Earlier in the year there was an element of surprise to these Power Rankings. I think we’re well past that at this point. It’s become increasingly clear that the league has two goliaths (one from each conference) that could hold the top spot at any point. This week it’s New England’s turn to carry the torch.
The Patriots have finished with the exact same record each of the last four seasons—12-4. This year the Pats can better that mark by winning either of their next two games. They’re 16-point favorites against the Jets this week, so Vegas seems to like their chances. Remember the Patriots lost Rob Gronkowski to back surgery and played their first four games without Tom Brady. For them to improve on last year’s win total while facing those obstacles is pretty remarkable.
But can the Pats parlay their regular season success into a fifth Super Bowl? We won’t know until February but Sunday’s win over Denver should have the rest of the league worried. We know the Patriots can score at will but their defense hasn’t been nearly as convincing. Sunday the defense finally pulled its own weight, forcing three Denver turnovers while limiting the Broncos to three points in 60 minutes of football. Sunday was just one game against a below-average offense, but if the Patriots can buckle down on D while exhibiting their usual dominance on offense, they’re going to be hard to beat.
1. New England Patriots
Last Week: 1
Tom Brady was out of sorts on Sunday (16-of-32, 188 yards, no touchdowns), but you would be too if Von Miller was breathing down your neck. LeGarrette Blount was also bottled up (41 yards on 17 carries), though he did set a franchise record by recording his 15th rushing touchdown of the year. A victory Saturday will give the Patriots their first 13-win season since 2011.
Fantasy Tidbit: Dion Lewis set career-highs with 18 carries and 95 rushing yards Sunday against Denver.
2. Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 2
Ezekiel Elliott gashed the Bucs for a career-high 159 rushing yards on Sunday and now needs 257 yards over the next two weeks to tie Eric Dickerson’s rookie record. With the way Zeke has run the ball this year, I wouldn’t put it past him. When the Cowboys needed a stop on Sunday, they called on David Irving. The second-year defensive end sealed the game with two fourth-quarter sacks on Jameis Winston.
Fantasy Tidbit: Dak Prescott completed 88.9 percent of his passes on Sunday. That’s the second-highest completion percentage in NFL history (minimum 30 passes).
3. Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 4
For the first time since 2002, the Raiders are headed to the postseason. That’s a nice accomplishment, but if the Raiders want to make a deep run in the playoffs, they’ll need Derek Carr to play better than he has the last two weeks (50.7 completion percentage, 77.6 quarterback rating). The same goes for Amari Cooper. In his last two games, he’s caught just six-of-13 targets for 57 yards with no touchdowns.
Fantasy Tidbit: Sunday against the Chargers was Khalil Mack’s first game without a sack since Week 3.
4. Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 7
Tyler Lockett’s sophomore campaign has mostly been a disappointment but Thursday against the Rams was a different story. Lockett snagged seven catches for a career-high 130 yards while scoring his first receiving touchdown of the year. It didn’t hurt them in Week 15, but Seattle’s insistence on throwing from the one-yard line is puzzling to say the least. Don’t they remember what happened last time?
Fantasy Tidbit: In games following a loss this year, Russell Wilson has completed 72.1 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and only two interceptions.
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5. Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 3
Sunday ended Travis Kelce’s streak of four consecutive 100-yard games. He took a backseat to Jeremy Maclin, who registered a season-high 82 yards on six catches. Despite Maclin’s resurgence, the Chiefs fell to the Titans on a last-second field goal while dropping from the No. 2 seed all the way to fifth. Such is life in the ultra-competitive AFC West.
Fantasy Tidbit: Rookie Tyreek Hill has scored 10 touchdowns this year (six receiving, two rushing, two return) with six of those coming in his last four games.
6. Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 8
Well that was easy. For the second week in a row, the Falcons embarrassed an NFC West opponent, this time whipping the listless 49ers by a lopsided 41-13 margin. Devonta Freeman scored three times in the victory, giving him an incredible seven touchdowns over his last four games. With Julio Jones (toe) out for the second straight week, Aldrick Robinson led the team with a career-high 111 receiving yards.
