Week 16 NFL Power Rankings: Massive Leaps for the Lions and Jaguars

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The futures market isn’t hitting the panic button on the Philadelphia Eagles despite the concerning injury news for Jalen Hurts. Philadelphia still has the best odds of any NFC team to win the Super Bowl, according to FanDuel (+430) and remains the favorite to win the NFC (+155) as of Monday afternoon. Hurts’s chances of winning league MVP, however, have fallen off a cliff. Patrick Mahomes is now the overwhelming favorite (-350) to win the award. Nonetheless, Hurts, Mahomes and Josh Allen still quarterback the three best teams in football—and that’s reflected here in The Ringer’s power rankings heading into Week 16. The rest of the NFL is merely playing catch-up.


Best of the Best

1. Philadelphia Eagles (13-1 | last week’s ranking: 1)

The Eagles won their 13th game of the season Sunday, but it may have come at a cost. Jalen Hurts’s upcoming availability is in doubt after he reportedly suffered a sprained right shoulder against the Bears. Initial reporting described this as a short-term injury, but as of this writing, it is unclear whether he’ll be able to play against Dallas this week. The home Cowboys opened as a 1.5-point favorite but the line shifted on Monday to -6 after news of Hurts’s injury. The Eagles are still the favorites to win the NFC (+160) and need only one more win in the next three weeks to secure the top seed in the conference and a first-round bye. As long as Hurts is healthy enough to start when the postseason comes, the Eagles will remain atop this list.

2. Buffalo Bills (11-3 | last week: 3)

While the Bills defense has struggled at times lately after injuries to edge rusher Von Miller and safety Micah Hyde, Josh Allen has remained a superstar through an injury of his own to keep the Bills atop the AFC – and that was obvious as he led a game-tying drive in a snowstorm Saturday night against Miami. His Superman dive over the pile to the goal line for the two-point conversion showed the lengths he’ll go to will the Bills to victory. Allen is the second-ranked quarterback in EPA per dropback behind just Patrick Mahomes, and he’s the reason the Bills have the best odds to win the Super Bowl.

3. Kansas City Chiefs (11-3 | last week: 2)

Kansas City got caught playing with their food a bit in Houston, but don’t let that fool you into thinking the Chiefs aren’t still one of the league’s juggernauts. Patrick Mahomes is still making alien-like throws weekly and should be the overwhelming favorite to win league MVP—even without an injury to Hurts. He is the top-ranked signal-caller in expected points added per dropback, and the Chiefs offense is still nearly two times as efficient as every other offense in the NFL.

Deep Postseason Contenders

4. Cincinnati Bengals (10-4 | last week: 5)

Sunday was one of the Bengals’ most impressive wins all season. The Bucs punched them in the mouth and got out to a 17-3 first-half lead, but Joe Burrow’s composure and second-half adjustments by defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo proved too much for Tampa Bay to handle. Only the Eagles are playing better complementary football than the new AFC North–leading Bengals at this point in the season.

5. San Francisco 49ers (10-4, last week: 6)

Excluding his pass to the chest of Seattle defensive back Quandre Diggs’s chest, 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy put together a strong performance in his team’s Week 15 win over the Seahawks. The seventh-round rookie is now the 11th-ranked quarterback in EPA per dropback since Week 13 and is 2-0 as a starter. The positives are that he’s a confident passer, is generally very accurate, and is more mobile than Jimmy Garoppolo. However, experience is still an obvious issue, as is just how little Kyle Shanahan is trusting Purdy to push the ball downfield. His average depth of target in the past three weeks is just 5.50, the second-lowest mark of any quarterback with 45-plus dropbacks since Week 13. He’s also thrown just three passes more than 20 yards in the air, which is an NFL low in that three-week span.

6. Dallas Cowboys (10-4 | last week: 4)

You can’t blame Sunday’s overtime loss to the Jags solely on Dak Prescott. While he did throw a ghastly interception late in the third quarter that led to points, his game-ending pick-six to Rayshawn Jenkins was a well-thrown ball that bounced right off wide receiver Noah Brown’s hands. Prescott still finished the game 23-of-30 for 256 passing yards and three touchdowns. The Cowboys’ more concerning issues are in the second and third levels of the defense. Starting defensive backs Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown are both already out for the season with injuries, and they benched cornerback Kelvin Joseph against Jacksonville after he gave up multiple long receptions. Safety Jayron Kearse has been banged up in the past few weeks, and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch left the game with an injury on Sunday.

