Week 15 NFL power rankings: The AFC’s best team is …?
NFL power rankings entering Week 15 of 2022 season (previous rank in parentheses):
1. Eagles (1): A team brimming with stars – and possibly the MVP given how well QB Jalen Hurts is playing – is also home to one of the league’s more underappreciated talents. LB Haason Reddick, who happens to be a Temple product, made a little history Sunday by becoming the first player to record double-digit sacks in three consecutive seasons while playing for three different teams. Rest easy, Philly fans, he’s not going anywhere for a minute, currently under contract through the 2024 season.
2. Bengals (4): Who’s the best team in the AFC? Shrug. Who’s the only team in the conference that’s won five straight and appears to be recapturing the form that paved the road to Super Bowl 56? Yep, these guys. And it does seem like DE Trey Hendrickson will be able to play through a fractured wrist, and that WRs Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd won’t miss significant time with their own nagging ailments. Good news if this team hopes to keep its division crown and open the postseason in Cincinnati.
3. Chiefs (5): Maybe it’s understandable that QB Patrick Mahomes gets bored and sloppy against Denver, a team he’s now 10-0 against. And Sunday’s no-look TD toss pairs well with the left-handed throw he made in the Mile High City years ago. But his three INTs are a reminder to clean things up for a team that seems to have an easier path to the AFC’s No. 1 seed than Buffalo does.
4. Cowboys (2): Adversity never fails to make at least an annual trip to Dallas. It showed up Sunday, when America’s Team was nearly Texas’ second-best team while losing RT Terence Steele to a torn ACL. But expect a reboot with LT Tyron Smith on the comeback and newly signed WR T.Y. Hilton getting the nod over Odell Beckham to give the passing game a late-season shot in the arm.
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5. Bills (3): Are they still capable of winning the Super Bowl after so many predicted they would do exactly that three months ago? Definitely. With OLB Von Miller now officially gone for the season with a torn ACL and joining S Micah Hyde on injured reserve, might they now be a lesser version of last year’s squad? Very possibly.
6. 49ers (8): They can clinch NFC West by winning in Seattle on Thursday night – a golden opportunity to secure a home playoff game while spending the balance of the regular season managing a battered roster.
7. Vikings (7): For the first time in their 62-season history, they’ve allowed 400 yards in five consecutive games – among the unusual number of issues facing team likely to be seeded second or third in the NFC playoff bracket.
8. Dolphins (6): Given WR Tyreek Hill’s propensity for all manner of explosive touchdowns, probably wise to give him some snaps at safety and in the ‘kick six’ spot when field goals are attempted ahead of Saturday night’s crucial game at Buffalo.
9. Ravens (9): Kudos to RB J.K. Dobbins, who produced one of the best games of his career (120 rush yards, TD) Sunday – and just when Baltimore needed it – even though he clearly has yet to return to his 2020 pre-injury form.
10. Patriots (10): Signs of young life on offense? As New England climbed into the projected playoff field Monday, it also got touchdowns from multiple rookies in a game for the first time in 16 years.
11. Chargers (20): QB Justin Herbert’s 13,056 career passing yards are the most ever in a player’s first three NFL seasons. With WR Mike Williams back, good bet he reaches 14,000 yards and 100 TD passes before Year No. 3 is completely in the books.
12. Jets (11): First-round WR Garrett Wilson has taken off with tough-as-nails QB Mike White in the lineup. Over the past three weeks, Wilson has averaged 111.7 receiving yards, and his 868 on the season are a new team record for rookies.
13. Lions (18): For the first time in the Super Bowl era (since 1966), they’ve scored at least 25 points in five consecutive games. Not only can Detroit become the first team since 1990 to overcome a 1-6 start to reach the playoffs, it’s also primed to get a lot better in 2023 with two more first-round picks – including the Rams’, which is likely to be in the top five.
