NFL Power Rankings Poll, Week 16: Saints to No. 2, Patriots Fall to Lowest Spot This Season

Also, Rams slip after loss to Cowboys, Buccaneers climb into the top half (which means what for Jameis Winston’s future?) and Falcons are surging at the wrong time this season.
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This week’s NFL Power Rankings Poll voters:

Andrew Brandt, Business of Football Columnist
Albert Breer, Senior NFL Reporter/Lead Content Strategist
Mitch Goldich, Producer/Writer
Gary Gramling, Senior Editor
Kalyn Kahler, Writer/Producer
Bette Marston, Associate Editor
Jenny Vrentas, Senior Writer

Skinnies for each team written by Jake May.

Drew Brees NFL Power Rankings

1. BALTIMORE RAVENS (12-2)

Previous rank: 1
Points in poll: 224
Highest-place vote: 1 (7 voters)
Lowest-place vote: N/A
Last week’s result: Beat N.Y. Jets, 42-21 (Thurs.)
This week: at Cleveland

Easy-peasy win for the Ravens after four weeks of beating teams with winning records. Lamar was surgical once again (15-of-23, 212 yards, 5 TDs, 134.4 rating), doling out touchdowns to five different receivers while the defense turned the Jets over twice.

2. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11-3)

Previous rank: T-3
Points in poll: 214
Highest-place vote: 2 (6 voters)
Lowest-place vote: 5 (1 voter)
Last week’s result: Beat Indianapolis 34-7
This week: at Tennessee

Drew Brees was practically perfect in every way for the Saints on a record-setting night, as he set the NFL record for passing touchdowns—passing Peyton Manning in the record books—in front of his home crowd. 

3. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (11-3)

Previous rank: 2
Points in poll: 205
Highest-place vote: 2 (1 voter)
Lowest-place vote: 5 (2 voters)
Last week’s result: Lost to Atlanta, 29-22
This week: vs. L.A. Rams (Sat.)

The Niners have already established themselves as one of the NFC’s best, so while it doesn’t hurt that much, a late-season loss to the Falcons is kind of confusing. But aside from George Kittle’s 134 from scrimmage, no San Francisco pass catcher topped 29 receiving yards, and the normally stout defense had no answers for Julio Jones while surrendering a pair of fourth-quarter TD drives to Atlanta.

4. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (10-4)

Previous rank: T-3
Points in poll: 199
Highest-place vote: 3 (1 voter)
Lowest-place vote: 6 (1 voter)
Last week’s result: Beat Denver, 23-3
This week: at Chicago

Snow angels for everyone after a fourth win in a row for the Chiefs, one that saw Patrick Mahomes sling it around for 340 yards, two TDs, an INT and a 115.7 rating on 27-of-34 attempts. Travis Kelce became the first tight end with over 1,000 yards in four straight seasons, and he did so in style with 11 receptions for 143 yards.

5. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (11-3)

Previous rank: T-5
Points in poll: 197
Highest-place vote: 3 (3 voters)
Lowest-place vote: 9 (1 voter)
Last week’s result: Beat Carolina, 30-24
This week: vs. Arizona

Seattle was probably a tad uncomfortable late as the Panthers slashed a 30-10 fourth quarter lead down to 30-24 with three minutes to go, but some hard running from Chris Carson kept it that way. Russell Wilson was fantastic (20-of-26, 286 yards, 2 TDs, 137.7 rating), Carson picked up 133 yards and two TDs on the ground and Tyler Lockett appears fully healthy in time for the postseason (eight catches, 120 yards).

6. GREEN BAY PACKERS (11-3)

Previous rank: 7
Points in poll: 190
Highest-place vote: 3 (1 voter)
Lowest-place vote: 8 (1 voter)
Last week’s result: Beat Chicago, 21-13
This week: at Minnesota (Mon.)

