Just when you think the playoff picture can’t get any more convoluted, it gets even crazier. While the NFC is incredibly top-heavy, the AFC is in disarray from top to bottom. The difference between the New England Patriots at the top seed and the Miami Dolphins, who are 13th, is just three games. After being carted off Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson’s injury status is up in the air for the next few weeks. Will the Ravens drop out of the playoff picture, or will they be able to tread water until Jackson gets back? Let’s check out the updated NFL Power Rankings for Week 15.
NFL Power Rankings: Week 15
1) Kansas City Chiefs (9-4) (Last Week: 3)
If there was any question if the Kansas City Chiefs were back, they answered it this week. The Chiefs dismantled the Raiders, 48-9, in a game where their defense continued to shine. While the offense certainly did their part, the defense had four sacks and forced four fumbles, one that was returned for a touchdown, and grabbed an interception. If this team wants to make a serious run at the Super Bowl, they’ll need the defense to keep performing. With all signs from the past few weeks pointing to it improving, Kansas City is sitting pretty and at the top of this week’s NFL Power Rankings.
2) Green Bay Packers (10-3) (2)
The Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers continued their ownership of the Chicago Bears on Sunday night with a home win to finish off the season sweep of their rivals. While the defense played well, for the most part, they have still shown their susceptibility to giving up the big plays. The biggest problem for Green Bay is their special teams, however. While fans will likely be calling for special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton’s head, it’s important for them to realize special teams has been an issue for arguably over a decade in Green Bay. With multiple different coordinators all having similar results, maybe it’s time to point the finger inward. Maybe, just maybe, it’s problematic that every year their cap casualties are their best special teams players and they never invest in those types of players.
3) Arizona Cardinals (10-3) (1)
The Arizona Cardinals have been so good against lesser opponents this season but, once again, they dropped the ball at home against a true NFC contender. Although Arizona is 7-0 on the road, they are just 3-3 at home and now hold a slim lead atop the NFC West. Not only were Kyler Murray’s mistakes costly, but so were the mistakes of head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Murray threw a pick in the red zone and another that led to an immediate Rams touchdown. Kingsbury went for it on fourth down twice well within Prater’s range that would’ve made the game much more manageable late had they taken their points. They should be able to regroup against a pitiful Detroit Lions team next week, but this week they fall in the NFL Power Rankings.
4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-3) (4)
Tampa Bay wasn’t perfect, but they were pretty solid overall against a good Bills team. Questions will certainly be asked of how they let Buffalo back into this game though, as they held a 17-point lead with under 10 minutes left. The Buccaneers’ rushing attack looks incredible and the passing game is as good as it’s always been. The defense has shown some slight improvements the last few weeks. Tampa Bay doesn’t play another team at or above .500 for the rest of the season and has a good chance at making a run for the top seed.
5) New England Patriots (9-4) (5)
The New England Patriots had a bye this week as they try to keep a hold on their top seed in the AFC. New England has won seven straight and have been dispatching everyone that gets in their way. With their last two games of the season against teams below .500, the next two weeks for New England will be huge. If they can find a way to knock off the Colts or the Bills, they’ll be in the driver’s seat. With the Lamar Jackson injury and the Titans still without Derrick Henry, the only real challenge to them would be the Chiefs who they hold a tiebreaker over.
6) Los Angeles Rams (9-4) (6)
The Los Angeles Rams still have plenty of work to do, but they got a huge road win over the Cardinals. Matthew Stafford finally looked like his old self and the offense was firing on all cylinders. The defense did give up some big plays late and a muffed onside kick gave the Cardinals a chance to tie but in the end, they got it done. With only a game separating them from the division-leading Cardinals and only two of their last four coming against teams at or above .500, the Rams still have a shot to win the NFC West.
7) Indianapolis Colts (7-6) (7)
The Indianapolis Colts got a late bye week and it was much-needed for what will be a tough end to the season. Indianapolis sits in sixth in the AFC but has to play New England and Arizona the next two weeks. With how tight the playoff race is going to be, common wisdom would say the Colts likely have to win one of those two matchups to be in a good spot to make the dance. The next two weeks should give us a good idea as to whether the Colts are legit contenders or just another nice story.
8) Dallas Cowboys (9-4) (9)
For the first two and a half quarters, Dallas looked like a true Super Bowl contender. For the rest of the game, they looked like the same Dallas team that has struggled to play a strong four quarters since their blowout win over the Atlanta Falcons. Ezekiel Elliott’s knee is in bad shape and one would think it would be wise to let him rest it so he’s ready to go for the playoffs. Although the Cowboys would love to fight for the top seed in the NFC, they likely won’t get it with how logjammed it is at the top. Why put Elliott’s knee into more jeopardy with a three-game division lead?
9) Buffalo Bills (7-6) (8)
At halftime, the Bills looked dead in the water. Down 21 to Tom Brady and the Buccaneers on the road, the Bills scored 17 unanswered in the fourth quarter to send this game into overtime. While they did lose in overtime thanks to a 58-yard touchdown reception from Breshad Perriman, they fought back valiantly. For arguably the first time since Week 5, the Bills passed a big-time test. They currently occupy the last playoff spot in the AFC and, with an easy schedule to end the season, should be good to make the playoffs. Look for them to rise in the NFL Power Rankings.
10) Los Angeles Chargers (8-5) (10)
The Los Angeles Chargers had a prove-it game this week against the New York Giants and passed with flying colors. It’s no secret that the Chargers have struggled with inconsistency the entire year. They were able to dismantle a Giants team that had no business sharing a field with them. Even though they were without their top receiver in Keenan Allen, the Chargers’ offense didn’t miss a step. The Chargers are in the thick of a loaded AFC playoff race and need to stay consistent to make a run for the postseason for the second time since 2014.