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Flower Rankings: Week 12. The 12th Week. Twelvesies.

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Or, The Week Before The Week It Gets Intense

Jacksonville Jaguars v Denver Broncos
probably not for OPI
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

After 12 weeks of games, the playoff picture will clear up. Hahahaha no that’s clearly not the case in a league full of mediocre teams playing mediocre football in front of mediocre audiences drinking mediocre beer so they can forget about their mediocre lives. Really the only competent actors in the NFL right now are the referees.

(“mediocre” typed five times now looks like the weirdest word in our language)

Last week’s Flower Rankings lied to us, unabashedly and repeatedly. They like to keep you guessing. You were told that:

  • The Bills would deal the Patriots a setback. Instead, NE beat BUF for the 23rd time in 26 meetings. 23 out of 26! And the Niners thought they had it bad against us! (They still do. But holy moly. 23 out of 26.)
  • The Bengals would keep losing. Half right I guess.
  • The Browns would get their first win vs. the Jets. Cleveland led that game in the third quarter. New York only won by 3.
  • The Seahawks would roll into New Orleans and win the victory triumph.

Pretty much everything else was right, though. All the unimportant stuff.

Straight to conference rankings, and then to playoff predictions, and then to Super Bowl favorites.

AFC

The Best

The elite. The contenders. The crème de la crème. The possibly Superb.

1. PATRIOTS (10-1)

Now 7-1, Bye, vs. Seahawks, at 49ers, at Jets

Nobody is as good as the Patriots right now. Tom Brady is the MVP if he keeps anything close to his league-leading 9.8 Y/A and 10.68 ANY/A going. The Hawks will do well in Foxboro to just keep the game close, which they will, because Hawks. However, the Patriots will collectively outscore these foes 90-30 over the next month. Hate them. That’s actually in the charter here.

2. BRONCOS (9-2)

Now 6-2, at Raiders, at Saints, Bye, vs. Chiefs

Finally Denver’s schedule grows some teeth. I expect them to prevail in all three, humiliating Derek Carr in the process. Though the Chiefs could make things interesting because all KC does is win.

The Bourgeoisie

Playoff level teams whose station in life is comfortable enough. But they’re unlikely to rule the empire anytime soon.

3. CHIEFS (8-3), no change

Now 5-2, vs. Jaguars, at Panthers, vs. Buccaneers, at Broncos

Updating: The Chiefs are 15-2 in their last 17 regular-season games. Over the past 53 weeks, nobody has won more games than Alex Smith. If that changes with a home loss to the Jaguars, I’ll designate a random FG user to eat his or her hat. Volunteers?

4. RAIDERS (8-3), no change

Now 6-2, vs. Broncos, Bye, vs. Texans, vs. Panthers

The Oaklandy Raiders are 6-2 halfway through the season and have five home games remaining. They’ll be a wild-card team at worst.

(Some year for the Panthers to draw the AFC West rotation, huh. Shrug emoji.)

5. TEXANS (7-4), up three

Now 5-3, Bye, at Jaguars, at Raiders, vs. Chargers

Houston setting itself up to be the worst 3-seed in modern playoff history. No, the Seahawks are NOT racing the Texans to that distinction, don’t even think that. Why would you think that?

The Blinded by Parity

Because they’ve been deluded into thinking that 2016 could be their year.

6. STEELERS (6-5), up three

Now 4-3, at Ravens, vs. Cowboys, at Browns, at Colts

If it comes to this, I’d look out for this 9-7 playoff team. Not super clear that it will, however.

7. BILLS (6-5), down two

Now 4-4, at Seahawks, Bye, at Bengals, vs. Jaguars

The Bills, who I once loved, have given up 41, 37 and 28 points in their three division losses. Of course, they also shut out the pre-Brady Patriots. If they fall to 4-6 after a loss to Cincy, they should be sent to Vegas instead of the Raiders.

8. RAVENS (5-6), down two

Now 3-4, vs. Steelers, vs. Browns, at Cowboys, vs. Bengals

All three of their home division games are this month. They’ll win two. Solving absolutely nothing for the race. It’s almost like engineered parity makes the December games more meaningful.

9. CHARGERS (5-6), up two

Now 3-5, vs. Titans, vs. Dolphins, Bye, at Texans

The Chargers have the 10th-hardest schedule so far, a point differential of +13, more points per play and points per drive, an 11-point lead in passer rating differential. Philip Rivers’ ANY/A is 20 percent higher than opposing QBs.

They’ve outrushed their opponents by volume. Total yards caveat, but still impressive.

