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Welcome to the blog of The Killer Nacho, known to most mortals as Timothy J. Sharpe, a Computer Science graduate of Messiah College and currently a Systems Analyst for Sunoco Logistics. Within this tome of pages, one will find my innermost thoughts about various things concerning things that I enjoy. These subjects include, but are not limited to, roleplaying, gaming, American Football (the NFL), things to do with computers, philosophy, movies that are awesome, TV shows that are awesome, my own writings and creative works, and dangerous Mexican snacks.

Monday, December 24, 2012

NFL 2012 Week 17 Power Rankings and Predictions

First of all, Merry Christmas everyone! Week 16 went nicely for me, as I won my first fantasy championship in my private Fantasy Football league. As for the NFL itself, there were plenty of surprises. While the AFC is locked in its playoff teams (only seeding remains an issue for Week 17), the NFC wildcard is still very much open. How will Week 17 unfold? Here I am to give you my thoughts!

Biggest Winner: Atlanta Falcons (+3)
Biggest Loser: New York Giants (-6)

1. Atlanta Falcons (13-2, +3): I'm really starting to believe in this team, as they are getting hot at the right time. They did allow Calvin Johnson to break Jerry Rice's receiving yard record, but Detroit seemed to be forcing him the ball all night anyway. Matt Ryan is really playing his best football right now. Despite the fact he'll likely sit out in a pointless Week 17 matchup, he's finished the year with almost 4500 yards and over 30 touchdowns.

2. Houston Texans (12-3, -1): The Texans came out flat against the Vikings, unable to get any offense going in their 23-6 loss. I'm not going to push them too far down since they've been dominant most of the year. Part of me believes the relative pointlessness of the game for the Texans combined with the Vikings coming out in a must-win situation contributed to this loss. Still, there are two bad things for the Texans... one, you want to be playing your best football in December, which they are clearly not doing. Two, they have to be worried about the status of Arian Foster after his injury in Week 16.

3. New England Patriots (11-4, -1): Credit the Patriots for getting a win, but it really shouldn't have been that close against a poor Jacksonville team. Tom Brady completed just over half of his passes, and threw two interceptions to the 2-win Jaguars. A lot of playoff teams seemed to come out flat in Week 16 and the Patriots have played some great football this season, so I still feel confident at putting them at #3.

4. Denver Broncos (12-3, +1): One of the only playoff teams this week not to come out flat, the Broncos dominated the Browns in route to a 34-12 win. With the Texans losing to the Vikings, the Broncos have a shot at the #1 seed if the Texans lose next week to the Colts and they take care of business against the Chiefs. They can clinch a first-round bye with a win, too.

5. San Francisco 49ers (10-4-1, -2): The 49ers' inconsistency really is starting to worry me. Granted, Seattle is never an easy place to travel to and get a win, but the 49ers were dominated on both sides of the ball - not a good sign for a team that boasts an elite defense and a rising offense. The 49ers can still clinch the division with a win over the Cardinals, but losing opens the door to Seattle taking it from them.

6. Green Bay Packers (11-4, +0): Green Bay's 55-7 slaughter of the Titans is a good sign from the Packers in December. The Packers have clinched their division, and can clinch a first-round bye with a win over the Vikings next week. This match-up is likely to be one of the most important games in Week 17, as Green Bay needs to win to clinch a first-round bye and the Vikings need a win to make the playoffs as a wildcard.

7. Seattle Seahawks (10-5, +0): I wish I could raise this team from #7 thanks to their dominating win over the 49ers, but I just don't see who I can move down. The Seahawks are coming off three blowout wins, one against a quality team. They're playing their best football right now and Russell Wilson is looking to be perhaps the BEST Quarterback in this class (yes, I said it). Still, we already know the Seahawks can win at home. They're now 7-0 at home this season, but an atrocious 3-5 on the road. With the 49ers still likely winning the division, they'll go on the road for the playoffs... can they survive?

8. Baltimore Ravens (10-5, +2): After a stretch of disappointing games, the Ravens finally showed some life with a huge 33-14 win over the Giants to clinch the AFC North. They're eliminated from first-round bye contention, so they may decide to rest their starters in Week 17. They'll get a instant boost to their defense for the playoffs as Ray Lewis should be back by then.

9. Washington Redskins (9-6, +0): The Redskins survived the Eagles in a 27-20 win but the game really wasn't too impressive for the Redskins, as the Eagles had an opportunity to tie it at the end of the game. The Cowboys-Redskins game is moved to Sunday night, which will ultimately determine the NFC East winner. It's between the Cowboys and the Redskins now.

10. Minnesota Vikings (9-6, +1): The Vikings have made a statement in their last two games - both convincing wins over legitimate competition. The Vikings will face their last challenge in Week 17, facing off with the Packers, who will want to win for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The good news for the Vikings is if they win, they're in, and will get a huge confidence boost going into the playoffs. But beating the Packers will be no easy feat.

11. Chicago Bears (9-6, +1): Its nice to see the Bears not just roll over and die, as their 28-13 victory over the Cardinals puts them right back in the thick of things for the NFC playoffs. As strange as it is for Bears fans, they will need to root for the Packers to take care of the Vikings and take care of the Lions in Week 17 to make the playoffs. It's been an up and down year for the Bears, but if its not the Vikings in the playoffs, its the Bears spot to win.

12. Indianapolis Colts (10-5, +1): There are a few things that bother me about the Colts. They always seem to let bad teams stick around, and that was no different against the Chiefs in Week 16. Also, Andrew Luck's accuracy has been poor in recent games. The Colts still have a negative point differential despite being 10-5. This team has a large pretender factor for me... Still, going from worst to a playoff birth is impressive. One has to think Bruce Arians is a head coaching candidate going into next season.

