NFL power rankings entering Week 15 of the 2021 season (previous rank in parentheses):
1. Packers (1): Signed off Arizona’s practice squad two months ago, CB Rasul Douglas has to be the best in-season pickup of the year. All he’s done is foil the Cardinals with a game-sealing interception and has now become the first Green Bay player with pick-sixes in successive weeks during the Super Bowl era (since 1966).
2. Buccaneers (2): By scoring one more TD, Tom Brady, 44, will break Hall of Famer Jerry Rice’s record for most (10) by a player in his forties. With four more TD passes, Brady will post 40 in successive seasons for the first time in his career. With three more wins, TB12 will lead Tampa Bay to its first 13-win regular season, something he helped New England do seven times.
3. Patriots (4): The last time they lost to Indianapolis was 2009, when Bill Belichick’s failed gamble on fourth-and-2 led to Peyton Manning’s game-winning TD. Sunday, New England will try to run its streak over the Horseshoes to nine in its first encounter with the Jonathan Taylor-Carson Wentz tandem.
4. Chiefs (5): Extraordinary defensive play has been the impetus for Kansas City’s six-game burst. But the offense may be coming around, too, K.C. managing a season-high 48 points Sunday, gaining its most yards on the ground (132) in 10 weeks while posting just the third turnover-free effort of the season.
5. Rams (8): They’ve taken a lot of flak lately for a perceived lack of toughness, but soft teams don’t overcome the loss of four starters to COVID-19 protocols, including All-Pro CB Jalen Ramsey. It appears this crew is coming together just in time.
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6. Cardinals (3): Maybe they shouldn’t want home-field advantage in the NFC given they play so much better on the road, where they’re 7-0.
7. Cowboys (6): They’d currently rank as the AFC’s No. 1 seed and are still very much in the picture for home-field advantage in the NFC. Maybe Mike McCarthy should guarantee Dallas will wrap that up, too.
8. Titans (7): Two more wins guarantee an AFC South title repeat. A top seed would obviously be nice as well given Tennessee is 4-0 following a bye under coach Mike Vrabel.
9. Colts (9): Out of the playoffs prior to their bye week, they’re now the AFC’s No. 6 seed. This in-season “Hard Knocks” gig really seems to be working well for Indianapolis.
10. Chargers (11): Is there a more fun team to watch? The average score of one of their games is Bolts 27, opponent 26. Replicate that Thursday night at home against Kansas City, and Los Angeles moves into first place in the AFC West.
11. Bills (10): Bucs LB Devin White definitely added insult to (foot) injury for Buffalo QB Josh Allen, who’s simply having to shoulder too heavy a load in this offense.
12. 49ers (14): George Kittle deserves the headlines, the first tight end ever with consecutive games of at least 150 receiving yards and a TD. But credit WR Brandon Aiyuk, who’s turned his season around after being sparingly used in the first half of it.
13. Bengals (12): WR Ja’Marr Chase’s early season pace has slowed, but he’s still only the fifth rookie since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger with at least 1,000 receiving yards and 10 touchdown grabs.
14. Ravens (13): Did a team with 17 players on injured reserve just suffer the blow it can’t overcome after QB Lamar Jackson came up with a bum ankle? First-place Baltimore, which has the worst divisional record (1-3) in the AFC North, can hardly afford to be without Jackson in Sunday’s interconference tilt with Green Bay.
15. Eagles (17): Whether or not they mount a playoff charge this year – a distinct possibility as they close with four NFC East adversaries – some really nice, unheralded cornerstones here, including TE Dallas Goedert, LT Jordan Mailata and DE Josh Sweat.
16. Browns (19): Their offense is obviously rooted in its ground game, but crazy to think in this day and age that Cleveland has netted more than 225 pass yards just twice this season.
17. Broncos (20): Only Kansas City has more non-conference wins than Denver’s four. Unfortunately for them, it’s only AFC competition the rest of the way, and the Broncos are 3-5 within the conference.
18. Vikings (21): WR Justin Jefferson’s 2,688 receiving yards since the start of 2020 … are second to no one. The Jefferson-Chase debate might just rage for a few years.
19. Washington (15): The defensive line that’s supposed to be this team’s foundation is suddenly almost unrecognizable with Jonathan Allen and Montez Sweat on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and Chase Young on injured reserve.
20. Raiders (16): Good news, fellas – this weekend’s opponent, Cleveland, has no logo! What could possibly go wrong?
21. Steelers (18): Former Pittsburgh S Ryan Clark framed it well, saying: “Chase Claypool is as mentally and emotionally underdeveloped as he is physically overdeveloped. … And that self-centeredness is part of what’s bringing the Steelers team and organization down.” Last Thursday was Exhibit A.
22. Saints (23): No running back in league history has more catches through five seasons than Alvin Kamara’s 362.
23. Dolphins (22): Bye week paused their five-game winning streak, and Miami returns with its running back room on reserve/COVID-19 list. Still, more roadblocks likely required for Fins to stumble against the Jets.
24. Seahawks (24): After all the adversity he’s faced, nice to see former first-round RB Rashaad Penny explode Sunday. His 137 rushing yards and pair of TDs on the ground were both career bests.
25. Falcons (26): Would you believe the football analytics site Pro Football Focus currently rates Cordarrelle Patterson as the NFL’s No. 1 running back?
26. Giants (27): They score touchdowns on 47.1% of their red-zone trips in 2021. No other team is less efficient.
27. Panthers (25): Absent deposed OC Joe Brady, they’re now rotating QBs Cam Newton and P.J. Walker. Maybe once Sam Darnold is ready to return, and Matt Barkley is up to speed, everyone can play a quarter. Varsity letters for the whole group!
28. Bears (28): Though coach Matt Nagy certainly appears like a dead man walking, this will be the first season he finishes with a losing record.
29. Jets (29): No team has run the ball fewer times, but maybe that changes with leading rusher Michael Carter on the way back from IR.
30. Lions (30): With losses to the Ravens and Eagles in the bag, Detroit could go winless against all five NFL bird mascots with the Cardinals, Falcons and Seahawks coming down the pike.
31. Texans (31): Apparently, they’re considering rookie QB Davis Mills, who’s 0-7 this year, as their starter for 2022. Seems like a good plan.
32. Jaguars (32): Rookie QB Trevor Lawrence failed to throw a TD pass in a game twice at Clemson. He’s tripled that figure this year in Jacksonville, which just suffered its first shutout in 12 years. But, please, don’t blame Urban Meyer.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.
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