NFL Power Rankings: B/R's Consensus Rank for Every Team Entering Week 17
Sixteen down, one to go.
There's only one more Sunday of NFL action between now and the end of the regular season. The NFL's second season will soon begin, as 12 teams vie for an invitation to Super Bowl LIV in Miami.
Five of the six spots in both conferences have already been locked up. All that remains undecided is the NFC East champion and the No. 6 seed on the AFC side.
However, who slots where remains to be seen.
The Baltimore Ravens have secured the top seed on the AFC side, but the other AFC team getting a bye won't be known until Sunday. When the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks meet in Week 17, the winner could be the NFC's top seed. The loser will be playing on Wild Card Weekend in either Philadelphia or Dallas.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, we now know which team will be on the clock with the first overall pick in the 2020 draft.
As has been the case every week this season, Bleacher Report NFL analysts Brent Sobleski, Gary Davenport and Brad Gagnon have gathered to sort through a week that contained a huge meeting in Philly, an AFC East clincher at Gillette Stadium and a stunning upset in Seattle.
Here's how they view the NFL's pecking order after 16 weeks.
32. Cincinnati Bengals (1-14)
Last Week: 32
Week 16 Rest: Lost at Miami 38-35 (OT)
For a moment Sunday, it looked like the Cincinnati Bengals might actually mess around and win a game. After falling way behind early, the Bengals mounted a frantic comeback—including 16 unanswered points in the final minute of regulation.
The fact that the comeback eventually came up short was likely a blessing in disguise. At this point in a lost season, the only "win" that mattered for the Bengals was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft.
The loss to Miami guaranteed it. Regardless of what happens in Week 17, the Bengals will make the first selection in April's draft.
The question now is who they'll spend it on.
Ohio State edge-rusher Chase Young will be tempting, but he wouldn't fill a huge area of need. What is—especially if the Bengals move on from Andy Dalton in the offseason—is quarterback.
If only there was a Heisman Trophy-winning signal-caller who grew up in southern Ohio in this year's class.
"You did it, Bengals! Congrats! You earned the No. 1 overall pick while simultaneously not giving up on your first-year head coach. If a team is going to tank a season, this is how it's done," Sobleski wrote.
31. Detroit Lions (3-11-1)
Last Week: 31
Week 16 Result: Lost at Denver 27-17
Earlier this week, the Detroit Lions announced they will be bringing back head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn for 2020. However, team owner Martha Ford indicated that the Lions need to make tangible improvement moving forward, per ESPN's Michael Rothstein.
"We expect to be a playoff contender, and those are our expectations," Ford said. "Which we've expressed to both Bob and to Matt."
After watching Detroit's 10-point loss in Denver, it's difficult to imagine these Lions contending for much of anything. They did have a 10-point lead at one point in the game, but they managed only 191 yards of total offense.
The return of a healthy Matthew Stafford at quarterback next season would be a big plus, but it's become apparent that the Lions need to start focusing on a plan of succession under center.
That's only one item on a 2020 to-do list that's seemingly growing by the week.
30. Washington Redskins (3-12)
Last Week: 29
Week 16 Rest: Lost vs. New York Giants 41-35 (OT)
The good news for the Washington Redskins is that Sunday's overtime loss to the New York Giants moves them into the No. 2 slot in the 2020 NFL draft.
The even better news was that rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins appears to have avoided a major injury after getting carted off early in the second half.
Haskins—who got off to a great start against the Giants—said he hopes to play when Washington wraps up the regular season Sunday against Dallas, per Grant Gordon of NFL.com.
"I want to play and if I can, I will," Haskins said. "Just an ankle sprain."
However, the Redskins should play it safe with their young signal-caller. Haskins has gotten better as he has gained experience, but he isn't especially mobile even on a good day.
Letting him play on a bad wheel is a needless risk for a three-win team.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10)
Last Week: 27
Week 16 Rest: Lost at Atlanta 24-12
The Jacksonville Jaguars are officially reeling.
They dropped five games in a row by at least 17 points before stunning the Raiders in Oakland in Week 15. But against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, they went right back to losing by double digits.
Little has gone right for the Jaguars of late, and Week 16 was no different. Quarterback Gardner Minshew II went only 13-of-31 for 185 yards. Running back Leonard Fournette had a modest 71 yards on 15 carries. And Jacksonville's floundering defense allowed a whopping 518 yards.