13. Cincinnati Bengals (9-6, +1): The Bengals offense gave the Steelers every opportunity to win but ultimately the Bengals defense would not break. A last-minute interception and field goal gave the Bengals the 13-10 win that clinched a playoff birth for them, and eliminated the rival Steelers from post-season contention. I'm not sure how the Bengals will do in the playoffs, but this is the first time the Bengals have back-to-back playoff births in... well, a long time.

14. New York Giants (8-7, -6): Wow... how could a Tom Coughlin Giants team - the former Super Bowl champion - play so badly these last two important weeks? With two straight blowout losses to the Falcons and Ravens respectively, the Giants drop to 8-7 and only have a prayer at a wildcard playoff birth (needing the Vikings and Bears to lose and to win themselves). There has been no redeeming factor in these last two games for this team. The Giants are done this year.

15. Dallas Cowboys (8-7, +0): Despite their loss to New Orleans, Dallas has the rare opportunity for an 8-7 team to win and get in. This is due to being matched up with the 9-6 Redskins at Washington in Week 17, a game that was moved to Sunday night due to the game's importance. Dallas can only get into the playoffs by winning the NFC East - they have no shot if they lose to Washington. Dez Bryant, who caught two huge touchdowns against New Orleans, will need to come up big to overcome RG3 and the Redskins.

16. New Orleans Saints (7-8, +1): Despite having nothing to play for, New Orleans is still playing hard down the stretch, trying to prove they aren't as bad as their record indicates. Overall, the Saints have a poor defense with an elite offense this season. They have to go into next offseason with defense on their minds (and re-signing Sean Payton). They get a meaningless exhibition match against Carolina in Week 17.

17. St. Louis Rams (7-7-1, +1): Despite winning against Tampa Bay in a blowout, the Rams are now officially eliminated from post-season contention. Still, the Rams would like to earn a winning record for the first time in who-knows-when with a win against Seattle in Week 17. You know Jeff Fisher will have his squad coming out and playing hard, but Seattle will want to win to earn a shot at the division title.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8, -2): The way the Steelers rolled over the last half of the season is pretty sickening. The Steelers drop to 7-8, eliminating them from post-season contention. Ben Roethlisberger hasn't been the same since coming back from injury. The Steelers have to hope he comes back full-strength for next season. This will be a very odd post-season without the Steelers in the AFC. The Steelers defense has shown signs of age this season, expect that to be their target in the draft and free-agency.

19. Miami Dolphins (7-8, +1): Despite their 24-10 win over the Bills, the Dolphins were eliminated from post-season contention with the Steelers losing to the Bengals. Still, there is a lot to be excited about of one is a Dolphins fan. With expectations low going into the season, Joe Philbin did an excellent job in his first season as head-coach, keeping the team focused and developing Ryan Tannehill. They  have a chance at a .500 season with a win over the Patriots in Week 17.

20Carolina Panthers (6-9, +2): Despite starting off the season slow, Cam Newton proved that his rookie season was no anomaly down the stretch of this season. The number three ranked fantasy QB this year, Newton has 27 total touchdowns this year compared to 14 turnovers, with over 3500 passing yards and over 700 rushing yards. If the Panthers can actually improve on defense next season, the Panthers would be dangerous.

21. San Diego Chargers (6-9, +2): 11. That's the number of times the Chargers sacked Jets QB Greg McElroy in his first NFL start. While its not terribly impressive for a defense to dominate a Quarterback in his first start, 11 sacks is just insane (tying the NFL record for sacks in a game). The offense played well enough to win despite not having Ryan Matthews, defeating the Jets 27-17. The Chargers have a pretty good chance to avoid a 10-loss season with a win over the Raiders in Week 17.

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-9, -3): This defense can't stop anyone, which is one of the two reasons the Bucs fumbled their chance at the post-season in the last few games of the year. The other reason is that Josh Freeman, who started off the year strong, decided to suck it up recently. Half of his 16 interceptions this year was in the last two games alone. Two games ago, it seemed Freeman finally proved he was capable of being the franchise QB of the Bucs. Now, its not so sure...

23. New York Jets (6-9, -2): Welcome to the NFL, Greg McElroy. The Jets offensive line was completely man-handled by the Chargers, allowing McElroy to be sacked 11 times in his first NFL start. Part of it was McElroy's fault, as he held the ball too long on some of those plays. But still it does show what Mark Sanchez was dealing with all season - no offensive help whatsoever. The entire Jets offense needs to be blown up in the off-season.

24. Buffalo Bills (5-10, +0): C.J. Spiller seems to be the only player on this team worth a damn, sometimes. Everyone else seemed to just get manhandled by the Dolphins in Week 16. The Bills defense is horrendous at stopping the run, the Dolphins were able to impose their will at the line of scrimmage every play. Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the franchise QB the Bills were hoping he was... don't be surprised if the Bills draft a QB in the first two rounds. Matt Barkley, anyone?

25. Detroit Lions (4-11, +1): While it seemed the Lions were forcing the ball to Calvin Johnson for the sake of him breaking the record, still a big congratulations are in order for breaking Jerry Rice's long-standing receiving yardage in a season record. Calvin will probably look to improve this number in Week 17 against the Bears to help it stand longer. As for the team, the Lions have been a major disappointment in 2012. A playoff team in 2011, the Lions won't tolerate another season like this from Jim Schwartz in 2013. He'll go into the year on the hot-seat.

26. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11, +2): The Eagles may have lost, but the development of Nick Foles (as well as the ineptitude of the teams under them last week) has me putting them up to #26. They have an opportunity to finish off the year strong by giving the Giants their final knock-out punch in Week 17. Andy Reid will most likely be fired within a week of the game, so mine as well go out with a bang!

