Do the Patriots fall far in the Week 15 NFL power rankings after their second consecutive loss?
1. Baltimore Ravens (11-2) | Last week: 1
The Ravens had been simply blowing out everyone, but they’ve shown they can win close games with their narrow victories over the 49ers and Bills in the past two weeks. Lamar Jackson is said to be dealing with a quad injury, so hopefully that doesn’t limit his effectiveness as a runner too much—if Jackson is limited running the ball, it would be an interesting situation for someone that has made major strides throwing to all areas of the field this season but is much better when he can use his electric speed. We’ll see Jackson and Baltimore on a short week this Thursday night against the Jets.
2. San Francisco 49ers (11-2) | Last week: 5 (+3)
After their huge win in the Superdome, the 49ers move up a couple of spots to No. 2 in this week’s power rankings. Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Sanders stepped up for Jimmy Garoppolo, who had another outstanding performance at quarterback; and George Kittle made the play of the game on his catch-and-run to set up a game-winning field goal by Robbie Gould. However, the win masked some issues defensively, as Drew Brees absolutely torched San Francisco’s defense for six total touchdowns. Look for the Niners to get things sorted out on that side of the ball this Sunday at home.
3. New England Patriots (10-3) | Last week: 2 (-1)
I was tempted to leave the Patriots at No. 2 in the power rankings despite their second consecutive loss. Blaming the officiating doesn’t do any good for the team, and New England did not place blame for the officiating—but a couple of bad calls clearly had a major impact on the outcome of the game (the N’Keal Harry should-be touchdown and the Travis Kelce fumble that was blown dead). The “Spygate II” controversy seems like a non-story, but we’ll see if anything comes of it.
4. Seatle Seahawks (10-3) | Last week: 3 (-1)
The Seahawks hadn’t lost since October 20 before their loss to the Rams, and it’s important not to overreact too much to one bad defeat. Losing second-year running back Rashaad Penny to a torn ACL is unfortunate for a player that had come on strong late in the year, but Seattle can ride workhorse starter Chris Carson for the rest of the regular season and into January. The team’s pass rush needs to get after the quarterback, or they secondary will be picked apart by top offenses in the postseason.
5. Green Bay Packers (10-3) | Last week: 6 (+1)
The Packers jumped out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead, but overall, the victory at Lambeau Field wasn’t as dominant as some expected it might be against a rookie quarterback; but Aaron Jones got going with 192 total yards and a touchdown in Green Bay’s tenth victory of the season, which is a great sign for the offense moving forward. Defensively, Mike Pettine’s unit appears to be getting back to their early-season form, and this Sunday in a rematch of the season opener versus the Bears will be an interesting test with the way Chicago has played lately.
6. New Orleans Saints (10-3) | Last week: 4 (-2)
My main concern with the Saints entering the season was their attitude after last season’s heartbreaking NFC Championship Game loss thanks in part to a missed pass interference call at the end of regulation. It seems Sean Payton is setting the tone for his players by still harping on any bad call the officials make. While they are playing emotional, high-stakes games, complaining the way Payton does at times probably isn’t the best course of action. Drew Brees is doing his part, but New Orleans needs to play better defense and—as hard as it might be—try to get past the clear issues they have with officiating.
7. Kansas City Chiefs (9-4) | Last week: 7
It was Kansas City’s defense that keyed their upset victory at Foxboro, and things were trending this way with the Chiefs defense over the past few weeks since a very poor showing against the Titans a month ago. If the defense can play at the level they have been the past few weeks, the Chiefs will be an incredibly difficult out in January. He didn’t put up eye-popping numbers, but it was good to see underrated receiver Sammy Watkins make some key plays despite seeing a lot of shutdown Stephon Gilmore throughout the afternoon.
8. Buffalo Bills (9-4) | Last week: 8
The Bills had some missed opportunities against the Ravens, with some throws that just off or were dropped by receivers; but Josh Allen and company still came back to make it a one-score game, and they were close to tying it at the end. Sean McDermott’s defense did a great job of limiting Baltimore’s rushing attack, and the group is one of the most underrated units in the league. Buffalo clinches a playoff spot with a win at Heinz Field on Sunday night, and it’s a well-deserved primetime game for a team that doesn’t get enough love.
9. Minnesota Vikings (9-4) | Last week: 10 (+1)
The Lions scored toward the end of the game, but it was a good sign that the Vikings defense dominated an injury-riddled offense in a bounce back effort from their loss at Seattle a couple of Mondays ago. Danielle Hunter recorded three sacks in the victory, and he’s the youngest player in NFL history to reach the 50.0 career sack mark (he’s at 52.5 now). Hunter probably isn’t a well-known player for many average fans, but he’s a freak defensive end that might be the most under-the-radar guy in the league that’s on a Hall of Fame track.
10. Tennessee Titans (8-5) | Last week: 11 (+1)
Another week, another monstrous performance by Derrick Henry, who has nine total touchdowns in his last five games and is clearly one of the NFL’s top weapons—maybe the top weapon overall aside from quarterbacks—late in the season. Henry’s play is taking pressure of Ryan Tannehill, who is playing outstanding football while getting the ball out accurately and on-time to weapons including star-in-the-making rookie receiver A.J. Brown. Because they aren’t in a top market, Tennessee is one of those teams with players that aren’t going to get enough publicity as studs, but they’ll have a couple of them over the years in Henry (the team better re-sign him this offseason) and Brown.
