Week 15 Rankings: The Rich Get Poorer and the Poor Get Richer

Week 15 Rankings: The Rich Get Poorer and the Poor Get Richer

Week 14 may have been the most entertaining week of football this season. Upsets were abound as teams we thought were near-invincible lost in heartbreaking fashion and teams that were guaranteed to melt away refused to go quietly. As such, the playoff picture is wide open. With just 3 weeks left, there are still 23 teams fighting for 9 playoff spots, meaning each game is even more important than the last. The finish line is in sight, but the field is as crowded as ever.

Biggest Winner: +4 New York Giants

Biggest Loser: -4 Broncos, Panthers, Redskins

1. (–) New Orleans Saints (11-2)

Week 14: W 28-14 @Buccaneers.

For 40 minutes, it looked like New Orleans was going to continue their form against the Cowboys and lose to the Buccaneers again. That’s when Drew Brees (24-31, 201 yds, 2 total TD, INT) and the rest of the offense finally showed up and revived their near-record setting form of Weeks 2-12. The Saints also clinched the NFC South, so the only thing to play for is now home-field advantage. If they win out, that’s exactly what the New Orleans Saints will have.

2. (–) Los Angeles Rams (11-2)

Week 14: L 15-6 @Bears. So the Rams are human, after all. Jared Goff (20-44, 180 yds, 4 INT) became the first quarterback to throw 40+ times and still have negative fantasy points since Ryan Fitzpatrick threw 6 interceptions in a game back in 2016. Todd Gurley was completely shut down, and Sean McVay just couldn’t figure out the Bears defense. The NFC playoff field should take notes. This is exactly how to beat the juggernauts in Los Angeles.

3. (+2) Kansas City Chiefs (11-2)

Week 14: W(OT) 27-24 vs. Ravens. I know we’ve seen him throw for 6 touchdowns twice and 350+ yds 4 other times, but I think this was Patrick Mahomes’ best performance to date. Not only was Mahomes (35-53, 377 yds, 2 TD, INT) throwing no-look passes with laser-guided precision, but he was able to pinpoint his receivers 30 yards downfield when things really mattered. Running backs Spencer Ware and Damien Williams also filled in well for the now infamous Kareem Hunt. Thursday Night against the Chargers is for the #1 overall seed.

4. (+2) LA Chargers (10-3)

Week 14: W 26-21 vs. Bengals. The Chargers have to be one of the strangest teams in NFL history. Despite winning 9 of their last 10, being an almost guaranteed playoff team and Super Bowl contender, and being easily on of the 5 best teams in football, their stadium is still mostly filled by either empty seats or fans of the other team. Phillip Rivers (19-29, 220 yds, TD) has been having a career year and, with the help of star RB Melvin Gordon once he’s healthy, has a real shot at finally reaching the Super Bowl that has eluded him his entire career. Imagine if they actually win it. How many people would show up for the parade?

5. (-2) New England Patriots (9-4)

Week 14: L 34-33 @Dolphins. Another December, another shocking loss at the hands of the Dolphins. Last year, it was Jay Cutler tossing bombs all over the New England secondary and the defensive line hounding Tom Brady all game long. This year, it came down to the final play. The “Miami Miracle” was the worst way the Patriots could have repaid Tom Brady (27-43, 358 yds, 3 TD) for his best game of the year. If only Belichick had put in an actual defender instead of his aging tight end.

6. (+3) Chicago Bears (9-4)

Week 14: W 15-6 vs. Rams. If anyone still doubted that Chicago’s defense was for real, Sunday night proved that they are. Despite 3 picks by Mitch Trubisky (16-30, 110 yds, TD, 3 INT) in what was a pretty underwhelming performance, the defense held the Rams to just 214 total yards and kept them out of the endzone. The cherry on top of what has already been a great season could be winning the NFC North while at the same time knocking their hated rivals out of the playoffs by beating the Packers this Sunday at Soldier Field.

