2022 B/R NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Entering Week 17?

BR NFL StaffDecember 27, 2022

2022 B/R NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Entering Week 17?

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    Josh Allen
    Josh AllenQuinn Harris/Getty Images

    With just two weeks left in the regular season, the playoffs are coming into focus.

    In the NFC, the North and West are decided, with the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers claiming those divisions. The Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles are in as well, but which goes as NFC East champ and which as a wild card is still to be decided. So is the NFC South, which will as likely as not sport a "champion" with a losing record.

    Over in the AFC, the East belongs to the Buffalo Bills again. The West has been all Kansas City all the time for years, and 2022 is no different. The Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens are sill battling for the AFC North title (and the home playoff game that goes with it), while just as in the NFC the South has become a quagmire.

    After a wild week of action that saw the league's losingest team win, the winningest team lose and a coach get fired following a Christmas debacle, Bleacher Report NFL analysts Gary Davenport, Maurice Moton and Brent Sobleski have come together again to rank all 32 teams from worst to first.

    As it happens, both those bookends changed this week.

32. Denver Broncos (4-11)

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    Russell Wilson
    Russell WilsonJordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Last Week: 29

    Week 16 Result: Lost at Los Angeles Rams 51-14

    After the Denver Broncos were humiliated on Christmas Day by a 10-loss Rams team, head coach Nathaniel Hackett told reporters that he and his team were tired of losing.

    "I think that they're upset for all the losing," Hackett said. "We all are. Every one of us. It's unacceptable. That's not what we're about. That's not what we were going to do. We went in with the mindset that we were going to be able to win this game, but in the end, we weren't ready."

    Hackett was right. The team was tired of losing. Or at least the new ownership group was—it fired Hackett Monday.

    "Following extensive conversations with [general manager] George [Paton] and our ownership group, we determined a new direction would ultimately be in the best interest of the Broncos," the team's ownership group said in a statement. "This change was made now out of respect for everyone involved and allows us to immediately begin the search for a new head coach."

    It was just one more failure in a season full with them, but as Sobleski pointed out, a new coach will hardly solve all of Denver's problems.

    "The Broncos' season has been an utter disaster at every level," he said. "The Russell Wilson trade looks like the worst in NFL history. Nathaniel Hackett is gone, fired before his first season even ended. During Sunday's throttling at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams, backup quarterback Brett Rypien was seen arguing with the team's starting offensive line on the sideline. It would be comical if it wasn't so sad. A housecleaning appears necessary after the Broncos officially took the title as the league's most dysfunctional and worst team. Good luck dealing with that Wilson contract after this year."

31. Houston Texans (2-12-1)

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    Lovie Smith
    Lovie SmithWesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Last Week: 32

    Week 16 Result: Won at Tennessee 19-14

    As Ben Arthur reported for Fox Sports, even as the losses continued to mount in Houston, head coach Lovie Smith never wavered in his belief that the Texans were improving. In fact, on some level Smith should be credited for being realistic about the timeframe for a ground-up rebuild.

    "The same thing I'm telling the team and everybody else: the history behind, we can't go there," Smith said when the Texans were 1-9-1. "We understand the fans have been around a long period of time. For us, we're trying to build. It's a process that you can't skip a step, and we're not there yet. That's what we're telling them, but we're going to get there. We work extremely hard each day to try and make that happen. I just don't think it does a lot of good to talk about some of the good things we're doing. Know what the record is. We have one win, and we need to get better in all the areas, and I'm telling the fans that's what we're trying to do."

    Sunday's win doesn't change the Texans' trajectory any more drastically than the losses that preceded it. The reality is that Houston is a bad team that just so happened to play a worse team Saturday in the reeling Titans. Houston remains in line for the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft.

    However, the "lead" for that pick has shrunk to half a game, and if the Texans want their pick of any quarterback in next year's class, the best thing for their long-term prospects may be a two-game losing streak to finish the season.

30. Arizona Cardinals (4-11)

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    Kliff Kingsbury
    Kliff KingsburyChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    Last Week: 27

    Week 16 Result: Lost vs. Tampa Bay 19-16 (OT)

    It's not especially surprising that the Arizona Cardinals lost to the Buccaneers on Sunday night—not with third-string quarterback Trace McSorley starting. But after yet another loss in an awful season, it's looking more and more like the next two games will be Kliff Kingsbury's last as head coach in Arizona.

    Per a report from ESPN's Jeremy Fowler and Josh Weinfuss, sources said that Kingsbury's relationship with Cardinals ownership has deteriorated throughout the 2022 season.

    "He knows that it's not a situation that lends itself to him being happy and successful and at his best for that organization, which he wants to be," a source close to Kingsbury said. "They won't let him. They won't let him be great."

    It gets worse, as another source indicated that Kingsbury's relationship with quarterback Kyler Murray isn't much better.

    "It's not good," a team source told ESPN last month. "It seems particularly bad this year."

    If that's true, then that's that. It doesn't matter even a little who is "right" or "wrong" in the desert. After extending Murray before the season, he isn't going anywhere.

    That leaves Kingsbury as the odd man out.

29. Indianapolis Colts (4-10-1)

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    Nick Foles
    Nick FolesJustin Casterline/Getty Images

    Last Week: 31

    Week 16 Result: Lost vs. Los Angeles Chargers 20-3

    The Indianapolis Colts have had a carousel of crud at quarterback this season. Matt Ryan didn't play well, so he was benched for Sam Ehlinger. Ehlinger looked completely overmatched, so the team went back to Ryan. Ryan was bad again, so the team turned to Nick Foles, who interim head coach Jeff Saturday told reporters gave the team the best chance to win.

