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Mason's Week 15 Power Rankings: Patriots back at the top

Posted Dec 13, 2016

Four teams have at least 10 wins through 13 games. They represent the top four teams in the Power Rankings. Three of them are the Broncos' final three opponents in the 2016 regular season.

32. CLEVELAND BROWNS (0-13)

Last week: 32
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 30 - Defense: 31

In the original story discussions for the 1993 classic Groundhog Day, Bill Murray's narcissistic weatherman, Phil Connors, was supposed to endure the same day for 10,000 years. In recent years, an estimate of 33 years, 358 days was offered, based primarily on Malcolm Gladwell's theory that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at one subject, and Phil masters ice sculpting and playing the piano).

So even with the numbing sameness of their defeats, the Browns have a long way to go before we can say they're trapped in Groundhog Day.

31. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (1-12)

Last week: 31
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 31 - Defense: 25

I've got nothing here. And neither does the team, obviously.

30. LOS ANGELES RAMS (4-9)

Last week: 30
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 32 - Defense: 11

Jeff Fisher was right. He wasn't going 7-9 again. But this organization's problems go well beyond the head coach's office. They didn't solve any problems Monday.

29. NEW YORK JETS (4-9)

Last week: 29
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 24 - Defense: 24

Much of Bryce Petty's success in his first career start last Sunday came outside of the pocket; that's his best chance to succeed right now.

28. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (2-11)

Last week: 26
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 21 - Defense: 12

Gus Bradley had his 60th game as an NFL head coach Sunday -- which means he now has the worst winning percentage for anyone to serve as a head coach for at least 60 games. And even if the Jaguars close with three consecutive wins, his winning percentage will still be the worst.

27. CHICAGO BEARS (3-10)

Last week: 28
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 20 - Defense: 20

Matt Barkley has been unspectacular, but solid, in his last three starts. He appears to be setting himself up for a long career as a steady, dependable backup. That's something.

26. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (5-8)

Last week: 25
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 16 - Defense: 14

The Eagles couldn't run and couldn't keep Washington edge rusher Ryan Kerrigan out of Carson Wentz's face.

25. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (6-7)

Last week: 23
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 8 - Defense: 30

A two-game road swing at Minnesota and Oakland seems likely to end the Colts' hopes.

24. BUFFALO BILLS (6-7)

Last week: 19
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 13 - Defense: 21

Buffalo ran just 48 plays to the Steelers' 73 last Sunday.

23. CAROLINA PANTHERS (5-8)

Last week: 27
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 22 - Defense: 15

As a head coach, Ron Rivera is 20-6 in December and January regular-season games, compared with 32-34-1 in September, October and November. So don't be surprised if the Panthers get a late-season run going.

22. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (5-8)

Last week: 22
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 4 - Defense: 28

Six interceptions and just 22 offensive points in the last two games. What once worked brilliantly hasn't worked at all, virtually eliminating the Saints once again.

21. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (5-8)

Last week: 15
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 15 - Defense: 9

As usual, turnovers did in the Chargers: five giveaways to take their season total to a league-worst 30.

20. CINCINNATI BENGALS (5-7-1)

Last week: 24
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 9 - Defense: 19

Kicker Mike Nugent became a victim of the NFL's new world for kickers. His 79.3-percent success rate on field goals was right in line with his career average (80.8 percent), but hitting only 79.3 percent of your extra-point attempts -- with five misses in the last four games -- will put you on the waiver wire.

19. ARIZONA CARDINALS (5-7-1)

Last week: 21
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 17 - Defense: 2

The defense has faded a bit in recent weeks, and that is the final nail in Arizona's coffin.

18. TENNESSEE TITANS (7-6)

Last week: 20
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 14 - Defense: 21

The Broncos outgained the Titans and Chiefs by substantial margins in the last three weeks, but lost to both of them. Sunday, those two teams will meet at Arrowhead Stadium, and given the Titans' precarious tiebreaker position in the AFC South race, they can't afford a misstep.

