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Mason's Week 15 Power Rankings: Shuffling at the top


1. PHILADELPHIA (11-2) Last week: 3

Impressive numbers keep the Eagles atop the rankings; they rank in the top six on a per-possession basis in both offense and defense in net points, net yards, first downs and three-and-outs. Only the Vikings are in the same time zone of this level of across-the-board efficiency.

Philadelphia's place is tenuous pending how the loss of Carson Wentz and the insertion of Nick Foles affects their form, although Foles' experience -- including a playoff start in January 2014 -- gives the Eagles a fighting chance, especially with home-field advantage easily within their grasp.

2. PITTSBURGH (11-2) Last week: 4

The Steelers spoke of the inspiration provided by Ryan Shazier, but they missed him against a Baltimore offense that shredded them despite ranking 26th and 21st in net yards and first downs per possession.

3. NEW ENGLAND (10-3) Last week: 1

New England is usually good for a stinker or two per year, and these games often seem to be in Miami, where the Patriots have a losing record with Tom Brady as the starter.


  1. JACKSONVILLE (9-4) Last week: 7 **

Remember this: The Jaguars have the template of teams that have defeated the Brady/Belichick Patriots in New England during the postseason: pressure defense with an effective ground game. It worked for the Ravens in January 2010 and January 2013 and for the Jets in January 2011. If Blake Bortles can avoid mistakes, it can work for the Jaguars.

5. MINNESOTA (10-3) Last week: 2

A loss at Carolina is no reason to panic, and the Vikings came through a tough stretch of games against the Rams, Lions, Falcons and Panthers with a 3-1 mark that included two road wins.

6. NEW ORLEANS (9-4) Last week: 6

All of their losses have come to teams that would be in the playoffs if they started today.

7. L.A. RAMS (9-4) Last week: 5

Lose at Seattle on Sunday, and the Rams could face a scenario that leaves them out of the playoffs entirely if they don't beat the Titans in Nashville in Week 16.

8. CAROLINA (9-4) Last week: 9

Their win over Minnesota last Sunday guaranteed their third winning season under Ron Rivera and their sixth in the last 15 years. The Panthers have never had consecutive winning seasons.

9. SEATTLE (8-5) Last week: 8

Seattle has a problem: It has allowed 400-plus yards in back-to-back games for the first time since Weeks 4 and 5 of the 2011 season -- which was the last time the Seahawks missed the playoffs.


  1. L.A. CHARGERS (7-6) Last week: 12 **

In the last four weeks, no team is averaging more yards per possession (47.2) or going three-and-out less often (10 percent of the time) than the Chargers.

11. ATLANTA (8-5) Last week: 11

Head-to-head tiebreaker advantages over the Packers, Lions and Seahawks could prove crucial.

12. BALTIMORE (7-6) Last week: 10

Baltimore had not allowed more than 6.0 yards per play in any game this season until doing so in each of its last two games. They close with Cleveland, Indianapolis and Cincinnati, so they should reverse that trend quickly.

13. TENNESSEE (8-5) Last week: 13

Even with the 49ers up next, a once-secure playoff bid doesn't seem so certain anymore.

14. GREEN BAY (7-6) Last week: 14

If they have Aaron Rodgers back in Carolina on Sunday, they have a chance at the postseason. If they don't, they're probably done, as they need to win all three games and probably won't be able to do so without Rodgers considering that they close with Carolina, Minnesota and Detroit.

15. DETROIT (7-6) Last week: 15

One win over a losing team down, two to go to give them a fighting shot in a Week 17 showdown with the Packers.

16. KANSAS CITY (7-6) Last week: 19

Kansas City's offense heads into its showdown with the Chargers fresh off its first back-to-back 400-yard games since Weeks 4 and 5.


  1. BUFFALO (7-6) Last week: 20 **

The record says the Bills have a chance at the postseason -- and, in fact, would be in if it started today. The offense that has accounted for just seven touchdowns in their last five games says those chances are slim.

18. DALLAS (7-6) Last week: 22

The return of Tyron Smith -- and a pair of shaky opponents -- has opened up Dallas' attack in its last two games.

19. OAKLAND (6-7) Last week: 16

Their Sunday night showdown with resurgent Dallas is basically an elimination game.

20. MIAMI (6-7) Last week: 24

The Dolphins have more interceptions in their last two games (five) than they did in their first 11 regular-season games (four).

21. WASHINGTON (5-8) Last week: 17

The Redskins have more players on injured reserve (18) than wins in the last 24 months (17).

22. ARIZONA (6-7) Last week: 25

Blaine Gabbert didn't throw an interception for the first time in his four starts this season in the Cardinals' win over the Titans last Sunday.

23. CINCINNATI (5-8) Last week: 21

Burn the film.


  1. TAMPA BAY (4-9) Last week: 23 **

The Buccaneers have never enjoyed a decade in which they made the playoffs more often than they missed them. And even in the one decade that the Bucs made the playoffs as often as they sat out, they still finished those 10 years with a losing record (79-81, 2000-09). This is about more than just one year. Or an era.

25. DENVER (4-9) Last week: 27

In addition to leading the league in total defense, the Broncos have forced the highest percentage of drives that end without a first down and rank second in net yards and first downs allowed per series.

26. N.Y. JETS (5-8) Last week: 18

Against a Broncos defense that was in peak form, the Jets' offense was pulverized.

27. SAN FRANCISCO (3-10) Last week: 28

Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers need to do better at finishing their drives, but they are moving the football consistently, averaging a steady 39.3 net yards per possession the last two weeks.


  1. CHICAGO (4-9) Last week: 30 **

A complementary running attack -- Chicago averaged 6.1 yards per carry -- helped Mitchell Trubisky, who completed 25 of his 32 passes and didn't throw an interception in his most efficient performance this season.

29. HOUSTON (4-9) Last week: 26

The future looks bright. The present is grim.

30. INDIANAPOLIS (3-10) Last week: 29

Five of the Colts' six home games this year have been decided by four or fewer points, so expect a close game Thursday night.

31. N.Y. GIANTS (2-11) Last week: 30

The Giants' offense has accounted for more than 20 points just once since its receiving corps was pummeled by injuries in Week 5.


  1. CLEVELAND (0-13) Last week: 32**

Here's why you don't tank for a better draft pick: Success is as much about culture as anything else. That was on display in Cleveland last Sunday.

The Packers, even without Rodgers, have a winning culture, rooted in a quarter-century of success that began when Hall of Fame executive Ron Wolf began assembling the ingredients of his mid-1990s championship stew. You sense it on their sideline, in their huddle, in the mood of their fans. The thousands of Packer backers who invaded Cleveland last Sunday believed their team was going to come back.

On the other side, you have a franchise with a losing culture. The Browns desperately want to change this, but right now, they are mired in it. As I rewatched this game, I noted the body language and reactions. Once the Packers began their comeback, I didn't get the sense that the Browns or their fans believed they could pull this game out. The "Here we go again" mental trap took control. And now the Browns are staring at an 0-16 finish, which would be the cherry atop a bitter sundae that is a decade of depressing football: 10 consecutive losing seasons.

Even in bad years, wins matter. Culture matters. Once it's built, it can be as strong as titanium. But it can also be easily lost. So be careful and mindful before you start thinking it's better for a struggling team to lose. That notion could put you on a slippery slope to the shore of Lake Erie.

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