    "Think the world of Matt, he's a pro's pro. It's not been the season he expected, nor the Colts as a whole," he said. "Ultimately, I feel like Nick will give us a better chance to go win these last three games."

    Yeah, um, about that.

    Foles was next-level terrible against the Chargers on Monday night. He lumbered around the pocket like Groot after too much Dramamine. His accuracy was almost as horrible as his decision-making, and by the time another embarrassing performance from the Colts mercifully ended, Foles had thrown for just 143 yards and three picks with a passer rating of 31.9.

    Being without Jonathan Taylor didn't help. Neither did an offensive line that has gone from a strength of the team not that long ago to a glaring weakness. But the only question Foles can answer for the Colts is, "How can Indianapolis make sure they don't screw up their draft position by winning another game?"

28. Chicago Bears (3-12)

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    Justin Fields
    Justin FieldsMichael Reaves/Getty Images

    Last Week: 30

    Week 16 Result: Lost vs. Buffalo 35-13

    The good news for the Chicago Bears is that Saturday at Soldier Field, Justin Fields became the third quarterback in NFL history to gain 1,000 yards on the ground in a season.

    The bad news for the Bears is…just about every other thing that has happened this season.

    Fields may have hit a milestone in Week 16, but the Bills actually did an excellent job of limiting him on the ground. Once the Bills took Fields' running ability away, the Chicago offense cratered. For the game, the Bears managed just 209 yards of offense. The ground game was completely non-existent, averaging just 2.8 yards per carry. The Bears converted just two of 12 third downs.

    To be fair, the Bears defense was just as bad as the offense. Chicago allowed 426 yards and 35 points, got gashed on the ground to the tune of over eight yards per carry and allowed Buffalo to successfully convert over half its third downs.

    Chicago's eighth straight loss showed just how far this team is from contention—on both sides of the ball. The Bears are going to have a high pick in 2023—possibly even first overall. But given how they have looked for most of the 2022 season, one player isn't going to magically fix all that ails them.

27. Atlanta Falcons (5-10)

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    Desmond Ridder
    Desmond RidderTodd Olszewski/Getty Images

    Last Week: 26

    Week 16 Result: Lost at Baltimore 17-9

    In honesty, the 2022 season was never really about 2022 for the Atlanta Falcons—or at least it shouldn't have been. It can be argued that the weeks spent as a marginal contender with Marcus Mariota under center were wasted opportunities for Desmond Ridder to develop.

    Now, however, the switch has been made. And while Ridder's second start ended with the same result as the first, head coach Arthur Smith told reporters after the loss that he was encouraged by the progress the rookie showed.

    "He was pretty accurate," Smith said. "I don't have the numbers in front of me. I think he made some big-time throws when the game came into pressure. He got a hold of that in the second half. That's what you want to see. He's calm, he's collected, and I thought he delivered the football. There are a couple things here and there that we got to look at. Down there in the red zone, short yardage, things like that. I thought, from a pocket presence against a quality defense, he gave you a lot of looks."

    Ridder wasn't the only rookie to show out against the Ravens—Ridder and first-rounder Drake London demonstrated an encouraging level of chemistry, with London leading all Falcons in catches and receiving yards by a wide margin.

26. Los Angeles Rams (5-10)

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    Baker Mayfield
    Baker MayfieldJordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Last Week: 28

    Week 16 Result: Won vs. Denver 51-14

    The 2022 season has been a disaster for the Los Angeles Rams in just about every way imaginable. And things haven't been any better for Baker Mayfield—Mayfield was replaced by Deshaun Watson in Cleveland, shipped to Carolina, cut by the Panthers and eventually signed by a Rams team desperate for quarterback help after Matthew Stafford went down.

    But a funny thing happened on the way to the scrapyard. Mayfield has played well with the Rams—including an outstanding performance on Christmas Day against the Broncos that drew raves from head coach Sean McVay.

    "I think [he's played] probably better [than expected], but I always—you guys know, I was always a fan of him and I think he's played really well," McVay told reporters. "You got to think about too, what he's done to come in here and be able to play around a lot of guys too that haven't been here, and to be able to lead the charge today, just an incredible effort. He's been outstanding."

    Mayfield isn't going to save the Rams' season—that ship has sailed. But If he continues to play well over the final two weeks, at least the team will have a measure of insurance against Matthew Stafford's health concerns.

25. Las Vegas Raiders (6-9)

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    Derek Carr
    Derek CarrGaelen Morse/Getty Images

    Last Week: 21

    Week 16 Result: Lost at Pittsburgh 13-10

    The Las Vegas Raiders are the undisputed champions of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

    After coming up short against the Steelers in Pittsburgh, Las Vegas has lost a jaw-dropping eight one-score games in 2022. Four separate times this season, the Raiders have led by 13 points and gone on to lose the game.

    After this latest setback, head coach Josh McDaniels was left in a familiar position: explaining away yet another late-game letdown.

    "We've pulled out plenty (of games), and then to lose in this fashion when you have a shot to win, you realize you're close, but close doesn't really count in this league," McDaniels said. "I obviously have to do a better job to try and close the gap."

    For his part, Moton is officially tired of the excuses.

    "In all honesty, the Las Vegas Raiders had no business in the playoff discussion after they blew four 13-plus-point leads," he said. "This season, the Raiders have shown that they're a wildly inconsistent team (from half to half) that's stuck in mediocrity.

    "Following the Raiders' 13-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Christmas Eve, one has to wonder about Derek Carr's future with a regime that inherited him. He's completed less than 55 percent of his passes in four consecutive contests and leads the league in interceptions with 14. Right now, the Raiders seem like a club that's at a crossroads under head coach Josh McDaniels and first-year general manager Dave Ziegler in a losing season."