Fantasy Tidbit: Taylor Gabriel has scored seven touchdowns (six receiving, one rushing) in his last seven games.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 6
Antonio Brown is in the midst of a mini-slump. He’s averaged 70.3 receiving yards over his last four games and has only drawn double-digit targets once in that span. Despite the recent dry spell (at least by his standards), Brown still ranks second in the NFL in catches (96), second in touchdowns (11) and third in yards (1,188). The Steelers have taken control of the AFC North by winning five straight. They’ve outscored their opponents 127-70 over that stretch.
Fantasy Tidbit: Sunday ended Le’Veon Bell’s streak of four straight games with at least 100 yards rushing.
8. New York Giants
Last Week: 5
Shane Vereen’s return from I.R. was short-lived. He lasted just two games before re-tearing his triceps. That leaves backfield duties in the hands of Rashad Jennings and Paul Perkins. Those two have combined for an underwhelming 3.4 yards per carry this year. Second-year safety Landon Collins was just named to his first Pro Bowl. It’s a well-deserved honor for Collins, who leads the team in both tackles (108) and interceptions (five).
Fantasy Tidbit: Odell Beckham has recorded a touchdown or 100 yards receiving in four straight games.
9. Detroit Lions
Last Week: 9
Golden Tate got off to a painfully slow start this season but has averaged a jaw-dropping 89.8 yards over his last nine outings. Sunday marked his second 100-yard game in the last three weeks. Tate has kept the passing game afloat but Detroit’s ground game still leaves a lot to be desired. Only three teams—the Vikings, Rams and Giants—have averaged fewer rushing yards per game than the Lions this year.
Fantasy Tidbit: The Lions haven’t had a 100-yard rusher since Week 13 of 2013.
10. Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 13
The transformation is complete. In a span of two months, Ty Montgomery has gone from being a fringe wide receiver to a legitimate workhorse back. Montgomery throttled the Bears in Week 15, producing a career-high 162 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Montgomery may have done the heavy lifting but it was Jordy Nelson’s 60-yard catch that led to the game-winning field goal. Nelson, who leads the NFL with 12 receiving touchdowns, is easily the year’s biggest Pro Bowl snub.
Fantasy Tidbit: Sunday was Nelson’s fourth 100-yard game of the season. He’s reached the century mark in two of his last three outings.
11. Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 14
One week after Kenneth Dixon out-touched Terrance West by a decisive 19-6 margin, West returned the favor by out-touching Dixon 17-9 in Sunday’s victory over the Eagles. Luckily for fantasy owners, Dixon salvaged the day with a late touchdown. The fourth-round rookie has now scored in back-to-back weeks. If the Ravens lose to the Steelers on Christmas Day, they can probably kiss their playoff hopes goodbye.
Fantasy Tidbit: Kamar Aiken’s touchdown against the Eagles in Week 15 was his first of the season.
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 11
Mike Evans has officially cooled off. He’s had an uneventful last three games, averaging 46.3 yards with no touchdowns during that span. We can’t say Doug Martin has cooled off because he was never hot to begin with. Martin has averaged a sluggish 2.9 yards per carry this year, which ranks dead-last among qualified running backs. At least Cameron Brate showed up on Sunday. He scored his seventh touchdown of the year, which is tied for the league-lead among tight ends.
Fantasy Tidbit: Jameis Winston’s three interceptions on Sunday were his most since Week 2 against Atlanta.
13. Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 15
Jarvis Landry has been on a mission the last two weeks. During that span he’s caught seven-of-10 targets for 211 yards and one touchdown. That’s an average of 30.1 yards per catch. Kenny Stills chipped in with his team-leading seventh touchdown Saturday as the Dolphins clinched their first winning season since 2008. That was also the last time they made the playoffs.
Fantasy Tidbit: After going his first eight games without a touchdown, Dion Sims has scored four times in his last four appearances.
14. Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 17
Marcus Mariota has completed only 45.4 percent of his passes with no touchdowns and one interception over his last two games. Miraculously, the Titans are 2-0 in that span. Derrick Henry is starting to heat up. The second-round rookie has averaged 5.52 yards per carry with three touchdowns over his last three games. If the Titans take care of business against Jacksonville on Saturday, they’ll be playing for a division title against Houston in Week 17.
Fantasy Tidbit: DeMarco Murray’s 52 receiving yards on Sunday were his most since Week 2.