They’ve played the Broncos twice, plus the Falcons, Raiders and Chiefs.

Capper: They’re 11th in weighted DVOA, including top ten in both offense and defense.

The Chargers are good. Not at winning, but they’re good.

10. DOLPHINS (6-5), up two

Now 3-4, vs. Jets, at Chargers, at Rams, vs. 49ers

The Dolphins are better than three of teams on this slate. Suddenly, with the way they will manhandle the Rams mid-month, that last-minute win in Week 1 here doesn’t looks so pathetic.

11. TITANS (5-7), down four

Now 4-4, at Chargers, vs. Packers, at Colts, at Bears

The original Titans were Uranides. The NFL’s Titans are Urinades. Big difference.

The Beggars

All they’ll be choosing high in, is the 2017 draft.

12. BENGALS (4-6-1), no change

Now 3-4-1, Bye, at Giants, vs. Bills, at Ravens

Sit on a tie for two weeks, then travel again? Eww. If they really want to mess up the playoff picture, the Bengals’ll tie the Giants too.

13. COLTS (4-7), no change

Now 3-5, at Packers, Bye, vs. Titans, vs. Steelers

Colts still have away games left against the Packers, Jets, Raiders and Vikings. That mythical creature you see peeking its horn around the trunk of that tree? It’s the unicorn we call “A Tough Colts Schedule.” Glimpse it quickly — you’ll probably see Halley’s Comet before another one roams these woods.

15. JAGUARS (2-10), down one

Now 2-6, at Chiefs, vs. Texans, at Lions, at Bills

Oy.

14. JETS (3-8), up one even though it was the Browns

Now 3-5, at Dolphins, vs. Rams, Bye, vs. Patriots

Quick, name the two QBs who will start the Jets-Rams showdown.

16. BROWNS (0-12), no change

God only hates certain neighborhoods of Cleveland now.

NFC

The Best

The elite. The contenders. The crème de la crème. The possibly Superb.

1. COWBOYS (9-2), no change

Now 6-1, at Browns, at Steelers, vs. Ravens, vs. Redskns

From last week: “Four more weeks until Dak Prescott turns into a pumpkin. A pumpkin pie. On Thanksgiving. At home against a division rival. Until then? Wins.”

So far, Prescott is running a 116+ Y/A, a 120+ ANY/A, a 112+ rating, and a 4.5/1 TD/Int ratio. To, of course, go with 15 yards rushing a game and a TD every other week.

Rookie Russell Wilson posted 116+ Y/A, 114+ ANY/A, a 118+ rating, and a 2.6/1 TD/Int ratio. Supplemented by 31 yards rushing a game and a TD every four weeks.

So far, Prescott is another Wilson on the stat sheet. So far.

2. SEAHAWKS (7-3-1), up one by default

Now 4-2-1, vs. Bills, at Patriots, vs. Eagles, at Buccaneers

Even dropping two of these and slipping to 6-4-1 wouldn’t be that harmful to the Hawks’ division chances. The NFC West will be either won before Week 16 when Arizona visits, or on that day by one of the two teams.

But with Russell Wilson at five touchdown passes through seven games, with one offensive TD in the last 23 drives, with no wins the past two weeks, there is definitely cause for concern in Latteland.

At least that’s what some outsider would write.

Me, I’d present you with a paradox:

RW’s 91.5 rating is a career low. His sack rate is also at its lowest (half of what it was in 2013). His interception rate too: 0.8. His TD rate as well, obviously. His yards per game are at an all-time high. Because attempts are up, you guessed it, all-time high.

And yet, because quarterback play isn’t everything, thankfully, the Seahawks’ record is better through seven games than it was in 2012, 2014, or 2015.

I’d also overstay my welcome by presenting you the unfortunate trend apparent in the Hawks’ last five games:

  • Three-possession win
  • Two-possession win
  • One-possession win
  • Tie
  • One-possession loss

3. VIKINGS (8-3), down one

Now 5-2, vs. Lions, at Redskns, vs. Cardinals, at Lions

Sam Bradford hasn’t been good for a couple games. The rushing offense hasn’t filled the void. The defense stopped ball-hawking. Everyone is hurt.

The Vikings just lost by double digits to the Eagles, then the Bears.

Minny is 1-1 in the division with a Christmas Eve trip to Lambeau still looming.

This has been your reailty check moment.

The Bourgeoisie

Playoff level teams whose station in life is comfortable. But they’re unlikely to rule the empire anytime soon.

