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NFL power rankings coming out of Week 15, broken down by tier

The top and bottom of our tiered power rankings are starting to coalesce. We break down how things looking before heading into Week 16.

Darious Williams #31 and John Johnson #43 of the Los Angeles Rams look on as Frank Gore #21 of the New York Jets reacts to extra yards during the second half of a game at SoFi Stadium on December 20, 2020 in Inglewood, California. Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The NFL has one more game to wrap up Week 15. Two more teams have made the playoffs, with the Bills and Seahawks punching their tickets. The Steelers can close out the week on Monday Night Football by clinching the AFC North with a win over the Bengals.

In the meantime, we’re back for another round of tier NFL power rankings. Rather than rank teams 1-32, we’ve broken them down into tiers. They’re ranked in their respective tier by record, but teams with the same record are not purposely situated one over another. It’s just to group teams with similar teams in terms of where they stand.

The Chiefs tier

Kansas City Chiefs (13-1)

Drew Brees was slow out of the gate in his return from his rib injury, but a road win against the Saints is still really impressive. It’s the Chiefs and everybody else in the NFL.

Top tier — not Chiefs edition

Buffalo Bills (11-3)
Green Bay Packers (11-3)
New Orleans Saints (10-4)

Buffalo and Green Bay took care of business Saturday, and while New Orleans lost to Kansas City, it’s not exactly something we can fault them for considering how well the Chiefs are playing. It was more important for New Orleans to get Drew Brees back and start getting him ready for the playoffs.

Going to the playoffs officially tier

Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3)
Seattle Seahawks (10-4)

The teams in the tier below are going to make it to the playoffs, but they still have a little work left. Seattle is in and now is in the driver’s seat to clinch the NFC West.

Monday update: The Steelers are going to the playoffs and still lead their decision, but they’ve lost three straight and are decidedly not playing like a top tier team.

Going to the playoffs in all likelihood tier

Cleveland Browns (10-4)
Tennessee Titans (10-4)
Indianapolis Colts (10-4)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-5)

This is a group of teams that look well on track to go to the playoffs. Things could very well go sideways, so we won’t quite crown their asses yet.

Getting one week in the corner to think about what they’ve done

Los Angeles Rams (9-5)

You lose to the Jets, you get your own tier of ridicule for one week.

Only one of these two is advancing — AFC edition

Baltimore Ravens (9-5)
Miami Dolphins (9-5)

This used to be part of the parity tier, but this is something a little different now. The Ravens and Dolphins are both coming on strong at the right time, but it appears only one of the two will earn the final wild card berth.

Only one of these two is advancing — NFC edition

Arizona Cardinals (8-6)
Chicago Bears (7-7)

This is not quite the same as Ravens and Dolphins, but these are the two most likely to claim that final wild card berth. It’s not remotely as interesting as the Ravens-Dolphins duel over the final two weeks.

NFC East tier

Washington Football Team (6-8)
Dallas Cowboys (5-9)
New York Giants (5-9)
Philadelphia Eagles (4-9-1)

We’re guaranteed no winning record for the NFC East champs, but now we wait to see where they end up. There’s a moderate chance 6-10 is going to get the job done, but if Washington can beat either Carolina or Philadelphia, they’re going to the playoffs.

Playing out the string tier

Las Vegas Raiders (7-7)
Minnesota Vikings (6-8)

We’ve seen turnover in this group with playoff eliminations moving some out, and Week 15 losses moving these two in. Both are still mathematically alive, but down down two games with two games remaining is just not going to cut it.

Mathematically eliminated

At least they have a QB of the future sub-tier

Los Angeles Chargers (5-9)
Houston Texans (4-10)
Cincinnati Bengals (3-10-1)

These three are not going to the playoffs and have plenty of issues to deal with, but they head into 2021 at least thinking they have an answer at the most important position on the field.

I’m not sure what to make of these two

Denver Broncos (5-9)
Detroit Lions (5-9)

Detroit has a solid quarterback in Matthew Stafford and Denver has a quarterback in Drew Lock that they hope can be their feature. I consider them both a step up on the big questions group below, but I’m not sure quite what to make of their futures.

Facing big questions

Atlanta Falcons (4-10)
Carolina Panthers (4-10)
New England Patriots (6-8)
San Francisco 49ers (5-9)

Atlanta has their quarterback of the present, but has so much to sort out for the future. Teddy Bridgewater is something to work with, but he doesn’t seem like a guy you build around long term. The Patriots have to figure out the quarterback position and just what their identity is in the post-Tom Brady era. And while the 49ers do have Jimmy Garoppolo, they have something like 40 free agents to sort through this offseason. There will be considerable turnover.

Trevor Lawrence sub-tier

New York Jets (1-13)
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-13)

Well, didn’t see this one coming. The Jets actually won a game, going into LA and beating the Rams. The Jaguars are now in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 pick, and this one could sting Jets fans for a while.