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SQ NFL Power Rankings: Week 16

Patriots.com

With the defending Champs at the top of our rankings near season’s end, who will be their biggest threats?

Death. Taxes. New England Patriots with home-field advantage in the playoffs. We are in Week 16 and you just knew that somehow, someway, the Patriots would claim their rightful spot. It doesn’t matter who surrounds the team so long as the nucleus is Brady and Belichick. The Patriots leapfrogged their latest opponent, and the table is set for an interesting NFL playoffs.

   Ranking (Change)

1 (+1)

New England Patriots (11-3)

New England Patriots (11-3)

It’s not a real Patriots’ victory if there isn’t a little bit of controversy. A divisive call revoked a potential game-winning Pittsburgh touchdown with 30 seconds left, and two plays later Duron Harmon sealed the New England victory with an end zone interception. All the fuss surrounding the call has overshadowed what was a solid bounce-back performance for the Patriots, who struggled in Miami the previous week. The importance of Rob Gronkowski to this offense can’t be overstated; the dynamic tight end had 168 receiving yards in his return from suspension. (Kyle Trapp)

2 (-1)

Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3)

Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3)

The Steelers had their guts punched at the worst possible moment in Week 15, when the officials overturned Jesse James’ touchdown because the ball moved just a bit as James went to the ground. Two plays later, Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception on a fake spike play from the seven-yard line, sealing the win for New England. If that wasn’t bad enough, Pittsburgh lost Antonio Brown for the rest of the regular season to a calf injury, and there’s no telling if he’ll be back to 100% by the postseason. (Nick Cardozo)

3 (+1)

Jacksonville Jaguars (10-4)

Jacksonville Jaguars (10-4)

Once, and maybe still, looked as one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL, Blake Bortles has been unbelievable of late and has the Jaguars playoff-bound for the first time since 2007. There’s been a lot of skepticism on who will be Jacksonville’s starting quarterback in 2018; however, over his past three games, Bortles has presented a strong case on why he should remain the starter, averaging 301 passing yards per game, while throwing seven touchdowns to zero interceptions: just astonishing. With their defense already among the league’s best, Bortles playing at an MVP-level, and their top-ranked rushing attack (149.1 yards per game), the Jaguars might possess favorable odds to take home Super Bowl LII. (Ryan Grube)

4 (+2)

Los Angeles Rams (10-4)

Los Angeles Rams (10-4)

The Rams’ blowout win against Seattle in Week 15 was easily their most impressive performance in recent memory. Seattle had no answer for the Los Angeles running game, allowing a total of 244 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Defensively, the Rams racked up seven sacks and held Russell Wilson to just 142 passing yards on 30 attempts. Since their Week 8 bye, the Rams are averaging 32.3 points per game and could very well be the NFC’s most dangerous team heading into the postseason. (Nick Cardozo)

5 (-)

Minnesota Vikings (11-3)

Minnesota Vikings (11-3)

A week removed from a heartbreaking loss to the Panthers, the Vikings thoroughly dominated the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, beating them 34-7. Case Keenum was nearly perfect, completing 20-of-23 passes for 236 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The journeyman continues to be one of the biggest surprises and feel-good stories of the season, and it’s fair to wonder if he’s a legitimate MVP candidate at this point. Regardless of whether or not he brings home any hardware, he has Minnesota firing on all cylinders, and they arguably look like the best all-around team in the league. (Kyle Trapp)

6 (-3)

Philadelphia Eagles (12-2)

Philadelphia Eagles (12-2)

The Eagles survived a near-upset by the now 2-12 Giants and remained at the top of the NFC playoff standings. In a game where they once trailed by 13, Philadelphia’s defense struggled mightily to contain Eli Manning, as he went off en route to 434 yards and three touchdowns. However, they are fortunate to have arguably the league’s best backup quarterback, as Nick Foles threw for 237 yards and four touchdowns, including the eventual game-winning score to Nelson Agholor. Although they squeaked by with a win, the 503 total yards given up to the 30th-ranked scoring offense in the NFL (16.1 points per game) is concerning for a team that’s one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. The Eagles will need a strong finish against the Raiders and Cowboys if they want to convince us that they are legitimate contenders. (Ryan Grube)

7 (-)

New Orleans Saints (10-4)

New Orleans Saints (10-4)

