Chris Simms' NFL Power Rankings Ahead of Week 16

Chris Simms@@CSimmsQBNFL Lead AnalystDecember 19, 2016

Chris Simms' NFL Power Rankings Ahead of Week 16

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    As the script went, they'd replace Peyton Manning—preferably with a live-armed quarterback. They'd return most of the major pieces on the other side of the ball. And John Elway and Gary Kubiak would hoist several more Lombardi Trophies throughout the late 2010s. 

    The 2015 world champions weren't supposed to labor through their title defense. What in the hell happened to the Denver Broncos?

    Two things. For starters, Kubiak's beloved running game is a shadow of its former self. C.J. Anderson's injury gave way to a ball-carrying stable of uninspiring rookies and journeymen. You can't win a title when your lead rusher is Kapri Bibbs; you certainly can't when running behind a line that's worse than the previous season's.

    Now flip sides. Denver's defense wasn't razed like that of most Super Bowl winners, but its linchpin was: Malik Jackson. The now-Jaguars defensive end was not only a pressure-causing freak, but also a special run-stopper with the ability to split blockers and make backfield stops. Without that talent on board, Denver's rushing defense has dropped from third in 2015 to 29th this season.

    The upgrade at quarterback that is Trevor Siemian? His impact is now negligible. These Broncos can't do what all title contenders can: run the ball and stop the run. We won't see them in the postseason for it.

32. Cleveland Browns

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    Current record: 0-14

    Last week: 32 (same)

    Hue Jackson can get a job based on quarterback whispering and outside-the-box thinking.

    But at some point, he’s going to need to coach some defense. Cleveland allowed four touchdown drives of over 70 yards—including a 91-yard march from quarterback extraordinaire (note my sarcasm) Tyrod Taylor.

    The Browns haven’t given up fewer than 23 points all year. That’s how you go 0-16, folks.

    Looking forward: The last Browns quarterback to win a game is still Johnny Manziel.

31. San Francisco 49ers

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    Current record: 1-13

    Last week: 31 (same)

    San Francisco took on one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses in Week 15.

    So naturally, it spotted Atlanta about 30 extra yards on each of its first three scoring drives. Look at the box score: touchdown marches of 47, 50 and 55 yards…to an offense that can go those distances in one play.

    It only got worse from there. Chip Kelly’s defense was an absolute sieve, and his offense couldn’t keep up. Where have we seen this before? Oh, that's right. All season long.

    Looking forward: Hey look! It's the Rams! The only team San Francisco has defeated this calendar year!

30. Los Angeles Rams

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    Current record: 4-10

    Last week: 29 (-1)

    Let’s list everything that’s wrong with the Rams offense this season!

    Drops (looking at you, Mike Thomas), bad pass protection (four sacks), bad run blocking, a running back who can’t make plays without good run blocking, bad Jared Goff throws, worse Jared Goff decisions (see: fighting for an extra yard against the Legion of Boom).

    Am I missing anything? Oh yes—the fact that John Fassel knew this unit was at a disadvantage but still tried to go for it on fourth down and try a fake punt from Los Angeles’ own 30-yard line.

    Looking forward: Is Jared Goff an NFL quarterback? He'll need to do what every other QB1 can: shred the 49ers' sorry pass defense.

29. New York Jets

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    Current record: 4-10

    Last week: 28 (-1)

    Gang Green has now sandwiched a win over the hapless 49ers between two blowout home losses.

    And you wonder why the majority of the fans at MetLife Stadium last Saturday night were wearing orange and teal.

    I wouldn’t pay top dollar to watch Gang Green’s secondary get exposed by a backup quarterback. And neither should Jets fans until serious questions are addressed—including the future of your adjustment-allergic head coach.

    Looking forward: We might see one last Ryan Fitzpatrick-Tom Brady showdown in Week 16. Lucky us.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Current record: 2-12

    Last week: 30 (+2)

    Jacksonville’s season has regressed to a Blake Bortles blooper reel.

    But in a season full of pick-sixes and near-misses, I can see the silver lining.

    This roster has talent—like Jalen Ramsey and Marqise Lee. Ramsey, in particular, was amazing; his interception ended the Brock Osweiler experiment. His blanket coverage confused DeAndre Hopkins all day.

    With the Jaguars firing Gus Bradley on Sunday, this now-open job is a little more enticing for future coaching candidates. The Jaguars just need a QB.

    Looking forward: Doug Marrone has a two-week audition. He can pad his own resume by knocking the red-hot Titans down a few pegs.

