We might have some division titles and playoff seeds locked into place as we look ahead to Week 17, but everything is up for grabs on the Power Rankings.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all the readers. Even you folks who get mad at where I rank your team and leave the Twitter equivalent of poop on my doorstep. I love you guys the most of all.
On to the rankings ...
There's an inevitability about Ravens games. Even when they don't come out firing, you know they'll get you. Eventually, the Ravens will come for your soul. We saw it again Sunday against the Browns. With two minutes to play in the second quarter, Cleveland held a 6-0 lead. The Ravens then did this over their next three possessions: 2 plays, 63 yards, TD; 7 plays, 75 yards, TD; 13 plays, 69 yards, TD. From game in doubt to game over in about half a quarter worth of game time. Lamar Jackson locked up unanimous MVP status with this performance, and since he's not playing this Sunday (with the No. 1 seed wrapped up), let's appreciate the greatness: 15 starts, 3,127 yards passing, 66.1 completion percentage, 36 passing touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 1,206 rushing yards, 7 rushing scores. One of the best individual seasons in NFL history.
The Saints' defense has shown cracks against two of the best offenses in football over the past three weeks, but New Orleans has an offense that can go toe-to-toe with anyone. We saw that Sunday in Nashville, where the Saints spotted the Titans a 14-0 lead before ripping off 24 unanswered points en route to a 38-28 win. Sean Payton's attack was humming in all phases here: Drew Brees was his surgical self, Jared Cook continued to be a playmaking machine, Michael Thomas set the NFL catch record -- but the Saints are probably feeling the best about Alvin Kamara, who found the end zone twice (his first touchdowns since Week 3) and moved like the guy who ripped the NFL apart as one of the game's most dynamic offensive weapons a season ago. After the win, Kamara -- who has been slowed by ankle and knee injuries -- acknowledged he was getting his "burst" back. Bad news for the NFC.
The 49ers have been on the wrong end of some tough last-second losses this season, so consider Saturday's 34-31 win over the Rams as an act of balance for the scales. Knocking the defending NFC champions from the postseason conversation while strengthening your own playoff positioning makes the victory all the sweeter. There remain concerns, however: The 49ers' offensive line, weakened considerably by Week 14's season-ending injury to center Weston Richburg, struggled all night to protect Jimmy Garoppolo from an Aaron Donald-led Rams pass rush. Garoppolo rarely had a clean pocket to work with, and he struggled to find rhythm as a result. But Jimmy G stepped up when it counted, turning a pair of third-and-16 situations into first downs during San Francisco's game-winning field-goal drive. The NFC West, and the No. 1 overall seed in the conference, will be on the line Sunday night in Seattle.
Kansas City looks like a team ready to win multiple games in January. And while the 2019 Chiefs might not wow you, given the amount of fireworks we got from the 2018 Chiefs during Patrick Mahomes' incredible MVP season, the current team feel like a deeper, more balanced unit. A lot of this goes back to the defense, which easily shut down the Bears in a 26-3 win at Soldier Field on Sunday night and appears to be peaking as the regular season nears its end. To wit: The Chiefs have allowed 9.6 points per game since Week 11, the lowest average in football. At 11-4, the Chiefs can still grab a first-round bye with a win over the Chargers and a loss by the Patriots to the Dolphins in Week 17. With or without a bye, a Chiefs- Patriots playoffs rematch feels destined.
We've been waiting all season for the Packers to deliver a Statement Win. Well, there it is. Green Bay went into Minnesota on Monday night and imposed their will on a Vikings team that wasn't up for the fight. The Packers left town with a 23-10 win and the NFC North title. A win on Sunday against the Lions and Green Bay locks down a bye -- and with a little help, the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC. Aaron Jones was the star on offense Monday night, going off for 154 yards and two touchdowns, including the 56-yard score that put the game out of reach. The defense, meanwhile, delivered a minor masterpiece: The Vikings were held to just seven first downs and 139 total yards in an embarrassing showing from the home team. Green Bay's offense isn't on par with Aaron Rodgers teams of yore, but this is a complete group well built for January.