27. Tennessee Titans (5-10, -2): With owner Bud Adams putting the entire coaching staff of the Titans on notice earlier in the year, a 55-7 loss to Green Bay is not a great way to keep your job. Jake Locker was widely inaccurate in this game, completing only 13 of his 30 passes and throwing two interceptions. As a guy who was never high on Locker due to his poor accuracy in college, I hate to say that it appears I was right about him... the Titans may just address the Quarterback position again, looking for Steve McNair's successor.

28. Cleveland Browns (5-10, -1): The Browns are probably the most interesting team going into the off-season... I really have no idea how they're going to tackle it. While they've had some positives this year, with Mike Holmgren gone in the front office, no one is safe. I'm really up in the air about the fates of GM Heckert (who has drafted very well), HC Pat Shurmur, and most of all, QB Brandon Weeden (who had a poor outing against Denver).

29. Oakland Raiders (4-11, +0): I guess we now know why Carson Palmer has retained his starting job despite this being a lost year. Despite the Raiders defense surprisingly limiting Cam Newton to just 17 points, the Raiders offense was completely inept with Carson Palmer going down to injury early in the game. Matt Leinart and Tyrelle Pryor both had some chances at QB in this game but could only lead the Raiders to a mere 6 points.

30. Arizona Cardinals (5-10, +0): As per the norm for the Cardinals this year, the defense played fairly well, limiting Jay Cutler to just 12/26 for 146 yards and a touchdown, the offense led by Ryan Lindley sucked it up. I never expected the Cardinals offense do scratch the Bears defense, and they played right into the Bears' hands allowing two defensive touchdowns.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13, +0): Despite not getting Maurice Jones-Drew back, the Jaguars surprisingly kept it very close against the Patriots, being defeated by only a score of 23-16 (and having an opportunity to tie the game at the end). Their offensive surge stopped cold though when Cecil Shorts suffered a concussion due to a hit from Pat Chung. You should really blame Chad Henne though, throwing a dangerous pass and putting Shorts in a position to get hit.

32. Kansas City Chiefs (2-13, +0): It was confirmed last week that both Romeo Crennell and Scott Pioli will be fired after the year, which really isn't a surprise to anyone. If the Chiefs can lost just one more game against the Broncos, they'll be a lock to draft Geno Smith first overall. One possible coaching candidate if this happens is Andy Reid... Geno Smith projects to be very much like Donovan McNabb early in his career.

Predictions for Next Week

TKN's last week accuracy: 12-4 (75.00%)
Billy's last week accuracy: 12-4 (75.00%)
AFS's* last week accuracy: 11-5 (68.75%)

TKN's Overall 2012 accuracy: 155-85 (64.58%)
Billy's Overall 2012 accuracy: 145-95 (60.42%)
AFS's* Overall 2012 accuracy: 151-89 (62.92%)
*American Football Simulator averages of 2,000 simulations.

As you can see, all of our predictors had a very good Week 16, having 11 or more correctly predicted games. The only two games that collectively stumped us was Cincinnati over Pittsburgh, and Minnesota over Houston. Week 17 is a difficult week to predict since you never know who will be resting players and how motivated certain teams will come out... but we'll do our best!

Just a note, Billy didn't send me scores this week so that's why each of his games don't have a score.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-9) @ Atlanta Falcons (13-2)
TheKillerNacho: Having already clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the Falcons have nothing to play for in Week 17, they'll probably rest their starters to go into the post-season healthy. The Bucs want to prove their last few games were a fluke, and finish the season strong for Greg Schiano. I think the Bucs will win if the Falcons rest their starters for at least half the game. I'll change this pick if we learn the Falcons won't rest their starters, though.
Tampa Bay 26, Atlanta 20

Billy:
Tampa Bay L, Atlanta W

American  Football Simulator:
Tampa Bay 25, Atlanta 26

McElroy got sacked 11 times against SD.
New York Jets (6-9) @ Buffalo Bills (5-10)
TheKillerNacho: I think Buffalo will be able to pressure Greg McElroy enough to take this win. Then again, the Jets could easily run right over the Bills in the rushing game. This game is important for both teams, to get some momentum going into next season (and for the coaches, to secure their head coaching jobs... it would not surprise me if either Chan Gailey or Rex Ryan is fired this off-season).
New York J 20, Buffalo 23

Billy:
New York J W, Buffalo L

American  Football Simulator:
New York J 24, Buffalo 21

Baltimore Ravens (10-5) @ Cincinnati Bengals (9-6)
TheKillerNacho: This is now a fairly meaningless game, as the Bengals are locked into the #6 seed and the Ravens cannot earn a first-round bye (they could however move up to the #3 seed and play the Bengals again with a win & a Patriots loss). It would not shock me of both of these teams rested starters, making it impossible to predict... I'll update this prediction if only one team benches starters, but at the moment, I trust the Ravens more than the Bengals.
Baltimore 20, Cincinnati 17

Billy:
Baltimore L, Cincinnati W

American Football Simulator:
Baltimore 25, Cincinnati 19

Cleveland Browns (5-10) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8)
TheKillerNacho: This is a grudge match with no playoff implications. The Steelers would like to avoid their first losing season since 2003, but the Browns would like nothing more than to cause that losing season (not to mention Pat Shurmur's seat is inferno-hot). I'll take the Steelers, though.
Cleveland 13, Pittsburgh 17

Billy:
Cleveland L, Pittsburgh W

American Football Simulator:
Cleveland 17, Pittsburgh 24

Calvin Johnson will look to extend his record against CHI.
Chicago Bears (9-6) @ Detroit Lions (4-11)
TheKillerNacho: The Bears need to win to have any shot at the playoffs, and the Lions are playing pretty poor this season. The Lions are more likely to try to secure Calvin Johnson's newly earned receiving yardage record than try to actually win this game... The Bears defense should play well against Matt Stafford and Jay Cutler should play well against the Lions porous defense.
Chicago 27, Detroit 17