7. Minnesota Vikings (11-3 | last week: 9)

This Vikings’ season is hilarious. After pulling off the largest comeback in league history on Saturday, the Vikings clinched the NFC North and improved their record to 10-0 in one-score games. They have one of the best overall records in football and yet haven’t beaten a team by more than eight points since Week 1. Their plus-2 point differential is the lowest of any NFL team with 11 or more wins in the first 15 weeks of the season since 2000. But let’s save the regression talk for the offseason; the seemingly destined Vikings are in the playoffs. It’d take an improbable run to make the Super Bowl, but no team has proved better in improbable situations.

8. Baltimore Ravens (9-5 | last week: 7)

The past few weeks are clear evidence of just how much the Ravens need Lamar Jackson back. In the three games that Tyler Huntley has played in place of the injured Jackson, Baltimore ranks 27th in EPA per drive and is tied for last in offensive points per game. They’re one of the worst offenses in football without Jackson; with him, they have to be considered a deep postseason contender. The drop-off couldn’t be more significant.

Top Wild-Card Contenders

9. Miami Dolphins (8-6 | last week: 8)

Saturday’s loss to Buffalo was easily the most encouraging game the Dolphins have had in weeks. Led by running back Raheem Mostert, Miami averaged more than 7 yards per carry against a Bills defense that dared them to run the football. And while it wasn’t close to the best we’ve seen Tua Tagovailoa play this season, he was far from the disaster we saw against the 49ers and Chargers in the weeks prior. Three straight losses is a tough result and largely removes the Dolphins from the AFC East race, but if Mike McDaniel and Co. can take some lessons from this recent skid, Miami could be primed for a postseason run.

10. Los Angeles Chargers (8-6 | last week: 12)

While Sunday wasn’t a perfect game for Justin Herbert against the Titans, his throw in the final minute to Mike Williams to set up the game-winning field goal was just another example as to why he is one of the league’s best quarterbacks. Herbert also made NFL history on the final drive of the game, as he is now the only quarterback ever to pass for over 4,000 yards in each of his first three seasons. The defense is still a mess, as is some of the offense surrounding Herbert, but the Chargers have a chance in any game they play as long as he’s at the helm.

Lions RB D’Andre Swift
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

11. Detroit Lions (7-7 | last week: 17)

The Lions are 6-1 in their last seven games, and the playoffs are starting to feel like a real possibility with remaining games against the Panthers, Bears, and Packers. How did this happen? Fitted with a top-flight offensive line and an improving cast of weapons thanks to the return of receiver DJ Chark and the debut of rookie wide receiver Jameson Williams, the Lions rank no. 3 in offensive EPA per drive since Week 9. Defensively, Detroit has gone from 32nd in offensive points allowed per game (29.1) to ninth (19.8) in the last seven weeks. You’d be hard-pressed to find a team pulling off a better turnaround in football than the Lions right now.

12. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-8 | last week: 18)

Trevor Lawrence has arrived. He is the league’s third-ranked quarterback in EPA per dropback since Week 9 and has almost single-handedly given the Jags a legitimate shot at winning the AFC South. Lawrence is developing into one of the league’s most prolific passers and is clearly elevating the skill position players around him. The Jaguars look like a more dangerous playoff team than others in the hunt with better records because of how Lawrence is playing right now.

Fraudulent Wild-Card Hopefuls

13. Seattle Seahawks (7-7 | last week: 11)

Geno Smith had his first multi-interception game of the season against Carolina in Week 14 and averaged a season-low 5.4 yards per attempt in the loss to San Francisco on Thursday. He’s dropped from the fourth-ranked passer in EPA per dropback in weeks 1-5 to 18th in the same statistic in weeks 6-15. It can’t be a coincidence, then, that the Seahawks are now just 1-4 in their last five games. Anyone watching Smith closely all season knows the film hasn’t taken nearly the same drop-off as the numbers suggest, but his numbers still have to get a lot better, and soon, for the Seahawks to climb back into playoff contention.

