(Author’s note: I wrote this earlier in the day. I just now got the chance to publish it. Sorry for the delay.)
After not being able to do this for several weeks, I decided to start making these matchup power rankings yet again. Yes, I know most of the games have already finished. But, that won’t be taken into account here. Also, I will do belated rankings for the past weeks that I haven’t been able to do them for.
The weekend consisted of several intriguing interconference matchups, nonconference matchups, and even a few pivotal divisional battles, and even some games in which notable players took on their former teams.
Without further ado, here’s my list of the matchups of the week.
15) Tennessee Titans (2-4) at Washington Redskins (1-5) (Noon, CBS)
Clearly, this is the lowest ranked game of the weekend. Both teams have been bad this year, and there’s not much redeeming value, other than this: it could be a close game. Oh, and Alfred Morris is a good running back, and some of the receivers for the Redskins are pretty good. Other than that, I’ve got nothing. If you are being force-fed this game because of your geographic location, I’m sorry. Hopefully, it’s better live than it looks to be on paper.
15b) Cleveland Browns (3-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-6) (Noon, CBS)
Boy, what a tough start for CBS. Another game that doesn’t have much appeal on paper. I can’t say that this is a better looking game than Tennessee/Washington, so I won’t rank it any higher. That said, one of two things will happen in Jacksonville today. Either the jaguars will remove themselves from the ranks of the winless, or the Browns will move to 4-2. This game, however, will likely be a dud.
13) Arizona Cardinals (4-1) at Oakland Raiders (0-5) ( 3:25, FOX)
One of the league’s best, against one of the league’s worst. This game could be closer than some would think, but I don’t see this one garnering too many eyeballs. Derek Carr has potential, and the Cardinals have played some games closer than they should. But, while Larry Fitzgerald isn’t playing at the level he used to, Michael Floyd is playing well, Carson Palmer looks to be playing like his vintage years about eight years ago, and Andre Ellington is a terrific young running back. That’s why this game is even ranked #13.
12) Minnesota Vikings (2-4) at Buffalo Bills (3-3) (Noon, FOX)
I won’t lie, I believe this game could have a special ending. However, I also feel that it will be sloppy and low scoring. Kyle Orton has played well since getting the nod over EJ Manuel, and Sammy Watkins is a promising, young wide receiver. The Bills also possess a good defense, and their running game has the ability to make game-breaking plays. It will be first to twenty wins, but the game could be an eyesore for the majority of the way.
11) Miami Dolphins (2-3) at Chicago Bears (3-3) (Noon, CBS)
The game in Chicago is worth watching for several reasons. Brandon Marshall plays his former team, both offenses can go off at any time, and the Bears skills position trio of receivers Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, as well as running back Matt Forte, is amongst the best in the NFL. I think it’ll be an intriguing game, and while it’s definitely not the best early game of the day, it should be a good one.
10) New York Jets (1-5) at New England Patriots (4-2) (Thursday Night Football, CBS/NFL Network, 7:30c)
Why exactly is a game between divisional teams that have three games between them ranked higher than Dolphins/Bears? There are a few reasons. For one, it’s a divisional game. Then, there’s the whole deal that the two teams have a rivalry in which every game seems to be a close, thrilling one. This game would have been ranked higher, but the rest of the schedule is so compelling, and the Jets record is so bad, I just couldn’t do it.
9) Houston Texans (3-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3) (Monday Night Football (7:30c, ESPN)
Ah, the game that perfectly exemplifies Monday night Football. Both teams are okay, but not great. Neither is likely to make the playoffs, but it can happen. Neither is great offensively or defensively, but there are stars on both sides. The winner gets above .500, while the loser falls back. It’s difficult to predict the score, but the game seems likely to be decent scoring.