The Jaguars fired executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin on Wednesday, but they're leaning toward retaining head coach Doug Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
But if the Jaguars lose for the seventh time in eight games Sunday against the Colts, team owner Shad Khan may decide bigger changes are needed.
28. New York Giants (4-11)
Last Week: 30
Week 16 Rest: Won at Washington 41-35 (OT)
Danny Dimes is back, baby!
In a wild affair where defense was optional, Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones had himself a day, racking up 352 passing yards and five scores without an interception. He was also buoyed by tailback Saquon Barkley, who piled up 279 total yards and scored twice.
The Giants racked up 552 yards of total offense. It was a glimpse into what New York could be capable of offensively in the future—a reason for real optimism.
Now they just need to do something about a defense that allowed 361 yards and 35 points to one of the league's worst offenses.
It wasn't all smiles for the Giants in Week 16, though. By virtue of the win, the Giants ceded the inside track to second overall pick in April's draft to their NFC East rivals.
Considering that pick figures to be Ohio State edge-rusher Chase Young (if he enters the draft), it's a relatively high price to pay for an otherwise meaningless win.
27. Miami Dolphins (4-11)
Last Week: 26
Week 16 Rest: Won vs. Cincinnati 38-35 (OT)
It's hard to give the Miami Dolphins too much credit for their Week 16 win over the bumbling Bengals. The Dolphins led by 28-6 in the third quarter and 35-19 in the fourth quarter, only to allow a wild comeback that sent the contest into overtime.
Still, the Dolphins were able to gut out a win. That's a good word to describe much of Miami's season—gutsy.
The Dolphins are not a good team. In fact, they may be the least talented team in the NFL. But after starting the season with seven consecutive losses, the Dolphins have gone 4-4 over their past eight games. The team has played hard for first-year head coach Brian Flores, and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has quietly had a good enough season that the Dolphins may want to bring him back for 2020.
Miami is in the early stages of a ground-up rebuild. Those take time, and there are going to be more than a few bumps along the way. But the Dolphins have also flashed glimmers of hope this season.
For now, that will have to be enough.
26. Carolina Panthers (5-10)
Last Week: 23
Week 16 Rest: Lost at Indianapolis 38-6
For the second straight season, the Carolina Panthers have imploded.
In 2018, they went 6-2 over the first half of the season, only to lose seven straight games and finish the year at 7-9. It was even worse this season: The Panthers went 5-3 over the first half and haven't won since.
Rookie Will Grier became Carolina's third starting quarterback of the season in Week 16, throwing for 224 yards and tossing three picks. It was an inauspicious NFL debut, but veteran tight end Greg Olsen said you can't judge the youngster by the stats.
"(Grier) was thrown into an impossible situation," Olsen said, via Alaina Getzenberg of the Charlotte Observer. "Two games left in a season where there's been countless issues and now, throw him out there, play incompetent football around him—it's impossible to get any sort of judgment based on his performance today."
Cam Newton's future with the team is unclear. Kyle Allen fell apart as the season wore on. And Grier didn't exactly tear it up his first time out.
The quarterback position has become quite the conundrum in Carolina.
25. Los Angeles Chargers (5-10)
Last Week: 24
Week 16 Result: Lost vs. Oakland 24-17
The Los Angeles Chargers have suffered loss after loss in front of another team's fans in their own building. Having to use a silent count because of crowd noise at a "home" game has officially gotten on quarterback Philip Rivers' nerves.
"Being someone that remembers what it used to be like at home games, it's pretty bad," Rivers told reporters. "So, again, you appreciate the Chargers fans that are out there. It's disheartening to say the least."
Rivers may not have to deal with that ignominy anymore, and not just because the Chargers are moving into a new stadium. As a disappointing five-win season comes to a close, it's unclear whether the team plans to bring him back in 2020.
ESPN's Eric Williams reported Monday that Rivers wants to play next year—whether it's in L.A. or elsewhere.
"I'm capable enough physically and mentally, there's no question," Rivers said Sunday. "Yes, I do want to play football. I do, and that's how I feel deep down as I stand here."
The question now becomes whether that feeling is mutual.
