clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

NFL Lombardi Rankings: The Final Insult

Seattle Seahawks still eligible to participate despite franchise-crippling loss to Packers

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers
couple things wrong with this picture
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Last name change, last format change, last ground rules change.

  1. Starting now, each week’s Lombardi Rankings will see some teams ignored. Because of their elimination status.
  2. Now we’re only looking three weeks in advance. Playoff seeds are forecasted this week; wild-card results will be added in next week. Pretty soon we’ll be down to just the final four, and then they’ll each get special treatment. They won’t need these puny rankings any more to feel good about themselves.
  3. So the teams ranked 1-6 in each conference are who I expect to be playing in January; the teams 7-12ish are the ones still in the playoff hunt, even if by a sliver; the others are of little consequence to the rankings but often hold plenty of spoiler power.

Lie of the past week: You were told the Colts would take over the AFCS division lead. Now they probably won’t even January.

Truth of the past week: You were told the Broncos were already in danger of missing the postseason before their clash with the Titans. They are now in dangerer.

Count on more lies being told this week, as this season’s weird uncertainty and unusually aggressive parity collide in heavy divisional play.

The Favored

The most Superb-looking Owls.


Now 11-2, at Broncos, vs. Jets, at Dolphins, Bye

Broncos are in free-fall, Jets have already fallen freely, and the Dolphins just lost their quarterback. Possibly the Pats sew up the top seed before Miami and rest a ton of bodies. That would really mess with the playoff picture.

2 SEED: CHIEFS (13-3)

Now 10-3, vs. Titans, vs. Broncos, at Chargers, Bye

Cavs did it. Cubs did it. Sounders broke through. It’s the year of the unexpected winner. Chiefs are down with that plan.

If they have anything resembling a fatal flaw, it’s going to be quarterback play. Their defense, running game and special teams are all good enough to guide them to a win every week, and Andy Reid wins, period. But Alex Smith doesn’t frighten anyone.

(By DVOA, the Chiefs are the only team in the top 12 in all three phases. We know what that kind of balance looks like.)

Hear me out though. Smith has 73 TDs to only 25 interceptions in his KC stint. He’s thrown nine fewer interceptions than Russell Wilson in that time, despite 56 more attempts. Smith’s never going to be mistaken for someone who throws the ball down the field (6.8 Y/A career) but there’s a formula for winning football games: it starts with not losing them. For any one specific reason. Chiefs typically avoid all the reasons.

Every other contender has a chink or two or three in their armor. These guys are sneaky good by not being outwardly bad anywhere.


Now 8-5, at Bengals, vs. Ravens, vs. Browns, vs. Ravens again in wild card round

They were once 4-5. Since then, they’ve won four straight and Le’Veon Bell looks like the MVP of the second half, with a 118-620-5 line for 5.3 yards a carry.

4 SEED: TITANS (9-7), up two

Now 7-6, at Chiefs, at Jaguars, vs. Texans, vs. Raiders in wild card round

The 8-7 Titans and Texans will fight Week 17 for the prestigious AFC South crown. You have already set your DVR. Wait do people still set their DVR’s?

5 SEED: RAIDERS (12-4)

Now 10-3, at Chargers, vs. Colts, at Broncos, at Titans in wild card round

That Denver game. It’s the reason the Raiders could lose the division to the Chiefs, but also the reason they could snatch it right back. Quite possible that by then, the 8-7 Broncos are out of it; how does that affect personnel and decisions and playing time and the rivalry aspect?

6 SEED: RAVENS (9-7)

Now 7-6, vs. Eagles, at Steelers, at Bengals, at Steelers again in wild card round

Among 9-7 teams, Baltimore would finish 8-4 in the conference with a split of their last two. Everyone else below -- Broncos, Bills, Dolphins — all congregate at 6-6. Therefore, welcome the Ravens to the wild-card round.

Outside Peering In

But back in with a lucky/unlucky bounce, break or upset. Good thing those don’t happen.

7. BILLS (9-7)

Now 6-7, vs. Browns, vs. Dolphins, at Jets

Tell me which one of those three games they’re going to lose? Exactly. Bills might be the first team out of the chase, which makes them the first team back in, should the Ravens falter.

8. BRONCOS (9-7), not the end of the world

Now 8-5, vs. Patriots, at Chiefs, vs. Raiders

Conceivable that by Week 17, the Broncos are already eliminated and the Raiders are locked into the 5 seed.

9. DOLPHINS (9-7)

Now 8-5, at Jets, at Bills, vs. Patriots

They still beat the Jets to help create the 9-7 logjam. Because nobody misses Ryan Tannehill that much.

10. TEXANS (8-8)

Now 7-6, vs. Jaguars, vs. Bengals, at Titans

They’re going to blow one of those so-called easy home games, just watch. But if they sweep, if they sweep, if they sweep, they’d clinch the division with a Titans loss in Week 15 or 16. And the season finale would be so anticlimactic. They gotta blow one of these games. For the fans. For the shield.

11. COLTS (7-9)

Now 6-7, at Vikings, at Raiders, vs. Jaguars

They had their shot against the Texans, and blew it. Better Luck next year.

12. CHARGERS (7-9)

Now 5-8, vs. Raiders, at Browns, vs. Chiefs

Another farfetched path to the playoffs exists here. An 8-8 Chargers team would leapfrog an 8-8 Broncos team for third in the division (based on division record) and would be alive in tie-breakers for the sixth seed. They’d be at 7-5 in the conference.

How does this even happen, though? Well, both are home division games? But realistically, the Chargers needed to win one more game earlher this year to make things interesting.