24. Cleveland Browns (6-9)

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    Deshaun Watson
    Deshaun WatsonNick Cammett/Getty Images

    Last Week: 19

    Week 16 Result: Lost vs. New Orleans 17-10

    The Cleveland Browns made arguably the most controversial acquisition in NFL history when they acquired quarterback Deshaun Watson shortly after the conclusion of police investigations into reports from 10 women accusing him of sexual harassment or assault. It was a move that cost Cleveland multiple first-round picks and a $230 million fully guaranteed contract.

    And so far, the return on that investment has been…not great.

    Granted, some growing pains were to be expected given that Watson hadn't played in nearly two full years. The weather in Cleveland certainly didn't do the passing game any favors, either. But after completing just 15 of 31 attempts for 135 yards and an interception Saturday, Watson is completing 57.7 percent of his passes, averaging 175.8 passing yards per game, has more interceptions than touchdowns and has a passer rating of 69.3.

    That's not the superstar the Browns thought they were getting, and Davenport thinks the long-term concern in Cleveland is genuine.

    "There will probably be an effort made by some to write off Watson's struggles in a lost season as rust," he said. "But there's going to be tremendous pressure on Watson to flip the switch in 2023, and it's going to be awfully hard to improve the team around him with little cap space and no first-round pick. The Watson saga is already pretty ugly, and it could get a whole lot uglier from here."

23. New Orleans Saints (6-9)

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    Alvin Kamara
    Alvin KamaraFrank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Last Week: 25

    Week 16 Result: Won at Cleveland 17-10

    Saturday's contest in Cleveland was the coldest regular-season game in Browns history, and Cleveland is not exactly known as a balmy town. Given the brutal cold, high winds and just all-around winter misery, this was less a game to be won and more a contest to be survived.

    The Saints did just that, and, in doing so, New Orleans kept their faint postseason hopes alive.

    As one might expect in these conditions, the Saints rode the run game to victory, with Taysom Hill and Alvin Kamara combining for 132 yards and both New Orleans touchdowns. It was a departure for a team that entered Week 16 21st in the NFL in rushing, and Hill lauded the team's ability to control the line of scrimmage while talking to reporters after the win.

    "When you can line up, and they know you're going to run the ball, and you can still do it successfully, that's big," said Hill. "That's what we came in wanting to do."

    For his part, Kamara just wanted to get somewhere warm.

    "I didn't want to be a part of that," Kamara joked. "The elements are the elements, so you just use common sense out there. It was cold. Nothing was going to stop it from being cold. On those long runs, I was really more fired up to get back to the heat on the sideline."

    Kamara may have to wait a bit longer to warm up. Next week, the Saints travel to Philadelphia before closing the season at home against the Carolina Panthers.

22. Tennessee Titans (7-8)

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    Malik Willis
    Malik WillisWesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Last Week: 15

    Week 16 Result: Lost vs. Houston 19-14

    Saturday's game between the Texans and Titans was delayed an hour by rolling blackouts in the Nashville area.

    In retrospect, the Titans probably wish it had been delayed longer because the lights just went out on Tennessee's chances of making any noise in the playoffs. What seemed inconceivable a month ago has come to pass. After a sloppy loss to the then-one-win Texans, the Titans are no longer in first place in the AFC South.

    The loss was Tennessee's fifth straight, and things are getting testy in Tennessee—so much so that head coach Mike Vrabel called out his team's preparation after the game.

    "It's not the buy-in, it's just, how much are we doing outside of the time that we're at the facility?" Vrabel told reporters. "If you as a professional athlete just work 8-4 or 8-4:30, I don't know how much you get out of it.

    "Maybe God gifted you with some really, really cool talents. We just have to all do a little bit more, and that's with me, with preparation, and that's with coaches and players. A little bit more of everything."

    "Here's the hard truth," Davenport said. "The Titans are done. Cooked. Finished. The offense has completely collapsed with rookie quarterback Malik Willis under center, which happens when you have a quarterback who can't pass.

    "The defense is terrible against the pass. And now the coach is grousing publicly about the commitment level of his players. These Titans aren't beating the Cowboys next week. Or the Jaguars in Week 18."

    "Tennessee was an easy projection as a regression candidate after posting the AFC's best record a year ago," Sobleski added. "However, a 7-3 start made it look like they'd run away with the AFC South yet again. The schedule hasn't been kind to the Titans since Thanksgiving. Tennessee lost five straight, including an embarrassing upset on Christmas Eve to the Houston Texans.

    "To make matters worse, Ryan Tannehill won't return to the lineup this year after requiring ankle surgery. While the playoffs remain a possibility, the rest of this season is more about evaluating Willis than anything else."

21. Carolina Panthers (6-9)

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    D'Onta Foreman
    D'Onta ForemanEakin Howard/Getty Images

    Last Week: 24

    Week 16 Result: Won vs. Detroit 37-23

    The Carolina Panthers control their own destiny in the NFC South.

    No, really. They do.

    That the Panthers find themselves in this situation at all is surprising enough. But the way they got to this point is even more so. One week after a listless performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Panthers controlled the game from start to finish against a Detroit Lions team that entered Week 16 as one of the hottest in the league.

    Carolina's ground game was the story of the afternoon, with D'Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard combining for 290 yards on 33 carries. But after the victory, interim head coach Steve Wilks talked up the entire team's effort in a game Carolina had to have to keep their lagging playoff aspirations alive, particularly the offensive line.

