NFL Power Rankings: Evaluating Each Team Heading into Week 16

Alex Hall@@AlexKHallCorrespondent IIIDecember 16, 2013

With a New England Patriots defeat in Miami and all four NFC East teams losing in Week 15, there are certainly shakeups in the NFL power rankings. The tides are always changing in the NFL, so let's take a look at who the best team in the league is this week. 


No. 32: Houston Texans (2-12)

The 2013 season has been a nightmare for the Texans, who won the AFC South just a year ago. Arian Foster is out for the year, Gary Kubiak has been canned and Matt Schaub is not looking like the answer at quarterback anymore. This team is a mess and is just begging for the offseason at this point.


No. 31: Atlanta Falcons (4-10)

The Falcons might not have the second-to-worst record in the NFL, but they are certainly the league's second-worst team. The dirty birds just barely beat out a Kirk Cousins-led Redskins team that has more than a few issues of its own.

This near-defeat comes one week after Matt Flynn's Green Bay Packers handed Atlanta its 10th loss of the season. Even after a win, there's not much to be proud of for this Falcons squad, who had playoff hopes heading into the year.


No. 30: Cleveland Browns (4-10)

The Browns haven't won a game in more than two months and will finish the year with double-digit losses for the sixth straight season. Yuck. Cleveland has had a rough 2013 bouncing between Brian Hoyer, Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell at quarterback. With the Jets and Steelers still on the schedule, this team could finish the year with one more win, but don't get your hopes up.


No. 29: Washington Redskins (3-11)

This team might actually finish the year on a somewhat high note if Kirk Cousins can continue to play like he did in Atlanta. Washington gets the slumping Cowboys next, who are coming off a collapse at home to Green Bay.

Don't be surprised if the 'Skins move up the board after Week 16 is said and done. There's plenty wrong in Washington, but the team might have finally made a smart move this year.


No. 28: Oakland Raiders (4-10)

The Raiders gave up 56 points to Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 15. Not even Dallas' atrocious defense has given up 56 points this season.

Kansas City is one of the premier teams in the AFC, but giving up five touchdowns to any quarterback is a little ridiculous. The Raiders have lost three of their last four games and that one victory came against Houston.


No. 27: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-10)

The Buccaneers have actually put together some decent wins as of late, notably beating the Lions in Week 12. They also took down the Dolphins in Week 10, but it's been a while since the Bucs made waves.

The 49ers routed Tampa Bay in Week 15 33-14 and brought this squad back to earth. Between the Josh Freeman fiasco and losing Doug Martin, the Bucs have had to overcome plenty to get their four victories. 


No. 26: New York Giants (5-9)

Eli Manning has thrown 25 interceptions on the year and didn't throw one touchdown in Week 15 as the Giants were shut out by Seattle 23-0. New York was also blown out by the Chargers the week before, so things haven't been good in the Big Apple for a bit. This is not a season to remember for the G-Men, and it's hard to imagine it getting better with a visit to Detroit looming.


No. 25: Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10)

One might be surprised to see the Jaguars this high in a power rankings article, but they were only eight points away from a four-game winning streak heading into Week 16.

The Bills spoiled the party with a 27-20 win this week, but before that, Jacksonville had the longest winning streak in the AFC. It's important to give credit where credit is due, and this Jags team hasn't quit on 2013 just yet. And hey, their postseason hopes aren't dead yet


No. 24: Tennessee Titans (5-9)

Staying in the AFC South, the Tennessee Titans have lost three straight games and have just one victory since Nov. 3. Quarterback Jake Locker has been in and out of the lineup, and the Titans still don't have any explosive receivers to stretch the field.

Tennessee isn't so much a bad team as it is an incomplete team. Perhaps the Titans will put things together next year, but they're destined for a losing record in 2013.


No. 23: Buffalo Bills (5-9)

Buffalo knocked off a Jaguars team that was riding a three-game winning streak and did so in impressive fashion. The running back duo of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson combined for 147 yards on the ground.