7. (-3) Houston Texans (9-4)

Week 14: L 24-21 vs. Colts. The win streak may be over, but the Texans shouldn’t worry too much. Deshaun Watson (27-38, 267 yds, TD) is still playing at a high level and the defense was able to hold an MVP-caliber Andrew Luck to just 2 touchdowns. This week’s Patriots-Steelers game will allow Houston to either solidify their #3 seed or even challenge for 1st-round bye. All the Texans have to do is take care of business against the Jets, Eagles, and Jaguars and they’ll be a good position to make a deep playoff run.

8. (–) Seattle Seahawks (8-5)

Week 14: W 21-7 vs. Vikings. Bobby Wagner’s questionable field goal block aside, the Seahawks defense put on a nearly flawless performance in front of a national audience on Monday night. Russell Wilson (10-20, 72 yds, INT, 61 yds rushing) had one of the worst games of his career, but did what needed to be done when it really mattered. Up 6-0 with 5 minutes remaining and facing second and long, Wilson was able to escape the pocket and take off for a 40-yard run to set up a touchdown. This one play is what separates Russel Wilson from average quarterbacks. He always seems to make the one play. As long as he does, Seattle has a shot.

9. (-2) Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5-1)

Week 14: L 24-21 @Raiders. How many times have we seen this before? The Steelers are set to play a big game against a rival in a few weeks, but first they have a game against a bad team that is easy to look over. Pittsburgh yet again looked past their current opponent and paid the price. Now with games against the Patriots and Saints in front of them, the Steelers are now in a very dangerous position of missing the playoffs entirely. Mike Tomlin should be under heavy scrutiny already. If he wastes another year of this incredible roster, Pittsburgh may want to go in a different direction next year.

10. (–) Dallas Cowboys (8-5)

Week 14: W(OT) 29-23 vs. Eagles. The Cowboys are now all but guaranteed to win the NFC East for the second time in three years, and now Dallas has a decision to make. Dak Prescott (42-54, 455 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT) has returned to his rookie form over their 5-game winning streak and, with the addition of WR Amari Coopers, looks like he really could be the Cowboys’ quarterback of the future. The question is whether they risk paying Prescott a massive contract for him to just be average (cough cough Minnesota) or risk waiting one more year and losing him to free agency. The next few games should help Jerry Jones make that decision.

11. (+2) Indianapolis Colts (7-6)

Week 14: W 24-21 @Texans. Aside from the hiccup against the Jaguars, the Colts have been unstoppable since their loss to the Jets in mid-October. Even the Texans, who had won 9 in a row, couldn’t stop Andrew Luck (27-41, 399 yds, 2 TD, INT) from torching their defense all game long. Indy has now won 6 of their last 7 and this week’s game against the equally hot Cowboys will have an impact on not only the AFC Wildcard race, but the AFC South as well.

12. (-1) Baltimore Ravens (7-6)

Week 14: L(OT) 27-24 @Chiefs. The Ravens came within a single yard of upsetting the Chiefs, a win that would have completed the sweep of the AFC’s elite last weekend. Lamar Jackson (13-24, 147 yds, 2 TD, 71 yds rushing) and the offense were able to keep stride with the presumed MVP and all of his offensive weapons, but it simply wasn’t enough. A 200 yards-per-game running game can handle the average teams in the playoff hunt, but Sunday proved that Baltimore needs their quarterback to produce if they want to make a playoff run.

13. (+3) Tennessee Titans (7-6)

Week 14: W 30-9 vs. Jaguars. Tennessee has revived their playoff hopes in the last few weeks, helped by a beat-down of their division rivals on Thursday Night Football. The defense shut down the Jags all game long and Marcus Mariota (18-24, 162 yds, INT) was mostly accurate when he was asked to throw. The real star, however, was Derrick Henry. 17 carries, 238 yards, 4 touchdowns, and an NFL record-tying 99-yard touchdown run. Enough said.

14. (-2) Minnesota Vikings (6-6-1)

Week 14: L 21-7 @Seahawks. After Monday Night’s disappointing, offense-free showing by the Vikings, one phrase keeps bouncing around every fan’s head in Minnesota: 3 years, $84 Million guaranteed. Kirk Cousins (20-33, 208 yds, TD) is now 5-13 in primetime games, 0-7 on Monday Night Football, 12-32-2 on the road, and 4-24 vs. teams with winning records. Despite having a solid year statistically, these records show how big of a mistake Cousins’ contract may have been for the Vikings.

