NFL Power Rankings Week 16

I have always loved Saturday NFL games in December, created to give football fans something to watch after college football's regular season had ended. Typically, these games featured teams deemed not quite good enough (generally based on the previous season's standings) to merit consideration for getting a Monday night game, but better than the worst teams in the league, who were kept off national television altogether.

And so it was for this past Saturday, as the four teams that played in the two games were 14-50 among them in 2017 (the standards for getting on national television having become a lot less stringent with the addition of so many more available slots, on Thursday night and on Sunday night). The new Saturday format is not quite the same as the original format whose last year was 2005, though, in that in the old days both games were played on Saturday afternoon, instead of the one late-time-slot afternoon game and one night game format in effect since 2014.

And here are the Week 16 power rankings.

1. New Orleans Saints (12-2) — Back in the saddle again after Andy Reid pulled yet another of his patented chokes on Thursday night, and Sunday night's real head-scratcher by the Rams gives them the number-one seed in the NFC with wins in either of their remaining games. But Drew Brees' numbers from his last three games have been, how shall we say, un-Brees-like.

2. Los Angeles Rams (11-3) — Head-to-head wins over both the Chiefs (Week 11) and Chargers (Week 3) give them this spot, but they have far bigger concerns, as in having lost their last two, putting them in danger of losing their first-round bye if they don't win out (even if they are heavily favored at Arizona this coming week and will be again at home against winless-on-the-road San Francisco in the season finale) and the Bears do.

3. Kansas City Chiefs (11-3) — In their last two games, without Kareem Hunt, they have averaged 77 yards rushing per game. By comparison, their erstwhile cross-state (the only word in the English language in which the same letter is repeated three consecutive times!) rivals, the Cardinals, who are last in the league in rushing, are averaging 82.4 yards rushing per game.

4. Los Angeles Chargers (11-3) — The difference in the AFC West is, right now, and could prove to be at the end of the season, their 23-22 loss at home to the Broncos in Week 11, which gives the Chiefs the tie-breaker. Melvin Gordon is expected to be fully healthy for the playoffs, a spot in which they clinched with their win Thursday night.

5. Chicago Bears (10-4) — Still very much alive for a first-round bye in the NFC, and finally exorcised the Aaron Rodgers demon at Soldier Field. A potential weather advantage over the Rams (who they held to two field goals in it two weeks ago) or the Saints (if they somehow lose both of their remaining games while they win both) could prove decisive.

6. Houston Texans (10-4) — Have won 10 of 11 since an 0-3 start, and if they win out, they will be in prime position to be the first 0-3 starter ever to reach the conference championship game. But they were underwhelming Saturday night against the Jets, and next up they're at the Eagles, who not only have they never beaten, but have lost to every time by double digits.

7. New England Patriots (9-5) — Their five-game winning streak over the Steelers was snapped in their last road game of the (regular) season Sunday — and with it, they wound up 3-5 on the road, strongly suggesting that unless they get help in the form of a Houston loss, they will become the 23rd defending Super Bowl runner-up in the last 25 not to make it to the conference championship game the following year.

8. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1) — Taking care of business against the Patriots was huge, psychologically as much as in the standings. But they face a daunting task at New Orleans this week in a game that all markets except Phoenix and San Francisco will see.

9. Dallas Cowboys (8-6) — Their 23-0 loss at Indianapolis takes a clear, if distant, second place on the list of the biggest shockers of Week 15, behind only the Rams' inexplicable loss to the Eagles. Can still wrap up the NFC East with a win this week over a team that is 1-11 lifetime in Dallas.

10. Seattle Seahawks (8-6) — Missed a chance to clinch a playoff spot as their long-time natural grass woes continued — they're 46-74-1 on it dating all the way back to 1998! — in Silicon Valley. Will try again Sunday night at home against the Kareem Hunt-less Chiefs - and if that doesn't work out, in the season finale against the number-one contender for the top draft pick in 2019, Arizona, also at home.

11. Baltimore Ravens (8-6) — They're moving on from Joe Flacco after the season by the sound of it, and Flacco should have no lack of suitors in a quarterback-starved league. But the Potemkin offense that Lamar Jackson gives them is unlikely to carry them very far into the postseason, assuming they even make it, and they probably won't if they don't beat the Chargers on the road Saturday night.

12. Indianapolis Colts (8-6) — Blasted the Titans, who they play again at Tennessee in the season finale, 38-10 at home in Week 11. But will a second-place finish in the AFC South be good enough to get the AFC's final wild card berth?

13. Tennessee Titans (8-6) — Rain and wind or not, their 17-0 win over the Giants was dreadful to sit through — and back-to-back delay-of-game penalties, the second resulting in a 15-yarder for unsportsmanlike conduct? C'mon, man!

