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NFL Weekly Power Rankings: Week 16

It’s been a few weeks since I last ranked the 32 NFL teams. A lot has happened in those last few weeks. Some teams are starting to stand out as true contenders while others fade into mediocrity. There’s still so much parody this season and every game is so tough to predict. No one knows what to expect, other than that the Browns are going to lose. It’s equally tough trying to rank these teams, but I’ll do my best.

Here we go:

1. Dallas Cowboys 12-2 (Week 13 ranking: 1) – Despite their loss to the Giants two weeks ago, the Cowboys are still the NFL’s top team. Ezekiel Elliott is the hands down favorite for Rookie of the Year, as he’s just 266 yards away from breaking Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record. His dominant inaugural season is leading these Cowboys to the playoffs and as long as they continue to feed him the ball, it’ll continue to make Dak Prescott’s job easier and help their defense as well.

2. New England Patriots 12-2 (Week 13 ranking: 2) – Rob Gronkowski is the Patriots’ best player, and yet, even without him, the Patriots have been just fine. Tom Brady has been at his best, despite being in his age 39 season. Despite missing four games due to suspension, Brady has still put up 22 touchdowns and just two interceptions, while averaging 306 yards per game. Without Gronk, though, he has slowed down a bit and his absence is hindering the Pats’ offense. Luckily for them, they’ve had a pretty easy schedule and their defense has been picking up the slack. It’s hard to see anyone topping the Patriots for the best team in the AFC.

3. Oakland Raiders 11-3 (Week 13 ranking: 3) – Losing to the Chiefs for the second time this season hurt the Raiders big time, but after their win over the Chargers this week, the Raiders clinched the playoffs, ending their 14 year postseason drought. Derek Carr has had a bit of a rough time since hurting his pinky against the Panthers, but as long as he gets healthy before the playoffs start, this Raiders team is dangerous. Khalil Mack is looking more like the player we saw nearly win Defensive Player of the Year last season. He struggled early on, but he’s starting to make a huge impact for this Raider defense and it’s helping the entire unit.

4. Seattle Seahawks 9-4-1 (Week 13 ranking: 4) – Following their bad loss to the Packers, the Seahawks rebounded nicely with a dominant win over the Rams. The Seahawks still have one of the top defenses in the NFL, despite losing Earl Thomas for the season. They had a rough game in Green Bay, but they’ve been fantastic otherwise this season. The offensive side of the ball is where this team struggles. Their offensive line has been awful this season and it has hurt their run game big time. Also, Russell Wilson is having a very up-and-down year. His five interception game against the Packers was by far the worst game of his career, but he tossed three touchdowns the following game against the Rams. If Wilson plays well enough, this team will go far, but when he struggles, they have a hard time finding ways to win.

5. Kansas City Chiefs 10-4 (Week 13 ranking: 5) – The Chiefs really blew it on Sunday. Hosting the Titans, the Chiefs controlled the game until the fourth quarter. They led 17-7 entering the final quarter, but the Titans stormed back, scoring 12 points to take a 19-17 victory. The Chiefs’ excellent defense fell apart and their offense couldn’t get anything going. Outside of Tyreek Hill, who has been a rookie revelation, the Chiefs don’t have much to be excited about on the offensive side of the ball. Hill has 10 combined touchdowns this season (six receiving, two rushing, one kick return, and one punt return) and has quickly become one of the NFL’s most dynamic playmakers. The Chiefs need to find a way to keep getting him the ball and let their defense do the rest, especially if they want to win the AFC West.

6. New York Giants 10-4 (Week 13 ranking: 8) – I never thought I’d say this, but the Giants are getting absolutely carried by their defense. Eli Manning has been terrible. There are no good weapons on this team outside of Odell Beckham. The offensive line has faltered after a good start. Yet, the Giants find themselves in position to make the playoffs. Their defense has been one of the best in the entire NFL this season. The additions of Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison, and Janoris Jenkins have fueled the turnaround for this unit. As long as their defense continues to play like this, this team could go far in the playoffs.

7. Atlanta Falcons 9-5 (Week 13 ranking: 6) – Over the past two weeks, the Falcons have had two of their easiest matchups of the season, facing the Rams and 49ers. They made those two matchups look even easier than they were, winning those two games by a combined 83-27. Their offense continued to fly high, even while playing without their best offensive player, Julio Jones. Matt Ryan is having an MVP caliber season and as long as their offense continues to be the top scoring unit in football, this Falcons team will be tough to beat.

