NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Heading into Week 15?
It's been a terrible year for injuries in the NFL. From Odell Beckham Jr. and David Johnson to Ryan Shazier and Joe Thomas, it feels like we've lost the best players at every position. Now we're adding Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz to the list.
According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, Wentz suffered a torn ACL.
Injuries are part of football, of course, and this season's collection of injured stars shows just how brutal the sport can be. Often, injuries are the difference between being a Super Bowl team and not. December and January are when we find out just how deep teams are and which are equipped to handle key losses.
Losing a guy like Wentz is different, though. We're talking about one of the best quarterbacks in the league and an MVP candidate.
This doesn't mean all hope is lost for Eagles fans, however.
My dad helped lead the New York Giants to an 11-3 record in 1990 before breaking his foot against the Buffalo Bills in Week 15. As Phil Simms' son and a Giants fan, I was devastated. However, the Giants were able to lean on their ground game and on their defense without him. They adjusted, finished the season 13-3 and went on to beat those same Bills in Super Bowl XXV.
The Eagles—along with other potential playoff teams dealing with injuries—are going to have to adjust. However, this doesn't mean their dreams of lifting the Lombardi Trophy are over. As long as you get into the dance, you have a chance.
With the start of the postseason less than a month away, here's how I view the state of the league. Last week's rankings can be found here.
32. Cleveland Browns
Last Week's Ranking: 32
Oh, the poor Cleveland Browns. They put together a valiant effort against the Green Bay Packers—especially in a distraction-filled week that saw the firing of Sashi Brown and the hiring of new general manager John Dorsey. This was their best opportunity of the season to win a game.
While Cleveland had a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter, though, the Browns found a way to blow it.
The Browns are no good, plain and simple. While there are bright spots on both sides of the ball for the future, Cleveland can't get it together and finish off a game. Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer has been a big part of the problem.
Some of the throws Kizer made Sunday were impressive, but his interception in overtime was what put the Packers in position to win. If he cannot eliminate the mistakes that keep haunting Cleveland, Kizer isn't going to establish himself as an NFL starter.
31. New York Giants
Last Week's Ranking: 31
The New York Giants played tough against the Dallas Cowboys, at least for a while. They had some early success running and controlled the game with some dink-and-dunk passing, but the bottom fell out in the fourth quarter.
The Giants have such a hard time creating big plays on offense. The fact Eli Manning completed 31 passes for only 228 yards is proof of that. All New York could muster against an average Dallas defense was 10 points.
The Giants aren't good, and they aren't going to win games when they lose the turnover battle. It's rebuilding time in New York, and with Manning, we may be nearing the end of an era.
30. Indianapolis Colts
Last Week's Ranking: 27
The Indianapolis Colts played in a blizzard, so there wasn't any pass game to speak of. That was a problem because Jacoby Brissett and the deep-passing game have been the best part of the Indianapolis offense this season.
Frank Gore had some nice runs against the Buffalo Bills. However, the Colts couldn't do enough to win an ugly game in ugly conditions when they needed to.
It's been the same story for Indianapolis all season. The Colts fight hard and have chances to win games. They just cannot put teams away with their offense or their defense with any consistency.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week's Ranking: 26
Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions was a microcosm of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' season. The offense had some impressive moments and created some big plays, but it also had issues. The Bucs can stay within striking distance of most teams, but they keep costing themselves with self-inflicted wounds.
The Buccaneers were banged up and were missing some players in the secondary. That didn't help against Detroit. Still, this is a team that needs an infusion of new talent and needs to learn to stop making stupid mistakes. The Buccaneers had five turnovers in a game that was lost by a field goal.
There are building blocks on both sides of the ball, to be sure. However, the Buccaneers need to add to their defense and to their offensive line if they're going to be competitive in the NFC South next season.
At 4-9, it's time for Tampa to start looking ahead to 2018.