    "Our guys were challenged," Wilks said. "We got embarrassed last week in so many fashions. They bounced back and showed their true character in how we practiced last week and, most importantly, in how we came out today and performed."

    The challenges won't stop. In Week 17, the Panthers head to Tampa to face the Buccaneers in a battle for first place in the NFC's worst division. Then it's on to New Orleans to close out the regular season against the Saints.

    Find a way to win those games, and the Panthers will do something no one expected this season: win their division and make the playoffs.

20. New England Patriots (7-8)

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    Kendrick Bourne
    Kendrick BourneWinslow Townson/Getty Images

    Last Week: 18

    Week 16 Result: Lost vs. Cincinnati 22-18

    At 7-8, the New England Patriots are more likely than not going to miss the postseason in 2022. There is more than one reason for that. But the biggest is likely the team's offensive struggles.

    After falling at home to the Bengals in Week 16, the Patriots are 25th in total offense, and in the opinion of Pats beat writer Mark Daniels of Mass Live, the blame for those offensive struggles sits squarely on the struggles of William Stephen Belichick.

    "Last year, under [Josh] McDaniels, the Patriots offense finished sixth in the NFL in points scored and 15th in yards," he said. "They entered this game 17th in scoring and 25th in yards. The drop in offensive production is clearly due to Belichick's failure to adequately replace McDaniels."

    It's not just the play-calling and scheme. Kendrick Bourne, who was New England's most effective receiver against the Bengals, has barely played this season. Time and again, the Patriots appear reluctant to let Mac Jones challenge defenses vertically.

    And whether it was Rhamondre Stevenson's game-sealing fumble against the Bengals or the disastrous lateral the week before, the Patriots have committed costly mistakes at the worst possible time.

    As has annually been the case under Belichick, the Patriots are an excellent defensive team. But until New England takes major steps to upgrade the offense, the team will be mired in the morass of mediocrity it currently finds itself in.

19. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8)

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    Kenny Pickett
    Kenny PickettGaelen Morse/Getty Images

    Last Week: 23

    Week 16 Result: Won vs. Las Vegas 13-10

    Mike Tomlin's streak of non-losing seasons isn't dead yet.

    On a night when fans in Pittsburgh simultaneously celebrated the 50th anniversary of "The Immaculate Reception" and mourned the sudden death of Steelers great Franco Harris, the team honored Harris the best way they could: with a late-game drive to down the Raiders and keep Pittsburgh's slim playoff hopes alive.

    After the game, rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett told reporters the team dedicated the comeback to Harris, who died last week at the age of 72.

    "We dedicated this to Franco," Pickett said. "Felt like he was with us tonight."

    To be clear, the Steelers all but certainly aren't making the playoffs. It will take wins over the Ravens on the road and the Browns in Pittsburgh to avoid the first losing season in Tomlin's coaching career and a fair amount of help on top of that for the postseason to be in play.

    But after a miserable first half of the season, the Steelers have quietly peeled off five wins over their last seven games. And even if that isn't enough to salvage the 2022 season, it should at least offer Pittsburgh some momentum heading into 2023.

18. New York Jets (7-8)

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    Zach Wilson
    Zach WilsonRich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Last Week: 13

    Week 16 Result: Lost vs. Jacksonville 19-3

    The New York Jets have officially got problems. And one towers over all the others.

    After another miserable offensive performance, Jets head coach Robert Saleh didn't single out the quarterback position. But after New York lost for the fifth time in six games, a clearly exasperated Saleh admitted that he is well and truly sick and tired of losing.

    "It's not about playoffs right now," Saleh told reporters. "It's about getting off this mat and trying to freakin' find a way to put together a football game."

    To be brutally honest, the Jets team that took the field against the Jaguars looked nothing like a playoff team. The offense sputtered once again, gaining just 227 yards. After another dismal performance under center, Zach Wilson was benched (again) as boos rained down at MetLife Stadium.

    Saleh told reporters after the loss that despite the struggles, the team is not going to give up on the second overall pick in 2021.

    "It's a tough thing to try to overcome, but it doesn't take much to flip confidence. He just needs to get on a little run. ... He just needs a good string of consecutive games, quarters, plays, of putting together good football," Saleh said.

    The thing is, the only thing worse than whiffing on that high pick is refusing to admit that Wilson isn't the guy in New York.

    It's become exceedingly evident he's not.

    "The New York Jets' playoff hopes have faded along with Zach Wilson's chance to turn his career around with the organization," Moton said. "Gang Green has lost four consecutive games and sits outside the playoff picture while in fourth place in the AFC East because of an 0-2 record against the New England Patriots.

    "While Wilson isn't the only person responsible for the Jets' recent slump, he hasn't helped them either. According to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, the team will move on from him next offseason. Technically, the Jets are still alive in the AFC playoff race, but if quarterback Mike White continues to miss time with fractured ribs, this team will sink further to the bottom of the standings and these power rankings."

17. Seattle Seahawks (7-8)

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    Geno Smith
    Geno Smith David Eulitt/Getty Images

    Last Week: 17

    Week 16 Result: Lost at Kansas City 24-10

    It's not surprising that the Seahawks lost at Kansas City on Saturday or that Seattle is under .500 heading into Week 17. But the reality is that at 7-8, the Seahawks have exceeded expectations. This was supposed to be a rebuilding season in which Geno Smith was going to temporarily lead Seattle until the team drafted a quarterback of the future.

    Apparently, someone forgot to tell Smith. His numbers were modest against the Chiefs (215 yards, one touchdown, one interception), but Smith has been something of a revelation in 2022: a completion percentage of 70.7, three times as many touchdowns (27) as interceptions (nine) and a robust passer rating of 102.9 on the way to the first Pro Bowl selection of his career.

