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NFL Power Rankings: Week 16

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers

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We had another one of those magical moments on Sunday afternoon as the early NFL games were all coming to a close at the same time and we had great finish after great finish cap some furious action. That wasn’t the case in many of the other games this week but we did see a lot more of the playoff picture get locked into place on the flip side.

Related: NFL 2016 Regular and Postseason Predictions

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 16 NFL Power Rankings

1. Dallas Cowboys

Last week: 1

NFL Power Rankings: Cowboys

After a week hearing about Tony Romo, Dak Prescott followed up his worst game in a Cowboys uniform with one of his best in going 32-of-36 against the Buccaneers. The defensive line also impressed on Sunday might as Dallas’ recent struggles now look more like a blip than a long-term issue.

2. New England Patriots

Last week: 2

NFL Power Rankings: Patriots

The Pats looked un-Pats like in Denver with that quality run game and stingy defense powering their way to another first-round bye. Chances are this team will need to grind out a similar win in January so the effort against the Broncos is encouraging for the AFC favorite.

3. Oakland Raiders

Last week: 5
It’s been a long, long time but the Raiders are finally back in the NFL postseason. That win over San Diego wasn’t pretty but it was enough for a team that is back in contention for the AFC West too.

NFL Power Rankings: Raiders

4. New York Giants

Last week: 8
Another big win over a playoff team and another big-time performance by that re-tooled Giants defense. All that talk that this team is channeling those Super Bowl squads of recent history might not be too far off the mark if things keep trending upward.

NFL Power Rankings: Giants

5. Atlanta Falcons

Last week: 7
Back-to-back 40 point games is impressive offensively but the way the defense has clamped down on inferior opponents the past two weeks is a solid sign these might not be the same old Falcons we’re used to seeing in December.

NFL Power Rankings: Falcons

6. Green Bay Packers

Last week: 13
Everybody kind of chuckled when Aaron Rodgers talked about winning out. Nobody is laughing now as this is the hottest team in the NFC.

NFL Power Rankings: Packers

7. Pittsburgh Steelers

Last week: 6
A win is a win but Pittsburgh left way too many points on the board against Cincinnati by having to fall back on field goals instead of scoring touchdowns. Still, that’s five in a row heading into the big showdown with Baltimore.

NFL Power Rankings: Steelers

8. Seattle Seahawks

Last week: 10
The Seahawks reverted to looking like a team that could win the NFC in that victory over the lowly Rams. The question is, can they keep that up against Arizona next week and close out the season with that No. 2 seed?

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks

9. Kansas City Chiefs

Last week: 3
If it’s best to be lucky and good, the Chiefs were neither on Sunday against the Titans. While it didn’t cost them a postseason slot, it did make the uphill road to a division title that much harder and could mean no first-round bye for a team that desperately wants one.

NFL Power Rankings: Chiefs

10. Detroit Lions

Last week: 4
With all those fourth-quarter comebacks, you knew there would come a time where the team wouldn’t quite be able to replicate that magic once again. Unfortunately for the Lions, it came at the wrong time to the wrong team.

NFL Power Rankings: Detroit Lions

11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Last week: 9
The Bucs didn’t look completely overmatched with the spotlight on them Sunday night but they didn’t come up with the big plays they needed in the fourth quarter either. Now Jameis Winston and company are in a real dogfight for that final wild card spot.

NFL Power Rankings: Buccaneers

12. Baltimore Ravens

Last week: 12
Having to stop a two-point conversion in the final seconds isn’t what this team wanted, but the Ravens got it done and remain in control of their postseason fate. Still, that narrow win over the Eagles was a perfect example of it still being a mystery as to exactly how good this team really is.

NFL Power Rankings: Ravens

13. Denver Broncos

Last week: 11
The good news? The defense slowed down Tom Brady again. The bad news? The offense continued to be this team’s Achilles heel and it may cost them a spot in the postseason.

NFL Power Rankings: Broncos

14. Miami Dolphins

Last week: 16
The Matt Moore era got off to a great start with four touchdown passes against the lowly Jets. The next two games figure to be a much bigger jump in competition though and a truer test of what’s to come for the Dolphins.

NFL Power Rankings: Dolphins

15. Tennessee Titans

Last week: 14
Some more Mariota magic and a surprising leg from their kicker allowed the Titans to keep pace in the AFC South and remain in playoff contention. Even though the team got the win though, you have to wonder about that two-point conversion attempt from head coach Mike Mularkey.

NFL Power Rankings: Tennessee Titans

16. Washington Redskins

Last week: 15
That Monday nighter was yet another frustrating loss that Redskins fans have seen all too many times with this team. The defense looked ready for the season to be over at times and that loss to the Panthers may very well have been the nail in the coffin for this year.