There’s several notable players on both teams. The Texans have an elite running back in Arian Foster, and he looks to back to elite level. They also have star wide receiver Andre Johnson, and perhaps the greatest defensive player in the NFL in JJ Watt. The Steelers still have Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback and Troy Polomalu at safety, but neither is playing too well. They do have one of the league’s best receivers in Antonio Brown and a rising running back in Leveon Bell, and this could be a very interesting game to close out the week.
8) Atlanta Falcons (2-4) at Baltimore Ravens (4-2) (Noon, FOX)
Ah, yes.the battle of “dirty birds”. The teams are going in opposite directions, as the have lost four of five, while the Ravens have won four of five. That said, both teams have electric offenses that can go off at any point, and I believe that will happen here. However, there is a chance that won’t happen, making it risky for me to rank this game higher.
7) Seattle Seahawks (3-2) at St. Louis Rams (1-5) (Noon, FOX)
On paper, this divisional tilt is a mismatch. In reality, it could be one of the best games of the day.
The Seahawks have only looked great on one occasion this season, and that was opening night. That said, they are still the defending champions, and their games are usually fun. The latter can also be said about the St. Louis Rams. They have a habit of taking double-digit leads at home and blowing them. they led 21-0 against the Cowboys, and were up 14-0 against the San Francisco 49ers last Monday, but lost each game. I see them doing the same today. Just make sure that if you’re watching this game, that you’ve got your popcorn ready.
6) Kansas City Chiefs (2-3) at San Diego Chargers (5-1) (3:05, CBS)
At six, we have a game that should have it all. The game features an elite level quarterback in Philip Rivers, an elite running back in Jamaal Charles, a pair of solid defenses, and two teams that often play close games. This one should be close, and I believe the Chiefs can pull off the upset. It’s that belief that makes me place this game so high.
5) New Orleans Saints (2-3) at Detroit Lions (4-2) (Noon, FOX)
The #2 passing defense against the top passing defense? That alone puts this game in the top five. Add in the fact that both teams have something to prove, and even the absence of Calvin Johnson can’t cause this ranking to fall.
4) Carolina Panthers (3-2-1) at Green Bay Packers (4-2) (Noon, FOX)
At #4, we have a game between two high-powered offenses that seem to have gotten things back on track. Aaron Rodgers is one of the league’s best quarterbacks, while his Panther counterpart Cam Newton seems to have righted the ship. The Packers’ wide receiving duo of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb may be the best in the league, and running back Eddie Lacy is aching for a breakout game. Add in star Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, and Packers defensive end Julius Peppers taking on his original team, and this game is loaded to the hilt.
3) Cincinnati Bengals (3-1-1) at Indianapolis Colts (4-2) (CBS)
A pair of division leaders, with powerful offenses and capable defenses? Enough said.
2) New York Giants (3-3) at Dallas Cowboys (5-1) (FOX)
Cracking the number two spot is one of the best rivalries in football. Whenever the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys take each other on, especially in Dallas, the result is a great game with pretty damn good scoring. Even though the Giants got blanked in Philadelphia last week, and their top receiver Victor Cruz is now out for the season due to a torn patellar tendon, they’ll keep things close. Expect a fun, high scoring game with thrill throughout.
1) San Francisco 49ers (4-2) at Denver Broncos (4-1) (Sunday Night Football 7:30c, NBC)
Let’s be honest. This game was number one back when the schedule was released six months ago. Both teams have rich histories, and have been great for the past three seasons. The 49ers have made three straight NFC Championships, while the Broncos have done so the past two season. The 49ers almost won the Super Bowl two years ago, while the Broncos got embarrassed in the contest back in February. This game almost took place in February, is finally happening.
Both teams have notable players on their rosters, but there’s one thing that stands out more than anything else, and would automatically place this game at number one, even if both teams were winless: Peyton Manning’s quest for history.
The Broncos’ legendary signal-caller needs just more passing touchdowns to tie Brett Favre’s all-time record of 508, while a third would grant him arguably the most prestigious record in the NFL’s books. All signs point to him accomplishing the feat, and if you’re an NFL, this game cannot be missed under any circumstances.