NFL Playoff Picture: Week 16 Unbiased Power Rankings Keep Patriots, Falcons On Top

SEATTLE WA - DECEMBER 19: Wide receiver Roddy White #84 of the Atlanta Falcons rushes against the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field on December 19 2010 in Seattle Washington. The Falcons defeated the Seahawks 34-18. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Two weeks remain and four teams have confirmed their reservation for the NFL playoffs. The Patriots, Steelers, Falcons and Bears are all in leaving 16 teams still alive and fighting for the final eight spots. The final weeks of the season will clear things up but until then we have the unbiased power rankings to lend us their glasses.

The Patriots remain atop the rankings and I exhibit no shock. They continue to win against solid competition in impressive fashion. The Falcons stay at No. 2 with a comfortable margin over the next tier of teams. There's not a lot of talk about a Falcons-Patriots Super Bowl but with only two weeks to go in the 2010 season, they are heads-and-shoulders above everyone else.

The next tier of teams include the Eagles, Steelers, Ravens, Jets and Bears. If the Falcons or Patriots stumble, the likely perpetrator would come from that group. The bottom five teams remained the same except for one change. The Lions moved out of the bottom tier and the Vikings replaced them. The Panthers, Bengals, Bills and Broncos kept their hold on the worst teams in the league.

The Colts, Cowboys and Lions were the biggest movers this week with all three teams moving up three spots after solid wins this past weekend. The unbiased rankings still hate the Buccaneers but the Vikings and Rams are not far behind. The Bucs are 11th in the standings but only 19th in our rankings. The Vikings and Rams are seven and six spots lower, respectively. The Redskins continue to be the unbiased rankings favorite team coming in at No. 18 despite being 21st in the standings. Early season wins over the Eagles, Packers and Bears account for this.

The AFC is still the better conference from top to bottom and it's the Patriots to lose. They are significantly better than the next team, the Steelers. The NFC is a two-team race at the moment with the Falcons and Eagles pulling away from the rest of the pack. Best division: AFC East. Worst division: NFC West. Most competitive division: AFC South.

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
Indianapolis Colts
4
Seattle Seahawks
5
Baltimore Ravens
5
New Orleans Saints
6
New York Jets
6
New York Giants

 

Outside Looking In

The AFC is solid with the six best teams all making the playoffs but the Seahawks in the NFC are blocking more deserving teams from the NFL's second season. The Packers and Buccaneers are going to need some serious help to make the playoffs and it's all because of the the brutal NFC West which will not only get a playoff berth but a home game at that.

 

The Biggest Games of Week 16

No. 4: Chiefs Vs. Titans: The Chiefs can clinch the AFC West with a win and a Chargers loss.

No. 3: Giants Vs. Packers: The Giants could clinch a playoff spot if they can beat the Packers.

No. 2: Jets Vs. Bears: The Jets can get in the playoffs with a win. They could even get in with a loss if they get some help.

No. 1: Saints vs. Falcons: The Falcons would clinch homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a victory.

 

AFC Breakdown

Wild Card Weekend:

Jets @ Chiefs: The over/under on rushing yards in this one would be 400.

Ravens @ Colts: Perhaps the last showdown between Ray Lewis and Payton Manning.

Divisional Playoffs:

Ravens @ Steelers: It's going to come to this, you just know it.

Jets @ Patriots: See above.

Championship Game:

Steelers @ Patriots: A must-watch game between teams with five Super Bowls since 2001.

 

NFC Breakdown

Wild Card Weekend:

Giants @ Bears: The Bears continue to surprise.

Saints @ Seahawks: The Seahawks could be hosting a home playoff game with a 7-9 record.

Divisional Playoffs:

Saints @ Falcons: It would be their second meeting in four weeks.

Bears @ Eagles: The Bears controlled Michael Vick before. Could they do it again?

Championship Game:

Eagles @ Falcons: This game just has to happen, right? The Football Gods deem it so.

Super Bowl:

Patriots vs. Falcons: If you want to be the best, you've got to beat the best.

 

The Unbiased Power Rankings

 

Tier I
Rank
Team
Rating
1
New England Patriots
502.5
2
Atlanta Falcons
445.0
Tier II
Rank
Team
Rating
3
Philadelphia Eagles
407.3
4
Pittsburgh Steelers
385.5
5
Baltimore Ravens
379.3
6
New York Jets
349.3
7
Chicago Bears
328.0
Tier III
Rank
Team
Rating
8
New Orleans Saints
317.8
9
New York Giants
302.8
10
Kansas City Chiefs
296.2
11
Green Bay Packers
288.3
12
Indianapolis Colts
288.0
13
San Diego Chargers
287.8
14
Jacksonville Jaguars
263.3
15
Miami Dolphins
258.7
16
Tennnesee Titans
256.8
17
Oakland Raiders
256.4
Tier IV
Rank
Team
Rating
18
Washington Redskins
226.7
19
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
209.7
20
Houston Texans
208.2
21
Cleveland Browns
203.2
22
Seattle Seahawks
202.6
23
Dallas Cowboys
187.9
24
St. Louis Rams
177.4
25
Detroit Lions
163.3
26
San Francisco 49ers
163.1
27
Arizona Cardinals
156.5
Tier V
Rank
Team
Rating
28
Minnesota Vikings
144.3
29
Denver Broncos
127.5
30
Buffalo Bills
123.9
31
Cincinnati Bengals
108.7
32
Carolina Panthers
63.1

 

NFC South

The biggest game of the weekend is the Monday Night Footbal game between the defending Super Bowl champion Saints and the 12-2 Falcons. If the Falcons win they clinch the division and get to play every NFC playoff game in the Georgie Dome. If the Saints win, the Falcons can still clinch the division and homefield advantage if they beat the Panthers in Week 17. This game means everything to the Saints and not that much to the Falcons when it comes to the playoff picture. However, losing to the Saints at home with the possibility of playing them again in three weeks is not the way the Falcons want to go. A win here sends a message that they are clearly the team to beat in the NFC and puts the Saints playing a road game in Seattle or Chicago while the Falcons rest up.

The Bucs need to keep winning and hope for some help. A loss this week to the Seahawks would end their playoff future. The Panthers continue to polish their draft board and wait for April to hurry up and get here.

 

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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