The picture takes shape, with plenty of shuffling around, as we all have only one thing on our minds: The NFL Playoffs. This mess of a league has frustrated us enough for one season, but things are finally a little clearer, but not by much. We try once more to understand what’s going on in the TSW NFL Power Rankings: Week Sixteen.
1: () Green Bay Packers (12-3)
How good is Davante Adams? Extremely good, as evidenced by his soul-shredding performance against the Browns, who appeared to forget he was on the field at all on some plays. Green Bay has their division clinched and a speedy route to the NFL’s top spot for 2021. The battle was far from fierce, as the Packers dominated the entire NFL down the stretch, regardless of quality or injury. They might just be favourites for the Super Bowl.
2: () Los Angeles Rams (11-4)
Stafford has had a few down games across his otherwise great season, and this was likely the worst. It’s a testament to the quality of this team that they were able to force a comfortable victory in spite of his costly errors, and against a Vikings team that has proven themselves capable of murder. The Rams are deservedly third in the NFC, having been their own worst enemy for most of the year, but they earned their division lead as the Cardinals are in freefall.
3: () Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4)
Should Antonio Brown be playing? Perhaps not, but that doesn’t mean anything to Bruce Arians, who had a mess of holes to fill after a damaging week for a stellar Buccaneers roster. They beat Carolina, and quite comfortably, but it wasn’t due to their offense. Brady made do with what he had, and the Tampa defense shredded one of the least cohesive passing games in the league.
4: (1) Dallas Cowboys (11-4)
What more can be said? Dallas could have benched the starters long before the first half ended, in a key win against their divisional rivals. True, they had already qualified for the playoffs based on a strength-of-record tiebreaker, but this cements them atop it all. Their defense was immaculate and should draw just as much credit for this dominating victory as any part of the Cowboys. Micah Parsons for DROY is a lock, now.
5: (1) Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)
Aaaaand they’re back. In the lone driver’s seat in the AFC, a lot of people who counted the Chiefs out have been proven wrong, and fast. Admittedly, they haven’t changed anything at all, but a late-season defensive resurgence that relies wholly on spontaneous improvements from individuals and no change in scheme or play-calling has shot them right back to the top of the league. If they can sustain it, they’re going to be in great shape, but it’s a tough ‘If’. Until proven otherwise, they’re here to stay.
6: (2) Arizona Cardinals (10-5)
Are this year’s Arizona Cardinals last year’s Pittsburgh Steelers? They were too hot too soon, and appear to have lost any and all momentum down the stretch, suffering a number of bad losses to teams they should be beating. In falling to the Colts on Christmas Day, they fell to a Wild Card spot, and appear to have lost the NFC West entirely.
7: (2) Buffalo Bills (9-6)
Hold the phone. The Bills were supposed to be dead, yet here they are, atop the AFC East, and with only the Falcons and Jets standing in the way of their second-straight division title. Missing a whole host of crucial players on offense, Josh Allen had his best performance of the year and willed them to victory. The defense made things difficult all game for Mac Jones, and Buffalo did what made them great in 2020: They took risks.
8: (2) Indianapolis Colts (9-6)
It’s official, Indianapolis is the NFL’s giant-slayers. They’ve throttled a whole host of talented teams who had championship aspirations, and the slayers look to have become the giants themselves. Is Indy a contender, even with the erratic Carson Wentz under centre? It’s possible, and they’re currently playoff-bound, only one game shy of the lead in the AFC South.
9: (2) Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)
The Chargers have let everyone down again, this time against the Houston Texans, of all teams. Blown out, they took their powerhouse offense and found it grounded, unable to force a late comeback, or even anything comparable to a comeback attempt. We knew the L.A. defense was a weak point, but their inability to stop the deadly duo of Rex Burkhead and Davis Mills is concerning. We’ll have to temper our expectations moving forwards, evidently.
10: (2) New England Patriots (9-6)
We knew that the Mac Jones hype was too much, but none of that is his fault. In reality, and with a reasonable head on our shoulders, we can understand that he’s having a good season for a rookie, and there are plenty of things to be optimistic about. He was destined to have down games, and this was undoubtedly one of them, but the bigger concern for New England was the lack of success from this defense against a Buffalo OL missing three starters and a passing attack without two of its top three receivers. We can’t stress enough that the Patriots’ defense has been their reason for success this season, so what went wrong on Sunday?
