NFL power rankings, post-Week 15 edition:
1. Saints (1): They’ve been in gritty games lately, which might be a blessing when playoffs arrive. Another win, and they’ll be staying in New Orleans in January.
2. Chargers (4): Quality of this team evidenced by its depth, which has enabled Bolts to weather key injuries. Could be AFC’s No. 1 seed a week from now.
3. Bears (6): Newly crowned NFC North champs could wind up with a bye. You wouldn’t want to face this defense … rested … in January … in Chicago.
4. Rams (2): Rough couple weeks for a team limping to regular-season finish line. Luckily for them, Cardinals and 49ers poised to cheer them to the tape.
5. Chiefs (3): Chris Jones has morphed into a one-man gang on defense. Unfortunately, that’s a big part of the problem — he could use more gangsters.
6. Colts (12): Andrew Luck hasn’t been at his best lately, but this team managed to knock off league’s hottest clubs (Texans, Cowboys) in successive weeks.
7. Texans (7): Deshaun Watson is league’s most-sacked QB (52). He doesn’t have to face J.J. Watt, but several of AFC’s top pass rushers will be playing next month.
8. Steelers (11): Optimism running high after what might have been season-saving win. But Pittsburgh could be in equally dire straits at New Orleans in Week 16.
9. Patriots (5): Dynasty death spiral? They won’t win 12 games for first time since 2009. They may have lost bye. Brady, Gronk don’t look right. Or is signature surge around corner?
10. Ravens (10): They’ve rushed for more than 200 yards in all four of Lamar Jackson’s wins (and 194 in his lone loss). But give rookie RB Gus Edwards, averaging nearly 100 himself, due credit, too.
11. Titans (14): They’ll finish NFC East sweep by beating ‘Skins on Saturday. Unfortunately, those wins don’t help Tennessee’s tiebreaker situation … at all.
12. Seahawks (9): Just when they thought their kicking situation was solved … Sebastian Janikowski winds up in space against a capable return man. Oof.
13. Cowboys (8): We know what Jerry said in October, Coach Garrett, but did you really need to go for it on fourth down five times Sunday? Jerry won’t like a 20 percent conversion rate, either.
14. Vikings (15): Where did this Dalvin Cook kid come from? Wait, what? He’s been on the team for two years? Did anyone notify ousted OC John DeFilippo?
15. Eagles (19): Shoulda known Nick Foles would ride to rescue at L.A. Memorial Coliseum. But he probably doesn’t have enough time to save Philly’s playoff bacon this year.
16. Browns (17): As well as this post-Hue interlude has gone, they may have to seriously consider sticking with Gregg Williams-Freddie Kitchens combo.
17. Dolphins (13): They’ll need another miracle to reach postseason. But maybe facing Jags, Bills with time winding down is like facing Gronk at free safety.
18. Panthers (18): As if you didn’t know Christian McCaffrey was their MVP, he passed, rushed and received for at least 50 yards Monday and became first non-quarterback in Carolina history to throw TD pass.
19. Packers (20): Did you ever think there would be such an Aaron Rodgers backlash? He hasn’t been under this kind of microscope since Brett Favre was traded.
20. Falcons (21): Ultimately, his 41-yard pick-six was a nice play in a meaningless game … yet a reminder of how LB Deion Jones’ absence scuttled this club.
21. Giants (22): Going back to sophomore year at Penn State, Saquon Barkley hasn’t fumbled in 35 games. Another reason he’s got offensive ROY honors on ice.
22. Buccaneers (23): Is there a more underappreciated NFL player than WR Mike Evans, who needs 93 receiving yards to average 1,200 over his five-year career?
23. 49ers (27): Nick Mullens’ “career” passer rating stands at 96.0 in six starts. Jimmy Garoppolo? He’s at 94.1 in nine games with Niners, 97.3 for his career.
24. Broncos (16): For all those Vikings fans who want Case Keenum back, meet some Denver fans who would be happy to pay shipping costs to return to sender.
25. Redskins (25): Given how Josh Johnson is playing, we’ll put $10 on the San Diego Fleet to win whatever the Alliance of American Football’s Super Bowl is.
26. Bengals (26): As poorly as this team has played lately, credit Joe Mixon for never-say-die approach. Good chance he ends season as AFC’s No. 1 rusher.
27. Jets (28): They couldn’t close against Houston, but Sam Darnold provided further hopes he might really be savior this franchise has waited so long for.
28. Bills (30): There was talk of converting Lamar Jackson to wide receiver before the draft. Battered Bills may need to convert Josh Allen to running back.
29. Lions (24): Coach Matt Patricia dropped an F-bomb in radio interview following Sunday’s loss. If only Matthew Stafford could drop a meaningful bomb anymore.
30. Raiders (29): What did Derek Carr’s “Clayton Kershaw” audible mean? He’s destined to never win a big game? He’d like to be traded to Los Angeles? He’d like another $93 million guaranteed? Shrug.
31. Jaguars (31): Fantastic news for quarterbacks across the country during upcoming offseason — Jalen Ramsey “ain’t worried about nobody but myself.”
32. Cardinals (32): Worst pass offense in the league. Worst rushing offense in the league. Fewest points scored in the league. But they might get Nick Bosa!
(Previous week’s rank in parentheses)
Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis
Source: “Los Angeles” – Google News