12. BENGALS (6-9-1), technically alive

Now 5-7-1, vs. Steelers, at Texans, vs. Ravens

Win out and sneak in? It’s possible. Anything’s possible. A.J. Green returned to practice this week, and the Bengals have won two straight. At least go win in Houston.

The Nopes

Spoilers fighting for pride and a worse draft position.

14. JETS (4-12)

Now 4-9, vs. Dolphins, at Patriots, vs. Bills


15. JAGUARS (2-14)

Now 2-11, at Texans, vs. Titans, at Colts

Still nope.

16. BROWNS (0-16), they’re gonna do it

Now 0-13, at Bills, vs. Chargers, at Steelers

The “o” in nope also fulfills an important W-L function here.


The Favored

The most Superb-looking Owls.

1 SEED: COWBOYS (14-2)

Now 11-2, vs. Buccaneers, vs. Lions, at Eagles, Bye

Now what? They scored 17 special-teams-aided points against Minnesota and a putrid 7 against New York. Is there... concern in Dallas? The Cowboys ought to win all three remaining games; they’ll be favored in all three. But what if they lay a poop egg (JacBevTM) on Sunday?

2 SEED: SEAHAWKS (11-4-1), no change

Now 8-4-1, vs. Rams, vs. Cardinals, at 49ers, Bye

The Seahawks will lose all games in which they decide to turn the ball over six times and their opponent settles on... zero times.

Not too surprisingly, teams that copy Seattle’s excellent turnover game plan tend to lose. Teams are 1-54 when they turn the ball over six times and generate no takeaways. (The Bengals beat the Chiefs 27-24 in 1976 to spoil the perfect record.)

Rams arrive. This space predicted a 3-1 record for the Hawks in their final four games, which is still on the table. But Rams.

3 SEED: LIONS (10-6)

Now 9-4, at Giants, at Cowboys, vs. Packers, wild card vs. Bucs

Win in Dallas. Do it for the children.

4. FALCONS (10-6), up one

Now 8-5, vs. 49ers, at Panthers, vs. Saints, wild card vs. Giants

Saints have their number this time, according to my gut.

5. GIANTS (11-5), down two

Now 9-4, vs. Lions, at Eagles, at Redskns, wild card at Falcons

Don’t stumble against the Lions or there’s a clear divisional path to elimination. And that season sweep against the Cowboys would become meaningless. How are you going to beat them for a third time if you choke away your playoff ticket?


Now 8-5, at Cowboys, at Saints, vs. Panthers, wild card at Lions

All bets are on for this team’s prospects through the entire postseason if they go into Dallas and win. (Their 8-4 conference record gets TB in over GB.)

Outside Peering In

But back in with a lucky/unlucky bounce, break or upset. Good thing those don’t happen.

7. PACKERS (9-7)

Now 7-6, at Bears, vs. Vikings, at Lions

I will admit it. I (a little bit) want them to nab the 6 seed, then advance to meet the Cowboys in the divisional round. Almost all playoff games are must-watch, but that one would take it to another level.

We’ll probably have to settle for an NFC North championship game in Detroit Week 17 instead.

8. REDSKNS (8-7-1)

Now 7-5-1, vs. Panthers, at Bears, vs. Giants

I’d strongly suggest winning out. But I’m not feeling it, despite the easy-looking schedule.

9. VIKINGS (8-8)

Now 7-6, vs. Colts, at Packers, vs. Bears

L, L, W. Sorry Arif.

10. CARDINALS (6-9-1), somehow not eliminated yet

Now 5-7-1, vs. Saints, at Seahawks, at Rams

Cardinals-Rams in a third-of-the-way-full LA Coliseum to end the season. Oh, the glamour.

11. SAINTS (7-9), life support

Now 5-8, at Cardinals, vs. Buccaneers, at Falcons

In a parallel universe, the Saints are 8-5 and we’re all talking about that insane NFC South race that somehow excludes the Panthers.

12. EAGLES (6-10), something below life support

Now 5-8, vs. Redskns, at Ravens, vs. Giants

Not too proud to say I’ve been down on the Eagles since Week 3 when they were 3-0. Now if only they would stop giving DVOA a bad name.

The Nopes

Spoilers fighting for pride and a worse draft position.

14. RAMS (4-9) [EDIT: 5-11]

Now 4-9, at Seahawks, vs. 49ers, vs. Cardinals

Last week: “Jeff Fisher lives. Where did I put the 7.9 ABV beer I was saving for this occasion?”

This week: Jeff Fisher is canned. Time to drink the sorrow away. Do those same beers come in a seven-pack? Or nine?

13. PANTHERS (5-11)

Now 5-8, at Redskns, vs. Falcons, at Buccaneers


15. BEARS (3-13)

Now 3-10, vs. Packers, vs. Redskns, at Vikings

Almost a win last week, but nope.

16. 49ERS (1-15)

Now 1-12, at Falcons, at Rams, vs. Seahawks

Nopevertime against the Jets! So close!

The 12 playoff participants, ranked by chance to reach Super Bowl LI

  1. Cowboys, 34 percent
  2. Patriots, 33 percent
  3. Seahawks, 29 percent
  4. Chiefs, 21 percent
  5. Steelers, 18 percent
  6. Lions, 16 percent
  7. Raiders, 15 percent
  8. Giants, 9 percent
  9. Falcons, 8 percent
  10. Ravens, 7 percent
  11. Titans, 6 percent
  12. Buccaneers, 4 percent

Hopefully this edition of the rankings is less sloppy than last week’s. Tell me where I’m wrong anyway.