    Smith's performance in 2022 surprised a lot of people. But wide receiver DK Metcalf wasn't one of them.

    "One thing that separates Geno is how competitive he is, no matter if he was the backup or if he is starting, "Metcalf told Michael-Shawn Dugar of the Athletic. "[Smith] still has that competitive edge to where he is not going to lose and is always going to compete his butt off."

    The Seahawks aren't going to the Super Bowl. They may not even make the playoffs. But Seattle will enter the 2023 offseason in better shape than just about anyone expected—and with a long-term solution at quarterback apparently in hand.

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-8)

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    Leonard Fournette
    Leonard FournetteChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    Last Week: 22

    Week 16 Result: Won at Arizona 19-16 (OT)

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers just won't die.

    The Buccaneers have struggled mightily on offense most of the season. But as has been the case more than once in 2022, Tampa hung around just long enough on Sunday night to do what Tom Brady does: engineer a late comeback to get past the Cardinals and maintain first place in the NFC South.

    After Brady engineered the 57th game-winning drive of his career, running back Leonard Fournette told reporters that it's Tom Terrific's world—the rest of the Buccaneers are just living in it.

    "That's just who he is," Fournette said. "He's been doing it for years. Guys like myself, Mike [Evans], Julio [Jones], Chris [Godwin], Rachaad [White], everybody, we're just playing a part in his greatness. Give him what he wants. He wants certain routes run certain ways. We're just here to try and make his job easier."

    With the victory, the road to the postseason for the Buccaneers is a clear one: beat the Panthers at home in Week 16, and the division is theirs. The larger question is whether that really matters. Given how badly the team has struggled to move the football this season, it's nearly impossible to see this Tampa team having success against the NFC's heavyweights in the playoffs.

15. Washington Commanders (7-7-1)

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    Carson Wentz
    Carson WentzDouglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Last Week: 14

    Week 16 Result: Lost at San Francisco 37-20

    The last thing an NFL team clinging to postseason hopes needs is a quarterback controversy. But after pulling Taylor Heinicke in favor of Carson Wentz in last week's loss at San Francisco, that's exactly what the Washington Commanders are dealing with.

    While addressing the media after the game, head coach Ron Rivera insisted that the team hasn't decided who will be under center when the Commanders face the Cleveland Browns in Week 17.

    "We're gonna evaluate the tape, we'll talk about those things, and I'll make a decision next week," Rivera said. "And I'll make it early, too, because whoever's gonna start is gonna get the chance to make it work."

    At least one of our analysts isn't sure it will matter.

    "Benching Heinicke for Wentz after benching Wentz for Heinicke pretty well sums up the quarterback situation in the nation's capital," Davenport said. Both quarterbacks have similar statistics, but for whatever reason, the team has enjoyed more success this year with Heinicke under center.

    "In any event, while the Commanders may get past Cleveland, their best bet at beating Dallas in the finale is if the Cowboys rest players. If they don't, it won't matter who starts at quarterback, and the door will be open for a team behind them to snatch the last playoff spot in the NFC."

14. Green Bay Packers (7-8)

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    Aaron Rodgers
    Aaron RodgersPeter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Last Week: 20

    Week 16 Result: Won vs. Miami 26-20

    The Green Bay Packers are back in the mix.

    It's not just a matter of Green Bay's Christmas Day win over the Dolphins, which was the Packers' third straight victory. But a long list of things Green Bay needed to occur to bolster their faint playoff hopes all fell into place. Seattle lost. So did Washington. And the New York Giants. And Detroit.

    It sets up a pretty simple path to the postseason for the Pack: if Green Bay beats Minnesota and Detroit and the Commanders lose a game, Green Bay is in. Two losses by the Giants will do the same trick as one Commanders loss.

    "Aaron Rodgers and Co. are figuring things out and making another push toward the postseason," Sobleski said. "As winners of three straight contests, Green Bay now sits half a game behind the Washington Commanders for the seventh NFC playoff spot.

    "Granted, they have the same record as the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions. But Seattle is fading down the stretch, and the Lions D is far too much of a liability. Meanwhile, the Packers have found a formula to win with a balanced offensive attack and the ability to properly protect Rodgers when he drops back to pass, even if he isn't playing to his typical MVP standard."

13. Detroit Lions (7-8)

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    Aidan Hutchinson
    Aidan HutchinsonAP Photo/Jacob Kupferman

    Last Week: 12

    Week 16 Result: Lost at Carolina 37-23

    The Detroit Lions entered Week 17 with as much momentum as any team in the NFL.

    It was pounded out of them.

    To say that the Lions were dominated in the trenches doesn't begin to describe it. They were gashed on the ground for a whopping 320 yards at 7.4 yards per carry. In a game in which the Lions were attempting to stake a claim as a legitimate playoff contender, Detroit fell behind 31-7 to a mediocre Panthers team.

    Head coach Dan Campbell took responsibility for the team's lackluster performance while speaking to reporters after the loss.

    "Ultimately, when you play that way, it falls on me," Campbell said. "I didn't have them ready to go. That wasn't good enough. That was a hungry team that we played. And we didn't look as hungry. That's the bottom line."

    The reality is that even when the Lions were winning, they were doing so despite their defense rather than because of it. Surrendering a staggering 570 yards of offense was just a reminder of how bad that unit really is.

    "Just when everyone is ready to buy in fully to Dan Campbell and his plucky squad, the Lions fall apart against poor competition," Sobleski said. "The Carolina Panthers' ground-and-pound approach shredded Detroit's D. As a team, Carolina ran for a franchise-record 320 yards. The Panthers' backs are talented, but they're not counted among the league's best.