8. Pittsburgh Steelers 9-5 (Week 13 ranking: 12) – After a bit of a slump, the Steelers are starting to get hot. Le’Veon Bell is making his case for Offensive Player of the Year, despite missing three games with a suspension. Bell leads the NFL in scrimmage yards per game at 158.8, beating second best David Johnson by over 20 yards(!!!). Bell also had an unbelievable performance against the Bills. Playing in the snow, the Steelers gave him all the touches he could handle (42) and he turned in 298 total yards and three touchdowns. Oh, and the Steelers also have Antonio Brown. While Brown isn’t posting the huge numbers he’s had in recent years, this season has still been quite good. He’s currently second in the NFL in receptions with 96, third in the league in yards at 1188, and second in touchdowns at 11. While the Steelers don’t have a very good defense, their offense is one of the most talented groups in football. This team is certainly dangerous if they end up making the playoffs.

9. Green Bay Packers 8-6 (Week 13 ranking: 20) – Don’t look now, but here comes Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Similarly to the Steelers, the Packers were a team with high expectations that got off to a good start, and then struggled for a few weeks. Now, they’re getting hot at the right time. Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson seem to have rekindled their excellent connection that was so effective in 2014, before Nelson’s ACL tear. Davante Adams is also having a breakout season for this Packer offense. As the Packers get healthier on defense, they’ll become an even bigger threat in the postseason, if they get there. This is a team that I wouldn’t want to face right now.

10. Denver Broncos 8-6 (Week 13 ranking: 7) – Boy, are the Broncos struggling. Their defense has been as good as ever, but they simply can’t score. They’ve scored just 13 points combined in the last two weeks against the Titans and Patriots. Now, they find themselves out of the playoffs for the first time this season. Maybe the play of Peyton Manning last season went a bit underrated in Denver. He wasn’t effective and the stats weren’t pretty, but he was able to make plays when they need them and his football knowledge was huge for their championship run. With Trevor Siemian under center, there just isn’t much instilling fear into opposing defenses. If they can’t figure out a way to jump start their offense, they may find themselves missing the postseason the season after winning it all.

11. Detroit Lions 9-5 (Week 13 ranking: 9) – They’ve been playing it fast and loose all season, and now it may be coming back to bite them. The Lions have played so many close games this year that it’s hard to figure out how they’ve found a way to win so many of them. They only had one win where they didn’t trail at some point in the fourth quarter. Matt Stafford has been excellent this year, but he needs more help. The Lions have no run game and their defense has been inconsistent at best. If they can’t find ways to keep winning like they have, they may find themselves out of the playoffs, with the Packers catching up quickly.

12. Tennessee Titans 8-6 (Week 13 ranking: 18) – It’s been an incredible turnaround for the Titans this year. Last season, they went 2-14 with a rookie quarterback in Marcus Mariota. They earned the top pick in the 2016 draft and wisely traded it to the Rams and stockpiled early picks. With their franchise quarterback in place, along with a well built offensive line, they can focus on adding weapons and defensive playmakers in future drafts. Now, they’re currently tied with the Texans for the AFC South lead. Coming off a pair of very impressive wins over the Broncos and Chiefs, the Titans are looking like a team that will be playoff contenders for the next several years.

13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 8-6 (Week 13 ranking: 19) – Another team that has made big strides this season, the Bucs may actually get a playoff spot despite their early season struggles. After a 3-5 start, they rattled of five straight wins before their loss to the Cowboys this past Sunday. That win streak included back to back victories over the Chiefs and Seahawks, which means this team could be for real. While their run game hasn’t been great, Jameis Winston and Mike Evans have put this offense on their backs, while getting a bit of help from one of the more improved tight ends, Cameron Brate. The Bucs’ defense has stepped up as well. Their secondary has been excellent in recent weeks and Gerald McCoy has been absolutely dominant up front. There’s a lot of competition in the NFC right now, but the Bucs certainly have a shot at the playoffs.

