NFL Week 16 Power Rankings: Top five remain unchanged, while Chiefs rise

2:17 | NFL
SI's NFL Power Rankings: Week 16
Tuesday December 22nd, 2015

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
    1Carolina Panthers
    last week: 1
    record: 14–0
    In their last two road games (at New Orleans and New York), the Panthers have allowed a combined 73 points. Of course, they scored 79 and won both times, but perhaps there is a little cause for concern. Good news for the Panthers: One more win and they wouldn't have to leave home again until the Super Bowl.

  • 2
    2Arizona Cardinals
    last week: 2
    record: 12–2
    Among non-quarterbacks, just three players—Doug Baldwin, Odell Beckham Jr. and Allen Robinson—have accounted for more touchdowns than David Johnson’s 12. Not bad for a guy who averaged three carries over his team’s first nine games and just became the starter in December.

  • 3
    3New England Patriots
    last week: 3
    record: 12–2
    Hard to remember a Patriots game drawing less national attention than Sunday's win over Tennessee. The outcome was as much a foregone conclusion as there is in an unpredictable league. I think I spotted Tom Brady slipping into his Uggs and taking a nap during the third quarter, and his team still won by 17.

  • 4
    4Seattle Seahawks
    last week: 4
    record: 9–5
    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
    5Pittsburgh Steelers
    last week: 5
    record: 9–5
    An incredible comeback from 17 down to beat Denver puts Pittsburgh on the brink of a playoff berth. All the Steelers have to do now is beat the reeling Ravens and Browns to clinch a spot, which is like needing passing grades on your phys ed and health final exams to graduate high school—should happen, but you still have to show up.

  • 6
    6Kansas City Chiefs
    last week: 7
    record: 9–5
    The Chiefs have forced at least one turnover in 10 consecutive games (and multiple turnovers in eight of 10), tying the Colts for the longest active streak in the NFL. The big difference between those two runs? Indianapolis has coughed the ball up 17 times itself during that stretch; Kansas City has committed just six turnovers since September ended.

  • 7
    7Denver Broncos
    last week: 6
    record: 10–4
    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
    8Cincinnati Bengals
    last week: 8
    record: 11–3
    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
    9New York Jets
    last week: 9
    record: 9–5
    The 1985 Broncos and 2008 Patriots are the two teams to miss the playoffs despite posting an 11-5 record. Courtesy of the Steelers' Sunday rally (and the wild-card tiebreakers), the Jets could become the third, should they knock off New England and Buffalo to wrap the regular season.

  • 10
    10Green Bay Packers
    last week: 10
    record: 10–4
    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
    11Minnesota Vikings
    last week: 11
    record: 9–5
    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
    12Washington Redskins
    last week: 13
    record: 7–7
    Three years ago, the Redskins headed to Philadelphia in Week 16, needing a win to stay atop the NFC East. It's been a long, strange trip for the franchise since, but the stakes will be similar Saturday—albeit against a better Eagles squad than 2012's 4-12 group.

  • 13
    13Houston Texans
    last week: 16
    record: 7–7
    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
    14Oakland Raiders
    last week: 12
    record: 6–8
    The last Raiders receiver to hit 1,000 yards for a season, before Amari Cooper got there Sunday, was Randy Moss back in 2005. Next milestone up is the 1,000-yard mark for RB Latavius Murray, who could be the first Oakland back there since Darren McFadden topped that total five years ago.

  • 15
    15Philadelphia Eagles
    last week: 14
    record: 6–8
    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
    16St. Louis Rams
    last week: 23
    record: 6-8
    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
    17New York Giants
    last week: 17
    record: 6–8
    Another near-miss for the NFL's most competitive 6-8 team. The Giants almost certainly are going to sit out the playoffs now, though they deserve at least a little credit for coming so close so many times this season despite featuring the league's worst pass defense. But moral victories don't get it done.

  • 18
    18Detroit Lions
    last week: 26
    record: 5-9
    Matthew Stafford may always be saddled with that sort of Jay Cutleresque reputation painting him as an underachiever, no matter how he plays. Any thought that the Lions should move on from him, though, is a mistake. He's still just 27 and playing some of the best football of his career over the season's second half.

  • 19
    19Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    last week: 18
    record: 6–8
    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
    20San Diego Chargers
    last week: 28
    record: 4–10
    Given that Miami's playoff hopes were long gone before Sunday, it felt acceptable to root for the Chargers to provide a proper send-off for their fans as the possibility of relocation grows. Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, Eric Weddle and others on the roster have given everything they have to the franchise and city.

  • 21
    21Chicago Bears
    last week: 21
    record: 5–9
    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
    22Indianapolis Colts
    last week: 20
    record: 6–8
    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
    23Buffalo Bills
    last week: 15
    record: 6–8
    Year One of Rex Ryan's Buffalo stay has turned out like a disastrous vacation. You wait months to get away, then the plane breaks down and your hotel has bed bugs and it rains all week. Not at all what you expected, which more or less sums up the Bills in 2015.

  • 24
    19New Orleans Saints
    last week: 26
    record: 5-9
    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
    25Miami Dolphins
    last week: 22
    record: 5–9
    Maybe because they finished 8-8 each of the past two seasons, but the Dolphins usually are excluded in talks about the league's most downtrodden franchises. The truth is Miami has reached the postseason just once in 14 years and just clinched its fifth sub-.500 campaign in the last seven seasons.

  • 26
    26Dallas Cowboys
    last week: 24
    record: 5–9
    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
    27Atlanta Falcons
    last week: 32
    record: 7–7
    The Falcons played dead two weeks ago in Carolina, suffering a 38-0 beatdown as the Panthers improved to 13-0. The NFC's top team is 14-0 now, with a trip to Atlanta standing in the way of a perfect season. Merely for the franchise's pride, the Falcons should be itching to put on a better show this Sunday.

  • 28
    28Jacksonville Jaguars
    last week: 25
    record: 5–9
    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
    29Tennessee Titans
    last week: 29
    record: 3–11
    While obviously the Titans would have preferred a better story this season, they can breathe easy knowing that Marcus Mariota's Week 15 knee injury was not all that serious. Having him shelved for several months this off-season would be the worst-case scenario for the rebuilding club.

  • 30
    30Cleveland Browns
    last week: 30
    record: 3–11
    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
    31Baltimore Ravens
    last week: 31
    record: 4–10
    The Ravens are living out that age-old sports question asked by reeling teams: Is it less painful to be blown out than to lose a close game? After eight defeats from the latter category, Baltimore has been smoked on back-to-back weekends by Seattle and Kansas City.

  • 32
    32San Francisco 49ers
    last week: 27
    record: 4–10
    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.

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