NFL Power Rankings: B/R's Consensus Rank for Every Team Entering Week 15

NFL StaffContributor IDecember 10, 2019

NFL Power Rankings: B/R's Consensus Rank for Every Team Entering Week 15

0 of 32

    Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

    We're in the thick of it now.

    Week 14 in the NFL brought with it the first game of the final month of the 2019 regular season—and three games featuring a pair of teams who would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.

    In Buffalo, the Baltimore Ravens won a defensive battle over the Bills, solidifying their claim to the title of the AFC's best team and Lamar Jackson's claim to be named NFL MVP.

    In Foxborough, the Kansas City Chiefs accomplished something that hadn't been done since 2015—a win by the visitors in December in Gillette Stadium. The Patriots are still the No. 2 seed in the AFC, but it's the Chiefs who look like the conference's second-best team.

    In New Orleans, there was an absolute barnburner between two very good teams that came down to wire. And in winning on the road against the Saints, the San Francisco 49ers reclaimed the "best in the NFC" title.

    Throw in a victory by the surging Los Angeles Rams over the Seattle Seahawks, and there was plenty of action that had a major impact on the NFL's pecking order in Week 14.

    As the smoke clears from a wild week around the league, Bleacher Report NFL analysts Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski have gathered to sift through the rubble of what we thought we knew and rebuild these power rankings based on what we know now.


    Well, Week 14 of the NFL season is in the books, and what do we know? The Ravens look unstoppable. The 49ers can play with anyone. And the Patriots can beat anyone... with a below-.500 record. But there's still plenty of time before the playoffs for these teams to round into form, so we've got lots of Tannehill Talk, a whole bunch of Chiefs Chat, and plenty of Odell Oration on the latest episode of The Lefkoe Show. Tune in all season long (and in the playoffs!) for more of Lefkoe and Westbrook!

32. Cincinnati Bengals (1-12)

1 of 32

    Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

    High: 30

    Low: 32

    Last Week: 32

    Week 14 Result: Lost at Cleveland 27-19

    Last week against the New York Jets, the Cincinnati Bengals shook off the stink by winning their first game of the season.

    In Week 14, the Bengals got right back to the business of being the league's worst team, losing to a wholly unimpressive Cleveland squad on the road.

    The Bengals did do some things well in a game. Tailback Joe Mixon was impressive, piling up 146 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. The Bengals outgained the Browns by well over 100 yards and forced a pair of turnovers.

    But Cincy couldn’t get off the field on third down and couldn't get out of its own way, tallying eight penalties for 99 yards.

    With three games to play (including a Week 17 rematch with the Browns), the Bengals are one week closer to securing the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft.

    Chase Young vs. Joe Burrow is just about the only thing fans in Cincinnati are going to have to get excited about over the next few months.

31. New York Giants (2-11)

2 of 32

    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    High: 31

    Low: 31

    Last Week: 17

    Week 14 Result: Lost at Philadelphia 23-17 (OT)

    For one half, it looked like the Eli Manning era in New York might add a final highlight. Making his first start in over two months, Manning threw two first-half touchdown passes and staked the G-Men to a 17-3 lead over the Eagles.

    But at halftime, the Giants apparently remembered they entered Week 14 riding an eight-game losing streak, and they blew the chance to ruin their rivals' season.

    The New York defense remembered it is truly awful, allowing an injury-ravaged Philly offense stocked with nobodies to peel off 20 unanswered points.

    Head coach Pat Shurmur remembered that he's inevitably going to be fired soon. After having their way with a porous Eagles secondary in the first half, the Giants' vertical passing game vanished.

    The Giants are a nine-alarm dumpster fire on both sides of the ball. It's the first time in over a half-century that New York has dropped nine in a row.

    At this point, the best thing the Giants could do is lose out and hope the Bengals either win a game or two or take LSU quarterback Joe Burrow first overall.

    But from what we've seen of this team, they'll mess around and beat Miami and/or Washington and lose out on edge-rusher extraordinaire Chase Young.

    These Giants will figure out a way to lose at losing.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9)

3 of 32

    Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    High: 29

    Low: 32

    Last Week: 30

    Week 14 Result: Lost vs. Los Angeles Chargers 45-10

    In a season filled with lows for the Jacksonville Jaguars, they hit rock bottom at home in a blowout loss to a Chargers team that's been one of the AFC's bigger disappointments in 2019.

    With $88 million quarterback Nick Foles riding the pine, the Jaguars have handed the reins on offense to rookie Gardner Minshew II the rest of the way. Or at least, that was the plan before Minshew stunk up the joint in Week 14, passing for just 162 yards.

    Tailback Leonard Fournette averaged just 3.3 yards per carry. Only one pass-catcher (DJ Chark Jr.) had more than 30 yards in the game. Jacksonville's once-formidable defense was gouged for 525 total yards and 45 points.

