NFL Power Rankings – Week 16

December 16, 2008 | Thyrl Nelson

Just when you thought that you knew everything that you needed to know about the NFL playoff picture and the way that it’s shaping up, along comes week 15 and throws a monkey wrench into everything. There was definitely a shakeup in the top 5 this week. Actually it’s one that’s been brewing for quite some time, but with the top AFC and NFC squads losing in week 15, while their closest chasers kept the heat on, week 16 now sets up battles for the top seed in each conference. In other words, Tennessee and the Giants could either find their way back to the top spots as quickly as they lost them, or they could find themselves entering the playoffs with their momentum going in the wrong direction.  This weekend should tell a lot.


Week 16 NFL Power Rankings


NFL Power Rankings Archive34567 – 8 9 – 10 – 11 – 12 – 13 – 14 – 15


(last week’s rankings in parentheses)


1. Pittsburgh Steelers (3) – 11-3 – Regardless of how they look doing it, week after week the Steelers are finding a way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. In doing so, they’ve positioned themselves for a possible #1 seed in the AFC if they are able to continue their winning ways against the Titans this week. Next Week: @ TEN


2. Carolina Panthers (4) – 11-3 -The Panthers strong running game has made them a force to be reckoned with in the NFC, despite the questionable quarterback play that they’ve had to deal with. Jake Delhomme seems to be getting better in recent weeks, and with Steve Smith in his arsenal, any quarterback has to be considered dangerous. Next Week: @ NYG


3. Tennessee Titans (1) – 12-2 – It’s hard to tell whether the Titans are being exposed a bit lately, or if they’re simply having trouble keeping their intensity up due to the amount of success that they’ve had. Whatever the reason, they had better get things going soon, or they’ll lose the top seed that they appeared to have locked up just a few weeks ago. Next Week: vs. PIT


4. New York Giants (2) – 11-3 – It’d be easy to dismiss the Giants’ struggles as a result of the numerous distractions surrounding the team lately. They still have a chance to shake it off this week and take control back in the NFC playoff picture, but they have to be concerned with their last 2 weeks performances. Next Week: vs. CAR


5. Indianapolis Colts (6) – 10-4 – The Colts have shaken off their slow start and are currently riding the NFL’s longest winning streak. They may not be as scary as they have in the past, and the numbers certainly aren’t as gaudy as we’ve become accustomed to with this bunch, but the Colts still keep getting it done. And what’s even scarier is that they look like they may still have their best football in front of them. Next Week: @ JAX *Thursday


6. Minnesota Vikings (8) – 9-5 – It sure took them a long time to get rolling, but the Vikings are hitting on all cylinders at just the right time. There may be a quarterback controversy building in Minnesota after this week, but for now it’s got to be comforting to know that Tavaris Jackson can at least still help this team. Next Week: vs. ATL


7. Baltimore Ravens (7) – 9-5 – The Ravens have given up game winning drives very late in 3 of their 5 losses. The offense is undoubtedly going to go through growing pains with a rookie at quarterback and young offensive line, but the defense has to be able to finish close games or this team’s playoff hopes will be short lived. Next Week: @ DAL *Saturday


8. Arizona Cardinals (5) – 8-6 – The Cardinals have been considered suspect by many throughout the season, but still had to be looked at as a tough home draw. After being dismantled by Minnesota on Sunday in their own house though, the Cards have to be the preferred draw for any potential NFC wildcard. Next Week: @ NE


9. Denver Broncos (10) – 8-6 – Like the Cardinals, Denver has to be looked at as the preferred draw of any potential wildcard. Still though, the Broncos have a trip to the playoffs and a home game to boot, all but locked up at this point despite numerous struggles on both sides of the ball. Their offense can be absolutely scary at times, if the defense ever gets to respectable, they’ll be dangerous. Next Week: vs. BUF


10. Dallas Cowboys (14) – 9-5 – When the Cowboys are playing well, they’re as good as any team in the league on either side of the ball. Until they figure out how to play well consistently though, this team will be a frustrating one to root for, or to play for, for that matter. Next week: vs. BAL *Saturday


11. New York Jets (11) – 9-5 – They’ve completely exhausted their margin for error, but the Jets remain in control of their playoff destiny nonetheless, albeit by the slightest of margins. They could be a tough draw if their playoff ticket is punched. For the Jets and the rest of the AFC East the playoffs have begun already, we’ll see who comes out on top. Next Week: @ SEA


12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9) – 9-5 – The Bucs could easily be 5 or 6 spots lower here, and should probably be behind the Falcons at least after Sunday’s loss. But their early season success afforded the Bucs the margin for error that they’ve needed to rely on for the last 2 weeks, and their playoff destiny is still in their own hands. Next Week: vs. SD


13. New England Patriots (12) – 9-5 – Two straight weeks on the west coast looked to be the last major obstacle on the Patriots’ schedule this season, and that was before Matt Cassel’s personal tragedy was piled on top of it last week. Still, the Patriots came out with 2 wins but will still need a little help if they’re going back to the playoffs this season. Next Week: vs. AZ


14. Atlanta Falcons (15) – 9-5 – The Falcons have had a dream season, and will probably see lots of individual awards thrown their way this off season, but they’re going to need some help if they’re going to extend this Cinderella story into the post season this year. Next Week: @ MIN


