Every Tuesday during the NFL season, Colin puts out his Herd Hierarchy Top 10 NFL power rankings, and this week, the Steelers and Eagles drop down; the Seahawks and Chargers drop out; and there’s a new #1.
Here’s the Top 10 after Week 15:
10. Baltimore Ravens – Baltimore is fighting for a playoff spot at 8-6, and Colin likes their coaching and defense. The Ravens have 15 Takeaways in their last 5 games (most in the NFL), and offensively, the recipe is simple, run the ball and hope Joe Flacco doesn’t throw picks. They’re 7-0 when they run the ball at least 27 times (1-6 otherwise), and 0-4 when Flacco throws multiple INT’s (8-2 otherwise). If the Ravens can get in, they can play the Patriots tough in Foxboro.
9. Dallas Cowboys – The Cowboys come in at 9, and get Ezekiel Elliott back from a 6-game suspension just in time for a late playoff push. Dallas is 7-1 when they run the ball at least 30 times, and should be ready to feed Zeke down the stretch. In Dak Prescott’s career, his Passer Rating is over 25 points higher with Elliott in the lineup. A healthy Dallas can make some noise if they get into the postseason.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jacksonville clinched a playoff berth with a blowout win over the Texans, and have been dominant defensively. They lead the NFL with 51 Sacks, haven’t allowed a Passer Rating of 90 yet this year, and haven’t allowed a Completion Percentage of 60 in 9 straight games. Blake Bortles has been playing the best football of his career with a 128.6 Passer Rating in his last 3 with 7 TD’s, and 0 INT’s. On the year, the Jags are 8-0 when Bortles doesn’t throw a pick. Jacksonville is for real, but will likely have to win games at Pittsburgh and New England in the playoffs, which is a brutal road.
7. Carolina Panthers – The Panthers come in at 7 after ruining Aaron Rodgers comeback party. Cam Newton has still been all over the map, with up and down QB ratings of 71.0, 120.4, 59.8, 107.5, 64.9, then 128.0 in his last 6 games. Carolina’s D has only been allowing 25.4 points per game over their last 5 games, which is a bad sign because the offense isn’t built to win shootouts.
They’re the only NFC team with a pass rushing duo totaling 10+ Sacks each (Julius Peppers & Mario Addison). Colin loves the roster, but still has concerns about Cam’s consistency, especially in the playoffs.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers had their hearts ripped out against New England, and likely lost home-field advantage in the process. It’s not all bad news for Pittsburgh. Despite a nightmare end to his Sunday, Big Ben has a 101.7 Passer Rating over his last 9 games, and it was the first Steelers loss when Le’Veon Bell had at least 100 Scrimmage Yards since Week 10, 2016.
Colin is concerned about the defense since Ryan Shazier was injured. They’ve allowed 5.36 Yards/Rush over their last 3 including 5 rushing TD’s. To make it to the Super Bowl, they’ll have to go through New England, which has historically been a house of horrors.
5. Philadelphia Eagles – Nick Foles proved Colin right with a capable first start replacing Carson Wentz against the Giants. Foles had a 107.9 Passer Rating on 3rd Down and a 124.0 Red Zone Passer Rating. Philly has stepped back defensively, allowing touchdowns on 81.8% of their opponents Red Zone trips over their last 3 games, after only allowing 48.0% thru their 1st 11. They’re also allowing opponents to convert on 48.6% of 3rd Downs in their last 3 after only allowing 28.6% thru their 1st 11. the Eagles aren’t as good without Wentz, but they’re still good.
4. New Orleans Saints – Colin is still buying the Saints as a Super Bowl contender. With a newfound running game, Drew Brees has posted an NFL leading 10 100+ Passer Rating games this season. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram are just the 2nd RB duo in NFL history to each have 1,300 Yards from scrimmage and 10 TD’s in a single season. They’ve also totaled 100 Yards from scrimmage in the same game 4 times (most by any RB duo since 1985).
In the 2 games since rookie corner Marshon Lattimre returned to the lineup, the pass defense has only allowed 2 Pass TD’s, and an opposing QB rating of 48.8, while forcing 5 INT’s. with Lattimore out of the lineup, they were allowing a Passer Rating of 108.6. The Saints are dangerous and could win it all.
3. New England Patriots – New England likely clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win in Pittsburgh thanks to superior situational awareness (and luck), but Tom Brady has struggled in his last 3 games, with 4 INT’s, a 75 Passer Rating, and only 2 touchdown passes.
As a team, New England has failed to gain 400 Yards of offense in their last 2 games, after gaining 400+ in 5 of their previous 6. The pass defense has also allowed an opposing Passer Rating of 111.4 in their last 2 games, after allowing an average passer rating of 75.4 during their 8-game win streak.
Even if there are some bad trends, the road to the Super Bowl is now headed through Foxboro. Belichick and Brady will be ready.
2. Los Angeles Rams – The Rams boat raced division rival Seattle in what Colin called a changing of the guard in the NFC West. MVP candidate Todd Gurley is 2nd in the NFL with 1,817 Total Scrimmage Yards and a league-high 17 TD’s. Jared Goff has thrown multiple TD passes in 4 straight games. L.A. also leads the NFC in sacks in their last 4 games with 19. The Rams are more than a great story. They have playmakers everywhere, and are a legit threat to win it all.
- Minnesota Vikings – The Vikings grab the top spot for the first time since a hot start last season thanks to the best defense in the NFL. They rank in the Top 3 in Scoring Defense, Total Defense, Rush Defense, Pass Defense, and 3rd Down Defense, and have been getting more than enough offensive support from Case Keenum and their rushing attack.
Since Week 10, Keenum leads the NFL with a 111.0 Passer Rating, and the Vikings are 8-0, on the year, when running it at least 30 times (0-3 otherwise). Minnesota is the best team in the NFL after 15 weeks.