    The Jaguars aren't just the worst team in the division. Or one of the worst teams in the AFC. As Gagnon pointed out, this team is now historically bad.

    "They're the first team since 1986 to lose five consecutive games by three-plus scores in one season," he wrote. "I was in diapers in 1986. That's all you need to know about Doug Marrone's prospects of retaining his job. This team doesn't give a damn right now."

29. Washington Redskins (3-10)

4 of 32

    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    High: 27

    Low: 30

    Last Week: 29

    Week 14 Result: Lost at Green Bay 20-15

    The Washington Redskins had built some positive momentum recently, peeling off consecutive wins. That momentum was halted in a listless Week 14 loss that served as a reminder of just how far the Redskins still have to go.

    The Redskins pass defense played well against the Packers, holding Aaron Rodgers under 200 passing yards. But the rushing defense was atrocious, allowing 174 yards and over six yards a carry.

    Washington rushed for over 120 yards and averaged a respectable 4.3 yards a carry. But rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins and the Washington passing game were mostly invisible—just 141 net yards on 16-of-27 attempts.

    The Redskins close out the season with a tour of the NFC Least—home dates with the Eagles and Giants before finishing up with a trip to Dallas. Then it's on to an offseason in which there will be much to do, including finding a new head coach and filling the numerous holes on the roster.

28. Detroit Lions (3-9-1)

5 of 32

    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    High: 27

    Low: 29

    Last Week: 26

    Week 14 Result: Lost at Minnesota 20-7

    As Bob Wojnowski reported for the Detroit News, after losing their sixth straight game Sunday (and nine of the past 10) Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia insisted that his team is better than its 3-9-1 record.

    "We know we're in the middle of a process, trying to get better," Patricia said. "We're in tough ballgames, we're right there. What I appreciate about this team is, we don't look at our record and say this is what we are. I think we look at our record and say that's not what we are, and we gotta figure out how to get the record to match up with what we are."

    In some respects, Patricia has a point. The Lions haven't been getting blown out—Sunday's 13-point loss was the team's biggest of the season. And the team has been wracked by injuries on both sides of the ball.

    But the Lions aren't winning games—just once since September 22 has the team tasted victory.

    As Bill Parcells said, "You are what your record says you are."

    The Lions record says they are a bad football team.

    So did your eyes if you watched Detroit in Week 14.

27. Arizona Cardinals (3-9-1)

6 of 32

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    High: 26

    Low: 28

    Last Week: 27

    Week 14 Result: Lost vs. Pittsburgh 23-17

    Rookie quarterback Kyler Murray has had his moments with the Cardinals in his inaugural season.

    Sunday's loss to the Steelers was not one of those moments.

    Facing one of the league's better defenses, Murray had one of his worst games of the season. The first overall pick in the 2019 draft came up short of 200 passing yards, threw three interceptions, was sacked five times and had a passer rating of 67.2.

    Murray's teammates didn't give him a ton of help—and haven't for a long while. The Cardinals last tasted victory against the New York Giants all the way back in Week 7. Since then it's been six straight losses—including three by double-digits and two by over 20 points.

    Arizona finishes the season with trips to Los Angeles and Seattle to face a pair of playoff contenders in the Rams and Seahawks. This week's home date with the up-and-down Cleveland Browns is likely Kliff Kingsbury's best chance of avoiding a 3-12-1 first year in charge and a nine-game skid.

    Not to mention questions regarding whether he should even be given a second season.

26. Miami Dolphins (3-10)

7 of 32

    Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

    High: 23

    Low: 28

    Last Week: 25

    Week 14 Result: Lost at New York Jets 22-21

    In some ways, you could argue that the Miami Dolphins actually won by losing in New York in Week 14.

    The Dolphins are going nowhere fast in the short term. Miami's roster is more bereft of talent than any in the league. The leading rusher against the Jets was a 37-year-old journeyman quarterback. The leading tackler is a third-year pro who had never started a game before being traded to the Dolphins earlier this season.

    However, despite that lack of talent, the Dolphins have consistently played hard for first-year head coach Brian Flores. After losing their first seven games, the Dolphins have been a .500 team over the past six weeks.

    Thanks in part to the roster purge that was the first step in a ground-up rebuild, Miami will have three first-round picks in April. The earliest of those picks will be the team's own, as both the Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers are playoff contenders in 2019.

    The last thing Miami needs is messing up the draft order by winning a meaningless game over a team it already beat in Week 9.

25. Atlanta Falcons (4-9)

8 of 32

    Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

    High: 24

    Low: 25

    Last Week: 28

    Week 14 Result: Won vs. Carolina 40-20

    If only the Atlanta Falcons could play the Carolina Panthers every week. Against all other NFL teams, the Atlanta Falcons are 2-9 and look like one of the worst teams in the game.