    "Detroit's defensive performance is unacceptable at any level. Even when that side of the ball shows signs of life, the unit quickly reminds onlookers that it's still ranked dead last. As a result, there's no reason to take the Lions seriously. "

12. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-8)

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    Trevor Lawrence
    Trevor LawrenceRich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Last Week: 16

    Week 16 Result: Won at New York Jets 19-3

    The Jacksonville Jaguars inched one step closer to a potential playoff spot in Week 16.

    Granted, even after downing the Jets in abysmal weather at MetLife Stadium on Thursday night, quarterback Trevor Lawrence admitted to reporters after the win that there's still plenty the Jags need to work on.

    "When our number was called in the passing game, we made enough plays," Lawrence said. "Obviously, it was a little sloppy. There's going to be a lot of stuff to correct. The elements played a little bit of a factor. At the end of the day, we made the plays we needed to make."

    That's the thing, though. After years of coming up short, these Jaguars are finding a way to get it done and win. Since the Jaguars' bye week, the team has peeled off four wins in five games. Jacksonville has won its last three games, and Lawrence is starting to look like the generational QB prospect he was labeled coming out of Clemson.

    Whether the Jaguars can make the postseason this year or not in uncertain. But one thing does appear certain.

    The future is brightening up in Jacksonville.

    "The Jacksonville Jaguars may shed the sleeper team label for division champions in the next two weeks," Moton said. "Regardless of what happens in their Week 17 outing with the Houston Texans, they'll have a chance to win the AFC South with a win over the Tennessee Titans in the final week of the season.

    "Jacksonville has won four of its previous five games, and in that stretch, quarterback Trevor Lawrence has assisted in or scored 13 touchdowns (11 passing and two rushing). He's played up to his draft status under head coach Doug Pederson, which is a great sign for the Jaguars' future. Anyone can make a case for them as a top-12 team right now."

11. New York Giants (8-6-1)

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    Saquon Barkley
    Saquon BarkleyStephen Maturen/Getty Images

    Last Week: 11

    Week 16 Result: Lost at Minnesota 27-24

    Saturday's trip to Minnesota was an opportunity for the Giants. It was a chance to not only make the playoffs but do so on the road against a team New York could see again in the postseason.

    The Giants came up short in that regard, but thanks to the happenings around the league in Week 16, the team will find themselves in the same position when they host the Colts this week. Win the game, and they are in the playoffs.

    It's a possibility that had star running back Saquon Barkley all smiles when speaking with reporters.

    "We control our own destiny," Barkley said. "Win, and you're in. At home. That's beautiful."

    However, Moton said that Saturday's loss to the Vikings was a reminder that the G-Men are a flawed team with a limited offense that has punched above its weight in 2022.

    "We already know the New York Giants cannot keep pace with teams in high-scoring games, so no one should be surprised by their 27-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Christmas Eve. Big Blue has scored more than 24 points once this season," he said.

    "The Giants need to win with complementary football, which means their offensive, defensive and special teams units need to have solid performances to give them a legitimate chance to win games. Because of a strong start (7-2), they're going to make the playoffs, but this team will likely exit in the first round. Keep this squad out of the top 10 in any power rankings system."

10. Miami Dolphins (8-7)

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    Tua Tagovailoa
    Tua TagovailoaMegan Briggs/Getty Images

    Last Week: 8

    Week 16 Result: Lost vs. Green Bay 26-20

    There are some constants in the NFL—truisms that are as accurate in 2022 as they were in 1972. There are none bigger than this: Turnovers are the kiss of death.

    The Dolphins found this out the hard way Sunday at home against the Green Bay Packers. After going into halftime with a seven-point lead, Tua Tagovailoa threw interceptions on three consecutive second-half possessions, and Miami was shut out in the second half en route to a 26-20 loss that was the team's fourth straight defeat.

    Head coach Mike McDaniel acknowledged to reporters after the defeat that this setback was hard to swallow.

    "I did not foresee that happening," McDaniel said. "I felt strong going into halftime and where our guys were at. I didn't foresee standing up here in this situation. I know the team feels the same way. It's another gut check."

    Davenport thinks we're past the gut-check stage.

    "There was a time this season when the Dolphins sat atop these power rankings," he said. "But now it's not a sure thing that Miami will even make the playoffs. The Miami defense is springing leaks. The explosive plays on offense that came so regularly earlier in the season have all but evaporated. And now Tagovailoa is struggling and back in the concussion protocol.

    "With two stout defenses left of the schedule, the Dolphins had best figure things out PDQ, or a season that once looked so promising could spiral away from them."

9. Baltimore Ravens (10-5)

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    Mark Andrews
    Mark AndrewsAP Photo/Nick Wass

    Last Week: 10

    Week 16 Result: Won vs. Atlanta 17-9

    The Baltimore Ravens don't much care about style points, which is a good thing because the team isn't earning any.

    However, what the Ravens have earned after downing the Falcons on Christmas Eve in the coldest game ever at M&T Bank Stadium is a trip to the postseason.

    As has been the case every week since Lamar Jackson went down, the Baltimore passing game was ineffective against Atlanta. But the ground game racked up 184 yards on 34 carries, and the defense limited the Falcons to just three field goals.

    After the victory, star tight end Mark Andrews applauded the team's ability to overcome both the elements and the absence of their starting quarterback.

    "It was good Ravens football," Andrews said. "Shoutout to the defense who had a great game. Special teams and all that. But when you get a day like this, cold weather and adverse conditions, any time you come out victorious, it's a good win."