Coming off a disappointing loss in a game they should have won against Atlanta, the Saints took care of business with a win over an up-and-down Jets team. New Orleans was excited and grateful to get rookie sensation running back, Alvin Kamara, back from a concussion, as he once again showed why he is a favorite to take home the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award in the NFC. In a game where the Saints were cautious with his usage, Kamara still delivered a strong stat line, rushing for 44 yards on 12 carries, while hauling in six passes for 45 yards and a score: not one of his stronger games, but still productive. Mark Ingram was also dominant, finishing with 151 total yards and two scores. The combination of the Saints’ dynamic running back duo, Drew Brees’ consistency, and the continued emergence of second-year wideout Michael Thomas are going make the Saints a real force to be reckoned with in the playoffs. (Ryan Grube)

8 (-)

Carolina Panthers (10-4)

Carolina Panthers (10-4)

After following up a Super Bowl appearance with a very disappointing 2016 campaign, the Panthers have returned to the team that won the NFC South for three straight years. While they have yet to clinch a playoff spot yet due to the fact that they play in the incredibly competitive NFC South, Carolina sits with a 10-4 record and a very winnable game coming up at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Cam Newton is back to form having passed for nearly 3,000 yards and over 20 touchdowns and rushing for over 600 yards and five scores. Besides maybe Wilson and Rodgers, arguably no quarterback is as responsible for his team’s offense than Cam. (Adrian Nelson)

9 (-)

Atlanta Falcons (9-5)

Atlanta Falcons (9-5)

Atlanta is right where they want to be after escaping with a win against the Buccaneers last Monday night. Although they have two tough games ahead of them, everything is right there in front of the Falcons. With games coming up against divisional rivals in the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers, the math is simple for Atlanta, win just one of the next two and they are in. Lose and they could get in with some help. If you asked Falcons fans at the beginning of the season whether they would take a chance to win one of two and make the playoffs, they would take it. The only issue with this is that the Falcons are worse than both the Panthers and Saints. They’re a lot worse than New Orleans and slightly worse than Carolina, but in the NFL any team can win on any day. (Adrian Nelson)

10 (+3)

Baltimore Ravens (8-6)

Baltimore Ravens (8-6)

Following a crushing loss to the Steelers that could have proven them as a real playoff threat in the AFC, the Ravens bounced back and got a much-needed victory against the defeated Browns. It’s safe to say that offense has not been the key to Baltimore’s 8-6 record, but rather their lockdown defense, which currently sits fourth in the NFL in points allowed per game (18.4), and first in total takeaways (33). And although the offense hasn’t been as explosive as some might have expected with the offseason addition of Jeremy Maclin, Joe Flacco has been throwing the ball downfield more consistently as of late. He now has six completions of 30+ yards over his last three games after completing just three such passes in his previous 10. If Joe Flacco and the Ravens can pair a stable offense with a dominant defense, then they will surely lock up the final Wild Card spot in the AFC and be a team to look out for come playoff time. (Ryan Grube)

11 (+5)

Kansas City Chiefs (8-6)

Kansas City Chiefs (8-6)

Following a disastrous four-game skid, many had written off the Chiefs from playoff contention, comparing their collapse to last year’s Minnesota Vikings team. However, Kansas City has rebounded well, winning two straight and both over division rivals in the Raiders and Chargers, to take a one-game lead in the AFC West. Their key to success has been their renewed rushing attack, featuring Kareem Hunt. Hunt had gone seven weeks without surpassing 100 rushing yards; he has now done so in back-to-back weeks, the latter being the most impressive. Hunt dominated the Chargers, rushing 24 times for 155 yards and a touchdown, while adding seven receptions for 51 yards and another score; it was just an all-around spectacular performance, and one that Chiefs fans had long-awaited. With their final two matchups against the Dolphins and the Broncos, Kansas City looks like the favorite to hoist the AFC West title for a second-consecutive season. (Ryan Grube)

12 (-2)

Seattle Seahawks (8-6)

Seattle Seahawks (8-6)

Seattle put forth a horrendous effort in Week 15, allowing the Rams to dominate in every facet of the game. Now Seattle will travel to visit a Dallas team on a three-game win streak and with Ezekiel Elliott back. Another loss and Seattle’s postseason hopes will officially be gone. Considering the team’s defense has allowed a total of 400 rushing yards over the past two games, Elliott should be able to do whatever he wants in this matchup. As brilliant as Russell Wilson has been at times this season, the injuries on defense have been too much to overcome. (Nick Cardozo)