28. Denver Broncos
Last Week's Ranking: 29
Well, for the first time in 10 weeks, the Denver Broncos were able to play a game through their defense. Their tilt against the New York Jets showed what Denver can be when offense and special teams don't ruin the game.
The Broncos defense was still good enough to carry the team into the playoffs. It's been the other phases that have cost Denver. That defense was dominant against the Jets, pitching a shutout and allowing just 100 yards of offense.
Trevor Siemian played smart football, made an occasional big throw and limited his mistakes. This was the formula the Broncos needed in order to win all season.
The Broncos are going to end up with a high draft pick, but no one should be shocked if they're right back in the playoff conversation next year. A lot of key pieces—like a championship-caliber pass rush, top-tier cover men and playmaking receivers—are already in place.
27. Chicago Bears
Last Week's Ranking: 28
The Chicago Bears have a bright future ahead of them. We saw a lot of the team's potential against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky made some terrific throws, and the offensive line and running game dominated. Trubisky has some big-time talent, and as soon as Chicago gets some weapons around him in the passing game, I expect him to take off.
The Bears defense smothered Cincinnati too, and it allowed Chicago to control time of possession (more than 38 minutes). This was the type of game the Bears want to play.
Give coach John Fox credit. His team continues to fight even though it is out of the playoff mix. I'll be interested to see what happens in the offseason, because I can't sit here as a football evaluator and say that Fox and general manager Ryan Pace aren't building a good team.
This is an organization on the rise; it just needs a few more key players.
26. Houston Texans
Last Week's Ranking: 25
The Texans defense has underperformed of late. I know the defense is missing J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, but this unit has been getting shredded in recent weeks.
The problem is that, other than DeAndre Hopkins, the Texans don't have any playmakers on offense. When the defense is playing poorly—like it has been—the offense doesn't have the firepower to compensate. Quarterback T.J. Yates played well in relief of Tom Savage, so give him some credit. The Texans just cannot overcome their sagging defense right now.
The Texans are done for this year, but they have a lot of pieces for the future. If guys like Deshaun Watson, Watt and Mercilus get back to 100 percent by next year, this will be a different team. The rest of the season needs to be spent evaluating the other guys on the roster and figuring out what Houston can build upon.
25. San Francisco 49ers
Last Week's Ranking: 30
It's amazing what having a franchise quarterback does for a team. With Jimmy Garoppolo under center, the San Francisco 49ers have a different swagger. They believe they can win games.
Garoppolo was phenomenal on the field against the Houston Texans too. He was under pressure a lot but continued to get the ball out quickly and find the open man. He also moves in the pocket well, which cannot be overlooked.
The San Francisco defense isn't effective, and it will need to be addressed in the offseason. 49ers fans have to feel optomistic heading into that offseason, though. They have their franchise quarterback, they have their head coach and they have a few young playmakers to build around.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week's Ranking: 18
The Bengals were a huge disappointment in Week 14. After nearly knocking off the Pittsburgh Steelers in a physical Monday night contest, they came back and got blown out by the Bears. Cincinnati was dominated on both sides of the ball, and it was embarrassing.
I never thought Chicago would run the ball down Cincinnati's throat the way it did—to the tune of 232 yards. I didn't expect the Bears defense to totally contain the Bengals offense either, but it did so all day long.
Now that the Bengals are out of the playoff race, I'm interested to see how the franchise handles Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton in the offseason. The 2018 Bengals might look a lot different than this 5-8 squad.
23. Washington Redskins
Last Week's Ranking: 21
I did not expect the Washington Redskins to get completely blown out by the Los Angeles Chargers. The thing that was most surprising was how poorly the defense played. The Chargers had their way with it all game long—it didn't matter if it was on the ground or through the air.
The Washington offense couldn't get anything going, either. This is a Los Angeles defense that is hot right now, but Washington's weapons should have found some big-play opportunities somewhere. However, the line couldn't protect Kirk Cousins, and the offense couldn't get guys open deep.