    With the victory, the Ravens not only earned a spot in the postseason tournament but also stayed in the hunt for the AFC North title. Wins over the rival Steelers in Week 17 and the Bengals in the season finale would hand the division to Baltimore.

8. Los Angeles Chargers (9-6)

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    Drue Tranquill
    Drue TranquillMichael Hickey/Getty Images

    Last Week: 9

    Week 16 Result: Won at Indianapolis Colts 20-3

    The Los Angeles Chargers entered Week 16 playing some of their best football of the season, winners of three of four to climb back into the thick of the playoff chase.

    Improved defense has been part of that surge, and inside linebacker Drue Tranquill told Daniel Popper of The Athletic that weekly players-only meetings have helped fuel the defensive turnaround.

    "It's personal accountability," Tranquill said. "It's us saying, 'Hey, this is what we're supposed to be doing, and, look, you're not doing it.' Because we all want the same thing. We all want to be great. We want to be the best run defense. So I just think the communication, the clarity, the expectation for one another, I think it's great.

    "And I think if you've seen anything the last two games, it's swarm and strain. It's been nothing more. Go watch the number of guys getting off blocks the last two weeks as opposed to other weeks, and then go watch the number of guys attacking the ball on the ball carrier as opposed to weeks prior. We're getting two, three guys to the ball, and a big part of it is these meetings."

    If Monday night's dismantling of the Colts was any indication, the Bolts should keep having the meetings. Los Angeles allowed just 173 yards of offense and forced three turnovers.

    The win puts the 9-6 Chargers into the postseason, and with the Rams and Broncos on the schedule to close out the regular season, hitting the playoffs on a five-game win streak is a real possibility.

    We saw just last year with the Cincinnati Bengals what a peaking team can do in the playoffs.

7. Minnesota Vikings (12-3)

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    Justin Jefferson
    Justin JeffersonStephen Maturen/Getty Images

    Last Week: 7

    Week 16 Result: Won vs. New York Giants 27-24

    The Minnesota Vikings like to keep things interesting.

    When kicker Greg Joseph blasted through a franchise-record 61-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Giants, it marked Minnesota's 11th one-score win and the sixth time the Vikings have won this season with a score in the final minute of the fourth quarter or in overtime. Both are NFL records.

    By the time the dust settles on the 2022 campaign, wide receiver Justin Jefferson may have a record of his own. After another huge game, Jefferson needs 209 yards to break Calvin Johnson's single-season receiving record.

    While addressing the media after the game, head coach Kevin O'Connell said the Vikings have learned to thrive when the stakes are at their highest.

    "Our guys have the ability to play with a quieted mind," O'Connell said, "and just understand the situation of pitch-and-catch ... and have maybe the best execution all day in those [key] moments, and that's a theme for our team. Now what we've got to do is find a way to create that kind of urgency and execution level throughout four quarters and we're going to see something really special with this team."

    The question now is whether a Vikings team that lives dangerously with such regularity and sports the worst pass defense in the league can continue pulling rabbits from hats in the playoffs.

6. Dallas Cowboys (11-4)

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    Dak Prescott
    Dak PrescottMatthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Last Week: 6

    Week 16 Result: Won vs. Philadelphia 40-34

    The NFC East isn't settled just yet.

    Early on in Saturday's matchup between the Eagles and Cowboys, it appeared the Eagles were going to roll. The turnover bug bit Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott once again, with Philly edge-rusher Josh Sweat snatching a Prescott pass from the air and returning it for a score to give the Eagles a 10-0 lead.

    But Prescott and the Cowboys didn't fold, and by the time Philadelphia's late comeback came up short, both Prescott (347 passing yards, three touchdowns) and wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (10 catches, 120 yards, two touchdowns) had big games.

    After the win, Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy talked up Prescott's ability to handle adversity while speaking to the media.

    "Adversity is something he eats for lunch," McCarthy said. "Dak's the same person every day, in the fire, at practice, in the class. I just think it speaks volumes of his approach."

    At day's end, the win probably doesn't mean much where playoff seeding is concerned. Unless the Cowboys win out and the Eagles lose their final two games, Philly will be the No. 1 seed in the NFC, while the Cowboys will slot at No. 5.

    But if these two teams meet again in the postseason, the Cowboys can at least point to this as evidence they can hang with the NFC's best team.

5. San Francisco 49ers (11-4)

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    Nick Bosa
    Nick BosaLachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

    Last Week: 5

    Week 16 Result: Won vs. Washington 37-20

    You cannot stop Brock Purdy. You can only hope to contain him.

    There may not be a more surprising story in the league this year than the ascension of Purdy, the rookie quarterback who was the last pick in the 2022 draft. Purdy had another efficient game in Saturday's win over Washington, throwing for 234 yards and two touchdowns. But as Sobleski said, a big part of Purdy's success over the past month can be attributed to the team around him.

    "To believe in Brock Purdy or not to believe in Mr. Irrelevant, that is the question," he said. "Since taking over as the starting quarterback for the injured Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 14, the seventh-round rookie has done exactly what's asked of him. He executes within the offensive scheme and limits mistakes. He hasn't been perfect, but he doesn't need to be.

    "San Francisco can lean on its offensive weapons and the league's best defense to still easily handle opponents. Purdy deserves some credit, too, by completing 69.6 percent of his passes with six touchdown tosses in the last three games."

    San Francisco racked up 153 rushing yards in the win, averaging almost six yards per carry. Edge-rusher Nick Bosa picked up two sacks, raising his league-leading total to 17.5.

    The Niners run the ball as well as any team in the league. They play defense as well as any team in the league.

    And if Purdy can avoid turnovers and mistakes, the Niners are plenty capable of a deep playoff run.