11. Los Angeles Rams (8-5) | Last week: 12 (+1)
Because of the two interceptions, the numbers aren’t super spectacular, but Jared Goff is heating up and had another promising performance versus the Seahawks last Sunday night. When given time in the pocket to spread the ball around to his weapons, Goff is as accurate as it gets. Goff’s play, paired with a fresh Todd Gurley again getting workhorse-level touches and a talented defense, makes the Rams a team that could beat anyone in the playoffs. Los Angeles will need some help to get into the postseason, but they just need to take care of business at Dallas this weekend.
12. Houston Texans (8-5) | Last week: 9 (-3)
It felt like the Texans might have a letdown after beating the Patriots in Week 13, and that certainly appeared to be the case, as Houston was lit up by rookie quarterback Drew Lock and the Broncos at home. Houston now has two consecutive road games, starting with a trip to Nashville this Sunday with first place in the AFC South on the line (Houston and Tennessee then play again in Week 17). Bill O’Brien got his team to respond after their previous blowout at the hands of the Ravens, and he’ll look to do it again for another key divisional matchup on Sunday.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) | Last week: 13
The Steelers have a case to be a few spots higher than this and into the top ten of the power rankings. They are 7-1 in their last eight games, riding a top-notch, playmaking defense and an offense that’s trying to avoid mistakes and keep things close. Now, Pittsburgh is expected to get reinforcements on offense, with running back James Conner and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster likely to return for Sunday night, and it helps that they are unselfish players that will accept their roles—whatever it may be—to help the team continue winning games.
14. Chicago Bears (7-6) | Last week: 18 (+4)
Good for Mitchell Trubisky answering the criticism and playing well in back-to-back Thursday wins for the Bears—the rushing has been a big part of the recent success for the third-year quarterback. Ideally, Trubisky will develop from the pocket and be a distributor that doesn’t need to run a bunch in Matt Nagy’s offense, but he should be running around (safely) for now as Chicago looks to sneak into the postseason. The loss of linebacker Roquan Smith for the season to a torn pectoral is a massive blow to Chicago’s defense.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7) | Last week: 17 (+2)
The Eagles rise a couple of spots in this week’s power rankings, and—while it ultimately might come down to Week 16 against the Cowboys—they are currently the NFC East favorites with a more favorable schedule. Carson Wentz had a very good second half in Philadelphia’s comeback win over the Giants, but the slow start for both Wentz and the team in general is a concern, as better teams (the Giants have won two games all season) won’t be as easy to flip the switch against. The Eagles are not good enough to go into Washington expecting to roll the Redskins this week.
16. Dallas Cowboys (6-7) | Last week: 16
Dallas is 1-4 in their last five games, and they simply have not played well on either side of the ball in their last two losses. We’ve seen stranger things happen than a turnaround for a team as talented as the Cowboys, but things are looking pretty bad for Jason Garrett, who has typically gotten his team to respond—but this year feels different. The Cowboys had an extra few days to prepare for the Rams, so we’ll see if they are able to come through with a victory ahead of the Week 16 matchup at Philadelphia.
17. Oakland Raiders (6-7) | Last week: 14 (-3)
I think injuries are catching up to the Raiders, who were 6-4 with a promising matchup against the Jets before getting blown out by New York and dropping two more games in blowout fashion. Oakland’s offense had a strong first half in their loss to Tennessee, but they couldn’t get much going in the second half. It’s been surprising that No. 1 wide receiver Tyrell Williams has been unable to make a notable impact after starting the season so hot—perhaps Williams’ foot is giving him issues after he missed time with the injury earlier in the season. You can bet Jon Gruden will be emotional and will badly want a win in the final ever game at Oakland this Sunday.
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7) | Last week: 20 (+2)
Jameis Winston threw three interceptions including an ugly early one and a pick-six, but he also threw for 456 yards and four touchdowns in the Buccaneers’ shootout win against the Colts. The game ended in a win, but Winston’s performance has basically summed up his season—he’s putting up good numbers for fantasy football, but he is not playing well given the continued turnover issues. Tampa Bay’s defense gave up big plays through the air, but they limited Indy’s run game in the fourth quarter comeback.
19. Indianapolis Colts (6-7) | Last week: 14 (-5)
All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard had two of those interceptions and the touchdown return against the Buccaneers, but his performance wasn’t enough to carry a defense that gave up 38 points in the Week 14 loss. The Colts are another team that’s dealt with a ton of injuries to key players, and they have a difficult task going to the Superdome on Monday night as they look to potentially keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
20. Cleveland Browns (6-7) | Last week: 19 (-1)
The Browns were aided by a phantom pass interference call (made on a review) that turned over what would’ve been a costly interception late in the game, and the play-calling has been surprising this season. It’s almost like Cleveland is trying to put up numbers for Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry instead of handing the ball to Nick Chubb, who somehow had just three carries in the first half against the Bengals. This week, defensive coordinator Steve Wilks gets an opportunity to face a Cardinals franchise that fired him after one year last season.