14. Minnesota Vikings (8-7-1) — They fire John DeFilippo and all of a sudden they gain 220 yards rushing against Miami. But before you pencil them in as the NFC's other wild card besides (presumably) Seattle, remember that Kirk Cousins is about as un-clutch as they come, losing a Week 17 game at home two years ago to the Giants, who had nothing to play for, with a playoff spot on the line.

15. Philadelphia Eagles (7-7) — Maybe their win over the Rams wasn't such a shocker given that it was their sixth straight win over them, but the way they won certainly was. Up next for them is a team whose number they also have. And how do you like my man Nick Foles?

16. Miami Dolphins (7-7) — Figured to be mediocre before the season started, and are living up to that "promise." Remain overdependent on where the needle on The Ryan Tannehill Health-O-Meter falls from week to week, suggesting that they may move on from Tannehill after the season. Flacco maybe?

17. Washington Redskins (7-7) — It took him long enough — he's 32-years-old — but Josh Johnson finally won a game as a starter, and he did it on the road, at Jacksonville. A tougher road test against another AFC South team awaits, at Tennessee Saturday.

18. Cleveland Browns (6-7-1) — With two road wins in their last three road games, they have put "the road thing" in the rear-view mirror permanently. A high-profile head-coach hiring — as in ex-Browns linebacker Bill Cowher, who as a result would have tons of local appeal — would put them in the thick of the playoff discussion for 2019 and beyond.

19. Carolina Panthers (6-8) — A six-game losing streak after a 6-2 start threatens Ron Rivera's job — and justifiably so. Currently 17th in the league in passing offense, putting them on pace to rank in the bottom half the league therein for the sixth consecutive season.

20. Denver Broncos (6-8) — The Case Keenum experiment can now be declared a failure, with back-to-back losses as favorites pushing them off the cliff of playoff contention. Could be a landing spot for Flacco, Foles, or Tannehill.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (6-8) — Like Josh Johnson, Jeff Driskel got his first win as an NFL starter last week, although he is much younger than Johnson, at 25. And their defense, which allowed 449.4 yards per game in their first 10 games, has given up 322 yards per game in their last four.

22. Green Bay Packers (5-8-1) — Aaron Rodgers can't even win in Chicago anymore, so what good is he? Hopefully the new head coach won't let him get away with being such a prima donna. They have now lost nine in a row on the road dating back to last December.

23. Atlanta Falcons (5-9) — Crushed hapless Arizona both on the scoreboard (40-14) and the stat sheet (435 total yards to 253, including 220 to 60 on the ground) to snap a five-game losing streak in their last home game of the season. Their season finale at Tampa Bay will likely decide last place in the NFC South.

24. Buffalo Bills (5-9) — Another ugly win last week, this one by one point over a team that since 2001 is 28-78 outdoors, including 6-28 in road games at northern outdoor sites in November or later. They have scored 51 points in their three home wins this year.

25. Detroit Lions (5-9) — Just as the Super Bowl Runner-Up Jinx seems poised to claim yet another victim, so does the 20th Overall Pick Jinx (that pick going to the team with the best record among the 20 teams that didn't make the playoffs the year before, beginning with the 2010 season and 2011 draft). They had that pick in the 2018 draft, and suffice it to say that they will have a much higher selection in the 2019 draft.

26. New York Giants (5-9) — Down 20-0 in a game at Pittsburgh in 2006, Jon Gruden sent out Matt Bryant to kick a 27-yard field goal to break up a shutout on the last play of the game. I guess this was an act that Pat Shurmur was not inclined to follow.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-9) — Baltimore had more yards rushing (242) than they had rushing and passing combined (241) in last week's snoozefest. Dirk Koetter's job has gotta be on life support.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10) — 20 net yards passing — that's what Cody Kessler had against a Washington defense that is desecrated with injuries. They are clearly "playing" for Justin Herbert.

29. San Francisco 49ers (4-10) — 4-3 at home, 0-7 on the road. At the absolute least, Nick Mullens has earned for himself the permanent backup job once Jimmy Garoppolo comes back.

30. New York Jets (4-10) — Lost seven of eight after a 3-3 start. Can't see Todd Bowles surviving.

31. Oakland Raiders (3-11) — Merit a higher ranking than the Cardinals, who they edged 23-21 at Arizona in Week 11. Every win by the Bears and Cowboys makes Jon Gruden look like an even bigger fool for trading away Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, respectively.

32. Arizona Cardinals (3-11) — Cheer up, Josh Rosen. Research Peyton Manning's rookie numbers: 56.7 completion percentage, more interceptions (28, the most in the league that year, 1998) than touchdowns (26), 6.5 yards per attempt, and a 71.2 passer rating. Last in the league offensively across the board — in points scored, total yards gained, rushing yards gained, and passing yards gained. Call it the grand slam of futility.

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