No team had a worse Sunday than the Seahawks. Not only were they upset at home by a 4-9-1 Cardinals team (likely ruining their shot at a first-round bye), but they lost star running back Chris Carson (hip) to a season-ending injury, while starting left tackle Duane Brown (knee) went under the knife. In three hours, the entire perspective of this Seahawks season shifted. Backup running back C.J. Prosise also suffered a season-ending injury, leading Seattle to reach out to an old friend in a desperate time of need. Enter Marshawn Lynch, the 33-year-old franchise legend who (along with fellow former Seahawks back Robert Turbin) will come out of retirement to join rookie sixth-round pick Travis Homer in the Seattle backfield. This is not how the Seahawks imagined the week leading up to their NFC West-deciding matchup with the 49ers would play out, but the Football Gods have a wicked sense of humor.
The Texans are AFC South champions for the fourth time in five years after Saturday's 23-20 win over the Buccaneers. It wasn't a pretty day for a Houston offense that struggled to move the ball on the ground against Tampa Bay's stout run D and saw a host of uncharacteristic misses from Deshaun Watson in the passing game. The quarterback was seen reaching for his right ankle repeatedly during the game, which makes you wonder how much playing time (if any) Watson will see in the regular-season finale. On Monday, Texans coach Bill O'Brien said "we are playing to win" and that the starters won't rest. We'll see. We won't see Will Fuller until the playoffs after the injury-prone wideout suffered another soft tissue injury. "He is a great guy and I love coaching him, but it is hard for him to stay healthy -- that's the bottom line," O'Brien said in a blunt postgame assessment. The Texans aren't the same with Fuller on the sidelines.
The Vikings have to be wondering where they truly stand amongst the league's power players after a humbling 23-10 loss to the Packers that decided the NFC North for Green Bay. Minnesota's offense -- playing without star running back Dalvin Cook -- looked utterly lost, managing just 139 yards and seven (yes, seven) first downs all night. It was the team's fewest number of first downs in a game since 1971. That it came in this spot, against this opponent, at US Bank Stadium, serves as a major red flag for a Vikings team that entered Monday night fancying itself a Super Bowl contender. Kirk Cousins must live with this as well, a prime-time stinker for a highly paid quarterback whose had far too many of them. Cousins, now an outrageous 0-9 on the Monday Night Football stage, will continue to be doubted in money games like these. Now even more so.
The Bills are Good. This is their gift ... and this is their curse. Because they are Good, they can defeat Terrible Teams and Bad Teams and Average Teams -- and, on occasion -- other Good Teams. But when given the assignment of beating a team that resides at that next level? The Bills have fallen consistently short. The latest example came Saturday in Foxborough, where the Patriots used a fourth-quarter surge to secure a 24-17 win and another division title. As they always do, the Bills fought hard against a Super Bowl contender but were ultimately turned away come money time. Two close losses to the Patriots this season has to be frustrating, but the bright side is obvious: The gap between Buffalo and New England has narrowed considerably. The Bills are Good ... soon, they could be Great.
[Derrick Henry](/player/derrickhenry/2556075/profile) was missed on Sunday. The [Titans](/teams/tennesseetitans/profile?team=TEN) jumped out to a 14-0 lead [against the Saints,](http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2019122210/2019/REG16/saints@titans) and a healthy Henry might have been able to pound New Orleans into submission. But the [Titans](/teams/tennesseetitans/profile?team=TEN) -- knowing their playoff hopes would be alive, win or loss -- wisely allowed the running back to rest his ailing hamstring, with [the Texans on deck in Week 17](https://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2019122906/2019/REG17/titans@texans). [Ryan Tannehill](/player/ryantannehill/2532956/profile) has been a godsend for Mike Vrabel's team, but the [Titans](/teams/tennesseetitans/profile?team=TEN) need Henry to be close to 100 percent if they want to make noise on Sunday and beyond. Speaking of Tannehill, he had another big statistical game, but he held the ball too long at times, allowing the [Saints](/teams/neworleanssaints/profile?team=NO)' pass rush to get home. Henry gives the [Titans](/teams/tennesseetitans/profile?team=TEN) the balance they need. </content:power-ranking>
We're finally seeing what Carson Wentz can do on a (quasi-)playoff stage. The quarterback -- sidelined by injuries to close out each of the past two seasons -- has put a banged-up and undermanned Eagles team on his back in the past three weeks, leading Philly to three straight wins and sole possession of first place in the NFC East with one week to play. Wentz finished 31 of 40 for 319 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's huge 17-9 win over the Cowboys, doing most of his damage without Zach Ertz, his security-blanket tight end, who was limited by a rib injury. Wentz has a Christmas angel in rookie Miles Sanders, who had 156 yards of total offense on Sunday and has emerged as a weekly threat. The Eagles are one win (or Cowboys loss away) from making their third straight postseason appearance. Who would have predicted that a month ago?