27. Chicago Bears

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    Current record: 3-11

    Last week: 27 (same)

    When Matt Barkley was hot, he erased a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

    When he was cold, he was Solider Field-freezing. The Bears’ backup QB committed back-to-back-to-back third-quarter turnovers that his 3-11 team couldn’t overcome.

    There were positives: offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains’ play-calling, Cameron Meredith and Deonte Thompson, etc. They all counted for nothing when Aaron Rodgers went full Aaron Rodgers.

    Looking forward: Chicago gets a pissed-off Redskins team fighting for its postseason life. Can it play spoiler?

26. Arizona Cardinals

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    Current record: 5-8-1

    Last week: 25 (-1)

    Not good enough.

    That’s the story of Arizona’s disappointing 2016 season. And that’s the reason why this team keeps slipping down my power rankings every week.

    Long passes? No coverage? Bruce Arians’ offense was built to separate in a shootout. The Saints were built better; Drew Brees found little resistance targeting third and fourth options all afternoon.

    Calais Campbell made another spectacular play on a fumble-return touchdown. Other than that, Arizona’s defense was a sieve. It’s a shell of its 2015 self.

    Looking forward: If he played for a better team or in a bigger market, we'd all rank David Johnson as our No. 1 MVP candidate. Watch what he does to the Seahawks this weekend.

25. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Current record: 5-9

    Last week: 26 (+1)

    Doug Pederson has made plenty of questionable calls in his first season in Philadelphia.

    Sunday’s two-point try was not among them. I respect the Eagles coach for going all-in; at best, you win the game, and at worst, you see rookie Carson Wentz in a crucial moment.

    Especially with the way Pederson’s secondary played down the stretch. Baltimore was just the latest in a laundry list of opponents to expose Philadelphia’s speed problems on the back end. It’s the No. 1 reason why the City of Brotherly Love won’t experience playoff football this winter.

    Looking forward: Short week. Bitter rival. Cold weather. Sounds like an NFC East trap game for the Giants.

24. New Orleans Saints

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Current record: 6-8

    Last week: 22 (-2)

    Team ownership should remember this game if they do, in fact, explore a rumored Sean Payton trade, per Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com.

    New Orleans put up points in droves against a defense loaded with former Pro Bowlers. Drew Brees had time to review his second, third and even fourth options. And Payton’s creative offense sprung deep targets on multiple long touchdown throws.

    The pieces are in place. Add more defensive help (and keep Payton), and New Orleans can be scary in 2017.

    Looking forward: Jameis Winston won't have an easier time setting protections up in the Superdome noise. Saints fans still bring it.

23. Minnesota Vikings

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Current record: 7-7

    Last week: 18 (-5)

    What a disappointing way to kiss your season goodbye.

    It wasn’t the offense that sunk Minnesota. It was the defense—coach Mike Zimmer’s bread and butter—that got exposed in an Andrew Luck long-ball fest.

    It wasn’t just that Zimmer’s secondary allowed big plays (see: Erik Swoope, Phillip Dorsett touchdowns). It was the uncharacteristic lack of discipline—two neutral-zone infractions by Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen kept Colts scoring drives alive.

    Looking forward: Aaron Rodgers isn't his normal self. Then again, Zimmer's defense isn't the same scary group either.

22. San Diego Chargers

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    Current record: 5-9

    Last week: 23 (+1)

    These Chargers are officially out of the playoff field.

    They went down swinging in Week 15 the only way they know how. Philip Rivers built a tentative lead late, then watched from the sideline as it evaporated. Who would've guessed?

    If San Diego could’ve held on to some of its fourth-quarter leads this year, it might have found it easier to attract blue-and-yellow-clad fans instead of the silver-and-black-wearing ones that showed up to Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday.

    Looking forward: Mike McCoy won't fly back with the Chargers if his team gives the Browns its first win.

21. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Current record: 5-8-1

    Last week: 24 (+3)

    Consult the "Three P’s" if you want to know why this Bengals season went belly-up.

    Pass rush: Cincinnati’s front four disappeared in the second half. Ben Roethlisberger had a century-and-a-half to pat the ball down and find his guys.

    Playmakers: Guys like Tyler Boyd and Cody Core are developing, but they're jtoo young to consistently get open for 60 minutes. Zero points in the second half is your result.

    Penalties: Eight calls for 86 yards. Yikes.

    Looking forward: This Bengals defense could've handled Brock Osweiler. I'm not sure it can take Tom Savage, though.

