This week, the New England Patriots maintain the top spot in the rankings but find a new contender for No. 1 right below in the Minnesota Vikings. The Panthers, Steelers and Rams round out the top five headed into the final week of the regular season, while the biggest mover, the San Francisco 49ers, rockets into the No. 14 spot thanks to a four-game winning streak engineered by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
The Steelers bounced back from their defeat to the Patriots and took care of business Monday against the overmatched Texans, even without WR Antonio Brown in the lineup. Despite Brown’s uncertain status for the playoffs, there remains no reason to doubt a Steelers-Patriots rematch in the AFC championship game.
GM Sashi Brown said Monday that he didn’t sabotage the botched trade for Bengals QB AJ McCarron on purpose. That’s good. Unfortunately for him, the alternative explanations are not that much more reassuring.
The Packers remained in position to lock up at least a wild-card berth by beating the Minnesota Vikings, 38-25. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers three two touchdown passes to wide receiver Jordy Nelson, another to Davante Adams, a fourth to tight end Richard Rodgers and added a rushing touchdown of his own to set up a Week 17 clash with the Detroit Lions that could decide the NFC North. That would be contingent on a loss by the Lions on Monday night when they face the NFC-leading Dallas Cowboys.
Meanwhile, the Vikings, burned badly throughout the first half by Green Bay wide receiver Jordy Nelson, have only themselves — or at least their secondary — to blame. It seems that instead of following Coach Mike Zimmer’s game plan to have cornerback Xavier Rhodes shadow Nelson, the defensive backs felt they knew better, and let whoever was on the same side as Nelson take him.