2022 B/R NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Entering Week 16?

BR NFL StaffDecember 20, 2022

2022 B/R NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Entering Week 16?

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 18: Brock Wright #89 and Jared Goff #16 celebrates a touchdown during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium on December 18, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    After 15 weeks of the 2022 season, the playoff picture is taking shape in the NFL.

    Three divisions are already decided. The San Francisco 49ers kicked off the action by taking care of the rival Seattle Seahawks to capture the NFC West. The Minnesota Vikings are the champions of the NFC North after the biggest comeback in NFL history. Despite getting a scare from the Houston Texans, the Kansas City Chiefs won the AFC West for the seventh straight season.

    The Philadelphia Eagles (NFC East) and Buffalo Bills (AFC East) are in the playoffs and all but guaranteed to be division champions. The Dallas Cowboys aren't going to catch Philly, but despite losing in Jacksonville on Sunday, they claimed a spot in the postseason.

    There's still quite a bit to be decided, however. The Cincinnati Bengals beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to move into first place in the AFC North, but the Baltimore Ravens remain hot on their heels. The Tennessee Titans have lost four straight, and their lead in the AFC South has all but evaporated. And while no team in the NFC South has a winning record, one has to win the division.

    After another wild and wacky week of action that featured one of the most bizarre endings to a game ever, Bleacher Report NFL analysts Gary Davenport, Maurice Moton and Brent Sobleski gathered again to rank all 32 teams from worst to first.

    The bookends are the same, but there's a team in the top 12 that no one expected to be in contention.

32. Houston Texans (1-12-1)

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    Jalen Piitre
    Jalen PiitreCarmen Mandato/Getty Images

    Last Week: 32

    Week 15 Result: Lost vs. Kansas City 30-24, OT

    If ever there was a moral victory, the Houston Texans have tallied one in the past couple of weeks, when they have given playoff contenders all they could handle. But in each of the past two weeks, the Texans wound up losing anyway.

    However, head coach Lovie Smith said after Sunday's overtime loss that he doesn't view the Texans as a one-win team.

    "That team out there has won one game but they're not playing like that," he said. "They're showing up every day, taking coaching, getting better and coming into the game and giving ourselves a chance to win."

    The thing is, the Texans are a one-win team. And that's exactly what they should want to be. Beating the Chiefs might have felt good in the short term, but it would also potentially jeopardize their hold on the first overall pick in the 2023 draft—and the opportunity to have their pick of a strong class of quarterbacks.

    So, sure, play a tight game. Make opponents sweat. And then come up short at the end. It might sting a little now, but it also increases the odds that pain will be temporary.

31. Indianapolis Colts (4-9-1)

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    Matt Ryan
    Matt RyanStephen Maturen/Getty Images

    Last Week: 28

    Week 15 Result: Lost at Minnesota 39-36, OT

    Matt Ryan needs a hug.

    Ryan already held the dubious honor of being on the wrong side of the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history. Now, after the Colts squandered a 33-0 halftime lead in Minnesota, Ryan is also on the wrong end of the biggest comeback in NFL history.

    Believe it or not, it gets worse. In January 2013, Ryan's Falcons blew the largest lead in NFC Championship Game history. He was also part of the largest blown lead in any game played outside of the U.S. when the Falcons squandered a 21-0 lead in London in 2014.

    After the loss, Ryan was worried more about the plays the Colts didn't make than the historic significance of their collapse.

    "I've played in this league a long time to know that a lot of different things can happen," Ryan told reporters. "Anything can happen. You just have to keep your head down and keep going and find ways to make plays when they present themselves. It's not much. It's a handful of plays in a game. It's three or four plays from an offensive perspective that we've got to find ways to execute, and it's a win. We just didn't make them."

    Given how the season has gone, Ryan's first year in Indy will probably be his last. Head coach Jeff Saturday's chances of losing his "interim" tag go down with every loss. This is a team headed for another offseason rebuild after having its sixth different starting quarterback in as many year.

30. Chicago Bears (3-11)

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    Justin Fields
    Justin FieldsRobin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Last Week: 30

    Week 15 Result: Lost vs. Philadelphia 25-20

    The Chicago Bears have a dilemma.

    On one hand, quarterback Justin Fields continues to have electrifying performances on a weekly basis. On Sunday against the Eagles, he became the third quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Fields has a real shot at breaking Lamar Jackson's single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback (1,206), and head coach Matt Eberflus said that he continues to be impressed by Fields' development.

    "He's doing an excellent job," he told reporters. "He's doing a really good job of leading our football team. I think it's where he's growing the most over the second half of the season. He's just getting more and more confident as he goes."

    However, for all the things Fields is doing well, it hasn't translated to wins. The Bears are now one loss shy of tying the franchise record for consecutive defeats. They have all of one win since Oct. 1, and with three games left against teams that are .500 or better (including two against division-leading teams), Chicago is in real jeopardy of doing something the franchise never has: losing 14 games in a season.

    If there's a silver lining, it's this: If the season ended today, the Bears would pick second overall. And there are sure to be quarterback-needy teams who would have interest in that selection.

