NFL Power Rankings Week 16 (Playoff Eligible Teams)

By Jim Liao, Epoch Times
December 22, 2015 Updated: December 22, 2015

Week 15 of the NFL season has been completed, a week that saw several more teams be eliminated from playoff contention. As it stands, there are still 18 teams eligible for the big dance, so we rank them here.



At 14–0, there’s no reason to knock the Panthers from the #1 spot. Something to note: The Panthers are still a young team, and lapses like the one where they gave up 28 consecutive points to the Giants will kill them against seasoned teams in the playoffs.



A Tom Brady led offense is one of the league’s best as usual, but has anyone realized how scary this Patriots D is? The Patriots front seven is stocked with playmakers. The usual prospects of Chandler Jones, Donta Hightower, and Jamie Collins aside, free agent-signing Jabal Sheard has had an absolute breakout season off the edge, and in the interior, a slew of players—Akiem Hicks, Alan Branch, and rookie Malcolm Brown, all cause considerable disruption. The secondary is equally impressive. Most teams are lucky to have two good safeties, but the Patriots actually have three in Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, and Duron Harmon. At corner, both Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan have higher grades than the Jets’ Darrelle Revis per Pro Football Focus. The Patriots have been plagued by injuries this year—particularly on offense, but the team simply reloads as if possessing an unlimited stock of weapons. This is a testament to the best talent evaluation and overall coaching staff in the league, and so as always, this is a team no one wants to face in the postseason.



The Cardinals are clicking on all cylinders on both sides of the field, so it is a true shame when news broke that safety Tyrann Mathieu is to miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. This is the worst possible loss for the Cardinals—aside from an injury to Carson Palmer. Mathieu was a candidate for defensive player of the year, and was one of the best players in the league overall. His versatility was invaluable to the Cardinals defense, with Mathieu being able to play the safety, corner, and even linebacker positions. The Cardinals still have what it takes, but it would have been more fun to see them at full strength.



Russell Wilson continues to play at meteoric levels—21-30 for 249 yards and 3 touchdowns versus the Browns has become another day at the office for the Wilson. If someone doesn’t find a way to slow this team down, we could be looking at a third straight Super Bowl trip for Wilson and Pete Carroll. 



Its scary to think how good this Steelers offense would be with Le’Veon Bell. In Week 15, Antonio Brown torched Broncos all-pro cornerback Chris Harris Jr. to an unprecedented degree. As it stands, the Steelers offense is one of the most reliable in the league—how far the Steelers get in the postseason depends entirely on the level of play they can squeeze out from their defense.



The Packers are a solid team on both sides of the ball. On defense, the Packers are prone to getting gased on quick-hitting run plays, so they have to be careful with that. On offense, things have looked much better with Mike McCarthy calling plays, but something still seems to be lacking in this year’s Aaron Rodgers-led offense. While certainly dangerous, I can’t shake the feeling that Rodgers and Co. have been containable in critical situations.



So which Brock Osweiler is the real Brock Osweiler? It happened versus Oakland in Week 14 and it happened again against the Steelers. Once again, Osweiler played like an elite player in the first half, going 14-18 for 214 yards and three touchdowns. But then in the second half, Osweiler dumbfoundedly only managed 7-22 for 82 yards and no scores. That is now three straight scoreless second halfs for Osweiler. This goes to say that while Brock has talent, he has to learn to be able to lead his team to victory. In other words, football is a game of continual adjustments—he can’t rely on a single formula to carry him for the entire course of the game. With Peyton Manning’s return looming, the Broncos have a big decision to make regarding their quarterback situation. Their defense is still there, so if they can figure this out, their team may once again be the best in the league. As it stands however, the Broncos are on a slide. They are very unsteady here at the #7 spot, but I’m optimistic that they can turn things around.



Don’t look at how the Bengals are #8; the gap between the Bengals and the teams ahead of them are negligible. Personally, I think A.J. McCarron has played great—he already plays like a top-end backup, and should only get better as he gains more experience. As of now, more evidence is needed, and a Week 16 bout with the Denver Broncos’ #1 ranked defense will provide the ultimate test.



The Chiefs are one for those teams that will gain the same amount of total yardage as you, and yet be beating you by 20 points. That is to say the Chiefs don’t make many mistakes, but they will surely take advantage of yours. On a 8-game winning streak, the Chiefs are unquestionably one of the hottest teams in the league.



Looking back, Todd Bowles has really done an admirable job with this season’s Jets. With their elite defense staying put, the Jets offense is suddenly a force to be reckoned with, with ‘Fitzmagic’ at 3,428 yards and 26 touchdowns on the year, and playmakers littered throughout the unit. The Jets barely pulled off what was a very sloppy game versus the quarterback-less Dallas Cowboys in Week 14, but they are still a very dangerous team at #10.



Again missing their three best defensive players in Linval Joseph, Harrison Smith, and Anthony Barr, the Vikings defense impressed in Week 15 through containing the Bears ball carriers and generating consistent pressure on Jay Cutler. Notably, cornerback Xavier Rhodes looks to have returned to an elite level of play after struggling early in the season. Bridgewater wasn’t asked to hurl the ball downfield much, but played a near-perfect game within his gameplan, completing 17-20 for 231 yards and 4 touchdowns. If the Vikings can sustain this level of play, they spell trouble for the rest of the league.



Their 7–7 record is by no means by groundbreaking, but the Redskins really have come a long way. Last year at this time, they were a 3–11 team beset with internal drama. Kirk Cousins has quietly had a fine season with 3,625 yards, 22 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions on the year. With guys like Cousins, Desean Jackson, and Trent Williams on offense, and Ryan Kerrigan, Bashaud Breeland, and Terrance Knighton on defense, the Redskins have impact players on both sides of the ball. They should be able to handle the Eagles in Week 16.



After beating the Colts 16–10 for their first victory in Indianapolis, the Texans are now primed to take the division and enter the playoffs. Their defense can cause some trouble, but they’d have to play a monumental game on offense to have resistance in the playoffs.



The Eagles have a prime chance to reverse their fortunes in Saturday’s NFC East showdown versus the Redskins.



The Falcons team has really been struggling of late. The talent is there—especially on offense—so one has to wonder if errant playcalling has something to do with it. The Falcons did pull off a 23–17 victory over the Jaguars in Week 15, but it really wasn’t that impressive. If the Falcons can truly rekindle their early season form, then they can be dangerous. But as it stands, there are very few chances left for this Falcons team; their playoff chances are just about extinguished.



The offense can keep up with the best of them, but the defense—particularly the secondary—has been atrocious. This is a Giants team that is incapable of finishing, as evidenced by the 6 games they lost after being ahead or tied in the final minute of regulation. Similarly, don’t expect them to finish the season with a run at the postseason.



This doesn’t appear to be the year for the Jaguars, but the future is bright. If the Bortles-Robinson-Yeldon spearhead continues to develop as planned, we could be looking at one of the league’s most explosive offenses in several years. On the defensive side of the ball, the Jaguars are still lacking in talent, but sophomore linebacker Telvin Smith has quietly been one of the league’s best linebackers in recent weeks.



Technically, the Colts are still playoff eligible, but not for long. Matt Hasselback really did have a good run, but after the team managed just 190 yards of total offense in a critical game versus the Houston Texans at home, this offense is clearly in the dumps. This Colts team has many questions to answer and a lot of house-cleaning to do in the off-season.