The Steelers are paying for the sins of their past. For years, the team has failed to identify and develop a secondary option behind Ben Roethlisberger at the game's most important position. It's come back to haunt them in 2019, a season that has featured one of the best defenses in recent team history but also sub-standard QB play that's consistently held Mike Tomlin's team back. On Sunday, Devlin "Duck" Hodges threw two first-half interceptions and was benched, leading to a return engagement from Mason Rudolph, benched himself last month due to his own ineffective play. And since this has developed into a Murphy's Law type of situation under center in Pittsburgh, Rudolph exited Sunday's game with a season-ending shoulder injury, leading to another dose of Duck. All of this helps explain a 16-10 Steelers loss in the Meadowlands that puts a serious dent in the team's playoff hopes.
A disappointing season reached a new low on Sunday with a 17-9 loss to the Eagles that serves as another reminder of the vast separation between this Dallas team and actual Super Bowl contenders. During a time where the best teams get better, the Cowboys remain stuck in their own special kind of rut. One step forward, two steps back. Dak Prescott played like a guy with a bum shoulder, and the entire Dallas receiving corps did him no favors with a dreadful performance that featured several huge drops. You simply cannot play this flat with your season hanging in the balance. It will be on Jerry Jones -- disappointed as ever after the game -- to eventually decide if these failures are on the players or head coach Jason Garrett. On Sunday, the Cowboys need a win over the Redskins, coupled with an Eagles loss to the Giants, to keep their season alive.
The Rams won't get the opportunity to defend their NFC title in January, eliminated from playoff contention by Saturday's 34-31 loss to the 49ers. It's a bitterly disappointing follow-up to a Super Bowl season for Sean McVay's team, and the questions can now begin: What must be done to get this franchise back amongst the NFL's elite? In a frustrating year, consider it fitting the Rams' postseason hopes died on a 49ers game-winning drive that included not one but two 3rd-and-16 conversions. The second unlikely conversion, coming on a brutal coverage bust involving cornerback Jalen Ramsey and safety Taylor Rapp, led to a 46-yard Emmanuel Sanders reception that put Robbie Gould well within field-goal range. "You never envision something like this when you start the year," Jared Goff said of the impending dark January. "It's not even close to the standard we want to hold. It's sickening."
Another positive Sunday on the Save Dan Quinn front. The Falcons cruised past the Jaguars, 24-12, logging their third straight win and fifth victory in seven tries following a 1-7 start. Would a 7-9 finish be enough to preserve Quinn's job? Maybe, maybe not, but he's definitely making the decision more difficult for Arthur Blank if the owner had been leaning toward a fresh start at midseason. One guy going nowhere is Julio Jones, who -- somewhat quietly -- is putting together one of the greatest careers in the history of the wide receiver position. On Sunday, Jones had his 55th career 100-yard receiving day, the most among active players and fourth-most all time. If he manages 84 yards next week, he'll tie Jerry Rice for the most 1,400-yard seasons at receiver. Somehow, Jones is still just 30 years old.
Chicago's had enough of this season. Fans at Soldier Field rained boos down on the home team during a lifeless 26-3 loss to the Chiefs on Sunday night ... and it's hard to blame them. This has been a disappointing year -- one of the most disappointing in recent franchise memory. Mitchell Trubisky will receive the majority of the blame for what's gone wrong, but it's important to point out that Chicago took a step back pretty much across the board after last year's 12-4 campaign. Offense was down in every relevant category, but you could say the same thing about the defense. The Bears allowed more points (18.6 to 17.7) and total yards per game (325.7 to 299.7) and cratered in the takeaway (16, down from 36) and sack (32, down from 50) categories. Matt Nagy needed a Steelers-like defense that could swing games with big plays -- the Bears didn't have that.