    Against the Panthers, the Falcons are 2-0 and look like a playoff contender. In two meetings, the Falcons are averaging 34.5 points per game and have scored three times as many points as the Panthers.

    The problem is that the Falcons have to play all those other teams, too. And against them the defense has been leaky and the offense has been erratic. Atlanta is not making the playoffs and has been guaranteed a second consecutive losing season. With a trip to San Francisco up next on the schedule, a 10-loss season is all but ensured, and it's been a downward slide ever since the Falcons blew a 28-3 third-quarter lead in Super Bowl LI.

    "The Falcons took too long to play decent football," Sobleski said. "Atlanta has won three of its last five games, including Sunday's 40-20 win over Carolina Panthers, but a 1-7 start buried the team so deep it didn't have a chance to turn things around in time. Don't let the improvement fool you, though. Changes are still necessary. This is a team biding its time for an offseason reset." 

24. Carolina Panthers (5-8)

9 of 32

    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    High: 22

    Low: 25

    Last Week: 21

    Week 14 Result: Lost at Atlanta 40-20

    Per Ian Rapoport of, the Carolina Panthers are expected to shop injured quarterback Cam Newton in the offseason.

    After watching Kyle Allen bumble his way through another loss in Atlanta on Sunday, the Panthers may want to reconsider that idea.

    Allen played relatively well in his first few starts. But of late he's been a hot mess, and Week 14 was no exception—293 yards, a passer rating of less than 80 and three more turnovers.

    It's been another second-half disaster for the Panthers—one that has already cost Ron Rivera his job as head coach. The question now is whether the team also wants to go back to square one at quarterback—because it's becoming painfully obvious that Allen is no kind of long-term answer.

    He's living proof that a team can have a great running back. Good receivers. A solid offensive line. And none of what will matter if the play under center is bad.

23. New York Jets (5-8)

10 of 32

    Al Bello/Getty Images

    High: 22

    Low: 23

    Last Week: 24

    Week 14 Result: Won vs. Miami 22-21

    Last week, the New York Jets made history by becoming the first team in NFL history to lose to a pair of winless teams that started the season at least 0-7.

    The Jets got things back on track Sunday against the Dolphins to earn win No. 5 this season, and while the victory wasn't especially impressive, a few things have to be considered.

    The Jets played Sunday without their starting tailback (Le'Veon Bell) and best defensive player (Jamal Adams). Injuries have ravaged the team in 2019—whether it's Bell, quarterback Sam Darnold or inside linebackers Avery Williamson and C.J. Mosley. The Jets spent a ton of cash on Mosley and Bell this past offseason—and so far have very little to show for it.

    Losing to Miami and the Cincinnati Bengals was indeed embarrassing. But after a miserable start to the season, those same banged-up Jets have now won four of five.

    Maybe they can give the Ravens a run for their money on Thursday night.

    Or maybe not.

22. Oakland Raiders (6-7)

11 of 32

    D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press

    High: 21

    Low: 26

    Last Week: 20

    Week 14 Result: Lost vs. Tennessee 42-21

    A few weeks ago, the Oakland Raiders appeared to have made great strides in 2019. The team was 6-4 and just off the pace in the AFC West.

    In fairness, the Raiders are still a better team than a year ago. And Oakland's Week 14 loss carries with it the caveat that rookie tailback Josh Jacobs missed the game with a shoulder injury.

    But there's no denying that the Oakland defense is in free-fall. Over the last three games, the Raiders have been roasted by the New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans to the tune of over 38 points per game. Oakland has been outscored over that span by a staggering margin—116 to 33.

    That playoff trip that some thought might be coming a few weeks ago isn't. Not this season. Not with that defense.

    But the Raiders are headed in the right direction and will enter the offseason in good shape relative to the salary cap and with two first-round picks in the 2020 draft.

    The team's first season in Vegas should be something. 

21. Los Angeles Chargers (5-8)

12 of 32

    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    High: 19

    Low: 24

    Last Week: 23

    Week 14 Result: Won at Jacksonville 45-10

    There hasn't been much for the Los Angeles Chargers to cheer about in 2019. The Bolts came into the 2019 season with aspirations of winning the AFC West and making a deep postseason run after winning 12 games last year. They'll leave the season with at best a .500 record and hard questions to answer—including whether to close the door on the Philip Rivers era.

    Rivers made a case for one more year on Sunday against the reeling Jaguars with his best performance in a long time—314 yards, three scores, just six incompletions and a passer rating of 154.4.

    The question for Justin Sayles of The Ringer is whether that's enough.