20. Washington Redskins

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    Current record: 7-6-1

    Last week: 15 (-5)

    Washington’s biggest division rival left a postseason present.

    Turns out it was coal. Dallas’ helpful defeat of the Buccaneers will mean little to nothing because these Redskins couldn’t get out of their own way on Monday Night Football. And now Kirk Cousins and Co. find themselves needing help to re-enter the playoff picture.

    They can blame the team in the mirror for this one. A second-half collision between Cousins and Vernon Davis led to Panthers points. Throw in all the busted Rob Kelley runs and receiver drops, and D.C. posted its worst offensive outing in its biggest moment.

    Looking forward: Chicago's defense will give Washington plenty of chances to restart its rushing attack. Coach Jay Gruden better take them.

19. Carolina Panthers

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    Current record: 6-8

    Last week: 21 (+2)

    Carolina needs a miracle-and-a-half to return to the playoffs this year.

    The team wasn’t discouraged by the long odds. Cam Newton looked like his old, dangerous self Monday night. The Panthers attack clicked behind MVP-level quarterback play and Jonathan Stewart’s bulldozing runs (132 yards on 25 carries). It was like last season’s magical offense all over again.

    Speaking of 2015 magic, Carolina quietly reclaimed the NFC’s sacking lead with 40. Only the Broncos have as many. This defense will scare people in the seasons to come.

    Looking forward: Newton and Co. might not control their own playoff fates, but they can play spoiler with two division games upcoming.

18. Buffalo Bills

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    Current record: 7-7

    Last week: 19 (+1)

    Buffalo probably knew it could get a special day out of LeSean McCoy.

    Shady tore up the Browns to the tune of 153 rushing yards and two scores. But so did Charles Clay (72 yards, touchdown)—and that’s just a bonus for a team teetering on the playoff edge.

    Also a bonus: getting Kyle Williams back. He’s the big guy who plugged all of Cleveland’s runs (Robert Griffin III was the Browns’ leading rusher with 48 yards) and added 1.5 sacks. Buffalo missed him something fierce.

    Looking forward: If Rex Ryan is going down after the season, he's going down swinging. Expect Matt Moore to face the gambit of Ryan's blitz packages.

17. Indianapolis Colts

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Current record: 7-7

    Last week: 20 (+3)

    Indianapolis just posted its most complete outing of 2016. 

    Keep in mind that Minnesota possessed the ball for just over six minutes in the first half of Week 15. The rest? Andrew Luck picking apart Minnesota’s short and intermediate coverage—then firing deep throws when Mike Zimmer’s defense least expected it.

    One question: Where was this Colts team last week? This output would’ve been helpful with the division on the line against Houston.

    Looking forward: Oakland can do the entire potential playoff field a favor and eliminate Andrew Luck. Before it's too late.

16. Miami Dolphins

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    Current record: 9-5

    Last week: 17 (+1)

    Matt Moore is the heated car seat of backups.

    Few shell out top dollar for it. But having that option feels so good, especially this time of year.

    Moore wasn’t asked to play at an All-Pro level. He just took what the Jets defense gave him—especially when the Jets defense gave him man coverage on deep routes at midfield. Moore hit his throws like the veteran he is.

    The rest was left up to Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake. Both Dolphins D-linemen staged a little South Beach party in New York’s backfield. Bryce Petty wasn’t invited.

    Looking forward: Jay Ajayi needs a pick-me-up after a rough few weeks. Right on cue: the Bills defense he gashed for 214 yards in Week 7.

15. Baltimore Ravens

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    Current record: 8-6

    Last week: 12 (-3)

    The Wire isn’t just a highly acclaimed drama set in Baltimore.

    It’s what every Ravens game boils down to after four quarters. Coach John Harbaugh’s team can’t win handily, even when carrying a 27-17 fourth-quarter lead late into the opponent’s red zone.

    Joe Flacco’s production is a microcosm of his team. He looked terrible tossing a fourth-quarter pick or fumbling on his own 8-yard line, but he looked great hitting Steve Smith Sr. in stride before halftime.

    Looking forward: Ravens-Steelers is just what I wanted for Christmas.

14. Denver Broncos

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    Current record: 8-6

    Last week: 9 (-5)

    Down dives Denver.

    These Broncos are plummeting down my power rankings after another loss. It’s their second consecutive one and the toughest yet to bear.

    It’s not Trevor Siemian’s fault. The aforementioned lack of a running game afforded his counterpart, Tom Brady, too many possessions. Even Denver’s high-powered defense wilted under the pressure of seeing No. 12 too many times.