No quarterback in the history of the NFL has ever finished with 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in the same season -- Jameis Winston is fixing to establish the 30/30 Club. The Bucs QB is sitting at 31/28 with one game to play after a 23-20 loss to the Texans that can be pinned directly to Winston's apparent inability to restrain himself as a thrower of the football. Winston began his day with his sixth pick-six (tying an ignominious NFL record) and he ended it with another interception -- his fourth of the game -- with the Bucs driving late in the fourth quarter. Winston's latest meltdown came just hours after NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that the Bucs plan to stay in business with the former No. 1 overall pick in 2020. You wonder if yet another mistake-filled performance will lead to second thoughts for Tampa Bay.
A matchup between the Panthers and Colts didn't seem to set the stage for an act of football greatness, but that's because you didn't factor in Nyheim Hines. The punt returner had -- quite simply -- one of the best days ever at the specialist position, returning two punts for scores and a third that set up Indianapolis' first touchdown of the day. He's the first player to return two punts for touchdowns in a game since Darius Reynaud in 2012. Hines' incredible day provided cover for another quiet day by Jacoby Brissett, who has not been the same quarterback since his return from a knee injury in November. Don't be surprised if Colts general manager Chris Ballard brings in veteran competition for Brissett in the offseason.
A Denver season that started terribly is ending on a high note. The Broncos have won three of their last four games, all started by rookie quarterback Drew Lock. Is he The Guy? "He's done enough to show he definitely could be the guy, and we're looking for that to be the case," Vic Fangio said after Sunday's 27-17 win over Detroit. Incredibly, Lock is the seventh different quarterback to start for Denver since Week 8 of the 2017 season. The game's most important position has been a revolving door, which makes Lock the team's next great hope. Lock was unable to do much against the Lions' putrid pass defense, managing just 192 yards and a touchdown on 5.8 yards per attempt, but he also avoided the killer turnovers that plague young quarterbacks with little experience. The second-round pick isn't lighting the league on fire, but he's winning games and giving fans reason to believe.
This Browns season cannot end soon enough. Cleveland went down again on Sunday against the Ravens in a game that officially eliminated the Browns from postseason contention and neatly encapsulated all that has gone wrong in 2019. Cleveland actually held a 6-0 lead as halftime approached, but the Ravens scored 14 points in the final 1:18 of the second quarter, then opened the third quarter with a long touchdown drive to put the game away. From 6-0 to 21-6 in 8:42 of game time. Baker Mayfield was not near the level of Lamar Jackson, the quarterback picked 31 spots after him two Aprils ago, while Odell Beckham Jr. was seen complaining on the sideline and Sheldon Richardson was hit with roughing the passer and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. All drama, no substance, and more changes on the way for a team in endless search of a winning formula.
Adam Gase is a profoundly unpopular figure amongst Jets fans, but give him some credit: The Jets never quit on their first-year head coach. In fact, with a win this week against the Bills, the Jets would finish 7-9 after a 1-7 start. On Sunday, they beat a Steelers team in desperate need of a win, playing in a MetLife Stadium filled with fans wearing black and yellow. Gregg Williams' defense delivered yet another strong performance (Williams deserves Assistant Coach of The Year consideration for what he's done with a talent-deficient and injury-ravaged roster) and Sam Darnold played an unspectacular but nearly mistake-free game against a ball-hawking Pittsburgh defense. Darnold's best throw of the day came on the final play of New York's first possession -- a perfectly threaded 23-yard touchdown strike to Robby Anderson, who continues to make a strong contract push in the season's final month.
