Only three games remain in the NFL regular season. The playoff picture is a complicated mess, and anything could happen over the next three weeks. I’m all for the chaos.
While following the standings is the easy way out of doing a power rankings list, this list is based on both overall record and recent team trends. A close loss may be more beneficial than an ugly win. A key injury can bring the overall score down dramatically.
Without any further ado, here are the Sports 2.0 NFL Power Rankings entering Week 15.
NFL Power Rankings Tier 3
32. New York Jets (0-13)
The New York Jets are on track to become the third 0-16 team in league history, following the 2008 Detroit Lions and the 2017 Cleveland Browns. Their remaining games are at the Rams, home against the Browns, then at New England. All three of those teams are clawing for a playoff spot. There’s a very real chance all three are double-digit losses. If Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence declares for the 2021 NFL Draft, he’s all but guaranteed to land with the Jets.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-12)
Just missing out on the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes, the Jaguars are setting their own records for franchise futility. Since a surprising Week 1 win over the Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville has rattled off 12 straight losses. They’ll close out the year at Baltimore, home against the Bears, then at the Colts again in Week 17. Could they bookend their season with wins over the Colts? It’s possible, but highly unlikely.
30. Cincinnati Bengals (2-10-1)
Cincinnati’s season was dealt a crushing blow when rookie quarterback Joe Burrow suffered a gruesome knee injury. He may not be back in time for the start of next season. Running back Joe Mixon has been out for a month as well. It’s hard to say how much of the injuries fall on the offensive line, but the Bengals absolutely must invest in the o-line on draft day. Oregon tackle Penei Sewell looks like the perfect answer to protect Burrow’s blind side when he returns to the field, and while things look bleak for this season, 2021 will be a strong year for the Bengals.
29. Atlanta Falcons (4-9)
The Falcons never quite got back on track after losing five straight games to open the season. They fired head coach Dan Quinn, and while that started a bit of a turnaround, the season was too far gone to recover. Matt Ryan’s 11 interceptions are tied for fourth-most in the league, and Todd Gurley has failed to impress in his first season in the Falcons’ backfield.
28. Carolina Panthers (4-9)
Another team dealing with nagging injuries, the Carolina Panthers have been without Christian McCaffrey for most of the season, first with a high ankle sprain, and now dealing with a shoulder injury. It may be best to shut McCaffrey down for the season to ensure he’s healthy next year. If there’s a bright spot, Teddy Bridgewater has completed more than 70% of his passes this year, only trailing Drew Brees for the league lead. While Carolina could be looking to take a quarterback in the Draft, Bridgewater can shoulder the load short term.
27. Los Angeles Chargers (4-9)
Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert has trailed off in the past few weeks, but an overall strong rookie campaign, where he may win Offensive Rookie of the Year, is reason for hope. The Chargers have been hit hard by the injury bug, but have a great chance to compete for a Wild Card spot next season once the team is healthy again.
26. Houston Texans (4-9)
This year has been a mess for the Houston Texans. The DeAndre Hopkins trade blew up in their face, Head Coach and General Manager Bill O’Brien was fired, leading wide receiver Will Fuller was suspended for PED’s, and the league’s worst rushing attack is providing no support for quarterback Deshaun Watson. It’s going to be a long offseason in Houston, especially without a first round draft pick to reset the franchise.
25. Dallas Cowboys (4-9)
Dak Prescott injury aside, the Cowboys’ season has gone belly up. The defense is allowing a league-worst 162 rushing yards per game. Running back Ezekiel Elliott has been racking up yards, but they aren’t materializing into touchdowns. His 832 yards rank seventh in the league, but with just five touchdowns, the Cowboys aren’t a threat to score.
24. Denver Broncos (5-8)
After the bizarre COVID situation that left the Broncos without a quarterback in their game against the Saints three weeks ago, the Broncos look like a revitalized bunch over their past two games. They kept things close against the first-place Kansas City Chiefs before falling 22-16 on the road, then waltzed into Carolina for a 32-27 win. I’m not yet sold on second-year quarterback Drew Lock, but a career-high four touchdown game is enough to move the Broncos up the list.
