In a league full of random results and insane happenings, the Week 16 NFL Power Rankings are completely unhinged. This week gave us one of the most memorable endings in NFL history, along with more overtime games than the average human heart can endure.
Week 16 NFL Power Rankings: Tier 6 | Unadulterated Awfulness
Only one team graces Tier 6, and unless things go horribly wrong for another low-win franchise, it’s tough to imagine any team will join Houston here for the rest of the season.
32. Houston Texans
The Houston Texans are on the football field playing at a fraction of their full strength, and in the past two weeks, have competed to the last whistle against two 10-win football teams.
Houston was outplayed for the entire game, allowing 283 more yards than they gained, and only picked up 18 first downs compared to Kansas City’s 33. But 10 Chiefs penalties helped keep the Texans in the game, and, eventually, send it into overtime.
A few of the teams in Tier 5 aren’t mathematically eliminated from playoff contention yet, but it would take a miracle to happen, and their seasons haven’t exactly been pretty to this point.
31. Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals are officially the second-worst team in the NFL. Losing Colt McCoy didn’t help their offense against Denver, and the Cardinals have been reeling for weeks now. The NFL is a funny place because a 16-game sample is relatively small in the grand scheme of things. The Cardinals were a 6-11 roster last season that overachieved.
Now, they’re going through a ridiculous amount of turmoil off the field in addition to their pathetic on-field performance. General Manager Steve Keim will probably be fired, and Kyler Murray’s ACL tear muddies the potential head-coaching waters in the offseason.
30. Denver Broncos
The Broncos’ offense struggled in the first half of the game but were able to score three touchdowns in a four-possession stretch to start the second half, giving them a 24-9 lead. Denver has struggled in the red zone this season, but they scored on each of their three trips against the Cardinals, who have one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
Denver has to answer more questions than most teams in the offseason, but the optimistic way to look at it is that they’re almost all on one side of the football. The Broncos’ defense has a lot of outstanding pieces, particularly in their secondary. It would be a shame to see Ejiro Evero lose his job alongside Nathaniel Hackett should Denver terminate his employment.
29. Chicago Bears
The Bears battled against the best team in the NFL on Sunday, but it took multiple defensive turnovers to keep the game close. In the end, the defense couldn’t continuously get the stops necessary to pull off the upset.
And unfortunately, Chicago’s offensive line had absolutely no answer for Haason Reddick, who wreaked havoc against the Bears’ offensive line and forced a fumbled on a Velus Jones Jr. rushing attempt.
Justin Fields rushed for 95 yards, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark for the season. He also threw two touchdowns and no interceptions, but his six sacks took a toll on the Bears’ offense.
28. Los Angeles Rams
We get to see Baker Mayfield in prime time against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, who have finally figured out how to pass the football in the back half of the NFL season.
The Rams’ season is over, but Mayfield has an opportunity to leave his mark on all 32 NFL teams as an upcoming free agent, and his home could remain in Los Angeles.
The Rams realistically have one more shot at a title run if everyone returns next season and they can add a body or two on the offensive line. But if Matthew Stafford unexpectedly hangs up his cleats, Mayfield could be next in line for LA’s starting job.
27. Indianapolis Colts
Time heals wounds, but it’s also what caused them for the Colts on Saturday against the Minnesota Vikings. Because of the nature of the Vikings this season, even a 20-0 deficit felt surmountable for the one-score kids.
But Indianapolis got up by 33 at halftime. It would take the single greatest collapse in NFL history to lose that lead. And that’s exactly what happened. The Dallas Cowboys put up 33 points in the fourth quarter of their game against Indianapolis.
The Vikings scored four touchdowns in less than 15 game minutes, completely erasing a 36-7 lead. There are no words of encouragement or beratement. All we can do is sit in awe.
26. Cleveland Browns
The Browns’ win over the intra-division rival Ravens was true to AFC North form. Two seemingly inept offenses faced off in a battle for mediocrity in a game that featured more rushing plays than passing attempts.
Cleveland’s offense is working through warts at the moment that they hope can be sorted out over the next three weeks. To feel better about their massive investment at the quarterback position, the Browns could use some explosiveness out of the passing attack before hanging up the cleats for the season.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t have to come out and beat the Panthers, who were battling to remain relevant in the NFC South. Pittsburgh’s season is effectively over, but that doesn’t really matter to a Mike Tomlin team.
It was nice to see T.J. Watt look like his old self again. The defense around him has improved drastically, but he hadn’t really looked like himself until this week.