15. Washington Redskins
Last Week: 12
Washington will have to leapfrog both Tampa Bay and Green Bay to qualify for the playoffs after losing in embarrassing fashion Monday against Carolina. Kirk Cousins committed two turnovers in the loss but nobody had a worse night than Jordan Reed. Clearly compromised by a painful shoulder injury, Reed caught just one pass before getting ejected for throwing a punch at Kurt Coleman. Every game left is a must-win for the ‘Skins.
16. Denver Broncos
Last Week: 10
Tension is growing in Denver as the offense continues to disappoint. The Broncos have averaged a meager 38 yards on the ground over the last two weeks. Maybe that’s why they’ve managed just 13 points during that span. With games against Kansas City and Oakland to close out the season, the playoffs are a pipe dream at this point.
17. Houston Texans
Last Week: 18
Bill O’Brien waited too long to pull the trigger but he finally made the right call by switching to Tom Savage. Brock Osweiler made the choice an easy one by throwing interceptions on consecutive passes early in Sunday’s win over Jacksonville. DeAndre Hopkins collected 87 yards in the victory, his most since Week 2. All eight of his catches came with Savage under center.
Fantasy Tidbit: Ryan Griffin set a career-high with 85 yards in Week 15.
18. Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 22
Meet Robert Turbin, vulture extraordinaire. The goal-line wizard has rushed for six touchdowns this year, which is tied for 16th-most in the NFL. He’s accomplished that on only 38 carries. Frank Gore had a busy week against Minnesota, rushing 26 times for 101 yards. He’s 109 yards away from his ninth career 1,000-yard season. Gore’s Hall of Fame resume seems to get stronger every week.
Fantasy Tidbit: Phillip Dorsett’s 50-yard touchdown against the Vikings ended an eight-game scoreless drought.
19. Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 20
Another week, another monster performance from LeSean McCoy. The five-time Pro Bowler rushed for a season-high 153 yards in Week 15, putting him over 1,000 yards rushing for the fifth time in his career. He would have had an even bigger fantasy day if Mike Gillislee hadn’t vultured a goal-line touchdown. Those two have averaged a combined 5.63 yards per carry this year. Now if only the Bills could throw the ball. Then they’d really be onto something.
Fantasy Tidbit: LeSean McCoy’s 13 touchdowns this year are his most since 2011.
20. Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 25
It looked like Cam Newton’s shoulder was bothering him on Monday night, but that didn’t stop him from throwing for 300 yards and two touchdowns against the Redskins. Jonathan Stewart’s 132 rushing yards in that game were a season-high and his most since 2014. The Panthers can still finish .500, which would mark an impressive turnaround after losing five of their first six games.
21. New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 24
Drew Brees entered Week 15 with no touchdowns and six interceptions in his previous two games. He bounced back in epic fashion, stacking up 389 yards and four touchdowns in a thrilling win over the Cardinals. Two of those touchdowns went to Brandin Cooks, who finished with a career-high 186 receiving yards. That ended a four-game touchdown drought for Cooks.
Fantasy Tidbit: Tim Hightower had scored just one rushing touchdown all season before making two end-zone visits in Week 15.
22. Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 16
The Vikings just got blown out at home by a team missing three of its starting offensive linemen and one of its starting wide receivers. To make matters worse, franchise cornerstone Adrian Peterson was an absolute disaster in his return from a torn meniscus, fumbling and managing just 22 yards on six carries. After starting the year 5-0, the Vikings will be lucky to finish the year at .500.
Fantasy Tidbit: Stefon Diggs has averaged 41 receiving yards with no touchdowns over his last four games.
23. Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 19
Jeremy Hill has scored a touchdown in three straight games. Unfortunately he’s averaged a disappointing 2.75 yards per carry during that span. Nobody is more anxious for A.J. Green’s return than Andy Dalton. The 157 passing yards he registered Sunday against Pittsburgh represented a new season-low. For the first time since 2010, the Bengals will not be going to the postseason.
Fantasy Tidbit: Brandon LaFell has eclipsed 90 receiving yards in two of his last three outings.
24. Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 21
John Brown came to life in Week 15, ending a five-game touchdown drought while collecting his most yards since Week 4. To wit, his outburst came only four days after the Cardinals cut Michael Floyd. David Johnson upped his season touchdown total to 17 on Sunday while becoming the first player in NFL history to record at least 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his first 14 games.
Fantasy Tidbit: J.J. Nelson has scored four touchdowns on eight touches over his last three appearances.