*If only we would have beaten the [Jaguars](/teams/jacksonvillejaguars/profile?team=JAX) ...* That's the thought of every [Raiders](/teams/oaklandraiders/profile?team=OAK) fan -- and every member of the [Raiders](/teams/oaklandraiders/profile?team=OAK) -- after [a Sunday win](http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2019122201/2019/REG16/raiders@chargers) over the [Chargers](/teams/losangeleschargers/profile?team=LAC) that, coupled with losses by the [Steelers](/teams/pittsburghsteelers/profile?team=PIT) and [Titans](/teams/tennesseetitans/profile?team=TEN), keeps Oakland [on the edge of the playoff picture](http://www.nfl.com/playoffs/playoff-picture) entering Week 17. According to ESPN's number crunchers, the [Raiders](/teams/oaklandraiders/profile?team=OAK) entered Week 16 with a 1-in-200 chance of making it to the playoffs. Entering Week 17? It's all the way up to 1-in-8. Still, it's best to temper expectations: Before Sunday's win, the [Raiders](/teams/oaklandraiders/profile?team=OAK) had been riding a four-game losing streak in which they scored just 12.3 points per game and allowed 34.0 (both worst in NFL). This team isn't quite ready for prime time, but the Baby [Raiders](/teams/oaklandraiders/profile?team=OAK) provide hope for the future. </content:power-ranking>
[There's the signature win](http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2019122213/2019/REG16/cardinals@seahawks) of the Kliff Kingsbury era so far. The [Cardinals](/teams/arizonacardinals/profile?team=ARI) went into Seattle and thoroughly outplayed a [Seahawks](/teams/seattleseahawks/profile?team=SEA) team that entered Week 16 as the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Even more impressive, Kingsbury's team closed out the [Seahawks](/teams/seattleseahawks/profile?team=SEA) even after [Kyler Murray](/player/kylermurray/2562382/profile) was forced out of the game by a strained hamstring. [Brett Hundley](/player/bretthundley/2552588/profile) provided the spark we rarely saw during his extended backup audition in Green Bay, and [Kenyan Drake](/player/kenyandrake/2555230/profile) seemed to cement his future as The Man in Arizona's backfield with 166 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The midseason acquisition of Drake has been one of the best trades of the NFL season: He has 303 rushing yards and six scores over last two games and seven touchdowns since joining Arizona in Week 9. Drake is the reason [David Johnson](/player/davidjohnson/2553435/profile) will play elsewhere in 2020. </content:power-ranking>
The Chargers are done in 2019 after Sunday's season finale against the Chiefs. The question that hangs over this nomadic franchise is whether Sunday will also mark the end of Philip Rivers' long tenure with the team. One answer we do have: Rivers wants to keep playing. "I'm capable enough physically and mentally, there's no question," Rivers said after a 24-17 loss to the Raiders. "Yes, I do want to play football. I do, and that's how I feel deep down as I stand here." Rivers made it clear in his press conference that he's plugged into the outside criticism of his play and the idea that, at 38, he's close to the end of a fine career. Great athletes have a way of using doubters as fuel, and Rivers suddenly has an army of them. You just wonder if the Chargers will give him the chance to do it on their dime.
Dave Gettleman slept well on Sunday night. The Giants general manager's past two first-round picks -- Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones -- had monster performances in a 41-35 overtime win over the Redskins at FedExField, a victory that hurts New York's draft standing but pumps some optimism into Big Blue headquarters as another lost season nears its conclusion. Barkley set a career high (and a franchise record) with 279 yards from scrimmage and two long touchdowns, while Jones returned to the lineup after missing two games with an ankle injury and threw five touchdown passes, including the game-winner to tight end Kaden Smith in OT. The Giants have a roster wish list that rivals the scroll a typical 5-year-old sends to Santa, but they have a franchise superstar at running back and an incredibly promising rookie passer behind center. That's a hell of a start.
The 37-year-old's final numbers won't warrant All-Pro consideration, but don't let that fool you: Ryan Fitzpatrick has enjoyed an excellent season for the Dolphins. The veteran quarterback, who set a season-high with four touchdown passes in Sunday's 38-35 overtime win over the Bengals, has a no-fear mentality that's kept Miami competitive -- has kept Miami interesting -- in a season that once appeared destined to be the nadir for a once-proud franchise. It's interesting to think what could be next for Fitzpatrick, who has one year left on his contract. The Dolphins will almost certainly add a quarterback (most likely via a high draft pick), and you'd think Fitzpatrick believes he can still start in the league after his success this season. Nobody wants Fitzmagic wasting away on a bench. That's like denying Frosty The Snowman his magic top hat.
