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NFL Power Rankings Week 15: Patriots take back the top spot

Read as Nick Springer takes us through his weekly NFL Power Rankings, which are uploaded every Tuesday during the NFL season.

  1. New England Patriots (11-2)- Previous rank: 2- The Pats allowed Baltimore to climb back into the game, but they held on for the victory. New England has to finish strong in order to secure the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC. They have Kansas City and Oakland both hot on their heels.
  2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-3)- Previous rank: 3- The Chiefs have used the same formula all season and it has worked. Play stout defense, protect the ball, win games; however, there’s one major problem. Derrick Johnson, the heart and soul of KC’s defense, re-injured his achilles tendon and is out for the season. That could prove to be a devastating blow come playoff time.
  3. Dallas Cowboys (11-2)- Previous rank: 1- I just love it when Dallas loses one game and all the “analysts” start discussing whether or not the Cowboys should put Tony Romo in. That is beyond ridiculous, but I guess they need something to sit around and talk about.
  4. Oakland Raiders (10-3)- Previous rank: 4- Losing to the Chiefs isn’t the end of the world for Oakland, it just means that their road to the Super Bowl is now a little tougher. That being said, the Raiders tend to play much better on the road.
  5. New York Giants (9-4)- Previous rank: 7- That Giants defense looks like it was worth every penny that management spent on it over the offseason. They bottled up Zeke better than anyone has this season, and they pressured Dak better than anyone has this season. Overall, an excellent performance from a team that will be a very real danger come playoff time.
  6. Detroit Lions (9-4)- Previous rank: 5- Hopefully Matt Stafford’s finger injury isn’t too serious. If the Lions want to make a deep playoff run, they need him at the top of his game. He played through it against the Bears, but it was pretty obvious he was in a lot of discomfort.
  7. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5)- Previous rank: 9- Le’Veon Bell gashed the Bills for 298 total yards and 3 touchdowns. With the Broncos falling off, Pittsburgh doesn’t necessarily have to win the division to make the playoffs. That second wild-card spot is suddenly up for grabs.
  8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5)- Previous rank: 10- The Bucs are the hottest team in the NFL, and they already have wins over Kansas City and Seattle under their belt. They’re at Dallas on Sunday night for what should be a very exciting game. Watch out NFC, Tampa Bay is legit.
  9. Atlanta Falcons (8-5)- Previous rank: 11- All the Falcons can do now is take care of their business and hope Tampa Bay doesn’t win out.
  10. Seattle Seahawks (8-4-1)- Previous rank: 6- This is a great strategy by the Seahawks. Play horribly right now, that way you can surprise your opponents in the playoffs.
  11. Washington Redskins (7-5-1)- Previous rank: 13- Washington picked up an important win over Philly to stay in the wild card race. I’m not sure this team can make it out of the first round if they do make the postseason though.
  12. Green Bay Packers (7-6)- Previous rank: 15- I knew all along that the Packers would find a way to squeeze into the playoffs. They also happen to be playing some of their best football right now. However, if that leg injury to Aaron Rodgers is serious, there will be trouble in Green Bay.
  13. Miami Dolphins (8-5)- Previous rank: 14- The Dolphins got some fantastic news Monday about starting QB Ryan Tannehill. It appeared that he had suffered a torn ACL in Miami’s win over Arizona, but he only has a sprained ACL and MCL. That means no surgery, but there is still no timetable for his return. This is almost the worst-case scenario for a team right in the thick of the wild card race.
  14. Baltimore Ravens (7-6)- Previous rank: 12- The Ravens finally slipped up against New England, and now they’re looking up at Pittsburgh in the division. They have the Eagles at home this week before a critical showdown in Pittsburgh next week.
  15. Tennessee Titans (7-6)- Previous rank: 16- The Titans have quietly been picking up impressive wins this season, and they got another one over Denver on Sunday. With Indianapolis struggling, this division looks like it’s a two-horse race between Houston and Tennessee. The Texans visit Nashville in the last game of the season in what could be a winner-take-all battle for the AFC South.
  16. Denver Broncos (8-5)- Previous rank: 8- Reasons Denver can still make the playoffs…. Pros: Good defense. Cons: No offense and they play KC, Oakland, and New England to wrap up their season. Looks like the defending Super Bowl Champs are probably going to miss the playoffs.
  17. Houston Texans (7-6)- Previous rank: 19- Bill O’Brien decided to take the “Let’s run the ball as much as we can so Brock can’t screw us over” approach against Indy and it worked. With the Colts in their rearview mirror, the Texans can focus on closing out the season against Tennessee.
  18. Buffalo Bills (6-7)- Previous rank: 17­- Oh dear, the Bills got trampled by Le’veon Bell and the Steelers. Rumors have been circulating about the potential firing of Rex Ryan, and the Bills are out of the playoff picture. Who can slay the mighty New England Patriots? Well, not the Ryan bros.
  19. Indianapolis Colts (6-7)- Previous rank: 18- The Colts missed a golden opportunity to take control of the AFC South, and now they’re on the outside looking in at Houston and Tennessee.
  20. Philadelphia Eagles (5-8)- Previous rank: 20- The Eagles have a tough final three games against Baltimore, the Giants, and Dallas. If this team finishes 6-10, that would be a win.
  21. Minnesota Vikings (7-6)- Previous rank: 25- Minnesota bounced back from that loss to Dallas with a less-than-convincing victory over the lowly Jaguars. In order to make the playoffs, the Vikes are going to need some help.
  22. Arizona Cardinals (5-7-1)- Previous rank: 21- Another painful loss for a team and a fanbase that would like to forget this season.
  23. Cincinnati Bengals (5-7-1)- Previous rank: 23- The Bengals beat the Browns. In other news, my back itched so I scratched it.
  24. Carolina Panthers (5-8)- Previous rank: 29- The Panthers rebounded from last week’s embarrassment for a solid victory over San Diego. The bottom line is this team won’t make the playoffs, and there will probably be some kind of change over the offseason.
  25. New Orleans Saints (5-8)- Previous rank: 22- Back-to-back rough games for Drew Brees means back-to-back losses for the Saints.
  26. San Diego Chargers (5-8)- Previous rank: 24- Assuming Woodhead and Allen are both back and healthy next year, the Chargers will be much better.
  27. Chicago Bears (3-10)- Previous rank: 27- Matt Barkley looks like he could be the quarterback of the future for Chicago. The Bears have a lot of needs, and if they can get by with Barkley at the helm, that would be a significant help for the offense.
  28. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11)- Previous rank: 28- The Jaguars are bad. I won’t waste your time by going into any further detail than that. I also picked them to win the AFC South before the year.
  29. New York Jets (4-9)- Previous rank: 30- Somehow, the Jets clawed their way back to steal one from San Francisco.
  30. Los Angeles Rams (4-9)- Previous rank: 26- Sunday’s dreadful blowout loss to Atlanta was the final straw for management. They announced the firing of Jeff Fisher on Monday, just two weeks after announcing the extension of his contract. It’s hard to feel bad for a guy who is the definition of mediocrity in the NFL.
  31. San Francisco 49ers (1-12)- Previous rank: 31- Among the slate games on Sunday I’m sure everyone had their eyes glued to: the 49ers-Jets game. Riveting television really. 49ers fans were probably praying this game wouldn’t go to overtime so they wouldn’t have to suffer anymore.
  32. Cleveland Browns (0-13)- Previous rank: 32- I’m sure RGIII would like a do-over of his comeback from injury. It was not pretty. Also, according the Pacman Jones, Terrelle Pryor is trash. Never change, Pacman. Never change.

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Feature photo courtesy of Andrew Campbell.