These have been issues for much of the season, in part because of injuries.
The Redskins aren't going to the playoffs this season, but they aren't that far away from being contenders. Washington just needs a couple more playmakers on defense and a receiver who can win one-on-one on the outside against top-tier cover corners. Assuming Cousins is back with the team, these are the main areas the Redskins need to address in the offseason.
22. New York Jets
Last Week's Ranking: 17
The Jets were dominated from the get-go in Denver. They let the game get away from them after an early turnover and were never able to regain momentum. This put New York in a game that heavily favored Denver.
When you're down by 10 against that Broncos defense, things become difficult. Denver has the guys on the outside to man up one-on-one, and the Broncos' pass rush is a nightmare when it's unleashed. Of course, it didn't help that starting quarterback Josh McCown suffered a broken hand.
The Jets haven't been a good road team this year, and Sunday brought more of the same. This is a big part of why they're 5-8. Of course, no one thought New York would be in the playoffs anyway, and the season has brought some positives the Jets can build on.
Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles have the Jets trending upward.
21. Oakland Raiders
Last Week's Ranking: 16
The Oakland Raiders may have had the most disappointing performance of Week 14. They had a chance to jump ahead of the division-leading Kansas City Chiefs, but instead were dominated on both sides of the ball.
The woeful performance offensively was inexcusable. The Raiders ran the ball a bit on the opening drive but couldn't get the run game going the rest of the day. The offense finished with 268 net yards, but that's misleading because a lot of those yards came with the Raiders down 26-0 in the fourth quarter.
Those are garbage stats.
Just as worrisome is the way the defense got moved on. Kansas City was offensively efficient throughout the game.
With a tough schedule remaining, the season is effectively over for Oakland. The Raiders face the Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and the Los Angeles Chargers to close out the season, and they'll be the lesser team in each contest.
20. Arizona Cardinals
Last Week's Ranking: 24
The Arizona Cardinals aren't a playoff team, but they can't be taken lightly.
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert continues to make a few big plays each week, and Kerwynn Williams has boosted the running game. Even though the defense has been inconsistent throughout the year, it is capable of creating chaos. We saw that against the Tennessee Titans.
Arizona's defense made things difficult for Tennessee's run game, and it forced some huge turnovers. One came in the red area, and one came late to help put the game away.
While injuries have impacted Arizona's season, the Cardinals are an inconsistent, below-average team as a whole. This is why they're sitting at 6-7. Still, Arizona can be a pain in the ass down the stretch.
19. Green Bay Packers
Last Week's Ranking: 22
Give credit to the Packers. They continue to battle and play physical football. I just hope people are seeing what I've been trying to point out for a couple of years now. Without Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay is an average to below-average team.
Brett Hundley has talent; there's no doubt about that. However, while he has physical ability and is consistently improving his play, he isn't near the level of Rodgers, who is capable of carrying a team on his own.
It's never easy winning when you lose a star like Rodgers, but we have to recognize the Packers aren't a playoff threat. Even if they get into the postseason, I can't see them going on any sort of run.
18. Buffalo Bills
Last Week's Ranking: 19
Nathan Peterman made some nice throws before he got hurt, but his injury may have been a blessing in disguise in this game. Joe Webb's ability to run proved to be an asset in the snowy conditions.
LeSean McCoy was amazing in the snow. Buffalo rode him hard, and he responded with 156 yards and a touchdown.
This has been Buffalo's story all year. The Bills don't win pretty, but they win the games they're supposed to. I don't think the Bills are a playoff team, but they have a lot of pieces in place for next year.
They need to find their franchise quarterback, and they need a No. 1 receiver. However, there's a lot to build on, and coach Sean McDermott has Buffalo headed in the right direction.
17. Miami Dolphins
Last Week's Ranking: 23
The Miami Dolphins played their best game of the season Monday night. Jay Cutler was phenomenal and outdueled Tom Brady. Kenyon Drake is a star in the making and could be a LeSean McCoy-type running back in the near future.