    Denver’s defense was worn down and worn out in the fourth quarter. It’ll get some rest come January when the playoffs begin.

    Looking forward: Remember that epic Chiefs-Broncos game a few weeks back? It's happening again Christmas night.

13. Tennessee Titans

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    Current record: 8-6

    Last week: 14 (+1)

    For the first time since I played there, playoff football could be coming to Nashville.

    Credit the continued development of Marcus Mariota. The native Hawaiian had never seen sub-zero football temperatures until Week 15; he reacted by leading the Titans to 12 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. He’s finding more receivers than Delanie Walker these days, too.

    Don’t discount this Titans defense, either. It stymied all of Kansas City’s weapons—Tyreek Hill, Spencer Ware, Travis Kelce—in the second half. And it got the ball back to Mariota with two goal-line stands and a fourth-down stop. Impressive stuff.

    Looking forward: Mariota tore up the Jaguars secondary when he last faced them. But Jalen Ramsey is on a new level these days. Best to avoid him.

12. Houston Texans

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    Current record: 8-6

    Last week: 16 (+4)

    Remember when draft experts openly questioned Jadeveon Clowney’s motor coming out of South Carolina?

    It’s laughable these days. Clowney just completed a two-game pass-rushing stretch that I’d put up against the Von Millers or Khalil Macks of the NFL world. He’s what we thought he could be.

    Speaking of which, Brock Osweiler is exactly what I thought he was: an overpaid backup. Enter Tom Savage, who made my preseason scouting report look spot-on. I told you this preseason that he looked like the best quarterback on Houston's roster. The kid can throw.

    Looking forward: Savage gets his first test against a damn good Bengals secondary. I think he'll pass it.

11. Seattle Seahawks

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    Current record: 9-4-1

    Last week: 13 (+2)

    I expect a little more from these Seahawks.

    More than four sacks against a line leakier than Wake Forest’s radio analyst. More pressures, too. A few seasons ago, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril could’ve coaxed points out of Jared Goff.

    Even though the Rams only threatened twice all game, the 'Hawks can’t generate points or turnovers. That’s an issue.

    Before Russell Wilson took over the game, it was only 10-3. What happens when a potential playoff foe doesn’t let No. 3 work his magic?

    Looking forward: Let's make a pact right now not to kick any field goals in Cardinals-Seahawks II.

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Current record: 8-6

    Last week: 11 (+1)

    I expected Jameis Winston to move the ball. And I expected Winston’s defense would do a better job shutting the run down.

    But Tampa Bay fell short of both expectations. The Buccaneers are one of the most disappointing teams of Week 15; a missed block here or a tackle there, and they’d announce their arrival as the NFC’s scariest team.

    Instead, coach Dirk Koetter is looking for answers. He might find them in his abandoned running game, which didn’t complement Winston’s passing yardage like it had during the Bucs' winning streak.

    Looking forward: Playoff teams don't let one loss snowball. Is Tampa Bay that kind of team? Find out Saturday in NOLA.

9. Detroit Lions

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    Current record: 9-5

    Last week: 8 (-1)

    So long, five-game winning streak.

    Matthew Stafford couldn’t even find the end zone, let alone conjure up enough late-game magic to save Detroit. And now his team sits on iffy playoff ground down the final two-week stretch. It should be concerned.

    The reason? Mistakes, mistakes and more mistakes. The Lions committed two red-zone turnovers and managed only three red-zone points. A playoff-caliber opponent like the Giants pounced all over those chances.

    Looking forward: Detroit is in a real pickle. It needs a win, but it's facing the NFC's best team fresh off a bounce-back week. 

8. Green Bay Packers

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    Current record: 8-6

    Last week: 10 (+2)

    The NFC North might run through Green Bay after all.

    This time, it’s not all because of Aaron Rodgers. Sure, No. 12 delivered the knockout blow in Week 15 when he connected on a 60-yard, game-winning throw. That’s par for the course; Green Bay has mounted a four-game win streak with a rejuvenated running game and a turnover-seeking defense.

    That defense allowed Matt Barkley to move the ball. But it clamped down in the second half and forced three consecutive turnovers. Would you want your team to see Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Co. come playoff time?

    Looking forward: Ty Montgomery (162 rushing yards, two TDs) is the ticket Green Bay can punch to the playoffs. Ride him against the Vikings.

7. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Current record: 10-4

    Last week: 3 (-4)

    His offense was clicking. 

    His quarterback was hot.

    So Andy Reid was able to mask his Andy Reid-ness for a while. But eventually, the questionable offensive calls caught up to him.