15. Miami Dolphins (13) – 9-5 – I’m not sure whether I would have had more trouble believing in the Dolphins’ turnaround or the Falcons’ if I had been told about them before the start of this season. The Dolphins are worlds away from their miserable 1-15 campaign a year ago, but will need some help to keep the dream alive. Next Week: @ KC


16. Philadelphia Eagles (17) – 8-5-1 – The Eagles may be the team that would benefit the most from a do over on the first 8 weeks or so of the season. As of this minute, they’re probably one of the most dangerous teams in the NFC and the entire NFL for that matter. Unfortunately, without some help they won’t get a chance to show it in the post season. Next Week: @ WAS


17. Chicago Bears (16) – 8-6 – The Bears are flailing at this point but they aren’t quite finished just yet. Considering that rookie Matt Forte represents the biggest percentage of any team’s total offense this season, his hitting the rookie wall should have been expected. It looks like the Bears’ playoff hopes may have crashed right along with him. Next Week: vs. GB


18. Houston Texans (20) – 7-7 – Between Hurricane Ike, key injuries and the Titans’ red-hot start to the season, this year was over before it began for the playoff hopes of the Texans. Still, they’ve quietly gotten better and better with each passing week, and on Sunday picked up a win that should force the league to sit up and take notice. The Texans are for real, and will be a force to be reckoned with some time very soon. Next Week: @ OAK


19. New Orleans Saints (19) – 7-7 – It’s tough to imagine a team that has been more disappointing than the Saints this season. What’s most frustrating has to be that they’ve been in so many of the games that they’ve managed to lose. It’s tough to put a finger on exactly what’s wrong with this team, it seems that they just can’t win. Next Week: @ DET


20. Washington Redskins (18) – 7-7 – The Redskins it seems, took the league somewhat by storm early in the season, and probably took advantage of being able to sneak up on a few teams. At this point though, the book is out on the Skins, and it’ll be up to them to continue to grow or continue to be frustrated week after week. Next Week: vs. PHI


21. Buffalo Bills (21) – 6-8 – This team’s 6-8 record wouldn’t be so difficult to believe, if it hadn’t been for their blazing 5-1 start to the season. The Bills are just 1-7 since week 8, and have played themselves from controlling the division, to dropping to it’s cellar. Next Week: @ DEN


22. San Francisco 49ers (23) – 5-9 – You can say what you’d like about Mike Singletary’s intensity, his antics, even his resume, but what you can’t say is that the Niners aren’t playing harder and better for their new leader. It’s way too late for them to be a factor, but in the NFC West, they have to like their outlook going forward. Next Week: @ ST.L


23. Jacksonville Jaguars (26) – 5-9 – The Jags pride and professionalism both looked a bit questionable over the past few weeks, but on Sunday they came out and played like the team that many expected them to be this season. How they finish out the string will probably have a lot to do with who’s back and who’s not for Jacksonville in 2009. Next Week: vs. IND *Thursday


24. Green Bay Packers (22) – 5-9 – With their season already all but over, the Packers went out and packed it in to close the deal on Sunday. The Pack’s lack of success probably isn’t attributable to the change at quarterback this season, but it should sure make for some interesting off-season debate nonetheless. Next Week: @ CHI


25. San Diego Chargers (24) – 6-8 – It’s hard to believe that the Chargers are really as bad as the product that they’ve put on the field this season. Going into the future for the Chargers, a lot will be riding on the abilities of Shawn Merriman and LaDanian Tomlinson to get back to form. Next Week: @ TB


26. Cleveland Browns (25) – 4-10 – The Browns are still probably closer to the surprising team that they were last season, than the disappointing one that they’ve been this year. Their defense is vastly improved, but the offense took a giant step backward. If they can get back some of their offensive form, they could be a factor again very quickly in the AFC. Next Week: vs. CIN


27. Cincinnati Bengals (31) – 2-11-1 – From the outside looking in, it’s easy to figure out why the Bengals haven’t been able to come together as a successful team. What’s tough to figure out though, is how the Bengals have played as tough as they have against some of the NFL’s best teams. Next Week: @ CLE


28. Kansas City Chiefs (27) – 2-12 – It seems that former Chiefs’ general manager Carl Peterson has finally figured out what most of us have been seeing for quite some time. Not only are the Chiefs in bad shape right now, but they really don’t have a lot of pieces that make you feel very hopeful about the future either. Next Week: vs. MIA


29. Oakland Raiders (28) – 3-11 – They’ve had their moments this season, but in the big picture, the Raiders are simply a bad football team. And given the state of the front office, there’s not much reason to believe that things will change anytime soon. Next Week: vs. HOU


30. Seattle Seahawks (29) – With each passing week, this season for the Seahawks is looking less and less like an anomaly and more and more like time to rebuild. Hopefully for the fans of Seattle it won’t take as long as it might appear. If ever a fan base deserved some good karma, the city of Seattle may be due after this horrible sports year. Next Week: vs. NYJ


31. St. Louis Rams (30) – 2-12 – The Rams showed a bit of life mid season, but are clearly overmatched in terms of talent in most weeks. The Rams also may be facing a massive rebuilding project in the near future if they hope to be competitive again soon. Next Week: vs. SF


32. Detroit Lions (32) – 0-14 – What’s left to say about this team? Except for bring on the draft, that is. Next Week: vs. NO