4. GIANTS (7-4), no change

Now 4-3, Bye, vs. Eagles, vs. Bengals, vs. Bears, at Browns

Even with the mild resurgence of the Bengals and Bears, the Giants will continue to march toward a playoff spot of indeterminate seeding.

5. FALCONS (7-4), no change

Now 5-3, at Bucs, at Eagles, Bye, vs. Cardinals

The defense gave up at least 26 points for the seventh time already. But Matt Ryan continues to chase the single-season passer rating mark, and that’s offense, so we care about that. He’s carrying a 115.8 into Week 9.

The top three ever are

  1. 2011 Aaron Rodgers, 122.5
  2. 2004 Peyton Manning, 121.1
  3. 2013 Nick Foles, 119.2

but you knew that already.

6. PACKERS (6-5), no change

Now 4-3, vs. Colts, at Titans, at Redskns, at Eagles

Your weekly Aaron Rodgers update: His legs work. Rodgers went 6-60-0 on the ground this week to raise his career rushing yards to 2,331. So?

Noted statue Russell Wilson has 2,474. Can Rodgers finally catch that little roadrunner this season? Tune in when they face off December 11.

The Blinded by Parity

Because they’ve been deluded into thinking that 2016 is their year.

7. LIONS (6-5), up two

Now 4-4, at Vikings, Bye, vs. Jaguars, vs. Vikings

Are they catching the Minnesota Vikings at the right time... twice? A split with Minnesota would will would will put Detroit right into the playoff picture and create a suspenseful three-team race in the NFC North.

8. REDSKNS (5-5-1), up two

Now 3-4-1, Bye, vs. Vikings, vs. Packers, at Cowboys

Copycats. Find your own way to not win. Shanked field goal. Please.

9. RAMS (almost 7-almost 9), down one

Now 3-4, vs. Panthers, at Jets, vs. Dolphins, at Saints

LA is in real danger of finishing 6-10. Banking those three early wins should help, though.

10. EAGLES (5-6), up one

Now 4-3, at Giants, vs. Falcons, at Seahawks, vs. Packers

Which one do they win, though? If they can pull two victories out of the bunch, they’ll stay in the race.

Research project for next week: find the record of each Philadelphia opponent at game time. Off the top of my head, the 0-1 Bears are the only sub-.500 team the Eagles have faced at the time.

11. CARDINALS (4-6-1), down four

Now 3-4-1, Bye, vs. Niners, at Vikings, at Falcons

Mathieu’s out 3-6 weeks with a shoulder malfunction. But at least the rest of the team is hurt too, and Carson Palmer can’t throw the ball downfield anymore.

The Beggars

All they’ll be choosing high in, is the 2017 draft.

12. PANTHERS (4-7), no change

Now 2-5, at Rams, vs. Chiefs, vs. Saints, at Raiders

Panthers will still finish the season with only one loss. Against the NFC West, that is.

13. SAINTS (4-7), up one

Now 3-4, at 49ers, vs. Broncos, at Panthers, vs. Rams

Hard to pick them, hard to pick against them. But the franchise shouldn’t be penalized for being in a holding pattern! Officially, I flag them for a win in SF and that’s it.

14. BUCCANEERS (4-7), down one

Now 3-4, vs. Falcons, vs. Bears, at Chiefs, vs. Seahawks

Still a team. In the NFL. Proof later this month.

15. BEARS (3-8), no change

Now 2-6, Bye, at Bucs, at Giants, vs. Titans

Earlier, they were bearly competitive; most observers were bearish on their weekly chances. Suddenly, after mauling the Vikings, their season doesn’t look quite as grisly.

16. 49ERS (1-10), no change anytime soon

Now 1-6, vs. Saints, at Cardinals, vs. Patriots, at Dolphins

They’re not even bad enough to get the No. 1 pick. But if there is any justice in the world, their second — and final — win will also be a shutout victory over the Rams

NEW-ISH FEATURES:

Projected AFC Seeds

(1) Patriots, (2) Broncos, (3) Texans, (4) Steelers, (5) Chiefs, (6) Raiders

Projected NFC Seeds

(1) Cowboys, (2) Seahawks, (3) Vikings, (4) Falcons, (5) Giants, (6) Packers

Ranked by chance to reach Super Bowl LI

  1. Patriots
  2. Cowboys
  3. Seahawks
  4. Broncos
  5. Chiefs
  6. Falcons
  7. Vikings
  8. Steelers
  9. Packers
  10. Raiders
  11. Giants
  12. Texans