Mitch Trubisky was on a short leash heading into the game as the starter, but the pressure surrounding him must have helped because he was efficient against a talented young Carolina defense.
24. Las Vegas Raiders
There is no sane way to describe what happened in the final minute of the Raiders’ game against the Patriots. First, a very questionable touchdown catch stood even though the replay sure looked like Keelan Cole’s left foot was out of bounds.
But that’s why they wear white cleats!
Then things got really weird. The Patriots looked to run off the clock and play for overtime, but Rhamondre Stevenson exploded through the hole and then started the lateral game downfield. Jakobi Meyers remembered he used to play quarterback, so he threw a pass back toward Mac Jones. He then quickly remembered why he no longer plays QB.
Chandler Jones threw one of the most disrespectful stiff arms of all time on the Patriots’ QB with no time left and scampered into the end zone for the game-winning TD.
That was one of the most unbelievable finishes in NFL history.
23. Green Bay Packers
The Packers still aren’t technically eliminated from the playoffs yet, so Rodgers remains on the field for Green Bay. Unfortunately, after the Rams, they face three teams either in the playoffs or in a playoff push, making their own playoff hopes a dream.
The Packers’ season is especially tricky given their current situation behind Rodgers. Jordan Love has patiently waited in the wings but is entering the final year of his rookie deal and could request a trade in the offseason if he isn’t named the starter. Green Bay needs to see what they have in the young QB at some point.
Tier 4 | The NFC South
It’s literally just the NFC South.
22. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons made a necessary change under center heading into their divisional matchup against the Saints, but the change did not bear fruit. Atlanta threw for under 100 gross yards and averaged nearly doubled their per-touch yardage on the ground.
At this point, simply seeing some improvement from Desmond Ridder week to week is the goal. The rookie flashed from time to time against a talented – if underperforming – Saints defense, but the overall product leaves much to be desired.
In the end, it was a few big plays allowed by the Falcons’ defense early on that made the difference in the game. But as sad as it is, they’re somehow still technically alive in their division race at 5-9.
21. New Orleans Saints
After beginning the game with two consecutive touchdown drives, New Orleans went cold offensively for most of the game. That is a trend we’ve seen from the Saints all season. They’ll go on spurts of offensive brilliance to complete ineptitude.
But they were able to score on the first drive of the second half, giving them a 21-10 lead that proved insurmountable in the end.
The Saints’ defense struggled against the run, but they allowed just 97 yards passing and only let Desmond Ridder complete half of his 26 attempts for the game.
20. Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers averaged fewer than 11 offensive plays per quarter. The Steelers played keep away with the football, and it kept the Panthers from finding the end zone. Carolina’s offense finished just 4 of 11 on third down and only picked up 12 first downs for the entire game. Five of those first downs came on one drive.
The Panthers only had eight offensive drives total, four of which ended in three-and-outs. They were the victim of a wacky game flow, but their offense came up short too often, including in the red zone, where they finished just once in three attempts for a myriad of reasons, including untimely penalties.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The performance that Tampa Bay put together in the second half of the game was one of the more embarrassing offensive performances in quite some time. The Buccaneers turned the ball over on five straight possessions, ruining what was a good defensive performance to that point.
Cincinnati had to go 13 yards for a field goal, then 26, 13, and 39 yards for their three consecutive touchdowns. Joe Burrow threw four TDs, but that doesn’t really tell the story of how the Buccaneers’ defense played in this game. They were simply put in pathetic position after pathetic position because of five turnovers.
Week 16 NFL Power Rankings: Tier 3 | The Playoff Contenders
A few teams were added to this tier because they deserved to share space with competent football teams and not be bundled in with the NFC South.
18. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks desperately needed a win against the 49ers on Thursday Night Football to have any chance of competing for the NFC West title. Unfortunately, they ran into the 49ers’ defensive buzz saw, featuring arguably the best defensive coordinator in the game paired with the best linebacker in football.
While the Seahawks’ passing attack produced that same efficient completion rate we’re used to seeing, San Francisco kept everything in front of them and tackled well. Kenneth Walker III was able to get away for a 32-yard reception, but that was the only one of more than 20 yards for the game.
With the Chiefs and Jets up next, the Seahawks must get back to their winning ways if they want a ticket to the dance.
17. New York Jets
The Jets have lost four of their last five games, and they find themselves in a tough predicament with games against the Jaguars, Seahawks, and Dolphins to finish the season.
