Thursday, February 29, 2024

NFL Power Rankings: Bears, Cowboys Rise As Playoff Prospects; Rams, Eagles and Raiders tumble for week 16

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Two weeks into the 2020 NFL regular season, a clear hierarchy has been created. More than a third of the league (13 teams) have nine or better wins, guaranteeing a winning season and justifying the expansion to 14 playoff entries.

Looking at the Week 15 results, they didn’t really rock the Week 16 high, but there are a few contenders who have had big hits and doormats that delivered bright spots to carry over to next season.

From 1 to 32, here’s our final look at how each NFL team stacks up against each other:

MORE: Updated NFL Playoff Image After Week 15 | 2021 NFL Command Draft Update

(Getty Images)

NFL Power Rankings

1. Kansas City Chiefs 13-1 (last week: 1)

The Chiefs continue to look better in their quest to repeat themselves as Super Bowl champions. Patrick Mahomes has locked himself in the MVP and the defense begins to rise for the occasion of a strong playoff tune-up. Kansas City is now a big favorite against the field.

2. Green Bay Packers 11-3 (2)

The Packers didn’t get many style points for surviving the Panthers and Aaron Rodgers was the first to point that out. This team seems determined to both come back to 13-3 and prove it won’t be a cinch this time around.

MORE: How the Packers can clinch the top seed in the NFC playoffs

3. Buffalo Bills 11-3 (3)

The Bills are blocked offensively because Josh Allen is doing everything right again. For a second game in a row, their defense played on this feat to make big plays to finish the teams. They have developed as the best AFC threat to Chiefs.

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4. Pittsburgh Steelers 11-2 (4)

The Steelers need a reclamation game against the Bengals after losing offensively to Washington and the Bills. Forget about catching the Chiefs – they just need to clean up the sloppy play so they don’t fall into a bad first round playoff game.

5. Seattle Seahawks 10-4 (7)

The Seahawks showed their defensive courage and racing prowess by defeating Washington without much of Russell Wilson. It’s important for them to be more complete for a playoff series. They have to follow up by beating the Rams in a style similar to Week 16.

6. New Orleans Saints 10-4 (5)

The Saints passed quarterback from Taysom Hil to Drew Brees with mixed results, given they had a shorthanded receiving corps. They fought again to the end against the Chiefs and did their best on defense. The Saints also need a Steelers-like focus after losing two in a row.

7. Cleveland Browns 10-4 (8)

The Browns took care of the Giants as planned on Sunday night, a very important victory knowing all the other AFC wildcard contenders. Baker Mayfield has settled in well and their defense continues to outperform at critical times.

MORE: How the Browns can officially clinch a berth in the AFC playoffs

8. Tennessee Titans 10-4 (9)

The Titans have rediscovered their explosive and methodical attack to topple the Lions. They will have to keep pace with Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry facing Aaron Rodgers and the Packers next Sunday night.

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9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9-5 (10)

The Buccaneers dug a big hole for themselves, but it was scary how easy it was for Tom Brady and the offense to pull them out, helped by a solid defense in the second half. There are enough holes in the other NFC contenders to think Tampa could save their best for the playoffs.

10. Indianapolis Colts 10-4 (11)

The Colts held their own against the Texans for the second time in three weeks with big, timely defensive plays to match those made offensively by Philip Rivers and the running game. Frank Reich’s side cannot be forgotten as a dangerous float in the AFC playoff field.

11. Miami Dolphins 9-5 (12)

The Dolphins did a better job of grinding with their athletic quarterback and running game than the Patriots did on Sunday. In a way, Brian Flores outclassed Belichick Bill Belichick in a battle of attrition. It will always be difficult to hold back the Ravens for the last place in the AFC playoffs.

12. Baltimore Ravens 9-5 (13)

The Ravens are finding their offensive pace with Lamar Jackson and the traditional running game now that they have introduced JK Dobbins. They are also healthier up front defensively to help a secondary with some injury issues. It would be a brutal opening game for the No.2 or No.3 seed.

MORE: How the Ravens can clinch an AFC wild card spot

13. Los Angeles Rams 9-5 (6)

What was that? Sean McVay was sort of beaten out by Adam Gase at the worst possible time. The Rams stayed slow against the Jets and didn’t give themselves enough time to recover. It’s the kind of terrible AFC loss that makes you lose confidence in their NFC playoff chances.