11: () Tennessee Titans (10-5)
Guess who’s back? The Titans have done an excellent job maintaining their pace with a depleted offense, but as their stars return they prepare to try and come for the AFC title, and maybe more. They still have problems, but they stand as good a team as any to represent the AFC in the Superbowl. The lone question is if they can stay healthy enough to get there. Shoutout to A.J. Brown, who was pristine in his return to action.
12: () San Francisco 49ers (8-7)
The 49ers are only as good as their quarterback, and some days that makes them very good indeed. Not on Thursday, though, as Jimmy G’s solid night was decimated by costly errors that were ultimately his team’s undoing. They played well enough to steamroll their opponents but left a lot out on the field, and it cost them the game. They still sit in the top available seed in the NFC (sixth), but the chase is hot and they’ll need to tighten up their bolts if they intend to stay there.
13: (4) Cincinnati Bengals (9-6)
The Bengals played one hell of a game, and we all know why. Joe Burrow abused the Ravens’ weakened secondary, shredding them time and time again for over 500 yards passing and a massive blowout ‘W’ that all but guarantees them the AFC North title. They take on Kansas City next week, but the Ravens play the Rams, so there’s more to be done, but things are looking up in Cincy as the postseason draws near. Huge days from Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Ja’Maar Chase, and Joe Mixon (as a receiver).
14: (1) Baltimore Ravens (8-7)
Baltimore got smoked. Handled. Smothered. Beaten. Battered. They experienced all the stages of grief in the first half and there was nothing to be done about it. Down to their third-string QB on late notice, they did what they could but it wasn’t ever going to be enough to keep up with the heaping tablespoon of points they were served. Respect them for staying in the fight, but no one available can replace Lamar Jackson on this team right now.
15: (1) New Orleans Saints (7-8)
One of the NFL’s most beaten and battered teams, largely due to their unfortunate Covid outbreak, the Saints didn’t look like a team that deserved to win anything. It might not be entirely their fault. We just feel bad for them at this point as, ever since the Winston injury, they’re a QB away from making a mark on the NFC.
16: (2) Las Vegas Raiders (8-7)
The Raiders did what they had to do, with a playoff spot still in the cards, and they might even control their own destiny. Being on the bottom of a three-way tiebreaker puts them in a tough spot, but if they can beat a rugged Colts team then they can take on the Chargers with the seventh seed on the line in week 18. A lot can go wrong in the AFC over the next two weeks and, though it’s an uphill battle, the Raiders could quite possibly sneak in. They need more of what they got this week from Josh Jacobs if they play to pull it off.
17: (2) Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7-1)
Goodnight room, goodnight moon, goodnight cow jumping over the moon, and goodnight to the Steelers hopes of making the postseason. This savage beatdown was infinitely worse than the final score indicated, and the Steelers had their own backups in, which means one thing above all else. This is the official end of the Roethlisberger era in Pittsburgh, and they enter a period of uncertainty. Mason Rudolph isn’t the answer, but he may be a stand-in for an otherwise talented team as they travel to the edges of the universe in search of another franchise QB.
18: (2) Miami Dolphins (8-7)
Miami has done it. They’ve beaten seven terrible teams in a row to return to the AFC playoff picture, and now they can try and beat some quality opponents instead. True, a lot of teams have gotten this far by beating up on bad opponents, and it just makes the picture harder to evaluate. With three AFC East teams in the playoffs as it stands, it’s unlikely all of them make it. Who is the odd one out? Unfortunately, it’s going to be Miami.
19: (3) Cleveland Browns (7-8)
Oh no. I’d say there’s trouble in paradise but let’s be real; It’s Cleveland. Jokes aside, the Browns are hurting right now, and that’s no understatement. Their title-contending dreams have been long since dashed, but now even a playoff appearance seems unlikely. They’ve dropped to the 12th seed, and with games against the Steelers and Bengals coming up, it’ll be tough to win out. Even if they do, they need a lot of help to crack the ice above them.
20: (1) Minnesota Vikings (7-8)
The Vikings just can’t put together a complete game, and with the division champion Packers up next, they might not be in this fight much longer. Unable to truly capitalize on the mistakes of their opponents, and woefully inept on offense despite flashy plays from flashy players; It’s tough to be a Vikings fan in 2021. Perhaps next season, they’re able to actually answer their tough questions and find the cure for a talented team that just can’t seem to win.
21: (1) Philadelphia Eagles (8-7)
Going up against a dime-less Giants offense, Philly didn’t need to do a lot to win this game. They’re fun to watch, even if they’re as inconsistent as NFL officiating is. Touchdowns by offensive linemen, major defensive plays, and enough offense to keep us guessing, the Eagles could make life very difficult for opponents if they make the playoffs; They’re currently at seventh in the NFC race. They’ll need to keep their guns away from their own feet if they get there though.
