NFL Power Rankings: B/R's Consensus Rank for Every Team Entering Week 16
The NFL playoff picture is coming into focus.
OK, it is coming into focus in some places. In others, things are more confusing than ever.
Thanks to wins in Week 15, the Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills have punched their tickets to the playoffs. With a victory in Cleveland on Sunday, the Ravens can lock up home-field advantage.
On the NFC side, the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles all notched wins—setting up huge matchups in the NFC East and NFC North in Week 16.
Cowboys-Eagles is essentially a playoff game all its own.
Home-field advantage on the NFC side is cloudier than ever, though, after the Atlanta Falcons stunned the San Francisco 49ers at the last second. The Niners, New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks all sit at 11-3 with two to play.
That race looks headed down to the wire.
Another week of showdowns and surprises has shaken up the league's pecking order from top bottom. And just as they have every week this season, Bleacher Report NFL analysts Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski have gathered to sort through the teams from worst to first.
The bread on this power-rankings sandwich has stayed the same for a while now.
But the filling's all over the place—again.
Adam Lefkoe and Brian Westbrook are back at it again in the studio to break down all you need to know from Week 15 in the NFL. The AFC East is still up for grabs, the Cowboys are clicking after routing the Rams, Lefkoe lays out the path to a Seahawks Super Bowl appearance, Westbrook gives insight into the current state of the Eagles, and more right here on The Lefkoe Show!
32. Cincinnati Bengals (1-13)
Last Week: 32
Week 15 Result: Lost vs. New England 34-13
For a time, it looked like the one-win Cincinnati Bengals were going to give the reigning Super Bowl champs a game Sunday. Thanks largely to the running of tailback Joe Mixon, they led at the outset of quarter No. 2.
Then they remembered something. Something depressing. Horrifying. Truly awful.
They are the Cincinnati Bengals.
The wheels came off in the second half. The defense disappointed for what feels like the 45th game in a row. Quarterback Andy Dalton was abysmal, passing for just 151 yards with four interceptions—including a pick-six.
It was a miserable performance in a season filled with miserable performances, and the loss gets the Bengals one step closer to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft.
Given how Dalton played against the Patriots, the smart money is likely on LSU quarterback (and recent Heisman Trophy winner) Joe Burrow for that first selection.
The poor kid. Makes you feel for him.
31. Detroit Lions (3-10-1)
Last Week: 28
Week 15 Result: Lost vs. Tampa Bay 38-17
The Lions are having a very Detroit season.
The offense has been torn to pieces by injuries. The team has lost, in no particular order, its starting quarterback (Matthew Stafford), second-string quarterback (Jeff Driskel), starting tailback (Kerryon Johnson), reserve tailback (Bo Scarbrough), No. 2 wide receiver (Marvin Jones Jr.) and starting tight end (T.J. Hockenson).
That's not a comprehensive list. And it's gone about like you'd expect.
The defense hasn't been bitten as badly by the injury bug; it's just terrible. The Lions allowed 495 yards in a blowout loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday, including over 458 through the air to quarterback Jameis Winston.
After starting the season 2-0-1, Detroit has dropped 10 of 11 games—including seven in a row. A season that showed promise in September has come completely off the rails by December. And the seat under head coach Matt Patricia grows hotter by the week.
The Lions head to Denver next week before closing out the season at home against the Packers in Week 17.
If 10 of 11 becomes 12 of 13 and the Lions finish with just three wins, it's hard to see Patricia surviving in Detroit.
30. New York Giants (3-11)
Last Week: 31
Week 15 Result: Won vs. Miami 36-20
Sunday at MetLife Stadium, Eli Manning made what will likely be the final home start of his Giants career, leading New York to its first win since Week 4.
That was fitting in a way. So was the fact that the game was vintage Manning—for better and for worse.
The better was two touchdown passes and just eight incompletions in 28 attempts. The worse was three interceptions. It was Manning's past few seasons in a 60-minute nutshell.
The nostalgia of a Manning victory was nice for New York's beleaguered fanbase. Even better was seeing Saquon Barkley top 100 rushing yards to break an eight-game streak of mediocrity.
If Big Blue wants to win the Chase Young sweepstakes, however, it needs to knock off that winning nonsense over the last two weeks. Young may have said he's planning on going back to school in 2020, but we'll eat our sneakers if it actually happens.
You've come this far and been this bad, Giants. Don't blow it now.