24. Cleveland Browns (6-9)
Last Week: 20
Week 16 Rest: Lost vs. Baltimore 31-15
Entering the 2019 season, the Cleveland Browns were in the eye of a hurricane of hype.
As it turned out, the team just blows.
After getting handled by the Ravens at home, the Browns have officially been eliminated from playoff consideration. Rather than improve on last year's 7-8-1 record after an offseason of big-name pickups, the Browns actually took a step backward in 2019.
Sunday's game was a microcosm of their entire season. Offensive inconsistency. Poor play-calling. Penalties. As has been the case all year long, the Browns find new and inventive ways to self-destruct on a weekly basis.
It's been ugly—and there's been nothing to indicate that might change any time soon.
"Freddie Kitchens isn't solely to blame Cleveland's disappointing season," Davenport wrote. "But the lousy play-calling and complete lack of discipline is absolutely on the first-year head coach. Kitchens is out of his depth, and if the Browns have any sense, they will admit they made a mistake and move on. In other words, Kitchens will be the head coach of another losing Browns team in 2020."
"Stick a fork in Freddie Kitchens, because he's done," Sobleski added. "The Browns are almost certainly going to make another coaching change after a severely disappointing campaign. That's OK in this case, because it would be admitting a mistake while trying to do what's best for a talented roster that should be far better than 6-9."
23. Oakland Raiders (7-8)
Last Week: 28
Week 16 Result: Won at Los Angeles Chargers 24-17
The Oakland Raiders are somehow still alive in the playoff race.
To keep their faint playoff hopes alive in Week 16, the Raiders needed a handful of things to happen, including a win on the road over the disappointing Los Angeles Chargers. And all of those dominoes did in fact fall into place.
Derek Carr was an efficient 26-of-30 for 291 yards and a touchdown, tailback DeAndre Washington was a capable fill-in for Josh Jacobs, and rookie Hunter Renfrow tallied the first 100-yard game of his collegiate or pro career.
In addition, the Ravens beat the Browns. The Jets beat the Steelers. The Saints beat the Titans. And the Colts beat the Panthers.
Oakland needed all that to happen.
In Week 17, it's just as complicated. In addition to a win in Denver, the Raiders need the Ravens to beat the Steelers, the Texans to beat the Titans and the Colts to beat the Jaguars.
So, yes, we're saying there's a chance.
22. New York Jets (6-9)
Last Week: 25
Week 16 Result: Won vs. Pittsburgh 16-10
For the most part, the New York Jets have had a miserable season. They were hit hard by injuries on both sides of the ball, and their big offseason acquisitions—tailback Le'Veon Bell and linebacker C.J. Mosley—have been major disappointments.
Well, misery loves company, and the Jets were able to spread some around in Week 16. They pushed the Pittsburgh Steelers to the brink of postseason elimination with a 16-10 win.
The Jets didn't play especially well—they had only 259 yards of total offense and averaged less than three yards per carry. But a Pittsburgh offense that has been ravaged by injuries was even worse.
The Jets now head to Buffalo to face a Bills team that is locked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC and may rest players. Finishing 7-9 is a real possibility.
Given the totality of the circumstances, that would be a legitimate success.
21. Arizona Cardinals (5-9-1)
Last Week: 22
Week 16 Result: Won at Seattle 27-13
The Arizona Cardinals won't make the playoffs in 2019. But they have shown tangible signs of progress in Kliff Kingsbury's first season as head coach, highlighted by Sunday's impressive victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
On offense, rookie quarterback Kyler Murray has been solid in his debut season. Tailback Kenyan Drake has been a revelation, averaging over 150 rushing yards and three scores per game over the past two weeks. Murray left Sunday's game with a hamstring injury, but that didn't stop the Redbirds from getting the W.
Defensively, linebacker Jordan Hicks has stayed healthy and ranks fifth in the NFL with 136 total tackles. Edge-rusher Chandler Jones is pacing the NFL with 19 sacks after erupting for four against the Seahawks. Safety Budda Baker ranks second in the league with 96 solo stops.
After another offseason of development and talent acquisition, there's reason to believe that the Cardinals could be a real factor in the NFC West in 2020.