13 (+1)

Detroit Lions (8-6)

Detroit Lions (8-6)

Detroit is another team that has fallen victim to a streaky season; over their past 10 weeks, they’ve had a three-game losing streak, followed by a three-game winning streak, then a two-game skid, and now they’ve rallied off two straight victories. It’s tough to gauge whether or not this Lions team is playoff-caliber because although they’ve rebounded following their losing streaks, it’s been against weak, non-playoff teams. Detroit possesses just one win against teams with a record above .500, compared to six losses; part of the reason is the Lions’ lack of ability to establish a solid rushing attack. They currently rank 31st in the NFL in rushing yards per game (77.4) and have yet to receive a 100-yard effort from a rusher this season. If they miss out on the playoffs, Detroit will need to address their running back position in the offseason. (Ryan Grube)

14 (+1)

Dallas Cowboys (8-6)

Dallas Cowboys (8-6)

Even with Dallas riding a three-game win streak, the importance of Ezekiel Elliott’s return should not be understated. In six games without Elliott, the Cowboys averaged 18.3 points per game. With Elliott on the field, the team is averaging 28.3 points per game. When Dak and Zeke both start, the Cowboys are 18-5 in regular season games since the start of the 2016 season. A date with the Seahawks is never ideal, but they were downright embarrassed by Todd Gurley and the Rams in Week 15. The combination of an ailing Seattle team going against a fresh, lean Zeke has to have Dallas feeling good about this week. (Nick Cardozo)

15 (-4)

Los Angeles Chargers (7-7)

Los Angeles Chargers (7-7)

LA currently sits 7-7 and in eighth in the AFC. The Titans, Ravens, and Bills currently sit above them, but the Chargers are right there. Los Angeles suffered a huge blow at the hands of the Chiefs last week losing by 17 points on the road. Still, they have very winnable games coming up against the Jets and Raiders, and that’s good news. The Bills have a tough game coming up against the Patriots, were they to lose, which is likely, and the Chargers to win, also likely, they would be tied. The Chargers won the meeting with the Bills earlier in the season when Nathan Peterman introduced himself to the league by throwing five interceptions. So although they are out of it now, the Chargers could easily move up one or two spots this weekend. (Adrian Nelson)

16 (-4)

Tennessee Titans (8-6)

Tennessee Titans (8-6)

Tennessee suffered a key loss last week against the lowly San Francisco 49ers, dropping them to 8-6 and putting them in a three-way tie with the Ravens and Bills, competing for the two Wild Card spots. The good news for the Titans is that they currently own tie-breakers over these teams due to their conference record, but with two weeks left in the season that could change. To remove any doubt, the Titans simply need to win. The problem for the Titans is that their next two games are against two of the top five teams in this Power Ranking in the Los Angeles Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars. With those games shaping out as potential losses, the Titans may find themselves on the outside looking in and regretting that loss to San Francisco. (Adrian Nelson)

17 (-)

Buffalo Bills (8-6)

Buffalo Bills (8-6)

After their second straight win, the Bills currently hold the AFC’s sixth seed. Two straight divisional road games (@NE, @MIA) won’t make life easy, but the Bills’ playing style is well-suited for this time of year. Over their last five games, the Bills are averaging 160 rush yards per game, which is exactly how they’ll need to play to have a shot against the Patriots. Additionally, over their last four games, the Bills are allowing just 14 points per game. If Buffalo’s defense can keep getting off the field while the offense wins the possession battle through its running game, the Bills should find themselves in the playoffs. (Nick Cardozo)

18 (+1)

Oakland Raiders (6-8)

Oakland Raiders (6-8)

Oakland was officially eliminated from postseason contention after Derek Carr fell victim to one of football’s worst rules: the fumble into the end zone and out of bounds for a touchback. Carr was held to just 171 passing yards on the day, missing open targets and making dangerous throws to blanketed receivers. It’s been an up-and-down season for the Raiders, which is hugely disappointing given their lofty preseason expectations. There should be some turnover with the coaching staff this offseason. (Nick Cardozo)

19 (-1)

Green Bay Packers (7-7)

Green Bay Packers (7-7)