Zach Wilson wasn’t great against the Lions’ defense, but he was a part of multiple big plays, including a massive 40-yard touchdown to C.J. Uzomah across the field while rolling to his left. Things were ugly at times, but in a season where he’s been the reason the team lost, this was not one of them.
The Lions-Jets game simply appeared like a game between two legitimately talented teams, and one had a slight advantage at the most important position in professional sports.
16. New England Patriots
Jones completed just 13 of 31 passing attempts against arguably the worst passing defense in the NFL, and that was only the second-most embarrassing part of his day. New England ran the ball well against Las Vegas, and with about 30 seconds left, were primed for their eighth win of the season.
A controversial upheld touchdown tied the game, but New England’s own mistakes cost them the game. It’s been a wacky two years in the NFL, but that was arguably the most unhinged finish to a football game in recent memory.
And unfortunately, it could be the reason New England ultimately misses the playoffs.
15. Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans are a mess. They’ve lost four games in a row, and their offense looks completely inept heading into Week 16. The Jaguars are just a game out of first place in the division, and Tennessee faces the Jaguars in Week 18 after playing the Cowboys at home in Week 17.
The Titans’ passing attack is broken. Although Derrick Henry averaged five yards per carry and had over 100 yards, without the complementary passing efficiency, they’ll need superhuman performances from the running back to make the playoffs as AFC South champions.
14. Washington Commanders
With the Lions surging and the Giants and Seahawks still hot on their heels, the Commanders needed a win against their division rival on Sunday night. Unfortunately, their division rival was able to steal a game away from what appears, at least on paper, as a better football team.
Chase Young’s return has been highly anticipated, to the point where fans are probably drooling at this point. A Washington defense that has finally started playing to its potential gets one of its most talented pieces back. Young, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, and Montez Sweat are a nightmare group for any offensive line to deal with.
But the Washington offense hasn’t been consistent all season, and it’s the reason why they couldn’t overcome the Giants at home.
13. New York Giants
The Giants started the season strong, but an already poor passing defense lost Adoree’ Jackson and has struggled to overcome the loss. However, New York’s roster is pretty close to being legitimate contenders in 2023, and could still sneak into the NFC playoffs this season if they can somehow find enough offense to outlast two of the Seahawks, Lions, and Commanders.
They helped their own cause on Sunday Night Football against their divisional opponent, the Washington Commanders. The team’s rag-tag group of secondary defenders was able to keep Washington’s receivers in check enough for a victory.
12. Jacksonville Jaguars
Well, Trevor Lawrence and Doug Pederson seem to have found something. Lawrence has been outstanding over the past two months, and the Jaguars were able to put up a 40-burger against a Cowboys defense that ranked third in defensive EPA prior to their matchup.
Jacksonville’s offensive structure is outstanding. And while their defense needs improvement in the offseason, the Jaguars are efficient enough on offense when they’re not turning the ball over that they could be incredibly dangerous in a one-game playoff sample should they climb back into the playoff race.
11. Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers remain an underwhelming football team, but luckily for them, they’ve figured things out against two playoff teams in consecutive weeks. Justin Herbert played one of his worst games as a pro, but the Titans’ own offensive ineptitude outclassed that of the Chargers.
All of a sudden, Los Angeles finds themselves as the sixth seed in the AFC. And with the Colts, Rams, and Broncos remaining on their schedule, it would be a major disappointment to see them miss the playoffs at this stage.
10. Detroit Lions
The fighting Dan Campbells are doing everything within their power to turn a 1-6 record into a playoff birth. Their offensive line is playing at an otherworldly level, and Jared Goff is complementing them with some of the best play we’ve seen from him since 2018.
But it’s been the Lions’ defense that has really turned a corner this season. Detroit’s only loss since Week 8 was a three-point loss against the Buffalo Bills in Week 12. With Carolina, Chicago, and Green Bay left on their schedule, Detroit should be one of the three NFC Wild Card teams when it’s all said and done.
It’s been an unbelievable turnaround.
9. Baltimore Ravens
Lamar Jackson is once again proving to be the missing link between the Baltimore Ravens and wins. Although they snuck away with them against Denver and Pittsburgh, they’d had the luxury of playing against bad football teams. And even against a bad football team on Saturday, Baltimore couldn’t overcome the loss.
The Ravens still have a shot to win the division, and they’ll most likely make the playoffs. Jackson will return and both the passing attack and run game will receive a bump. But if they can’t somehow snatch the division, maintaining the fifth seed to face what seems like a reeling Titans team could be imperative.