    Reid’s team had a shot to enter the top AFC team conversation. Instead, the coach’s poor decisions—a third-down interception near the goal line and another fourth-down stop—shut the door on that discussion.

    Kansas City's amazing defense did its best to hold steady. It did until the Chiefs needed to make a stop, then it let Marcus Mariota march for a game-winner.

    Looking forward: The first team to score a non-offensive touchdown will win Broncos-Chiefs. Write that down.

6. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Current record: 9-5

    Last week: 7 (+1)

    The new-look Steelers don't ever need to panic.

    They have Le'Veon Bell. And Big Ben Roethlisberger. And a host of downfield targets that still remember how to break free, ball-control offense or not.

    That group of players helped Pittsburgh battle back from a first-half hole. I’m impressed; Cincinnati was playing its Super Bowl in Week 15 and gave its AFC North rivals everything it had.

    It wasn’t pretty. Flags flew. But Pittsburgh is back atop the division and now knows it can win any kind of contest.

    Looking forward: The AFC North comes down to...Pittsburgh and Baltimore. In late December. I wouldn't have it any other way.

5. Atlanta Falcons

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    Current record: 9-5

    Last week: 5 (same)

    Atlanta's offense isn't lacking in big-play potential just because Julio Jones is sidelined.

    Just ask the 49ers secondary. It couldn’t cope with receiver after receiver—Taylor Gabriel, then Aldrick Robinson, then Mohamed Sanu. Matt Ryan was judicious in finding them all. Ryan has thrown for 523 yards and five touchdowns in his last two games without Jones.

    Meanwhile, Vic Beasley added a sack to his rising totals. No one wants to block him in the postseason.

    Looking forward: Atlanta wants Carolina's NFC South crown.

4. New York Giants

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    Current record: 10-4

    Last week: 6 (+2)

    Play excellent defense.

    And wait for Odell Beckham Jr. to astound.

    New York does two things well as a team. But that might be enough to take this group all the way to Houston in February.

    Big Blue has now won 10 games and should nail down a wild-card spot. Other playoff teams should look at what the G-Men did to Matthew Stafford and tremble; Detroit’s quarterback faced a collapsing pocket, and his receivers had no room to run after the catch.

    Of course, Beckham factors into that equation too. You’ll see his latest one-handed touchdown about 1,000 times from now until his team opens up Week 16.

    Looking forward: Big Blue hasn't found much success in Lincoln Financial Field of late. It'll have to if it wants a shot at the NFC East and a top seed.

3. Oakland Raiders

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    Current record: 11-3

    Last week: 4 (+1)

    Oakland surrendered a long touchdown bomb on its first defensive possession.

    And that was about it. Coach Jack Del Rio has worked out the kinks on that side of the ball, redoubling his efforts to spring Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin. It shows.

    That means Derek Carr can ease his way back from that injured pinkie. His receivers need to help; I saw too many completable Carr passes hit the turf from drops or lack of effort. Amari Cooper needs more attention. But we know what this offense can do at full tilt.

    Looking forward: Indianapolis bludgeoned Minnesota's front five. It's about to see what a real offensive line looks like, though.

2. Dallas Cowboys

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    Current record: 12-2

    Last week: 2 (same)

    Giants game? 

    What Giants game?

    Dallas’ two star rookies put Week 14 in the rearview mirror—and then some. I haven’t seen the Cowboys offense click like that all season; Dak Prescott was incredibly accurate, and Ezekiel Elliott could not be stopped with a full head of steam.

    But their play is only half the reason why Dallas should tie up the NFC East soon. The other half? Its front four. Jameis Winston had no time to throw with Cowboys crashing in. It impeded his ability to connect with Mike Evans or get a run game going.

    Looking forward: Matthew Stafford is back in Texas and desperate. If that sounds dangerous for Dallas, that's because it is dangerous.

1. New England Patriots

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    Current record: 12-2

    Last week: 1 (same)

    I’ve seen better efforts from Tom Brady in his 17 seasons.

    But his output in Week 15 was title-worthy. The future Hall of Hamer avoided the oncoming Broncos pass rush and, more importantly, avoided the big interception that prohibited his team from a Super Bowl trip just months earlier in the same building.

    New England’s defense was just as good, if not better. Malcolm Butler brought his in-your-face man defense to shut down Emmanuel Sanders. The Patriots front shut down the run game too. New England stays at No. 1.

    Looking forward: The Jets always give New England a hard time. Something tells me that won't happen in Week 16, though.