Matthew Stafford and the Lions have won five in a row to open up a two-game lead in the NFC North
The early afternoon window on Sunday produced plenty of drama in the final few minutes while all of the primetime games delivered with close games in another quality week of football in the NFL. The playoff field shuffled considerably in both conferences as a result of some of those outcomes and we’re starting to see teams finding a hot hand as much as we’re running into a few others who simply would like the season to be over.
With that in mind and factoring in everything from overall roster strength, to quarterback play, to the coaching staff, to injuries, here is the latest edition of NFL power rankings and where every team stacks up from 1 to 32.
Week 15 NFL Power Rankings
Last week: 1
It certainly seems as though the Giants have this team’s number as New York has handed the Cowboys both of their losses this season. Losing on the road in a close game to a division rival isn’t anything to fret over but the offensive performance the past two weeks is eyebrow-raising for those wondering if Dak Prescott is finally coming back to Earth. We’ll see if this has been an aberration or a troubling trend in the final two games this month.
2. New England Patriots
Last week: 2
Bill Belichick may personally take over special teams as a result of those miscues on “Monday Night Football” against the Ravens. This team is still the favorite in the AFC at this point even with all the injuries and defensive struggles but a walk to the Super Bowl shouldn’t be expected by fans in New England.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
Last week: 4
It wasn’t always pretty against Oakland on Thursday night, but the Chiefs own the tiebreakers in the AFC West race and are hot on the heels of the Patriots for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Everybody in the AFC saw what a dangerous team this can be with somebody like Tyreek Hill returning kicks but replacing linebacker Derrick Johnson will certainly be easier said than done.
4. Detroit Lions
Last week: 7
We’re to the point in the Lions’ season where Calvin Johnson has to be kicking himself just a little the way things have gone without him. Although they needed yet another late comeback to beat the lowly Bears, all those late wins bode well come playoff time when everything seems to come down to a final few plays.
5. Oakland Raiders
Last week: 3
Short week on the road and the Raiders played as such at Kansas City, cutting their odds to win the division down considerably. The defensive performance was very encouraging however and if they continue to play like that, this will be a team few want to face in the postseason.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last week: 8
Le’Veon Bell out-gained the Bills by himself and suddenly the very dangerous Steelers are hitting the same stride they were on last year. Given what’s left on the schedule, wouldn’t be surprising at all if this team didn’t have a seven-game winning streak heading into a wild card game.
7. Atlanta Falcons
Last week: 10
Putting up 42 — even against the Rams — with those injury issues on offense was still impressive and it would take quite a collapse for this team to miss out on hosting a playoff game given the way the schedule breaks in December.
8. New York Giants
Last week: 11
No team enjoys winning ugly quite like the Giants, which really have exorcized their close game troubles from a season ago and done the exact opposite in 2016. We’ll find out if that win over Dallas was the result of familiarity and matchups or something else these final three games but it’s beginning to feel at least a little like 2008 or ‘11 for some.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last week: 12
It’s been a long time since Tampa Bay fans can be excited to tune in for Bucs games but that’s the case thanks to this late-season surge that has included wins over several playoff teams. We’ll see if Jameis Winston and company can add another Sunday night in Big D.
10. Seattle Seahawks
Last week: 5
We can chalk up the Russell Wilson interceptions to a bad day continuing to roll downhill but the offensive line struggles on the road and defensives lapses without Earl Thomas is very concerning as the team looks toward the postseason.
11. Denver Broncos
Last week: 6
Having Trevor Siemian throw the ball 51 times isn’t the recipe for success with this team as the run game has once again proven to be non-existent on the road.
12. Baltimore Ravens
Last week: 9
The comeback against the Patriots took the sting out of a tough loss but there’s still plenty of questions regarding if this team has enough to get over the hump and make it into the postseason.
13. Green Bay Packers
Last week: 17
That’s now three in a row for the Packers thanks to a much stiffer defense and an offense that hasn’t skipped a beat even if Aaron Rodgers is still a little banged up. At this point, you probably wouldn’t bet against Green Bay winning out given how well the Pack played against Seattle and what’s left on the docket.