29. Washington Redskins (3-11)
Last Week: 29
Week 15 Result: Lost vs. Philadelphia 37-27
From a results-based standpoint, Sunday's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles was just one more setback in a season filled with them. The Redskins are in the midst of their worst campaign since 2014 and are in danger of tying the franchise record for losses in a season.
However, Week 15 held glimpses of what the future might hold. Rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins continues to improve, passing for 261 yards and two touchdowns and posting a passer rating of over 120. First-year wide receiver Terry McLaurin continued stating his case to be Offensive Rookie of the Year, catching five balls for 130 yards and a score.
The Redskins have a ways to go before being a factor in the NFC East. Big changes are on tap in 2020—including a new head coach after the organization fired Jay Gruden in October. But Washington has been much more competitive over the past month after a 1-9 start, and the losses the team has suffered were both close.
It might be a small step, but it's one in the right direction.
"Washington is doing everything right down the stretch," Sobleski said. "Yeah, I know. Unbelievable, right? But the team is developing Haskins and turning McLaurin into its top offensive option. On top of that, the team continues to lose, which means it's not sacrificing draft positioning while still achieving growth among the franchise's young building blocks."
28. Oakland Raiders (6-8)
Last Week: 22
Week 15 Result: Lost vs. Jacksonville 20-16
On Sunday, the Oakland Raiders played their final game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
It was a performance as depressing as the Raiders leaving town altogether. After Oakland led most of the way, the defense crumbled in crunch time, allowing the game-winning touchdown with less than a minute left.
For Gagnon, it wasn't a surprise—it simply exposed that the Raiders are frauds.
"Their 6-7 record [heading into Week 15] was misleading because all six wins came by one score, and they're really not even a mediocre team," he said. "The fans deserved better than that choke job in the Raiders' final game in Oakland. These franchise will need to make major changes in order to capture hearts in Las Vegas."
There will be a honeymoon in Sin City—a period in which the newness of the Silver and Black will keep the team in the town's good graces. But after the NHL's expansion Golden Knights made a run to the Stanley Cup Final in the first year of existence, mediocrity will wear thin quickly.
For longtime fans of the Raiders, it did years ago.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-9)
Last Week: 30
Week 15 Result: Won at Oakland 20-16
Well, at least the Jaguars stopped their free-fall.
After losing five straight games by at least 17 points (including a 45-10 shellacking at the hands of the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 14), they were able to stop their skid with a come-from-behind win over the Raiders.
The bigger question now is whether that victory means anything.
The Jaguars managed just 262 yards of offense against a bad Oakland defense. The running game continued to flounder, gaining a meager 77 yards on 22 carries.
If the Jaguars were playing a better team, they likely would have lost their sixth straight contest.
Jacksonville will enter the offseason as the clear No. 4 team in the AFC South and with veteran quarterback Nick Foles riding the bench after he signed a four-year, $88 million deal last offseason. Change is all but certainly coming at head coach, and there are questions galore on both sides of the ball.
The Jaguars are not a good team. Beating the Raiders doesn't change that.
26. Miami Dolphins (3-11)
Last Week: 26
Week 15 Result: Lost at New York Giants 36-20
In a season of lows for the rebuilding Miami Dolphins, the team may have hit a new one: a 16-point loss to a Giants team that had dropped nine games in a row.
However, the defeat is indicative of a harsh reality. The Dolphins possess the least talented roster as they are presently constructed.
They can't run the ball even a little—their leading rusher is 37-year-old quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Miami can't stop the run either. Saquon Barkley had his first 100-yard game since September.
The thing is, none of this is a surprise. After the Dolphins started jettisoning players like offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick for draft picks, it was clear they were embarking on a ground-up rebuild and were going to stink in 2019.
Give credit where it's due. When the Dolphins set out to stink, they stink.
Even so, though, this team has moxie and some spunk. The Dolphins play hard and have two wins over teams ranked above them here.
Now they just need talent. Lots of talent.
25. New York Jets (5-9)
Last Week: 23
Week 15 Result: Lost at Baltimore 42-21
The 2019 campaign has been a roller-coaster ride for the New York Jets. Over the first half of the season, a team that was chewed to pieces by injuries lost seven of eight. Since that Week 9 loss to the then-winless Dolphins, however—quarterback Sam Darnold's fourth contest back in his return from mononucleosis—the Jets have quietly gone 4-2.
