NFL Power Rankings Week 16: Reaction and Standings Entering Penultimate Weekend

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2017

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 18: Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons hands the ball off to running back Devonta Freeman #24 in the fourth quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on December 18, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

NFL power rankings figure to get one final major makeover thanks to the Week 16 schedule.

There, playoff-hopeful teams will once again fight for positioning in high-profile matchups. While there wasn't a Thursday game, this action still gets started a bit early—Saturday's two-game slate features the Baltimore Ravens looking to avoid an upset at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts while fighting for a spot in the AFC and the Minnesota Vikings looking to avoid a divisional upset against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC.

Sunday's holiday action features plenty at stake, though the games between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints and the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks are the heavyweight encounters.

Here's a look at where the league stands heading into a critical gameweek.


2017 NFL Power Rankings and Super Bowl Odds

1New England Patriots (12-5)
2Philadelphia Eagles (9-1)
3Pittsburgh Steelers (6-1)
4Minnesota Vikings (13-2)
5Los Angeles Rams (9-1)
6Jacksonville Jaguars (14-1)
7Carolina Panthers (16-1)
8New Orleans Saints (9-1)
9Atlanta Falcons (16-1)
10Baltimore Ravens (33-1)
11Kansas City Chiefs (16-1)
12Dallas Cowboys (33-1)
13Detroit Lions (100-1)
14Los Angeles Chargers (50-1)
15Buffalo Bills (100-1)
16Seattle Seahawks (50-1)
17Tennessee Titans (100-1)
18Green Bay Packers (18-1)
19Washington Redskins (300-1)
20Arizona Cardinals (1,000-1)
21Oakland Raiders (150-1)
22Miami Dolphins (500-1)
23San Francisco 49ers (5,000-1)
24Chicago Bears (1,000-1)
25New York Jets (300-1)
26Cincinnati Bengals (750-1)
27Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1,000-1)
28Houston Texans (1,000-1)
29Denver Broncos (1,000-1)
30Indianapolis Colts (1,000-1)
31New York Giants (1,000-1)
32Cleveland Browns (5,000-1)
Author's opinion; odds per OddsShark


Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings are one of the best stories in football because they have turned an impossible situation into the routine.

With Teddy Bridgewater sidelined, head coach Mike Zimmer didn't get much out of quarterback Sam Bradford before needing to turn to Case Keenum. Rather than implode like other teams who lost starting quarterbacks have, the Vikings have excelled, with Keenum completing 67.9 percent of his passes with 20 touchdowns against seven interceptions.

As noted, these Vikings have to avoid a Saturday upset on the road against an eliminated Green Bay Packers team without quarterback Aaron Rodgers. On paper, at least, they are saying the right things.

"If I know the Packer fans at all, I don't think they really care what the records are," wideout Adam Thielen said, according to ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin. "We're the Minnesota Vikings, and they don't like us very much. I expect it to be just as crazy as if it were a game for them to get in the playoffs or a playoff game."

The Vikings handled this situation well back in a Week 6, 23-10 win over the Packers, though that came at home. Green Bay's desire to play the spoiler and inflict as much damage as possible on a rival might have this one closer than most would expect.

Still, the Vikings haven't given fans any reason to have too much pause this year. They are an 11-win team, and thanks to a defense that permits all of 17.3 points per game and a strong committee running game, they are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.


Atlanta Falcons

Speaking of Super Bowl contenders, it has been easy to lose sight of the Atlanta Falcons this season.

A three-game skid in the middle of the season will do that to a team. Quietly, though, the Falcons have put up wins in five of their past six games, even taking down Dallas, Seattle and New Orleans over that span.

The task now while sitting third in the AFC South? Completing the season sweep of the Saints on the road—a reality New Orleans head coach Sean Payton is aware of based on the play of Matt Ryan's offense.

"I think the season is a journey for everyone, and I would say Matt down the stretch, he's playing outstanding," Payton said, according to ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure. "Their third-down offense is what you see. The percent they're converting right now [47.6 percent], they're first in the NFL."

It says quite a bit that the Falcons keep rolling despite Ryan's two touchdowns and three interceptions over his past two outings. A ground game averaging 4.5 yards per carry continues to pick up the slack, in large part thanks to Devonta Freeman's 806 yards and seven touchdowns on all of 174 attempts.

When the Falcons beat the Saints in Week 14, they didn't resemble the team most likely think of—they controlled the ball for more than 34 minutes while rushing it 37 times. It's the type of balance Ryan hasn't had backing him in years, and it has already had Atlanta taking down playoff-caliber competition in the NFC, which also happens to be the much more competitive conference.


Seattle Seahawks

Interestingly enough, those Seahawks are one of the biggest fallers as of late.

Typically, Seattle hits full stride as the playoffs approach and morphs into a tough out. Not this year, as Russell Wilson's side has lost two games in a row, both rough outings against playoff-caliber teams in the form of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Los Angeles Rams.

The latter defeat was especially bad, as the Rams went to Seattle and cruised to a 42-7 outcome. Seattle simply got whipped at the point of attack all day, coughing up 152 rushing yards and three touchdowns to Todd Gurley, falling to 8-6 in the process.

Graham Barfield of Fantasy Guru illustrated just how much Seattle has collapsed against the rush recently:

Graham Barfield @GrahamBarfield

#Seahawks vs. RBs Last Three Weeks: 26 touches, 109 yards from scrimmage vs. PHI 28 touches, 119 yards from scrimmage, 1TD vs. Fournette 24 touches, 170 yards from scrimmage, 4TDs vs. Gurley

It doesn't figure to get any better in Week 16; with the team fading, the Seahawks next have to deal with Cowboys lead back Ezekiel Elliott upon his return from a lengthy suspension.

The odds of this happening seemed high, though. Seattle didn't field much of a running game behind Wilson, who leads the team in the category with 81 carries for 521 yards and three scores. The organization didn't put much of an offensive line in front of him, either, hence his 37 sacks to go alongside his 30 touchdowns against 11 interceptions.

Wilson is the type of guy who can do it on his own. But it requires a strong defense to show up by kickoff too, meaning the losing skid could continue if things don't change down the stretch.


Stats courtesy of NFL.com. Odds according to OddsShark.


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