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NFL power rankings: 49ers, Chiefs, Cowboys climb; Bills, Ravens, Steelers slide for Week 15

Week 14 in the NFL was an interesting mix of big blowouts and unexpected thrillers. While some things in the league’s power structure for the 2021 regular season didn’t change. there were still a few shakeups ahead of the final month.

With only four games left for every team in the 17-game marathon, the contenders will be looking to sprint to the playoffs, while the also-rans will be look for a fast and furious finish to carry into 2022.

Here’s Sporting News sees how all 32 teams stackup against each other going into Week 15:

MORE: Updated NFL standings, playoff picture for Week 14

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NFL power rankings

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10-3 (previous ranking: 3)

The Buccaneers had to outlast the AFC’s mighty Bills to win again, but they beat another quality opponent to remain picture perfect in Tampa toward their march to adding a NFC South title to last year’s Super Bowl 55 ring. Tom Brady is determined to put them in the right position to repeat.

2. Green Bay Packers 10-3 (2)

Aaron Rodgers proved on Sunday night he still owns the Bears, although it wasn’t easy at first until the big plays came from the defense to inspire the offense. The Packers are rolling at the right time and getting healthier to improve on last year’s playoff run.

3. Arizona Cardinals 10-3 (1)

The Cardinals had another sloppy home game against the Rams on Monday night and it cost them (for now) the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs behind the Buccaneers and Packers. Kyler Murray made too many mistakes and the defense didn’t get into tee-off mode on Matthew Stafford.

4. Kansas City Chiefs 9-4 (5)

The Chiefs aren’t the No. 1 seed in the AFC but everyone can sense they’re the team to beat again. They crushed the Raiders at home after bringing the Broncos down hard there the week before. The defense is playing lights out, cleaning up its old issues vs. the run and also smacking around passing games. Patrick Mahomes and the offense also decided to get more diverse and dangerous in Week 14.

5. New England Patriots 9-4 (4)

The Patriots had a good bye week in seeing the Bills lose again in the division but not so much with the Chiefs and Titans keeping things tightened up in the bigger AFC playoff picture. They come back to face the well-rested Colts, who also are now in playoff position a little behind them.

6. Tennessee Titans 9-4 (6)

The Titans didn’t really inspire with their gritty performance against the Jaguars with little offense, but their defense imposed its will with pressure and takeaways backing strong run defense. Mike Vrabel doesn’t care about style points as long as he gets enough points, with the hopes of keeping his team alive until Derrick Henry can return when games count more.

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7. Dallas Cowboys 9-4 (9)

The Cowboys used Washington to get well and quiet any talk of them losing hold of the NFC East again. Dak Prescott and the offense are still slumping in many ways, but the defense continues to show it’s been the real reliable strength from the get-go.

8. Los Angeles Rams 9-4 (10)

The Rams showed they are still a dangerous factor in the NFC championship chase with a win at the Cardinals on Monday night. They need to keep running the ball and playing good defense, because riding Stafford’s arm alone can’t cut it.

9. Los Angeles Chargers 8-5 (11)

The Chargers are making a case they are the most complete NFL team in L.A. thanks to Justin Herbert looking all-world again no matter who his receivers are and the defense starting to swarm while not being as liable against the run.

10. Baltimore Ravens 8-5 (7)

The Ravens are falling hard all of a sudden now with Lamar Jackson (ankle) becoming only the latest key player unable to avoid injury. They’ve been held together by winning close games but the inconsistent harmony between offense and defense is pushing toward the mean of expected results.

11. Indianapolis Colts 7-6 (14)

The Colts couldn’t have asked for a better bye, with the exception of the Titans beating the Jaguars. But with the AFC South crown being a longshot, anyway, it was nice to ascend to playoff position before getting a key test for Jonathan Taylor vs. the Patriots’ defense at home.

12. Buffalo Bills 7-6 (8)

The Bills looked dazed and confused, going through a Patriots hangover for the first half against the Buccaneers. That’s before they kicked into high gear with Josh Allen leading the surge of emotion and sense of urgency. Unfortunately, he was still outdueled by Brady and also hurt himself.

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13. San Francisco 49ers 7-6 (16)

The 49ers proved the loss to the Seahawks in Week 13 was more of a division rivalry-related speed bump than trend away from their second-half turnaround toward the playoffs. Their offense is rolling with George Kittle and Deebo Samuel setting up all the fun and the defense is overachieving to make plays at opportune times.

14. Cincinnati Bengals 7-6 (12)

The Bengals played a fun thriller with the 49ers and couldn’t come up with the necessary points in overtime. Hanging with one of the better all-around NFC teams was a confidence-builder; now they need to use it to win enough AFC games to make the playoffs.

