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NFL power rankings 2017, Week 16: Blake Bortles has the Jaguars thinking Super Bowl

Super Bowl hopes are realistic for the Jaguars if Blake Bortles keeps playing the way he has in December.

NFL: Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There are a handful of teams with better records than the Jacksonville Jaguars, but no team is playing better football right now.

The Jaguars already have a defense that’s staking its claim as one of the NFL’s all-time greatest units. On offense, they’re the team with the most rushing yards in the league. But how do you stop Jacksonville if Blake Bortles suddenly starts playing well?

In three games in December, Bortles has 903 passing yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s somehow been better than literally everyone.

With Bortles tearing up opposing defenses, the Jaguars are averaging 438 yards per game in December and holding opponents to 292.

Inconsistency has been a problem for Bortles, so it could all come crashing down in a second, but the Jaguars deserve the top spot in the power rankings for now:

Riding high

New England Patriots

The Patriots barely escaped Pittsburgh, but they did get the win. Tom Brady threw to Rob Gronkowski on what felt like 25 straight passes in the fourth quarter and the Steelers had no answer. Then when the New England defense didn’t do anything to stop JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Patriots got a little lucky.

First it was a pass to Jesse James that looked like a touchdown, but was ruled incomplete thanks to the NFL’s catch rule.

Then Ben Roethlisberger seemingly forgot what down it was, and threw an interception that sealed the game for the Patriots.

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and most of the time it feels like the Patriots are both.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are on the outside looking in right now, but a loss for the Titans in Week 15 means Baltimore’s chances at the playoffs are strong.

Just win in the last two weeks at home against the Colts and Bengals, and the Ravens are guaranteed a spot. With Buffalo traveling to face the Patriots in Week 16 and the Titans finishing the year with games against the Rams and Jaguars, even the No. 5 seed looks like a probability.

Low spirits

Los Angeles Chargers

A four-game win streak ended Saturday and the Chargers’ playoff hopes probably did too. If Los Angeles finishes with back-to-back wins against the Jets and Raiders, there will be a small chance the Chargers make it, but they have to rely on other teams collapsing down the stretch.

What’s disheartening for the Chargers was how things ended. After giving away just one turnover in four games and forcing 11, the Chiefs avoided any turnovers while the Chargers gave away four.

The Chargers have a reputation for falling apart in big moments. This was just the latest example.

Green Bay Packers

The return of Aaron Rodgers was kind of a waste, in hindsight. Brett Hundley did enough to keep the Packers’ playoff hopes afloat, and it looked like Rodgers would be back just in time to play the role of savior and push Green Bay into the mix.

Instead, he threw three interceptions in a game for the first time in eight years and the Packers were eliminated from the postseason this week. With nothing left to play for, Rodgers’ season may be over now.

Better luck next year, Packers.

Full hope rankings

Weekly disclaimer: These aren’t your average power rankings and are instead an attempt to measure the current state of mind — or “hope” — for each team and fan base.

The NFL can be an emotional roller coaster, and one big week can shoot a team’s spirits through the roof and tank another’s hopes of finishing with the Lombardi Trophy in February or beyond. Teams near the top are feeling great after Sunday, while those at the bottom aren’t feeling too optimistic.

If you’re looking for a ranking of who would beat who, this isn’t always going to be the best gauge:

Hope rankings, Week 16

# Team Last week
# Team Last week
1 Jacksonville Jaguars 2
2 New England Patriots 4
3 Carolina Panthers 3
4 Minnesota Vikings 6
5 Philadelphia Eagles 5
6 Pittsburgh Steelers 1
7 Los Angeles Rams 9
8 New Orleans Saints 8
9 Kansas City Chiefs 12
10 Atlanta Falcons 7
11 Baltimore Ravens 16
12 Buffalo Bills 13
13 Dallas Cowboys 17
14 Detroit Lions 18
15 Los Angeles Chargers 10
16 Tennessee Titans 14
17 Seattle Seahawks 11
18 San Francisco 49ers 19
19 Green Bay Packers 15
20 Oakland Raiders 20
21 Washington 25
22 Denver Broncos 24
23 Miami Dolphins 21
24 Arizona Cardinals 22
25 Chicago Bears 23
26 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27
27 New York Jets 26
28 Cincinnati Bengals 28
29 Houston Texans 29
30 Indianapolis Colts 30
31 New York Giants 31
32 Cleveland Browns 32

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