As far as the top 10 teams in our Power Rankings go, this week was rather, well, uneventful. The Panthers had to dodge a Giants upset attempt and the Steelers rallied past the Broncos, but all in all there was very minimal movement among the league’s best teams.
Of course, at least one of those potential AFC contenders will wind up sitting out the playoffs entirely. Only three of Denver, Kansas City, the Jets and Pittsburgh can play beyond Week 17—all of those teams are again ranked between spots five and nine.
There should be drama over the season’s final two weeks. This is how the teams stack up as they turn for home.
1. Carolina Panthers
• VRENTAS: Giants got into Panthers' heads
2. Arizona Cardinals
• FARRAR: David Johnson helps lead Cards to NFC West berth
3. New England Patriots
• REITER: Will Smith tries to shine light on darkest side of NFL
4. Seattle Seahawks
Doug Baldwin caught 13 touchdown passes over four seasons at Stanford. He found the end zone 15 times as a receiver for the Seahawks from 2011 to ’14. He's now scored 10 TDs over the past four weeks, following another two-touchdown showing in Sunday’s win over Cleveland.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
• BELLER: Brown, Roethlisberger immune to tough matchups
6. Kansas City Chiefs
• WATCH: Will Chiefs be most dangerous team in playoffs?
7. Denver Broncos
Considering where the AFC West race was at the season's midpoint this is almost unfathomable, but the Broncos probably have to finish 2-0 to keep the Chiefs from swiping the division title. And two more losses could bump Denver from the postseason altogether. The problems extend beyond figuring out what to do with Peyton Manning.
8. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals' defense forced four turnovers Sunday and made sure that A.J. McCarron didn't have to produce a whole lot, which is the best-case scenario with a backup QB on the field. The win was a tune-up for Week 16. Beat Denver and the Bengals can skip the pesky wild-card round, where they have gone down each of the past four seasons.
9. New York Jets
• WATCH: Revis on gifts for Bill Belichick, Rex Ryan
10. Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers' review of the Green Bay offense, per the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "We weren't very effective. We had less than 300 yards. We had a terrible first half. ... We just don't really have a clear-cut direction. We got into some things with John (Kuhn) in there and four receivers, but we were too inconsistent." Oh ... but ... well, other than that, everything is going OK?
11. Minnesota Vikings
A special Week 15 for Teddy Bridgewater, who threw for four touchdowns (he had never topped two passing TDs in a game before) and added a score on the ground. Was that a breakthrough game or a one-time burst? If it's the former, then the Vikings could be playing for several more weeks.
12. Washington Redskins
• BURKE: Kirk Cousins gives Redskins another reason to commit
13. Houston Texans
The Texans have a stranglehold on the division after Brandon Weeden came off the bench to ... sigh, I'm sorry. What are we doing here, AFC South? Let's just call it now and let Houston have the playoff spot. It's not worth another two weeks of this.
14. Oakland Raiders
• KING: 'Who is friggin' tougher than Charles Woodson?'
15. Philadelphia Eagles
Now would be the time if Philadelphia plans to reestablish any sort of meaningful home-field advantage this season, with Washington visiting Saturday and the season on the line. The Eagles have dropped three of their last four at Lincoln Financial Field, failing to score 20 points in any of those setbacks.
16. St. Louis Rams
In what is becoming an annual tradition, the Rams are doing just enough to convince everyone they are better than their record indicates. Barring an upset win in Seattle this weekend, the Rams will finish with six or seven wins for the fourth straight season under Jeff Fisher.
17. New York Giants
Discussing Odell Beckham Jr.'s antics, Giants' reaction, more
18. Detroit Lions
• BURKE: Will Lions' late-season wins be enough to save Caldwell's job?
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Nine more penalties for Tampa Bay in its Thursday night loss to St. Louis. There still are myriad personnel issues to address this off-season before the Bucs can be considered a legitimate threat, but cleaning up the discipline woes would fix a lot that ails this team.
20. San Diego Chargers
• JENKINS: Scenes from the Chargers' possible last home game
21. Chicago Bears
Their reinvigorated defense was about the only thing preventing the 2015 Bears from collapsing to dust. No longer. Chicago was shredded by Teddy Bridgewater for its third consecutive loss.
22. Indianapolis Colts
Back on Dec. 11, 2011, the Colts, en route to a 2-14 finish on the season, mustered all of 167 total yards in a loss to Baltimore. Dan Orlovsky was the QB that day; Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst split duties Sunday, in a dismal 190-yard showing that was Indianapolis's least-productive offensive showing since that sleeper four years ago.
23. Buffalo Bills
• PODCAST: Previewing Week 16; Dream Super Bowl matchups
24. New Orleans Saints
Nothing much new here in Monday's game vs. Detroit. The offense scored some points, the defense struggled with the rules and general idea of football, and the Saints came up on the short end of the scoreboard.
25. Miami Dolphins
• MCCANN: How Beckham Jr. can try to win his appeal
26. Dallas Cowboys
If nothing else, at least this Cowboys season now will give us a Kellen Moore start or two. A walking QB Wins debate, Moore recorded more victories during his Boise State career than any other college quarterback. Does the "it" factor translate to the NFL?
27. Atlanta Falcons
• MCCANN: NFL paints Brady in negative light in Deflategate reply brief
28. Jacksonville Jaguars
Once heard Anthony Bourdain explain that the among a chef's hardest tasks was not just creating an outstanding dish but replicating that dish over and over. His line was something like, "If someone recommends a great meal to a friend, he expects his friend to have that same great meal." The Jaguars are an amateur chef. They play well enough to generate some buzz, like they did in last week's rout of Indianapolis. But then when everyone starts to pay attention, they can't do it again.
29. Tennessee Titans
• BANKS: Black Monday Preview: Who'll be fired, hired?
30. Cleveland Browns
Pretty harsh closing stretch for Cleveland. In theory, the Browns have a chance to play spoiler vs. Kansas City in Week 16 or Pittsburgh in Week 17 (and they'd love to cause problems for the Steelers). Odds are, those games will look like Cleveland's trip to Seattle this past Sunday: a 17-point loss where the outcome was never really in doubt.
31. Baltimore Ravens
• BURKE: Best of the Worst from Week 15 of NFL season
32. San Francisco 49ers
Parents will sit through their kids' Christmas pageants with more enthusiasm than the 49ers' fans (those few who showed up) had during the second half Sunday. Hard to blame them. The Week 1 upset of Minnesota aside, this has been as forgettable a season as a team can have.