14. Miami Dolphins 9-5 (Week 13 ranking: 13) – I still cannot believe the success the Dolphins have been having this year. They got off to a horrible 1-4 start, but have won eight of their last nine games. Ryan Tannehill was playing really well during that span, but he’s hurt now and the Dolphins are still unsure if he is their “guy”. While I think the Dolphins have a decent roster, I just don’t think they’re really good enough to compete in the playoffs, if they make it. So far this season, they’ve only beaten one team with a winning record (Pittsburgh).

15. Baltimore Ravens 8-6 (Week 13 ranking: 15) – This is another team that I’m not so confident in. They only have a couple impressive wins this year and, for the most part, have had a very easy schedule. Joe Flacco has had a very up-and-down year. Their offensive playmakers have been pretty inconsistent, as has their offensive line. The one true strength for the Ravens is their run defense. Only the Cowboys have allowed less total rushing yards and their 3.5 yards per carry allowed is tied with the Seahawks for best in the league. I think this team still has a ways to go before contending, but if they beat the Steelers this week, they could end up winning their division.

16. Indianapolis Colts 7-7 (Week 13 ranking: 17) – If there’s one thing that’s consistent about the Colts, it’s inconsistency. It shows with their 7-7 record. Just when you think they’re going to get on a roll, they flop. Just when you think they’re done, they shine. After an impressive four week stretch the Colts had a shot to claim first place in the AFC South and they blew it. Hosting the Texans, they fell flat. After that deflating loss, they traveled to Minnesota and absolutely crushed the Vikings. This team just doesn’t make sense and it seems to me like Andrew Luck is carrying a rather flawed roster. If they somehow make the playoffs (which is technically possible but a long shot), he should get some consideration for MVP. He’s dealt with a bad offensive line, a lack of a running game, and a terrible defense. Even if those things were all great against the Vikings, they certainly haven’t been throughout the entire season.

17. Houston Texans 8-6 (Week 13 ranking: 16) – They may be in first place in the AFC South, but the Texans are certainly not the best team in the division. They actually might have the most talented overall roster, but they are being held back by their $72 million man, Brock Osweiler. He’s been so bad this season that they benched him for Tom Savage (yes, you read that correctly, TOM SAVAGE). Bill O’Brien announced that Savage would start next week against the Bengals as well, so we’ll see if he has what it takes to get this team to the post-season.

18. Washington Redskins 7-6-1 (Week 13 ranking: 10) – Just when I was starting to believe in the Redskins, they decided to lose three out of four games. Their only win was a five-point victory over the reeling Eagles. Now, they’re on the outside of the playoffs, looking in. Part of the Skins’ woes is on defense, as they’ve allowed at least 20 points in nine straight games. The other issue is the play of Kirk Cousins. The team seems to live or die by his performances. When he plays well, they look like one of the better teams in the conference, but when he plays poorly, they look like one of the worst. Cousins needs to play better over their final two games for more reasons than one. First of all, if he doesn’t step up, the Redskins will miss the playoffs just one season after winning the division. Second, Cousins needs to prove to the Redskins that he is their franchise quarterback. Finally, Cousins is in a contract year and needs to finish out the season strong if he wants to get paid like a top tier quarterback.

19. Buffalo Bills 7-7 (Week 13 ranking: 11) – These Bills are incredibly streaky. After losing their first two games of the season, they ripped of four straight wins, looking like one of the league’s better teams in the process. Then, they followed that up with three straight losses. Since then, it’s been win two, lose two, and in their last game, a win over the Browns. The Bills are a long shot to make the playoffs. One of their biggest problems is that they don’t really know what they have in Tyrod Taylor. He throws a great deep ball and is one of the best scramblers in the game. His physical traits are tantalizing and he’s incredibly talented. The problem is, he has yet to put it together as a passer. He’s been inconsistent with his accuracy and struggles to move the ball down the field methodically. The Bills have the best run game in football between Taylor and star runningback LeSean McCoy, but until Taylor puts it together as a passer, this team will be stuck in limbo.

20. Carolina Panthers 6-8 (Week 13 ranking: 26) – The Panthers have been battling all season to try and recover from a horrendous start. After six weeks, they found themselves sitting at 1-5 and in last place in the NFC South. They been rather impressive since, going 5-3, but they’re still in last place. This team just doesn’t look like the same team that went to the Superbowl last season. Cam Newton hasn’t been as dominant as he was during his 2015 MVP campaign. It’s not necessarily his fault though. His offensive line has been a sieve and his receivers haven’t been making plays consistently. Their secondary has been awful without Josh Norman and has essentially neutralized their excellent front seven. The Panthers are not making the playoffs this year, which is an absolute shocker, but that leaves me with one question. Is this year’s team underachieving, or was last year’s team overachieving?