    "Rivers doesn't look like the quarterback he once was," Sayles said. "His QBR has fallen from 67.8 in 2018 to 48.0 entering Sunday's matchup with Jaguars (which admittedly was Rivers's best of the season). Scouts and evaluators have noted a steep drop in his performance, particularly on deep passes. After a seven-INT stretch in Weeks 10 and 11, the team briefly flirted with benching him in favor of backup Tyrod Taylor. Rivers is currently wrapping up his 16th season in the NFL, he turned 38 on Sunday, and he'll be a free agent this spring. As the Chargers get set to open their new home next season—one they'll have difficulty filling—Rivers's future looks as questionable as those of his fellow 2004 first-round quarterbacks, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger."

    It's a question that will dog the Chargers right up until the team answers it—one way or the other.

20. Denver Broncos (5-8)

13 of 32

    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    High: 17

    Low: 20

    Last Week: 22

    Week 14 Result: Won at Houston 38-24

    It's been another disappointing season for the Denver Broncos. Two more losses will give Denver 10 or more for each of the last three seasons—something that hasn't happened in the Mile High City in over 50 years.

    The Broncos were all smiles in Houston on Sunday, though. In part, it was because the Broncos blasted a first-place Texans team in a game that wasn't as close as the final score indicates. But mostly it's because of what happened in that win.

    The Broncos may just have found themselves a quarterback.

    One week after leading the Broncos to a win in his NFL debut, rookie Drew Lock went one better—the second-round pick out of Missouri was lights out against the Texans, topping 300 passing yards with three touchdowns and a passer rating of over 135.

    Two games isn't enough sample size to know whether Lock is the team's quarterback of the future. But so long as he keeps playing this well, the youngster is most definitely Denver's starting quarterback of the present.

    "In the last seven weeks," Gagnon said, "the Broncos have hung with or beat the Colts, Browns, Vikings, Chargers and Texans. Those teams all have playoff-caliber talent. They've done that despite selling off Emmanuel Sanders at the trade deadline, despite instability at quarterback and despite injuries to Bradley Chubb and Von Miller. Vic Fangio deserves a lot of credit. Plenty of reason to be optimistic about 2020 in Denver."

19. Cleveland Browns (6-7)

14 of 32

    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    High: 18

    Low: 19

    Last Week: 18

    Week 14 Result: Won vs. Cincinnati 27-19

    Here we go again.

    After downing the hapless Bengals on Sunday to get to 6-7 for the season, there will be talk of the Cleveland Browns remaining part of the playoff picture in the AFC.

    Allow us to dismiss that notion right now.

    Yes, the Browns won in Week 14. But it was an ugly victory punctuated by the kinds of problems that have affected the team all season long.

    Baker Mayfield threw two interceptions and would have had three had a defensive pass interference call not wiped one out. He also completed less than half of his passes. The play-calling was again atrocious—despite facing the league's worst run defense, the Browns all but ignored the run game in the first half. Odell Beckham Jr.'s disappointing season continued—he had just two catches for 39 yards.

    The Browns have talent. They may well get back to .500 with a win in Arizona next week.

    But Cleveland remains much more pretender than contender.

18. Indianapolis Colts (6-7)

15 of 32

    Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

    High: 14

    Low: 21

    Last Week: 15

    Week 14 Result: Lost at Tampa Bay 38-35

    Remember when we thought that the Indianapolis Colts would be a playoff team? Those were good times.

    It also feels like it was three years ago and not three weeks ago.

    Actually, Indy's Week 11 win over the Jaguars was just a temporary respite from what's become a full-blown collapse. This is a team that was 5-2 after defeating the Denver Broncos on October 27.

    Since then, the Colts have played six games—and won once.

    Offensively, Jacoby Brissett continued to struggle in Tampa. The 26-year-old actually had one of his better games of the last month, passing for 251 yards and two scores. But even then Brissett barely completed over half of his passes.

    Defensively, the Colts were shredded by the Buccaneers to the tune of 542 yards and over 450 yards through the air. The Colts are coming apart at the seams.

    "The defense is reeling," Davenport said. "The offense is sputtering. Brissett looks like just a guy. And now the Colts have to go to New Orleans to play a Saints team sure to be seething after losing the NFC's No. 1 seed in Week 14. The Colts are headed toward a sixth loss in seven games, and this team is just about done."

17. Dallas Cowboys (6-7)

16 of 32

    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    High: 16

    Low: 20

    Last Week: 14

    Week 14 Result: Lost at Chicago 31-24

    The Dallas Cowboys are toast.

    Yes, even after losing at Chicago to fall under .500 for the first time this season, the Cowboys are still in first place in their division. But that says a lot more about how bad the NFC East is in 2019 than it does about how good the Cowboys are.

    There wasn't much that went right in this "must-win" game for the Cowboys—and that's not a new trend. The Cowboys have played teams that presently sport a winning record in four of the last five weeks—and lost all four games.

    In news that should surprise exactly zero people, Ian Rapoport of reported Sunday that barring a deep playoff run, the Cowboys are expected to fire head coach Jason Garrett in the offseason.

