Week 16 NFL power rankings: Lions continue surge, Cowboys fall

NFL power rankings entering Week 16 of 2022 season (previous rank in parentheses):

1. Eagles (1): One more win, and they’ll lock up the NFC East plus the conference’s first-round bye and home-field advantage. If that happens Saturday at Dallas, Philadelphia could have an awfully challenging month trying to manage player health while remaining sharp enough so as not to fall flat when the divisional round rolls around.

2. Bengals (2): A sweep of the putrid NFC South in hand, time to move on to weightier matters — namely trying to hang onto first place in the AFC North while closing out the schedule against New England, Buffalo and Baltimore.

3. Chiefs (3): How big a weapon has RB Jerick McKinnon become? Only TE Travis Kelce has scored more TDs (12) than McKinnon’s half-dozen for the AFC West champs in 2022.

4. 49ers (6): During the course of their league-best seven-game winning streak, NFC West titlists have allowed an average of 11 points. As great as rookie Brock Purdy has been, Brock Lesnar could play quarterback here and this group would still be rolling.

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5. Bills (5): Keep an eye on rookie RB James Cook, who’s really started eating into starter Devin Singletary’s snap count this month.

6. Cowboys (4): They’re in consecutive postseasons for the first time in 15 years. But QB Dak Prescott’s 3.9% interception rate is easily the highest of his career … and looms as a much bigger concern than whoever might be running deep routes as Dallas’ No. 3 wideout in the postseason.

7. Dolphins (8): Yes, they’ve dropped three straight. But they nearly (literally) weathered Buffalo’s best shot — in snowy Orchard Park and on a short week following a stay on the West Coast — and served a fresh reminder they can hang with just about anyone … though they better do more than hang with the Pack on Christmas Day.

8. Vikings (7): Historic, wonderful comeback … blah, blah. The fact they fell into a 33-point hole — at home — to say nothing of the seven sacks Minnesota surrendered or its three turnovers, is going to give whichever team(s) travels to Minneapolis during the playoffs plenty of confidence it can leave with a victory.

9. Ravens (9): Without injured QB Lamar Jackson most of the past three games, Baltimore hasn’t netted 200 passing yards or even 17 points in any of them.

10. Lions (13): Feels like Dan Campbell’s bandwagon is filling up with plenty of folks far removed from Motown. Detroit closes with Carolina, Chicago and Green Bay … which projects as a nice formula for the Lions’ first playoff venture in six years.

11. Chargers (11): Congratulations to QB Justin Herbert, the first player to surpass 4,000 passing yards in each of his first three NFL seasons.

12. Giants (17): This could be the last ride for QB Daniel Jones and RB Saquon Barkley … but the figurative arrival — on Sunday night — of rookie OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux ensures this team will have a star in 2023.

13. Patriots (10): Sunday’s loss will be forever remembered for the ill-considered laterals that not only cost New England this game but perhaps a postseason spot. But how long can it mask the fact that Pats got next to nothing from QB Mac Jones? Anyway, on to Cincinnati.

14. Jaguars (18): Their ascent has coincided with QB Trevor Lawrence’s. But WR Zay Jones, who scored three times in Sunday’s upset of Dallas, has also been a huge part of Jacksonville’s surge.

15. Jets (12): If injured Mike White was playing himself into the QB1 role in recent weeks, his absence — and what the NYJ offense devolves into without him — might only be securing his future with this organization.

16. Buccaneers (14): Good chance what was arguably the worst game of QB Tom Brady’s career (four turnovers Sunday) will springboard TB12 to the first losing season of his 23-year career … an outcome that will become reality with one more defeat.

17. Commanders (15): They certainly weren’t helped by the officiating Sunday night … but Washington also didn’t take care of business and is very much in danger of falling into the clutches of Seattle or Detroit.

18. Seahawks (16): As their once-promising season continues to unravel, a compelling debate is coming to the forefront — re-sign Geno Smith, or draft a quarterback with that projected top-five pick stolen from Denver in the Russell Wilson heist?

19. Titans (19): They’ve lost four in a row for the first time under head coach Mike Vrabel. Five in a row could well cost them first place in AFC South.

20. Packers (21): Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are technically still in the playoff mix. And they will need some help from the Commanders, Seahawks and Lions (who they’ll see in the season finale) to reach the playoffs.

21. Browns (22): They’ve won two of three since the return of QB Deshaun Watson, who’s slowly rounding into form. But he probably doesn’t have sufficient runway to restore Cleveland to the postseason this year.

22. Steelers (23): It’s 2022, yet they ran the ball 66% of the time in Sunday’s win. Maybe it’s a fitting tribute to RB Franco Harris as the 50th anniversary of the ‘Immaculate Reception’ approaches … though that play is a testament to the wonderful things that happen by putting the ball in the air.

23. Panthers (20): Bad as this 5-9 team looked while losing at home to Pittsburgh, Carolina still controls its playoff destiny — just win the next three.

24. Saints (26): They’re also 5-9, but this is where getting swept by the Bucs really puts a damper on New Orleans’ hopes for a postseason return.

25. Raiders (29): Talk about living on opposite ends of the football spectrum from one week to the next. Maybe the return of TE Darren Waller can stabilize a last-gasp playoff push.

26. Bears (25): QB Justin Fields has exceeded 70 yards on the ground in his last five games, the longest streak by a quarterback in the Super Bowl era (since 1966). Average 69 over the final three, and he’ll break Lamar Jackson’s single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback (1,206).

27. Rams (27): Baker Mayfield’s magic ran cold in Green Bay. The Rams, at 4-10, have officially tied the 1999 Denver Broncos (6-10) for most losses ever by a defending Super Bowl champion.

28. Falcons (24): Hard as it was to watch rookie Desmond Ridder on Sunday, it’s a necessary evaluation for a franchise very likely to be in the quarterback market in some fashion a few months from now.

29. Colts (28): No matter how long Jeff Saturday’s NFL coaching career turns out to be, he’ll almost surely be a part of league lore for years to come — as the guy who oversaw the biggest one-game meltdown of all time.

30. Broncos (31): Nothing says coal in your stocking quite like having to watch this Denver team on Christmas afternoon.

31. Cardinals (30): The starting quarterback is hurt. The backup quarterback is hurt. The general manager’s health may lead to his departure. Since when did ‘Hard Knocks’ become a spinoff of ‘Grey’s Anatomy?’

32. Texans (32): They’ve suddenly become a tough out. And given the final three opponents are of the AFC South variety, Houston better be very careful lest this franchise plays itself out of that No. 1 overall draft pick.


Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.

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