14. New York Giants (8-5-1 | last week: 19)

The Giants have been an underdog in all but four games this season, with an average spread of +2.75, good for the seventh-highest mark in the league. They also have the 18th-ranked scoring offense and are 19th in scoring defense, and they’ve yet to win a game by more than eight points. And yet, New York has an 87 percent chance to make the playoffs after securing a win over Washington on Sunday Night Football. They’re not an overly talented team and will likely be underdogs all throughout the playoffs if they get there, but they’ve proved resilient enough—through a myriad of injuries on both sides of the ball—to earn a shot in the postseason.

15. Tennessee Titans (7-7 | last week: 10)

The Titans’ playoff hopes are fading. They’re 2-5 in their last seven games, and their only wins in that stretch came against the lowly Broncos and struggling Packers. In fact, the only team with a winning record that the Titans have beaten this season is the Commanders, and Tennessee’s minus-38 point differential is the worst of any team currently .500 or better.

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8 | last week: 16)

Does any team have to win the NFC South? Asking for a friend who really doesn’t want to watch any of this version of Tom Brady’s Bucs play on wild-card weekend. The Buccaneers are 6-8 and unfit for the postseason, yet they have a 73 percent chance to host a playoff game because they play in the worst division in football. It’s hard to count out Brady in January, but we can probably just fast-forward to Tampa’s early postseason exit.

Bad Long-Shot Playoff Candidates

17. Washington Commanders (7-6-1 | last week: 14)

Commanders fans need to stop complaining about the officiating at the end of the game against the Giants. Washington essentially had three weeks to prepare for the Giants—if you include their Week 13 matchup and their Week 14 bye—and yet they still managed to come out flat. Score 12 points at home in a must-win game with the edge in rest and preparation, and you deserve to miss the playoffs regardless of how many calls the officials miss.

18. New England Patriots (7-7 | last week: 15)

Even if the Patriots took a knee at the end of regulation and Jakobi Meyers didn’t literally throw the game away on an ill-advised lateral that was intercepted by Chandler Jones, the Patriots are still a team not worthy of playoff contention. The offense is conservative, predictable, and remarkably inefficient. And Bill Belichick’s defense is nowhere near good enough to overcome the shortcomings of the Mac Jones–Matt Patricia–Joe Judge contingent on offense.

Jets QB Zach Wilson
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

19. New York Jets (7-7 | last week: 13)

Zach Wilson made some crazy out-of-structure throws to give the Jets a chance against the Lions, but the in-structure, in-rhythm components of his game remain extremely concerning. He often runs into pressure, misses throws, and flat-out misreads coverages. The fourth-and-18 completion to Elijah Moore juxtaposed with the first-and-10 lollipop to Lions cornerback Jerry Jacobs is a roller coaster the Jets can’t afford to ride if they’re going to make the postseason, but they have no choice until Mike White is cleared to play. The Jets are a 1.5-point underdog at home against Jacksonville with Wilson expected to start again on Thursday night.

20. Carolina Panthers (5-9 | last week: 20)

It’s impressive what interim head coach Steve Wilks has done to keep the Panthers motivated and competitive and alive in the NFC South since taking over for Matt Rhule 10 weeks ago, but the team is still lacking top-end talent, especially on offense. Panthers quarterbacks have been under pressure on 45.5 percent of dropbacks this season, which is almost 4 percent higher than any other team in the league, and their rushing attack ranks 31st in yards before first contact per attempt.

Competitive But Out of the Hunt

21. Cleveland Browns (6-8 | last week: 23)

After back-to-back ugly starts from Deshaun Watson, the Browns put the training wheels back on the offense. Watson only threw four passes of more than 10 yards downfield in the Browns’ Week 15 win over Baltimore on Saturday; only the Giants’ Daniel Jones threw fewer during the week. The adjustments resulted in what was easily Watson’s best game as a Brown. Easing Watson back into the NFL and avoiding overly aggressive game plans should be the formula for Kevin Stefanski and company as they finish out the regular season.

22. Green Bay Packers (6-8 | last week: 21)

Even with the win over the Rams on Monday Night Football, the Packers still only have an 8 percent chance of making the postseason, according to FiveThirtyEight’s projections. They need to beat the Dolphins, Vikings, and Lions in the next three weeks and will need teams ahead of them in the NFC wild-card race to drop a handful of games. Aaron Rodgers and the offense need to be a lot more consistent to close out the season, and while the defense now has back-to-back games with 20 or fewer points allowed, the task only gets harder with three potent offenses remaining on the schedule.

