NFL Power Rankings Week 16: 49ers, Ravens on top, plus a surprise from every team

NFL Power Rankings Week 16: 49ers, Ravens on top, plus a surprise from every team

NFL Power Rankings Week 16: 49ers, Ravens on top, plus a surprise from every team

We’re coming down the stretch of the NFL season, and the playoff seedings and Power Rankings are starting to sort themselves out, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some surprises along the way. Today, we’re going to look at one surprising aspect of each team’s season.

And then we’re going to start looking forward to a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in Week 16 of the season.

(Last week: 1)

Sunday: Beat Arizona Cardinals 45-29

Surprise: Brock Purdy

We’ve let all the talk about whether the second-year quarterback is a top-10 quarterback in the league or even possibly the MVP obscure what remains at its heart the most remarkable story in the league. Purdy, the last pick of the 2022 draft, is now 16-3 as a starting quarterback. His passer rating (119) and expected points added per dropback (.32) lead the NFL and both would rank among the top five in the last 10 years in the league, according to TruMedia.

Up next: vs. Baltimore Ravens, Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET

(Last week: 3)

Sunday: Beat Jacksonville Jaguars 23-7

Surprise: They’ve clinched a playoff spot

Baltimore didn’t even enter the season as the favorite in its division, and now it’s the only team in the AFC to clinch a postseason berth. Lamar Jackson has been Lamar Jackson and the Todd Monken hire at offensive coordinator looks inspired. The Ravens have won eight of their last nine. Watching their defense, which leads the NFL with just 16.1 points per game allowed, go against the 49ers offense next week will be a treat.

Up next: at San Francisco 49ers, Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET


What we learned in NFL Week 15: Beware the Ravens and Bills, trouble in Pittsburgh and more

(Last week: 5)

Sunday: Beat Dallas Cowboys 31-10

Surprise: That they’ve lost six games

The Bills proved Sunday they’re one of the best teams in the league and a Super Bowl contender. More importantly, they got themselves closer to the playoffs, moving into the No. 9 spot in the AFC. Of course, the answer may be as simple as turnovers. The Bills are plus-11 in turnover margin in their wins (fourth in the league) and minus-eight in their losses (20th in the league). They didn’t turn the ball over against the Cowboys and rushed for 266 yards, their highest total since 2016.

Up next: at Los Angeles Chargers, Saturday, 8 p.m. ET

(Last week: 7)

Sunday: Beat New York Jets 30-0

Surprise: Why nobody else just drafted all the fast guys

Tyreek Hill didn’t play Sunday because of an ankle injury, and Miami still had three of the fastest people in the world on the field. Jaylen Waddle had a season-high 142 receiving yards on eight catches, and Raheem Mostert and Devon Achane had a combined 105 yards. The Dolphins have won four of their last five and can beat anybody in the league with their home run power.

Up next: vs. Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET

(Last week: 2)

Sunday: Lost to Buffalo Bills 31-10

Surprise: How they play on the road

Dallas, which is 7-0 at home, is now below .500 on the road, dropping to 3-4 with Sunday’s loss. The Cowboys lead the league in scoring (39.86 ppg) and scoring margin (plus-171) at home but are 15th in scoring (21.71 ppg) and have a minus-4 scoring margin on the road. This is not good news for a team that probably is going to have to play at Philadelphia or at San Francisco to get to the Super Bowl. It has played in both of those stadiums this year and lost by a combined score of 70-33.

Up next: at Miami Dolphins, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET

(Last week: 4)

Monday: Lost to Seattle Seahawks 20-17

Surprise: The panic

The Eagles are the most hand-wringing 1o-win team in the NFL. They already have clinched a playoff spot and still have a good chance to win the NFC East, yet the team and its fans believe the sky is falling because it has hit a rough patch against talented opponents. The Eagles took control of the defense away from coordinator Sean Desai and handed it to Matt Patricia for Monday’s game. That didn’t work so well on the final drive as Drew Lock took the Seahawks 92 yards for the game-winning touchdown, but Philadelphia still has some of the most talented offensive and defensive lines in the league and will be fine in January.