29. Denver Broncos (4-10)

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    Brett Rypien
    Brett RypienJustin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Last Week: 31

    Week 15 Result: Won vs. Arizona 24-15

    By just about any objective estimation, the 2022 season has been a disaster for the Denver Broncos. A meaningless win over the Cardinals in Week 15 isn't going to change that.

    However, for backup quarterback Brett Rypien, Sunday was one of the biggest days of his life. With Russell Wilson on the shelf, he had an opportunity to show the world what he could do. And after the Broncos overcame a 9-3 deficit with three unanswered touchdowns, Rypien told the media that while Sunday's win may not have mattered much in the standings, it was important to him.

    "Really, the whole goal is just to try to find a way to win, and to do that I just feel like we accomplished something great," Rypien said. "It's awesome."

    He added: "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where you're not going to be around very long, even if you have a great career. There's always something to play for. I think that attitude has never changed in our locker room. We've got guys that want to go out there, want to play hard and want to win every single game."

    The last three games of the season aren't all that relevant for the Broncos from a big-picture perspective. But if Nathaniel Hackett wants a second season as the team's head coach, then finishing the year strong is imperative.

28. Los Angeles Rams (4-10)

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    Jalen Ramsey
    Jalen RamseyStacy Revere/Getty Images

    Last Week: 29

    Week 15 Result: Lost at Green Bay 24-12

    It has been a miserable season for the Los Angeles Rams. From watching the team pitch and lurch its way to a loss Monday night (a defeat that eliminated it from playoff contention), you would never know that 10 months ago these same Rams hoisted the Lomardi Trophy as the champions of Super Bowl LVI.

    Of course, these aren't really the same Rams.

    For starters, injuries have ravaged the team. Quarterback Matthew Stafford's playing future is in doubt after a pair of concussions and a neck injury. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp has been on the shelf with a bad ankle. Without that duo, the offense disintegrated. The defense lost its heart and soul in all-everything tackle Aaron Donald

    But injuries don't tell the whole story. Offseason personnel losses turned the offensive line from a strength into a glaring weakness. With Von Miller no longer on the team, the pass rush vanished. It hasn't been one thing—it has been everything.

    It's not a reach to call the Rams the worst defending Super Bowl champion in NFL history.

    And that's the kind of history no team wants to make.

27. Arizona Cardinals (4-10)

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    J.J. Watt
    J.J. WattAP Photo/David Zalubowski

    Last Week: 26

    Week 15 Result: Lost at Denver 24-15

    There was good news and bad news for the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

    The good news is that defensive lineman J.J. Watt turned back the clock against the Broncos. He was an unblockable force of nature, tallying three sacks.

    The bad news? Everything else.

    After yet another dispiriting defeat gave the Cardinals back-to-back double-digit losses, Watt told reporters that the 2022 season has been a hard pill to swallow.

    "It sucks," Watt said. "You're playing for the future, and it's a [expletive] place to be with three games left. But that's what it is."

    Head coach Kliff Kingsbury tried to put a positive spin on things.

    "They continue to show up and play hard," he said. "That's all you can ask."

    Of course, there's not that much more that Kingsbury can say. Given how poorly the team has performed this year, it's fair to wonder if the extensions signed by Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim are the only things keeping the duo employed.

    After Keim stepped away from the team because of health reasons, it's fair to wonder if that housecleaning isn't coming anyway.

26. Atlanta Falcons (5-9)

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    Desmond Ridder
    Desmond RidderChris Graythen/Getty Images

    Last Week: 25

    Week 15 Result: Lost at New Orleans 21-18

    With their season spiraling out of control, the Atlanta Falcone made the decision over their bye week to change quarterbacks. To see if rookie Desmond Ridder could provide a spark.

    Yeah...not so much.

    In fairness to the third-round pick, you can't judge his long-term prospects on one outing. But after completing just half of his 26 pass attempts for less than 100 yards, Ridder himself told reporters he didn't play well.

    "Obviously you are going to have nerves and anxiety just getting out there for your first start in a crazy environment," Ridder said. "We executed in the run game, but obviously I didn't do too well in the passing game."

    Shaky though Ridder may have been, Davenport said the Falcons have little choice but to stick with the rookie the rest of the way.

    "The Falcons' chances of making the playoffs are just about gone—pipe dreams to the contrary notwithstanding," he said. "That makes the primary goal over the final three games to see whether Ridder is the long-term answer. If he can somehow lead Atlanta to the division title, the question would be answered."

25. New Orleans Saints (5-9)

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    Juwan Johnson
    Juwan JohnsonAP Photo/Gerald Herbert

    Last Week: 27

    Week 15 Result: Won vs. Atlanta 21-18

    It's becoming increasingly difficult to find something good to say about the NFC South. The New Orleans Saints were the only team in the division that won Sunday. Barring a miracle, the NFC South will become the first division in league history to put two sub-.500 teams in the postseason.

    But hey, at least Juwan Johnson had a day against the Falcons.

    Johnson's play has been a bright spot in a season mostly bereft of them. After the third-year pro hauled in four passes for 67 yards and two scores, Saints quarterback Andy Dalton talked up the athletic young tight end.

    "Juwan has done a lot of really good things," Dalton said. "Both touchdowns were good run-after-catch plays by him. So, I feel like he's playing with a ton of confidence. ...