That hot streak offered at least a modicum of hope for the future, but a blowout loss to Baltimore served as a stark reminder of just how far the Jets have to go to become a contender.
It's going to be an interesting offseason in New York. The team's two biggest free-agent acquisitions of 2019 (linebacker C.J. Mosley and tailback Le'Veon Bell) did next to nothing in their first season with the team. SNY's Ralph Vacchiano reported this month that Bell and safety Jamal Adams could be on the trade block this offseason.
Never a dull moment in the Big Apple.
24. Los Angeles Chargers (5-9)
Last Week: 21
Week 15 Result: Lost vs. Minnesota 39-10
For most of the 2019 campaign, the Los Angeles Chargers have been the masters of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. All eight of their losses entering Week 15 had been by single digits.
Against the Minnesota Vikings, that was not the case. The Chargers played their worst game of the season, committing seven turnovers in a rout that ensures they will finish with a losing record after winning 12 games a year ago.
Per ESPN's Eric Williams, head coach Anthony Lynn was blunt in his assessment of the team's performance.
"Seven turnovers," Lynn said. "We got our asses kicked in all three phases. Any questions?"
The question now becomes: What will the Chargers do next? Lynn's future appears to be uncertain. The contract of quarterback Philip Rivers, 38, expires after the season.
Will L.A. try one more run with the current regime or hit the reset button after a disappointing year?
That question looms large as the team prepares to move into its new stadium in 2020.
23. Carolina Panthers (5-9)
Last Week: 24
Week 15 Result: Lost vs. Seattle 30-24
The 2019 season can't end soon enough for the Carolina Panthers.
Sunday's loss to the Seattle Seahawks was depressingly similar to other showings in what's become a six-game skid. Tailback Christian McCaffrey was fantastic, picking up 175 total yards, scoring twice and becoming the first player in franchise history to amass 2,000 scrimmage yards in a season.
And….that was about it.
Chris Carson gashed the Carolina run defense for 133 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. Cornerback Donte Jackson spent most of the afternoon getting roasted by Tyler Lockett. And quarterback Kyle Allen continued staking his claim to the title of the NFC South's worst signal-caller, throwing three interceptions and fumbling once. It looks like rookie Will Grier will make his first NFL start Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.
The Panthers' struggles have already gotten head coach Ron Rivera fired. More changes are coming this offseason.
The idea of keeping around Cam Newton for at least one more year has looked better and better the more Allen has played. It's either that or a complete reset at quarterback—Allen is truly not the guy.
22. Arizona Cardinals (4-9-1)
Last Week: 27
Week 15 Result: Won vs. Cleveland 38-24
The Arizona Cardinals have had an up-and-down season—one with more downs than ups.
But Sunday in Glendale, they offered a glimpse into a brighter future.
They pummeled the Browns in a 14-point victory, tallying 226 rushing yards on 35 carries for a robust average of 6.5 yards per attempt. Tailback Kenyan Drake had a career day, peeling off 137 yards on 22 totes and finding the end zone four times.
Kyler Murray added 56 yards of his own on the ground, setting a franchise record for rushing yards by a quarterback. But the rookie's 219 yards and a score on 19-of-25 passing was an even bigger cause for optimism.
The Cardinals have a ways to go before they'll be contenders—especially in a loaded NFC West. But Sunday's performance appears to at least indicate that first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury has his young team headed in the right direction.
"It's been a rocky year for a rebuilding Arizona team, but that new offense has at least had some strong performances," Gagnon said. "The Cards have now scored 25 or more points eight times in 14 games, and it looks like they've got the right ingredients for success in 2020."
21. Denver Broncos (5-9)
Last Week: 20
Week 15 Result: Lost at Kansas City 23-3
After Drew Lock led the Denver Broncos to a win over the Chargers and a shocking rout of the Houston Texans, there was quite a bit of buzz surrounding the rookie quarterback.
Sunday in Kansas City, buzz met buzzsaw.
It's not a huge surprise that the Broncos lost at Arrowhead Stadium. Or that Lock struggled in the snow, completing fewer than half of his passes and throwing a pick.
But that performance threw cold water on the notion that Lock is anything more than a first-year quarterback making his third career NFL start.
Denver will head home to close out the season with a pair of what appear to be winnable games against the floundering Lions and reeling Raiders. Those contests may not be that important to the Broncos, but they are huge for Lock.