"Arizona could be a sleeper contender in 2020," Gagnon said. "I love the progress they've made on offense in the first year for both Kyler Murray and Kliff Kinsgbury, and even the much-maligned defense has stepped up with several non-embarrassing performances in a row."
That division is going to be loaded next year.
20. Denver Broncos (6-9)
Last Week: 21
Week 16 Result: Won vs. Detroit 27-17
The Denver Broncos have an opportunity Sunday against the Oakland Raiders: It's their chance to avoid a third straight 10-loss season for the first time in a half-century.
The Broncos were granted that opportunity thanks to a 10-point win over the shorthanded Detroit Lions team in Week 16.
On the surface, it wasn't the most impressive of wins. But for the third time in four games with rookie Drew Lock under center, the Broncos found a way to win.
Head coach Vic Fangio continues to be impressed by Lock, per Aric DiLalla of the team's website.
"I thought Drew played well. It's the first time he's had a comeback victory. He's had a lot of stuff happen here the last two weeks—playing in the poor conditions against a really good team on the road, now getting down 10-nothing, not moving it very well offensively, having a punt return against you, which can kind of deflate you. I thought it was a good game for Drew."
Lock has staked a compelling claim to the starting job for the Broncos. If he can beat the Raiders and finish 4-1 as a starter, it will be a fait accompli that he'll keep that job next season.
"Rookie Drew Lock helped lead the Broncos to a 3-1 record since he took over the offense," Sobleski said. "The victories are nice, but something far more important is happening: The Broncos can now go into the offseason knowing they have their guy at quarterback and start building around him."
19. Chicago Bears (7-8)
Last Week: 17
Week 16 Result: Lost vs. Kansas City 26-3
The Chicago Bears' Week 16 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs just about sums up their wildly disappointing 2019 season.
They played relatively well defensively, allowing only 350 total yards to one of the NFL's most prolific offenses. But a letdown and lapse in focus at the worst possible moments led to the Chiefs scoring 26 points.
Meanwhile, a Bears offense that has struggled at times this season couldn't get untracked. The ground game managed a respectable 4.6 yards per carry, but the Bears had little recourse but to abandon it once they fell behind. The passing game was barely passable, producing a measly 133 yards and 3.6 yards per attempt.
The ugly home finale brings Chicago one loss closer to the end of a massive letdown campaign after going 12-4 and winning the NFC North in 2018.
To get back into contention in 2020, the Bears will need to make some major improvements on offense.
18. Atlanta Falcons (6-9)
Last Week: 19
Week 16 Rest: Won vs. Jacksonville 24-12
If only the Atlanta Falcons hadn't taken the first half of the 2019 season off.
After starting the season 1-7, the Falcons have gone 5-2 over their last seven games, including a thrilling Week 15 win in San Francisco. They handled a reeling Jaguars team Sunday and now have a shot at finishing the year 7-9.
Embattled Falcons head coach Dan Quinn told reporters after the game that it was important for the Falcons to close out strong at home.
"We wanted to close out our home season for our fans and represent certainly in a way that we could," Quinn said. "We were able to do that today."
The bigger question now is whether Atlanta's late surge will be enough to save Quinn's job and prevent major offseason changes.
"The Falcons have shown over the last month-and-a-half just how much talent they have on the roster," Davenport said. "But it also begs the question of just what the heck happened over the first half of the season. The Falcons couldn't buy a win in September or October, but they look like a playoff team in December. That inconsistency is maddening."
"I think they've done enough to save Quinn's job," Gagnon countered. "I'm not sure that's a good thing, but it's entirely possible they were galvanized about midway through this season. They certainly have the talent to contend in 2020, and we might have to start viewing them that way."
17. Indianapolis Colts (7-8)
Last Week: 18
Week 16 Rest: Won vs. Carolina 38-6
The Indianapolis Colts have been struggling in the passing game as of late, and those struggles continued in Week 16 against the Carolina Panthers. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett went 14-of-27 for only 118 yards.
And it didn't matter at all.
The Colts gashed the Panthers' marshmallow-soft run defense, piling up over 200 yards and averaging over six yards per carry. The Indy defense hauled in three interceptions and notched five sacks. And Indianapolis tailback Nyheim Hines took a pair of punts to the house.
Add it all together, and you have arguably Indy's most emphatic win of the year. It came too late to help get the Colts into the postseason, but they'll have a chance Sunday in Jacksonville to at least finish the season at .500.