    "We've had opportunities to take some deep shots with him, and he's come down with a lot of them."

    Now that the good news has been dispensed with, here's the reality: The Saints aren't going to win the division, because they aren't good. New Orleans has zero first-round picks in 2023. It is upside down to the tune of almost $54 million against the 2023 cap.

    Give it a year, and the team may look at being 5-9 as memories of the good old days—because odds are good the Saints aren't close to the bottom yet.

24. Carolina Panthers (5-9)

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    D'Onta Foreman
    D'Onta ForemanSteph Chambers/Getty Images

    Last Week: 22

    Week 15 Result: Lost vs. Pittsburgh 24-16

    After falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Carolina Panthers are 5-9—but still control how they will finish in the division.

    However, after a listless performance in which the Panthers were held to 209 yards, converted just four of 11 third downs and allowed the Steelers to convert 12 of 16, interim head coach Steve Wilks channeled his inner Jim Mora and didn't want to talk about the playoffs while speaking to reporters.

    "Third down was horrendous to say the least—on both sides," Wilks said.

    "... We've got to worry about trying to get ourselves right to win a football game. I don't want anybody in this building talking playoffs."

    Still, if Carolina can win its last three games, it will capture the NFC South. But to do that, the Panthers will have to rediscover a running game that has played a major role in what success the team has had. In five wins, the Panthers have averaged more than 190 rushing yards per contest.

    On Sunday, Carolina had 16 carries for just 21 yards—the fifth-lowest total in franchise history.

23. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8)

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    Najee Harris
    Najee HarrisJohn Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Last Week: 24

    Week 15 Result: Won at Carolina 24-16

    The Pittsburgh Steelers' Mike Tomlin is still probably going to have to come to grips with the first losing season of his head coaching career.

    But with three wins in four games, Pittsburgh is doing its level best to prolong Tomlin's fading hopes of avoiding that dubious milestone. While addressing the media after the game, Tomlin singled out the performance of quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who played well in place of the injured Kenny Pickett.

    "He managed [the game] well," Tomlin said. "I thought he kept the ball off the ground. He played clean and had a high completion percentage. But it's easier to do those things when you're playing behind an effective run game."

    For Sobleski, the story was that running game.

    "The Steelers rediscovered their identity. Pittsburgh is getting back to basics by running the football and flying all over the field on defense," he said. "After nearly two decades with Ben Roethlisberger behind center, the old Steelers mentality faded. Toward the latter half of his career, the offense looked far less like a traditional Pittsburgh approach than it had in a long, long time.

    "Now, the system is built around a much more physical squad. The Steelers are far from a complete team, particularly with limited quarterback play, but they're finding ways to grind out key victories down the stretch."

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8)

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    Tom Brady
    Tom BradyCliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Last Week: 18

    Week 15 Result: Lost vs. Cincinnati 34-23

    It's time for a reality check with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Past time, even.

    These Buccaneers are not especially good. Even if Tampa Bay manages to hold on to first place in the NFL's worst division, it isn't going to make any kind of run in the playoffs.

    There have been flashes that make one doubt this reality—such as when the Buccaneers took a 17-0 lead over the Bengals on Sunday. But then that reality comes crashing back in—like the turnover-filled tragedy that was the second half against Cincinnati.

    Head coach Todd Bowles told reporters that the Buccaneers have been their own worst enemy far too many times this season.

    "Same old song. Bucs vs. Bucs," he said. "Play a good first half. Second half, we come out and we shoot ourselves in the foot either by turnovers or penalties and [poor] field possession on special teams. The tale of two halves, and the half we played in the second half was Bucs vs. Bucs."

    Davenport said: "Here's a fun stat: Sunday marked the 90th time in Tom Brady's career that his team held a lead of 17 or more points. It also marked the first time he didn't win such a game. Brady deserves a fair share of the blame for the loss, too. He had a hand in four turnovers (two fumbles and two interceptions) that helped blow the game open.

    "This isn't the first time a Hall of Fame career has ended in inglorious fashion—but we didn't expect the Golden Boy to go out like this."

21. Las Vegas Raiders (6-8)

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    Chandler Jones
    Chandler JonesMichael Owens/Getty Images

    Last Week: 23

    Week 15 Result: Won vs. New England 30-24

    There will be no shortage said and written about the wild end to the Las Vegas' Raiders win over the Patriots—about the lateral that edge-rusher Chandler Jones snatched from the air and returned 48 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

    But as Moton said, that wild play was really a microcosm of Las Vegas' season.

    "The Raiders are wildly inconsistent," he said. "In 10 days, they blew a double-digit lead to an injury-riddled sub-.500 team but followed with a thrilling win over a fringe playoff squad. They hit a low point when they allowed 14 points in a little over three minutes to the Baker Mayfield-led Rams. Yet they kept their playoff hopes alive with the victory over New England thanks to Jones' heroics.

    "On one hand, the Raiders have blown multiple double-digit leads, but they have also won four of five, including two in overtime and another on the final play. By the way, Vegas has beaten three potential playoff teams—all in one-possession games. It seems as though the Raiders will either disappoint you on a massive scale or pull out a victory in dramatic fashion. Where do you rank a team like that? Somewhere in the middle of the pack."