The Packers were a lateral away from having to defend a two-point conversion and potentially head to overtime against the Bears—their second close call against subpar competition in as many weeks. Visiting Minnesota will be a tougher test, and the Packers best be on their Ps and Qs sitting just a game ahead of the Vikings in the NFC North.

7. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (10-4)

Previous rank: 8
Points in poll: 182
Highest-place vote: 4 (1 voter)
Lowest-place vote: 10 (1 voter)
Last week’s result: Beat L.A. Chargers, 39-10
This week: vs. Green Bay (Mon.)

The Vikings continue happily beating up on the lackluster competition set before them, content to convert 20 points from seven L.A. turnovers and do little else aside from watching the game clock run down. But Minnesota’s “best” win this season is against Dallas, something they should look to improve on with Green Bay in town on Monday night and NFC North seeding still not decided.

8. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (11-3)

Previous rank: T-5
Points in poll: 181
Highest-place vote: 6 (2 voters)
Lowest-place vote: 8 (3 voters)
Last week’s result: Beat Cincinnati, 34-13
This week: vs. Buffalo (Sat.)

After a dodgy first half, the Patriots pulled away for a needed W. The defense appears to be embracing its role as the most important part of the offense, generating five takeaways that led to 17 New England points. Stephon Gilmore (two INTs, including this pick-six) continues a DPOY-candidate season while the Pats found more success running the ball (175 team rush yards) than they have all year.

9. BUFFALO BILLS (10-4)

Previous rank: 9
Points in poll: 166
Highest-place vote: 9 (5 voters)
Lowest-place vote: 10 (2 voters)
Last week’s result: Beat Pittsburgh, 17-10
This week: at New England (Sat.)

Not a pretty win for Buffalo, but one that confirmed their defense is to be taken very, very seriously come January. Yes, the Steelers offense is useless, but five takeaways helped cover the warts on Buffalo’s similarly shoddy O. Still, Josh Allen only turned it over once and engineered this drive to put the Bills ahead for good and set up a surprisingly pivotal Week 16 AFC East showdown with the Patriots.

10. HOUSTON TEXANS (9-5)

Previous rank: 11
Points in poll: 162
Highest-place vote: 7 (1 voter)
Lowest-place vote: 12 (1 voter)
Last week’s result: Beat Tennessee, 24-21
This week: at Tampa Bay (Sat.)

Despite some pressure in the second half, the Texans D did enough to keep a Titans comeback at bay, with this earlier pick (almost) six by Whitney Mercilus (converted into seven Houston points not long after) proving to be a decisive swing. Two INTs didn’t come back to haunt Deshaun Watson (19-of-27, 243 yards, two TDs), but he was aided by Carlos Hyde (26 rushes, 104 yards) and DeAndre Hopkins (six catches, 119 yards) in keeping the Texans in the pole position in the AFC South.

11. DALLAS COWBOYS (7-7)

Previous rank: 14
Points in poll: 149
Highest-place vote: 11 (3 voters)
Lowest-place vote: 13 (1 voters)
Last week’s result: Beat L.A. Rams, 44-21
This week: at Philadelphia

Excuse me? It was the Cowboys turn to benefit from a glitch in the simulation, as Ezekiel Elliott (24 carries, 117 yards, two TDs) and Tony Pollard (12 carries, 131 yards, one TD) did all the heavy lifting for Dak Prescott and Dallas. Dominant, important win to get the ‘Boys back on track, but it means little if they can’t go into the Linc and win next week.

12. TENNESSEE TITANS (8-6)

Previous rank: 12
Points in poll: 144
Highest-place vote: 11 (2 voters)
Lowest-place vote: 15 (1 voter)
Last week’s result: Lost to Houston, 24-21
This week: vs. New Orleans

If you want to treat the Titans like a playoff team, then this was a setback, particularly during a week when the Steelers lost. Not getting on the board until 5:40 left in the third quarter hurt immensely despite solid outings from Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown, as did the aforementioned Mercilus goal-line INT and this early blocked FG that came back to haunt Tennessee.