Given Andrew Luck's stunning retirement just before the season and the injuries that have taken a toll on the Colts on both sides of the ball, an 8-8 season wouldn't be too shabby.
16. Dallas Cowboys (7-8)
Last Week: 12
Week 16 Result: Lost at Philadelphia 17-9
The collapse is complete.
The Dallas Cowboys have been a roller-coaster ride all year. There have been winning streaks and fantastic performances. Losing skids and disappearing acts. It's been enough to give you whiplash.
For all of the ups and downs, the Cowboys still had a clear path to the playoffs. After pasting the Eagles in Dallas earlier this season, a second win over a nicked-up Philadelphia squad in Week 16 would give the Cowboys the NFC East title.
Dallas managed only 311 yards of total offense and mustered only 54 rushing yards. The Cowboys also allowed over 300 yards through the air and couldn't put any pressure on Carson Wentz.
"This has to be the end of Jason Garrett's tenure as head coach in Dallas," Davenport said. "The Cowboys have as much talent on paper on both sides of the ball as any team in the NFC. That this team is 7-8 is all the evidence needed to justify terminating the coach. Talk about doing less with more."
"Goodbye, Jason Garrett," Gagnon added. "This Dallas team is far too talented to have a losing record, and not even a terrible division will save Garrett. Dallas is now 4-8 after a fool's gold 3-0 start. Time to move on."
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7)
Last Week: 13
Week 16 Result: Lost at New York Jets 16-10
For much of the 2019 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been one of the NFL's more surprising success stories. They had managed to stay in the AFC playoff hunt despite being decimated by injuries on offense.
On Sunday in New York, those injuries appear to have caught up with them.
One week after throwing four interceptions in a loss to the Buffalo Bills, rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges tossed two more picks and got benched—only to be re-inserted into the game when Mason Rudolph got hurt. The Pittsburgh rushing attack managed only 75 yards and three yards per carry.
The Steelers' playoff hopes aren't entirely dead, and they face a Ravens team Sunday that has already sewn up the top seed in the AFC and will be resting numerous starters, per ESPN's Jamison Hensley. But they no longer control their own destiny.
Even if the Steelers do make it into the postseason, it's likely to be a short stay given how flat they looked in Week 16.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-8)
Last Week: 16
Week 16 Result: Lost vs. Houston 23-20
In Weeks 14 and 15, Tampa bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston became the first player in NFL history to throw for 450-plus yards in consecutive games.
Against the Houston Texans on Saturday, Winston offered up a sobering reminder of why his future in Tampa is son uncertain.
With four more interceptions (including a pick-six) in Week 16, Winston now has a staggering 28 picks for the season. If he throws two more against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 17, he will make NFL history, as no quarterback has ever thrown 30 or more touchdowns and 30 or more interceptions in the same year.
There's no question what the dominant offseason storyline will be for the Buccaneers. For every pundit and/or fan who thinks that Winston's big arm merits bringing him back, there's one who thinks all of the turnovers are a deal-breaker that can't be overlooked.
"There's no easy answer for the Buccaneers at quarterback in 2020," Davenport said. "There aren't going to be any free agents available who are significant upgrades over Winston, and Tampa won't have a high enough pick to sniff the bigger names in the 2020 draft. With that said, you can't commit long-term money to a player who can't stop turning the ball over. So the Bucs will tag Winston and go through this past season all over again next year."
13. Los Angeles Rams (8-7)
Last Week: 14
Week 16 Result: Lost at San Francisco 34-31
The Super Bowl hangover has claimed another victim. By virtue of Saturday's three-point loss in San Francisco, the Los Angeles Rams are officially eliminated from postseason consideration.
After a resounding 28-12 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 14, it looked like the Rams might keep their hopes of a return trip to the playoffs alive. But as has been the case so many times this year, they couldn't quite seal the deal.
There isn't one single area to blame for the Rams' backslide in 2019. It was a combination of problems. The offensive line struggled, and a result, quarterback Jared Goff and tailback Todd Gurley II did as well. The defense would look good one week and awful the next, including allowing almost 40 points per game in losses each of the last two weeks.
