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NFL Harvest Rankings: The Home Stretch

All the puny AFC teams are shooting for 6-6, but the NFC is coming into clear focus, by comparison at least.

Buffalo Bills v Seattle Seahawks
oh sure, he gets to use two hands #cheathawks
Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Name change. Teams have flowered. That time of year has come and gone. Oh, some still bloom brightly with rosy petals that read “Just One Or Two Losses”; some are wilting or going into early hibernation for the winter, to flower again with — mostly — false hope in the spring.

Yes I know that’s not a great analogy, but face it, all analogies suck and are just mental boobytraps to get you to believe something you would otherwise discard.

Other teams’ colors are curious-looking, like the Packers. Are they healthy or not? Are they rotting at the base of their stem? (Yes.)

So the new Harvest Rankings reflect the season we’re in, and the separating the few useful teams from the obvious chaff.

Lie of the past week: You were told the Broncos would make David Carr’s life miserable and claim control of the division. Oops.

Truth of the past week: You were told the Chargers were good. It is true, it is known, go with it.

After 13 weeks, every team has had its bye. Every team has played 12 games. Shit just got real.


The Best

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

1. PATRIOTS (11-1)

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

If any NE fan whines at you that the league has it out for them, feel free to point out that their toughest out-of-conference game this year, the home game against Seattle, comes after the Patriots’ bye and a short week for the Seahawks. That ought to shut them up for sure. You’ll never hear a peep out of them again.

2. RAIDERS (10-2), up two

Now 7-2, vs. Bye, vs. Texans, vs. Panthers, vs. Bills

A bye and three home games against underwhelming teams. The Raiders are going to be the 2 or 5 seed, and David “Derek” Carr is going to make people forget about Andrew Luck. 2016 is the weirdest.

3. BRONCOS (9-3)

Now 6-3, at Saints, Bye, vs. Chiefs, at Jaguars

The real question is, will 9-3 be enough to reclaim the division from the Raiders? And the second real question is, what happens if they lose the Chiefs game? Six seed?

The Bourgeoisie

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

4. CHIEFS (8-4), down one

Now 6-2, at Panthers, vs. Buccaneers, at Broncos, at Falcons

Updating: The Chiefs are 16-2 in their last 18 regular-season games. Forecasting: two more losses coming up real soon.

5. TEXANS (7-5), no change

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

Or: they lose all four and the NFC South disbands.

The Blinded by Parity

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

6. CHARGERS (6-6), up three

Now 4-5, vs. Dolphins, Bye, at Texans, vs. Buccaneers

From last week: “The Chargers are good. Not at winning, but they’re good.” Now they start to win a little. Possible they finish 9-7 and in last place in the division. Last time that happened was, never.

It’s relatively common for a last-place finisher to go 7-9. 2014 Browns, 2013 Rams, 2012 Bucs, 2011 Chiefs, 2009 Jags, etc... It’s more rare to see an 8-8 team last; you have to go back to the 2008 Skins and Saints for that one.

Nobody’s pulled off the 9-7 cellar achievement. Let’s leave it to the Chargers.

7. BILLS (6-6), no change

Now 4-5, Bye, at Bengals, vs. Jaguars, at Raiders

Tyrod Taylor is the real deal and the Bills have weapons in the running game. Maybe they should hire some defensive gurus to coach up the defense that’s given up 100 points in the last three weeks.

8. STEELERS (6-6), down two

Now 4-4, vs. Cowboys, at Browns, at Colts, vs. Giants

You guys want to hear about bad offense? When the fourth quarter began last Sunday, the Steelers had less than 100 yards of total offense. Not less than 100 yards passing, not less than 100 yards on the ground — less than 100 total. Their punter had out-gained them 431-76 before 14 late points on two late drives changed all that.

And that’s the game in which Ben Roethlisberger returned!

9. RAVENS (6-6), down one

Now 4-4, vs. Browns, at Cowboys, vs. Bengals, vs. Dolphins

Huge win over Pittsburgh. If they take care of business at home they’ll be in the division driver’s seat, but one of those home games (hint: Bengals) will feature five Joe Flacco picks, so that’s not happening.

10. DOLPHINS (5-7), no change

Now 4-4, vs. at Chargers, at Rams, vs. 49ers, at Ravens

Riding a three-game winning streak built upon home cookin, the Dolphins head out on the road now, where they serve dolphin as a Sunday afternoon delicacy. (Nobody does that, right?)

11. BENGALS (5-6-1), up one

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

5-6-1 might put them a half game out of the division lead. So they’re promoted into the “we don’t totally suck” category. Don’t close the book on them yet.

12. TITANS (5-7), down one

Now 4-5, vs. Packers, at Colts, at Bears, Bye

I stopped caring and so should you. Though Marcus Mariota seems good for a ton of fantasy points. 30.4, 25.6, 13.6, 19.9, 25.8 in standard scoring the last five weeks for a 23.1 average. Don’t tell us about it, however, if you do pick him up and he rakes. I’ve already stopped caring.

The Beggars

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

13. COLTS (5-7), no change

Now 4-5, Bye, vs. Titans, vs. Steelers, at Jets

When Indianapolis held off Green Bay, it meant that with Andrew Luck at the helm, the Colts have lost five games exactly in each of his seasons: 11-5, 11-5, 11-5, 2-5, 4-5. Quirks are cool.

14. JETS (4-8), no change

Now 3-6, vs. Rams, Bye, vs. Patriots, vs. Colts

Colts and Jets have been nominated for Week 13’s “Tie of the Week.”

15. JAGUARS (2-10), no change

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

Gus Bradley still has a job. Technically.

