this NFL season.

1. Green Bay Packers (12-3)

The Packers’ defense produced another stellar performance on Christmas as they forced Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield into four interceptions while also sacking him five times. Another highlight from their 24-22 victory was Aaron Rodgers finally becoming the franchise’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns (45).

2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)

Not only are the Chiefs maintaining their newfound success on defense, but they’re back to clicking on all cylinders on offense via with their 39 points per game average over their last three games.

3. Dallas Cowboys (11-4)

Fewer wins are more important and impressive than a pair of dominant wins over your most competitive divisional rival. The Cowboys had led by double-digits against the Washington Football Team in seven out of eight quarters, with that lone quarter happening in their first matchup in Week 14.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4)

As expected, the reigning Super Bowl champion let the next man step up, and they continued their path towards a championship repeat by handling the Carolina Panthers, 32-6.

5. Los Angeles Rams (11-4)

By winning their fourth consecutive game last Sunday, the Rams are now the leader in the NFC West and occupy the third seed in their conference. If anything, don’t rule them out of the race for the No. 1 seed!

6. Indianapolis Colts (9-6)

The surging AFC South competitor (winners of six out of their seven past games) continues to control their postseason destiny by winning a huge primetime game on the road against the Arizona Cardinals. To punch a ticket to the playoffs, the Colts will likely have to win out and eliminate the need for help from any teams.

7. Buffalo Bills (9-6)

The Bills are back in the position many expected them to be, and that’s leading the AFC East. At this point, the Bills have to maintain their lead in their division and aim to grab the AFC’s third seed when the playoffs arrive.

8. New England Patriots (9-6)

While their recent seven-game winning streak, and being the AFC’s No. 1 seed, might feel like a distant memory, the Patriots have the same record as their divisional rival, the Bills, who are the AFC’s fourth seed. If you were to ask anyone from the Patriots what they care about most right now, it’s making the playoffs by any means necessary.

9. Tennessee Titans (10-5)

The Titans showed a lot of resilience during their 20-17 comeback victory against the San Francisco 49ers last Thursday. Despite their season-long inconsistencies and injury problems, the Titans are now in contention for the first seed in the AFC as they’re currently second.

10. Arizona Cardinals (10-5)

As previously mentioned in last week’s rankings, the Cardinals have to figure out how quickly they can solve their recent struggles. Even with a playoff spot officially clinched, the former NFC West leader needs to right their ship before the playoffs arrive.

Sports Strength

The Packers Regain The Top Spot In Week 16 NFL Power Rankings

It may have taken longer than expected, but a team finally clinched a playoff spot! The Green Bay Packers, the NFC’s No. 1 seed and repeating NFC North champions, punched their ticket to the postseason last Sunday and the stage is set for more teams to join them this coming weekend. Down below are our latest power rankings before we enter Week 16 of this NFL season.

1. Green Bay Packers (11-3)

Although they’ve relatively flown under the radar, the Green Bay Packers have emerged as the best team in the league. In Week 15, Aaron Rodgers tied Brett Favre for most passing touchdowns in franchise history and helped his team seal up a NFC North division title.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)

For the third time in the last four seasons, the Chiefs are once again the AFC’s No. 1 seed. Interestingly, the Chiefs are fueled by a stingy defense while their usually high-octane offense has sputtered at times. At this rate, if the current AFC West leader remains at No. 1, they’ll be the favorite to make a Super Bowl appearance for the third consecutive season.

3. New England Patriots (9-5)

While all NFL fans outside of New England are happy about the team’s seven-game winning stream coming to an end last Saturday, the Patriots’ second-half performance was noteworthy. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones is as good as advertised, and the Patriots are still a threat in the AFC’s playoff picture.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-4)

The Buccaneers’ stunning 9-0 home loss against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night capped off a hectic Week 15, but there’s little need for them to panic. Despite losing star receiver Chris Godwin to a torn ACL, the Buccaneers will likely find a way to readjust and be fine come playoff time.

5. Dallas Cowboys (10-4)

Even with the looming cloud of the franchise’s recent postseason failures, the Cowboys are deservedly happy right now. They’ll clinch the NFC East with one more win and are currently the second seed in the NFC, riding an ongoing three-game win streak.

6. Los Angeles Rams (10-4)

The Rams are a living example of how fast things can change in the NFL. After going winless in November, they are back to playing winning football and could take the lead in the NFC West if they defeat the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday night.

7. Arizona Cardinals (10-4)

Over the course of a long season, every team—no matter how good—endures a tough stretch, as the injury-plagued Cardinals are quickly discovering. Arizona is undeniably a talented team, but now it’s a matter of whether they can right the ship with just three weeks remaining in the season—especially with a division title and higher playoff seeding on the line.