25. San Diego Chargers
Last Week: 23
The slumping Chargers have lost four of their last five while falling out of the AFC Wild Card race. Philip Rivers has eclipsed 250 yards just once in that span while throwing 11 interceptions. Kenneth Farrow was lousy in his first career start, fumbling twice and averaging a pathetic 2.6 yards per carry. Fortunately the Bolts will have a chance to right the ship Saturday against the winless Browns.
Fantasy Tidbit: Dontrelle Inman has led the team in receiving yards three of the last four weeks. He’s averaged 76.8 receiving yards with three touchdowns during that stretch.
26. Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 26
Maybe we were wrong about Ryan Mathews. He’s been terrific over his last four games, averaging 82 rushing yards with three touchdowns during that span. Remember when Carson Wentz began his career by throwing 134 straight passes without an interception? Since then he’s been picked off 13 times. The Eagles have now lost five straight and seven of their last eight.
Fantasy Tidbit: Zach Ertz has averaged 90.3 receiving yards with one touchdown over his last three games.
27. Chicago Bears
Last Week: 28
Alshon Jeffery played well in his return from a four-game suspension (six catches, 89 yards and a touchdown) while Jordan Howard became the first Bears rookie to reach 1,000 yards rushing since Matt Forte in 2008. Matt Barkley also came through with a career-high 362 passing yards. But because it’s the Bears, they still found a way to lose to Green Bay. Allowing 162 rushing yards to Ty Montgomery was probably what did it.
Fantasy Tidbit: Deonte Thompson set career-highs with eight catches and 110 receiving yards in Week 15.
28. New York Jets
Last Week: 27
Bryce Petty’s audition for the starting job has gone about as poorly as you’d expect. He imploded against the Dolphins in Week 15, committing three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble) in a blowout loss. On the bright side, Bilal Powell looked great in that game, supplying 162 yards from scrimmage on 27 touches. With 31-year-old Matt Forte on the decline, Powell should be in for a bigger role next year.
Fantasy Tidbit: Robby Anderson has averaged 80 yards with two touchdowns over his last three games.
29. Los Angeles Rams
Last Week: 29
The Rams sent six draft picks to the Titans for the right to select Jared Goff at No. 1. How’s that working out? So far Goff is winless in five starts with five interceptions and a dreadful 65.7 quarterback rating. Los Angeles has been outscored by a combined 97 points over that stretch. And the Rams really think Jon Gruden is going to leave ESPN for this? Keep dreaming.
Fantasy Tidbit: Todd Gurley has averaged 3.55 yards per carry with two touchdowns during the Rams’ five-game losing streak.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 30
What’s new in Jacksonville? Well the Jaguars finally fired Gus Bradley after losing their ninth straight on Sunday. You don’t usually get to keep your job after blowing a two-score lead to Tom Savage. If there’s any silver lining to Sunday’s debacle it’s that Jalen Ramsey held his own against All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins. He earned PFF’s highest cornerback grade in Week 15 while recording his first career interception.
Fantasy Tidbit: Running back T.J. Yeldon led the Jaguars with 34 receiving yards in Week 15.
31. San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 31
It’s beating a dead horse at this point, but San Francisco’s run defense might be the worst we’ve ever seen. Their latest embarrassment came Sunday in a pitiful loss to the Falcons. Devonta Freeman scored three touchdowns in the game while becoming the 11th player to rush for at least 100 yards against the Niners this year. At least the Niners are playing the Rams this week. That’s the only team they’ve beaten this year.
Fantasy Tidbit: The 49ers have had just two 100-yard receivers in 14 games this season.
32. Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 32
For the first time all season, Robert Griffin III completed over 50 percent of his passes. He also led the Browns to 13 points, their highest total in any of his three starts. The fact that a 196-yard game against Buffalo is considered a noticeable improvement shows just how astoundingly far the former Rookie of the Year has fallen. In other news, the Browns’ only relevant fantasy contributor, Terrelle Pryor, has caught five passes for 22 yards over the last two weeks.
Fantasy Tidbit: Isaiah Crowell followed up a 113-yard game in Week 14 by rushing eight times for only 28 yards in Sunday’s loss to Buffalo.
Biggest Rise: Panthers5
Biggest Fall: Broncos, Vikings6