If he plays well, he will most likely be the team's starting quarterback when camp opens next summer. But if Lock scuffles, general manager John Elway may try the free-agent route again in the spring.
Maybe something in a gently used Manning. Or a scratch-and-dent Dalton.
20. Cleveland Browns (6-8)
Last Week: 19
Week 15 Result: Lost at Arizona 38-24
The Cleveland Browns aren't officially eliminated from the playoffs yet, but a listless loss to the Cardinals that left wide receiver Jarvis Landry yelling at head coach Freddie Kitchens was demonstration No. 612 that showed the team is an undisciplined mess.
Per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Browns reportedly want Kitchens back in 2020 despite this year's underachieving disappointment.
And after the latest setback, the coach said he's not worried about his employment status, per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal: "I don't care about my future as Browns coach. I'm going to show up Monday, and I'm going to do the best job that I can do Monday."
It's the same story week after week. The Browns talk a big game. They come out flat and mistake-prone in a loss. Then they proclaim that all is well despite the near-daily reports of drama surrounding the organization.
This team is a mess. And if Kitchens is coming back next year, it's hard to imagine that changing much.
19. Atlanta Falcons (5-9)
Last Week: 25
Week 15 Result: Won at San Francisco 29-22
My, what could have been.
That's the story of the 2019 Atlanta Falcons. They are a flawed five-win team that will more likely than not make a change from head coach Dan Quinn in the offseason.
Bur after stunning the 49ers in San Francisco on Sunday, the Falcons have defeated two of the top three seeds in the NFC bracket—on the road, no less.
After starting 1-7, they are 4-2 over their last six games, including that pair of quality wins. Per Matthew Tabeek of the team's website, Quinn was impressed by the fight his squad showed at Levi's Stadium:
"That was awesome. At the end, game on the line, those are the moments as a coach you totally live for. [...] We knew we would have to have a good road mentality to come out here. Last couple of times on the road – one at New Orleans, Carolina and here – and you've got to really be connected to make sure you're ready for a fight."
He should be pleased. If the Falcons can win their final two games and finish 7-9, Quinn may just be back for 2020 after all.
18. Indianapolis Colts (6-8)
Last Week: 18
Week 15 Result: Lost at New Orleans 34-7
There was a time when the Indianapolis Colts were a 5-2 team ranked inside the top 10 in these power rankings. Following Monday's game, it's understandable if you don't believe that happened during the 2019 season.
The Colts have fallen completely apart over their past seven games. That 5-2 start has become a 1-6 nosedive. After getting humiliated on national television by the New Orleans Saints, they have officially been eliminated from playoff contention.
Jacoby Brissett's future as the team's starting quarterback will be a hot topic in the offseason, especially since he's struggled mightily of late. But without wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight end Eric Ebron for considerable stretches, Brissett's passing-game weapons are hardly intimidating. Brissett also wasn't playing in the secondary Monday.
Not that anyone for the Colts really was, either.
Indy's last two games (vs. Carolina, at Jacksonville) appear winnable on paper. A .500 season is still within reach.
But given the duration and depth of the Colts' struggles, even that may be a stretch. And in any event, an 8-8 mark would still be viewed as a major letdown after the first half Indianapolis had.
17. Chicago Bears (7-7)
Last Week: 14
Week 15 Result: Lost at Green Bay 21-13
The Chicago Bears were coming off arguably their most impressive victory of the season in Week 14, but there was no time for rest. If the Bears wanted to keep their slim hopes of making the playoffs alive, they needed to go into Lambeau Field and stun the first-place Packers.
The defense held up its end, putting the clamps on Aaron Rodgers and holding the Packers under 300 yards of offense. But as has been the case so often this year, the offense did not. Chicago turned the ball over three times, and the ground game was stuck in neutral—just 3.6 yards per carry.
Chicago is not winning a lot of games in which Mitchell Trubisky attempts 53 passes.
At 7-7, it's all over but the crying for the Bears. They won't be repeating as division champions. Or heading back to the playoffs for a second straight season.
As if that's not bad enough, the Bears' remaining games are brutal—the Chiefs at home next week and then at Minnesota to conclude the season.
Even an 8-8 finish may be hard to pull off. And after a 12-4 2018 season, finishing under .500 would make the Bears one of the more disappointing franchises in 2019.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-7)
Last Week: 16
Week 15 Result: Won at Detroit 38-17
Jameis Winston must be butter, because he's on a roll.