8. Indianapolis Colts (8-6)

Led by MVP contender running back Jonathan Taylor, the Colts are beginning to look dangerous, as evidenced by their 27-17 win against the Patriots. Although they’re in the driver’s seat to lock up a Wild Card berth, the Colts face a difficult end to the season, with games against Cardinals and Las Vegas Raiders in Weeks 16 and 17.

9. Los Angeles Chargers (8-6)

While the Chargers lost a heart-breaker to the Chiefs on Thursday night, they can at least take solace in the fact that their playoff positioning didn’t change at all. The AFC West competitor still holds one of their conference’s three wild-card spots along with tiebreaker advantages over other teams in that race.

10. Tennessee Titans (9-5)

At this point of the season, the Titans are looking at a half-full glass. On the positive side, they’re still in position to win the AFC South title. On the down side, though, they’re likely to be the third or fourth seed, which likely creates a matchup against the Colts, Chargers or Bills, three teams whose records belie their respective goodness.

Sports Strength

Which NFL Teams Are In Danger Of Missing The Playoffs?

Although it gets accepted that life in the NFL can change at any moment, teams aren’t always prepared for when it does. Whether it’s due to injuries, inconsistency, or a tough schedule, teams often regress throughout the regular season and can suffer the enormous consequence of missing the playoffs as a result of their failure.

As we enter Week 13 of the NFL season, which teams are currently in danger of missing the playoffs? Take a look down below at the five teams who qualify for this conversation.

Buffalo Bills (7-4)

Yes, the Bills certainly have enough talent to get back on track and reestablish themselves as a Super Bowl contender, but their remaining schedule doesn’t do them any favors. With just a one-game lead over three other teams in the AFC Wild Card race, the Bills face the daunting task of playing the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers three times within the next month. Even more concerning, they’ll be without All-Pro cornerback Tre’Davious White, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last week.

Dallas Cowboys (7-4)

The Cowboys are now involved in a closely-contested divisional race against Washington Football Team, who are not only playing better football than Dallas but are healthier and have a slightly easier remaining schedule. Having lost three of their last four games, the Cowboys desperately need to scrape together some wins if they want to salvage what’s quickly becoming a lost season.

San Francisco 49ers (6-5)

Immense credit has and will be given to the 49ers for turning their ship around and grabbing one of the NFC’s Wild Card spots, but their remaining schedule creates doubt about their chance of making the postseason. Four of their final six games are on the road and this slate includes contests against divisional rivals (Seahawks and Rams) and playoff-contending teams (Bengals and Titans).

Los Angeles Chargers (6-5)

The case against the Chargers making the postseason surrounds their inconsistency which has been horrid to watch. With three more playoff teams to face on their schedule, including the 7-4 Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday, the Chargers have the opportunity to strengthen their grasp on the AFC’s last Wild Card or lose it for good.

Indianapolis Colts (6-6)

Amongst the lower to middle-tier teams competing to make this year’s playoffs, the Colts have arguably the best chance to rise out of the muck and make the postseason. Other than possessing enough talent and coaching to win games, the Colts have given up leads or fallen short at the end of four games this season, most recently against the Buccaneers last Sunday. If they won at least two of those games, the Colts would be 8-5 and in line to win the AFC South division instead of looking from the outside at the AFC Wild Card race.

Sports Strength

Ranking The Five Best NFL On Thanksgiving Performances

As America prepares to watch Thanksgiving football that could be entertaining for the right or wrong reasons, there’s always a chance we’ll witness an exceptional performance on this holiday. As expected but forever appreciated, many big players have made Thanksgiving their center stage and created moments that ultimately defined their careers. Down below are our rankings of the five best Thanksgiving performances in the NFL.

1. Peyton Manning throws six touchdowns against the Lions, 2004 – If Manning, whose 49 touchdowns that year would break Dan Marino’s then all-time season record of passing touchdowns, throwing six touchdowns isn’t impressive enough, remember this: he did so within three-quarters of action against the Lions and completed 23 out of 28 passes.

2. Randy Moss catches three 50+ yard touchdowns on all three of his passes against the Cowboys, 1998 – There is a good chance that if you’ve watched any of Moss’s career highlights, you’ve seen the footage of him dismantling the Cowboys from this same game. It was already insane to watch Moss catch a touchdown for every catch he made but for them to be over 50 yards every time? Remarkable.

3. Barry Sanders rushes for 167 yards in a huge divisional win against the Bears, 1997 – More than any other player, Barry Sanders has made his mark on Thanksgiving and performances like this prove why. The NFL’s second-all-time rushing leader juked, sprinted and spun his way into 167 rushing yards and three touchdowns as his Lions dismantled the Chicago Bears, 55-20.