This disappointing campaign sets up a tricky offseason for the Rams. They don't have much salary-cap space with which to work, and they're staring down the barrel of a massive extension for cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The trade that brought Ramsey to L.A. cost the Rams their 2020 first-round pick.
Improving the roster isn't going to be easy.
12. Tennessee Titans (8-7)
Last Week: 11
Week 16 Rest: Lost vs. New Orleans 38-28
An NFL team's playoff chances rarely increase despite a loss. But that's exactly what happened to the Tennessee Titans in Week 16.
Since Pittsburgh lost to the New York Jets, the Titans now control their own destiny. If they win against the AFC South champion Texans on Sunday, they will be the AFC's No. 6 seed.
Early in Sunday's matchup with the New Orleans Saints, it appeared that the Titans has already shaken off last week's loss to Houston. But after scoring the first 14 points of the game, the Titans were blasted 38-14 the rest of the way.
The Titans played this game without Pro Bowl running back Derrick Henry, but head coach Mike Vrabel indicated that Henry was held out against the Saints in part because the Titans recognize the enormous stakes in next week's must-win contest, per Jim Wyatt of the team's website.
"Both the Texans and Kansas City Chiefs would vastly prefer taking on a Steelers team that's a mess on offense in the Wild Card Round rather than a Titans squad with one of the league's best running backs in Henry and a red-hot Ryan Tannehill under center," Davenport said.
11. Philadelphia Eagles (8-7)
Last Week: 15
Week 16 Result: Won vs. Dallas 17-9
No game in Week 16 had bigger stakes than the de facto NFC East championship game in Philly between the banged-up Eagles and the up-and-down Dallas Cowboys.
The Eagles didn't pile up the style points Sunday against their hated rivals. But just as they did in Weeks 14 and 15, the Eagles did just enough to get the win.
If the Eagles can make it four in a row this Sunday against the New York Giants, they will win the division and host a playoff game on Wild Card Weekend. The question would then become whether the Eagles can make any noise in the postseason, and one of our analysts has his doubts.
"The Eagles can't be completely counted out," Davenport wrote. "Not after their Super Bowl run a few years ago. But the Philadelphia passing game has been ravaged by injuries, and the secondary remains a potential weak spot. It's hard to imagine this beat-up team winning more than one playoff game—if that."
Another one, however, has his doubts about those doubts.
"The Eagles have the track record, the resiliency and the coaching to make a run, regardless of injuries and liabilities at critical positions," Gagnon said. "They proved that with remarkable late-season runs in 2017 and 2018, and we can't rule anything out in 2019."
10. Buffalo Bills (10-5)
Last Week: 10
Week 16 Result: Lost at New England 24-17
The Buffalo Bills had a golden opportunity Saturday afternoon. They had the chance to send a message that the New England Patriots are no longer the unquestioned kings of the AFC East. A chance to show that they are a legitimate contender in the AFC playoffs.
As has been the case in a staggering 32 of the 35 times the Bills have faced Tom Brady, they failed.
The loss doesn't take away all that the Bills have accomplished in 2019. A Buffalo team that had one postseason appearance this century entering the season has now made the playoffs in two of the last three seasons. Buffalo's defense is stout. Second-year quarterback Josh Allen has made substantial strides.
But while the Bills are good, they aren't great. They might be able to win on Wild Card Weekend, but they aren't going into Foxborough, Kansas City or Baltimore and coming away with a win.
Buffalo is headed in the right direction, but it still has a way to go.
"The Bills couldn't get the job done when things mattered the most," Sobleski said. "Buffalo had an opportunity to knock a King Kong-sized gorilla off its back by beating New England and taking control of the AFC East. However, it squandered a 17-13 fourth-quarter lead. The Bills are a playoff team, but they've yet to take the next crucial step to become actual contenders."
9. Houston Texans (10-5)
Last Week: 9
Week 16 Result: Won at Tampa Bay 23-20
Given the aggressiveness with which the Texans acquired veteran players in areas of need this year (like offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil), their plan for 2019 was clear: They were willing to mortgage the future in the hopes of a deep playoff run.
On Saturday in Tampa, the Texans got one step closer to turning that plan into a reality. With a three-point win over the Buccaneers, Houston captured the AFC South.