NFL Power Rankings: Redskins

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17. Buffalo Bills

Last week: 17
We can’t learn much from that romp over the Browns but it is very clear that there will be some big and far-reaching decisions about this roster, the coaching staff and the front office soon to come in Buffalo.

NFL Power Rankings: Bills

18. Houston Texans

Last week: 18
The cheer that came from Houston fans when Bill O’Brien finally benched Brock Osweiller and put in Tom Savage was not at all surprising and said plenty about how this season has gone. It also signaled that somebody in the organization is bound to be looking for work as a result of that free agent signing.

NFL Power Rankings: Texans

19. New Orleans Saints

Last week: 21
Those were some fun fireworks (on the road no less) against Arizona as Drew Brees got back into form for a win. Giving up 41 and allowing Carson Palmer to turn back the clock only underscores the work that will need to be done defensively in the offseason though.

NFL Power Rankings: Saints

20. Indianapolis Colts

Last week: 25
That was an impressive first half against Minnesota, made all the more special because the defense finally stepped up to stop somebody. The team is still barely alive in that AFC South race but it’s better than the alternative at this point in the year.

NFL Power Rankings: Colts

21. Philadelphia Eagles

Last week: 19
You have to like what Carson Wentz did late in the game in getting the team in position to win. Given that there’s not much left to play for right now, the decision to go for two and the win was nice to see and doubly so on the road against a solid team.

NFL Power Rankings: Eagles

22. Minnesota Vikings

Last week: 20
It’s one thing for the defense to struggle containing a quarterback as good as Andrew Luck, it’s another for the offense to play terribly against a Colts defense that hasn’t really stopped anybody this season.

NFL Power Rankings: Vikings

23. Carolina Panthers

Last week: 22
The door remains open to finishing at .500, which would be mildly impressive given the way the season started. While there wasn’t a ton of takeaways from the win over Washington, leaving points on the board and making mistakes in the second half can’t happen as the competition level rises the next two weeks.

NFL Power Rankings: Panthers

24. Arizona Cardinals

Last week: 23
Bruce Arians’ first losing season makes you realize just how good a job he did previously with this team. It will be interesting to see if that was a flash in the pan for Carson Palmer against that Saints defense or something he can build on going forward.

NFL Power Rankings: Cardinals

25. San Diego Chargers

Last week: 24
It was bad enough that the team dropped to 5-9 after another game was lost as a result of turnovers down the stretch. It was even worse for the Chargers to see San Diego’s biggest crowd come as a result of the legions of Raiders fans in what might be the final matchup between the two teams in the city. 

NFL Power Rankings: Chargers

26. Chicago Bears

Last week: 27
That was a brutal way to lose at the hands of your rival thanks to Aaron Rodgers’ magic arm. On the flip side though, that offensive backfield looked pretty good when Matt Barkley wasn’t turning the ball over and should be something to build around in 2017.

NFL Power Rankings: Bears

27. Cincinnati Bengals

Last week: 26
Normally you’d be happy with holding teams to field goals instead of touchdowns but it sums up the Bengals’ year when they combine that with blowing another game they could have had to the Steelers.

NFL Power Rankings: Bengals

28. New York Jets

Last week: 28

NFL Power Rankings: Jets

Bryce Petty getting crushed in the middle of two Dolphins defensive linemen perfectly summed up the year for this team. At least we’re one step closer (probably) to seeing what Christian Hackenberg might look like in uniform on the sidelines.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars

Last week: 29

NFL Power Rankings: Jaguars

Gus Bradley was finally put out of his misery on Sunday before the team plane even took off. Now the question is, will he be the only major staffer let go or will others in the front office be joining him?

Related: 5 Replacements for Fired Jacksonville Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley

30. Los Angeles Rams

Last week: 30

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The first game without Jeff Fisher looked like many of the ones with their now-fired head coach. Football in Los Angeles seems like it will stay focused on the upcoming Rose Bowl.

Related: 5 Replacements for Fired Los Angeles Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher

31. San Francisco 49ers

Last week: 31

NFL Power Rankings: 49ers

You really have to admire how hard the 49ers are chasing the Browns for that No. 1 overall draft pick. After a stretch where the team looked pretty competitive, San Francisco has reverted back to form as the least talented team in the NFC.

32. Cleveland Browns

Last week: 32

NFL Power Rankings: Cleveland Browns

There were some flickering moments where the Browns looked like they would avoid 0-16 but the calendar turning to December has extinguished most of those hopes.

— 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.