Billy:
Chicago W, Detroit L

American Football Simulator:
Chicago 24, Detroit 22

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13) @ Tennessee Titans (5-10)
TheKillerNacho: I could really see this game going either way but after the Titans' blowout to the Packers, their morale is probably pretty low. I'll go with the Jaguars against my better judgement.
Jacksonville 17, Tennessee 16

Billy:
Jacksonville W, Tennessee L

American Football Simulator:
Jacksonville 22, Tennessee 25

Philadelphia Eagles (4-11) @ New York Giants (8-7)
TheKillerNacho: The Giants HAVE to win here against the horrible Eagles, right? Or will they get dominated again? Morale can't be good in New York right now but its hard to see how they aren't still the favorites. After all, they still have a chance at the playoffs, technically.
Philadelphia 20, New York G 26

Billy:
Philadelphia L, New York G W

American Football Simulator:
Philadelphia 20, New York G 27

Carolina Panthers (6-9) @ New Orleans Saints (7-8)
TheKillerNacho: This should be a pretty good but offensive game... a real shoot-out. I'll take the Saints at home, though.
Carolina 30, New Orleans 31

Billy:
Carolina L, New Orleans W

American Football Simulator:
Carolina 24, New Orleans 28


Houston Texans (12-3) @ Indianapolis Colts (10-5)
TheKillerNacho: With the Colts locked into the #5 seed, there is a strong possibility that they rest their starters for the playoffs. The Texans need to win in order to secure home-field advantage (and even a first round bye!). The Texans should come out firing and take this.
Houston 29, Indianapolis 20

Billy:
Houston L, Indianapolis W

American Football Simulator:
Houston 27, Indianapolis 22

The rushing record is a side-thought for Peterson in Week 17.
Green Bay Packers (11-4) @ Minnesota Vikings (9-6)
TheKillerNacho: This might be the closest game of the week, and second-most important (behind DAL @ WAS). The Vikings have two straight blow-outs and if they win, they're in. A loss opens the door for the Bears, Giants or even the Redskins (if they lose to the Cowboys) to take their spot, though. The Packers need to win to secure a first-round bye... both the Seahawks or the 49ers (whichever wins the NFC West) can take their first-round bye spot with a Packers loss. The Packers are the better team, and are also hot right now. I'll go with the Pack but the Vikings could easily win this...
Green Bay 27, Minnesota 23

Billy:
Green Bay W, Minnesota L

American Football Simulator:
Green Bay 26, Minnesota 22

St. Louis Rams (7-7-1) @ Seattle Seahawks (10-5)
TheKillerNacho: The Rams are a dangerous team under Jeff Fisher, but I don't think they'll have what it takes to thwart the Seahawks at Seattle, when Seattle could win the NFC West with a win. The Seahawks take this... and it might be another blowout!
St. Louis 17, Seattle 28

Billy:
St. Louis L, Seattle W

American Football Simulator:
St. Louis 21, Seattle 23

Miami Dolphins (7-8) @ New England Patriots (11-4)
TheKillerNacho: With the Patriots having the opportunity at a first-round bye with a Denver or Houston loss (or even homefield advantage in the unlikely event they BOTH lose), the Patriots will come out to play against the Dolphins. The Dolphins are a solid team, but aren't in the same category of the Patriots but they'd  love to upset them here... Still, I'd go with the Patriots.
Miami 20, New England 27

Billy:
Miami L, New England W

American Football Simulator:
Miami 18, New England 26

Kansas City Chiefs (2-13) @ Denver Broncos (12-3)
TheKillerNacho: Peyton Manning and the Broncos (who must win to secure a first-round bye) or the Chiefs (who must lose to secure Geno Smith)? Hmm...
Kansas City 6, Denver 30

Billy:
Kansas City L, Denver W

American Football Simulator:
Kansas City 15, Denver 24

Oakland Raiders (4-11) @ San Diego Chargers (6-9)
TheKillerNacho: The Chargers should avoid a 10-loss season against the lowly Raiders, here (especially if Carson Palmer can't go). That's all I'm going to say on this pointless matchup.
Oakland 17, San Diego 26

Billy:
Oakland L, San Diego W

American Football Simulator:
Oakland 24, San Diego 26

If SF loses the division, could Kapernick be benched for Alex Smith?
Arizona Cardinals (5-10) @ San Francisco 49ers (10-4-1)
TheKillerNacho: The Cardinals offense is horrendous, I don't see how they'll score against the 49ers in San Francisco. This defensive battle will ultimately be won by the 49ers, pretty handily... eventually Colin Kapernick and Frank Gore will score points.
Arizona 10, San Francisco 24

Billy:
Arizona L, San Francisco W

American Football Simulator:
Arizona 18, San Francisco 29

Dallas Cowboys (8-7) @ Washington Redskins (9-6)
TheKillerNacho: The winner of this game wins the NFC East... Judging by both teams' play recently, I'm going with Washington. Robert Griffin III should have a pretty good game against a Cowboys defense that was torched last week. For the Cowboys to win, Tony Romo needs to find his inner clutch... err... yeah, right.
Dallas 24, Washington 27

Billy:
Dallas L, Washington W

American Football Simulator:
Dallas 25, Washington 26

Question of the Week

Last week, I asked "Which 8-6 team will win the NFC East?" between the New York Giants, Washington Redskins, or Dallas Cowboys? The voters seemed to have it right as only 15% said the Giants, who are not eliminated from NFC East contention. The Redskins won the poll with a smashing 61%, with the remaining 23% voting for Dallas. We'll soon see whether the 61% majority is correct in Week 17.