By virtue of his 458-yard, four-touchdown eruption against the Detroit Lions, Winston did something Sunday that had never been done before in the NFL—top 450 passing yards in consecutive games.
It was a continuation of a nice hot streak by both player and team. Winston leads the NFL in passing yards with 4,573 and has a chance to catch Lamar Jackson for the league lead in touchdown passes. Of course, Winston also leads the NFL with 24 interceptions, because, you know, Jameis Winston.
That hot streak isn't going to be enough to get the Buccaneers in the playoffs. But it does appear to show that the Buccaneers aren't that far off.
The question for the franchise now becomes what to do about Winston, who is set to hit free agency next spring. Turnovers continue to be a major problem for the first overall pick in the 2015 draft, but 5,000-yard passers with 30 touchdowns don't so much grow on trees.
Whether it's via an extension or the franchise tag, Winston's odds of being Tampa's starter in 2020 are trending up—big-time.
"Winston is the most beautiful disaster in NFL history," Sobleski said. "Seriously. He became the first quarterback in NFL history with consecutive 450-yard passing games. His eight touchdown passes during that stretch are impressive. The four interceptions aren't. And that's the Buccaneers in a nutshell. They've won four in a row and achieved a .500 record, yet everyone is waiting for the other shoe to fall."
15. Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)
Last Week: 15
Week 15 Result: Won at Washington 37-27
The edict for the Philadelphia Eagles from here on out is simple—win out, and the NFC East is theirs. Lose one more game, and the Eagles can all but kiss any hope of making the playoffs goodbye.
The situation hasn't been made any easier by the injuries that have decimated the Eagles receiving corps. And Washington gave the Eagles all they could handle in a game that was closer than the final score would suggest. But ahead of next week's huge home date with the Dallas Cowboys, Philly held up its end in Week 15 with a gutsy win.
The hero of the game was rookie tailback Miles Sanders. Not only did Sanders pile up 122 rushing yards and a score on the ground, but he was third on the team with six catches, adding 50 yards and another score.
"I don't know that this short-handed Eagles team will be able to hang with the Cowboys next week after getting blasted in Dallas earlier this season," Davenport said. "But Carson Wentz and company deserve some credit for not folding despite every wideout on the team who anyone has ever heard of being hurt."
14. Los Angeles Rams (8-6)
Last Week: 10
Week 15 Result: Lost at Dallas 44-21
In recent weeks, the Los Angeles Rams appeared to have figured it out somewhat. After getting blasted at home by the Baltimore Ravens, the Rams peeled off two impressive wins over the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks. At 8-5, the team had worked its way back into consideration for a wild-card spot.
All that momentum is gone now after getting blown out in Dallas in Week 15. As Gary Klein reported for the Los Angeles Times, star defensive tackle Aaron Donald didn't mince words when describing his team's performance Sunday.
"We played horrible," Donald said. "When you play horrible, you get beat on, you get beat pretty bad. And we got embarrassed."
The loss all but eliminates the Rams from postseason consideration. In addition to winning their last two games of the 2019 season (including Saturday at San Francisco), the Rams need the Minnesota Vikings to lose both of their remaining games.
Neither appears especially likely—and it looks like the dreaded Super Bowl hangover has claimed another victim.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6)
Last Week: 13
Week 15 Result: Lost vs. Buffalo 17-10
That the Pittsburgh Steelers have gotten this far with an offense that has been shredded by injuries is a testament to the coaching job Mike Tomlin has done. Tomlin is the Coach of the Year front-runner.
But the Steelers are also woefully thin at wide receiver and rolling out an undrafted rookie at quarterback.
Those limitations became plainly evident Sunday night against the Bills.
Devlin Hodges had been successful for the Steelers under center in large part because he had avoided mistakes and turnovers. That wasn't the case in Week 15, and his four interceptions were simply too much to overcome.
"The Steelers still have an excellent shot at the playoffs given their remaining schedule—especially with the Ravens likely to have sewn up the No. 1 seed by the time they meet in Week 17," Davenport said. "And Pittsburgh's stout defense and ability to run the ball could keep the Steelers in a postseason matchup. But they just don't have the juice on offense to upset the Chiefs, Patriots or Ravens—and as things stand right now, they'd be in Arrowhead on Wild Card Weekend."
