A surprising riser, expected faller, and a quiet model of consistency
Written by: Greg Lehr | @greglehr3
Power Rankings by: The Blitz Team | @Blitzalytics
With only three weeks left in the regular season, we saw this past weekend how each game has major implications on several different fronts including playoff seedings (49ers over Saints), the NFL Draft order (Jets over Dolphins), or both (Eagles over Giants). In this week's NFL Power Rankings, we see a shake-up near the top, with one ten-win team taking the place of another inside the top five. Check out this week's biggest riser, faller, and one of the most consistent teams going unnoticed for much of the season. (Full Week 15 Blitzalytics' Power Rankings below).
Week 15 Riser:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+4)
Current Ranking: 15
Last Week: 19
The Bucs, who have won three straight games (and four of their last five), have quietly moved into second place in the NFC South after their exciting 38-35 comeback win against the visiting Colts. Jameis Winston had himself an all-time Jameis Winston game. The Bucs' roller-coaster quarterback threw for a career high 456 yards, four touchdowns, but also three interceptions (two by Darius Leonard, one of which was a pick-six). What made these numbers more impressive was the fact that Winston was without top wideout Mike Evans for most of the game, as the receiver suffered a significant hamstring injury during his 61-yard touchdown catch at the end of the first quarter.
Justin Watson (5 rec, 59 yds, TD) and OJ Howard (4 rec, 73 yds) made some notable plays in Evans' absence, but it was Breshad Perriman who scored the go-ahead touchdown with just under four minutes remaining in the game. Tampa Bay scored 17 unanswered points to complete their comeback, bringing their overall record to 6-7 in Bruce Arians' first year. The Bucs continue to be a fun, yet highly unpredictable, team to watch week in and week out.
Green Bay Packers (-)
Current Ranking: 6
Last Week: 6
It's a little bit strange how under-the-radar the Packers have been lately, even with a 10-3 record that currently has them sitting in the #2 slot in the NFC. Maybe it's because their last two wins have come by way of the lowly Redskins and Giants. Or maybe people cannot get their performance against the 49ers out of their minds from a couple weeks ago, a game in which the Packers were blown out on the road coming off their bye week.
Whatever may be the reason, at this point in the season the old Bill Parcells line of "you are what your record says you are" rings true more times than not. Heading into Week 15, the NFC already has four teams with double-digit wins, and Green Bay is one of them. Matt LaFleur, in his first year with the team, has helped put the Packers in position to host a playoff game if they can finish out strong against formidable division rivals over the next two weeks (vs Bears, then at Vikings the following week). The Packers have remained consistently on the border of the top five all year. Can they break the top five again before the end of the season?
New England Patriots (-2)
Current Ranking: 7
Last Week: 5
Bill Belichick's team suffered their second consecutive loss, falling to 10-3 on the year after losing to the Kansas City Chiefs at home, 23-16. Despite a Brady-Edelman connection for an opening drive touchdown, it was more of the same for the Patriots' offense on Sunday, as they struggled mightily to maintain any sort of rhythm throughout much of the game. After the Chiefs scored two touchdowns in the second quarter, highlighted by a 48 yard TD reception by Mecole Hardman, Pats fans were displeased enough to boo the home team off the field heading into halftime, down 20-7. Late in the fourth quarter, a Nick Folk field goal gave the offense one last shot to even up the score at the end, but Bashaud Breeland's perfectly timed arm extension knocked Brady's pass away from Edelman in the end zone in the final minute.
Without a doubt, the most frustrating part of this loss for New England were the two huge calls against them in the second half. The refs blew a play dead that would have surely been a Stephon Gilmore scoop-and-score from Travis Kelce's fumble that was originally blown dead (later overturned). The other occurred just moments later, when N'Keal Harry took a short pass and made his way down the left sideline and dove past the pylon for an apparent touchdown, only to be ruled out of bounds three yards short. Belichick, who had no challenges left, couldn't do anything about it and the Pats had to settle for a field goal shortly after that. New England is now just a game ahead of the Chiefs (who clinched the AFC West with this win) for the #2 seed behind Baltimore.
Full NFL Power Rankings: Week 15
Rankings by: The Blitz Team
San Francisco 49ers
New Orleans Saints
Kansas City Chiefs
Green Bay Packers
New England Patriots
Los Angeles Rams
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Los Angeles Chargers
New York Jets
New York Giants