22: (1) Washington Football Team (6-9)
We can all but count the WFT out of the playoffs, as they sit in last in the NFC’s playoff race and would need a bushel of miracles to actually qualify for postseason action. Even if they did, would we want them there? The playoffs are supposed to be for the best of the best, and Washington isn’t that this season. Not even close. Tough questions coming up this offseason, such as: Rebuild or fix?
23: () Seattle Seahawks (5-10)
Seattle has had a bad season, no way around it, and now they’re officially out of the running. Last year, Russell Wilson gave the team a list of potential trade destinations, and the Seahawks convinced him to stay by doing absolutely nothing to help him and letting him be devoured by defenses. This year, he may be a bit more insistent. Either he’s out, or there have to be major, tangible changes across the board.
24: () Denver Broncos (7-8)
Down they go, as the Broncos become the holders of last place in an expansive AFC playoff bubble. It is probably time to give up, as Drew Lock was ineffective outside of a good throw or two. HE’s not the answer, and if Teddy Bridgewater isn’t the answer either then the Broncos are left without the most important position in the game. With a softer upcoming QB class, they’re unlikely to hit their dream guy unless they can pick one up in free agency, where there still isn’t a lot of talent available. Instead, they are set to be a popular trade destination.
25: () Atlanta Falcons (7-8)
Matt Ryan has worked well to develop a connection with young TE Kyle Pitts but, aside from him, he’s working with few to no weapons. Amazingly, he can get it done from time to time. With limited talent, and not much in the way of creativity on either side of the ball, Ryan deserves credit for taking a bad team as far as he did, but their season should be considered over so they can take a look at the free-agent market. With plenty of holes to fill, there’s a lot of work to do; Just don’t replace QB1 quite yet.
26: () Carolina Panthers (5-10)
The Panthers are out of the running, and running out of options. Whatever their plan is for this offense, it’s not working. Plenty of talent is scattered about this roster but if they don’t get organized it’s going to be a wasted offseason.
27: (4) Houston Texans (4-11)
The Texans find themselves on the rise again, and it’s for good reasons. They swallowed up and spat out the Chargers, and this win gives them more hope for the future. They’re winning at the wrong time, and it’s hurting their draft stock, but they don’t care if it means they understand the value of Davis Mills. The potential of a talented player at QB is infinitely more valuable than a few draft spots to a team in the modern NFL.
28: (2) Chicago Bears (5-10)
Y’know what? The Bears pulled something off that has eluded the Ravens twice this season; The two-point conversion to win. That deserves some respect. Matt Nagy might just be doing everything he has to do in order to keep his current coaching job or put together a resume for the next one, but the way it played out this was the win of the season for Chicago. With the right hire, they have the potential to take strides this offseason.
29: () New York Jets (4-11)
New York, New York. Wilson has been massively disappointing for fans f the franchise so far, but he had a few bright spots in yet another dismal performance on Sunday. Perhaps they can coach him up and try to come back swinging in the preseason, but Saleh hasn’t done an excellent job of showing us he can make that happen just yet. Still, some promise resides in Zach, even if it’s buried deep at the moment.
30: (2) New York Giants (4-11)
The Giants are decent, but their season was entirely decimated by injuries from which they never got the chance to recover. It’s hard not to have sympathy for them, but they keep returning to the same pond. Joe Judge and Daniel Jones are both reportedly confirmed to return next season and, though there’s still meat on the bone, is there enough to warrant another season? It looks like we’ll find out in September.
31: (4) Detroit Lions (2-12-1)
The Lions are going through the earliest and most painful stage of a rebuild, but they’re doing it the right way. Dan Campbell is somehow one of the most popular coaches in the NFL regardless of the fact he’s sitting with only two wins, and it’s because of how his players talk about him. This roster believes in him to succeed in the future, and he’s given himself the tenure to make the rebuild work. Look forward to the offseason, because Detroit isn’t the laughing stock of the NFL anymore, despite their record.
32: () Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13)
Was there even a question? Of course it’s the Jaguars. This roster is bad, and getting rid of Urban Meyer wasn’t the solution any more than putting out a fire builds you a new house. It was a step in the right direction, and they’re still the worst team in the game.
Don’t forget to check out last week, and come back next time to see how another week of NFL action changes the board.