21. Minnesota Vikings 7-7 (Week 13 ranking: 14) – How the mighty have fallen. The once 5-0 Vikings now sit at 7-7 and have an incredibly slim chance at reaching the postseason. They mostly have their offense to blame for that. It’s not entirely fair because of all the injuries they’ve had on that side of the ball, but it comes down to the fact that they simply don’t score enough to win games. Their defense has still been one of the league’s best, at least prior to their beating at the hands of the Colts. It looks like the Vikings would’ve been better off not trading for Sam Bradford, getting an earlier draft pick, and building toward the future when Teddy Bridgewater returns. They certainly aren’t winning anything this year.

22. New Orleans Saints 6-8 (Week 13 ranking: 25) – Now this is a team that lives and dies with its quarterback. For two straight weeks, Drew Brees was absolutely horrible. In losses to the Lions and Bucs, Brees threw zero touchdowns and a whopping six interceptions. His play was nearing “Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. the Chiefs” levels. Then, he comes out and lights up the Cardinals excellent pass defense. He shredded them for 389 yards and four touchdowns on route to a 48-41 win. When Brees in on like that, the Saints offense is too good to stop. Unfortunately, their defense is awful. Brees won’t be around much longer and probably won’t stick around long enough for that defense to improve to a championship caliber unit.

23. Arizona Cardinals 5-8-1 (Week 13 ranking: 21) – Could this season have been more disappointing for the Cardinals? This team had championship aspirations and instead, they are looking at a lost year where they’ll miss the playoffs. A big problem for them has been the regression of Carson Palmer. The last couple years under Bruce Arians, Palmer was playing at an elite level. Now, despite having more talent than ever around him, Palmer is playing some of the worst football of his career. Defensively, the Cardinals’ biggest problem last season was their pass rush. Then they went out and traded for Chandler Jones. Jones has been great for the Cardinals, but, somehow, their defense as a whole has been worse. I just can’t figure out why a team that is so talented and has such a great coach has struggled so mightily. We’ll have to wait until next season to see if they can turn it around.

24. Cincinnati Bengals 5-8-1 (Week 13 ranking: 22) – In recent years, the Bengals have always been solid. They’ve made the playoffs in each of the last five seasons under Marvin Lewis, but have been knocked out in the Wildcard round each time. The problem has been Andy Dalton. He’s usually fine in the regular season, but in the playoffs he falls apart. This season, the Bengals have been awful and it isn’t because of Dalton. They’ve struggled to pass protect and run the ball at times. Their defense hasn’t been good either. This team just isn’t the same and they’re going to need a bit of an overhaul before becoming contenders again.

25. San Diego Chargers 5-9 (Week 13 ranking: 23) – It might be time for the Chargers to move on from Philip Rivers. He’s getting older and he’s not as good as he used to be. He’s still a pretty good quarterback and would be great on another team (like the Broncos, Chiefs, Texans, or any other team that’s a quarterback away from being legitimate contenders. The Chargers are nowhere near contention, though. They have a pretty good runningback in Melvin Gordon, but the line in front of him is subpar. They also have a pretty good secondary and a strong pass rush, but their run defense is terrible and their safety play has been bad without Eric Weddle. The Chargers also seem to lack a killer instinct in close games. They don’t make the plays they need to make in the fourth quarter.

26. Philadelphia Eagles 5-9 (Week 13 ranking: 24) – Did I call it or what? When the Eagles were 3-0 and Carson Wentz was playing well, people thought the Eagles were actually good. I just knew they wouldn’t keep it up. They had two wins over the Bears and Browns, two of the league’s worst teams, and a very impressive, dominant win over the Steelers. It’s clear now that the Steelers game was a fluke. Since that win, the Eagles have gone just 2-9. Clearly, Wentz was getting too much hype. He can’t complete passes more than 10 yards downfield. He’s accurate on short throws and plays smart, but he’s just too careful with the ball. You won’t win when you’re quarterback is doing nothing but taking check-downs to runningbacks all game. To be fair, his receivers are not very good and lack experienced. The Eagles also have no run game. Defensively, the Eagles have a lot of talent. They’ve got a great front seven and good safeties, but their cornerbacks have struggled this year. The Eagles aren’t far off from being a playoff team, they just need time to add a couple more pieces to the roster and develop their young players.