13. LOS ANGELES RAMS (8-6)

Previous rank: 10
Points in poll: 141
Highest-place vote: 8 (1 voter)
Lowest-place vote: 15 (3 voters)
Last week’s result: Lost to Dallas, 44-21
This week: at San Francisco (Sat.)

Two teams desperate for wins took the field Sunday in Arlington, but the Rams didn’t seem interested in putting up much of a fight. They looked even less interested as it quickly became clear the Cowboys were going to blow their doors off and probably end their season after Week 17. Jared Goff (33-of-51, 284 yards, two TDs, INT) wasn’t really the problem; offensive “weapons” Todd Gurley, Cooper Kupp, Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods were all invisible, and the formerly fearsome defense gave up 263 yards on the ground, generated no sacks and gave up 28 points before halftime.

14. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (7-7)

Previous rank: 13
Points in poll: 141
Highest-place vote: 11 (1 voter)
Lowest-place vote: 14 (2 voters)
Last week’s result: Beat Washington, 37-27
This week: vs. Dallas

The Eagles finally drew even with Dallas after some fingernail-chewing late against Washington. But for a struggling QB like Carson Wentz working with just two healthy WRs that would be hard pressed to find playing time on any other active NFL roster (though Greg Ward Jr. was clutch down the stretch), this is the sort of drive that can keep Philly’s underwhelming, ultimately fruitless season alive just a bit longer.

15. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (8-6)

Previous rank: 15
Points in poll: 125
Highest-place vote: 14 (4 voters)
Lowest-place vote: 17 (2 voters)
Last week’s result: Lost to Buffalo, 17-10
This week: at N.Y. Jets

A defensive slugfest against the Bills also showed which of the anemic offenses is less equipped for the playoffs, and it proved to be the Steelers’. Devlin Hodges threw plenty of ducks (23-of-38, 202 yards, TD, four INTs, 43.9 rating) and James Conner (eight carries, 42 yards) couldn’t do much against a tough Bills front seven. All of Hodges’s four picks came inside the Buffalo 35, and the two fourth-quarter picks were turned over in the end zone.

16. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (7-7)

Previous rank: 19
Points in poll: 115
Highest-place vote: 15 (2 voters)
Lowest-place vote: 18 (2 voters)
Last week’s result: Beat Detroit, 38-17
This week: vs. Houston (Sat.)

It’s clear Bruce Arians wants as much film as possible on Jameis Winston before the end of the season because 446 of the Bucs’ 495 yards from scrimmage came via Winston’s right arm. But Jameis will be happy to put a 28-of-42, four-touchdown, one-interception performance on tape as Breshad Perriman (113 yards, three TDs) and Chris Godwin (121 yards) stepped up with Mike Evans out of action.

17. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (6-8)

Previous rank: 16
Points in poll: 113
Highest-place vote: 15 (1 voter)
Lowest-place vote: 19 (1 voter)
Last week’s result: Lost to New Orleans, 34-7
This week: vs. Carolina

18. CHICAGO BEARS (7-7)

Previous rank: 20
Points in poll: 106
Highest-place vote: 16 (2 voters)
Lowest-place vote: 21 (1 voter)
Last week’s result: Lost to Green Bay, 21-13
This week: vs. Kansas City

Finally, the Bears have mathematically bitten the bullet. No double-doink salvation this year, but Chicago at least made it interesting down the stretch, winning four of their last five before dropping a tough away game to their rivals. Still, if Jesper Horsted gets this lateral off, that’s a touchdown. From there, who knows?

