Things are starting to heat up in the NFL power rankings, both at the top and the bottom of the list.
At the top, we have a multitude of teams fighting for both playoff seeding and just a spot in the playoffs in general. Week 15 saw the playoff hopes of a few teams squashed, but there is still more work to be done.
The bottom of the power rankings groups six teams together who are fighting for the No. 1 overall pick in the draft—even if they aren't doing it purposely. Marcus Mariota, the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner, could be the top prize in the upcoming NFL draft. Four of the six teams at the bottom have quarterback issues, with Oakland and Jacksonville being exceptions.
You do the math.
Before heading into the final two weeks of the regular season, take a peek at the league hierarchy.
32. Tennessee Titans (2-12)
The Titans are a disaster. Their offense couldn't move the ball consistently against the New York Jets on Sunday, and an injury to quarterback Jake Locker didn't help. Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean tweeted unfortunate news about the signal-caller following his injury:
Locker's career has been mired by various injuries which have held him back from realizing his potential. Tennessee should move on, and they're primed to do so.
In contention for the top pick, Mariota could be calling the shots in 2015.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-12)
The lone bright spot in Tampa Bay this season has been Mike Evans. The rookie wide receiver now has 11 touchdowns on the season, putting him in exclusive company, tweets ESPN Stats & Info:
Josh McCown and Mike Glennon have combined for 20 touchdown passes, meaning Evans has hauled in more than 50 percent of the team's scores through the air. He's the future of this team, that much is clear. But just imagine how much better he'd be with a capable quarterback. One like Mariota.
McCown and Glennon have also combined for 18 interceptions. Their accuracy has been questionable all season. With a quarterback capable of putting the ball where it needs to be, Evans and the rest of the offense can take the next step.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12)
The Jaguars actually played relatively well in Week 15, losing to the Baltimore Ravens by just eight points. A loss is still a loss, though, so Jacksonville is still in the running for the top overall pick in the draft.
Blake Bortles has thrown 17 picks in his first season as a pro. While he's still learning, Bortles hasn't done much to impress. Young wideouts Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson have promise. All they need is for Bortles to get them the ball.
It'll take some time for the Jaguars to get back to respectability, but some key pieces are in place.
29. Oakland Raiders (2-12)
Derek Carr has at least given the Raiders some semblance of hope as they move toward the 2015 season. Really nothing has gone right in Oakland, but Carr has shown flashes of promise.
He completed just 48.2 percent of his passes against the Chiefs, but he has thrown just two picks compared to five touchdowns over his last five games. He's also approaching 3,000 passing yards, an impressive mark for rookie quarterbacks.
Some help along the offensive line and in the passing game would help him immensely, but the No. 1 priority this offseason needs to be addressing the issues at running back. Latavius Murray has done well in recent weeks, but is he really the future of the position?
28. Washington Redskins (3-11)
Washington's biggest issue this season has been at quarterback. Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy and Robert Griffin III have all been given opportunities to seize the starter's job, yet none of the three have stepped up and nabbed the role.
RG3 played most of Week 15 against the New York Giants and performed decently, completing 18 of 27 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 46 yards on five carries. This led head coach Jay Gruden to make an easy decision for Week 16, tweets NFL Network's Albert Breer:
Consider this a two-week litmus test for RG3. If he performs well, he'll enter 2015 as the starter.
27. New York Jets (3-11)
There was a lot on the line in the Jets-Titans game on Sunday. The winner would rank No. 6 in the draft if it were to happen prior to Week 16. The loser would pick second.
For a while, it seemed like neither team wanted to win. The game ended at 16-11, the only game in NFL history to end with that score.
Seemingly out of the running for Mariota given this weekend's final, the Jets might have to wait until Round 2 to take their next franchise quarterback. That should bring back some scary memories for Jets fans. The last second-rounder to be deemed franchise quarterback hasn't exactly panned out.