Up next: vs. New York Giants, Monday, 4:30 p.m. ET

(Last week: 8)

Saturday: Beat Denver Broncos 42-17

Surprise: Sam LaPorta

It’s not shocking that the rookie tight end is good, but this good? LaPorta had three touchdown catches Saturday night and now has nine on the season, the fourth-most receiving touchdowns in the league. LaPorta, the No. 34 pick in the 2023 draft, already has 758 receiving yards, the sixth most by a rookie tight end in the history of the league. If he hits his average the rest of the season, he will end up third behind only Mike Ditka and Kyle Pitts.

Up next: at Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET


Examining NFL’s 3 coaching vacancies and 9 other teams facing decisions: Sando’s Pick Six

(Last week: 6)

Sunday: Beat New England Patriots 27-17

Surprise: How hard it has been

Kansas City guaranteed its 11th straight winning record under Andy Reid, but it wasn’t without more drama. Kadarius Toney dropped a pass that turned into an interception, and the Patriots led 10-7 until the final minute of the first half. The defending Super Bowl champion is the No. 3 seed in the AFC right now. The good news is rookie receiver Rashee Rice had his fourth straight game with at least seven catches and 64 yards to take some of the pressure off Travis Kelce.

Up next: vs. Las Vegas Raiders, Monday, 1 p.m. ET

Myles Garrett and the Cleveland defense have the Browns closing in on a playoff berth. (Nick Cammett / Getty Images)

(Last week: 12)

Sunday: Beat Chicago Bears 20-17

Surprise: That nobody hired Jim Schwartz earlier

Cleveland’s defensive coordinator spent the last two seasons as a senior defensive assistant in Tennessee. Then the Browns put him back in charge of a defense, and Cleveland leads the NFL in defensive splash plays (363). The Browns have a league-high 65 tackles for loss that aren’t sacks and 41 sacks, which ranks eighth in the league, to go along with it. The defense has saved a season in which the offense lost running back Nick Chubb and quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Up next: at Houston Texans, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

(Last week: 11)

Sunday: Beat Washington Commanders 28-20

Surprise: They’re in the playoffs at the moment

This was supposed to be a reset year for the Rams, and it looked like it when they started 3-6. Since then, Sean McVay’s crew is 4-1 with the only loss coming to the Ravens. During the winning streak, the Rams are fourth in the league in scoring (29.8 ppg), and Matthew Stafford is fifth in the league in passer rating (105.2) and second in passing touchdowns (13). It’s been good enough to get them to the seventh seed, for now at least.

Up next: vs. New Orleans Saints, Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET

(Last week: 14)

Sunday: Beat Minnesota Vikings 27-24

Surprise: They’re still in it

Jake Browning won his third game in a row Saturday, and the Bengals are now 3-1 since Joe Burrow’s season ended because of injury. Cincinnati, which is third in scoring in the last three weeks (31.7 ppg), was written out of the playoff race when Burrow went down but is the No. 6 seed in the AFC as of now. The problem is the Bengals have to play Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Cleveland down the stretch.

Up next: at Pittsburgh Steelers, Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET

12. Seattle Seahawks (7-7)

(Last week: 17)

Monday: Beat Philadelphia Eagles 20-17

Surprise: The defense

Pete Carroll is known for defense, but the Seahawks are 27th in the NFL in defensive EPA per snap and have given up more plays of 10-plus yards (190) than all but two teams in the league. However, the defense got the job done Monday night, holding an illness-slowed Jalen Hurts and the Eagles to 17 points to stop a four-game losing streak. They’re just one spot out of a playoff spot with the Titans, Steelers and Cardinals left on their schedule.

