We love the NFL because each week is a new slate. Any team can win on any given Sunday. There’s a heightened sense of urgency, which isn’t matched in any sport. This weekend was no different as playoff spots were won and lost, and playoff seeds changed within hours.
This week, I’m going to try something different and look at the power rankings for each conference after Week 15.
Let’s start with the NFC, where we saw the biggest movement.
NFC power rankings from Week 15
First off, congratulations to Drew Brees on becoming the NFL’s all-time touchdown leader. It’s been a pleasure to watch him play over the years, even as an opponent.
Each week, we have a new favorite to win the Super Bowl, or at least win the conference, and the Saints are now in that top spot for me after their amazing team performance against the Colts. This Saints team could win the Super Bowl, and even if they don’t get homefield throughout the playoffs, they will still be a hard out. It felt like the defense came out with a renewed energy and purpose after getting embarrassed by the 49ers last weekend.
What I like about the Saints is their experience. They’ve all been in this spot before. The 49ers have not, and that’s a concern when the games get more important in January.
They won ugly again. But hey, they won, and that’s what matters. The Seahawks have the No. 1 seed at the moment, and they also get the 49ers in Seattle to end the season.
The Packers have the No. 2 seed for now. The Packers face the Vikings next week, which will go a long way to determining if they are the second/third seed or a wild card.
Like the Seahawks, I think Packers are extremely flawed, but they keep winning. So, bravo.
4. San Francisco 49ers
The Niners can’t have nice things yet. It’s a good reminder that most of this roster has never been in this spot before. They entered Sunday feeling awesome after pulling out a 48-46 win in New Orleans. Like I discussed last week, the Seahawks and Saints are a combined 11-1 at home in the playoffs under their current quarterbacks and it would help the Niners to avoid going on the road in January.
So, back to this week. The 49ers were a huge favorite and sleepwalked for most of their game against the Falcons, but eventually built a 19-10 lead in the fourth quarter. That came crashing down when the Falcons had the ball inside the 5-yard line with one final play, trailing 22-17. Matt Ryan found Julio Jones for a game-winning touchdown after a short replay review. Then the Falcons added a late score on the kickoff to ruin bets. Sorry, under tickets.
In one afternoon, the 49ers went from the No. 1 seed to the No. 5 seed. While they still control their destiny if they beat the Seahawks in Week 17, they are no longer afforded another loss. They can make no more mistakes. And now the road is tougher for them.
This is a great learning experience for the young 49ers team. You can never take a weekend off. It could also reenergize them. We shall see.
5. Minnesota Vikings
This felt like a trap game for the Vikings. Before a pivotal game against the Packers next week, they had to go on the “road” against a Chargers team that appeared to have some life. Then the Vikings totally dominated this game. They harassed Philip Rivers and moved the ball at will. Running back Dalvin Cook getting banged up could hurt them, but they are rolling right now.
I think the Vikings are extremely talented and can win the NFC, but how much do you trust Kirk Cousins in a big game? That is my concern. For now, the Vikings are in the wild card and still have a shot at the NFC North with a win in Week 16 against their bitter rivals.
Sunday’s beatdown of the Los Angeles Rams is why Jason Garrett needs to go. I know it sounds backwards, but hear me out. This is what we expect from the Cowboys. This team is talented enough to play this way each week. Except they don’t. They haven’t almost all season, especially against teams with winning records.
However, they were fantastic against the Rams, going 3 for 3 in the red zone and over 50 percent on third down. And their run game came alive. They head to Philadelphia next weekend in what becomes basically a play-in game for both teams.
They needed all 60 minutes to beat lowly Washington. That’s the summary of their game. They are just an average team. But since the Cowboys are also average, the Eagles are alive for the playoffs. If the Eagles do win on Sunday and take the division, they aren’t winning a playoff game. Sorry, Eagles fans. Just get healthy and ready for next season.
AFC power rankings from Week 15
The Patriots started slow in Cincinnati, but then they had a monster second half to win in a laugher. The Patriots kept their two seed and head into a big divisional matchup against the Bills (who’d ever think I’d type this in Week 16?). We know the Patriots’ defense is elite, and if their receivers would just catch the football more often, they’d be just fine on that side of the ball.
The Patriots need to win their final two games to make sure they do get a bye in the playoffs. One more loss and two Chiefs wins, and then the Patriots would be playing in the Wild Card Round. But, never count out the Patriots.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs’ defense is good, y’all. It’s the best defense Andy Reid has had since he first got to Kansas City. This defense can help them win the AFC. Their offense was rolling against the Broncos. Patrick Mahomes was an insane 27 of 34 for 340 yards in the snow. He was crushing it. The Chiefs have the offense to compete with the Ravens. Remember, the Ravens’ formula is playing from ahead. It hasn’t been often this season, but we’ve seen when the Ravens are behind, their offense changes.
The worry I have with the Chiefs is their offense will stall out for huge portions of the game. The last two weeks they’ve scored 11 second-half points. They’ve had some concerns in the red zone recently, which I’ll cover later week. But, nonetheless, don’t forget about the Chiefs.
They got a huge win in Tennessee, especially considering the Titans had been hot with Ryan Tannehill now under center. But how do you trust the Texans come the playoffs? One week they play awesome, and the next they are getting smoked by the Broncos at home.
But, give them credit. They won the game and now control the AFC South. These teams still play again, but the Texans can win the division if they beat the Bucs on Saturday.
5. Buffalo Bills
Well, the Bills won an ugly game against the Steelers, which at least got them into the playoffs. With this win, they keep themselves alive in the AFC East as well. A win in New England in Week 16 gets them closer to that goal. I don’t see it happening, though.
Their defense is elite (I’d hate to face them in a playoff game). Their running game is good. Their quarterback is not. I’m not sure what else you need to see of Josh Allen, but he’s not good enough to win in the playoffs with this team. Plain and simple.
6. Tennessee Titans
They lost their best chance to take over the division, but if the Titans can win out, they still have a good shot at making the playoffs. Like the Texans, though, they shouldn’t worry you in the playoffs.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers lost a tough game at home, and their offensive issues under Duck Hodges were exposed against a terrific Bills defense. Hodges is a third-string quarterback who is going to have to win one way: with the run game and defense, which at least showed up Sunday night.
The Steelers’ playcalling was brutal and if they had just ditched the wildcat, they might have won the game. The Steelers are an awesome story, but it feels like the Titans could catch them for the final wild card spot.
As a refresher, here’s what the playoff standings look like after Week 15:
- Baltimore Ravens (12-2)**
- New England Patriots (11-3)*
- Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)**
- Houston Texans (9-5)
- Buffalo Bills (10-4)*
- Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6)
- Seattle Seahawks (11-3)*
- Green Bay Packers (11-3)*
- New Orleans Saints (11-3)**
- Dallas Cowboys (7-7)
- San Francisco 49ers (11-3)*
- Minnesota Vikings (10-4)
*clinched a playoff spot