    Davenport doesn't see the point in waiting.

    "Relative to the talent on the roster, there isn't a team in the NFL that has underwhelmed more in 2019 than the Cowboys," he said. "Garrett's been a master of doing less with more this season, and given their schedule over the last three weeks, it's entirely possible the Cowboys won't even win a pathetic division this year."

    "How can a team with this much talent go 0-6 against opponents with winning records and still keep its coach around? The bad NFC East might save Jason Garrett for now, but he'll be toast after the Cowboys get crushed at home by the 49ers or Seahawks on Wild Card Weekend," Gagnon added.

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7)

17 of 32

    Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

    High: 16

    Low: 17

    Last Week: 19

    Week 14 Result: Won vs. Indianapolis 38-35

    There's good news and bad news in Week 14 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    The good news is that quarterback Jameis Winston had a huge game against the Indianapolis Colts, passing for 456 yards and four scores in a three-point win over the Indianapolis Colts. The surging Buccaneers have now peeled off three straight wins and have victories in four of their last five games. The Buccaneers aren't going to make the playoffs, but even a .500 season would be progress for new head coach Bruce Arians.

    The bad news is that Jameis Winston had a huge game and the Buccaneers are winning, which could convince the team that Winston is something he isn't—the long-term answer at quarterback.

    Winston racked up a ton of yards and four scores Sunday, but he also threw three more interceptions (including a pick-six) to bring his league-leading total for the season to a jaw-dropping 23.

    Winston is a turnover machine. That's not going to change.

    However, Gagnon thinks there's quite a bit around Winston the Bucs can build on.

    "They've reminded us lately that Bruce Arians is really friggin' good at his job, and it's enough to wonder if they could be a contender with a few tweaks this offseason," he said. "There were some growing pains early in the Arians era, but they should have beaten the Titans and Seahawks in Weeks 8 and 9 and they've lost just once since then. This team could easily be 9-4 right now, and it has 9-4-level talent."

15. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)

18 of 32

    Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

    High: 15

    Low: 19

    Last Week: 17

    Week 14 Result: Won vs. New York Giants 23-17 (OT)

    Here's a hard truth: Even if the Philadelphia Eagles win their last four games, finish 9-7 and win the NFC East, the only reward they will receive is getting drilled by the runner-up in the NFC West or NFC North in the Wild Card Round.

    The Eagles are a deeply flawed team right now. The secondary can't stop giving up long touchdowns. After Alshon Jeffery was carted off with an injured foot against the Giants on Monday night, the Eagles were down to two healthy receivers.

    The Iggles nearly lost to a New York team that came in having dropped eight in a row.

    But give credit where it's due. Down 17-3 at halftime, with the boos raining down even harder than the precipitation, the Eagles could have folded up shop on a disappointing 2019 season. They didn't. Instead, they cobbled together an offense with duct tape and hope and won the game.

    "Dallas is a much more talented team than these banged-up Eagles," Davenport said. "But the Eagles have guts, while the Cowboys have been in full jellyfish mode for weeks. The pressure has shifted even more onto Dallas now, and if recent history is any indication, my money's on the Eagles when the two teams meet in Week 16."

14. Chicago Bears (7-6)

19 of 32

    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    High: 14

    Low: 15

    Last Week: 16

    Week 14 Result: Won vs. Dallas 31-24

    After Chicago downed the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night, one question reverberated loudly through the Windy City.

    Where the heck has this Mitchell Trubisky been?

    The young quarterback for the Bears has struggled much of this season, but against the Cowboys, Trubisky was sharp. The 2017 No. 2 overall pick missed on just eight of 31 pass attempts, threw for three scores and ran for another. For one week at least, the Bears looked like the team that won 12 games and the NFC North in 2018.

    The problem is that it's all but certainly too little, too late. With three games to play, the Bears are two back of the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoffs. The schedule the rest of the way is brutal, as well—all three of Chicago's remaining opponents would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5)

20 of 32

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    High: 12

    Low: 13

    Last Week: 13

    Week 14 Result: Won at Arizona 23-17

    Per ESPN's Brooke Pryor, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said he's becoming more comfortable with trusting undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges as his starting quarterback.

    "I trust his judgment," Tomlin said. "That's been a part of his game. He did a really good job of managing his emotions in the midst of tough circumstances and being prudent, yet aggressive. We're getting more and more comfortable."

    While he's getting comfortable, we should too—comfortable with the idea of Tomlin winning the 2019 Coach of the Year award.

    The Steelers lost their starting quarterback to a season-ending elbow injury and haven't had their best running back and No. 1 wide receiver for long stretches of the season. But the wins keep piling up. Against the Cardinals, the Steelers cobbled together a running game that posted 140 yards. Hodges misfired on just three pass attempts. Pittsburgh's defense was again stout, and the special teams kicked in a score.