"Oh, quackers," Sobleski quipped. "Devlin Hodges found himself in a real-life rendition of Duck Hunt against a very good Bills defense. Buffalo picked off the undrafted rookie four times. The Steelers defense can't carry them to another championship. Pittsburgh must muster some offense. Unfortunately, it doesn't have a capable triggerman."
12. Dallas Cowboys (7-7)
Last Week: 17
Week 15 Result: Won vs. Los Angeles Rams 44-21
It's been a rough month for the Dallas Cowboys. Heading into Week 15, the Cowboys had lost four of five. A 5-3 first half had devolved into a 6-7 record and dwindling playoff hopes. The future of head coach Jason Garrett was a hotly debated topic on sports talk radio and television shows.
One win over the visiting Rams won't necessarily get the Cowboys into the playoffs. Or save Garrett's job. But in blasting a Rams team that had been playing well of late, Dallas reminded us all that when firing on all cylinders, this team can beat anyone.
The Dallas ground game powered the win. Tailbacks Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott combined for a whopping 248 rushing yards, and the team averaged 5.8 yards per carry.
The win sets up a Week 16 trip to Philadelphia that could define the Cowboys season. Win, and the Cowboys could be a No. 4 seed that no one wants to play in the Wild Card Round.
Lose, and all those doubters and naysayers will fire up the conversation machine.
11. Tennessee Titans (8-6)
Last Week: 9
Week 15 Result: Lost vs. Houston 24-21
Over the past month-and-a-half, there hasn't been a hotter team in the NFL than the Tennessee Titans. But despite six wins in seven games heading into Week 15, the Titans weren't getting a ton of run as a real player in the AFC. Beating the Texans to claim first place in the AFC South might have changed that.
Instead, the Titans are now in very real danger of missing the playoffs altogether—the second year in a row the team would come close only to be turned away at the end.
By virtue of their win Sunday night, the Buffalo Bills have already claimed at least a wild-card spot in the AFC. The Titans sit in the seventh spot thanks to a worse conference record than the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Titans aren't getting any breaks from the schedule-makers, either. Next week, the team hosts a New Orleans Saints team fighting for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. After that is a rematch with the Texans in Houston.
"The worst place to be in the NFL is stuck in the in-between—not quite good enough to make a playoff run, but not bad enough to land a high draft pick," Davenport added. "The Texans need just one win to take the division, and the Steelers finish with a bad Jets team and a Ravens team that may well be resting players in Week 17. As good as the Titans have been since Ryan Tannehill took over at quarterback, Sunday's loss was a season-killer. They aren't going anywhere in two weeks but home for the offseason."
10. Buffalo Bills (10-4)
Last Week: 12
Week 15 Result: Won at Pittsburgh 17-10
On Sunday night in the Steel City, the Buffalo Bills did something they haven't done in two decades—won their 10th game of the season. In doing so, Buffalo locked down its second trip to the postseason in three years.
The Bills did more than that. For the second time this season, the Bills went on the road and beat a team that presently sports a winning record—a talent that will no doubt serve the team well if it makes the postseason as a wild card.
Now, the Bills have an opportunity to do much more than that. To do something that would have sounded impossible not that long ago—take the AFC East.
It's not an especially likely scenario—the Bills need a win at Gillette Stadium next week and for the Patriots to lose to the Miami Dolphins in the season finale. The latter is a lot less likely than the former.
But the fact that the Bills going to Foxborough and beating their AFC East rivals isn't considered laughable is a sign of just how far Buffalo has come.
The Bills are legit.
9. Houston Texans (9-5)
Last Week: 11
Week 15 Result: Won at Tennessee 24-21
Coming off a blowout loss at home to the Denver Broncos, the Houston Texans faced a season-defining moment in Week 15. Win on the road in Tennessee, and the Texans could regain their hold on the AFC South. Lose, and last week's slide could become a spiral.
It was a gut check. A test. And the Texans passed it.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson wasn't great, throwing a pair of red-zone interceptions. But he made plays with both his arm and legs when the need arose. Running back Carlos Hyde was the real hero of the day offensively, turning in a workhorse performance of 104 yards on 26 carries.
Sometimes the truest test of a good team is finding a way to grind out a win when not playing at its best. The Texans were out-gained Sunday and lost the turnover battle—but managed to come out on top.
With the win, next week's trip to Tampa could be a ticket-puncher. Beat the Buccaneers, and regardless of what happens at home against the Titans in Week 17, the Texans would be AFC South champions.