17. HOUSTON TEXANS (7-6)

Last week: 18
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 25 - Defense: 6

Wins over Jacksonville and Cincinnati the next two weeks -- with both games at home -- and a division-record tiebreaker over the Titans (4-0 to 1-3) put Houston in the driver's seat.

16. GREEN BAY PACKERS (7-6)

Last week: 17
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 6 - Defense: 26

If the Packers win out and Detroit loses at the Giants this Sunday or at Dallas in Week 16, Green Bay wins the NFC North.

15. MIAMI DOLPHINS (8-5)

Last week: 16
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 28 - Defense: 16

Is Matt Moore good enough to lead Miami to two wins against the Jets, Bills and Patriots down the stretch? The answer to that will likely determine if the Dolphins can make their first playoff appearance in eight years.

14. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (7-6)

Last week: 14
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 23 - Defense: 5

Should the Vikings and Packers both win this Sunday, their Christmas Eve showdown at Lambeau Field would basically be an elimination game.

13. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (7-5-1)

Last week: 13
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 2 - Defense: 32

Washington has a four-game home winning streak and two of its last three games at FedExField. (Yes, it's all one word.)

12. BALTIMORE RAVENS (7-6)

Last week: 8
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 27 - Defense: 1

It's not losses like Monday's at New England that frustrate the Ravens; it's defeats like the Week 7 loss to the Jets. But winning out gives the Ravens the AFC North, because they would win the tiebreaker with the Steelers if they both finish 10-6 (common opponents).

11. DENVER BRONCOS (8-5)

Last week: 6
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 26 - Defense: 3

The offense has to do what works best now to try and get the win in the moment, so it leaned heavily on Trevor Siemian. But nine carries for 18 yards is never what Gary Kubiak had in mind -- or could have imagined -- for his offense.

10. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (8-5)

Last week: 12
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 12 - Defense: 13

Force at least two turnovers a game -- as the Bucs have in the last five weeks -- and you'll go on the kind of streak they've enjoyed, with an opportunistic defense that has only allowed opposing offenses to score 12.0 points per game in that span.

9. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (8-4-1)

Last week: 5
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 18 - Defense: 7

A Thursday night game with the reeling Rams offers them the chance to stop their descent, but they're trending in the wrong direction.

8. NEW YORK GIANTS (9-4)

Last week: 11
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 29 - Defense: 4

The Giants have a five-game home winning streak -- but Sunday's game with Detroit is their last at MetLife Stadium in the regular season.

7. ATLANTA FALCONS (8-5)

Last week: 7
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 1 - Defense: 29

If they win out, the NFC South is theirs -- and their final three regular-season opponents are a combined 11-28.

6. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (8-5)

Last week: 10
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 10 - Defense: 10

A Dec. 25 win over Baltimore and a win over either the Bengals (this Sunday) or the Browns (Jan. 1) would give the Steelers first place and a home game in the wild-card round.

5. DETROIT LIONS (9-4)

Last week: 7
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 5 - Defense: 27

Hot as the Lions are, their spot is precarious; their final three opponents are a combined 27-12, two of them are on the road, and the home game is against the surging Packers in Week 17.

4. OAKLAND RAIDERS (10-3)

Last week: 3
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 9 - Defense: 18

With Melvin Gordon injured, the Raiders will catch the Chargers at the right time.

3. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (10-3)

Last week: 4
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 19 - Defense: 18

They defy statistics and explanation; their offense is inconsistent and their defense has allowed at least 400 yards in three of the last four weeks. But they lead the lead in takeaways (25) and touchdowns off various returns (7). No team is more opportunistic.

2. DALLAS COWBOYS (11-2)

Last week: 1
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 3 - Defense: 22

Only two other teams had more possessions end without gaining a first down than Dallas (11) in the last two weeks -- the Rams (12) and Broncos (14).

1. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (11-2)

Last week: 2
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 7 - Defense: 8

Since Tom Brady returned from a four-game suspension, New England is the only team to score at least 20 points and amass at least 350 yards in every game.

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