Carolina Panthers (15-1) - Previously: #1 - The playoffs are underway, and we were treated to three great games thus far. I hope you were able to bundle up with your loved one on a comfy couch and enjoy the action together like these two:
The Panthers, of course, sat out the first weekend, but will have the unenviable task of trying to beat Seattle for the second time in a single season. Carolina may want to consult this year's Rams squad, because they're the only team to beat the Russell Wilson-led Seahawks twice in one year. Seattle is 6-0 in its other six same-season revenge games.
Arizona Cardinals (13-3) - Previously: #2 - The Cardinals, meanwhile, better not get too cocky. They thrashed the Packers back in Week 16, 38-8. They may automatically assume that they'll clobber the Packers again, meaning they could be caught off-guard. Think about it - if you just absolutely destroyed a team a few weeks ago, where is the motivation to muster enough energy to defeat them again? Also, these Bruce Arians-led Cardinals haven't enjoyed any postseason success. Despite this, they're expected to win by more than a touchdown over a Green Bay team that has suddenly found its groove. Sounds like trouble to me.
Seattle Seahawks (11-6) - Previously: #3 - The media dubbed the Seahawks as the "team no one wants to play." Well, it definitely looked like the Vikings wanted a piece of them. And they would've won if Ray Finkle, I mean Blair Walsh drilled a 27-yard field goal.
The media and public loves Seattle, but the team hasn't been very impressive. Sure, I watched its blowout victory over Arizona, but the Cardinals didn't try because they knew the Panthers would beat the Buccaneers. Prior to the Arizona game, the Seahawks lost to the Rams and had trouble putting the Browns away. I'm afraid that they shot their wad in Week 17.
New England Patriots (12-4) - Previously: #4 - The Patriots obviously had a bye, so there isn't much to say about them. It's unclear how healthy they're going to be, so speculating even seems like a waste of time...
...Or is it? I found this nugget Sunday night on Twitter:
It's nice to know that Bob Kraft is dating someone in his age range for once. And by age range, I mean 18-100. A very reasonable age range for any man, and I'm absolutely positive that Kraft and this hot blonde chick have plenty of things in common. Because that's what's most important.
At any rate, I think this is a very reasonable source. In fact, I'd trust her more than Adam Schefter. That's because horny old men will tell hot chicks anything. Seriously. If a hot chick approached me and offered to do naughty things to me, it would take me all of about five seconds to give her my social security number.
Denver Broncos (12-4) - Previously: #5 - On the Picks Podcast, I said that I thought Al-Jazeera was a terrorist cell. I felt pretty dumb, but then this made me feel better about myself:
It's great to know that I'm not the dumbest person on Earth.
Oh, and are you ready for one final wild ride? This might just be the last time we get to bet against Peyton Manning in an inevitable playoff choke job. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms did a great job of talking up Manning while rubbing each other's nipples in Week 17, citing that Manning's checkdowns and hand-offs were soooo impressive. "We talked about it, Jim. We talked about how Manning is better at handing the ball off, Jim. And we talked about how we talked about that we talked about when we talked about that we talked about Peyton Manning, Jim, that's what we talked about, Jim," Simms said while Nantz splooged all over his microphone.
Simms' eight "talked abouts" and Nantz's semen has to be worth at least a field goal in spread value, right?
Green Bay Packers (11-6) - Previously: #9 - Are the Packers back? I'm torn, honestly. And I say "honestly" even though I hate it when people say "honestly" and "to be honest." Why isn't that a given? I would never trust anyone who says that. I guess that means I don't trust myself. Oh well.
At any rate, where was I? Oh yeah, I'm honestly torn on the Packers, honestly, to be honest. Was what we saw against the Redskins legit? Part of me wants to say no, as we've seen the Packers beat up on bad and average teams, even when they were struggling, and the Redskins were an above-average team for sure. On the flip side, even when the Packers were winning, Rodgers didn't seem all that confident. That changed at Washington, as Rodgers seemed to retain his swagger. And trust me, I'm a guy who knows a thing or two about swagger, to be honest.
Pittsburgh Steelers (11-6) - Previously: #8 - Man, it's difficult to rank the Steelers. If Ben Roethlisberger is definitely hurt and nowhere near 100 percent, and if Antonio Brown is concussed, they should be at the bottom of this list. If both are healthy, well, this is where they should be. There's just no way of knowing their conditions right now.
By the way, congratulations to anyone who made it out of the Steelers-Bengals without a brain hemorrhage. Listening to Jim Nantz and Phil Simms made my ears bleed quite a bit, but I somehow survived.