Aaron Rodgers’ return to the field was far from ideal, as he threw three interceptions in a loss to Carolina, effectively ending Green Bay’s playoff hopes. This week, the team wisely placed Rodgers on IR for the rest of the season and will give Brett Hundley the chance to develop further. In the short run, Green Bay has a chance to spoil Minnesota’s hopes for a first-round bye and Detroit’s hopes for a playoff spot at all. Thinking long term, the team needs to address its defense, which is currently ranked 26th in the league in yards allowed. Rodgers will always make the offense explosive, but the team was only 4-3 in his starts this year. Until the defense gets shored up, Green Bay’s ceiling will be capped. (Nick Cardozo)

20 (-)

Washington Redskins (6-8)

Washington Redskins (6-8)

Although they are firmly out of the playoff picture and discussion, the Redskins got a much-needed win over the Cardinals, as they are still looking to conclude the season with a strong finish. Currently sitting at 6-8, these last two games are extremely important for Washington, as they will enter the offseason with several vital players becoming free agents. The player drawing the most chatter regarding his contract in Kirk Cousins has already stated that he wants to remain in Washington for his entire career for the correct price. However, other key players, such as Zach Brown, Mason Foster, Spencer Long, and Bashaud Breeland, are also free agents after the season and need optimism to convince them to re-sign: three consecutive wins to finish the year could do just that. At this point, the Redskins are playing for an 8-8 finish — which would mark their third straight season with a non-losing record — and valuable free agent signings. (Ryan Grube)

21 (-)

New York Jets (5-9)

New York Jets (5-9)

The age-old saying goes that you truly don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone. In the case of the Jets, the thing they’re missing severely right now is a serviceable quarterback. Josh McCown may not make any All-Pro teams, but the veteran was having a solid season before fracturing his hand last week. In the two games since, Bryce Petty has completed less than 44% of his passes while tossing a pair of interceptions. New York has been one the league’s biggest surprises this season, but with Petty at the helm, they’re unlikely to win another game. (Kyle Trapp)

22 (-)

Arizona Cardinals (6-8)

Arizona Cardinals (6-8)

Sunday’s matchup against the Redskins was a pretty “meh” performance all around for the now 6-8 Cardinals. For the second week in a row, kicker Phil Dawson accounted for all of Arizona’s points, never a good sign for a team’s victory odds. In the 20-15 loss, Blaine Gabbert was Blaine Gabbert, completing just 39% of his passes for 189 yards and an interception. On the other side of the ball, the defense did their job for the most part, limiting Washington to just 218 yards. But without much help from the offense, it was all in vain. The Cardinals will look to turn things around this week against the Giants, with only draft position at stake. (Kyle Trapp)

23 (-)

Miami Dolphins (6-8)

Miami Dolphins (6-8)

Fighting with Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins for most disappointing South Floria professional team, Miami lost a game to the Bills effectively ending their season. Although they only lost by eight, the Dolphins were never really in the game, and although in the mix, have never been a true threat from season’s start. The team is ranked 26th in both points scored and points given. That they have six wins on the season is somewhat of a minor miracle. The Dolphins will need to figure out how to revamp their defense and hope Tannehill can be an average-to-good quarterback. (Adrian Nelson)

24 (+5)

San Francisco 49ers (4-10)

San Francisco 49ers (4-10)

Three starts for Jimmy Garoppolo, three wins for Jimmy Garoppolo. “Jimmy GQ” again showed why he was more than worth the second-round pick the 49ers used to acquire him. Garoppolo racked up 381 passing yards and calmly led a drive to set up Robbie Gould’s game-winning 45 yard field goal to beat Tennessee. John Lynch has already made several brilliant moves as San Francisco’s GM, and with a premium draft pick coming and cap space to boot, the franchise’s future is looking brighter and brighter. (Nick Cardozo)

25 (-)

Houston Texans (4-10)

Houston Texans (4-10)

We’ve been saying for weeks that the Texans have nothing to play for this season, not even a draft spot. That showed on Sunday, as they were absolutely manhandled by a shorthanded Jaguars squad. Despite being without Leonard Fournette and Marqise Lee, the Jacksonville offense still racked up 464 yards and 45 points. T.J. Yates and company managed just a lone touchdown on the offensive side of the ball; they’ve averaged 13 points per game over the past four weeks. There are brighter days ahead for Houston, but with a hungry Steelers’ team coming to town this week, those days will have to wait. (Kyle Trapp)

26 (-2)

Cincinnati Bengals (5-9)

Cincinnati Bengals (5-9)