26. Chicago Bears (5-9)
Chicago might have five wins, but the Bears are playing like a team who couldn't beat anybody. Jay Cutler now leads the NFL with 18 interceptions. His inconsistencies throwing the ball accurately has plagued this offense, which ESPN Stats & Info points out is one of the worst in the NFL:
After not scoring a single point in the first half of Monday night, ESPN's Jon Gruden had some strong words for Cutler and his teammates:
Not all of the blame is on the offense, though. The defense is equally as putrid, allowing 377.8 yards per game prior to Monday night's action.
25. Atlanta Falcons (5-9)
Atlanta is 5-9. Matt Ryan has played well enough for this team to win football games, but a poor offensive line and shoddy defense has led this team to yet another season below .500. But who's to blame?
Bleacher Report's Scott Carasik thinks it's head coach Mike Smith:
This isn't an unpopular opinion, as Jeff Schultz of AJC.com writes that "nobody expects owner Arthur Blank to keep his football operations staff intact after consecutive losing seasons."
Smith is one of the first candidates to get the boot after the conclusion of the regular season.
24. Carolina Panthers (5-8-1)
At 5-8-1, the Panthers are still in the running for the NFC South crown. How that's possible speaks to the futility of the division.
Carolina was able to pull out a win with Derek Anderson at the helm on Sunday, but this team can't make waves in the final weeks of the season (and potentially the playoffs) without Cam Newton. NFL.com's Ian Rapoport tweets that Newton could play as soon as next week following his car accident:
Newton gives his team the best chance to win, especially after the Panthers just barely outlasted the Bucs on Sunday.
23. New York Giants (5-9)
Now winners of two straight games, the Giants are picking it up at the wrong time. Granted, the Titans and Redskins are far from formidable opponents.
Odell Beckham Jr. is a future superstar. He's a big reason why the offense has turned it around in recent weeks, making a strong case for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award along the way. It'll be interesting to see how he and Eli Manning fare against the St. Louis Rams' stingy defense in Week 16.
22. New Orleans Saints (6-8)
The Saints dismantled the Bears on Monday Night Football, 31-15. They're first in the NFC South and control their own playoff destiny. While it may be frustrating to see a possible 8-8 team make the playoffs, that's simply the nature of the NFL playoffs.
Despite being the worst (record-wise) of all division leaders, the Saints find themselves in a favorable position, tweets NFL.com's Chris Wesseling:
It would be hard to pick against Drew Brees in that scenario.
21. Minnesota Vikings (6-8)
Teddy Bridgewater would be under consideration for Offensive Rookie of the Year had it not been for the exploits of Evans, Beckham and Kelvin Benjamin.
The 22-year-old has led the Vikings to a surprising record thanks to his ability to manage games. He has only 11 touchdowns compared to 11 interceptions, but he has completed 63.5 percent of his passes and has led Minnesota to three fourth-quarter comebacks and three game-winning drives, per Pro-Football-Reference.com.
He couldn't do so against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, however, losing a two-point nail-biter because of a Detroit field goal in the final quarter.
20. Cleveland Browns (7-7)
So the Johnny Manziel era didn't start all that well for the Browns. He was just 10-of-18 or 80 yards and two picks, while also running for 13 yards on five carries. The Browns failed to score a point.
Unsurprisingly, Manziel received a ton of negative feedback. Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey offered some perspective on the outcome, however:
All eyes are on Johnny Football heading into Week 16 against the Panthers.
19. St. Louis Rams (6-8)
With an opportunity to make history as the first defense since the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers to pitch three consecutive shutouts, the Rams allowed 12 points and lost to the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday Night Football.
Still, it was an impressive showing by the unit.
With a real quarterback under center (sorry Shaun Hill, Austin Davis and Sam Bradford), the Rams are a 10-win team. Look for them to make a move for a quarterback during the offseason, whether that be through the draft, free agency or a trade.
There's no excuse for the Rams not to upgrade during the offseason.
18. San Francisco 49ers (7-7)
Now eliminated from the playoffs, the 49ers don't have much to play for. Head coach Jim Harbaugh has resorted to a few rather coach-like sayings:
San Francisco needs to make some moves. A new coach, issues on the defense and questions surrounding tight end Vernon Davis headline the laundry list of problems that must be addressed this offseason. A rebuild doesn't need to occur. But a retool? Definitely.