4. Philadelphia Eagles (13-2)

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    Gardner Minshew
    Gardner MinshewCooper Neill/Getty Images

    Last Week: 1

    Week 16 Result: Lost at Dallas 40-34

    All things being equal, Saturday's loss in Dallas probably doesn't mean much for the Eagles. All Philadelphia needs is one win (or one Cowboys loss) to lock up the top seed in the NFC. And while quarterback Gardner Minshew threw two interceptions in relief of the injured Jalen Hurts, Minshew also threw for 355 yards and a pair of touchdowns and ran one in for a score.

    But with the Eagles failing to lock up that No. 1 seed, if Hurts is medically cleared, he'll be back out there this week against the New Orleans Saints.

    "If Jalen's ready to go, Jalen will play," head coach Nick Sirianni told reporters. "He's our starting quarterback. If he's ready to go, then he'll go. Again, like I said, that's nothing against Gardner because I thought he played a really good game. But if Jalen's ready, he'll go."

    Regardless of who starts under center, Moton isn't worried about the Eagles.

    "Despite a loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the Philadelphia Eagles will bounce back whether Hurts (sprained shoulder) returns to action or Minshew has to start in consecutive contests," he said. "Sure, Minshew gave the ball away three times (two interceptions and a lost fumble) against the Cowboys, but if he takes better care of the football, Philadelphia should beat the New Orleans Saints or New York Giants to clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

    "With all the pressure on the Cowboys to beat a division rival with a backup quarterback, they needed the win more than the Eagles, who won't give up 40 points to either of their remaining opponents as they did this past Saturday. Philadelphia is still one the league's top-five teams."

3. Kansas City Chiefs (12-3)

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    Travis Kelce
    Travis KelceWilliam Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Last Week: 4

    Week 16 Result: Won vs. Seattle 24-10

    There has been no shortage said and written about the Kansas City offense this season, and with good reason. Led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce, the Chiefs rank first in the league in total offense and first in the AFC in scoring.

    But it could be the defense that determines how far Kansas City advances in the playoffs. And after struggling a bit in recent weeks, Kansas City excelled defensively in Saturday's win over Seattle. The Seahawks managed 10 points and converted just two of 14 third downs.

    After the win, edge-rusher Frank Clark told reporters the defense came into the game intent on making a statement.

    "We're on a mission here in Kansas City," Clark said, "and the goal is to finish the season strong. The last few weeks, we haven't been getting the job done as far as finishing strong. A lot of tight games."

    The win marks Kansas City's 16th straight regular-season victory over NFC opponents and keeps the Chiefs in the hunt for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. And with a pair of winnable games left against the floundering Broncos and reeling Raiders, a 14-3 season is a distinctly reachable goal.

2. Cincinnati Bengals (11-4)

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    Joe Burrow
    Joe BurrowErica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Last Week: 3

    Week 16 Result: Won at New England 22-18

    The Cincinnati Bengals are back in the playoffs.

    For a time, it appeared the Bengals were going to rout the Patriots on a frosty day at Gillette Stadium. Cincinnati roared to a 22-0 halftime lead. But the Bengals offense sputtered in the second half, and it took a late takeaway deep in Bengals territory to seal Cincy's seventh straight victory.

    It might not have been pretty, but head coach Zac Taylor told reporters after the game that the Bengals would take a December win over a quality opponent any way they could get it.

    "We're going to be happy with the win because they are so hard to come by, and seven in a row, our guys have that confidence that we're playing good football," Taylor said.

    However, Joe Burrow said that the Bengals need to a better job putting opponents away if they are to realize their ultimate goal and get back to the Super Bowl.

    "We got to do a better job on offense of putting teams away," Burrow said. "Teams that want to win the Super Bowl put them away a little earlier."

    Davenport agrees, but he pointed out these Bengals have already shown they can go on a run in January.

    "Leaving the door open for the Patriots is at least a little concerning," he said. "And Cincy's remaining schedule (Buffalo and Baltimore at home) is daunting. But if the Bengals can find a way to win those games, we'd be talking about a team with nine straight wins, including victories over several playoff contenders.

    "It would be awfully hard to view that team as anything less than the favorites in the AFC, and regardless of what happens over the next two weeks, the Bengals are a team no one wants to face in the postseason."

1. Buffalo Bills (12-3)

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    Devin Singletary
    Devin SingletaryQuinn Harris/Getty Images

    Last Week: 2

    Week 16 Result: Won at Chicago 35-13

    The Buffalo Bills entered Week 16 in a relatively comfortable position. And after their win over the Chicago Bears, the Bills are going to the playoffs as the champions of the AFC East. That wasn't really in question. However, the Bills have little margin for error if they want to hang on to the No. 1 seed in the AFC and the first-round bye that comes with it.

    Saturday in Chicago, the Bills very much looked the part of a team that wants that off week.

    After the Bills dispatched the Bears with ease on a miserable day at Soldier Field, defensive tackle Ed Oliver told reporters that the team has one overriding goal in 2022, and they have yet to come close to achieving it.

    "The standard has always been playoff caliber, after you set a playoff berth, then it is championship caliber," Oliver said. "And championship caliber is winning your division, winning our side then obviously playing in that game (Super Bowl) and winning that game. I just feel like there are bigger things out there."

    The Bills shredded the Bears for 254 yards and 8.2 yards per carry on the ground, and if Buffalo can run the ball nearly as effectively in the postseason, it's going to make an already lethal offense that much harder to stop.

    Add in a defense that's getting healthier, and it's not hard to see why the Bills are the highest-ranked team in these power rankings ahead of next week's massive showdown in Cincinnati.