    The Steelers probably won't make much noise in the playoffs—against the top teams in the AFC, Pittsburgh's limitations are going to be exposed.

    But the Steelers getting to the playoffs at all would be a remarkable accomplishment.

12. Buffalo Bills (9-4)

21 of 32

    John Munson/Associated Press

    High: 10

    Low: 13

    Last Week: 10

    Week 14 Result: Lost vs. Baltimore 24-17

    There's no shame in losing to the Baltimore Ravens. Over the past two-plus months, that's all teams have done when facing the Ravens.

    But the Bills had a chance to silence some doubters Sunday—and they failed. In fact, they may have amplified the doubts that swirled around the team.

    There were doubts as to whether Josh Allen could step up his game against a quality opponent. Against the Ravens, he did the opposite—managing just 17 completions on 39 attempts for 146 yards.

    There were doubts as to whether the Bills could beat one of the league's best teams. The Bills have now played only three teams that presently sport winning records—games in which Buffalo sits at 1-2.

    The Bills are a good team. Barring a collapse in Week 17 against the New York Jets, Buffalo will win at least 10 games and probably make the playoffs. But Buffalo plays winning teams in each of the next two weeks in the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots.

    If the team can't at least get a split there, it will be awfully hard to see the Bills as more than a one-and-done team in the postseason.

11. Houston Texans (8-5)

22 of 32

    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    High: 8

    Low: 13

    Last Week: 8

    Week 14 Result: Lost vs. Denver 38-24

    A week ago, the Houston Texans looked like a team capable of beating just about anyone in the league when they took it to the defending Super Bowl champions in prime time.

    Sunday, the Texans um…didn't. Houston was blown out at home by a four-win Broncos team in a game the Texans trailed 38-3 in the third quarter.

    Simply put, almost no one played well. Deshaun Watson had one of his worst games of the season, completing less than 60 percent of his passes with a pair of interceptions. The defense allowed over 300 passing yards and three scores to a rookie quarterback making his second career start.

    It was a letdown in every sense of the word—and cause for serious concern in Davenport's opinion.

    "There were already questions about how seriously we should take the Texans after they were demolished by the Baltimore Ravens," he said. "Getting rolled at home by a mediocre (at best) Broncos team is that much worse. It's hard to give Houston much of a shot of beating Tom Brady or Lamar Jackson on the road in January if the Texans can't get past Drew Lock at home in December."

    "Will the real Texans please stand up?" Sobleski asked. "Houston put together strong consecutive efforts against the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots after being pasted by the Baltimore Ravens. Then Houston played an absolute dud against the Denver Broncos. The inconsistency points to one thing: The Texans aren't as good of a team as some might think, and not winning the AFC South is a very real possibility."

10. Los Angeles Rams (8-5)

23 of 32

    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    High: 9

    Low: 11

    Last Week: 12

    Week 14 Result: Won vs. Seattle 28-12

    Here come the Los Angeles Rams.

    Not that long ago, the defending NFC champions looked to be done. The Rams were 6-5 and had just been blown out in their own building by the Baltimore Ravens. Not only would there be no return to the Super Bowl, but the Rams weren't even going to make the playoffs.

    The postseason is still far from a certainty—Los Angeles sits a game back of the Minnesota Vikings for the No. 6 spot in the NFC with three games to play. But after posting their most impressive victory of the season Sunday night against the rival Seahawks, the Rams have renewed hope.

    It was a complete effort. Quarterback Jared Goff threw for 293 yards and two scores. The Rams pounded away on the ground to the tune of 162 yards on 35 carries. And the Rams defense put one of the league's better offenses on lockdown, limiting the Seahawks to just 308 yards and no offensive touchdowns.

    There's no room for error over the next few games, but the Rams have built up some momentum heading into a pivotal road trip to first Dallas and then San Francisco.

    "Don't look now," Sobleski said, "but the Rams are starting to figure things out. Sean McVay's squad has won three of its last four games and is very much in the playoff picture. The difference is rather simple: The Rams are running the football effectively with Todd Gurley and protecting Jared Goff. That's the difference between a struggling team compared to the one now stacking together wins."

9. Tennessee Titans (8-5)

24 of 32

    D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press

    High: 9

    Low: 10

    Last Week: 11

    Week 14 Result: Won at Oakland 42-21

    The Tennessee Titans might just be legit.

    It certainly didn't appear to be the case back on October 13. After falling to the Denver Broncos in a 16-0 shutout, the Titans were 2-4 and headed nowhere fast.

    Then Mike Vrabel made a switch to Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, and it was like a switch flipped. Sunday's win in Oakland was Tennessee's sixth in seven games, and the Titans have caught the Houston Texans in the AFC South.

