You might be surprised by the Chiefs’ success, but they’re not. Kansas City moves into the top three of Jenny Vrentas' power rankings
THE FINE FIFTEEN
1. New England (11-2). LW: 2. Just when you were thinking it’s a bad week for MVP candidates, Tom Brady swoops in on Monday night. Patriots holding position for home-field advantage, as expected.
2. Dallas (11-2). LW: 1. The Cowboys’ offense has mustered a mere 24 points over the last two weeks. A tough game next week against the Bucs will be a good indicator of whether or not this team is postseason-ready or slumping at the wrong time.
3. Kansas City (10-3). LW: 5. You might be surprised by the Chiefs’ success, but they’re not. Winning the AFC West is what they’ve had their eye on since losing in Foxborough last January.
4. Oakland (10-3). LW: 3. Losing position in the race for home-field advantage was a double whammy for the Raiders. Here’s why: Derek Carr’s injured pinkie finger was not nearly as much a factor the previous week at home in mild California as it was in frigid Kansas City last Thursday night. Right now, the Raiders’ postseason road will go through cold-weather cities, an issue if his injury lingers.
5. Seattle (8-4-1). LW: 4. You can cite the loss of Earl Thomas as a key factor in the Seahawks’ 38-10 drubbing by Green Bay, but what happened to the offense? Because they’ve done it before, the Seahawks make us believe that the ups and downs of the season only make them stronger, but this has been a volatile season.
6. Detroit (9-4). LW: 6. Not a good year for MVP candidates and hand injuries. Now is my recurring opportunity to share the story about that one time I suffered some kind of ligament injury in my finger and for three months it still felt like a bee stung it. Point is, these things linger. And in a game of inches, any discomfort or modification to how a quarterback handles the ball matters.
7. Pittsburgh (8-5). LW: 8. Le’Veon Bell in the snow looks an awful lot like a postseason run.
8. Atlanta (8-5). LW: 10. Rams last week, Niners this week. Great time of year to be hitting a soft part of the schedule.
9. Giants (9-4). LW: 11. Babe Ruth: Home run or strikeout. This is the 2016 Giants’ offense.
10. Tampa Bay (8-5). LW: 12. The Bucs have rattled off five straight wins, and a big reason why is their ball-hawking defense. Can they keep the streak going against the suddenly reeling Cowboys next week?
11. Denver (8-5). LW: 7. The Broncos postseason hopes took a hit with the loss to Tennessee, and they have perhaps the toughest remaining schedule of any team: vs. Patriots, at Chiefs and vs. Raiders.
12. Baltimore (7-6). LW: 9. Most likely, they have to win out to make the playoffs.
13. Green Bay (7-6). LW: 15. Ever since Aaron Rodgers said he felt the Packers could run the table, they’ve won three straight. But, beware the calf injury. Rodgers led Green Bay to the NFC Championship game two seasons ago with a calf strain, but it greatly hampered his mobility, one of his best assets as a QB. And calf strains, perhaps more than many other injuries, can be tricky.
14. Washington (7-5-1). LW: 13. Ryan Kerrigan’s forced fumble saved the game and Washington’s postseason aspirations.
15. Miami (8-5). LW: 14. Ryan Tannehill is a lucky man for escaping without a torn ACL on Sunday. But the Dolphins will have to rely on Matt Moore to lead them to the postseason.
Also receiving consideration:
16. Tennessee (7-6). LW: 17.
17. Minnesota (7-6). LW: 16.
18. Houston (7-6). LW: 20.
19. Buffalo (6-7). LW: 19.
20. Indianapolis (6-7). LW: 18.
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