NFL Playoff Picture, Week 15 Unbiased Power Rankings: Patriots, Falcons, Steelers All A Cut Above

Three weeks remain before the NFL's second season begins and the Patriots and Falcons have established themselves as the favorites in their respective conferences.

The Patriots are the unanimous No. 1 in most experts' power rankings and this one is no different. After swapping with the Falcons for a few weeks, the Patriots are back on top after a resume of wins that cannot be matched by any team in the NFL. The Falcons file in at No. 2 with the Steelers, Eagles and Ravens rounding out the top five. The AFC is still the best conference - top to bottom - but the NFC is home to six of the top 10 teams overall.

I do want to add that when I hear the experts talk about the best teams, the Falcons are never brought up first, or even fifth. I'm okay with the Patriots as the best team right now because my rankings bear this out but it's not a no-brainer. There's some discussion. I know the Falcons need to win a Super Bowl before they get the same benefit of the doubt as the Patriots and Steelers but let's try to keep an appearance of objectivity. I'm talking to you, national media.

The Chargers and Dolphins both moved up five spots this week after great wins over solid opponents while the Redskins plummeted five spots, the worst drop this week. The Buccaneers are still the team with the biggest discrepancy between their record and their unbiased ranking. They continue to beat bad teams and lose to the good ones which is no way to rise in these rankings. My apologies to Bucs fans.

The Titans are an unbiased favorite and have ranked higher in these rankings than their record would indicate - thanks to early season victories over the Giants, Jaguars and Eagles - but this team is on the decline and the rankings are finally showing that. As the playoff picture becomes clearer (or more jumbled depending on how you look at it), the unbiased power rankings reveal which teams have truly impressive resumes and which teams have been getting by on their reputation.

 

Unbiased Playoff Picture

Using the Unbiased Power Rankings, this is how we see the playoffs shaping up.

AFC
NFC
Seed
Team
Seed
Team
1
New England Patriots
1
Atlanta Falcons
2
Pittsburgh Steelers
2
Philadelphia Eagles
3
Kansas City Chiefs
3
Chicago Bears
4
Jacksonville Jaguars
4
Seattle Seahawks
5
Baltimore Ravens
5
New Orleans Saints
6
New York Jets
6
New York Giants

 

Outside Looking In

The Chargers in the AFC deserve a shot but somebody has to win the NFC South and right now the Jaguars would keep them out. In the NFC, it's a similar theme with the Packers, Redskins and Buccaneers all worthy of a playoff bid over the Seahawks but they do not play in the NFC West so Seattle gets the nod.

 

The Biggest Games of Week 15

No. 5: Jaguars Vs. Colts: The two best teams in the AFC South face-off with only one team making the playoffs.

No. 4: Saints Vs. Ravens: Both teams trying to keep pace in their own divisions.

No. 3: Eagles Vs. Giants: A game that could decide the NFC East crown.

No. 2: Jets Vs. Steelers: Another loss by the Jets would begin DEFCON 1 in New York.

No. 1: Packers Vs. Patriots: No Aaron Rodgers could drop this game down the list but if he plays, should be a classic.

 

AFC Breakdown

Wild Card Weekend:

Jets @ Chiefs: One team can't win without their quarterback and one team can't win with theirs.

Ravens @ Jaguars: The Jaguars can play the "no respect" card more than any other team.

Divisional Playoffs:

Ravens @ Steelers: The third time's the charm for these division rivals.

Jets @ Patriots: See above.

Championship Game:

Steelers @ Patriots: The two best teams in the AFC all season, it makes sense.

 

NFC Breakdown

Wild Card Weekend:

Giants @ Bears: A rematch of a game when the Giants sacked Jay Cutler 47 times.

Saints @ Seahawks: How irritated would the Saints be with a 12-4 record having to travel to Seattle with a 7-9 record?

Divisional Playoffs:

Giants @ Falcons: The Falcons don't lose at home.

Saints @ Eagles: The defending champs would find a road trip to Philly no easy task.

Championship Game:

Eagles @ Falcons: Vick. Atlanta. Ratings.

Super Bowl:

Patriots vs. Falcons: Patriots could collect their fourth Lombardi since 2001.

 

The Unbiased Power Rankings

 

Tier I
Rank
Team
Rating
1
New England Patriots
417.0
2
Atlanta Falcons
394.5
3
Pittsburgh Steelers
350.0
Tier II
Rank
Team
Rating
4
Philadelphia Eagles
336.8
5
Baltimore Ravens
308.5
6
New Orleans Saints
296.7
7
New York Giants
281.3
8
New York Jets
273.8
9
Chicago Bears
267.8
Tier III
Rank
Team
Rating
10
Green Bay Packers
262.0
11
Kansas City Chiefs
250.6
12
San Diego Chargers
242.2
13
Jacksonville Jaguars
237.6
14
Miami Dolphins
233.8
15
Indianapolis Colts
227.3
16
Oakland Raiders
221.3
17
Tennessee Titans
211.5
18
Washington Redskins
206.5
19
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
195.2
Tier IV
Rank
Team
Rating
20
Cleveland Browns
188.3
21
Houston Texans
187.8
22
Seattle Seahawks
186.7
23
St. Louis Rams
166.7
24
San Francisco 49ers
157.6
25
Arizona Cardinals
151.6
26
Dallas Cowboys
147.6
27
Minnesota Vikings
128.9
28
Detroit Lions
117.6
29
Denver Broncos
116.9
Tier V
Rank
Team
Rating
30
Buffalo Bills
73.4
31
Cincinnati Bengals
68.3
32
Carolina Panthers
37.8


The Best of the Best

Three teams continue to be a notch ahead of everyone else: Patriots, Falcons and Steelers. They are top tier teams and the clear favorites for any downtown parades. Six teams reside in the second tier with the Eagles, Ravens and Saints followed by the Giants, Jets and Bears. The rest of the teams have not been as impressive as the big nine.

It's a huge week in the NFL with three games featuring these top nine teams. The headliner is the Jets and Steelers but the Eagles-Giants and Saints-Ravens games will all shuffle up the unbiased power rankings. Thanks to the Patriots severely weighting the rankings, the AFC East is the best division in football. The worst division - shocker - is the NFC West. The most competitive division is the NFC South with four teams all bunched together.

NFC South

This is still a two-team race for the division and unless the Ravens can help the Falcons out - not likely after a pathetic win Monday - this division and homefield advantage will come down to the Saints-Falcons Week 16 showdown in the Georgia Dome. The Buccaneers are better than any NFC West team but that's all I can say about them. If they manage to make the playoffs, they'll be exposed. The Panthers are the darlings of the NFC South. Everyone wants to play them and the Falcons get them twice in four weeks.

The Falcons have the easiest road to the divison with games against the Seahawks and Panthers sandwiched around the Saints Monday Nighter and they will clinch a playoff spot with a victory over the Seahawks this week. The Saints have the Ravens this week, then on the road to the Falcons before finishing up with the Buccaneers.

Methodology: The Unbiased Power Rankings are exactly that, unbiased. We take into account a team's wins, losses and a strength of schedule component to arrive at a truly unbiased rating. We have no preseason polls, no preset baselines. Only the performance on the field - this season - matters. Emotion is not welcome here. Still interested? Here's the ingredients we use to make this delicious stew of math-based power rankings.

Each team is awarded five points for a win and five points for every game a defeated opponent wins. To measure a loss, the total number of opponent wins is divided by the number of the ranked team's losses.

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