1. Arizona Cardinals (13-2; Last Week- No. 2)
The Cardinals haven’t been No. 1 in our power rankings all season, and here they taking over the top spot in the final week of the regular season. And this is the ideal time of the year to be doing that.
Arizona enters Week 17 with a chance to go into the playoffs with 10 straight wins, and are still alive for home field advantage throughout the NFC side of the playoffs.
Their +206 point differential is 42 points better than the next best point differential (Panthers at +164).
2. Carolina Panthers (14-1; Last Week- No. 1)
You’ll live with not getting your first loss until Week 16 of the season. The Panthers are fine.
3. New England Patriots (12-3; Last Week- No. 3)
The Patriots have now lost three of five and the injuries are surely a large reason for that. But they’ve already locked up a bye in the Wild Card round and are expected to have several of those players ready to go in the Divisional round.
4. Denver Broncos (11-4; Last Week- No. 9; Biggest Riser)
It was ugly in the first half vs the Bengals, but the Broncos’ defense looked like the unit they should be in the second half of the game to get the win (although not until overtime), and to clinch a playoff berth.
It’s Brock Osweiler’s team right now, and we’ll see if it stays that way when the Broncos’ first playoff game rolls around.
5. Cincinnati Bengals (11-4; Last Week- No. 6)
Admirable effort by A.J. McCarron and the Bengals in Denver, but they have to be kicking themselves after dominating that game in the first half too.
6. Kansas City Chiefs (10-5; Last Week- No. 8)
Like the Cardinals, the Chiefs have a chance to finish the season with 10 straight wins. But the Chiefs could do that after starting 1-5.
Just amazing stuff that they enter Week 17 still alive for the AFC West crown, and have already clinched a playoff berth.
7. Seattle Seahawks (9-6; Last Week- No. 4)
A clunker of a performance against the Rams to snap a five-game winning streak, and things won’t get any easier on Sunday against the Cardinals in St. Louis. But, they’ve still clinched a playoff spot, and it appears Marshawn Lynch (will have missed the final seven games) will be ready to go for the playoffs.
This is still a very dangerous, playoff-tested team, and with Russell Wilson playing the best football of his life.
8. New York Jets (10-5; Last Week- No. 10)
Beating the Patriots is always big, and the Jets did so in basically a must-win game for playoff purposes. They still need to beat the Bills this week, or else they’re depending on the Browns to beat the Steelers.
9. Minnesota Vikings (10-5; Last Week- No. 11)
The Vikings have outscored their opponents 87-34 over the last two weeks.
They’re already in the playoffs, but they get a chance to win the division tomorrow night at Lambeau Field.
10. Green Bay Packers (10-5; Last Week- No. 7)
Brutal showing in Arizona, particularly from the offensive line (nine sacks allowed).
They’ll need to play much better Sunday night, but getting the game at what should be a wild Lambeau Field is a bonus, and they already blew out the Vikings 30-13 earlier in the season.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6; Last Week- No. 5; Biggest Faller)
Losing to that Ravens team in a must-win game… yikes.
12. Washington Redskins (8-7; Last Week- No. 12)
A division title and Kirk Cousins rolling. If Cousins keeps playing like this, the Redskins are going to be a tough out in the playoffs.
13. Houston Texans (8-7; Last Week- No. 13)
The Texans enter Sunday in great shape to win the AFC South. Their playoff upside is limited given the offense, but this has been a great year for Bill O’Brien’s team and they’re headed in the right direction.
14. Atlanta Falcons (8-7; Last Week- No. 17)
Beating the undefeated Panthers after the Falcons had lost six of their last seven games pretty much summarizes Atlanta’s season.
15. Oakland Raiders (7-8; Last Week- No. 15)
As we talk about every week: the Raiders are showing a lot of great things and are very close. They have some tremendous building blocks in place and just need some more help on the defense.
16. Buffalo Bills (7-8; Last Week- No. 16)
A disappointing season, but Rex Ryan gets a chance to (potentially) keep the Jets out of the playoffs on Sunday.
17. St. Louis Rams (7-8; Last Week- No. 20)
The Rams have a good chance to finish the season with four straight wins, and get Jeff Fisher to another 8-8 year!
18. Indianapolis Colts (7-8; Last Week- No. 21)
Still technically alive for a playoff spot, but it’s, um, going to be tough.
19. New York Giants (6-9; Last Week- No. 14)
It looks like Tom Coughlin is going to resign on Monday. If so, remarkable run for Coughlin, even if 2015 was a disappointing for the Giants.
20. Detroit Lions (6-9; Last Week- No. 22)
The Lions are 5-2 in the second half of the season. Was Jim Bob Cooter the difference after all? The results on offense would make a pretty strong case.
21. Chicago Bears (6-9; Last Week- No. 24)
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-9; Last Week- No. 18)
The Buccaneers went from 6-6 in playoff contention to three straight losses, and likely four straight losses after playing the Panthers in Charlotte on Sunday.
23. New Orleans Saints (6-9; Last Week- No. 27)
The Saints need a lot of upgrades on the defense, but they’re in need of even more important upgrades if Drew Brees or Sean Payton are gone.
24. Philadelphia Eagles (6-9; Last Week- No. 19)
Welp, they certainly got a head-start on the offseason!
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10; Last Week- No. 23)
Despite going 12-35 in his three seasons with the Jaguars, Gus Bradley has been told he’ll remain their head coach. Now, he hasn’t had much to work with (this year on the defensive side particularly), but not many coaches would continue to get this opportunity.
26. San Diego Chargers (4-11; Last Week- No. 25)
They’re competing, but just don’t have the roster — thanks primarily to injuries — to come away with wins.
27. Baltimore Ravens (5-10; Last Week- No. 30)
Even the Ravens are probably stunned that they beat the Steelers in that game.
28. Miami Dolphins (5-10; Last Week- No. 26)
Right up there for biggest disappointment of the 2015 NFL season.
29. Dallas Cowboys (4-11; Last Week- No. 28)
1-10 without Tony Romo. Really all there is to it.
30. Cleveland Browns (3-12; Last Week- No. 31)
Here come all the firings. And then there’s the Johnny Manziel situation for a new coach and general manager to walk into. What a circus.
31. San Francisco 49ers (4-11; Last Week- No. 29)
It’s going to be really interesting to see what they decide with the quarterback position this offseason.
32. Tennessee Titans (3-11; Last Week- No. 28)
A horrible, horrible team, but a franchise in much better position than several teams because of having a long term (it appears) quarterback. And they’re going to get potentially the No. 1 overall pick of the 2016 draft to add on to that.