The Bengals have lost three straight games after briefly having life with a 5-6 record. As predicted by many, including our writers in last week’s Power Rankings, Marvin Lewis is on his way out after 15 seasons. The team needs a shake-up, especially on offense. The Bengals are ranked 28th in passing yards, dead last in rushing yards, and 29th in points scored. The dramatic decline has come due to changes at the offensive line. Key pieces have either aged or left to play elsewhere and it has left that line in tatters and that defense a shell of its former self. The Bengals have plenty of tools, but will need to commit to the trenches this offseason. (Adrian Nelson)

27 (-)

Denver Broncos (5-9)

Denver Broncos (5-9)

After losing eight straight games, the Broncos are on a heater winning two whole consecutive games! Pay no attention to the fact that it was against the Jets and Colts, the Broncos are hot. Sarcasm aside, the last couple games have reminded us of what we knew about this team: they have a great defense and a good running game. All they need is passable play from the quarterback. Unfortunately for them, they haven’t gotten that. Their QBs have combined for 17 touchdowns and 19 interceptions on the season. If Elway can sure up that position in the offseason, then the Broncos will be back to the postseason next year. (Adrian Nelson)

28 (-2)

Chicago Bears (4-10)

Chicago Bears (4-10)

The Bears have been tough to get a read on as of late. After going off for 33 points against a solid Cincinnati defense in Week 14, Chicago mustered just 10 points in a loss to the Lions on Saturday. 314 yards and a 67% completion rate look good for Mitchell Trubisky, but three interceptions do not. He’s certainly shown flashes in his rookie season, but he’s not at the point where he can win games on his own. In a game where Bears’ running backs mustered just 40 yards on the ground, he was simply asked to do too much. (Kyle Trapp)

29 (-1)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-10)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-10)

Tampa Bay had the opportunity to play spoiler Monday night against the division-rival Falcons, but a game-tying field goal off the foot of Patrick Murray sailed right. It was a tough pill to swallow for a team that has had a trying season. On the bright side, Jameis Winston had one of his best games of the season, completing 27-of-35 passes for 299 yards and three TDs. Even more noteworthy is the lack of turnovers, as the quarterback accounted for three last week against Detroit. Winston is the future of this franchise, and the Buccaneers need him to build off this performance moving forward. (Kyle Trapp)

30 (-)

Indianapolis Colts (3-11)

Indianapolis Colts (3-11)

Indianapolis has been bad. So bad, for so long, that it’s tough to find new things to say. So an update instead. First, only the Browns have been more outscored than the Colts this season, which is fairly impressive considering the Colts have three wins and have only had a point differential 12 points higher than Cleveland. In other update news, Andrew Luck still may not be completely healed. He will be evaluated to see whether he requires further surgery. This may be the worst bungling of an injury that I’ve ever seen. (Adrian Nelson)

31 (-)

New York Giants (2-12)

New York Giants (2-12)

Man oh man, did the Giants give the Eagles a scare? A game in which many expected the Eagles to control easily, even with Nick Foles under center, quickly turned into an exciting battle between NFC East rivals. Playing without his top two targets, Eli Manning threw for a shocking 434 yards and three touchdowns, and had his Giants in a position to upset the NFC’s top dog on a potential game-winning drive. However, New York was unable to convert the go-ahead touchdown deep in Philadelphia territory, something that has been a common theme for the “G-men” this year, as they are 21st in the NFL in red zone touchdown scoring percentage (52.94%). Although a disappointing loss in a game where they led at the half, perhaps Eli Manning offered fans some optimism, in that he can still be a serviceable quarterback for them even at the age of 36. (Ryan Grube)

32 (-)

Cleveland Browns (0-14)

Cleveland Browns (0-14)

Here we are, entering Week 16 of the NFL regular season, and the Cleveland Browns are still without a victory. This Sunday’s matchup against the Bears presents their last realistic chance at entering the win column, but that won’t happen unless DeShone Kizer starts protecting the ball. The rookie quarterback had three turnovers in a 27-10 loss to the Ravens, including an end zone interception and a fumble that turned into a touchdown. Cleveland has some building blocks, but this isn’t a team good enough right now to win games when it keeps shooting itself in the foot. (Kyle Trapp)

Edited by Jeremy Losak.

SQuiz
Who made the game winning interception for the Patriots in Super Bowl 49?
Created 12/22/17
  1. Darrelle Revis
  2. Devin McCourty
  3. Malcom Bulter
  4. Patrick Chung

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