14. Arizona Cardinals 8-6 (14)

The Cardinals are hot offensively at the perfect time again with Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins and their pass rush suddenly came to life with Haason Reddick and others. Arizona appears to be going through the front door of the playoffs against hindsight.

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15. Chicago Bears 7-7 (18)

The Bears can’t be ruled out now that Mitchell Trubisky and David Montgomery are helping Matt Nagy’s offense reach its potential, balancing more problems for the defense. Just imagine if they kick things up against the run and come back.

16. Las Vegas Raiders 7-7 (15)

The Raiders found different ways to stay in the game against the Chargers, only digging deep to find a way to lose. Defensive problems have caught up with them, taking away whatever Derek Carr or Marcus Mariota can do on offense.

17. Minnesota Vikings 6-8 (16)

The Vikings had demanded a bad home loss after escaping the Panthers and Jaguars. The sad defensive and fleeting performance added to the disappointment of the Week 14 stumble at Tampa Bay. Looks like they’ll join the 49ers and Eagles to miss out on a playoff comeback.

18. Washington Football Team 6-8 (17)

Washington did their best to beat the Seahawks with a solid defense against Wilson and better-than-expected play from Dwayne Haskins. But the lack of offensive firepower remains evident with injuries, leaving no room for error in trying to take the NFC East.

19. New England Patriots 6-8 (19)

The Patriots did their best to fight to the end in Miami, but their poor offense continues to put too much pressure on the defense, and that was taken to a whole new level by replacing Brady with Cam Newton. Belichick needs to find his new franchise QB, stat.

20. Dallas Cowboys 5-9 (26)

The Cowboys have won back-to-back wins to breathe late life into their once-lost season. Their offense looked better with Andy Dalton spreading the ball well and Tony Pollard providing a major spark. The defense is still messy, but it’s been doing less breakout and more flexing lately.

MORE: Review of the Cowboys’ low playoff odds

21. Los Angeles Chargers 5-9 (28)

The Chargers traded tight losses for tight wins against the Falcons and Raiders. Anthony Lynn asks his team to respond late and learn how to win. Justin Herbert’s rapid development should mean they stay with Lynn at head coach, for better or for worse.

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22. San Francisco 49ers 5-9 (20)

The 49ers won’t defend their NFC championship after losing to the Cowboys, having ended their Super Bowl hangover over their ridiculous rash of injuries. They’ll come back dangerous next season with better quarterback play and a more balanced defense.

23. New York Giants 5-9 (21)

The Giants’ offensive woes slowed down their good defense work. Colt McCoy or Daniel Jones, they just don’t have enough pop as a run-based team.

24. Detroit Lions 5-9 (22)

The Lions showed heart and fought with Matt Patricia gone, but it’s not enough with their defensive ineptitude holding back their positive offensive vibes.

25. Denver Broncos 5-9 (23)

The Broncos’ defense has become a shell of what it could have been with Vic Fangio and paired with inconsistent offense, which is why they’re so low.

26. Philadelphia Eagles 4-9-1 (24)

The Eagles offense came to life with Jalen Hurts and more, but it’s hard to make up for all the defensive injuries they suffered against the Cardinals.

27. Houston Texans 4-10 (25)

The Texans continue to do their best with those around Deshaun Watson, but the problem is none of them can help the defense.

28. Carolina Panthers 4-10 (27)

Matt Rhule’s rookie season didn’t have an inspiring end with Teddy Bridgewater having its ups and downs. Now the Panthers are drawing their former coach Ron Rivera in Washington.

29. Atlanta Falcons 4-10 (29)

The Falcons came up big in a team that had Brady in the quarterback and always lost. Tell us something new.

30. Cincinnati Bengals 2-10-1 (30)

The Bengals are in free fall without Joe Burrow despite better defensive play. Things won’t change, with Ryan Finley needing another nod.

(SN / Getty)

31. New York Jets 1-13 (32)

The Jets deserved to come out of the basement because their win over the Rams was more impressive than the Jaguars’ Week 1 win over the Colts.

MORE: Explaining the NFL Jets-Jaguars Draft Tie Breaker

32. Jacksonville Jaguars 1-13 (31)

It’s hard to believe, despite having such a good rookie backer as James Robinson, they were unlucky enough to lose 13 straight games. Minshew Mania has two more games before Lawrence Lunacy.


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