NFL Power Rankings Week 16: Updated Standings, Predictions Before MNF

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorDecember 18, 2017

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 17:  Nick Foles #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks to throw a pass against the New York Giants during the first half in the game at MetLife Stadium on December 17, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

The NFL playoff picture didn't receive much clarity after the Week 15 games on Sunday. In the AFC, the Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens are all tied at 8-6. The problem is that only two wild-card spots are available, so at this moment, the Ravens are the odd team out.

It should be a fun end to the regular season, but until then, here's a look at a fresh set of NFL power rankings post-Week 15. For the record, the pick here is that the Atlanta Falcons hold serve and beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football.

Then, we'll take a deeper dive explaining why the Philadelphia Eagles are ranked first.

           

Projected Week 15 Power Rankings After Monday Night Football

1. Philadelphia Eagles (12-2)

2. New England Patriots (11-3)

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3)

4. Minnesota Vikings (11-3)

5. Los Angeles Rams (10-4)

6. New Orleans Saints (10-4)

7. Carolina Panthers (10-4)

8. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-4)

9. Atlanta Falcons (9-5)

10. Kansas City Chiefs (8-6)

11. Dallas Cowboys (8-6)

12. Seattle Seahawks (8-6)

13. Baltimore Ravens (8-6)

14. Detroit Lions (8-6)

15. Buffalo Bills (8-6)

16. Tennessee Titans (8-6)

17. Los Angeles Chargers (7-7)

18. Green Bay Packers (7-7)

19. Washington Redskins (6-8)

20. San Francisco 49ers (4-10)

21. Oakland Raiders (7-7)

22. Arizona Cardinals (6-8)

23. Miami Dolphins (6-8)

24. Denver Broncos (5-9)

25. New York Jets (5-9)

26. Cincinnati Bengals (5-9)

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-10)

28. Chicago Bears (4-10)

29. Houston Texans (4-10)

30. Indianapolis Colts (3-11)

31. New York Giants (2-12)

32. Cleveland Browns (0-14)

        

Philadelphia Eagles: No. 1

In their first full game without quarterback Carson Wentz, who suffered a torn ACL against the Los Angeles Rams on December 10, the Eagles struggled on defense and snuck by the now 2-12 New York Giants 34-29 on Sunday.

Quarterback Eli Manning, who was benched against the Oakland Raiders on December 3, threw for 434 yards and three touchdowns, and wideout Sterling Shepard caught 11 passes for 139 yards and a score.

Why put the Eagles, who barely beat a two-win team, at No. 1 when the New England Patriots just beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Heinz Field? Or why place Philadelphia over teams like Minnesota and Los Angeles, who just scored decisive wins?

The Eagles defense isn't as bad as it showed against the Giants on Sunday. This is a unit that ranked third in the league (and top-five against the run and pass) in defense, per Football Outsiders. The Eagles are also top-five in the NFL in yards allowed per game.

No defense is perfect, as evidenced by one of the more random pieces of trivia you will ever read: Believe it or not, the 1985 Chicago Bears, which is arguably the best defensive team of all time, gave up 28 first-half points to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their first two quarters of the regular season.

The Bears rebounded and shut the Bucs out for the remainder of the game (and won 38-28), but the Bucs went 2-14 on the year, so they weren't exactly worldbeaters.

The 2017 Eagles are not the 1985 Bears, but the point here is that even great teams can lay an egg in a phase of the game every so often.

Furthermore, there is a silver lining for Philadelphia in this game, and that's the fact that backup signal-caller Nick Foles was exceptional.

For the day, Foles completed 23 of 37 passes for 237 yards and four touchdowns, three of which went to Philadelphia's top three pass-catchers (tight end Zach Ertz and wideouts Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery). Foles showed a solid rapport with the three of them, as he connected with the trio a combined 17 times.

The running attack was a bit hit-and-miss all game but started to break through in the second half. Eventually, Philly runners finished with 108 yards on 27 carries for a respectable four yards per carry. Also, the special teams units are still solid (12th entering Week 15, per Football Outsiders), and place-kicker Jake Elliott has knocked home 22 of 26 field goals, including a 61-yarder to beat the Giants in Week 3.

It will be interesting to see how Philadelphia does against tougher competition (notably, they face the Dallas Cowboys on New Year's Eve), but if the defense returns to the form it has shown for the better part of the season, the well-rounded Eagles might be all right.

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