Raiders DE Chandler Jones
Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

23. Las Vegas Raiders (6-8 | last week: 26)

Entering Week 15, the Raiders were 0-4 in games when they led by double digits at the half, and could’ve dropped to 0-5 if not for a ridiculous end-of-game disaster by the Patriots. It was a miracle for Las Vegas, but not one big enough to save a season in which opposing teams have more often celebrated miracles on the Raiders’ behalf.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8 | last week: 22)

The Steelers’ front seven manhandled the Panthers on Sunday, and Mitchell Trubisky was extremely efficient in a fill-in start for the injured Kenny Pickett. It’s too little, too late for a Pittsburgh team with less than a 1 percent chance to make the playoffs, per FiveThirtyEight, but after a trying season, it’s nice to see signs of progress.

25. New Orleans Saints (5-9 | last week: 27)

Playing against Atlanta’s pass defense resulted in a get-right game for Andy Dalton and Taysom Hill. Dalton completed 11-of-17 passes for 151 yards and two scores en route to an Week 15-best 0.44 EPA per dropback average, while Hill threw a 68-yard touchdown pass to Rashid Shaheed. Neither quarterback should be the Saints’ starter in 2023, but for at least one week, they were good enough to keep New Orleans in the NFC South hunt.

26. Atlanta Falcons (5-9 | last week: 24)

Desmond Ridder very much looked like a rookie making his first career start in a run-heavy offense against a talented and well-coached defense. He failed to eclipse 100 passing yards against the Saints and had two throws that should have been picked by cornerback Alontae Taylor. A positive to takeaway from Sunday’s loss is that Ridder’s fellow rookie teammate, running back Tyler Allgeier, was absolutely phenomenal as he rushed for 139 yards and a score on 17 carries.

Eyeing a Top-Five Pick (If They Even Have One)

27. Denver Broncos (4-10 | last week: 31)

The Broncos finally won a game … and they did it without Russell Wilson, who was ruled out to give him more time to recover from the concussion he suffered last week. Still, it’s hard to celebrate much in Denver at this point in the season, especially with that high first-round draft pick they’re earning set to go to Seattle. The faster the season ends, the better for Broncos fans.

28. Arizona Cardinals (4-10 | last week: 28)

The Cardinals are in a dark place with no clear path out of irrelevance. Kyler Murray is going to undergo ACL and meniscus surgery that could prevent him from returning healthy in time for the start of next season, and there’s real doubt, per NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, that general manager Steve Keim returns after his leave of absence. It’s going to get worse before it gets better in Arizona.

Colts head coach Jeff Saturday
Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

29. Indianapolis Colts (4-9-1 | last week: 25)

Jeff Saturday’s Colts have now tied the NFL record for worst fourth-quarter scoring differential and blown the largest lead in league history in back-to-back games. Calling it embarrassing would be an understatement.

30. Los Angeles Rams (4-10 | last week: 29)

The Rams were eliminated from playoff contention with their loss on Monday night to Green Bay. But that was merely a formality—this season has long been over for the reigning Super Bowl champs. Losing Andrew Whitworth and Von Miller in the offseason proved costly at the start of the season, and then key injuries to Cooper Kupp, Matthew Stafford, and others only made things worse. Returning to postseason contention starts with keeping the gang (e.g. Kupp, Stafford, Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, and Sean McVay) together in 2023.

31. Chicago Bears (3-11 | last week: 30)

Justin Fields had another “highlight-reel” performance in a Bears’ loss, this time to the Eagles, and he at one point left the game for one snap after coming up limping. He missed practice during the week leading up to the game due to an illness, and previously missed time this season with a shoulder injury. It might make sense to put Fields on ice for the remainder of the season as Bears hone in on the no. 2 pick in the 2023 draft.

Picking No. 1

32. Houston Texans (1-12-1 | last week: 32)

Though the Texans managed to take the Chiefs to overtime in Week 15, nothing about their performance this week (or any week this season) suggests they’re even close to playoff contention. The two-quarterback approach with Davis Mills and Jeff Driskel is cute, but there’s no reason to take them seriously until they’re starting one good quarterback rather than two bad ones.


The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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