Since this is the season's last regular season week, its time to talk League MVP. There are many worthy candidates, and I want to see what my readers think. Therefore, this week's question is, "Which player should win NFL League MVP?" between Tom Brady (NE), Peyton Manning (DEN), Matt Ryan (ATL), Adrian Peterson (MIN), J.J. Watt (HOU), or Other (please comment). All of these players are deserving, but of them I think Watt & Ryan are the most unlikely. Ryan has posted good numbers this year, but seemed to be carried by his team too often. Watt has done things that no-one has ever seen a 3-4 defensive end do, but defensive players seem to be rarely considered for this award. That leaves Brady, Manning, and Peterson. Of the three, I'd say Peterson is easily most valuable to his team. Having said that, Peyton Manning has improved the Broncos immensely since coming to the team, so I'd vote him at this point.

Vote on the right-hand side of my blog!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

NFL 2012 Week 16 Power Rankings and Predictions

Week 15 will be remembered as a week of blowouts... Of the 16 games, only two were close at all (and one looked like it would be a blowout until the 4th quarter). There were still plenty of surprises, however. Let's see how this shakes up the Power Rankings...

Biggest Winner: Miami Dolphins (+4)
Biggest Loser: Detroit Lions (-6)

1. Houston Texans (12-2, +1): A dominant win over the rival Colts gives the Texans the check-mark in the AFC South. While the Texans have had two disasters this season, for the most part they have been dominant in every other showing. While their losses to Championship contenders does scare me, I still believe the Texans are the best overall team... even if I do not believe they're the Super Bowl favorite.

2. New England Patriots (10-4, -1): Sunday night was a roller-coaster ride for the Patriots. Going down 31-3 in the 3rd Quarter, Tom Brady was actually able to battle back to tie the game 34-34... quite an amazing feat. The Patriots ultimately lost the game, but I'm not going to push them down too far. I have no doubts that the Patriots will find a way to bounce back.

3. San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1, +0): I may get some criticism for putting them below the Patriots still, the team they beat on Sunday night, but this is just how I see things. Yes, we all know the 49ers can hang around and beat the big boys. I still have them as my #3 team, so I'm obviously very high on them. But the Niners have shown inconsistency this season, losing (and tying for that matter) to teams they really should have beat. Still, the 49ers have shown they can beat anybody and remains a strong championship contender.

4. Atlanta Falcons (12-2, +1): Up until last week, the Falcons failed to have any kind of decisive victory. They made a serious statement against the former Super Bowl champions, shutting them out 34-0 in a game the Giants really needed to win. The Falcons have sent their statement: They are a legitimate threat this off-season. While I still need to see if they can actually perform in the playoffs, the Falcons seem to be getting hot at the right time.

5. Denver Broncos (11-3, +2): There's been a lot of talk about Peyton Manning and how he makes the Broncos a serious contender, but lets not forget the other very important aspect of the Broncos: their defense. The Broncos defense is playing even better than last year, and completely dominated the Ravens in Week 15. Peyton Manning combined with this defense is why the Broncos are a serious contender.

6. Green Bay Packers (10-4, +0): How does Mason Crosby still have a job? A great kicker last year, the Packers kicker has been horrendous this year. They won despite his misses in Week 15, but its clear that the guy lost his mojo and the team no longer trusts him. At one point the Packers opted to go for a 4th and 6 while in field goal range obviously because they didn't trust Crosby. One would think they could bring in a guy sitting in Free Agency like Longwell or Kasay and it would be an improvement...

7. Seattle Seahawks (9-5, +1): Granted, it was only the Bills and the Cardinals, but two straight dominations is impressive for any team. Especially for a team with a rookie Quarterback. I'm not really sure how good this team is, but getting a dominating win on the road is a step int he right direction. The only bad thing for the Seahawks was the Niners winning over the Patriots, hurting their chances for a division title.

8. New York Giants (8-6, -4): It's not like the Giants to get shut out in a must-win situation. The Giants have fallen to 2nd in the NFC East with this loss, trailing the Redskins due to a tie-breaker. The NFC East is now wide-open and the Giants have no one to blame but themselves. This has been the most frustrating team in football this year due to their inconsistency, but I still believe they have what it takes to win the East.

9. Washington Redskins (8-6, +3): When Griffin was ruled out against the Browns, I was pretty sure the Redskins would lose. Who would've thought fellow-rookie Kirk Cousins would've been able to come in and get a huge win? The Redskins are now atop the NFC East. With Griffin back, they have a serious shot at taking the division from the former-Champion Giants.

10. Baltimore Ravens (9-5, -1): So much for a new Offensive coordinator creating a spark... the Ravens' offense was as flat as they come on Sunday against the Broncos. Ray Rice found no running room against the Broncos' top defense. Furthermore, Joe Flacco was inaccurate and turnover-prone. Their only real points of the game came on big plays but they were never truly in it. The good news for the Ravens is that they clinched a playoff birth. They should focus on getting healthy for the playoffs, now.

11. Minnesota Vikings (8-6, +2): The Vikings' big win over the Rams in a game that would virtually eliminate the loser was a big statement. RB Adrian Peterson is a huge candidate for League MVP, in my eyes. Adding another 212 yards against St. Louis, Peterson now has over 1800 yards and 11 touchdowns on the year with two games to go. Barring injury, I think he's a virtual lock for a 2000-yard season. He's also averaging a ridiculous 6.3 yards per carry... coming off a big injury last season. Is this guy even human?

12. Chicago Bears (8-6, -2): Now dropping to 8-6, the Bears are in a serious danger-zone. The defense has been wearing down due to injuries and age. Meanwhile, the offense can't seem to get much of anything going. The Bears are in trouble. The only good news for the Bears is they get two relatively easy games to finish out the year... one against the Cardinals, then the Lions. The bad news is they could easily lose either of those games and be virtually eliminated.