27. Chicago Bears 3-11 (Week 13 ranking: 27) – I still don’t think the Bears are that bad. They’ve been playing with Matt Barkley at quarterback and have still been in games against good teams like the Giants, Lions, Packers, and Titans. Their defense certainly has issues in the secondary, but their front seven is really starting to come together. They have a great pass rush and the two inside linebackers they signed in the offseason, Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan, have both been excellent in the middle of their defense. Their offense has plenty of talent, too. Jordan Howard has been the second best rookie offensively behind Ezekiel Elliott, Alshon Jeffery is still one of the NFL’s best receivers, and they have a strong offensive line. This team is really just a quarterback away from competing. Maybe they’ll find their guy this offseason.

28. New York Jets 4-10 (Week 13 ranking: 29) – How much worse could the Jets be? Their defense has been a far cry from the unit that was so strong last season. Their defensive line is still immensely talented, but the rest of the unit lacks talent and depth. The sad this is that the Jets might actually be worse on offense. Over their last five games, they’ve averaged just 12.6 points per game. It got so bad for the Jets that they replaced Ryan Fitzpatrick with Bryce Petty. Fitzpatrick was awful and Petty hasn’t been much better. At this point, the Jets may be better off putting in Christian Hackenberg, who has yet to play a snap as a rookie. They might as well see what they have in him, even if they don’t think he’s ready. It’s not like they have anything to play for.

29. Los Angeles Rams 4-10 (Week 13 ranking: 28) – The only offense worse than the Jets over recent weeks has been the Rams. Inserting Jared Goff into the starting lineup hasn’t been good for the Rams, but it was the right thing to do. They weren’t going anywhere with Case Keenum under center and if Goff is going to be their franchise quarterback he needs to get in games to get some real experience. It’s not entirely Goff’s fault that the Rams’ offense sucks, though. Their offensive line has been one of the worst and they don’t have any truly good weapons for Goff to throw to. Also, Todd Gurley has stunk after such an exciting and stellar rookie year. The Rams have also been disappointing on defense. They can still get after the quarterback with their great defensive line, but their secondary has been a disappointing. The Rams also fired Jeff Fisher just a week after extending him. It feels like the Rams haven’t been a playoff team in so long and it may take another few years to get there.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars 2-12 (Week 13 ranking: 30) – This team was a trendy pick to be the league’s “surprise team”. A lot of experts and analysts thought that the Jags would make significant improvements this year, after having a great draft and getting back their top pick from the 2015 draft, Dante Fowler. The Jags also had an incredibly explosive offense last year, leading people to expect a repeat performance. What most analysts and fans don’t realize is that this team is incredibly young. Also, they fired Gus Bradley after their loss to the Texans, so that may set them back a bit. It’ll be a year or two before this team is really ready to compete. They have so much potential, they just need time.

31. San Francisco 49ers 1-13 (Week 13 ranking: 31) – The 49ers are terrible. There’s not much else to it. Colin Kaepernick is not a good quarterback. Chip Kelly is not a good coach. Their defense has a couple good, young defensive lineman and a couple decent defensive backs, but that’s about it. Their run defense has been, by far, the league’s worst. They seem to get trampled by any runningback they go up against. This teams is in full “rebuild mode” that this point.

32. Cleveland Browns 0-14 (Week 13 ranking: 32) – Oh, the Browns. Is there any chance this team gets a win in their final two games? Against the Chargers and Steelers, I wouldn’t count on it. They’ve started three different quarterbacks and played a fourth. They have a couple receivers to be excited about in Terrelle Pryor and Corey Coleman, but outside of those two, there are no cornerstones on this offense. Somehow, the defense is even worse. There is not one player to be excited about on the Browns’ defense. The Browns look destined to be the second team to go 0-16 and get the first pick in the 2017 draft. They can’t afford to blow another draft, as it feels like they’ve been rebuilding for a decade and have nothing to show for it.

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Photo of the Month – August

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