Up next: at Tennessee Titans, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

(Last week: 13)

Sunday: Beat Tennessee Titans 19-16 in OT

Surprise: Another Kyle Shanahan disciple

Is there no end to the number of really good play callers San Francisco’s head coach can create in his lab? Texans first-year offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik is 36 years old and had only one year as a full-fledged member of the 49ers staff before joining DeMeco Ryans in Houston. Before that, Slowik had several secondary roles in San Francisco. On Sunday, he helped backup quarterback Case Keenum to a victory that keeps the Texans in the playoff race and keeps him on the radar for head coaching jobs.

Up next: vs. Cleveland Browns, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

The Colts, featuring tight end Mo Alie-Cox, are one of the surprise teams in the NFL this season. (Justin Casterline / Getty Images)

(Last week: 15)

Sunday: Beat Pittsburgh Steelers 30-13

Surprise: This team is in the playoff race

The Colts were 4-12 last season. They lost quarterback Anthony Richardson, the No. 4 pick in the draft, in the fourth game of the year. Jonathan Taylor has played in only seven games. And yet, Indianapolis is eighth in the league in scoring (24.6 ppg) and has the No. 7 spot in the playoff race right now. Shane Steichen is making a strong case for coach of the year.

Up next: at Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

(Last week: 9)

Sunday: Lost to Detroit Lions 42-17

Surprise: Sean Payton-Russell Wilson is kind of working

Or at least it was until Saturday night when Payton had a very animated, and seemingly one-way, conversation with Wilson on the sideline. It was what everyone expected from their relationship headed into the season, but things had been going pretty well. After a career-low 84.4 passer rating in his first season in Denver, Wilson has bounced back to a 97.5 this year and has at least made it plausible he could be Denver’s starting quarterback next season.

Up next: vs. New England Patriots, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

(Last week: 16)

Sunday: Lost to Baltimore Ravens 23-7

Surprise: That Trevor Lawrence isn’t better

The No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft is good, but he was expected to be great. Lawrence is ninth in the league in passing yards (3,525) but just 21st in touchdown-to-interception ratio (1.8) and 23rd in EPA per attempt (.08). Sunday’s loss highlighted some of the frustrations with Lawrence, who threw an ill-advised pass at the end of the first half that cost the Jaguars points, and he simply dropped a ball without being touched on a scramble.

Up next: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET


20 years after his career began, this NFL lineman keeps defying the odds

(Last week: 20)

Sunday: Beat Green Bay Packers 34-20

Surprise: They’re going to win the division

It’s not set in stone yet, but the odds are now 61.6 percent, according to The Athletic’s NFL betting model. This is the team that had the lowest preseason win prediction in the NFC South and lost six of seven games at one point this season. However, Tampa Bay has now won three in a row. Baker Mayfield, who Sunday became the first opposing quarterback ever to have a perfect passer rating at Lambeau Field, threw for 381 yards and four touchdowns against the Packers.

Up next: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET

18. Green Bay Packers (6-8)

(Last week: 10)

Sunday: Lost to Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34-20

Surprise: How inconsistent they are

Beat the Lions and Chiefs? Lose to the Giants and the Buccaneers? Sure, the Packers have done all that in the last month. Oft-analyzed quarterback Jordan Love hasn’t been the biggest problem, either. The defense is 29th in success rate (56.4) and 23rd in yards per play allowed (5.4). On Sunday, the Packers surrendered the only perfect passer rating of Mayfield’s six-year career and 452 yards to the Buccaneers to fall into 11th place in the NFC.

Up next: at Carolina Panthers, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

(Last week: 18)

Saturday: Lost to Cincinnati Bengals 27-24

Surprise: The Justin Jefferson mystery

In the seven games Jefferson has played, he’s averaging 97.43 receiving yards per game, which ranks behind only Tyreek Hill. However, after Saturday, Minnesota is 2-5 when he’s in the lineup. In games Jefferson has missed because of injury, the Vikings are 5-2. Nick Mullens became the fourth quarterback to start a game for Minnesota on Saturday. He threw for 303 yards and two touchdowns but also had two interceptions.