13. Indianapolis Colts (9-5, -2): While I like the Colts, its clear they are no where near as good as their 9-5 record indicates... a lot of their success this year can be attributed to an easy schedule. Their 29-17 loss to the Texans shows they simply aren't talented enough to compete with the big boys. Despite being 9-5, the Colts have a -49 point differential... they've barely beaten bad teams, and lose big to better teams. I don't think they'll make much of a splash in the playoffs.

14. Cincinnati Bengals (8-6, +1): Despite inconsistency from Andy Dalton and from this Bengals team in general, they have been good enough to blow out teams this year and win games they should win. Going to 8-6 after a 34-13 win over the Eagles, the Bengals are in a good position for an AFC wildcard birth following the Steelers' loss to the Cowboys.

15. Dallas Cowboys (8-6, +1): Tied atop the NFC East with the Giants and Redskins, the Cowboys are still the odd-team out in my opinion. Unlike the Redskins and Giants, the Cowboys' upside is considerably smaller and they are more prone to mistakes. Still, the Cowboys will get the opportunity to play for, and perhaps win, the division title. Although if they don't win the division, they aren't in a good position for a wildcard.

16. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7, -2): The Steelers blew it with a 27-24 overtime loss to the Cowboys (ironically, the best game of the Week). On Monday, they decided to kiss and make-up with Rashard Mendenhall, who was serving a team-imposed suspension. I guess they realized they may need the former 1st-round Runningback if they want to win out and give themselves a shot at a wildcard birth.

17. New Orleans Saints (6-8, +2): You know the Saints really want to show some promise going into next season. This season was basically lost when Bountygate broke. But a 41-0 win over the division-rival Buccaneers restores some optimism going into next season. Of course, the most important thing for the Saints is trying to lock up HC Sean Payton again... it will be interesting to monitor this situation this off-season.

18. St. Louis Rams (6-7-1, +0): Falling down early to the Vikings, the Rams battled to stay in the game but just couldn't. Still, we saw some good play by Danny Amendola, who appears to not have any setback coming back from his injuries in this game. The Rams are now virtually eliminated with their loss but one has to feel good about the Rams' future with Jeff Fisher. This is the first time in a long while it feels like the Rams are headed in the right direction.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8, -2): When push comes to shove, I guess Greg Schiano's Buccaneers shown that they aren't good enough to compete. Going into the weekend at 6-7, the Bucs were far from eliminated but needed a win against the Saints. Instead, they let themselves lose 41-0, not being able to scratch one of the league's worst defenses. Josh Freeman threw three picks in that game while Doug Martin was largely ineffective.

20Miami Dolphins (6-8, +4): It was only the Jaguars, but rookie QB Ryan Tannehill had a very good game last Sunday in the 24-3 victory. Tannehill went 22/28 for 220 yards and 2 touchdowns, for a QB rating of 123.2. This was a welcome sign from Dolphins fans, since Tannehill had been seemingly regressing towards the end of the year. The Dolphins need to get Tannehill some weapons during the off-season.

21. New York Jets (6-8, +1): I know its absurd to move a team up one slot after a playoff-eliminating loss on Monday night, but honestly, I didn't know what other team to put at #21 due to pretty much every other team being blown out. Mark Sanchez threw four interceptions in this game. I would say he put the final nails in his coffin but his contract pretty much assures he'll be a Jet next year. Not that I mind as a Dolphins fan. Also, it looks like the Braylon Edwards was fairly pointless.

22Carolina Panthers (5-9, +3): Cam Newton and the Panthers are putting a strong finish to this season, which should allow HC Ron Rivera to stick around for another season. The Panthers' defense, which has been largely horrible during the last couple seasons, held the Chargers to just 7 points while Cam Newton lit up the sky and ground to put up 31 points against the Chargers.

23. San Diego Chargers (5-9, -2): A huge upset win against the Steelers followed by a huge upset loss against the Panthers... that sums up the Chargers' season pretty nicely, doesn't it? I'll be curious to see how whoever coaches here next season is able to turn this boat around... the Chargers on paper are a pretty talented team, no where near as bad as their 5-9 record indicates.

24. Buffalo Bills (5-9, -1): In my opinion, the Bills should've never agreed to play in Toronto. Of course, to say that was the reason for their 50-17 blowout loss to the Seahawks would be absurd... but it certainly doesn't help matters. Chan Gailey's seat must be getting very hot nearing the end of this season. His reign as Bills coach has been mostly filled with inconsistency but promise... will they give him another year?

25. Tennessee Titans (5-9, +2): Picking off Mark Sanchez four times, the Titans eliminated the Jets with their 14-10 victory on Monday night. It was a rather boring show, as a 14-10 score would indicate, but it started off with a bang. Chris Johnson broke his career-long run with a 94-yard touchdown in the 1st quarter. With nearly 1200 rushing yards and a 4.8 average going into Week 16, Johnson may have salvaged his career with the Titans.

26. Detroit Lions (4-10, -6): It's not good when you're the team snapping another team's 9-game losing streak. The Lions defense had a pretty easy matchup against a completely inept Cardinals offense led by rookie nightmare Ryan Lindley. But bad play by their offense led them to being worn down and giving up 38 points. The Lions DST was the most picked-up player in Fantasy football last week... sucks for everyone who lost a fantasy playoff game beacuse they sucked it up.

27. Cleveland Browns (5-9, -1): With Robert Griffin III sitting out, one would've thought the Browns would've been capable of getting a win against the Redskins at home. Instead, the Browns lost 38-21. Brandon Weeden has not really gotten better as the season progresses. He seems unable to read defenses and looks nervous on every play. The Browns will be looking for another signal-caller in the off-season.

