Week 16 NFL Power Rankings: Is this Philip Rivers' time?
All season long the Los Angeles Chargers have been lurking as a potential AFC contender while the football world became enamored with Kansas City's impressive offense led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes II.
Now deep into December, it's the Chargers that look like the team to beat in the AFC after having taken down the Chiefs on the road last Thursday night just two weeks after winning at Pittsburgh. The Chargers (11-3) can now steal the AFC West crown and home-field advantage away from Kansas City (11-3) with two wins and a Chiefs loss.
This would be a good thing because, let's face it, the better story would be Chargers' quarterback Philip Rivers reaching the Super Bowl for the first time in his 15-year career than Mahomes getting there in his second year as a starter.
1. New Orleans Saints (12-2). Last week: 2.
Fentress says: The Saints narrowly escaped Carolina with a 12-9 win and now need one victory to clinch home-field advantage in the playoffs. A red flag, however, is that they have scored just 50 points in three games. Pittsburgh and Carolina remain on the schedule.
2. Los Angeles Chargers (11-3). Last week: 4.
Fentress says: The Chargers host Baltimore before closing the season at Denver. Both matchups should be quite dicey but the Chargers have been one of the most clutch teams in the NFL.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (11-3). Last week: 1.
Fentress says: This is no longer a dominant team and instead is one that appears to be quite vulnerable. Take away home-field advantage the Chiefs won't reach the Super Bowl. The defense is a mess and the loss of RB Kareem Hunt has hurt the offense.
4. Houston Texans (10-4). Last week: 5.
Fentress says: Thanks to New England going down, Houston is in position to earn a first-round playoff bye with games remaining at Philadelphia and home against Jacksonville. The Texans should be considered a serious Super Bowl contender.
5. Chicago Bears (10-4). Last week: 7.
Fentress says: The Bears clinched the NFC North title on Sunday and did so in the best way possible for the franchise; by defeating Green Bay 24-17. Maybe more importantly, QB Mitchell Trubisky looked solid with two touchdown passes and no interceptions.
6. Los Angeles Rams (11-3). Last week: 3.
Fentress says: Is it possible that the Bears ruined the Rams? The Rams and QB Jared Goff appeared to be out of sorts during their loss to Philadelphia on Sunday night. The Rams will look to get right against Arizona and San Francisco to close the season.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1). Last week: 11.
Fentress says: The Steelers bounced back in a big way from their loss at Oakland last week to defeat New England, 17-10 at home and in the process maintained their slim lead over Baltimore in the AFC North. Pittsburgh plays next at New Orleans.
8. New England Patriots (9-5). Last week: 6.
Fentress says: While battling for seeding, the Patriots have lost two consecutive games, including Sunday’s loss at Pittsburgh. New England committed 14 penalties and failed to score in three red zone trips, uncharacteristic for a Bill Belichick team.
9. Indianapolis Colts (8-6). Last week: 13.
Fentress says: If the Colts reach the playoffs, watch out. Indianapolis has won seven out of their last eight games. They must win against the New York Giants, at Tennessee and hope that Baltimore loses once to get in.
10. Baltimore Ravens (8-6). Last week: 10.
Fentress says: Baltimore’s wild card playoff hopes rest heavily on how it does Saturday at the Chargers, who will be highly motivated to win. The Ravens could also still win the AFC North if Pittsburgh falls to pieces.
11. Seattle Seahawks (8-6). Last week: 9.
Fentress says: Seattle blew an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth at San Francisco but remains the front-runner in the NFC wild card hunt and close the season with Kansas City and Arizona at home. Simply defeating the Cardinals would do the trick.
12. Dallas Cowboys (8-6). Last week: 8.
Fentress says: Any fantasies that Dallas could be a Super Bowl contender after winning five consecutive games went out the window with its 23-0 loss at Indianapolis. Dallas is not capable of winning a road playoff game.
13. Minnesota Vikings (7-6-1). Last week: 12.
Fentress says: A 41-17 win over Miami kept the Vikings on a path to the playoffs. Final two games are at Detroit and home against Chicago.
14. Tennessee Titans (8-6). Last week: 15.
Fentress says: Titans don’t hold head-to-head tie-breakers against Baltimore or Miami, which makes things complicated. Tennessee closes with Washington and Indianapolis.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (7-7). Last week: 16.
Fentress says: The Eagles win at the Rams signaled that they remain dangerous but Philadelphia needs a lot of help to reach the playoffs.
16. Miami Dolphins (7-7). Last week: 14.
Fentress says: Miami needs tons of assistance to reach the postseason but has great chance of finishing 9-7 with remaining games against Jacksonville and Buffalo.
17. Washington (7-7). Last week: 22.
Fentress says: Washington remains alive following a win over Jacksonville but this team has lost five of seven.
18. Cleveland Browns (6-7-1). Last week: 18.
Fentress says: It’s week 16 and the Browns remain mathematically alive in the AFC wild card hunt. Quite the turnaround.
19. Green Bay Packers (5-8-1), Last week: 17.
Fentress says: Now out of the playoff race, it’s time to shift all focus to a potential new coaching hire.
20. Carolina Panthers (6-8). Last week: 20.
Fentress says: The Panthers have lost six consecutive games including the last five by a total of 20 points.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (6-8). Last week: 25.
Fentress says: The Bengals ended a five-game losing streak with win at Oakland.
22. Denver Broncos (6-8). Last week: 19.
Fentress says: Denver's loss at Cleveland ended its slim playoff hopes.
23. Atlanta Falcons (5-9). Last week: 27.
Fentress says: Snapped a four-game losing streak with a win over Arizona.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-9). Last week: 21.
Fentress says: Firing coach Dirk Koetter, which appears likely, could hurt the growth shown by QB Jameis Winston.
25. New York Giants (5-9). Last week: 23.
Fentress says: The Giants had won four out of five before losing 17-0 to the Titans at home.
26. Detroit Lions (5-9). Last week: 24.
Fentress says: The Lions have scored just 62 points over their last four games.
27. New York Jets (4-10). Last week: 26.
Fentress says: Rookie QB Sam Darnold had one of his best games of the season in a loss to Houston with 253 yards and two touchdowns.
28. Buffalo Bills (5-9). Last week: 28.
Fentress says: Rookie WR Robert Foster has emerged as a force with 438 yards in last five games.
29. San Francisco 49ers (4-10). Last week: 30.
Fentress says: QB Nick Mullens might make for some great trade bait.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10). Last week: 29.
Fentress says: Benching QB Blake Bortles for Cody Kessler has not helped anyone.
31. Oakland Raiders (3-11). Last week: 31.
Fentress says: Former GM Reggie McKenzie is being blamed for the Raiders trading LB Khalil Mack and WR Amari Cooper. But, coach Jon Gruden has final say on personnel matters. Hmm.
32. Arizona Cardinals (3-11). Last week: 32.
Fentress says: So far, rookie QB Josh Rosen hasn’t made anyone regret not drafting him. But he’s young.