20. Green Bay Packers (6-8)

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    Aaron Rodgers
    Aaron RodgersPatrick McDermott/Getty Images

    Last Week: 19

    Week 15 Result: Won vs. Los Angeles Rams 24-12

    With the Green Bay Packers clinging to the slimmest of playoff hopes, there has been no shortage of speculation regarding what they might do once eliminated—or more specifically, whether Aaron Rodgers would give way to Jordan Love behind center.

    Rodgers took the field Monday night against the injury-ravaged Rams. And while beating Los Angeles didn't reverse the trajectory of a wildly disappointing season, the Packers aren't out of it just yet.

    General manager Brian Gutekunst told reporters recently that regardless of how things pan out, there will be no white flags in Titletown.

    "I think it's a culture thing," he said. "I think winning's a culture thing. I don't think we ever roll out there ... without the intention of winning. I just think that's what this place has always been about and, at least while I'm here, it's always going to be."

    That's all well and good. But the Packers are going to have to face tough questions soon as they try to make sure 2022 was just an aberration and not the start of a decline into mediocrity.

    All beating the Rams accomplished was to delay things.

19. Cleveland Browns (6-8)

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    Deshaun Watson
    Deshaun WatsonFrank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Last Week: 20

    Week 15 Result: Won vs. Baltimore 13-3

    The Cleveland Browns' win over the Ravens on Saturday came with disclaimers. Baltimore was without quarterback Lamar Jackson. Cleveland continued to struggle to move the ball since Deshaun Watson's return.

    But in defeating their rivals, Browns knocked the Ravens out of first place and won for the second time in Watson's three starts.

    Left guard Joel Bitonio told reporters that the Browns want to use the final month of the season to build momentum for 2023.

    "We have something to prove," he said. "We have Deshaun back. We want to build our offense, build our team. Our defense has played really well the last few weeks. [We want to] finish the season with some complementary football, not for anybody else, but just our team to understand like, 'Hey, we have a pretty dang good team here.'"

    Davenport thinks Cleveland's priority needs to be next season as well.

    "The Browns have to decide whether Kevin Stefanski deserves another season at the helm," he said. "How to approach an offseason when the team has little cap space and no first-round pick. How to build around the quarterback who will, for better or worse, define the team for years to come. All those considerations will matter more than whether Cleveland finishes 6-11 or 8-9—because this team won't win out and make the playoffs."

18. New England Patriots (7-7)

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    Jakobi Meyers
    Jakobi Meyers Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Last Week: 16

    Week 15 Result: Lost at Las Vegas 30-24

    The New England Patriots were already on the wrong side of the most improbable finish to an NFL game in recent memory: the "Miracle in Miami" in 2018.

    Well, the Pats outdid themselves—with the "Las Vegas Lateral."

    The ill-advised backward pass by wideout Jakobi Meyers will go down as one of the biggest blunders in history. After the stunning defeat, Meyers told reporters he never should have thrown the ball.

    "Just trying to do too much, trying to be a hero, I guess," Meyers said. "I thought I saw Mac [Jones] open. I didn't see Chandler Jones at the time. I thought [Mac Jones] was open and tried to get it to him and let him try to make a play with it. But the score was tied, so I should have went down."

    Bill Belichick wasn't pleased, either.

    "We've talked about situational football," Belichick said. "We talk about it every week. Obviously, we have to do a better job."

    It's not just that Meyers cost the Patriots this game. New England now is a game back of the final wild-card spot with three to play, and all three games are against teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.

17. Seattle Seahawks (7-7)

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    Tyler Lockett
    Tyler LockettChristopher Mast/Getty Images

    Last Week: 15

    Week 15 Result: Lost vs. San Francisco 21-13

    The clock has struck midnight for the Seattle Seahawks.

    After downing Arizona on Nov. 6, Seattle was 6-3 and one of the most pleasant surprises in the NFL. But the following week, the Seahawks traveled to Germany—and apparently left their ability to win in Europe.

    After falling at home Thursday to the 49ers in a game that wasn't as close as the final score, the Seahawks have lost four of five. The loss was doubly costly, as wide receiver Tyler Lockett suffered a broken hand.

    Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll told reporters that Lockett could return sooner rather than later.

    "Very optimistic review this morning from the docs that he's got a chance to get back quickly, and we'll see if it can happen," Carroll said. "... If there's any way possible, he'll do it, he'll figure it out. We've had good success with this [surgeon] in the past, and he's been really an expert at it that can maybe pull off something that would surprise us a little bit, so we'll see. I know that that's what Tyler is wanting to do."

    The Seahawks had better hope Lockett isn't gone long. Because their margin for error has evaporated.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-8)

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    Trevor Lawrence
    Trevor LawrenceCourtney Culbreath/Getty Images

    Last Week: 21

    Week 15 Result: Won vs. Dallas 40-34, OT

    Trevor Lawrence is coming of age before our very eyes.

    Over the past month, the Jacksonville Jaguars have gone from their usual spot as a tomato can to one game back of the reeling Titans in the AFC South. And Lawrence has played a major part in that success. In Sunday's wild comeback win over the Cowboys, Lawrence threw for 318 yards and four scores with one interception. It marked the third time in the last four games that he surpassed 300 passing yards with three or more touchdown passes.