28. Philadelphia Eagles (4-10, +0): Thursday night's game against the Bengals was pretty up-and-down, even for the Eagles. They got off to a 10-0 deficit right off the back due to back-to-back inept mistakes by the Eagles but battled back to a 13-10 lead at halftime. During the 2nd half, however, the Eagles continued to shoot themselves in the foot and wouldn't let go of the trigger, ultimately losing the game 34-13. Goodbye and good riddance, Andy Reid.

29. Oakland Raiders (4-10, +1): The Raiders defense was able to pitch a shut-out in their 15-0 win. Of course, it was against the Chiefs. Led by Brady Quinn... without Dwayne Bowe... and the offense still only mustered up 15 points. The Raiders are still among one of the worst teams in the NFL, make no mistake. They need to be infused with some talent in the off-season.

30. Arizona Cardinals (5-9, +1): I really expected the Cardinals to go 4-12, ending the season with a 12-game losing streak. Don't make any mistake, though. The Cardinals' 38-10 victory over the Lions had nothing to do with their offense. The Cardinals defense, as they have all season, came to play in a big way. Matthew Stafford threw three picks against the Cardinals while the Lions weren't able to set up the running game with Mikel LeShoure.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12, -2): As soon as the Refs had to take back a big touchdown pass from Chad Henne due to a huge mistake from Guy Whimper (who forgot to declare legible), one could feel the Jaguars were doomed in that game. The defense got worn down in the 2nd half, resulting in the Dolphins putting up 24 points. The Jaguars may get Maurice Jones-Drew back for Week 16, which would instantly bolster their offense, but at this point, does it really matter?

32. Kansas City Chiefs (2-12, +0): I don't think I really need to say anything after the Chiefs 15-0 loss to the Raiders. This is the worst team in football, and it really isn't close. At least Scott Pioli probably won't make the same mistake this year with using an interim Head coach. Best to just fire Romeo Crennel in the off-season then start your head coaching search in the off-season. This team desperately needs a change in leadership. If I were the owner, I'd fire Pioli, too.

Predictions for Next Week

TKN's last week accuracy: 10-6 (62.50%)
Billy's last week accuracy: 14-2 (87.50%)
AFS's* last week accuracy: 9-7 (56.25%)

TKN's Overall 2012 accuracy: 143-81 (63.84%)
Billy's Overall 2012 accuracy: 133-91 (59.38%)
AFS's* Overall 2012 accuracy: 140-84 (62.50%)
*American Football Simulator averages of 2,000 simulations.

After a year of sucking it up pretty badly, Billy made a big statement in Week 15 with a 14-2 pick'em record. While he's still behind by a large margin, it would be annoying if he continued to come back against me!

The Falcons established themselves as legit in Week 15.
Atlanta Falcons (12-2) @ Detroit Lions (4-10)
TheKillerNacho: With Thursday night games gone, we get Saturday night games as a replacement! Unfortunately, this game isn't anything special with the 12-2 Falcons facing the 4-10 Lions. This will only be much of a game if the Falcons take it easy. Still, they can clinch homefield advantage throughout the playoffs with a win... so I wouldn't count on it.
Atlanta 29, Detroit 17

Billy:
Atlanta 29, Detroit 23

American  Football Simulator:
Atlanta 26, Detroit 23

Oakland Raiders (4-10) @ Carolina Panthers (5-9)
TheKillerNacho: The Panthers are playing good football down the stretch, I see Cam Newton putting up big numbers against a poor Raiders secondary. I think the Panthers take this, possibly in a blow-out.
Oakland 13, Carolina 27

Billy:
Oakland 22, Carolina 28

American  Football Simulator:
Oakland 23, Carolina 25

Buffalo Bills (5-9) @ Miami Dolphins (6-8)
TheKillerNacho: Miami should find a way to beat the rival Bills here at home. The Bills offense has been poor lately so the Dolphins defense should be able to contain them. The real question mark is whether or not Ryan Tannehill can keep up his pace with another strong performance.
Buffalo 20, Miami 23

Billy:
Buffalo 10, Miami 20

American Football Simulator:
Buffalo 22, Miami 23

Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7)
TheKillerNacho: This is a big game for the AFC wildcard race. If the Bengals win, they can clinch themselves a wildcard birth. However, if the Steelers win, they'll get the upper-hand. I still believe the Steelers are the better team and don't see them being knocked out at home.
Cincinnati 23, Pittsburgh 27

Billy:
Cincinnati 13, Pittsburgh 21

American Football Simulator:
Cincinnati 18, Pittsburgh 24

New England Patriots (10-4) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12)
TheKillerNacho: This is not really much of a contest... the Jaguars will look better if Jones-Drew can play but I wouldn't count on that giving them a chance against the Patriots.
New England 30, Jacksonville 10

Billy:
New England 44, Jacksonville 20

American Football Simulator:
New England 26, Jacksonville 21

Andrew Luck and the Colts have had an easy schedule in 2012.
Indianapolis Colts (9-5) @ Kansas City Chiefs (2-12)
TheKillerNacho: The Colts' easy schedule continues with the Chiefs in Week 16. Andrew Luck and the Colts should have little problem improving their -49 point differential here against the NFL's worst team.
Indianapolis 27, Kansas City 10

Billy:
Indianapolis 34, Kansas City 21

American Football Simulator:
Indianapolis 22, Kansas City 21

New Orleans Saints (6-8) @ Dallas Cowboys (8-6)
TheKillerNacho: The Saints can continue their role of spoiler in Dallas against the Cowboys, who are in must-win mode in order to win the NFC East. The Cowboys are played well as of late, however, and with Dez Bryant getting over his injured finger, I think Tony Romo may be able to light up the Saints defense. I'm thinking Dallas takes this but having said that, I could easily end up regretting this pick.
New Orleans 27, Dallas 28

