Cam Newton and the Panthers looked impressive in their victory over the Vikings
That might have been one of — if not the — best weeks in the NFL this season (key injuries aside). Ten games finished within one score, two went to overtime and one had the best visuals of the year in the snow. All three prime-time games were great too and we got a host of postseason-shaping wins, losses and injuries.
Doing as much as one can to sort through all that and factoring in everything from overall roster strength, to quarterback play, to the coaching staff, here is the latest edition of NFL power rankings and where every team stacks up from 1 to 32.
Week 15 NFL Power Rankings
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last week: 6
The defense is still trying to figure out how to play without Ryan Shazier (get well soon) but the offense remains the most dangerous in the league with those Killer B’s leading the way (and you may want to add kicker Chris Boswell to the group). It never felt like the Steelers were completely out of things against Baltimore and now that looming showdown against the rival Patriots could lock up home field.
2. New England Patriots
Last week: 1
Looking ahead to next week? That’s not how a Bill Belichick-coached team operates but something was certainly off in Miami on Monday night (for the fourth time in as many years). That was the kind of performance, especially from Tom Brady, that reminded you of the early-season efforts out of New England and there’s no time to take a breather to re-tool things and get healthy either.
3. Carolina Panthers
Last week: 8
The Panthers own two of the most impressive victories of any team in the league with wins over the Vikings and Patriots but from week-to-week, you never really know what you’re going to get from this squad. They showed what they were capable of on Sunday though, taking advantage of Minnesota mistakes and finally getting that run game going to open things up for Cam Newton to do his thing.
4. Minnesota Vikings
Last week: 3
That eight-game winning streak was bound to come to an end at some point but the Vikings have to kick themselves for turning the ball over like that and allowing Case Keenum to get sacked six times. That probably won’t be enough to prevent an NFC North title but stings on a day where they could have solidified a hold on the No. 1 seed given what happened to the Eagles.
5. Los Angeles Rams
Last week: 4
A fun game going toe-to-toe against the Eagles showed that this team is capable of winning the NFC but those little things down the stretch for a team that isn’t used to being in this spot will be critical. Things don’t get any easier going to Seattle to face a hungry team but securing the division title remains the focus.
6. New Orleans Saints
Last week: 5
The Saints got taken out of their game due to injuries and the way the Falcons tried to establish things up front but the schedule remains favorable enough to secure that division title. Still, all eyes on that injury report when it comes to Alvin Kamara and others.
7. Philadelphia Eagles
Last week: 2
This team can still win the NFC, that’s how solid the Eagles are across the board. But Nick Foles isn’t an MVP candidate like the guy he replaces in Carson Wentz and until he shows us what he can really do at quarterback this isn’t quite the Eagles team we thought it would be with a big win over the Rams.
8. Los Angeles Chargers
Last week: 10
The ageless Philip Rivers is firmly in the MVP debate now as the Chargers have surged into first place behind seven wins in nine games. If this team does make it into the playoffs, that passing attack (and pass rush) will make L.A. the one AFC team not named Steelers or Patriots that nobody will want to play.
9. Atlanta Falcons
Last week: 11
This team isn’t quite playing like it did at this point last season but the efforts have been encouraging and grabbing that game against the Saints is huge when it comes to potential tie-breakers down the road. The Falcons control their destiny the rest of the way and that’s all you can hope for after the way they began the year.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last week: 12
Given how well this team has played on both sides of the ball, you could reasonably argue they would be the Super Bowl favorite if somebody other than Blake Bortles was the starting quarterback. He’s played well recently and this is the most physical team in the league when it wants to be.
11. Baltimore Ravens
Last week: 13
That game against the Steelers was one of the best of the weekend and an encouraging sign for a team that needs the offense to get going. It felt like it wasn’t going to go the Ravens’ way that entire fourth quarter though and that turned out to be the case.
12. Dallas Cowboys
Last week: 14
It wasn’t pretty for about three quarters but Dak Prescott seemed to crank things up in the final frame to lead the team to an easy win in the Meadowlands. That keeps alive the playoff hopes and gets them closer to an Ezekiel Elliott return.
13. Seattle Seahawks
Last week: 7
Some Russell Wilson magic in the second half was perhaps the lone bright spot of that trip to Jacksonville, especially given how ugly the ending was in the final few minutes. The Seahawks do return home with the division on the line but these final three won’t be easy given how banged up Seattle is.