    As Frank Schwab of Yahoo Sports wrote, Lawrence is looking the part of the star the Jags hoped to be getting when they drafted him first overall in 2021.

    "If you watched the Cowboys game, there shouldn't be a lingering question about where Lawrence's career is headed," Schwab said. "He made all the throws. He looked spectacular against an elite team with a fantastic defense. And it wasn't just one game. In the five games prior to Sunday, Lawrence had 1,362 yards, 10 touchdowns, no interceptions and a 111.7 passer rating. Then he had his big moment against the Cowboys to validate that hot streak."

    If the Jaguars can keep this momentum going on a short week against the Jets, we could be set for something we haven't seen in a while: the Jaguars playing for more than pride in January.

    "Aside from a 40-14 Week 13 loss to the Lions, the Jaguars have played exceptionally well following their Week 11 bye, beating three teams in the playoff picture," Moton said. "They have a budding quarterback who can trade touchdown drives with high-scoring offenses, which allowed them to keep pace with Dallas.

    "With Lawrence playing up to his draft status, Jacksonville has performed at the level of a playoff team, which deserves respect in the power rankings."

15. Tennessee Titans (7-7)

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    Kevin Byard
    Kevin ByardBrian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Last Week: 11

    Week 15 Result: Lost at Los Angeles Chargers 17-14

    The Tennessee Titans are teetering. After losing in last-second fashion, they have dropped four straight and five of seven. Their lead in the AFC South has shriveled to one game. And as veteran safety Kevin Byard told reporters, the Titans don't much look like a first-place team and certainly don't look like Super Bowl contenders.

    "The division is still there, but personally, I could care less about that," Byard said. "It don't look like we're a team right now that's going to beat anybody, so we've got to find a way to get back to work and beat Houston. That's all we can really do at this point."

    Byard won't get any argument from Sobleski—especially with quarterback Ryan Tannehill having reaggravated his ankle injury.

    "The Titans are fading at the worst possible time," he said. "The division title is no longer guaranteed, despite how weak the AFC South is. The Jaguars are only one game behind and have the head-to-head advantage. Tannehill is hurt. Derrick Henry's effectiveness has been limited. Tennessee's weapons on the outside are non-existent. The Titans' final regular-season contest against the Jaguars looks like it'll be a showdown for the division crown and accompanying playoff berth."

14. Washington Commanders (7-6-1)

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    Terry McLaurin
    Terry McLaurinAl Bello/Getty Images

    Last Week: 12

    Week 15 Result: Lost vs. New York Giants 20-12

    Most of the talk after the Washington Commanders' loss centered on the officiating, whether it was the illegal formation penalty called at the 1-yard line on Terry McLaurin or perceived pass interference against Curtis Samuel in the end zone that wasn't called. Both players tiptoed around the matter, though it wasn't hard to read between the lines.

    "When I moved up, I checked to see if I was good, and he said I was good," McLaurin said. "I'm not trying to get fined. We had other opportunities; for it to come down like that is tough."

    Samuel said: "I can't control that [the officiating]. All I can do is try to make the play when the ball is in the air. I'm not a ref; ain't nothing I can do about that."

    Quarterback Taylor Heinicke, however, said those two calls didn't decide the game—but a lack of execution by the Commanders did.

    "You take those plays out, there's still a lot of missed opportunities," he said. "You can't blame the refs. There are some calls there that are questionable. But again, there's other plays out there to be made and we didn't make them. Ultimately, it's on us."

    Heinicke has the right attitude. The Commanders have no time for lamentations. Their playoff hopes are hanging by a thread, and with games against the 49ers and Cowboys to be played, there's no room for mistakes.

13. New York Jets (7-7)

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    Garrett Wilson
    Garrett WilsonAP Photo/Seth Wenig

    Last Week: 14

    Week 15 Result: Lost vs. Detroit 20-17

    If the New York Jets miss the playoffs, Sunday's loss to the Lions may be looked at as the game that sealed the deal on another disappointing season.

    Zach Wilson played one of the best games of his career in place of the injured Mike White, throwing for 317 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. The Jets had a lead late. But the defense—which has carried them for much of the season—faltered at the worst possible time, allowing a 51-yard touchdown on fourth down with less than two minutes left.

    It wasn't just that. While Wilson posted yards, he barely completed half his passes and also threw a brutal interception that led to a Lions field goal. The New York ground game was invisible, managing just 50 yards on 22 carries. And Greg Zuerlein was forced to try a game-tying field goal from 58 yards as the clock ran out because head coach Robert Saleh butchered the clock management on the game's final drive.

    There were just too many miscues by a team that isn't good enough to overcome them, and Davenport said New York's playoff hopes are fading quickly.

    "The Jets have dropped four of their last five," he said, "and the schedule won't do them any favors. Trevor Lawrence and the red-hot Jaguars aren't going to be an easy out. Neither will the Seahawks in Seattle. Then there's a trip to Miami to face the Dolphins in what could be an elimination game—and this time the Fins will have Tua Tagovailoa. New York will probably need two wins to get in—the same number it has since the last week of October."