16. BROWNS (0-12), no change

Now 0-9, at Ravens, vs. Steelers, vs. Giants, Bye

Silver lining: the Browns are underperforming their expected wins by 2.2. On the other lining, their passer rating differential is -26.7 for the season. On the next lining, opposing quarterbacks have an ANY/A three full points higher than Browns QBs. Final lining: 30.3 points allowed. They are just as bad as their record.


The Best

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

1. COWBOYS (10-2), no change

Now 7-1, at Steelers, vs. Ravens, vs. Redskns, at Vikings

Sticking with the loss on Thanksgiving to ruin the day of many Dallasites. Dallasonians? Dallassholes? What’s the nomenclature Kenneth?

2. SEAHAWKS (8-3-1), no change because i so smart

Now 5-2-1, at Patriots, vs. Eagles, at Buccaneers, vs. Panthers

Man getting that skin-of-the-teeth win last night makes all the difference in terms of the bye. Is Atlanta going to go 12-4? Is the NFC North winner? I don’t think so to either of those. Give the Hawks a 6-2 second half and they’re the 2 seed.

However — is this the week the “haven’t lost by more than 10 in forever” streak finally ends? It has been since October of 2011 now.

3. FALCONS (8-4), up two

Now 6-3, at Eagles, Bye, vs. Cardinals, vs. Chiefs

Matt Ryan is now in the discussion for best passer rating season ever. He has an even 119 after annihilating the Bucs over the weekend. To remind you, the all-time top three QB rating seasons:

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

Of course, Ryan could pass Rodgers and still end up second on the list, if Tom Brady has anything to say about it. That would sure be don’t say deflating don’t say deflating don’t say deflating

The Bourgeoisie

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

4. GIANTS (8-4), no change

Now 5-3, vs. Bengals, vs. Bears, at Browns, at Steelers

This is your 5 seed. Can we please not host them in the divisional round? Give me the NFC North reject instead.

5. VIKINGS (7-5), down two

Last week you got a reality check moment. This week, a pretty picture.

Miss u Golden.

6. LIONS (7-5), up one

Now 5-4, Bye, vs. Jaguars, vs. Vikings, at Saints

You know how the Chargers are good but you don’t really care because it’s the Chargers? Have you met... the Lions?

7. PACKERS (6-6), down one

Now 4-4, at Titans, at Redskns, at Eagles, vs. Texans

I don’t think the Packers are any good.

Aaron Rodgers weekly stat update: Rodgers has been sacked just 17 times in half a season. His 5.1 sack rate would be his lowest of his career, but so would his 6.4 Y/A, and his 10.1 Y/C. Sounds like someone has a case of Bad Offensive Line.

8. REDSKNS (6-5-1), no change

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

Feel free to destroy the Cardinals in Week 13 and end their sad, sad season of sadness. You’re not going to, but feel free.

The Blinded by Parity

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

9. EAGLES (5-7), up one

Now 4-4, vs. Falcons, at Seahawks, vs. Packers, at Bengals

The free-fall continues. Sure, they’ll beat the Falcons, to help the Hawks out, but then their prospects are bad. Wentz is the answer, though... eventually.

10. CARDINALS (5-6-1), up one

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

People worry about the Seahawks’ window closing? 2016 is the sound of the Cardinals’ window closing, unless they pluck a franchise quarterback from the franchise quarterback tree, which does not exist.

11. SAINTS (5-7), up two

Now 4-4, vs. Broncos, at Panthers, vs. Rams, vs. Lions

Three games at home, none simple, but a couple wins puts them in the wild-card discussion. Broncos game will tell us a lot about both teams. Win that one and everything changes -- NO is suddenly a dark horse for the 6 seed.

The Beggars

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

12. RAMS (4-8), down three

Now 3-5, at Jets, vs. Dolphins, at Saints, at Patriots

They’ll need a win in Seattle in Week 15 if they want any chance at 7-9. I AM JUST SAYING

13. PANTHERS (4-8), down one

Now 3-5, vs. Chiefs, vs. Saints, at Raiders, at Seahawks

I wonder when the last time was that both NFCCG participants finished the following season under .500. One of you should look that up. There are so many of you, and only one of me.

14. BEARS (4-8), up one

Now 3-5, at Bucs, at Giants, vs. Titans, vs. 49ers

After a win vs. the Vikings last week, anything probably looks possible for Bears fans. Even a division title. Chicago would have to win three games from this slate, though, and I’m only seeing one. The last one, obviously.

15. BUCCANEERS (4-8), down two

Now 3-5, vs. Bears, at Chiefs, vs. Seahawks, at Chargers

The AFC and NFC South have a combined two teams above .500. All participants should get losses when they play intra-division games, that would reflect reality a little more honestly.

16. 49ERS (1-11), no change anytime soon

Now 1-8, at Cardinals, vs. Patriots, at Dolphins, at Bears

The Niners are the worst team in the league but will only get the No. 2 pick overall. Deep dive into their statistical crater-abyss next week, when time allows.


Projected AFC Seeds

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

Though you’d get in zero trouble for swapping 2 and 5.

Projected NFC Seeds

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

A rare appearance by the Detroit Taters!

Ranked by chance to reach Super Bowl LI

  1. Patriots, 55 percent
  2. Cowboys, 35 percent
  3. Seahawks, 30 percent
  4. Falcons, 21 percent
  5. Broncos, 14 percent
  6. Raiders, 13 percent
  7. Vikings, 9 percent
  8. Steelers, 7 percent
  9. Chiefs, 7 percent
  10. Texans, 4 percent
  11. Giants, 3 percent
  12. Lions, 2 percent