It wasn't a flawless win by any stretch. The Texans squandered a 17-3 lead, and the ground game was essentially nonexistent, gaining only 68 yards on 26 carries. But Houston forced five turnovers, sacked Jameis Winston three times and made enough plays late to punch its ticket to the playoffs.
With wins at Kansas City and at home against the New England Patriots, the Texans have shown that they are capable of beating some of the AFC's best teams.
However, a blowout loss to the Ravens demonstrated that they could just as easily be one-and-done in the playoffs.
8. Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 8
Week 16 Result: Lost vs. Green Bay 23-10
Much like the Buffalo Bills, the Minnesota Vikings had a chance to send a message to the big bad bully of their division in Week 16. Granted, the Packers haven't won umpteen consecutive division titles like the Green Bay Packers, but the Pack is the most consistently successful team in the NFC North over the past decade-plus.
Like the Bills, the Vikings failed.
Minnesota's defense kept it in the game in the first half against Green Bay, but the offense was a complete mess without Dalvin Cook. The Vikings had 139 yards of total offense and seven first downs.
Period. For the entire game.
"Yes, Kirk Cousins is still winless on Monday night," Davenport said. "But expecting him to block for himself feels rather unreasonable. Given how the Vikings O-line looked against Green Bay, apparently expecting anyone to block for Cousins is unreasonable."
The Vikings are a very good team. But in Week 16, they didn't look close to capable of going into New Orleans, San Francisco or even Green Bay and getting a playoff win.
At least there are no playoff games on Mondays.
7. Seattle Seahawks (11-4)
Last Week: 3
Week 16 Result: Lost vs. Arizona 27-13
No team in these power rankings had a worse week than the Seattle Seahawks.
It isn't just a matter of Sunday's loss to the Arizona Cardinals. That loss may have cost the Seattle the No. 1 seed in the NFC, but with a win over the rival San Francisco 49ers in Week 17, the Seahawks can still capture the NFC West.
What happened in the game is the bigger issue.
Two weeks after losing Rashaad Penny to an ACL tear, the Seahawks lost two more running backs for the season against the Cardinals. C.J. Prosise suffered a broken arm, while leading rusher Chris Carson suffered a fractured hip. Meanwhile, left tackle Duane Brown suffered a knee injury that will require surgery.
"I had no choice but to drop the Seahawks in my rankings," Davenport said. "Seattle is still a good team led by an MVP-caliber quarterback in Russell Wilson. But the run game is a huge part of what the Seahawks do offensively, and that run game is now in shambles."
"They might still win the division because they can certainly beat the 49ers at home in Week 17," Gagnon added. "But I don't trust the Seahawks at this point. They've been outscored by 19 points at home this season, and I don't put them on the same level as New Orleans and several other elite contenders."
But hey, Marshawn Lynch is back. So there's that.
6. Green Bay Packers (12-3)
Last Week: 6
Week 16 Result: Won at Minnesota 23-10
The Green Bay Packers are the NFC North champions and one of the best teams in the NFC.
Neither of those facts are especially surprising. What is surprising in 2019 is that the Packers are those things as much in spite of Aaron Rodgers as because of him.
Against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night, Rodgers threw for just 216 yards with an interception. It was an extension of a season in which the quarterback has looked…mortal.
And yet, Green Bay keeps right on winning.
The Packers beat the Vikings because running back Aaron Jones rolled for 154 yards and two scores. They beat the Vikings because the Green Bay defense was absolutely fantastic, allowing under 150 total yards and just seven first downs.
This is arguably the most balanced Green Bay team we've seen with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, and that makes it very, very dangerous.
5. New England Patriots (12-3)
Last Week: 7
Week 16 Result: Won vs. Buffalo 24-17
The New England Patriots are done. The dynasty is dead. The offense stinks. Tom Brady is old. The Pats are the worst 12-3 team ever.
There's been plenty of hand-wringing regarding the Patriots this season. And some of it has been justified, as there's no denying that the offense has struggled mightily at times this year.
But we're still talking about a 12-3 team that just won the AFC East for the 11th straight season. The Pats have represented the AFC in four of the past five Super Bowls and have appeared in the AFC Championship Game in each of the last eight seasons.