17. Miami Dolphins (7-7)
The Dolphins got the doors blown off them on Sunday. Trailing the New England Patriots 14-13 at the half inspired hope that Miami could pull off the monumental upset, but Tom Brady wanted none of that.
He and the Pats were unstoppable in the second half, holding the Dolphins to no points and scoring another 27 points of their own.
Miami had a chance to make a statement and keep up in the AFC wild-card standings. Instead, they are essentially eliminated.
16. San Diego Chargers (8-6)
An 8-6 record in the AFC simply isn't good enough to guarantee a playoff spot. The Chargers had a real opportunity to go to 9-5 and increase their chances at making it to the postseason against the Denver Broncos.
Denver stifled Philip Rivers and the offense, however. They mustered just 56 rushing yards, making it difficult for the offense to gain first downs. The run game must improve in the final two weeks.
The 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs are next up on the schedule, and neither are a particularly easy opponent. San Diego pretty much has to win out in order to make the playoffs.
15. Houston Texans (7-7)
No Ryan Mallett. No Ryan Fitzpatrick. No Tom Savage.
Adam Schefter tweeted about the sad state of the Texans' quarterback situation:
The team isn't mathematically eliminated from the playoffs just yet, but the chances appear bleak with either Case Keenum or Thad Lewis running the show.
14. Kansas City Chiefs (8-6)
The Chiefs needed to dominate the Raiders in Week 15, and they did.
Alex Smith had arguably his best game of the season, accumulating 297 yards through the air and tossing two touchdowns. He'll need to continue this high level of play if Jamaal Charles can't suit up next week, but Adam Teicher of ESPN.com reports that the running back is in good shape heading into the weekend.
With the Chargers on tap for Week 17, the Chiefs could clinch a spot in the playoffs by defeating their division rivals.
13. Buffalo Bills (8-6)
Buffalo has seven games this season with multiple interceptions, as their secondary has been the beneficiary of a strong pass rush that keeps quarterback uneasy in and out of the pocket.
It's a shame that Kyle Orton might be what holds them back from a playoff berth. The defense is playing as well as any unit in the NFL right now.
12. Baltimore Ravens (9-5)
The Jaguars finished within eight points of the Ravens, hence Baltimore's slip in the rankings. Even though their 9-5 record is impressive, the Ravens lose some ground here because they played down to Jacksonville.
This is still a playoff-caliber team, though. A run defense that allows just 84.3 yards per game (third-best in the NFL) is a tough draw for any other playoff team. Without a running game to lean on, quarterbacks have to pass more than their offensive coordinators would like.
Unfortunately for Baltimore, their secondary may not be able to stop the pass at this point. NBC Sports' Michael David Smith reports that cornerback Asa Jackson has been placed on season-ending IR, joining fellow corners Jimmy Smith, Aaron Ross, Tramain Jacobs and Danny Gorrer.
Baltimore can only advance into (and through) the playoffs if the secondary can survive.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5)
The Steelers are where they are today because Le'Veon Bell is turning into a superstar right before our eyes. The 22-year-old gained 119 yards from scrimmage against the Falcons on Sunday, which broke a Pittsburgh record over two decades old:
Bell will carry this team into the playoffs. Pittsburgh's final two opponents—Kansas City and Cincinnati—rank 28th and 24th, respectively, against the run.
10. Cincinnati Bengals (9-4-1)
There's a tough road ahead for the Bengals. Despite leading the AFC North at 9-4-1, Cincinnati has arguably the worst chances of any division leader in the AFC to hold off the competition. Matchups against the Broncos and Steelers to finish the 2014 campaign make it extremely difficult for Cincy to win the division.