[Will Grier](/player/willgrier/2562404/profile)'s NFL debut did not go well. The third-round pick missed several open receivers with wild throws and tossed three interceptions without a score in [a 38-6 loss](http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2019122207/2019/REG16/panthers@colts) to the [Colts](/teams/indianapoliscolts/profile?team=IND). In a related story, two "Keep Cam in Carolina" billboards [went up Monday](http://www.espn.com/espn/now?nowId=21-41089018-4) in Charlotte as part of a GoFundMe campaign organized by an aggrieved [Panthers](/teams/carolinapanthers/profile?team=CAR) fan. Cam, of course, is [Cam Newton](/player/camnewton/2495455/profile), who doesn't seem like such a bad option after watching [Kyle Allen](/player/kyleallen/2561177/profile) and [Will Grier](/player/willgrier/2562404/profile) play against NFL defenses. At least the [Panthers](/teams/carolinapanthers/profile?team=CAR) still have [Christian McCaffrey](/player/christianmccaffrey/2557997/profile). The superstar running back had 15(!) catches on Sunday to give him 109 on the season. He needs just 67 receiving yards in Sunday's season finale to become the third player in NFL history to enter the 1,000/1,000 Club. </content:power-ranking>
C'mon, Bill Callahan. You just capped a 99-yard drive with a touchdown to draw within one point of the Giants with 29 seconds to play. Keep your offense on the field and go for two! You're 3-11! Instead, Callahan played for overtime and kicked the extra point. The Giants won the OT coin toss and marched down the field for a touchdown and a 41-35 win. No fun. It was Case Keenum who led that 99-yard drive, because rookie Dwayne Haskins exited the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury. After the game, Haskins told reporters that team owner Dan Snyder told him not to return to the game. A Redskins spokesperson later clarified that Snyder instructed Haskins to listen to the team's medical advice and did not directly say not to go back in. Just file this one away as more drama that only seems to be connected to this organization.
Any interesting news around the Jaguars right now is occurring off the field. Tom Coughlin and his collection of silly clocks were swept out of the building on Sunday, and Ian Rapoport reported over the weekend that head coach Doug Marrone could keep his job despite widespread speculation Jacksonville was ready for a franchise reset. Good for Marrone if he somehow survives this, but watching games like Sunday's 24-12 loss to the Falcons makes you wonder what the Khan family has seen over the past seven weeks to inspire confidence. Gardner Minshew, meanwhile, continues to be a fun personality who might be more sizzle than steak as a quarterback prospect. His return to the lineup has been mostly forgettable following the Nick Foles benching. We don't yet know who will be calling the shots for the Jaguars in 2020, but there's an immediate big decision to be made at quarterback.
Let's focus on the positives: The Lions' pass defense, so horrendous all season, held Broncos rookie Drew Lock to less than 6.0 yards per attempt -- the dreaded Gabbert Zone for quarterbacks. The team as a whole fought hard in a 27-17 loss, one thing that hasn't changed for Matt Patricia despite the car crash pile-up of an eight-game losing streak. And now the best news: The loss, combined with wins by the Giants and Dolphins, moves the Lions into the No. 3 spot in the 2020 NFL Draft. They can get as high as No. 2 with a loss to the Packers on Sunday coupled with a Redskins win over the Eagles. The #ChaseForChase is on.
That was perfect. Perfect! The Bengals provided their fans with insane entertainment value in wiping out a 35-12 deficit in the final seven minutes of regulation against the Dolphins on Sunday, then had the good sense to stop right there in a 38-35 overtime loss that locked up the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Yes, this is almost certainly the end of the Andy Dalton era in Cincinnati, and so let's hope Bengals fans enjoyed their Glowing Ginger Man throwing four second-half TDs and leading their team to 16 points in the final 33 seconds of regulation. Dalton is going to make another team better next year.