23. Detroit Lions (5-8)
Since firing head coach Matt Patricia, the Lions managed to beat division rival Chicago and lost by a touchdown to Green Bay. Darrell Bevell may not be the long-term answer as a head coach, but he is certainly impressing in the interim. With two of their final three games at home this year, there’s a chance to end the season on a high note, especially in Week 17 against Minnesota.
22. Chicago Bears (6-7)
The Bears season went belly-up in a hurry. After a 5-1 start to the season, Chicago unraveled for six straight losses before beating the Houston Texans 36-7 last week. It was the most complete game the Bears have played in a long time. Mitch Trubisky looked proficient under center, David Montgomery had arguably his best game of the season, and the defense held Deshaun Watson and the Texans to seven points. They’ll head to Minnesota for a showdown with the Vikings in Week 15.
21. New England Patriots (6-7)
Similar to Houston and Atlanta, the Patriots stumbled out of the gate. However, after winning four of their last six games, the Patriots appeared to be back on track before a Thursday night loss to the Los Angeles Rams. With three divisional games over the next three weeks, there’s an excellent opportunity to clinch a Wild Card spot and live up to preseason expectations. New England has only missed the playoffs once since 2003.
NFL Power Rankings Tier 2
20. Philadelphia Eagles (4-8-1)
The Jalen Hurts era may be beginning in Philadelphia. The second-round draft pick seems to have taken over under center while Carson Wentz continues to struggle. Only a game and a half out of first place in the NFC East, their season is far from over.
19. San Francisco 49ers (5-8)
San Francisco has been hit harder by injuries than any other team in the league. They’ve lost five of their past six games but haven’t yet been eliminated from playoff contention. Nick Mullens is still the starter with Jimmy Garoppolo injured, and nine offensive linemen carry an injury designation into Week 15.
18. Minnesota Vikings (6-7)
Last week’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have crushed their playoff dreams, but a loss to the Bears Sunday would leave no doubt. Rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson continues to impress and will likely be a Rookie of the Year finalist (I’d argue he should win it, but that’s another debate for another time). Running back Dalvin Cook ranks second in the league in rushing yards (1,352) and is tied for the lead in rushing touchdowns (14).
17. New York Giants (5-8)
The Giants stumbled to start the season, and the injury to Saquon Barkley was devastating for the team. However, New York has turned it on down the stretch, and strung together four straight wins before a loss to Arizona last week. With games against the Browns, Ravens and Cowboys to close out the year, there’s a chance to finish 8-8 or 7-9, which may be good enough to win the NFC East.
16. Arizona Cardinals (7-6)
Kyler Murray is banged up, and the Cardinals haven’t played as well in recent weeks. They followed up the “Hail Murray” with three straight losses before last weekend’s win over the Giants. Arizona currently holds the No. 7 seed in the NFC, which would seal the last Wild Card spot.
15. Las Vegas Raiders (7-6)
In their first year in Sin City, the Raiders have been consistently in the middle of the pack in nearly every statistical category. Not great, not awful. Derrick Carr, Josh Jacobs, and Darren Waller can launch Vegas into the playoffs with wins to close the year. With games against the Chargers, Dolphins, and Broncos to wrap up 2020, a playoff berth should be expected. However, it’s the Raiders. Anything can happen.
14. Washington Football Team (6-7)
Wherever Washington ends up when the season concludes, this season has been memorable and the Team with No Name has had so many great stories: Alex Smith’s triumphant return to the field, Ron Rivera’s cancer diagnosis, and much more. Somehow, the Washington Football Team marches on. Antonio Gibson’s 11 rushing touchdowns are tied for third-most in the NFL.
13. Seattle Seahawks (9-4)
Slowly but surely, Seattle’s defense is coming around. They shook off a stunning 17-12 loss to the Giants by rolling over the New York Jets 40-3 last week. They’ve held their last three opponents to fewer than 220 yards passing, tightening up after being one of the league’s worst units against the pass for a majority of the season. Russell Wilson may have played his way out of the MVP conversation, but when he leads Seattle to the playoffs, the rest of the league needs to take notice. Seattle is a force to be reckoned with.