Week 17's contest against Pittsburgh could very well decide the division. On December 7, the Steelers dominated the Bengals, winning 42-21. Not much has changed since then.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (9-5)
|Tony Romo 2014 Home/Road Splits|
|AT&T Stadium||66.8%, 1,554 Yds, 10 TD, 7 INT, 259 Y/G, 94.6 Rate|
|Road||71.7%, 1,634 Yds, 18 TD, 1 INT, 233.4 Y/G, 125.7 Rate|
Winning in Week 15 was imperative for the Eagles. Both the Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys entered the game at 9-4. The winner took sole possession of first in the NFC East with two weeks to go in the season, nearly eliminating the loser from playoff contention.
For the Eagles to make the playoffs, they'll need to win the next two while hoping the Cowboys lose the next two. Philly faces the Redskins and the Giants. Dallas has the Colts and the Redskins.
The Eagles could very well finish at 11-5, but it's hard to imagine Dallas losing again to Washington.
8. Indianapolis Colts (10-4)
Indianapolis clinched the AFC South on Sunday, making Andrew Luck 3-of-3 in making the playoffs during his career. They just barely defeated the Texans, however, and that's something that should alarm head coach Chuck Pagano.
Luck has thrown four picks in the last three games against pass defenses that rank 17th (Washington), seventh (Cleveland) and 26th (Houston) against the pass, respectively. The worst unit of the bunch (Houston) held Luck to just a 52.9 percent completion rate against them.
After back-to-back subpar performances, Luck must turn it on against the Cowboys in Week 16. They rank 23rd against the pass, in case you were curious.
7. Dallas Cowboys (10-4)
Dallas jumped ahead of Philly in the NFC East, as Tony Romo improved to 7-0 on the road this season. He has been far better away from AT&T Stadium in 2014:
They'll play in Jerry World against the Colts next week. Romo must be on his game. Even with Luck's recent struggles, the Colts are too good to take lightly.
6. Arizona Cardinals (11-3)
Desperation has set in for the Cardinals with both Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton on the shelf. ESPN's Adam Schefter tweets that head coach Bruce Arians is prepared to use both of the remaining quarterbacks on his roster this week:
Arizona has survived without Palmer, but it's hard to picture them doing so with Ryan Lindley and Logan Thomas calling the shots—especially in Week 16 against the white-hot Seattle Seahawks.
The Cardinals are playoff-bound, so hopefully one of Lindley and Thomas can provide some semblance of consistency in the next two weeks.
5. Detroit Lions (10-4)
Given how great the Green Bay Packers have been over the past two months, it's hard to imagine that the Lions are now in first place in the NFC North. Bleacher Report's Zach Kruse tweeted how that impacts the NFC playoff picture:
All that can change in the near future, though. The football gods have graced us with Lions-Packers in Week 17.
4. Green Bay Packers (10-4)
Everyone is entitled to a bad game now and again, it just seems strange to talk about Aaron Rodgers being anything less than remarkable. He threw two picks against the Bills, giving him just five on the year. This was nothing more than a blip on the radar.
He plays the Buccaneers next week, a team ranked 24th against the pass. Assuming he gets back on track, Rodgers enters Week 17 with the division on the line against Detroit. He lost against the Lions in Week 3, completing just 16-of-27 passes for 162 yards.
3. Denver Broncos (11-3)
The Broncos have won three in a row despite pedestrian showings from Peyton Manning each week. He has just three touchdowns in that span.
Denver has secured a playoff spot despite these struggles. It can't afford too many more pedestrian showings from Manning, however, especially with the playoffs on the horizon.
2. Seattle Seahawks (10-4)
Seattle has won seven of eight games. Their chances of making it eight of nine are pretty strong. Wesseling puts their matchup against Arizona into perspective:
It'd be shocking if the Seahawks fall next week given the dominance they have displayed on defense in the past two months. After a shaky start to the year, Seattle now appears poised to make yet another run at the Super Bowl.
1. New England Patriots (11-3)
Surprise, surprise. The Patriots are your AFC East champs.
Football fans are already waiting anxiously Manning v. Brady in the AFC Championship Game. That would definitely be a treat, but there's no underestimating the Colts or even the Ravens in the conference.
Regardless, the Patriots are easily the favorite. How could they not be? They're 9-1 since Week 4.
Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @kennydejohn