Up next: vs. Detroit Lions, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

20. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7)

(Last week: 19)

Saturday: Lost to Indianapolis Colts 30-13

Surprise: George Pickens is still on the team

The second-year wide receiver’s attitude has been enough of a problem that coach Mike Tomlin felt the need to tell the team’s official website that he and Pickens had “a great meeting” last week. It must not have been that great because Pickens had two embarrassing clips surface from Saturday’s game — one on which he put hardly any effort into a run block and one on which he seemed to run away from the opposing ball carrier after an interception. He leads the team with 52 catches for 814 yards, but it might not be worth all this.

Up next: vs. Cincinnati Bengals, Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET


Kaboly: The Steelers’ roster needs an overhaul (and not just because it lacks talent)

(Last week: 22)

Sunday: Beat New York Giants 24-6

Surprise: Derek Carr keeps getting away with it

Last week, the story was the New Orleans quarterback getting into another in-game argument with a teammate (adding center Erik McCoy to a list that includes wide receiver Chris Olave and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael). This week, he threw three touchdown passes and had a 134.8 rating as the Saints won their second straight to stay alive in the playoff race.

Up next: at Los Angeles Rams, Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET

(Last week: 28)

Thursday: Beat Los Angeles Chargers 63-21

Surprise: That offensive showing

Only one team, Miami in this year’s 70-20 win over Denver, has scored more points in a game since at least 2000. The Dolphins have Mike McDaniel calling plays and the fastest skill position group in the league. The Raiders have an interim head coach, Antonio Pierce, and a rookie quarterback, Aidan O’Connell, who even after Thursday is only 30th in the league in passer rating. It’s probably not enough to get Pierce the full-time job, but he’s 3-3 since taking the helm.

Up next: at Kansas City Chiefs, Monday, 1 p.m. ET

(Last week: 21)

Sunday: Lost to Carolina Panthers 9-7

Surprise: The offense is bad

Arthur Smith, who is in his third season, was hired for his offensive acumen. The Falcons have drafted an offensive skill-position player in the top 10 in each of the last three drafts. Their $46.6 million investment in their offensive line is the fourth-highest in the NFL. And yet they are 26th in the NFL in points (18.43) after scoring just seven Sunday against a one-win Carolina team. Now there’s a chance Smith is on his way out in Atlanta.

Up next: vs. Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

(Last week: 23)

Sunday: Lost to Cleveland Browns 20-17

Surprise: There’s still no answer on Justin Fields

With only three games left in the season, Chicago still doesn’t appear to have a clear answer about whether it should stick with Fields at quarterback or use the Panthers’ pick it acquired last March to take Caleb Williams or Drake Maye. Sunday was a “move on” game. Fields completed 19-for-40 passes for 166 yards and had a 46.5 passer rating. For the season, he is 23rd in passer rating (85.6) but is eighth in scramble EPA (17.72), according to TruMedia.

Up next: vs. Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET

(Last week: 24)

Sunday: Lost to Miami Dolphins 30-0

Surprise: Garrett Wilson is a top-25 receiver

Despite Zach Wilson and everything else that has gone wrong in New York, Garrett Wilson has 882 receiving yards, the 22nd most in the league. If that doesn’t sound that impressive, remember that the Jets are 30th in the NFL with 170 passing yards per game. Wilson led New York in receiving Sunday, but it was a pretty hollow achievement considering he had only three catches for 29 yards.

Up next: vs. Washington Commanders, Sunday 1 p.m. ET


Jets get embarrassed again, and Robert Saleh’s team future grows more tenuous

26. New York Giants (5-9)

(Last week: 25)

Sunday: Lost to New Orleans Saints 24-6

Surprise: They screwed up the 2024 draft

The Tommy DeVito story is great, or at least was until Sunday when New York lost for the first time in a month, but how fondly will it be remembered in New York in the future? The three wins that DeVito led before this have moved the Giants to the No. 7 pick in the 2024 draft at the moment. There’s still hope considering New York has to play the Eagles twice in the final three games, but for now the Giants still don’t have an answer to their quarterback problem.