"Is this the most dominant Patriots team of the Brady/Belichick era? Hardly," Davenport said. "But New England is the team no one wants to face in the playoffs. The Pats will lock up the AFC's No. 2 seed next week. They'll then play in their umpteenth straight AFC title game. And much to the chagrin of everyone outside of New England, they quite possibly could wind up in the Super Bowl...again."
4. New Orleans Saints (12-3)
Last Week: 5
Week 16 Rest: Won at Tennessee 38-28
So, Michael Thomas is pretty good at catching footballs.
After catching 12 passes for 136 yards and a score against the Titans on Sunday, Thomas now holds the single-season record for receptions with 145. However, Thomas told reporters after the game that he's more interested in a trip to Super Bowl LIV than individual accolades.
"To be honest, it doesn't really mean nothing. I don't take it for granted. But the fact that we still have more goals as a team—as far as not the individual stuff that comes along with it—I would be selfish to be like, 'Oh, I just caught all these passes and did all this.' Ultimately I was catching the passes to win the game, to help my team be in the position we're in now."
Thomas has done plenty for the team as well, including to help erase a 14-0 hole in Week 16 and keep the Saints in the conversation to be the NFC's No. 1 seed.
But considering Marvin Harrison's old mark of 143 catches stood for 17 years, Thomas is at least entitled to a quick victory lap.
3. San Francisco 49ers (12-3)
Last Week: 4
Week 16 Result: Won vs. Los Angeles Rams 34-31
After outlasting the Rams in a thrilling, back-and-forth game Saturday night, the San Francisco 49ers are one win away from securing the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Niners' 12 wins this year are the franchise's most since 2013. One more will tie the team high this century.
However, since starting the season 8-0, the 49ers are only 4-3 since—and it was very nearly 3-4.
One week after being stunned at home by the Atlanta Falcons, the 49ers fell behind 14-3 against the Rams. A defense that held Jared Goff under 100 passing yards in their first meeting this year gave up 323 in Week 16. San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had a miserable game, throwing a pair of interceptions and absorbing a half-dozen sacks.
The 49ers gutted out the win. But it was an ugly one.
The performance left San Francisco with a lot to clean up ahead of the biggest game of the year at Seattle in the finale. With a win, the playoffs run through the Field of Jeans in Santa Clara. But if the Niners lose a second time to the rival Seahawks, they'll take a trip to face the NFC East champs on Wild Card Weekend.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)
Last Week: 2
Week 16 Result: Won at Chicago 26-3
It's no secret that the Kansas City Chiefs are a dangerous offensive team. They have reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes under center and arguably the NFL's best vertical threat receiver in Tyreek Hill and tight end in Travis Kelce. Scoring points is not a problem.
But last year, the Chiefs were done in by one of the NFL's worst defenses in the AFC title game.
That defense has looked much different over the past several weeks.
Under first-year coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, the Chiefs have allowed less than 10 points per game over their current five-game winning streak. In each of the past two games, Kansas City has held its opponent out of the end zone, and it gave up only 234 total yards and three points to Chicago on Sunday night.
For Sobleski, that defensive improvement might be enough to propel the Chiefs to the Super Bowl.
"It's all about the Chiefs defense right now," he said. "Yes, you read that right. The Chiefs have allowed a league-low 9.6 points per game since Week 11. Only the Patriots scored 10 or more against them this month. A good defense to go with the league's most explosive offense? Does anyone else smell an upcoming Super Bowl run?"
1. Baltimore Ravens (13-2)
Last Week: 1
Week 16 Rest: Won at Cleveland 31-15
With two minutes to go in the first half of Sunday's trip to Cleveland, the Baltimore Ravens had done next to nothing offensively and trailed 6-0.
Then they scored two touchdowns in quick succession to enter halftime with a 14-6 lead. Halfway through the third quarter, they pushed it to 21-6, and they cruised the rest of the way to accomplish something the franchise has never done—secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.
Not that it was ever in question, but Lamar Jackson solidified his claim to be named NFL MVP, throwing three touchdown passes and gaining 103 yards on the ground. After getting gashed by tailback Nick Chubb in their last meeting, the Baltimore run defense clamped down, surrendering only 49 rushing yards.
Next week's meaningless game against the Steelers will feature plenty of few Ravens reserves. But regardless of what happens in that contest, no team will enter the playoffs with more positive momentum than the Ravens, who have peeled off 11 wins in a row.