4. Tony Romo delivers five touchdowns in his sixth career start against the Buccaneers, 2006 – Playing on national television on Thanksgiving is already a massive deal, but in your sixth start as the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys? Tony Romo quickly proved he was a big-time player bay amassing five passing touchdowns and 306 yards in a 38-10 blowout victory.

5. Tom Brady receives a perfect passer rating against the Lions, 2010 – Yes, Brady’s overall performance against the Detroit Lions was spectacular because of his 341 passing yards and four touchdowns, but it’s rare for a quarterback to receive a perfect passer rating. That speaks to another level of efficiency and execution at the position, yet it’s not a surprise Brady accomplished that feat.

Sports Strength

Examining Jonathan Taylor’s Growing Support For NFL MVP

Throughout the years, it has required a literal historical performance and insane amounts of fan and media support, for non-quarterbacks to win NFL MVP. This truth is confirmed by recent non-quarterback MVP winners; running backs Shaun Alexander (2005), LaDanian Tomlinson (2006), and Adrian Peterson (2012) all only won the award after having historically great seasons. But with the wonkiness and unpredictability of this season, it seems possible that a non-quarterback could not only compete for it but easily win.

Colts’ running back Jonathan Taylor has emerged as the ideal candidate for the crowd who wants to see the MVP be given to a non-quarterback. After producing 204 total yards and five touchdowns in the team’s 41-15 upset win over the Buffalo Bills last Sunday, the second-year running back has the statistical production and on-field impact to claim the award.

To properly understand Taylor’s production requires an understanding of two key concepts. First, he’s highly productive despite splitting carries and playing time with his fellow running back, Nyheim Hines. And secondly, Taylor is massively efficient whenever he gets the ball, which sets him apart from Derrick Henry, the Tennessee Titans’ now-injured running back who is widely considered the gold standard at the position.

​​Minus last Sunday’s game, in which Taylor received 32 carries, there’s only one other game where the Wisconsin product carried the ball more than 20 times this season (Week 10 against the Jacksonville Jaguars). Until two weeks ago, Taylor received 15 carries per game but still nearly averaged 100 rushing yards and had surpassed the century mark in half of those games. And while he’s rarely used in the passing game, Taylor did notch a 100 receiving yard game against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 5.

Even though other MVP candidates have the luxury of playing on better teams than the Colts, Taylor carries a uniquely huge burden within his team’s offense that’s only matched by Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson. The Colts have won five of their last six games and it’s been Taylor’s performance that has set the tone in those victories, including a five-touchdown effort last week against the Buffalo Bills. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s now the league leader in rushing yards (1,122) and rushing touchdowns (13).

At this point of the season, the MVP race usually comes down to who has the most signature moments and wins. The combination of those two events leave a lasting imprint on those cheering, labeling, and most importantly, voting for the winner of this award. And in Taylor’s case, the Colts are beginning to rack up noticeable wins because of his highlight plays that are becoming the topic of conversations that involve this award.

Sports Strength

The Cardinals Regain The Top Spot Of NFL Week 12 Power Rankings

With Thanksgiving week officially here, this is the time to take stock of the NFL season as the season nears the home-stretch. And while some are in the holiday spirit because they’re thankful for their good fortune so far (Arizona Cardinals), others desire better results (Buffalo Bills). Down below are our latest power rankings before we enter Week 12 of this NFL season.

1. Arizona Cardinals (9-2) – Despite their two-game skid, the injury-plagued Cardinals proved their championship mettle last week by racking up a 23-13 divisional victory over the Seattle Seahawks. And the good news continues for NFC’s No. 1 seed: they have a bye this week, thus giving themselves and injured star QB Kyle Murray and WR DeAndre Hopkins additional time to recover.

2. Green Bay Packers (8-3) – Although there are no necessarily easy games in the NFL, contests against a divisional rival are especially difficult. As such, it’s hard to ding the Packers too much for dropping a game to the Minnesota Vikings, who are much better than their record suggests. But what matters most is that the Packers are still in charge of their division, and their conference’s top seed is still very much in play.

3. Tennessee Titans (8-3) – The only negative about the AFC South leader is their tendency to lose focus against bad teams. To lose the way they did against the now two-win Houston Texans will either serve as a huge reality check or cause a downward spiral.

4. Los Angeles Rams (7-3) – Although the term “must-win” is overused in sports, the Rams are playing a must-win game against the Green Bay Packers this Sunday. On every level, the NFC West competitor has to produce their finest performance yet and get back on track.

5. Dallas Cowboys (7-3) – Following their 19-9 loss against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, the Cowboys have to quickly address this trend of struggling against physical teams, as evident in their losses to the Chiefs and Denver Broncos. Moreover, in these recent losses, the Cowboys’ opponents were able to neutralize Dallas’s potent offense by controlling time of possession and the tempo of the game.