    "The Titans are an offensive juggernaut," Sobleski said. "Sounds weird, right? But it's true. Since Tannehill took over as the starting quarterback, Tennessee is the league's second-highest-scoring team. Oh, that Derrick Henry guy is pretty darn good, too—he's now second overall with 1,243 rushing yards."

    It's not going to be easy to keep this momentum rolling and get the Titans into the postseason, though. Tennessee plays the Texans twice over the last three weeks of the regular season—meetings sandwiched around a home date in Week 16 with the 10-win New Orleans Saints.

    The Titans are going to have to earn that playoff spot.

8. Minnesota Vikings (9-4)

25 of 32

    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    High: 8

    Low: 9

    Last Week: 9

    Week 14 Result: Won vs. Detroit 20-7

    The Minnesota Vikings have had a good season, winning nine of their first 13 games after taking care of a short-handed Lions team at home. But with the Green Bay Packers one game ahead of them in the NFC North and the Los Angeles Rams lurking just one game back in the wild-card race, there's not much margin for error.

    The Vikings didn't play their best football in Week 14, especially on offense. They had just 354 total yards of offense against a bad Lions defense and went just 5-of-14 on third down. But the defense completely put the clamps on Detroit's offense, giving up just 231 total yards and shutting out the Lions until the game was well in hand.

    It was a workmanlike effort against an overmatched team that sets Minnesota up for the all-important stretch run—a trip to Los Angeles to face the Chargers before massive home games against the rival Packers and Bears.

    Depending on how things play out, the Vikings could hit the playoffs as division champions—or miss the postseason altogether.

    No pressure.

7. New England Patriots (10-3)

26 of 32

    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    High: 7

    Low: 9

    Last Week: 7

    Week 14 Result: Lost vs. Kansas City 23-16

    There are few things more dependable than the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in December. Entering Week 14, the Pats hadn't lost a December home game since 2015.

    That streak ended against the Kansas City Chiefs—because the Patriots have become anything but dependable offensively.

    Against the Chiefs, the Patriots were held to just 278 yards of offense and 16 points. Quarterback Tom Brady completed just 19 of 36 passes for 169 yards with a passer rating south of 65. New England converted just two of 12 third downs.

    No team over the past two decades has circled the wagons better than the Patriots. But Davenport has reached the point where he's skeptical that rally is coming in 2019.

    "Here's the cold, hard reality of New England's situation," Davenport said. "The Patriots are not a good offensive football team. Outside of Julian Edelman, the wide receivers can't get open consistently. Tom Brady is looking his age. And there's been nothing to indicate that a sudden turnaround is coming. The Pats are going to win the AFC East again in 2019. But it's getting harder by the week to imagine them winning anything beyond that."

6. Green Bay Packers (10-3)

27 of 32

    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    High: 6

    Low: 6

    Last Week: 6

    Week 14 Result: Won vs. Washington 20-15

    Things are looking up for the Green Bay Packers.

    Mind you, the team didn't look especially impressive Sunday. Playing against a three-win Redskins team, Aaron Rodgers managed fewer than 200 passing yards and just one touchdown.

    However, the Green Bay defense played well, allowing just 262 yards. And while the Pack didn't pile up the style points doing so, they beat a team they were supposed to beat—and in doing so moved past the New Orleans Saints and into the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.

    Keeping that No. 2 seed won't be particularly easy, though. Green Bay's next two games are both against teams with winning records—division rivals in the Bears and Vikings.

    "The Packers hit double digits in wins Sunday," Davenport said, "but this team hasn't been nearly as impressive as the Saints or 49ers this year. The defense is better in 2019, and Aaron Rodgers is one of the best to ever play the game. But Green Bay's offense continues to be erratic, especially in the passing game."

5. New Orleans Saints (10-3)

28 of 32

    Brett Duke/Associated Press

    High: 5

    Low: 5

    Last Week: 4

    Week 14 Result: Lost vs. San Francisco 48-46

    Sunday at the Superdome, the New Orleans Saints had an opportunity to stake their claim as the team to beat in the NFC.

    Instead, the 2019 NFC South champions watched Robbie Gould punch through a game-winning field goal after a combination of a long pass to tight end George Kittle and a boneheaded facemask penalty put the Niners in field-goal range.

    It was the culmination of a day best forgotten for the Saints defensively. The offense did its part in Week 14—465 yards of offense and 46 points. But the defense was shredded, allowing over 500 yards.

    The Saints remain an excellent team that has the sort of combination of talent, experience and balance that can propel a team to a Super Bowl win. But this loss could have major implications on playoff seeding—as things stand, the Saints would have to play on Wild Card Weekend after falling behind the Green Bay Packers and into the No. 3 slot in the NFC.

4. Seattle Seahawks (10-3)

29 of 32

    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    High: 3

    Low: 4

    Last Week: 3

    Week 14 Result: Lost at Los Angeles Rams 28-12

    The Seattle Seahawks entered their big Sunday night matchup with the Los Angeles Rams with a chance to both claim the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs and send a message to the rest of the conference that they are the team to beat on that side of the bracket.