15. (+3) Green Bay Packers (5-7-1)

Week 14: W 34-20 vs. Falcons. In their first game without Coach Mike McCarthy, the Packers rolled over the Falcons with relative ease. Aaron Rodgers (21-32, 196 yds, 2 TD) was able to pick the swiss cheese defense of Atlanta apart in the first half while the defense looked better than they have all year. Their 27-point lead started to slip away in the 4th quarter, but 3 complete quarters was enough to get Green Bay the win.

16. (+4) New York Giants (5-8)

Week 14: W40-16 @Redskins. The Giants refuse to go down without a fight, and their latest victim was the crippled Redskins. Saquon Barkley continued his Rookie of the Year campaign with 197 total yards and a touchdown while New York’s defense picked off Washington 3 times and Eli Manning threw for 3 touchdowns. The G-Men need to win out if they want a chance to make the playoffs, but Minnesota’s Monday Night Football loss keeps the door open.

17. (+2) Cleveland Browns (5-7-1)

Week 14: W 26-20 vs. Panthers. With their win Sunday, the Browns have now won more games this season than they have in the last 3 years combined. Cleveland is also 3-2 since firing Hue Jackson, while rookie QB Baker Mayfield (18-22, 238 yds, TD) is starting to look like the real deal. The playoffs are still out of reach, but this was always meant to be a rebuilding year. Next season, the Browns are heading back to the playoffs. You heard it here first.

18. (-4) Carolina Panthers (6-7)

Week 14: L 26-20 @Browns. After starting the season 5-2, the Panthers have now lost 5 straight and are now stuck in the middle of a brutal wildcard fight with little sign of improvement. Despite a remarkable season by RB Christian McCaffrey, the rest of the Panthers have seemingly forgotten how to win. Cam Newton (26-42, 265 yds, INT) snapped his streak of 11 straight games with multiple touchdowns and has now thrown 5 interceptions to just 2 touchdowns over the last two weeks. If Carolina is going to turn things around, it has to be now.

19. (-4) Denver Broncos (6-7)

Week 14: L 20-14 @49ers. Just when Denver looked like they had turned the corner, it all fell apart. The Broncos lost star WR Emmanuel Sanders, and as a result their offense became Phillip Lindsey or bust. The 49ers chose bust and made Case Keenum (24-42, 186 yds, TD) throw it, which he couldn’t do for most of the first half. As for the defense, well, they gave up 210 yards to Niners TE George Kittle IN ONE HALF. To put that in perspective, Shannon Sharpe’s all-time record for yards by a tight end in a game is 214. One catch in the second half for Kittle would have broken the record. So good job Broncos defense. At least you protected your old teammate’s record.

20. (-3) Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)

Week 14: L(OT) 29-23 @Cowboys. There’s not a whole lot that needs to be said here. The defending champions have looked like anything but this season, and Carson Wentz (22-32, 228 yds, 3 TD) has looked more like the struggling rookie than the MVP sophomore. Sunday was Philly’s last chance to win the division, and now the Eagles will need a massive turnaround and a lot of luck to even make a WILDCARD. With Wentz likely done for the year, maybe Nick Foles can be the hero again.

21. (+3) Miami Dolphins (7-6)

Week 14: W34-33 vs. Patriots. This game is going to be remembered for the Miami Miracle, but everyone should be giving huge props to the Dolphins’ coaching staff. Miami gouged the Patriots for nearly 200 rushing yards and kept pace in a shootout of a first half. In the second half, the defense held Tom Brady, who to that point had looked better than he had all season, to just 6 points on their final 6 drives. Kenyan Drake may have provided the fireworks, but Adam Gase and Matt Burke made it possible.

22. (+3) Detroit Lions (5-8)

Week 14: W 17-3 @Cardinals. There’s always one game every week that I turn off before halftime, and this was it in Week 14. Matt Stafford (15-23, 101 yds) refused to throw the ball downfield, the run game was unimpressive and couldn’t break any play for more than 14 yards, and the defense was able to shut down the struggling Cardinals. That saving grace is what keeps Detroit’s slim playoff hopes alive.