6. New England Patriots (7-4) – Just when millions of NFL fans thought the Patriots wouldn’t be in the playoff conversation for a couple of years at least, the Pats back in it and couldn’t have chosen a better time. While their schedule has a few tough matchups remaining (Twice against the Bills and a road game against the Colts), the Patriots have enough talent and coaching to continue their five-game winning streak.

7. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) – Three years into the Chiefs’ growing championship dynasty, they’ve finally reached that “a win is a win” stage. Regardless of who is leading the way, head coach Andy Reid and his team only care about winning, and that mentality is why they’re once again leading the AFC West.

8. Baltimore Ravens (7-3) – It’s impressive anytime you can win on the road in a tough environment without your best and most important player—on Sunday, the Ravens did just that, beating the Bears without Lamar Jackson. As witnessed in the AFC, there’s a vast difference between being 7-3 or 6-4 in a tight playoff race and for the Ravens to stay afloat? That’s big time.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3) – It wasn’t pretty, and at times it was downright concerning, but the defending champs won by 20 points at the end of the night against the New York Giants. If the Buccaneers want to send a message to the rest of the league, they’ll go into Indianapolis this Sunday and manhandle an emerging and confident Colts team.

10. Indianapolis Colts (6-5) – The Colts are winners of five out of their last six games, including two impressive road wins against San Francisco and Buffalo. The league’s hottest offensive player plays for them (running back Jonathan Taylor). And lastly, the Colts’ defense is the league leader in takeaways (25). If there’s ever a team to look out for in December and possibly January, it’s this one.

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The Colts Are Approaching A Crossroad With Carson Wentz

Ahead of their Week 9 game against the New York Jets, The 3-5 Indianapolis Colts are not only approaching a crossroad with the fate of their season, but with their $128 million dollar quarterback, Carson Wentz.

The Colts traded two draft picks to the Philadelphia Eagles for the quarterback back in February. Wentz was coming off of his worst season in the NFL, throwing only 16 touchdowns while committing 21 turnovers and having an abysmal 57% completion percentage.

Getty Images
Football: Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz (11) with offensive coordinator Frank Reich during game vs Denver Broncos at Lincoln Financial Field. Philadelphia, PA 11/5/2017 CREDIT: Rob Tringali

At the time of the trade, the sentiment around the Colts organization was that they’d be able to fix Carson Wentz — Colts head coach Frank Reich was held in high acclaim for coaching Wentz to a 2017 All-Pro season as the Eagles offensive coordinator.

Through seven games under Frank Reich this year, Wentz has only turned the ball over three times, while scoring 12 total touchdowns and completing 64% of his passes.

Although those numbers are hardly gaudy, the team has won three of their last four games and Wentz has been taking care of the football, seemingly taking the team in the right direction.

Then came the two-yard, left-handed, Hail-Wentz against the Tennessee Titans last week.

As bad as that interception was, the next one that he threw might’ve been even worse. On first down, Wentz unnecessarily threw into triple coverage, ignoring a wide-open Jonathan Taylor, the reigning AFC Player of the Month, in the process.

While Wentz deserves a majority of the blame for the turnovers, head coach Frank Reich has also made numerous questionable decisions. Notably, he had Wentz drop back 50 times, including on their own 2 yard-line, even though they were averaging four yards a carry with Jonathan Taylor throughout the game.

Nonetheless, this performance could be pinned as a vintage Carson Wentz debacle and as a reminder that Wentz still believes he’s superman — someone that can make any given play on the football field from the quarterback position. It’s a mindset that can work, when adopted carefully and strategically, but one that can be disastrous if not.

Additionally, we learned something rather interesting from his poor decision making last Sunday. It’s now obvious that Reich didn’t make Wentz into some special player in 2017; rather, Reich and Wentz were fortunate to succeed despite Wentz exhibiting many of the same bad habits that have been so costly during the last two years. Even on some his best plays in 2017, in which he threw for 3,500 yards and 33 touchdowns, there were those that could’ve went the wrong way.

Whether it be the playmakers around him at the time, higher levels of confidence due to job security, or just sheer luck, Wentz got away with holding onto the ball too long and forcing plays more often than not.

Granted, Wentz’ supreme talent is indeed what almost won him the MVP, and he has what it takes to lead the Indianapolis Colts to the places they want to go now as well. So far this season, he’s accounted for 15 total touchdowns and only six turnovers while amassing a 96.7 Quarterback Rating.

With it apparent that even Frank Reich cannot keep Carson Wentz from making boneheaded decisions though, the Colts now have to ask themselves if they’re all-in for what they signed up for. They have a quarterback capable of throwing for over 30 touchdowns and 3500 yards, like he did in 2017, but also a quarterback that can turn the ball over 20+ plus times like he did last year and potentially lose you football games like he did last week.

Is the Carson Wentz reward worth the very risk he presents? Time will tell.