14. Buccaneers (12): LT Donovan Smith has been a one-man wrecking crew for this team … meaning he’s been flagged 10 times already, three of those infractions taking Tampa TDs off the board.
15. Commanders (15): After dominating their bye week – i.e., moving up to sixth place in the NFC – they very much look like a team that could reach 10 victories. And Sunday could mark the 2022 debut for DE Chase Young.
16. Seahawks (13): They’ve failed to rush for 100 yards in each of their past four games, three of those defeats. Could rookie RB Kenneth Walker (ankle) provide a much-needed lift Thursday against the Niners?
17. Giants (14): A spiraling team plays three of its next four on the road against opponents projected to reach postseason … a good indication Big Blue won’t.
18. Jaguars (22): One of these is not like the others. Evan Engram’s 11-catch, 162-yard, two-TD performance Sunday made him the sixth tight end to have at least 10 receptions, 150 yards and two touchdowns in an NFL game. The others? Todd Christensen, Travis Kelce, Shannon Sharpe, Darren Waller and Kellen Winslow.
19. Titans (16): They’ve lost three in a row for the first time since 2018, Mike Vrabel’s first season as head coach. Tennessee has now been outscored by 35 points on the season, worst of any team currently above .500.
20. Panthers (27): Win their final four games – all against teams currently with losing records – and Carolina will win the NFC South for the first time since its 15-1 2015 regular season culminated with a loss in Super Bowl 50.
21. Packers (21): They’ve got a roughly 3% chance to reach postseason … but playing three of their final four at Lambeau Field should help the cause.
22. Browns (17): It’s quite early, and QB Deshaun Watson is knocking off the rust most players shed in preseason. But after two games, he looks like an especially poor fit with Cleveland’s offense.
23. Steelers (23): Why isn’t RB Najee Harris being used more in the passing game? A guy who caught 74 balls as a rookie will likely finish with roughly half as many in 2022.
24. Falcons (24): Like the Panthers, they’re just one game off the NFC South lead. Unlike Carolina, Atlanta is turning to a rookie quarterback (Desmond Ridder) awaiting his first regular-season snap for the stretch run.
25. Bears (25): Coming out of the weekend, Chicago was the only NFC team eliminated from playoff contention. And not going to be easy finding win No. 4 with the final month of the schedule serving up three division leaders (Philadelphia, Buffalo and Minnesota) and a hot pride of Lions.
26. Saints (28): Triple-double? TE Taysom Hill is the only player in the Super Bowl era with at least nine touchdowns via pass, reception and rush. With one more TD throw and catch, Hill can become the NFL’s version of Russell Westbrook.
27. Rams (29): Baker Mayfield is now the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to engineer comebacks from at least a 13-point deficit while debuting with different teams. In both instances, with Cleveland and Los Angeles, he came off the bench.
28. Colts (30): Pretty cool to read about deposed HC Frank Reich continuing his community service efforts in Indianapolis – his foundation, kNot Today, aiming to hinder sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking of children.
29. Raiders (19): Perhaps dropping them this far seems harsh. But there was no excuse for the loss to Mayfield’s Rams – right, Jerry Tillery? – a defeat that effectively ended Vegas’ already flickering playoff hopes. And consider some of their other losses – to the Jeff Saturday Colts, a shutout in New Orleans and a home defeat from the Cardinals. Some good players here, but this team has crapped out.
30. Cardinals (26): QB Kyler Murray’s knee injury Monday night is the catastrophic exclamation point to an already ruined season and likely destined to cast a long shadow into the 2023 campaign.
31. Broncos (31): They’ve got nothing to play for but pride – something injured QB Russell Wilson and WR Jerry Jeudy (3 TD catches) displayed in spades during Sunday’s narrow loss to division-leading Kansas City.
32. Texans (32): An inspired effort at Dallas was significantly fueled by backup WRs Chris Moore and Amari Rodgers, who combined for 14 receptions, 181 yards and a TD for the AFC’s worst offense.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.