The Dolphins offense has weapons and is capable of making big plays with those weapons. The defensive line was relentless against New England. The game plan concocted by coordinator Matt Burke was creative and kept the Patriots off-balance all night. Xavien Howard had the best game of his career and is proving to be a shutdown player.
The Dolphins aren't going to roll over. They'll need help to get into the postseason, but they could be dangerous if they do.
16. Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week's Ranking: 20
I'll give the Chiefs credit. Handing over play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Matt Nagy was a gutsy move, but it seems to have been the right one. Ever since Nagy took over, we've seen explosive plays back in the Kansas City offense.
If the Chiefs can run the ball the way they did against the Raiders (165 yards), they're going to have a chance to make a stretch run. That's one part of the offense that's been missing, and it helps open things up in the passing game.
I'm not going to sit here and tell you that Kansas City's offensive woes are completely fixed—let's be honest, the Raiders defense is terrible. The Chiefs are on the right track, though.
It was also encouraging to see the Chiefs defense play well after struggling for so much of the season. It covered well, and it harassed Derek Carr all game.
Next up for Kansas City is the Chargers, and that game could well determine the division.
15. Baltimore Ravens
Last Week's Ranking: 13
If there's a thing such as an encouraging loss, Sunday's loss would have been it for the Baltimore Ravens. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a tough matchup for anyone, and the Ravens nearly went into Heinz Field and pulled off the upset.
More importantly, the Ravens offense played well and produced explosive plays for the second consecutive week. Alex Collins is running strong, and the Joe Flacco-Mike Wallace connection has been good.
The Ravens defense has been solid all season. Though it stinks the Ravens lost Jimmy Smith last week, this defense is capable of stopping a lot of offenses. I'm just not sure it can stop the league's elite offense the way the Baltimore defense did back in 2012. This is why the offense needs to continue improving.
Baltimore is capable of reaching the playoffs and even winning a game or two given the right circumstances.
14. Dallas Cowboys
Last Week's Ranking: 15
It wasn't pretty for the Cowboys. They let the Giants hang around for three quarters, but they at least made enough big plays in the fourth to put the game away—like the perfectly thrown Dak Prescott pass to Jason Witten and Rod Smith's two late touchdowns.
I still have concerns about Dallas' offense and its ability to beat NFC playoff contenders. There are still questions about the defense as well. Has it been better the last few weeks? Sure. I'm not going to put any stock into the Cowboys stopping the Giants offense, though, because it's been far from impressive.
The Cowboys are still in the playoff picture, but they don't stack up well compared to the top teams in the conference.
13. Tennessee Titans
Last Week's Ranking: 11
I hate to beat a dead horse, but the problem with the Titans remains the fact they don't do anything on an elite level except run the ball. This is what separates Tennessee from the elite teams in the NFL.
When the Titans cannot run the ball, the offense struggles. I still question Marcus Mariota's ability to carry the team with the pass. I like him, and I think he has a bright future, but I don't trust the ball being in his hands yet with the game on the line.
Mariota's play and the lack of balance on offense are concerning. While the defense is good, it isn't going to win games on its own. This isn't a team built to go deep in the postseason, assuming Tennessee can even make it there.
12. Detroit Lions
Last Week's Ranking: 14
I cannot say enough about Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Aside from Russell Wilson, Stafford may be the biggest one-man show in the NFL. Some of the throws he made against the Buccaneers—while playing injured—were incredible.
Now, Stafford did throw a couple of interceptions against Tampa, and that's not a good look. Let's be honest, though: Detroit wouldn't even be competitive without Stafford. There's no run game, the defense is below-average, and there are few playmakers.
The defense did grab a couple of big interceptions—Tampa had five turnovers overall—to help win. Most weeks, though, the Lions are only going to go as far as Stafford takes them. Detroit isn't out of the playoff hunt yet, but the Lions aren't going to scare anyone if they do get into the postseason.