19. ATLANTA FALCONS (5-9)

Previous rank: T-22
Points in poll: 101
Highest-place vote: 17 (1 voter)
Lowest-place vote: 21 (1 voter)
Last week’s result: Beat San Francisco, 29-22
This week: vs. Jacksonville

It’s hard not to wonder what could have been for the 2019 Falcons had they not started the season 1-7. Impressive fight once again from Atlanta, who overcame fourth quarter deficits of 19-10 and 22-17 to upset one of the NFC’s best. Julio Jones was a monster, reeling in 13 catches for 134 yards and two TDs, including this difficult goal-line dart from Matty Ice to win it for the Falcons.

20. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (5-9)

Previous rank: 17
Points in poll: 86
Highest-place vote: 19 (1 voter)
Lowest-place vote: 23 (1 voter)
Last week’s result: Lost to Minnesota, 39-10
This week: vs. Oakland

Disgusting brand of football put forth by the Chargers on Sunday in a game where they matched their opponents in total yards but lost by 29 points. The culprit? Seven turnovers, including six total from Phillip Rivers (three INTs, fumble) and Melvin Gordon (two fumbles), that led to 20 Minnesota points.

21. CLEVELAND BROWNS (6-8)

Previous rank: 18
Points in poll: 79
Highest-place vote: 20 (2 voters)
Lowest-place vote: 23 (3 voters)
Last week’s result: Lost to Arizona, 38-24
This week: vs. Baltimore

This must be the NFL’s least likable team at this point, right? All the good feelings and lofty expectations from the preseason are long gone as the defense gave up 38 points to a rookie QB and his middling offense while Baker Mayfield continues to struggle finding OBJ (eight catches, 66 yards) and Jarvis Landry (five catches, 23 yards). The lone bright spot continues to be Nick Chubb, who rushed for 127 yards and a TD on 17 carries.

22. DENVER BRONCOS (5-9)

Previous rank: 21
Points in poll: 74
Highest-place vote: 20 (2 voters)
Lowest-place vote: 25 (2 voters)
Last week’s result: Lost to Kansas City, 23-3
This week: vs. Detroit

It was a lot to ask of Drew Lock to go out and win this one in the snow, and the conditions clearly hampered the young QB’s accuracy (18-of-40, 208 yards, INT). But in weather that favored running the ball, the Broncos RBs mustered just 52 yards on the ground, nowhere near enough to keep them on even terms with the Chiefs.

23. OAKLAND RAIDERS (6-8)

Previous rank: T-22
Points in poll: 68
Highest-place vote: 19 (1 voter)
Lowest-place vote: 29 (1 voter)
Last week’s result: Lost to Jacksonville, 20-16
This week: at L.A. Chargers

This was tough to watch. Giving up 17 unanswered second half points while failing to get past the Jacksonville 27 or score after halftime is no way to say goodbye to Raider Nation in the Coliseum, and the fans certainly agreed. During their recent four-game capitulation, Oakland only scored nine total second half points, all in the blowout loss to the Chiefs two weeks ago.

24. ARIZONA CARDINALS (4-9-1)

Previous rank: 25
Points in poll: 60
Highest-place vote: 20 (1 voter)
Lowest-place vote: 28 (1 voter)
Last week’s result: Beat Cleveland, 38-24
This week: at Seattle

The Cardinals stayed one step ahead of the hapless Browns all afternoon to complete the “upset.” Game ball goes to Kenyan Drake, who rewarded dedicated fantasy owners with 137 yards and four TDs (both career highs) on 22 rushes for Arizona.

25. NEW YORK JETS (5-9)

Previous rank: 26
Points in poll: 59
Highest-place vote: 22 (1 voter)
Lowest-place vote: 28 (1 voter)
Last week’s result: Lost to Baltimore, 42-21 (Thurs.)
This week: vs. Pittsburgh

Nobody expected the Jets to put up a fight, and … they didn’t. Nothing impressive or noteworthy about a 21-point loss that featured all the lackluster stats you’d expect from New York: two turnovers to Baltimore’s zero, 94 yards of penalties, 0-for-2 on fourth down and two missed kicks for Sam Ficken.