14. Tennessee Titans
Last week: 9
That was perhaps the most disappointing game of the year for the Titans given the opponent and how they played — possibly putting their playoff hopes in jeopardy. Marcus Mariota was clearly hurt given how poorly he played and you have to question why the coaching staff kept him out there with his left tackle missing in action too.
15. Green Bay Packers
Last week: 18
Not a great look that you need overtime to beat the Browns but that was an impressive bit of resolve to rally late and survive on the road. Brett Hundley did his job and kept the team in the playoff race — now it’s time for Aaron Rodgers to close the deal.
16. Detroit Lions
Last week: 15
Things got a little tight late, but a solid road victory over Tampa Bay keeps the Lions in the hunt for the postseason with no margin for error. The schedule is favorable the rest of the way but the team needs to get healthy and stay focused on the task at hand.
17. Kansas City Chiefs
Last week: 22
The losing streak is over and the schedule is still favorable to a division title. We’ll see if that effort against the rival Raiders was part of a turning point to get back on track as the playoff berth may firmly be on the line against the Chargers this week.
18. Miami Dolphins
Last week: 24
What a performance against the banged-up Patriots, especially defensively to stymie Tom Brady. Add in Adam Gase’s best play calling of the season and the magic ingredients were there for a memorable upset in South Florida.
19. Arizona Cardinals
Last week: 23
Two of the past three weeks have brought some of the most satisfying victories of the season for the Cardinals given how they’ve managed to gut them out. With not much to play for down the stretch, this is still a team you have to take seriously — which Tennessee didn’t seem to.
20. Oakland Raiders
Last week: 16
Just when you thought the Raiders would be turning the corner that kind of performance in Kansas City happens. While the defensive issues we knew about, the awful play from the offense that made the Chiefs look stellar for three quarters was the biggest eye-opener.
21. Washington Redskins
Last week: 17
At some point all the injuries were going to catch up with this team and the wheels were going to fall off and it seems the past two weeks are the clearest indication of that happening in Washington.
22. Buffalo Bills
Last week: 20
The Lake Effect was in full force for one of the most eye-catching NFL games in a long time up in Buffalo. The good news for the Bills is they survived all that snow to keep their slim playoff hopes alive and live to play another day. The bad news is Joe Webb might be the quarterback at the moment.
23. Chicago Bears
Last week: 30
That game in Cincinnati might have been the most well-rounded victory in the John Fox era factoring everything in.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
Last week: 19
After that physical game against Pittsburgh last week, it was no surprise to see the Bengals take a step back. Nobody, however, could have seen such a lifeless performance happening against the Bears as they were run off (and booed off) their home field.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last week: 26
Nice rally from Jameis Winston in the fourth quarter but it meant exactly zip given those defensive woes in allowing a banged-up Matthew Stafford to march up and down the field.
26. San Francisco 49ers
Last week: 27
Jimmy Garoppolo remains undefeated as a starter and that effort in Houston might have been the most encouraging sign for a turnaround in the Bay Area since the days of Jim Harbaugh.
27. Houston Texans
Last week: 25
A lost season in Houston continues and the only ones happy about the state of the franchise right now reside in Cleveland given they own the Texans’ first-round pick in next year’s draft.
28. Denver Broncos
Last week: 28
That ugly eight-game losing streak was snapped and the offense played better against the Jets, but it still seems a bit much to think that those were signs of turning things around given the opponent and injury situation.
29. New York Jets
Last week: 21
Such a bummer to see Josh McCown’s career year end like that in Denver and likely put this team back on track for a top-10 pick after months of overachieving.
30. New York Giants
Last week: 29
The Giants looked pretty respectable for about three quarters against the rival Cowboys and threatened to play the role they will be the rest of the way: spoiler. Then reality seemed to roll around in the fourth quarter to turn the game into another runaway.
31. Indianapolis Colts
Last week: 31
The conditions up in Buffalo made for one of the more entertaining Colts games in a while, even if LeSean McCoy’s overtime romp made that late fourth-quarter touchdown all for not as Indianapolis was officially eliminated from the playoffs.
32. Cleveland Browns
Last week: 32
Some teams find ways to win. Others find ways to lose. It seems like the Browns try to get creative every week as they chase a winless season, blowing that lead against Green Bay being the latest addition to the ledger.
— 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.