8. Minnesota Vikings (10-4)
Last Week: 8
Week 15 Result: Won at Los Angeles Chargers 39-10
Barring an epic collapse, the Minnesota Vikings are headed back to the postseason in 2019. The Vikes need just one win in their last two games to ensure at least a wild-card berth, and the NFC North title remains in play.
The Vikings stamped their ticket in emphatic fashion Sunday in Los Angeles, forcing seven turnovers in a blowout victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.
As things stand right now, the Vikings may well be on a collision course with familiar adversary. If the Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints finish in a three-way tie, the Saints would drop to the No. 3 seed in the NFC—and potentially face the Vikings in the Wild Card Round.
Anyone for a rematch of the "Minneapolis Miracle?"
"When the Vikings are at full strength and playing like they did on Sunday," Davenport wrote, "Minnesota's capable of peeling off three wins in a row and making it to Miami as the NFC representative in Super Bowl LIV. But short a Green Bay loss to Detroit in Week 17, the Vikings are stuck with a wild-card spot this year."
7. New England Patriots (11-3)
Last Week: 7
Week 15 Result: Won at Cincinnati 34-13
It was a rough week for the defending Super Bowl champions. There were questions swirling around the team after back-to-back losses, the kerfuffle over a team employee videotaping the Bengals sideline in Week 14 and the investigation by the NFL because of it.
Those questions started to amplify when the Patriots entered the second quarter in Cincinnati on Sunday trailing 10-7, but they took the lead just before halftime and then apparently remembered they were playing the Bengals, blasting Cincy 21-3 in the second half.
However, New England's passing-game woes continued. Playing against one of the league's worst defenses, Tom Brady threw for just 128 yards on 15-of-29 passing. The Patriots didn't crack 300 total yards of offense as a team.
In Davenport's opinion, that's cause for real concern.
"You can't ever count the Patriots out," he said, "but this is the most flawed 11-win team in recent memory. The Patriots offense is offensive, and while New England will win the AFC East again and probably hang onto the No. 2 seed in the AFC, it's getting more and more difficult to imagine these Patriots beating Baltimore or Kansas City in the playoffs."
"Obviously, the offense isn't what it used to be, including the play of Brady," Sobleski chimed in. "Yes, the Patriots defense is still ranked No. 1 overall, but there are some cracks. First, the group ranks in the bottom half of the league by allowing 4.3 yards per carry. Also, no one along the defensive line can consistently win one-on-one matchups. This team is still quite good, but not quite as good as it once was."
6. Green Bay Packers (11-3)
Last Week: 6
Week 15 Result: Won vs. Chicago 21-13
Had you said before Sunday's matchup with the Chicago Bears that Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers would complete less than half his passes and tailback Aaron Jones would fail to gain 60 rushing yards, many would have predicted a Bears win.
Both of those things happened. But just as been the case so many times this season, the Packers gutted out a win despite not exactly piling up the style points.
The Packers failed to accrue 300 yards of offense and were out-gained by over 120 yards. But thanks to an opportunistic defense that notched three sacks and forced three turnovers, the Pack got the win they needed to maintain first place in the NFC North.
Still, while Green Bay is tied for the best record in the conference, Davenport's confidence in the Packers is beginning to waver.
"At day's end, winning is all that matters," he said. "But while the Packers are winning, the lack of offensive production (much like with the Patriots) is becoming more and more worrisome. We've already seen these Packers get waxed by the 49ers, and so long as the offense is scuffling, the Packers have the look of a second-tier contender in the NFC."
Of course, if the Packers beat the Vikings for a second time next week and wrap up the division, it will get a little easier to believe in Green Bay.
5. New Orleans Saints (11-3)
Last Week: 5
Week 15 Result: Won vs. Indianapolis 34-7
So, Drew Brees is pretty good at the whole being a quarterback thing.
After losing a heartbreaker at home to the San Francisco 49ers last week, Brees and the Saints took out their frustrations on the Colts Monday night, obliterating Indy to stay tied for the best record in the NFC at 11-3.
All Brees did at the Superdome was complete 29 of 30 pass attempts for 307 yards and four touchdowns. The performance set a pair of records: the highest completion percentage in a game with at least 20 passing attempts and one other record we can't quite remember.
Oh yeah. The most career touchdown passes in the history of the game.
Brees is great. The Saints are great. But there's no margin for error after last week's loss to the Niners. It's not just about getting home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, although that would be huge given how raucous the Superdome gets. It's a matter of avoiding a matchup on Wild Card weekend against (as things stand) a very good Vikings team.