14. Tennessee Titans
Last week: 16
It took awhile, but the Titans finally got over that .500 hump thanks to one of their most impressive wins of the season over Denver. Somebody has to win the AFC South and it’s looking more and more like things will come down to hosting the Texans at the end of the year.
15. Washington Redskins
Last week: 14
Still in the thick of the playoff hunt, the team can’t afford mistakes like that pick-six Kirk Cousins threw on Sunday to keep the Eagles alive. The defensive improvement on Sunday was nice but you wonder if that was a byproduct of the opponent or signs of progress.
16. Miami Dolphins
Last week: 13
Struggling to put away the Cardinals certainly wan’t the most pressing news for Miami as all eyes are on Ryan Tannehill’s timetable for an injury comeback. Matt Moore is serviceable under center but at least the team should get linebacker Kiko Alonso back next week.
17. Buffalo Bills
Last week: 15
Rex Ryan didn’t have many answers after that loss to the Steelers in which Le’Veon Bell ran wild and it probably won’t be too long before those reports of a coaching change become reality.
18. Houston Texans
Last week: 21
The defense forced three turnovers and still needed a late stand to stop Andrew Luck. That’s probably not surprising given the way the offense performed, which once again will make life difficult during this stretch run.
19. Philadelphia Eagles
Last week: 19
The Carson Wentz Wagon is a hop-on, hop-off bus this season but it’s abundantly clear that the young signal-caller isn’t the problem in Philly, his supporting cast is.
20. Minnesota Vikings
Last week: 25
They’re amazingly still in the hunt for a playoff bid at 7-6 but struggling against Jacksonville does not bode well for their final three games. Still, maybe getting back Adrian Petersen soon could provide a nice boost to the offense, even if he’s just limited to practices.
21. New Orleans Saints
Last week: 18
Three interceptions by Drew Brees was uncharacteristic against the Bucs, but the way this team is built even tossing one might be enough to cost the Saints a win.
22. Carolina Panthers
Last week: 26
There was a time against San Diego where things could have gone south in a hurry but they didn’t and Carolina came through with a solid win at home. The team is probably resorted to playing playoff spoiler at this point but getting back to 8-8 to end the year isn’t out of the question.
23. Arizona Cardinals
Last week: 20
With each passing performance by Carson Palmer, it seems as if the calls to trade for Tony Romo will only grow louder and louder in the desert. It wasn’t a terrible surprise to see a domed team from out west struggle in the rain however.
24. San Diego Chargers
Last week: 23
If there was a way for a team to beat itself, San Diego certainly found it against Carolina as Philip Rivers once again became a turnover machine in a winnable game that slipped away.
25. Indianapolis Colts
Last week: 22
It truly would be interesting to see where this team would be if they didn’t have Andrew Luck at quarterback because these Colts are a frustrating bunch to watch closely on both sides of the ball, especially in the trenches.
26. Cincinnati Bengals
Last week: 24
It was no surprise to see the Bengals beat up the Browns, something even this banged-up team could seemingly do in its sleep.
27. Chicago Bears
Last week: 27
The play down the stretch of Matt Barkley has been one of the more interesting storylines to pop up in the NFC and could play a big role in the team’s plans next season if the Bears draft a quarterback of the future in the first few rounds.
28. New York Jets
Last week: 30
How many Jets fans were hoping for that game with the 49ers to result in a close loss or a tie for draft position purposes? All of them? All of them.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last week: 29
Getting a delay of game penalty on a kickoff, as the Jags did in their loss to Minnesota, seems to perfectly encapsulate this season for Jacksonville.
30. Los Angeles Rams
Last week: 28
Things got so bad that the team finally parted ways with Jeff Fisher. Despite the numerous issues facing Los Angeles, this should be an attractive job opening and it will be interesting to see what further housecleaning occurs between now and January.
31. San Francisco 49ers
Last week: 31
Given the state of the franchise, the 49ers probably won by losing on Sunday to the Jets with draft slot implications in play.
32. Cleveland Browns
Last week: 32
Home against the Bengals is probably the best shot the team had at avoiding a winless season given what’s left on the schedule but, on the bright side, Ohio native DeShone Kizer did declare for the draft this week...
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.