    Moton added: "Despite Wilson's decent performance, the Jets lost their third consecutive game. They came up short against the red-hot Lions, which isn't shameful, but Gang Green's playoff hopes have faded while the club continues to slide in our rankings. Though the Jets should feel encouraged by Wilson, who threw for multiple touchdown passes for the fifth time in 21 games, New York has lost its early-season momentum.

    "With White questionable for Thursday's game against the Jaguars, the Jets will likely need Wilson to string together solid outings. Based on his résumé, he is still a shaky starter, which certainly impacts their ranking going into Week 16."

12. Detroit Lions (7-7)

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    Jared Goff
    Jared GoffRich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Last Week: 17

    Week 15 Result: Won at New York Jets 20-17

    For what seems like forever, the Detroit Lions have been a punchline. But as quarterback Jared Goff told reporters after his team stunned the New York Jets for their sixth win in seven games, no one's laughing at the Lions now.

    "A lot of these close games are starting to lean more toward us than them," Goff said. "That hasn't always been the case around here. We fully believe in each other and know that somebody's going to make a play to do something right."

    Head coach Dan Campbell has preached belief in his team from almost the moment he took the job in Motown. That belief is now being rewarded.

    "You know you'll be better," Campbell told reporters. "You just don't know how it's going to get there, or what it's going to be. You do know if you start playing better football, you can rattle off some wins in a row."

    The Lions haven't been .500 this late in the season since 2017. With all three remaining games against teams with losing records, a nine- or even 10-win season is within the realm of possibility.

    And with the Lions just a half-game back of Washington for the No. 7 seed in the NFC, there's a real chance that they could make the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

    "Because of their 1-6 start, the Lions had to work their way up from the bottom of these power rankings," Moton said. "Nonetheless, one can make a case that they now belong in the top 10.

    "The Lions have evolved over the past two months. They're no longer just a high-scoring team. Detroit's defense hasn't allowed an opponent to run for more than 95 yards in three consecutive games, and the unit has forced eight turnovers since Week 11.

    "Detroit looks like a complete top-12 team at this point in the season."

11. New York Giants (8-5-1)

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    Saquon Barkley
    Saquon Barkley Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Last Week: 13

    Week 15 Result: Won at Washington 20-12

    No team entered Week 15 needing a win more than the New York Giants. They came into Sunday's road tilt with Washington mired in a monthlong winless funk that put their postseason aspirations in jeopardy.

    The Giants got that win they so badly needed, and they did so by getting the engine for the offense going again.

    "On Sunday against Washington, Giants running back Saquon Barkley found his groove again, racking up 120 total yards and a touchdown," Moton said. "On top of that, quarterback Daniel Jones made plays in critical moments and the defense applied constant pressure. Rookie first-round edge-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux recorded 12 tackles (nine solo), three for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

    "For once in about a month, Big Blue had a complete team victory, with the passing game and defense contributing to a positive outcome. If the Giants continue to rattle off complete performances, they'll cling on to a playoff spot and possibly become a fixture in the top 10 of these power rankings."

10. Baltimore Ravens (9-5)

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    Tyler Huntley
    Tyler HuntleyFrank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Last Week: 8

    Week 15 Result: Lost at Cleveland 13-3

    Offensive struggles aren't exactly new for the Baltimore Ravens. They entered Week 15 having scored 16 or fewer points in three of their last four games. However, they found a way to win all three of those contests and stay in first place in the AFC North.

    For the second straight game, the Ravens were without the services of quarterback Lamar Jackson against the Browns on Saturday night. This time, Baltimore's good fortune ran out.

    As they usually are, the Ravens were able to run the ball in Cleveland. Baltimore gained almost 200 yards on the ground and averaged over seven yards per carry. But the team could do absolutely nothing through the air, and head coach John Harbaugh said in no uncertain words that the Ravens have to improve throwing the ball.

    "We have to just have a better passing game, basically," Harbaugh told reporters. "It's not a good enough passing game right now across the board to do the things that we're hoping to do. So, that will be priority one.

    Jackson's return will help, to be sure. But Baltimore's issues in the passing game go beyond the quarterback to a lack of weapons around him. That's a problem that cannot be solved overnight.

9. Los Angeles Chargers (8-6)

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    Justin Herbert
    Justin HerbertAllen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

    Last Week: 10

    Week 15 Result: Won vs. Tennessee 17-14

    The Los Angeles Chargers aren't making things easy for themselves. But after squeaking past the floundering Titans on Sunday, they're now two games above .500 for the first time since November 6 and are in line for a wild-card spot.

    Sunday's win was either gutsy or unimpressive depending on your perspective. Both teams spent most of the game mired in a 7-7 tie. But a frenetic last-second drive set up a game-winning field goal and left quarterback Justin Herbert crediting the resolve of his teammates in his postgame news conference.

    "We have practiced two-minute drives all of the time in practice and all throughout camp. We know that we have special receivers, a great offensive line blocking and Mike Williams goes and makes the plays," Herbert said. "To be able to go through that and deal with as much adversity as we did today and not be able to score points and turnovers and things like that, for those guys to hang tough, believe in the defense and believe in each other, it was really good to see for us."