The last two weeks of the 2019 regular season are going to be wild.
4. San Francisco 49ers (11-3)
Last Week: 2
Week 15 Result: Lost vs. Atlanta 29-22
If the San Francisco 49ers come up short of their ultimate goal of a berth in Super Bowl LIV this year, the team may look back on Week 15 as when things went sideways.
Playing against the four-win Falcons, the 49ers just couldn't get untracked offensively. It wasn't that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo played badly. Or that the run game didn't pick up yardage. But San Francisco couldn't sustain drives, converting on just four of 12 third downs. It also had trouble getting the Falcons off the field, allowing seven third-down conversions on 13 tries.
Add in two turnovers and seven penalties, and you have the ingredients for the upset loss that dropped the 49ers from the NFC's No. 1 seed and home field throughout the playoffs to the No. 5 seed and a trip to Dallas to face the Cowboys on Wild Card Weekend.
"Atlanta presented a bit of a trap for the 49ers, who remain a Super Bowl contender but have looked dominant in only one game since October," Gagnon said. "I do wonder if a multitude of key injuries are catching up with them."
3. Seattle Seahawks (11-3)
Last Week: 4
Week 15 Result: Won at Carolina 30-24
There was good news and bad news Sunday for the Seattle Seahawks.
The good news was that Seattle's six-point win in Charlotte, coupled with Atlanta's upset of the 49ers, thrusts the Seahawks back into first place in the NFC West and into the thick of the conversation to be the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.
There's quite a bit of difference between getting a week off and having to travel to face a talented (if inconsistent) Dallas Cowboys team on the road in the Wild Card Round.
The bad news is that victory may have come at a steep cost. Both inside linebacker Bobby Wagner and safety Quandre Diggs left the game with ankle injuries, potentially placing the availability of the team's best defensive player and best defensive back in jeopardy ahead of a pivotal home tilt next week against the Arizona Cardinals.
Wagner, for his part, has already stated he plans to "ignore" his injury. Because, you know, he's Bobby Wagner.
Seattle might be able to beat a four-win Cardinals team without Wagner and Diggs, but it will be all hands on deck the following week.
The regular season concludes with a home game against the Niners that could have massive postseason implications.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)
Last Week: 3
Week 15 Result: Won vs. Denver 23-3
The Kansas City Chiefs are hitting their stride at the right time.
Playing at a snowy Arrowhead Stadium in Week 15, the Chiefs put forth arguably their most complete effort of the season's second half in dismantling the Denver Broncos.
Patrick Mahomes and the passing game were lethally efficient. Both wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce had big days, and Mahomes threw for 340 yards and posted a passer rating of 115.7.
The defense was just as good, allowing just 251 yards of total offense and permitting just five third-down conversions in 14 attempts while forcing a turnover and sacking rookie quarterback Drew Lock twice.
The Chiefs have already sewn up the AFC West. But Kansas City has its sights set much higher than that—the team is just one game back of New England for the No. 2 seed in the AFC and has the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Kansas City boasts a win over the Ravens this season as well, and with the Chiefs playing well on both sides of the ball, they're the most likely candidate to prevent Baltimore's coronation as the kings of the AFC in January.
1. Baltimore Ravens (12-2)
Last Week: 1
Week 15 Result: Won vs. New York Jets 42-21
There were five quarterbacks selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft. Of that quintet, Lamar Jackson was the last taken—with the final pick of the round.
In retrospect, um, oops.
It has essentially become a foregone conclusion that Jackson is going to be named the 2019 MVP. He's been impossible to defend this season, and Week 15 was no exception. In a rout of the New York Jets, he threw five touchdown passes for the third time this season. He also gained 86 yards on the ground, pushing him over 1,100 for the season and past Mike Vick for the most rushing yards by a quarterback in a season in NFL history.
Entering Sunday's action, Jackson's 1,103 rushing yards ranked fifth in the NFL. His 33 touchdown passes lead the league. And the Ravens have won 10 in a row and look nigh unstoppable.
If the Ravens avenge their last loss next week in Cleveland, they will sew up home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
"At this point," Gagnon wrote, "the Ravens are the best team in the NFL by a significant margin. They've got the best player in the league, and there are very few weak spots. They've now won 10 consecutive games by an average margin of 18.0 points."