Up next: at Philadelphia Eagles, Monday, 4:30 p.m. ET

Titans running back Derrick Henry went nowhere against the Texans on Sunday. (Christopher Hanewinckel / USA Today)

27. Tennessee Titans (5-9)

(Last week: 26)

Sunday: Lost to Houston Texans 19-16 in OT

Surprise: Derrick Henry is human

The last seven seasons had convinced us otherwise, but the Titans and their otherworldly running back are looking like they are near the end of their runs. On Sunday, Henry had the fewest yards (10) for any player with 20 or more touches in NFL history, and after the game, he indicated it could be his last season with the Titans. Tennessee was eliminated from the playoff race when Case Keenum led Houston to 10 points in the final 3:03 and overtime on Sunday.

Up next: vs. Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

(Last week: 27)

Thursday: Lost to Las Vegas Raiders 63-21

Surprise: That it took this long

The Chargers finally fired Brandon Staley, who fell to 24-24 in three seasons with Thursday night’s embarrassing loss. It was the fifth loss in the last six games for Los Angeles, which entered the season with playoff hopes and now is the second-worst team in the AFC, ahead of only the Patriots. Staley was hired because he was supposed to be an up-and-coming defensive guru, but the Chargers are 27th in points (24.6) and yards per play (5.6) allowed.

Up next: vs. Buffalo Bills, Saturday, 8 p.m. ET

29. Arizona Cardinals (3-11)

(Last week: 29)

Sunday: Lost to San Francisco 49ers 45-29

Surprise: Nothing really

This team is exactly what we thought it would be. There was a moment (remember the Week 3 win over Dallas?) when Arizona looked like it might be plucky, but the only wins since have come against the reeling Falcons and Steelers. The Cardinals have ended up where they want to be, in the mix to draft one of the top two quarterbacks in the league.

Up next: at Chicago Bears, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET

30. New England Patriots (3-11)

(Last week: 30)

Sunday: Lost to Kansas City Chiefs 27-17

Surprise: The record

Bill Belichick hasn’t had fewer than seven wins in a season since 2000, and he’s on track for the fewest wins in his 29-year head coaching career. The Patriots are 28-36 since Tom Brady left after the 2019 season, but nobody expected things to be this bad. New England is 28th in the league in scoring margin (minus-113) and is in the bottom third of the league in both rushing and passing yards per game.

Up next: at Denver Broncos, Sunday, 8:15 p.m. ET

(Last week: 31)

Sunday: Lost to Los Angeles Rams 28-20

Surprise: The Sam Howell lovefest

Ron Rivera said he pulled Howell from Sunday’s game to protect him because the Rams defense was in a position to be very aggressive in its pass rush. Then Jacoby Brissett went 8-for-10 and led two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter. Howell is seventh in the league in passing yards (3,568), but his negative plays have outweighed all that yardage. Howell leads the league in both interceptions (15) and sacks (59).

Up next: at New York Jets, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

32. Carolina Panthers (2-12)

(Last week: 32)

Sunday: Beat Atlanta Falcons 9-7

Surprise: They won a game

In pouring rain in a nearly empty home stadium against an Atlanta team still in the race for the division title, Carolina put together a 90-yard drive and kicked the winning field goal as time expired. It doesn’t change how bad this season has been, but at least it made the Panthers feel a little better about themselves. “Obviously, we’re not gonna clinch anything, but it feels good to mess up their Christmas,” defensive end Brian Burns said.

Up next: vs. Green Bay Packers, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET


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(Top photo of Bills running back James Cook: Rich Barnes / Getty Images)

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