11. Seattle Seahawks
Last Week's Ranking: 10
The Seattle Seahawks got beat by the new version of the Legion of Boom. With their defense, the Jacksonville Jaguars are a lot like the Seattle teams of three and four years ago.
Russell Wilson didn't have his best day, but he created enough magic that Seattle was in a one-score game in the fourth quarter. The defense let the Seahawks down. It got pushed around in the run game and picked apart by a pass offense that is way below average.
There's no reason Blake Bortles should have had so many big plays against Seattle.
Seattle is on the outside looking in on the playoff picture. The Seahawks are still dangerous, though, because they fight hard, they're well-coached by Pete Carroll, and Wilson is always a threat to take over.
10. Los Angeles Chargers
Last Week's Ranking: 12
Aside from the Patriots and perhaps the Steelers, the Chargers are the hottest team in football. They protect Philip Rivers well and have some weapons for him to throw to. When they get even an average running game out of Melvin Gordon, the offense is unstoppable.
What puts L.A. over the top is its defense. The Chargers can cover guys on the outside, and they've figured out how to stop the run. Of course, they have the league's most dangerous pass-rush duo in Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa.
The Chargers can match up with anyone offensively, and when they get a lead, they can put any team away with their defense. For my money, L.A. will be the toughest matchup for the Patriots in the playoffs—and I fully expect the Chargers to reach the postseason.
L.A. is the best team in the AFC West and is in the conversation for the third-best team in the AFC behind New England and Pittsburgh.
9. Atlanta Falcons
Last Week's Ranking: 8
The Atlanta Falcons dominated the New Orleans Saints. It was an encouraging win. The only discouraging aspect was Matt Ryan's carelessness. If he doesn't turn the ball over three times, though, this is a game Atlanta wins by at least 10 points.
This shows just how much the Falcons outplayed the Saints.
Are the Falcons the same team from last year? No. However, they're beginning to play better and more consistently on offense. The defense is one of the fastest units in football and is capable of making big plays in big moments, as linebacker Deion Jones demonstrated Thursday night.
Atlanta is still dangerous and cannot be counted out if it gets into the postseason.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week's Ranking: 9
The Jaguars can win the Super Bowl if Blake Bortles keeps throwing like he did against Seattle. The problem is Bortles will have a day like Sunday followed by three weeks of not being able to complete routine NFL passes.
Still, the Jacksonville defense is special, and the cornerback duo of Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye is the best in the sport. It was a little concerning to see the Jaguars give up some easy touchdowns while trying to close out the game, but this is a defense capable of winning a Super Bowl by itself.
Watch out for Jacksonville in the playoffs. The Jags' combination of a championship-caliber defense and a strong running game make them a threat against anyone in the AFC. Because of this, I'm moving Jacksonville ahead of Atlanta, even though both won in Week 14.
7. Carolina Panthers
Last Week's Ranking: 7
One thing that was encouraging in the Carolina Panthers' win is the way they got Jonathan Stewart and the run game going. When the Panthers can get the ground game rolling and Cam Newton is able to make the occasional big play in the passing game, the offense becomes hard to stop. It's when Newton has to do everything himself that the Panthers run into trouble.
The pass game as a whole is still concerning. I don't know that Newton can carry the offense against elite defenses.
Carolina's defense is one of the better groups in football, but like the offense, it has concerns. The strength of the defense is in the front seven. When the secondary is forced to cover against elite passing attacks, it can struggle. This is why Carolina is staying at No. 7 despite their big win.
The Panthers can make a postseason run, but they'll need to be better passing the ball and defending the pass to beat the NFC's best.
6. Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week's Ranking: 2
It was disappointing to see the Eagles get run on the way they did. The Rams had their way on the ground, and that's something we haven't seen all year. Yet, Philadelphia was able to pull out a win because Carson Wentz was once again phenomenal.
It's a shame Wentz's fabulous season has come to an end. The Eagles aren't the same team without him.