Billy:
New Orleans 27, Dallas 35

American Football Simulator:
New Orleans 27, Dallas 26

Washington Redskins (8-6) @ Philadelphia Eagles (4-10)
TheKillerNacho: With Griffin likely back, there is no doubt in my mind the Redskins will further their NFC East cause with a win over the Eagles here. Not much else to really say.. except this game will feature three rookie Quarterbacks who started this season... Cousins, Griffin, & Foles.
Washington 24, Philadelphia 17

Billy:
Washington 27, Philadelphia 18

American Football Simulator:
Washington 27, Philadelphia 22


St. Louis Rams (6-7-1) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8)
TheKillerNacho: A few weeks ago, this game looked like it could actually be relevant to the playoffs. Now, with both teams losing in Week 15, this game is between two games looking to put something together that is positive going into 2013. I like the Rams over the Bucs who got blown out 41-0 to the Saints.
St. Louis 23, Tampa Bay 21

Billy:
St. Louis 21, Tampa Bay 33

American Football Simulator:
St. Louis 23, Tampa Bay 24

Could Sanchez be in store for another 4-int game?
San Diego Chargers (5-9) @ New York Jets (6-8)
TheKillerNacho: Its nearly impossible to predict which of these horrible teams will come out on top. The Chargers defense is fairly good at taking the ball away... If Sanchez plays it could mean some more interceptions... I'll go with the Chargers but this could go either way. Or easily be a blowout either way. There's no predicting this one.
San Diego 24, New York J 23

Billy:
San Diego 34, New York J 20

American Football Simulator:
San Diego 23, New York J 24

Tennessee Titans (5-9) @ Green Bay Packers (10-4)
TheKillerNacho: Unless it comes down to a field goal, the Packers should beat the Titans pretty handily here at home. The Packers are in a tough battle for a first-round bye, so they have plenty to play for.
Tennessee 16, Green Bay 28

Billy:
Tennessee 23, Green Bay 42

American Football Simulator:
Tennessee 22, Green Bay 28

Minnesota Vikings (8-6) @ Houston Texans (12-2)
TheKillerNacho: This game is the Vikings' real test to be in the playoffs. The 12-2 Texans won't be backing down with homefield-advantage on the line. The Texans also want to prove to themselves they can defeat a playoff-calabir team. Look for the Texans to try to take Adrian Peterson out of the game. Of course, we all know Peterson can beat the stacked box... should be a fairly good game but I'll go with the home team.
Minnesota 24, Houston 27

Billy:
Minnesota 17, Houston 24

American Football Simulator:
Minnesota 23, Houston 27

Cleveland Browns (5-9) @ Denver Broncos (11-3)
TheKillerNacho: The Broncos need a win here to stay ahead of the Patriots for a first-round bye. They also have an out-side chance at homefield advantage throughout the playoffs if the Texans lose out. Look for the Broncos to get a win over the Browns in Week 16. Brandon Weeden's going to wish he was hiding under an American flag when its all said and done.
Cleveland 14, Denver 29

Billy:
Cleveland 17, Denver 30

American Football Simulator:
Cleveland 19, Denver 23

Chicago Bears (8-6) @ Arizona Cardinals (5-9)
TheKillerNacho: While the Cardinals just lit up the Lions, the Bears defense is a completely different story. While they have been wearing down in recent games, they should have no problem owning an inept Cardinals offense. The only problem is, the Bears offense doesn't matchup well against the Cardinals defense, either. Expect a defensive game, but one that ultimately ends up with a Bears victory.
Chicago 16, Arizona 12

Billy:
Chicago 17, Arizona 14

American Football Simulator:
Chicago 26, Arizona 20

The Giants should get Bradshaw back against BAL.
New York Giants (8-6) @ Baltimore Ravens (9-5)
TheKillerNacho: This is a much bigger game for the Giants than it is for the Ravens, who have already clinched the AFC North. The Ravens could still get a first-round bye but it is unlikely. I'd expect Coughlin to corral his team together to get this must-win game.
New York G 27, Baltimore 20

Billy:
New York G 20, Baltimore 26

American Football Simulator:
New York G 23, Baltimore 25

San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) @ Seattle Seahawks (9-5)
TheKillerNacho: Had the 49ers dropped to the Patriots, this would've virtually been the NFC West championship. Now, the Seahawks would need the 49ers to also lose to the Cardinals in Week 17... something that probably won't happen. Still, the 49ers would like to win this game to clinch it right here and now. But the Seahawks rarely drop a game at home. I'll go with the Hawks but don't expect it to be another 40-point game for Russell Wilson.
San Francisco 20, Seattle 22

Billy:
San Francisco 16, Seattle 21

American Football Simulator:
San Francisco 26, Seattle 20

Question of the Week

Two weeks ago, I asked "Of all the teams with more than 9 wins, which one is most likely a pretender?" between the Atlanta Falcons (11-2), Houston Texans (11-2), New England Patriots (10-3), Denver Broncos (10-3), or the San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1)? It seems most people went with the Atlanta Falcons, who had 58% of the vote. But with their 34-0 shutout of the Giants, it doesn't seem so likely to be the case anymore. The Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers were tied for 2nd with 16% each. The Denver Broncos had 8%, with no one voting for the Patriots. In reality, I don't think any of these teams are a pretender after Week 16.

If there's one division in the NFL that's still wide open, its the NFC East. This week's question is, "Which 8-6 team will win the NFC East?" between the New York Giants, Washington Redskins, or Dallas Cowboys? As I've said earlier in this post, I'm still expecting the former champs to take it. But the Redskins are a serious threat to the Giants with their big playmaker, Robert Griffin III... What do my readers think?

Vote on the right-hand side of my blog!!