26. CAROLINA PANTHERS (5-9)

Previous rank: 24
Points in poll: 48
Highest-place vote: 22 (1 voter)
Lowest-place vote: 29 (1 voter)
Last week’s result: Lost to Seattle, 30-24
This week: at Indianapolis

A livelier effort from Carolina, but that’s still six losses in a row. Christian McCaffery (87 rush yards, 88 receiving yards, two rushing TDs) finally had some help from D.J. Moore (113 yards on eight receptions), but Kyle Allen has now thrown 11 interceptions to just eight touchdowns during the skid (three vs. Seattle).

27. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (5-9)

Previous rank: 28
Points in poll: 43
Highest-place vote: 25 (1 voter)
Lowest-place vote: 28 (3 voters)
Last week’s result: Beat Oakland, 20-16
This week: at Atlanta

Given all the winnable games the Jaguars dropped or got blown out in this season, scoring 17 unanswered to run the Raiders out of the Coliseum in their final home game felt wrong. But Gardner Minshew (17-of-29, 201 yards, two TDs) got back on track, piecing together this game-winning drive capped with a rolling goal-line strike to Chris Conley (two TDs).

28. MIAMI DOLPHINS (3-11)

Previous rank: 27
Points in poll: 40
Highest-place vote: 24 (1 voter)
Lowest-place vote: 31 (2 voters)
Last week’s result: Lost to N.Y. Giants, 36-20
This week: vs. Cincinnati

The Dolphins JV defense got exposed again, this time coughing up 36 to a two-win team quarterbacked by the ghost of Eli Manning. Still, DeVante Parker celebrated his new deal by reeling in two TDs.

29. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (3-11)

Previous rank: 29
Points in poll: 28
Highest-place vote: 26 (1 voter)
Lowest-place vote: 30 (3 voters)
Last week’s result: Lost to Philadelphia, 37-27
This week: vs. N.Y. Giants

Tight losses are the only currency worth anything at this point, so atta boy Washington! Dwayne Haskins had his best start of the season by a mile (19-of-28, 261 yards, two TDs, 121.3 rating) but simply ran out of time late. Still, he and Terry McLaurin (five receptions, 130 yards, TD) look like keepers.

30. NEW YORK GIANTS (3-11)

Previous rank: T-30
Points in poll: 25
Highest-place vote: 25 (1 voters)
Lowest-place vote: 31 (2 voters)
Last week’s result: Beat Miami, 36-20
This week: at Washington

Eli finally got his feel-good moment and looked halfway decent doing it (20-of-28, 278 yards, two TDs, three INTs). Combine that with Saquon Barkley’s first 100+ yard rushing outing since Week 2 as well as Sterling Shepard’s best game of the year (nine catches, 111 yards) and the Giants are in the win column for the first time since Week 4.

31. DETROIT LIONS (3-10-1)

Previous rank: T-30
Points in poll: 16
Highest-place vote: 28 (1 voter)
Lowest-place vote: 32 (4 voters)
Last week’s result: Lost to Tampa Bay, 38-17
This week: at Denver

21-3 halftime deficits are never a good thing, especially for a team as offensively challenged as this one. The Lions missed Bo Scarborough immensely (45 team rushing yards), but David Blough has now thrown five picks to his three touchdowns since taking over as starter.

32. CINCINNATI BENGALS (1-13)

Previous rank: 32
Points in poll: 15
Highest-place vote: 27 (1 voter)
Lowest-place vote: 32 (3 voters)
Last week’s result: Lost to New England, 34-13
This week: at Miami

With Joe Burrow winning the Heisman, the Giants winning a football game for the first time since September and the Patriots in town to dole out the L, it was a perfect weekend for the Bengals. Andy Dalton (four INTs, 39.2 rating) didn’t do himself any free agency favors, but Joe Mixon (136 rushing yards on 25 carries) found holes all afternoon against a decent NE run defense.

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