    Nothing is certain in the NFL, especially for a franchise for which bad luck has seemingly been the only kind in recent years. But the Chargers appear well-positioned for the playoffs, as each of their last three games come against teams who are at least five games below .500.

8. Miami Dolphins (8-6)

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    Tua Tagovailoa
    Tua TagovailoaKevin Sabitus/Getty Images

    Last Week: 9

    Week 15 Result: Lost at Buffalo 32-29

    It's time to start worrying.

    It's not that the Miami Dolphins played poorly in Buffalo. Miami gave the Bills all they could handle before falling on a last-second field goal. But the Dolphins lost for a third straight game, and coupled with the Chargers' win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, the Dolphins have fallen into the seventh and final playoff spot in the AFC.

    However, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa isn't concerned. Instead, he lauded the effort the Dolphins put forth in frigid conditions Saturday.

    "I thought we as a team handled the elements pretty well for a team that comes from 80-degree weather," Tagovailoa told reporters. "I'm very proud of the way our team leaders stepped up in this game. I think our team is taking a step in the right direction."

    However, with one game left against the Patriots and Jets, each of whom are one game behind the Dolphins in the playoff standings, Miami's margin for error has evaporated.

    "The Dolphins are good enough to hang with elite teams," Davenport said. "They have wins over the Bills and Ravens this season. Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are as dangerous as any wideout duo in the league. But in recent weeks, Miami's defense has been an issue. Unless the Dolphins can find a way to stop the bleeding on that side of the ball, a season that looked very promising a few weeks ago could get away from them."

7. Minnesota Vikings (11-3)

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    Patrick Peterson
    Patrick PetersonBailey Hillesheim/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Last Week: 7

    Week 15 Result: Won vs. Indianapolis 39-36, OT

    The first half of Saturday's tilt with the Colts was a disaster for the Minnesota Vikings. Everything that could go wrong did. Turnovers. Bad defense. You name it, it happened.

    At intermission, the Vikings trailed 33-0 and looked nothing like a Super Bowl contender. But in the second half, we got another "Minneapolis Miracle"—the greatest comeback in NFL history.

    For veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson, Saturday's wild win just another example of the Vikings' ability to rally around one another.

    "Nothing fazes us. We showed that in Buffalo," Peterson told reporters. "We showed that again today."

    Veteran wide receiver Adam Thielen echoed the sentiments.

    "It's a special group, a lot of fighters," Thielen said.

    Minnesota clinched the NFC North title with the victory. But the team's nonexistent defense in the first half left Davenport wondering how this team will fare against the NFC's best once the postseason starts.

    "Coming back from 33 down is a great story and all," he said. "But Minnesota allowed 36 points against one of the worst offenses in the league. This also marked the first time in over a month that the Vikings allowed less than 400 yards of offense.

    "The Vikings are a good team. But those defensive deficiencies can't be overlooked—and they're going to cost Minnesota in the playoffs."

6. Dallas Cowboys (10-4)

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    Dak Prescott
    Dak PrescottCourtney Culbreath/Getty Images

    Last Week: 5

    Week 15 Result: Lost at Jacksonville 40-34, OT

    There may be trouble brewing in Dallas.

    For the second time in as many weeks, the Dallas Cowboys struggled against a sub-.500 team. But while Dallas was able to eke out a win against Houston last week, the team fell in stunning fashion to Jacksonville on Sunday when safety Rayshawn Jenkins returned Dak Prescott's second interception of the game for a touchdown.

    It was the fourth time in six games that Prescott, who entered the week with the second-worst interception percentage in the NFL, has thrown multiple picks. He told reporters after the game that while the outcome was frustrating, it won't make him change how he plays.

    "It's tough. It's frustrating," Prescott said. "It's tough treading that line, trying to make a play, trying to be aggressive, and at the same time not putting the ball at risk."

    Prescott's turnovers aren't the only concern ahead of next week's showdown with the Eagles. The Cowboys squandered a 27-10 lead in this game. The usually stout Dallas defense allowed over 500 yards of offense.

    And with two games left against division leaders and another against a 7-6-1 Commanders team, the Cowboys quickly need to figure out what has gone wrong these past few weeks.

5. San Francisco 49ers (10-4)

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    Brock Purdy
    Brock PurdySteph Chambers/Getty Images

    Last Week: 6

    Week 15 Result: Won at Seattle 21-13

    The NFC West was regarded as one of the NFL's tougher divisions heading into the 2022 season. But a division that was supposed to be a donnybrook has instead been dominated by a team rolling out its third-string quarterback.

    That the San Francisco 49ers have kept on winning with Brock Purdy under center is impressive enough in and of itself. But it's doubly so when you consider that Purdy is a seventh-round rookie. In fact, he was "Mr. Irrelevant"—the final pick in the 2022 draft.

    While speaking to reporters after Thursday's win in Seattle, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said he has been blown away by how well Purdy has played since Jimmy Garoppolo went down with a foot injury in Week 13.

    "He's definitely the most poised rookie I've ever had," Shanahan said. "He's been like that since he's gotten here. ... Even him being unsure of whether he'd be able to go or not, I think that was uneasy for him because he didn't know what to expect until he got in the game. Under the circumstances, we didn't have any other options or choice. [We were] going to see how long he could last and ready to go with Josh. But he got comfortable and got better as the game went. It was pretty unbelievable."