12. Baltimore Ravens (8-5)
Was it cramps or was it something else? We may never get a straight answer, but a heroic performance to beat the Cleveland Browns was exactly what Lamar Jackson needed. The spark of that big win could fuel Baltimore’s playoff push. They need more from their receiving core to open up the running game, but a good defense and a good rushing attack tends to win in the playoffs. Watch out for Baltimore down the stretch.
11. Miami Dolphins (8-5)
Tua Tagovailoa is still going through some growing pains, but the Dolphins keep finding ways to win. Miami seems revitalized with Tua under center, but it’s been the defense carrying the load. The Dolphins are allowing the second-fewest points per game in the league, and they have a strong chance for their first playoff appearance since 2016.
NFL Power Rankings Tier 1
10. Indianapolis Colts (9-4)
Tales of Philip Rivers’ decline have been greatly exaggerated. With a strong offensive line to protect him, Rivers has been sacked 13 times all season, second to only Ben Roethlisberger among quarterbacks who have started every game. He won’t be the long-term answer in Indy, but a playoff appearance will be a welcome sight for a team left reeling as the Andrew Luck era ended.
9. Cleveland Browns (9-4)
First year head coach Kevin Stefanski may be the frontrunner for Coach of the Year honors. Without Odell Beckham Jr., the Browns have stayed hot, balancing the power and speed on the ground in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt with the aerial attack, led by Jarvis Landry, Rashad Higgins and Austin Hooper. Cleveland’s last playoff appearance was in 2002. A berth is long overdue, and it seems like Browns may FINALLY be on the right track.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5)
Almost no team had higher expectations for this season than Tampa Bay after the offseason signing of Tom Brady. In his first season outside of New England, the defense has led the way, ranking in the Top 10 in sacks, takeaways, and turnover margin, and 11th in points allowed per game. A crucial win over the Minnesota Vikings has the Bucs looking formidable as a playoff contender.
7. Tennessee Titans (9-4)
As the calendar turned to December, Derrick Henry season went into full effect. Henry now leads all NFL rushers with 1,532 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Titans share the division lead in the AFC South with the Colts, but hold the tiebreaker via conference wins. Tennessee has the inside track too, with the Lions and Jaguars as opponents in Weeks 15 and 17, respectively.
6. Los Angeles Rams (9-4)
The Rams are the cream of the crop in the NFC West, which is quite possibly the best division in the NFL. Quarterback Jared Goff hasn’t been elite, but has been good enough. The defense allows they fewest yards per game in the league, and are in the Top 3 against the run and the pass. This team will go as far as Goff can carry them.
NFL Power Rankings Tier 1A
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2)
Pittsburgh was the No. 1 team on this list for most of the season, but losses in back to back weeks are a major cause for concern. The Steelers have the fourth-worst rushing attack in the NFL, and the injury to Bud Dupree was a major blow to the defense. Already effectively playing without a bye week due to COVID-19, they may have lost their shot at a first-round playoff bye as well.
4. Green Bay Packers (10-3)
Drafting quarterback Jordan Love in the first round must’ve lit a fire under Aaron Rodgers. The veteran gunslinger is on track to surpass 40 touchdowns with eight or fewer interceptions for the third time in his career. No other quarterback has accomplished that feat once. Getting wide receiver Allen Lazard back in the mix could put Green Bay over the top as the season rolls on.
3. Buffalo Bills (10-3)
Josh Allen has taken a huge step forward this season, and that could be because of the offseason acquisition of wide receiver Stefon Diggs. The two have connected for 1,167 yards and five touchdowns this season, and Allen has rushed for six scores as well. Allen has the third best MVP odds behind Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers.
2. New Orleans Saints (10-3)
With Drew Brees under center, the Saints run one of the best offenses in the league. Without Brees…. they still run one of the best offenses in the league. Taysom Hill’s ability to succeed no matter where he lines up keeps opposing defense guessing. Alvin Kamara has 270 more receiving yards than the next closest running back, and has more than 700 rushing yards to boot.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (12-1)
The defending Super Bowl Champions are still the team NFL’s team to beat. Patrick Mahomes leads the league’s most dynamic offense, and their defense is even better than a year ago. Rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s play has tapered off in recent weeks, but if he can return to form, Kansas City should roll through the playoffs.
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