Even without Wentz, though, this is a team with a strong enough ground attack and a good enough defense to make a run in the postseason—provided the offense can get a few big pass plays from Nick Foles.
I have a harder time believing the Eagles can win the Super Bowl without Wentz because he turns an average passing attack into a great one with his elite play. As I mentioned in the opening, though, this isn't a team I'd ever count out.
5. New Orleans Saints
Last Week's Ranking: 5
This was one of the most unimpressive games New Orleans has played all season.
Consider this, though: The Saints were without their best offensive lineman in Andrus Peat, and they lost their best player in Alvin Kamara on the opening drive. While cornerback Marshon Lattimore was back in the lineup, he wasn't completely back in game shape.
I'm still a big believer in the Saints overall. Believe it or not, my one question is whether the passing attack can carry the team against elite defenses when the run game is struggling. With Kamara out, the ground game was ineffective against Atlanta, and Drew Brees was unable to deliver a win.
Still, this is one of the better teams in football and one that is capable of winning the Super Bowl.
4. Los Angeles Rams
Last Week's Ranking: 4
Once again, I have to give the L.A. Rams credit for putting pressure on a team in all three phases. The Rams made huge plays against the Eagles on offense, on defense and on special teams. They make it hard for any team that faces them to get a win.
This three-phase excellence is what makes L.A. so dangerous. The Rams didn't have the best day passing the ball, but they got a special teams touchdown, a key turnover and some big runs from Todd Gurley. Jared Goff didn't reach 200 yards passing, but the Rams were still down just two points late in the fourth quarter before a desperation play turned into a Philadelphia touchdown.
I'm not worried about the loss. With a better game from Goff, they might not have—and Goff is going to have more good days than bad. I'm more concerned that we've seen the defense struggle against balanced offenses, and particularly against the run. That could be an issue in the postseason.
Still, L.A. is one of the better teams in the NFC and is capable of beating any team in the league on the right day.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week's Ranking: 6
The Steelers offense is getting to the point where it looks like it can win a shootout against anyone. The big three—Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell—are balling right now. Roethlisberger and Brown were amazing against the Ravens, and Bell is always a weapon both in the run and pass games.
Bell helps control the clock too, which the Steelers need. Their defense is concerning right now. It's allowing way too many big plays both on the ground and through the air. Hell, it allowed a subpar Ravens offense to rack up 38 points Sunday night.
The Steelers are dangerous, but they're not perfect. We'll learn a lot about Pittsburgh's playoff potential next week when the Patriots come to town.
2. Minnesota Vikings
Last Week's Ranking: 3
The Minnesota Vikings are still one of the best teams in the NFL. They've gone through a tough schedule in recent weeks: Rams, Falcons, Panthers. Did I expect them to go 3-0 in that stretch? No. Therefore, I don't think a loss in Carolina is cause for panic.
Case Keenum, who had two interceptions, has had better days. Vikings receivers dropped passes, and Minnesota never got the run game going. The defense had some untimely penalties as well.
When you have untimely penalties, have three turnovers and miss field goals on the road, it's hard to win. Yet, the Vikings had a tied ballgame in the fourth quarter before Cam Newton ripped off a long run to set up the winning score.
Make no mistake: The Vikings are still Super Bowl material.
1. New England Patriots
Last Week's Ranking: 1
Against the Dolphins, the Patriots played as poor a game as we've seen them play since early in the season. The offense never got into a rhythm, there was no run game, and Brady was not his usual self. Most importantly, New England missed Rob Gronkowski.
The defense, which has been so impressive in recent weeks, was plain bad. It got gashed in the running game and allowed Jay Cutler to consistently make big plays. This defense missed Kyle Van Noy and Trey Flowers.
The Patriots are still the best team in the league, but they're banged up, coming off a bad loss and looking at a short week before their biggest game of the season. If they lose to the Steelers next week, they can kiss home-field advantage in the playoffs goodbye.