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freeland1787's Week 15 NFL Power Rankings

The Patriots now hold a commanding lead for the AFC's top spot after 15 weeks.

It's possible we may see the Texans again in January.
It's possible we may see the Texans again in January.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots were in need of a turnaround game against the Texans and they delivered. With the Broncos and Bengals both losing, the Patriots now are the top AFC team in the standings in both the actual and projected standings on the spreadsheet. The Panthers have a legitimate chance to go undefeated, although I suspect it's possible they take the foot off the gas after clinching HFA potentially this week. The Cardinals are right on their heels and it's almost a foregone conclusion that they'll clinch the #2 seed in the NFC. The NFL Playoff picture is starting to reveal itself, although there are three tight races for three potential playoff spots.

These are the Top 10 Teams this Week:

  1. Carolina Panthers 13-0
  2. New England Patriots 11-2
  3. Arizona Cardinals 11-2
  4. Cincinnati Bengals 10-3
  5. Denver Broncos 10-3
  6. Kansas City Chiefs 8-5
  7. Pittsburgh Steelers 8-5
  8. Seattle Seahawks 8-5
  9. Green Bay Packers 9-4
  10. New York Jets 8-5
It's likely that the one 8-5 AFC team that loses in the next three game will be watching the playoffs at home. The Chiefs and Steelers both control their playoff destiny and will make it by winning out. The Chiefs have an easy schedule ahead of them and the Steelers only have 1 tough game and that's at home against Denver. The Steelers could help out the Patriots once again by knocking down an AFC rival. They have the offense to match up well and have really surged in that area of late. In the NFC East and AFC South races, the team that is ahead in the standings has a lower Power Sum than the team that is chasing them. The remaining divisional games will decide who goes where, although it's Indianapolis and Washington's division to lose at this point.

These are the members of the prestigious 50 Club (Offense/Defense/Special Teams/Schedule):
  1. Carolina Panthers 60/72/54/100
  2. New England Patriots 70/56/68/87
  3. Cincinnati Bengals 63/57/58/76
  4. Kansas City Chiefs 58/62/59/66
  5. Pittsburgh Steelers 60/54/67/65
From the Patriots viewpoint, the offense did enough to remain as the top ranked offense with a score of 70. For the first time in 4 weeks, the offensive production did not steeply drop and that's likely due to the return of Gronk and the Patriots establishing what I believed to be their new normal. Defensively, their score improved from 54 to 56, but the injury that knocked out Dominique Easley for the season could be a factor moving forward. Despite the large turnover at the CB position, the Patriots actually have gotten better at the position. Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler have really improved in man coverage plus the Patriots have an intriguing nickel guy in Leonard Johnson along with two athletic projects in Justin Coleman and Darryl Roberts. With all 5 of them coming back next year, the position looks to be a bright spot again. The front 7 played their best game of the year, limiting Houston to under 200 yards, sacking the QB 6 times, and causing 2 fumbles. The Patriots have a three-headed monster at defensive end and Jabaal Sheard has been a great acquisition this year.

The Patriots next opponent is the 30th ranked Tennessee Titans. On paper, this is an easy matchup for the Patriots since they're facing a 38 offense, 42 defense, and a 65 special teams that artificially inflated due to a Pin/TB ratio of 24 to 1. The Titans are a young football team with a lot of new faces and will be undergoing a regime change this offseason. The Titans will likely treat this as their Super Bowl since they're projected for the #3 pick in the 2016 draft with a projected 4-12 record. The Patriots need to take care of business and wrap up Home Field Advantage since they've won the division. That starts with beating the Titans.