23. (-2) Atlanta Falcons (4-9)

Week 14: L 34-20 @Packers. Atlanta’s playoff hopes are hanging on by the thinnest of threads after their latest loss to the Packers. Matt Ryan (28-42, 262 yds, 3 TD, INT) was able to bounce back from his first bad game of the year the week before, but the rest of the team was stuck in their rut. The only bright side to the current 5-game skid is that Julio Jones seems to be back to normal, but the defense is as bad as ever. At this point the #1 pick is more likely than a playoff spot.

24. (+1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-8)

Week 14: L 28-14 vs. Saints. Despite holding a 14-3 lead deep into the 3rd quarter, the Bucs couldn’t stop the Saints from walking all over them in the final 20 minutes. This loss, combined with two upcoming road games against the Ravens and Cowboys, means that it’s very likely Tampa Bay will finish with back-to-back double-digit-loss seasons. This will almost certainly cost head coach Dirk Koetter his job, and Jameis Winston (18-38, 213 yds, 2 TD, INT) might not be too far behind him.

25. (+1) Cincinnati Bengals (5-8)

Week 14: L 26-21 @Chargers. Just how bad are the Bengals this season? After their 4-1 start, Cincy is just 1-7 and their defense has given up 33.4 points per game, including 24 to the Broncos and 34 in their win against the Buccaneers. Also, despite time running out with a real shot at upsetting the red-hot Chargers, the Bengals leisurely walked up to the line of scrimmage to spike the ball……on 4th down. They tried to run a play but ran out of time, and this sequence perfectly sums up Cincinnati’s season this year. Maybe this time Marvin Lewis will actually be fired. Bengals fans can only hope.

26. (-4) Washington Redskins (6-7)

Week 14: L 40-16 vs. Giants. Remember how promising the Redskins were a month ago? After a 4-game losing streak in which Washington lost both their starting AND backup quarterbacks and multiple offensive linemen, Washington looks down for the count. Forced to start Mr. Buttfumble Mark Sanchez (6-14, 38 yds, 2 INT) and Josh Johnson (11/16, 195 yds, TD, INT), who hasn’t thrown an NFL pass in 7 years, the Redskins are easily the weakest of the playoff contenders. Barring a miracle, Washington’s season is over.

27. (+3) New York Jets (4-9)

Week 14: W 27-23 @Bills.

28. (-1) Buffalo Bills (4-9)

Week 14: L 27-23 vs. Jets. Any hopes that Buffalo had of returning to the playoffs are officially dead. Despite going up 17-6 late in the second quarter, the Bills fell apart to the lowly Jets, who had already been eliminated, and Josh Allen (18-36, 206 yds, 2 INT, fumble) couldn’t hold onto the football when it mattered. But hey, at least the Sabres are good, right?

29. (+2) Oakland Raiders (3-10)

Week 14: W 24-21 vs. Steelers.

30. (-2) Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9)

Week 14: L 30-9 @Titans. Blake Bortles has been benched, but his replacement couldn’t do any better. Cody Kessler (25-43, 240 yds, TD, fumble) couldn’t quite break down the Titans defense, but the real problem was their running game. Jacksonville’s ground game was completely shut down with Leonard Fournette being held under 3 yards per carry. Their defense, which looked to be on the up last week, was also a revolving door. As a result, the Jags have officially been eliminated.

31. (+1) San Francisco 49ers (3-10)

Week 14: W 20-14 vs. Broncos.

32. (-3) Arizona Cardinals (3-10)

Week 14: L 17-3 vs. Lions. There isn’t much to say about the Cardinals this week. The offense put up okay yardage and rookie QB Josh Rosen (26-41, 240 yds, INT) played okay, but Arizona just couldn’t score while Detroit could. The season is now mercifully over for the Cardinals. I know I say it almost week, but here’s hoping Larry Fitzgerald has another year left in him. He doesn’t deserve to go out like this.

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Photo Credit: cover, Associated Press, United Press International, USA Today Sports, Houston Chronicle, Sportsdaily.com, WROC-TV, Getty Images

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