    They left the game as the No. 5 seed in the NFC with serious questions as to their viability as a Super Bowl contender swirling around them.

    "Seattle's offense struggled in Los Angeles," Davenport said, "but the larger problem for Seattle was once again the lack of a consistent pass rush. It's been partly due to injuries, but Seattle's pass rush has completely vanished for significant stretches this season. The days of the "Legion of Boom" are long gone in the Emerald City—the Seattle secondary isn't what it was. If they can't get after the quarterback, the NFC's best quarterbacks will carve the Seahawks to pieces in the playoffs."

    All is hardly lost—the Seahawks could still win the NFC West if they enter their Week 17 matchup with the 49ers a game back of San Francisco. But between now and then the Seahawks need to tighten things up PDQ if they want to avoid playing on Wild Card Weekend.

3. Kansas City Chiefs (9-4)

30 of 32

    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    High: 3

    Low: 4

    Last Week: 5

    Week 14 Result: Won at New England 23-16

    Sunday's seven-point win over the Patriots in New England was big for the Kansas City Chiefs for multiple reasons.

    The first is the most obvious—the win, coupled with Oakland's loss to the Tennessee Titans, gave the AFC West to the Chiefs. Kansas City is headed back to the playoffs, currently sitting as the No. 3 seed in the AFC.

    The second is the message the win sent. The Chiefs were able to exact a measure of revenge for last year's AFC Championship Game loss. Slay the big bad Patriots. Show that they can go into Gillette Stadium and come out with a victory.

    The third is the way the Chiefs won the game. This final score wasn't in the 40s. The Kansas City offense managed a pedestrian (by its standards) 346 yards and turned the ball over twice. But the defense stepped up in a big way, surrendering just 278 yards and 16 points.

    The Baltimore Ravens look like the class of the AFC right now. That's not in question. What is in question is who slots at No. 2 behind them.

    The Chiefs just made a pretty compelling case.

    "A difficult midseason stretch along with an injury to the reigning MVP had the Chiefs yo-yoing a bit in the power rankings," Sobleski said. "But they've worked their way back near the top after Sunday's 23-16 victory over the Patriots. Kansas City has now won three in a row with help from an improved defense. During the aforementioned stretch, the Chiefs allowed only 14 points per game while scoring 29 points per game. Yeah, that works."

2. San Francisco 49ers (11-2)

31 of 32

    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    High: 2

    Low: 2

    Last Week: 2

    Week 14 Result: Won at New Orleans 48-46

    For most of this season, the San Francisco 49ers have been keyed by a stout defense—entering Sunday's huge matchup in New Orleans, no team in the NFC allowed fewer points or yards per game than San Francisco.

    Against the Saints, that defense was torched for 465 yards and 46 points—and the Niners still won.

    It was the offense that carried the day Sunday. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 349 yards and four scores. Wideout Emmanuel Sanders hauled in seven passes for 157 yards and a touchdown and threw a scoring pass to tailback Raheem Mostert.

    It was an explosion that should scare the bejesus out of the rest of the NFC. We already knew that the Niners could pound away on the ground and play the kind of stout defense that helps win nail-biters. Now the 49ers showed that they can go into the Superdome and win a shootout.

    "I can't rank the Niners ahead of Baltimore after the two teams just played one another," Davenport said. "But San Francisco is a more complete team than the Ravens. In fact, San Francisco is the most complete team in the league this year."

    "The 49ers aren't just about the defense or the running game," Gagnon chipped in. "In their last seven games, Jimmy Garoppolo has a 113.6 passer rating and the 49ers are averaging 34.4 points per game. I think they have the highest ceiling in the league, simply because they can beat you in such a wide variety of ways."

1. Baltimore Ravens (11-2)

32 of 32

    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    High: 1

    Low: 1

    Last Week: 1

    Week 14 Result: Won at Buffalo 24-17

    The Baltimore Ravens are in the playoffs, clinching a postseason berth by virtue of Sunday's victory in Buffalo. But after reeling off nine straight wins to move to 11-2, it's a safe bet that Baltimore's aspirations in 2019 go way past just getting in the playoffs.

    Just as he has for most of the season, quarterback Lamar Jackson was fantastic against the Bills. The raw stats don't show it—Jackson was limited to under 200 combined yards. But the second-year star threw three touchdown passes and became just the second quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

    The Ravens have been impressive most of the year, but the defense has been much improved in recent weeks. Against the Bills, Baltimore surrendered just 209 total yards and gave up just four third-down conversions on 17 attempts.

    That defense has cracked the top 10 for the season in yards allowed, and now that the Ravens are playing at an elite level on both sides of the ball, they are the toughest out in the NFL.