15. Cleveland Browns 7-6 (18)

The Browns needed that win against the Ravens to save their regular season and now can feel like it will have another happy ending with Myles Garrett and the defense now feeling it right with Baker Mayfield and the offense at the right time.

16. Denver Broncos 7-6 (19)

The Broncos beat the Lions in impressive, methodical fashion with their defense and the running game. Beating bad teams has been Denver’s specialty under Vic Fangio this season. Unfortunately, it’s added up to little against better teams.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers 6-6-1 (13)

The Steelers’ sluggish run defense cost them again vs. the Vikings, because it put them in uncomfortable pass-happy trail situations and takes away their pass-rushing and coverage strengths. At least Ben Roethlisberger is playing well again in his possible last season to give them a last-gasp chance.

18. Washington Football Team 6-7 (15)

Washington got sloppy again vs. the Cowboys as Taylor Heinicke and the offense hit a wall and dragged down another strong effort by the remade defense. That had to be disappointing for Ron Rivera, whose team can now only cling to wild-card hopes.

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19. Philadelphia Eagles 6-7 (20)

The Eagles had a bye to regroup and take their shot at the wide-open NFC wild-card race for two spots. Washington losing helped big-time, but they need to show more passing pop with Jalen Hurts to help the defense and running game down the stretch.

20. Minnesota Vikings 6-7 (22)

The Vikings had a statement win mostly against the Steelers with Dalvin Cook returning to dominate in the running game and Kirk Cousins avoiding another total fourth-quarter meltdown. They need to avoid the Bears’ road trap game on Monday night, once again in prime time in Week 15.

21. Miami Dolphins 6-7 (21)

The Dolphins had a bye and didn’t see their AFC playoff chances improve much as the Colts, Bills, Browns, Bengals and Broncos look much better positioned to get there behind the clear division winners to be. Getting the Jets next and get them all the way back to .500.

22. Las Vegas Raiders 6-7 (17)

The Raiders have tried to duct-tape together a contending team after Jon Gruden’s dismissal, but losing key personnel to injuries and having a muddy offensive identity with Derek Carr has led to another freefall out of a great start.

23. Atlanta Falcons 6-7 (24)

The Falcons keep showing fight for Matt Ryan and Arthur Smith, and the offense playing better sparked the defense against the Panthers, too. They have overachieved to be ahead of the Panthers and even with the Saints behind the Buccaneers.

24. New Orleans Saints 6-7 (25)

The Saints marched away with a much-needed streak-ending victory in New York, thanks to the running of returning Alvin Kamara and Taysom Hill stomping all over the Jets.  They have the complementary formula again to help their defense.

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25. Seattle Seahawks 5-8 (26)

The Seahawks have gotten off their midseason mat to have a half-chance at finishing another season above..500 with Russell Wilson. Winning enough for another whiff at the playoffs, however, will be difficult, and with it, might be a breakup with Wilson.

26. Carolina Panthers 5-8 (23)

The Panthers are not back with Cam Newton. Or P.J. Walker. Or Newton. Or Walker. They seem lifeless and lost with the defense now also falling apart for Matt Rhule, which as a coaching rule, is not a good sign.

27. Chicago Bears 4-9 (28)

The Bears did their best to hang with the Packers with their share of big plays and flashes from Justin Fields. But the close result isn’t enough, likely, to save Matt Nagy’s job at the end.

28. New York Giants 4-9 (27)

The Giants also should have more thoughts on the future of Joe Judge as their injury-riddled mess had no shot of upsetting the Chargers on the road with Mike Glennon starting again. The defense is something, but it means nothing with no real offense.

29. New York Jets 3-10 (29)

The Jets tend to start with emotions high with active defense and determined offense. But they kind of hit a wall with their talent limitations around Zach Wilson and their best defensive players, because of the simple fact they can’t either stop the run or run the ball.

30. Houston Texans 2-11 (30)

The Texans got some early spark out of Davis Mills against the Seahawks, but their major limitations on defense were exposed everywhere vs. power run and downfield pass. Will David Culley survive the mess for a Year 2?

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31. Jacksonville Jaguars 2-11 (31)

What was that? The Jaguars keep outdoing themselves with offensive futility with Urban Meyer. They got their missing shutout with Trevor Lawrence at the helm. Just start the whole thing over, all over again.

32. Detroit Lions 1-11-1 (32)

The Lions got their first win out of the way against the Vikings. So they decided to be more injury-riddled and go through the motions in Denver.

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