21. Los Angeles Chargers (5-8) | Last week: 23 (+2)
This season has not gone the way the Chargers would have liked, but it’s good to see Philip Rivers still having fun.
"I WILL do it by your ear! That's what I do!"
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) December 10, 2019
That long touchdown was to Austin Ekeler, who has 830 receiving yards and eight receiving touchdowns already this season as a running back.
22. Atlanta Falcons (4-9) | Last week: 24 (+2)
It had looked like a foregone conclusion that Dan Quinn would be let go after this season, but the former NFC champion head coach has gotten his players to respond in November and December, and it’s a good sign for him that the Falcons handled a Panthers team that just fired their own coach. I’m interested to see how Matty Ice and company perform at Levi’s Stadium this Sunday, but losing emerging second-year receiver Calvin Ridley for the final three games due to an abdomen injury is a notable loss.
23. Denver Broncos (5-8) | Last week: 26 (+3)
I did not see this start coming for Drew Lock, who has plus physical tools but was raw coming out of Missouri. The rookie quarterback is now 2-0 with five touchdowns and two interceptions, and he’s coming off a 309-yard, three-touchdown performance versus a playoff-contending Texans team. In general, the Broncos (3-2 in their last five games) are playing well, and now Vic Fangio and his defense will look to limit Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs as they look to continue this promising stretch.
24. Carolina Panthers (5-8) | Last week: 21 (-3)
It’s not surprising that the Panthers did not play particularly well after firing a head coach the players loved, and the team continues to tumble down the power rankings. Carolina has a chance to play spoiler over the final three weeks, starting this Sunday against a Seahawks team that’s become a bit of a rival outside the division in recent years—though it’ll be different without Cam Newton in the lineup for the Panthers.
25. New York Jets (5-8) | Last week: 25
The Jets scored 16 second-quarter points to spark their one-point win over the Dolphins on a game-winning field goal by Sam Ficken, and they’ll have a quick turnaround as they face the Ravens tomorrow night. The Le’Veon Bell situation is interesting, and it’s pretty funny/concerning that he joked he bowled a “career-high” 251 off the flu hours after being ruled out on Saturday. Bell is expected to return to the lineup this week.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9) | Last week: 22 (-4)
The Jaguars have basically been blown out in five consecutive games, and they simply are a bad team right now. It’s more concerning because Jacksonville was 4-4 in the thick of the playoff race before this losing streak, and the team has had quite the fall since an AFC title game appearance a couple of seasons ago. The Jags have an opportunity to end the losing streak this week against a struggling Raiders team.
27. Miami Dolphins (3-10) | Last week: 27
The Dolphins were another team that fell victim to a bad pass interference call late in the game, and first-year head coach Brian Flores again showed he desperately wants to win every week despite the front office wanting to tank. Flores’ players see he’s battling for them and wants to win games with a roster most people didn’t expect to do anything entering the season.
28. Arizona Cardinals (3-9-1) | Last week: 28
It was nice to see running back David Johnson get involved with a touchdown reception against the Steelers, and he’s an interesting player to watch over the final three weeks of the season considering his talent and big contract. Kyler Murray threw three interceptions in the loss, but he’ll look to bounce back as he faces former college teammate Baker Mayfield in a matchup that looked great on paper ahead of the season.
29. Detroit Lions (3-9-1) | Last week: 29
The Matthew Stafford injury obviously is a major factor, but the Lions were 3-3-1 and in the mix before dropping six consecutive games. One plus for Matt Patricia’s team is that his defense did a solid job of stopping Dalvin Cook and Minnesota’s rushing attack, so they are still playing hard despite the disappointing season.
30. Washington Redskins (3-10) | Last week: 30
The Redskins fell behind early at Lambeau Field, but they battled back and made it just a 20-15 loss. The commitment to running the ball to take pressure off of rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins is helping keep the team competitive, but it’s unfortunate that second-year running back Derrius Guice suffered another knee injury—thankfully, it’s just an MCL sprain and the Redskins are playing things safe. Expect heavy workloads for Adrian Peterson, who is 282 rushing yards shy of 1,000 on the season, to end the year.
31. New York Giants (2-11) | Last week: 31
It looked like Eli Manning was going to have a magical performance at Lincoln Financial Field in what could be his final NFL start, but the Giants offense sputtered in the second half of their overtime loss to the Eagles. The defense played tough, but they had too many lapses in coverage, and it’s pretty shocking that they did not double Zach Ertz at the end of the game—no one covered him on the game-winning touchdown.
32. Cincinnati Bengals (1-12) | Last week: 32
As stated earlier, the Bengals were arguably robbed against the Browns, as that pass interference call to turn over an interception was weak in my opinion. It of course would not have come close to guaranteeing a win, but the Bengals probably aren’t good enough to overcome things like that. This Sunday against the Patriots is actually an intriguing game after the Bengals reported the video taping that led to this “spying” drama.