    Purdy now has three weeks to ready himself for the playoffs. And if he fares well there, this could be a very interesting offseason in San Francisco.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)

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    Patrick Mahomes
    Patrick MahomesCooper Neill/Getty Images

    Last Week: 3

    Week 15 Result: Won at Houston 30-24, OT

    The Kansas City Chiefs are champions of the AFC West—again.

    The Chiefs certainly didn't play their best game of the season Sunday. They needed overtime to get past a one-win Texans team. But when running back Jerick McKinnon crossed the goal line, it secured a seventh straight division title for the Chiefs.

    Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt applauded that remarkable run while talking to the media after the game.

    "I think one of the most difficult things in the National Football League is consistent success," Hunt said. "The rules are designed to make that difficult, whether that's the draft or the salary cap. So, it's a real testament to the job that general manager Brett Veach and coach Andy Reid have done over the last several years."

    Just winning a division title stopped being good enough for the Chiefs years ago. This team has one goal: win the second Super Bowl of the Patrick Mahomes era and secure its status as the league's newest dynasty.

    The Chiefs don't have time to take a breath and savor the division title, though. The No. 1 seed in the AFC is still up for grabs. But with both the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals owning head-to-head wins over them, the Chiefs can't afford any more losses.

3. Cincinnati Bengals (10-4)

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    Joe Burrow
    Joe BurrowCliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Last Week: 4

    Week 15 Result: Won at Tampa Bay 34-23

    For a time Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals' winning streak appeared to be in jeopardy. They found themselves in an early 17-0 hole against the Buccaneers.

    But thanks to a disastrous deluge of turnovers from the Buccaneers, the Bengals peeled off 34 unanswered points (including 31 in the second half) to take control of the contest and claim sole possession of first place in the AFC North.

    After the win, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow told reporters that the team never wavered despite the early hole.

    "When we get in these situations, we never panic. We know somebody's going to make a play," Burrow said. "The last four weeks have all been tough wins, playing some really good teams and some really good defenses. We've risen to the challenge just about every week. We continue to play well in big spots and guys are making plays in big spots. That's exciting to see."

    For Sobleski, Sunday's win solidified Cincinnati's status as one of the AFC's best teams.

    "Cincinnati is the proverbial team that no one wants to play," he said. "The Bengals have won six straight, with a schedule that'll prove interesting down the stretch. Matchups against the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens are quite winnable, though a meeting with the Buffalo Bills in Week 17 should be a good litmus test for Joe Burrow and Co. as the postseason looms.

    "Sunday's comeback victory, where Cincinnati erased a 17-point deficit against Tampa Bay, shows how dangerous this squad is. A full complement of offensive weapons with Burrow pulling the trigger allows the Bengals to go punch for punch with anyone in the league."

2. Buffalo Bills (11-3)

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    Josh Allen
    Josh AllenKevin Sabitus/Getty Images

    Last Week: 2

    Week 15 Result: Won vs. Miami 32-29

    The Buffalo Bills are in the playoffs for the fourth straight season. They'll clinch the AFC East crown with one more win in the final three weeks. And if the season ended today, the Bills would be the top seed in the AFC.

    Of course, the Bills have their sights set much higher in 2022 than just making an appearance in the playoffs. But as superstar quarterback Josh Allen told reporters after Buffalo's comeback win over the Dolphins, the Bills are taking things one step at a time.

    "That's the No. 1 thing Coach [Sean] McDermott preaches, is playoff-caliber; can't win the Super Bowl unless you make the playoffs," Allen said. "So that's goal No. 1 down. Goal No. 2 now is to clinch the division. That's how we'll take it. We'll take it one game at a time. Be ready for next week."

    The Bills appear to have everything necessary to make a deep playoff run. The offense is replete with firepower and led by arguably the best quarterback in the league. The defense plays equally well against the run and the pass. Buffalo has one of the best home-field advantages in the league, especially as we move farther into the winter.

    And with a win in Kansas City already on their 2022 résumé, it's hard to view the Bills as anything but the team to beat in the AFC.

1. Philadelphia Eagles (13-1)

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    Jalen Hurts
    Jalen Hurts Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Last Week: 1

    Week 15 Result: Won at Chicago 25-20

    With each passing week, it's becoming more and more clear that the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will go through Philadelphia.

    The Eagles didn't play their best game of the season by any stretch Sunday in Chicago. Jalen Hurts was shaky as a passer, and the Eagles let a bad Bears team hang around for most of the afternoon. But Hurts scored three times on the ground, and Philly made enough plays to notch win No. 13 on the season.

    After the win, Hurts told reporters he was proud of the way the team gutted out a win on a day when the team wasn't playing its best.

    "The great teams, the great players, they find a way," Hurts said. "And I think collectively as a group, we all came together and found a way as a team. And I think that's the biggest takeaway from this game."

    If the Eagles can beat the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday for the second time this season, they will lock up both the NFC East and the No. 1 seed in the NFC. However, that looks far less likely after ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Monday that Hurts might miss the critical Christmas Eve clash because of a shoulder injury he suffered against the Bears.