Quarterback EJ Manuel threw for two touchdowns and ran for another. The Bills defense sacked Chad Henne five times on the day and picked him off twice. Buffalo put in a solid effort in Week 15.


No. 22: Minnesota Vikings (4-9-1)

The Vikings are a perplexing team this year. They drew to a tie with Green Bay and have had nine of their games decided by 10 points or fewer. If the ball had bounced one way instead of the other in several of those games, perhaps the Vikings would be in the postseason hunt right now.

That's kind of a surprising statement when you consider Minnesota has trotted out the likes of Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman at quarterback this year. The Vikes knocked off a red-hot Eagles team in Week 15 without Adrian Peterson. That alone bumps them up a few spots.


No. 21: New York Jets (6-8)

In two of their past four games, the Jets have only scored three points and have just one win over that span. It's a surprise that Carolina only beat them by 10 points in Week 15. Luckily for Rex Ryan's team, the Browns come to town next week. The Jets need to win a game they will be expected to win next week.


No. 20: St. Louis Rams (6-8)

The team that lost its franchise running back in free agency and its franchise quarterback to injury this season just knocked off New Orleans. Back in Week 12, this same Rams squad defeated the Chicago Bears handily by a score of 42-21.

The Rams have some impressive wins but some equally disappointing losses in 2013. From Weeks 2-4, St. Louis gave up at least 31 points in three straight losses. Tampa Bay visits the Edward Jones Dome next week in a matchup the Rams should win if they play like they did against the Saints.


No. 19: Detroit Lions (7-6)

The Lions play on Monday Night Football this week, but their past two losses have been eyebrow-raising. Philadelphia beat them by two touchdowns in the snow in Week 14 and the Bucs knocked them off two weeks before that. Detroit has lost three of its last five games and needs to defeat the reigning Super Bowl champions this week to stay in the hunt for the NFC North title.


No. 18: Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8)

The Steelers got a nice win against Cincinnati in Week 15 to break a two-game losing skid. Pittsburgh had previously lost to the Ravens and Miami back to back. The Steelers could find their way to .500 before the season is over with only Green Bay and Cleveland left to play.


No. 17: Dallas Cowboys (7-7)

Just when one thinks the Cowboys have found their way, they revert to their old vices. Dallas blew a 23-point lead over the Packers at halftime and lost 37-36 in Week 15. This loss comes one week after being blown out of Soldier Field in Chicago.

Heck, head coach Jason Garrett even threw Tony Romo under the bus after losing to the Pack. Somehow, this team still has a chance at winning its division. 


No. 16: Baltimore Ravens (7-6)

The Ravens have a tough road game at Ford Field, where their three-game winning streak will be tested. Baltimore still has an outside chance of winning the AFC North and needs another win to stay in the AFC Wild Card picture. They have the right personnel to knock of Detroit, but only time will tell if they can do so.


No. 15: Green Bay Packers (7-6-1)

It hasn't been easy without quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Somehow the Pack has won enough games to keep pace in the NFC North without him. The road to the postseason doesn't get any easier with Pittsburgh and Chicago still to play. If Rodgers can return for these final two games, though, the Packers could have the late-season spark they need to make the postseason.


No. 14: Miami Dolphins (8-6)

Miami just knocked off the mighty New England Patriots and kept their postseason hopes alive in Week 15. The Dolphins have now won three straight and finish the season against AFC East rivals Buffalo and the Jets. After a regular season filled with controversy, this team could easily be headed to the playoffs.


No. 13: San Diego Chargers (7-7)

Don't look now, but the boys (sometimes) in powder blue have won three of their last four games. Two of those victories have come against division rivals Kansas City and Denver. Running back Ryan Mathews has heated up with more than 100 rushing yards against the Broncos, Dolphins and Giants in recent weeks. Don't sleep on the Chargers.


No. 12: Indianapolis Colts (9-5)

The Colts haven't been exactly dominant this year, but they have already clinched the AFC South. Indy hasn't looked great, but the team doesn't exactly have to win any more games before the postseason starts, and that's a luxury most teams don't have right now.


