NFL Power Rankings Week 15: 2018 Standings, Reaction for All Teams Post-MNF

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 11, 2018

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 18:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints and Alvin Kamara #41 react during a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 18, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

While the NFL is often (deservedly) lauded for its parity, Week 14 was a reminder that said levelness often masquerades itself as chaos.

Who could have guessed that the 49ers and Raiders would suspend their race for the upcoming No. 1 pick to each score victories over teams fighting for their playoff lives? Who foresaw the Dolphins stunning the Patriots—and the football world at large—with a miraculous walk-off score?

Word to the wise: be wary of anyone who guarantees they know what the football gods have on deck for Week 15.

Before any more chaos enters the equation, let's take stock of where every team sits with both a fresh scan of the standings and a new batch of power rankings.


NFL Division Standings

American Football Conference

AFC East

New England Patriots (9-4)

Miami Dolphins (7-6)

Buffalo Bills (4-9)

New York Jets (4-9)


AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5-1)

Baltimore Ravens (7-6)

Cleveland Browns (5-7-1)

Cincinnati Bengals (5-8)


AFC South

Houston Texans (9-4)

Indianapolis Colts (7-6)

Tennessee Titans (7-6)

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9)


AFC West

x-Kansas City Chiefs (11-2)

Los Angeles Chargers (10-3)

Denver Broncos (6-7)

Oakland Raiders (3-10)


National Football Conference

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys (8-5)

Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)

Washington Redskins (6-7)

New York Giants (5-8)


NFC North

Chicago Bears (9-4)

Minnesota Vikings (6-6-1)

Green Bay Packers (5-7-1)

Detroit Lions (5-8)


NFC South

z-New Orleans Saints (11-2)

Carolina Panthers (6-7)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-8)

Atlanta Falcons (4-9)


NFC West

z-Los Angeles Rams (11-2)

Seattle Seahawks (8-5)

Arizona Cardinals (3-10)

San Francisco 49ers (3-10)

x-clinched playoff berth

z-clinched division


Week 15 NFL Power Rankings

1. New Orleans Saints

2. Kansas City Chiefs

3. Los Angeles Rams

4. Los Angeles Chargers

5. Chicago Bears

6. New England Patriots

7. Houston Texans

8. Dallas Cowboys

9. Seattle Seahawks

10. Baltimore Ravens

11. Pittsburgh Steelers

12. Minnesota Vikings

13. Indianapolis Colts

14. Tennessee Titans

15. Cleveland Browns

16. Miami Dolphins

17. Green Bay Packers

18. Denver Broncos

19. Philadelphia Eagles

20. Carolina Panthers

21. New York Giants

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

23. Detroit Lions

24. Washington Redskins

25. Cincinnati Bengals

26. Jacksonville Jaguars

27. Atlanta Falcons

28. New York Jets.

29. Buffalo Bills

30. San Francisco 49ers

31. Oakland Raiders

32. Arizona Cardinals


Saints Back on Top

Jason Behnken/Associated Press

The Saints have lost twice all season—once to the Bucs, who they just doubled up 28-14 this weekend, and once to the Cowboys, who haven't lost since Nov. 5.

Sean Payton's team have won 11 games so far—many by a demoralizing number. Throw out their Thanksgiving loss to Dallas, and they're riding a stretch of six consecutive double-digit wins. New Orleans not only has the NFL's best point differential at plus-164, it has a larger lead over No. 2 (Kansas City, plus-120) than No. 2 has over No. 6 (Baltimore, plus-80).

The Saints sit second in scoring offense and 10th in scoring defense. Drew Brees boasts an impossibly good 31:7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram II and Taysom Hill are all rushing for better than 4.5 yards per clip. Michael Thomas is top 10 in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Cameron Jordan's 12 sacks are tied for fifth-most in the league.

New Orleans looks strongest at home, so it would bolster its Super Bowl hopes by securing home-field advantage. But for now, no one is enjoying as much on-paper success as the Saints.


Cowboys Hitting Their Stride

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 09: Amari Cooper #19 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates after making the game winning touchdown in overtime against the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium on December 09, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Get
Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

If the Saints are really good, and the Cowboys beat them, Dallas must be really good, too, right?

No one would have thought it possible when Dallas dropped a 28-14 defeat to the Titans and fell to a dispiriting 3-5. But all it has done since is win, and what gives this streak more juice than most five-game spurts is the fact it started shortly after former first-round pick Amari Cooper arrived.

The Cowboys needed a big-play receiver both to ease the pressure on Ezekiel Elliott and give Dak Prescott a legitimate target. Cooper has been everything needed and then some, totaling 40 receptions for 642 yards and six touchdowns over his six games with the squad.

"I was almost astonished we were able to get that trade," Prescott told reporters. "[I thought] if we are getting a trade like that, 'What's wrong?' Then to get him and see everything play out the way it is, we are very fortunate."

Cooper looks like a fortune-changer for the Cowboys, and that makes their future as intriguing as any you'll find outside the elite tier. Dallas' plus-30 point differential for the season looks pretty nondescript (12th overall), but maybe that number is meaningless if the Cowboys are a new team with Cooper.


What's Happening In Pittsburgh?

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 09:  Antonio Brown #84 and Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on against the Oakland Raiders during the first half of their NFL football game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 9, 2018 in Oakland, Cal
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The sky hasn't fallen in the Steel City, but it feels closer to the ground than it has in years.

The Steelers likely expected to be either celebrating a playoff berth by now or at least be close enough to plan the party. Instead, an unexpected three-game skid—low-lighted by Sunday's loss to the Raiders—has threatened to knock this presumed contender out of the postseason entirely.

"Bad game management combined with untimely injuries and terrible placekicking is killing the Steelers, who are going to have to pull a rabbit out of their hat to make the playoffs," Bleacher Report's Brad Gagnon said. "This is the opposite of peaking at the right time."

The full-strength Steelers remain menacing on paper, but that may not matter with the clock working against them. Their closing stretch includes both a home tussle with the Patriots and a road clash with the Saints, matchups daunting enough to perhaps push the AFC North into the hands of the Ravens.

Again, Pittsburgh still has time to play its way out of this mess, but the margin for error is gone and the difficulty level appears maxed out.


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