With that in mind, I found this exchange hilarious:
Jason Henson was obviously offended by this, as he is most definitely deaf if he thinks Nantz and Simms are great. Nantz is annoying sometimes when he either rubs his nipples upon watching Peyton Manning throw or whines about the fans doing stuff, but Simms is the worst. The absolute worst. He'll go out of his way to defend the officials, even if they make the worst calls ever, and he says dumb things like, "The tables have switched," and "If you get a personal foul, and you get kicked out of the game, what's the word for that? 'Not very smart.' That's the word."
The word is that Simms is not very smart. Ha! Looks like the tables have switched, Simms. The tables have switched like they've never switched before.
Cincinnati Bengals (12-5) - Previously: #6 - This poor girl is going to be a meme for the rest of her life:
That said, I don't blame her. The Bengals threw a victory away because of the Jeremy Hill fumble and the dual personal fouls. However, some horribly biased officiating didn't help matters. How the Ryan Shazier hit on Giovani Bernard wasn't ruled a penalty on a defenseless receiver, I have no idea. And the Joey Porter thing was mystifying. Had a Cincinnati assistant ran onto the field, the refs would've thrown their flags instantly.
I feel for the Bengals. I really do. They got screwed big time. People want to blame Marvin Lewis, but I can't. If I were playing my arch rival, and they were getting away with the same cheap, dirty things my team was being flagged for, I'd be pretty pissed, too.
Minnesota Vikings (11-6) - Previously: #7 - Poor Minnesota fans. If the Vikings make it into the playoffs, they'll find a way to suffer a crushing loss to torture their supporters.
Because of this, I'm going to be nice to Viking backers this week. They have one of the most passionate fan bases in the NFL. They are also the most polite:
I imagine this person was very close to not underlining the "NOT" in that sign because they thought it might be too mean.
Kansas City Chiefs (12-5) - Previously: #10 - Some may say the Chiefs' key to victory was the kickoff return. Others will opine that the defense was primarily responsible. A few crazy lunatics may even think Alex Smith was the No. 1 factor.
None of these are correct, however. The main reason why the Chiefs prevailed was that they signed a certain intoxicated quarterback this week, and no, I'm not talking about Billy Manziel...
The Adventures of Derek Anderson's Magic Flask!
Derek Anderson: I thought I was on the Panthers. Why did the Chiefs sign me? Ah well, it's 9 a.m., so better begin drinking. Hey, you, want to drink?
Brian Hoyer: Oh boy, oh boy, I can't, I have an important football game coming up! It's the playoffs!
Derek Anderson: F*** that. Playoff shmayoffs. That's how I approach football, and I've had a job for more than a decade!
Brian Hoyer: Ehhh, I don't know...
Derek Anderson: I even brought a friend! Look, it's this guy Billy I met in Vegas!
Brian Hoyer: Johnny! It's been a while. And I love your new wig! You supplanted me, so you must know something, so I guess I'll drink with you guys!
*** Ten minutes later ***
Brian Hoyer: Oohh mamamnn soooo wasstteedd hic. I waaas dodoingg soomemthtinn immporttnant whahtt wasss I dodoingngng?
Billy: Dontt yoouu goott a apllayufoff ggamammaeee/?? Bbyy thehw waayay I'mm Billyly anndnd I havvee blloddnnd hhaaiiri.
Brian Hoyer: Oohh yeyeaahahh, goooddo callll Biillyly hic. I'mm pllaayuiingn thhre Chhiefss. I likkee Errirc Bberry beeecuauase heee beaatt canncner anndd I llikeke berrrieiss sooo I'mmmg goonngna thhtrorow to himmmm hic!
Washington Redskins (9-8) - Previously: #12 - Whenever I noted that the Redskins hadn't beaten a single team with a winning record this year, some idiot commenter who goes by the anonymous moniker of "Walter is still a Moron" responded by saying, "How many NFL teams even have winning records?" Umm... well, there were 12 in the playoffs; 11 if you don't count the Redskins, so Washington would have to beat one to advance. And they didn't. Looks like "Walter is still a Moron" is the true moron after all. Ha! The tables have switched again!
Wait, what's that? We're cutting to a live feed of Kirk Cousins storming into the locker room. Let's see if he has one more "You like that?" for us...
Even though he's sad, it's nice to know that Cousins still has enough confidence to point fingers and stuff.
Houston Texans (9-8) - Previously: #13 - Facebook friend Jared P. posted this picture on my wall:
Bill O'Brien is the worst. He had Uncle Rico available behind Brian Hoyer, yet didn't make the change. I get that O'Brien was burned by Ryan Mallett, but Uncle Rico is so much better.
Two other things: First, a word on O'Brien, who was guilty of some awful play-calling. Matvei said it best: "That J.J. Watt Wildcat was straight up 8-year-old Madden OCing."
Second, there's no doubt that Houston will be drafting a quarterback early during the draft. Here's my 2016 NFL Mock Draft.
Something new this year - I'm keeping track of precise run defense, pass defense and pass protection rankings in Excel. The benefit to this is that it'll be broken down by week. Here are the download links: