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NFL 2018 SQ NFL Power Rankings: Week 16

Boston Globe

How far will the Patriots fall after being fell by the Steelers?

Down goes Brady. 

The Patriots have suffered consecutive losses in December and now find themselves on the outside looking in on the first round bye chase. With their most recent loss, our writers have dropped them outside of the top five. 

Where do they rank now? With two weeks remaining in the seasons who makes up our top five? 

Find out the answers to these and other questions below.

   Ranking (Change)

1 (-)

New Orleans Saints (12-2)

New Orleans Saints (12-2)

Although it wasn’t impressive, the Saints did sneak out of Carolina with a victory on Monday night, which means they can secure the 1st seed in the NFC with one more victory. With the NFC playoffs going through New Orleans, the Saints have to feel really good about their chances of advancing to the Super Bowl. (Max Vukelich)

2 (+2)

Los Angeles Chargers (11-3)

Los Angeles Chargers (11-3)

It took about three quarters, but Philip Rivers and the Chargers found their rhythm and took care of the Chiefs last week to deadlock the division at 11-3. Although the Chiefs hold the tiebreaker, the Chargers could take over the AFC by winning out and the Chiefs falling to the Seahawks. Either way, the Chargers are not a team anyone wants to play in the playoffs. (Matt Fowler)

3 (-1)

Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)

Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)

The Chiefs still control their own destiny for both the AFC West title and first seed in the AFC after their heartbreaking loss to the Chargers. A trip to Seattle is a good game to see exactly where this Kansas City team stands, but could cost them a division title in the process. Pat Mahomes could wrap up the MVP race with a dominant performance in Seattle this week. (Matt Fowler)

4 (-1)

Los Angeles Rams (11-3)

Los Angeles Rams (11-3)

Two losses in a row has Sean McVay and fans questioning how good this team actually is. Jared Goff’s falling interception might have cemented his place in history alongside greats like Mark Sanchez’s Butt Fumble and Tony Romo’s holder debacle. The Rams are in danger of losing their first round bye with the Bears, who own the tiebreaker, only a game back. (Matt Fowler)

5 (+1)

Chicago Bears (10-4)

Chicago Bears (10-4)

The Bears secured their first NFC North title since 2010 on Sunday and have locked in a home playoff game, though a first-round bye remains a possibility as well. Nobody wants to see the Bears right now and especially not at Soldier Field. With both the Rams and Saints sputtering on offense, Chicago has a perfect opportunity to make a playoff run, but will only go as far as Mitchell Trubisky can take them. (Nick Cardozo)

6 (+1)

Houston Texans (10-4)

Houston Texans (10-4)

What a turnaround! In one season, Houston has risen from last place in the AFC North to the sitting number two seed in the AFC playoff race. If the team can hold on these final two weeks at Philadelphia and versus Jacksonville, they will secure a first-round bye. (Hunter Bonge)

7 (+3)

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1)

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1)

Pittsburgh came up huge against New England this week, It was a game they had to have, but it was a game they never do. Had they lost, Pittsburgh would have fallen outside of the playoffs and needed help in the final two weeks to climb back in. With a win they maintain their spot and can control what happens to them by taking care of business against the Saints and Bengals. The Steelers’ defense really stepped out. They held the Patriots, who were averaging over 30 points over their last 10 games, to only 10 points of which seven came on a blown coverage TD in the 1st. If the defense can maintain this level of play going forward, they will have a shot to get on the road in the divisional round of the playoffs and come out with a win. (Adrian Nelson)

8 (-3)

New England Patriots (9-5)

New England Patriots (9-5)

The sky is not falling in New England. Yes the Patriots have lost back-to-back December games for the first time in forever. And yes the Patriots will likely not have a first round bye for the first time in forever, but they are still a really good team. Were it not for a miraculous 69 yard hook and ladder play all that we’d be saying is that the Patriots lost a one score game in Pittsburgh against a team that had to have it, not necessarily shocking. As far as the bye goes, the Chiefs and Chargers have had incredible seasons and the Texans have gone on a run after starting the year 0-4 that we’ve never seen before. Those teams should be credited instead. New England is still 5th in yards per game and 7th in points per game. They are still a threat to take it all. (Adrian Nelson)

9 (-1)

Seattle Seahawks (8-6)

Seattle Seahawks (8-6)

Having entered Sunday’s matchup with the 49ers on a four game winning streak, not many people saw Russell Wilson and company losing to a then 3-10 team on their third different quarterback this season. The Seahawks’ defense, who entered last week’s contest among the league’s best in scoring defense (18.4 points allowed per game), were shocked by Nick Mullens and San Francisco’s offense. Mullens picked apart Seattle’s defense, constantly making good decisions and finding open receivers, en route to 275 yards and a touchdown through the air. Meanwhile, on the flip side, the Seahawks were fairly effective on offense — Wilson threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns, while Chris Carson eclipsed 100 yards on the ground. Once again, surprisingly, their issue was their defense that came in playing at a high level. Nonetheless, Pete Carroll’s crew will look to stay afloat in their quest to secure one of the NFC Wild Card spots. Though, their path won’t get any easier this week, as they prepare to host Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. (Ryan Grube)

10 (+1)

Baltimore Ravens (8-6)

Baltimore Ravens (8-6)

With every game, it appears more and more likely that Joe Flacco will never start another contest for the Ravens. Lamar Jackson picked up his fourth win in five tries as Baltimore’s starting quarterback, leading them to a 20-12 victory over the Buccaneers on Sunday. But while Jackson gets all the fanfare, fellow rookie Gus Edwards has arguably been just as integral during the Raven’s hot streak. O0ver the last five games, the tailback is averaging 97 yards per contest while averaging over five yards per carry. (Kyle Trapp)

11 (+1)

Indianapolis Colts (8-6)

Indianapolis Colts (8-6)

The Colts had the most impressive win of the weekend with a 23-0 domination of the Dallas Cowboys. With the Ravens playing the Chargers this weekend, a win against the Giants could set up a winner take all game for the 6th seed against the Titans in Week 17. For a team that started the season 1-5, it’s very impressive to get this far and it will be even more impressive if they can finish off these two games and get into the playoffs. (Max Vukelich)

12 (-3)

Dallas Cowboys (8-6)

Dallas Cowboys (8-6)

The Cowboys’ five-game win streak came to a screeching halt in Week 15, as they were crushed by the Colts 23-0. Indy’s physical offensive line bullied the Dallas front all afternoon, and it’s clear the Cowboys are simply a different team on the road than at home this season. The pass protection has been downright atrocious, as Dak Prescott has now been sacked 51 times this year. For perspective, he was sacked 57 times total over his first two seasons. Dallas can get back on track against the Bucs at home this week, but come playoff time, it’s hard to see the Cowboys make a run given their play away from home. (Nick Cardozo)

13 (-)

Minnesota Vikings (7-6-1)

Minnesota Vikings (7-6-1)

The Vikings keep their grasp on the six seed with their 41-17 victory over the Dolphins. The only downside is Washington and Philadelphia both winning unlikely matchups to keep the playoff race hot. With a half game in pocket, the Vikings still control their own destiny, but a Week 17 matchup with a Chicago team potentially fighting for a first round bye could spell trouble for the Vikings. (Matt Fowler)

14 (-)

Tennessee Titans (8-6)

Tennessee Titans (8-6)

Well, where was this all season, Derrick Henry? A week after gashing Jacksonville’s defense for 238 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, Henry followed up with a 33-carry, 170-yard performance against the Giants. Now, although those two teams are in the bottom half of the league in run defense, it’s worth noting that Henry has almost as many rushing yards in the last two games (408) than he had in his team’s previous 12 games combined (474). With the Titans firmly in the playoff picture at 8-6, this is certainly an encouraging statistic with two crucial games remaining on their schedule. Another uplifting sign is their defense, which following Sunday’s shutout victory, has given up just nine points over their last two games. A matchup against career journeyman Josh Johnson and the Washington Redskins this week should give this defense another confidence-boost, as they prepare for a late-season playoff push. (Ryan Grube)

15 (+1)

Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)

Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)

A shocking win on the road against the then two-loss Los Angeles Rams could be the key for the Philadelphia Eagles somehow sneaking their way back into the playoffs. Entering the game at 6-7 with Nick Foles at starting quarterback and Wentz on the bench for the remainder of the season for medical reasons, not many gave the seemingly down-and-out Eagles a shot. But after a great team performance, Philly earned their shot. Now, the Eagles need to win out and hope that either Dallas drops their next two, against the Bucs and Giants, or the Vikings need to drop one of their final games, against the Lions and Bears. It seems doable, but the toughtest task for the Eagles comes this week against the Houston Texans. If they can get by them, a win on the road over their divisional rivals in Washington could be all that is separating them from a return trip to the post season. (Adrian Nelson)

16 (+1)

Miami Dolphins (7-7)

Miami Dolphins (7-7)

The Dolphins looked to have a chance about three and a half quarters through last week’s game until they imploded in Minnesota. With Baltimore, Indianapolis and Tennessee all winning last week, this was not the week to drop a game. The playoffs now look like a long shot for Ryan Tannehill and this Dolphins team. (Matt Fowler)

17 (-2)

Carolina Panthers (6-8)

Carolina Panthers (6-8)

Absolutely nothing is going right for the Panthers right now. Their second-half of the season collapse continued on Monday night against the Saints, in a contest in which they surprisingly had a good chance to win. Cam Newton continues to miss open receivers, and his performance against the Saints (16 of 29 for 131 yards and an interception) was his worst of the season. With a shoulder injury potentially to blame, it may be time to shut the quarterback down. (Kyle Trapp)

18 (+3)

Cleveland Browns (6-7-1)

Cleveland Browns (6-7-1)

The Browns have won four of their last five games, which I’m almost certain hasn’t happened since the Reagan administration. They aren’t mathematically eliminated from postseason contention, but would need a Week 17 tie between the Colts and Titans, meaning their season is effectively over. Over the last five games, the defense is allowing over 60 fewer yards per game than it had prior to that point, and the unit has a very promising future ahead. If the Browns can nail their head coaching hire this offseason, which is far easier said than done, they could become a trendy Super Bowl pick entering the 2019 season. (Nick Cardozo)

19 (-1)

Denver Broncos (6-8)

Denver Broncos (6-8)

Denver suffered a close loss at home to Cleveland, 17-16. With the playoffs out of reach, John Elway and his staff will look to build their offense in the upcoming draft, which will feature them in a prime slot to grab one of this draft class’ talented young quarterbacks. (Hunter Bonge)

20 (-)

Atlanta Falcons (5-9)

Atlanta Falcons (5-9)

There’s no antidote for a struggling team quite like playing the current version of the Cardinals. A dominant 40-14 victory over Arizona snapped a five-game losing streak for the Falcons, and while the matchup had no playoff implications, it was Atlanta’s most complete performance in a long time. What’s been lost in the disappointing season is the stellar year Matt Ryan is having; the veteran is on pace for nearly 5,000 yards, coupled with 34 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. (Kyle Trapp)

21 (-2)

Green Bay Packers (5-8-1)

Green Bay Packers (5-8-1)

Green Bay is wrapping up its most disappointing season of the Aaron Rodgers era. At 5-8-1, the team’s most important priority is finding its next head coach, with lots of intriguing options in both the NFL and college football. (Hunter Bonge)

22 (-)

Washington Redskins (7-7)

Washington Redskins (7-7)

Wow, what a performance by Josh Johnson, and what a win for a Washington Redskins team that entered Sunday’s matchup with the Jaguars having lost two quarterbacks — three if you count Mark Sanchez’s benching — and four consecutive games. Johnson, who before he was signed, was playing in a rec basketball league and hadn’t started an NFL game in seven years, came in and delivered an improbable performance. The seventh-year man completed 16-of-25 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown through the air, while also adding an additional 49 yards on nine carries on the ground. More importantly, Johnson had zero turnovers. Now, for a normal NFL starting quarterback, this stat line would be nothing to write home about, but considering the circumstances, what Johnson did last week was nothing short of magnificent. At 7-7 following Sunday’s 16-13 victory, Johnson has this team back in the playoff picture with two games remaining. With the NFC Wild Card race wide open at the moment, it’s not time to write off this injury-battered Redskins team just yet. (Ryan Grube)

23 (-)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-9)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-9)

Tampa Bay became the latest victim of the Ravens’ potent defense Sunday, as Jameis Winston and company mustered just 241 total yards on offense. Last week’s performance was a staple to the Buccaneers’ season — constantly having productive drives stall down the stretch due to poor decisions made by the quarterback position, whether it be Jameis Winston or Ryan Fitzpatrick. In fact, the ‘Bucs leads the NFL in turnovers per game with a whopping 2.3 per contest. On the plus side, Peyton Barber was effective running the ball Sunday, rushing for 85 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, while Mike Evans went over 100 yards receiving for the third time in his last five games. There’s only so much to be positive about in Tampa Bay, however, as they were eliminated from playoff contention with last week’s loss. They’ll now turn their attention to finishing the season strong, as well as the offseason, where they’ll certainly need to address their defensive side of the football. (Ryan Grube)

24 (-)

Detroit Lions (5-9)

Detroit Lions (5-9)

Detroit suffered a humiliating 14-13 defeat in Buffalo to continue its 2018 nightmare of a season. As the NFC North has gotten increasingly competitive, the Lions have let dysfunction and complacency creep in, and have settled back into their traditional spot at the bottom of the division. (Hunter Bonge)

25 (-)

New York Giants (5-9)

New York Giants (5-9)

Just when we all thought the Giants finally had some momentum, they go out and get shut out 17-0 by the Titans. Their offense couldn’t move the ball all game, but this week against the Colts gives them a chance to bounce back and spoil the Colts playoff hopes. (Max Vukelich)

26 (+1)

San Francisco 49ers (4-10)

San Francisco 49ers (4-10)

Although it isn’t helping their number-one pick hopes whatsoever, the 49ers — under the command of gunslinger Nick Mullens — have rallied off two impressive home victories over the Broncos, as well as the likely playoff-bound Seattle Seahawks. During this brief stretch, Mike Shanahan’s offense has presented a tough challenge for their opposition, often driving down the field at will against the Denver and Seattle’s tenth and seventh-ranked scoring defenses, respectively. Sunday’s win was easily the more impressive of the two, as San Francisco welcomed Russell Wilson and a red-hot Seahawks team coming off four consecutive victories. They ultimately halted Pete Carroll and company’s playoff train en route to a 26-23 victory over their bitter division rival. Mullens was, once again, efficient, completing 20-of-29 passes for 275 yards and a touchdown, thus further-staking his claim as a serviceable backup in this league. With Jimmy Garoppolo presumably returning from injury next season, and another top draft pick incoming, the 49ers have to feel good about their optimistic future. (Ryan Grube)

27 (-1)

Cincinnati Bengals (6-8)

Cincinnati Bengals (6-8)

It’s strange to think back to when the Bengals were 5-3 because it took a matchup with the lowly Raiders for Cincinnati to put up a good point total. Joe Mixon has run the ball very well as of late but is a lone bright spot offensively. A solid finish to the season could keep Marvin Lewis around for yet another year, but that would certainly be better than having Hue Jackson, who is rumored to be in consideration for Cincy’s head coaching job. The team can also get out of Andy Dalton’s contract with no dead cap charge if it chooses to go that route. (Nick Cardozo)

28 (+1)

Buffalo Bills (5-9)

Buffalo Bills (5-9)

For the first time since he returned from injury, Josh Allen was neutralized on the ground, as he managed just 16 yards on nine carries against the Lions. Regardless, he managed to lead the Bills to a 14-13 victory, highlighted by a beautiful 42-yard touchdown pass to Robert Foster in the fourth quarter. The rookie has consistently demonstrated his athleticism, and he’s shown flashes of his ability as a passer; if he can continue to improve his accuracy, the Bills may have found their franchise quarterback. (Kyle Trapp)

29 (-1)

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10)

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10)

The Jaguars hit a new low on Sunday when they blew a 4th quarter lead to the Josh Johnson-led Washington Redskins. Their season is over at this point, so they need to switch their efforts towards figuring out which quarterback they are going to target to be their starter going into next season because clearly Cody Kessler and Blake Bortles aren’t the answers. (Max Vukelich)

30 (-)

New York Jets (4-10)

New York Jets (4-10)

Todd Bowles is reportedly likely on his way out the door at seasons end. He has a 24-38 record nearing the end of his four year tenure as head coach and has only sniffed the post season once back in 2015 where they ultimately missed the playoffs. They have gotten worse or stayed the same each year under Bowles and this year will be no exception unless the Jets finish with a two game win streak. The only good news for the franchise is that ESPN’s FPI gives them the second best chance at the #1 this year, albeit only at 11%. They have a lot of holes to fill on their roster and will ultimately need to establish an identity for the team, an identity that they’ve lacked with Bowles. (Adrian Nelson)

31 (-)

Oakland Raiders (3-11)

Oakland Raiders (3-11)

After an improbable win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Raiders fell right back into mediocrity with a loss to Cincinnati Bengals backup quarterback, Jeff Driskel. However in fairness to the Raiders it wasn’t the whopping 130 yards passing, 1 TD, and 1 INT that Driskel put up that did in the Raiders, it was the 129 yards and 2 TDs that they surrendered on the ground to Joe Mixon. And that has been a common theme all year. The Raiders give up the most rushing yards in the league per game at just over 145. There defensive line has been just as poor in the passing game, managing only 12 sacks while former Raider Khalil Mack has 12.5 on the season. The priority for the Raiders in the offseason is clear - improve the defensive line. (Adrian Nelson)

32 (-)

Arizona Cardinals (3-11)

Arizona Cardinals (3-11)

The Cardinals got on the board first in their matchup against the Falcons on Sunday, but it was all downhill after that as Atlanta scored 40 unanswered points before a garbage time Mike Glennon touchdown. A win at Lambeau Field a couple weeks gave optimists reason to believe this young Arizona team had turned a corner, but they’ve looked atrocious in the two games since. If it’s any consolation, they’re in the driver’s seat to add an impact player this offseason with the first overall pick. (Kyle Trapp)

Edited by Brian Kang, Dani Quintana.

SQuiz
When was the last time that the Patriots lost back-to-back December games?
Created 12/18/18
  1. 2002
  2. 2005
  3. 2008
  4. 2011

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