8. Minnesota Vikings
You couldn’t dream up the Vikings’ 2022 fairy tale for a Disney movie. Their incredibly 10-0 one-score record would be enough to suffice a fictional tale. But incredibly, this team of destiny somehow climbed Mount Everest, coming back from a 33-point deficit to defeat the Colts on Saturday.
The Vikings offense tore a page out of the Chiefs’ playbook on Saturday, scoring touchdowns on five of seven offensive drives, only stopped by an interception and a turnover on downs keeping them from six points.
Justin Jefferson also remains on pace to break Calvin Johnson’s single-season receiving record.
Tier 2 | Conference Championship Contenders
Three teams remain legitimate conference championship contenders as two teams elevate into Tier 1.
7. Miami Dolphins
Honestly, the Miami Dolphins surprised on a cold, snowy Saturday in Buffalo. The warm-weather creatures battled for four quarters, coming up short in the end to one of the best teams in the NFL, with arguably the most valuable player in the league playing incredibly well.
The Dolphins’ secondary remains a struggle when they can’t get consistent pressure. Josh Boyer’s defense is aggressive to a fault, and against mobile quarterbacks like Josh Allen, it’s easy to get burnt as the defense constantly has their backs turned in man coverage.
6. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys were missing Leighton Vander Esch against the Jaguars. Jacksonville averaged 7.1 yards per rush for the game and was able to create multiple chunk plays on the ground outside the tackles. Anthony Barr and Damone Clark weren’t up to the task.
Pederson called an outstanding game against a Dallas defense that has been solid all season. Their rushing attack was creative, and they picked on Kelvin Joseph throughout the game.
The Cowboys’ offense played good enough throughout the game. They continue to run the ball well situationally, and Dak Prescott was surgical for most of the contest. Unfortunately, the “unlucky” bug continues to follow Prescott since his return.
Dallas played one good quarter in their two wins prior to the Jacksonville game and then lost in the third week. They’ve begun struggling down the stretch.
5. Cincinnati Bengals
Christmas came early in Tampa Bay. Cincinnati might be among the elites. They’ll have every opportunity to prove it over the last three weeks of the regular season. But the Buccaneers gifted them five consecutive turnovers, making a 17-point lead a 17-point deficit.
The Bengals are 9-2 in their last 11 games. Their defense has remained intact despite losing Chidobe Awuzie, and they’ve learned how to run the football to supplement an incredibly dangerous passing attack. They could be kryptonite for the Bills and Chiefs once again in the AFC playoffs.
Tier 1 | The Elite Teams
The Bills have righted the ship after having a few poor weeks, and the 49ers are on a roll.
4. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers might be the most dangerous team in the NFC. No defense in the NFL is better coached, and their ability to eliminate the middle of the field in coverage gives them an advantage against teams with good QBs who normally thrive in that area.
San Francisco can get home with four and cover with seven, mixing up looks on the defensive line and in coverage after the snap seamlessly. They’re as tight as it gets in modern defensive football.
That doesn’t mean they’re infallible. They’ve simply turned on the heat in the second half of the season. And they have a young QB who is playing incredibly well. Even if it’s a flash in the pan and not sustainable, he’s played well independent of a very good situation around him.
3. Buffalo Bills
The Bills are pretty simple. Josh Allen plays like an alien, and Buffalo’s offense looks like the most unstoppable force in the league. If Allen makes a few mistakes or is slightly off, the story is much different.
The Bills’ defense struggled to defend the run against Miami, which is a surprise for both teams, considering Buffalo has been good against the run, and the Dolphins haven’t run the ball particularly well this season.
But Allen is an alien, and he put the other 10 offensive players in the pack on his shoulders and led them to their 11th victory of the season.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs were the second straight 10-win team to struggle with the one-win Houston Texans. Kansas City thoroughly outplayed the hapless Texans, but multiple unfortunately timed penalties kept Houston in the contest.
The Chiefs averaged 5.7 yards per carry and Mahomes completely 36 of his 41 attempts, but mistimed mistakes kept them from going on the patented Kansas City TD stretches.
However, they survived and remain in the elite class alongside the Bills in the AFC.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
The Bears did everything in their power to upset the Eagles, but it wasn’t enough in the end. Philadelphia has made a living avoiding turnovers in 2022 but had three in their five-point win against Chicago.
The Bears ran the ball well against the Eagles, which has been the team’s only weak spot this season. Philadelphia’s six sacks helped keep their defense out of trouble against Justin Fields and the Bears’ offense.
It would take an epic collapse for them to lose out on the top seed in the NFC with just three games remaining.