No. 11: Chicago Bears (8-6)

Even with Jay Cutler throwing two interceptions to Cleveland, the Bears were able to edge out a victory in Week 15. The team didn't look as complete as it did in its recent win over Dallas, but Cutler should get back into the swing of things soon. As long as the offense keeps feeding Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, the Bears have a decent chance of making the playoffs.


No. 10: Cincinnati Bengals (9-5)

The Bengals lost a divisional game they really needed to win in Week 15 against Pittsburgh. After impressive victories over the Colts and Chargers in weeks prior, it was a bit of a momentum killer to lose to a Steelers team with only five wins heading into the contest. The AFC North is still technically up for grabs, so they need to take care of business against Minnesota next week.


No. 9: Arizona Cardinals (9-5)

An Arizona Cardinals team with Carson Palmer under center is 9-5. Let that sink in for a second. The red birds have beaten Indianapolis, Tennessee and St. Louis in recent weeks. Their true test comes in the next two weeks against NFC West foes Seattle and San Francisco. 


No. 8: Philadelphia Eagles (8-6)

The Eagles did lose to Minnesota in Week 15, but that might turn out to be a hiccup of a loss over the next few games. Don't forget they knocked off both Arizona and Detroit the past two weeks. Both of those teams could be headed to the playoffs. With only Chicago and a possible NFC East crown showdown with Dallas left, the Eagles control their own postseason destiny. 


No. 7: Carolina Panthers (10-4)

The Panthers are giving the Saints a run for their money in the NFC South, but that's partially due to a nice schedule. Carolina has beaten the Dolphins, Bucs and Jets in its past four games but got crushed by the Saints in Week 14.

When you go head to head with your conference rival and fall on your face, it raises a few red flags. The Panthers have a chance to redeem themselves in Week 16 with a home game against those same Saints. This is a game the Panthers need if they want to leapfrog their rival in the divisional standings.


No. 6: New Orleans Saints (10-4)

Speaking of the Saints, for all their offensive firepower and retooled defense, two of their four losses have come in their last five games. Their most recent loss came to the Rams of all teams in Week 15. With only NFC South rivals Tampa Bay and Carolina left to play, though, the Saints are in position to lock this division right up...or fall right out of first place.


No. 5: New England Patriots (10-4)

The Patriots did not exactly have the best of trips away from the blistering cold of New England down in Miami in Week 15. The Dolphins shocked the Pats with some fourth-quarter heroics to beat Bill Belichick and company 24-20 at Sun Life Stadium. New England is still one of the best teams in the AFC and in prime playoff position, but it has to right the ship right away.


No. 4: San Francisco 49ers (10-4)

The 49ers score just under 25 points a game on average but still have a 10-4 record on the year. The reason for that fact comes from the 49ers defense that hasn't allowed an opponent to score more than 20 points since Week 11 against the Saints. New Orleans scored 23 that game and narrowly edged out San Francisco. The 49ers are a solid team who will find their way to the postseason one way or another.


No. 3: Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)

One of the season's biggest surprises, Kansas City is headed to the postseason and can still theoretically win the AFC West. The Chiefs have even figured out how to put up points in the latter part of the season, scoring 101 points in the last two games alone. They have scored 157 over the past four games. This Chiefs team is dangerous and could make a whole lot of noise in the playoffs.


No. 2: Denver Broncos (11-3)

Yes, the Broncos have Peyton Manning and arguably the league's best offensive unit. The issue lies within their defense that has held only one opponent under 20 points all season. Denver relies on its high-powered offense to win games, and against teams like the Patriots and Colts, it has come out on the wrong side of a shootout. They should wrap up one of the top two seeds in the AFC, though, with only Oakland and Houston left to play.


No. 1: Seattle Seahawks (12-2)

The Seattle Seahawks have everything a head coach could ask for. They have a franchise running back and quarterback who both know how to move the chains. They boast the NFL's No. 1 defense that is allowing just 4.5 yards per play to opposing offenses. Seattle is the real deal and could easily win its first-ever Super Bowl title this season.


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