The Pickswise NFL Power Rankings: Bills on the up after beating Patriots
The Chiefs, Packers and Buccaneers have occupied the top 3 spots in the Pickswise NFL Power Rankings in one order or another for the last 6 weeks, but the fourth position has been different in each of the last 3 weeks, changing hands from the Patriots to the Colts and then this week to the Buffalo Bills, who jump up from 7th after their crucial 33-21 road win over the Pats.
This season, we’ve handed over control of our NFL power rankings to the Pickswise supercomputer. Our data science team has created a predictive machine learning model that makes use of a proprietary dynamic rating system. In addition to analyzing in-house derived metrics, the model also adapts to situational factors such as rest weeks, home-field advantage, and time-zone differentials.
Let’s take a look at how the computer ranks all 32 teams heading into Week 17.
1 Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)
It was a case of no Kelce, no problem for the Chiefs, who were able to activate Tyreek Hill in time for their game against a compliant Steelers squad and rolled to an easy 36-10 win. They have won the AFC West with 2 games to spare, but still have work to do to secure the No. 1 seeding for the playoffs.
2 Green Bay Packers (12-3)
The Packers let their spread backers down again on Christmas Day, beating the shorthanded Browns by only 2 points despite picking off 4 Baker Mayfield passes and getting a couple of crucial late officiating decisions to seal the game. It doesn’t mention any of that in the standings, though, and the Packers have clinched the AFC North. Despite getting those picks, their defense will need to step up their game before the playoffs.
3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4)
The Bucs scored 32 more points than they had the week before when they beat Carolina 32-6, with Antonio Brown leading the way in the absence of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. With the Jets and Panthers (again) to finish their schedule, the Bucs should be able to keep winning while their roster hopefully gets more healthy for the playoffs.
4 Buffalo Bills (9-6)
The Bills scored perhaps the most important win on the Week 15 schedule, getting their revenge on the Patriots to regain the advantage in the AFC East. With home games against the Falcons and Jets to finish the season, they have a great shot at retaining the divisional title.
5 Los Angeles Rams (11-4)
The Rams are looking a real threat again, and despite QB Matthew Stafford throwing 3 interceptions against the Vikings, the running game looked strong with Sony Michel leading the way. Cam Akers could be back this week to further boost that department. At Ravens and at home to the 49ers is not the easiest finish they could have had, but they have got in front of the fading Cardinals at last.
6 Indianapolis Colts (9-6)
The Colts have dropped a couple of places despite winning a tricky road game at Arizona, but it’s very close between the teams from 4th to 6th. They didn’t get the help they wanted from the 49ers, who failed to beat the Titans, but the Colts have won 6 of their last 7 and should be feeling good if their Covid issues are under control now.
7 Dallas Cowboys (11-4)
Well, who would have guessed? The NFC East title has changed hands again, as it has every year since 2004. The Cowboys are deserved winners and got over the line in style with a 56-14 rout of Washington.
Read our verdict on the Cowboys’ big win on Sunday Night Football
8 New England Patriots (9-6)
Back-to-back losses to the Colts and Bills have seen the Patriots drop to 6th in the AFC rankings. Playing the Jaguars this week should ensure that doesn’t get any worse, at least.
9 Tennessee Titans (10-5)
The Titans got an important win over the 49ers on Thursday Night Football before Christmas, but it was only their 2nd victory in the last 5 games and now it’s up to them to try to stop Miami’s runaway train in its tracks.
Be sure to read our full game preview for Miami Dolphins vs Tennessee Titans
10 San Francisco 49ers (8-7)
That was a costly loss for the 49ers against the Titans, but an 8-7 record goes a lot further in the NFC than it would in the AFC. QB Jimmy Garoppolo picked up an injury in that game, so it could be a big day for Trey Lance if he gets his first start since October when they face the Texans.
11 Miami Dolphins (8-7)
It’s now 7 losses followed by 7 wins for the Dolphins after they terrorized poor Ian Book of the Saints on Monday night. That’s not unusual though, as apart from Lemar Jackson in their impressive win over the Ravens, the Dolphins have been beating up on an awful bunch of backup QBs in their golden run. That fun ends now, though, with the Titans and Patriots blocking their path to the playoffs.
Read Andrew Ortenberg’s verdict on what we saw on Monday Night Football
12 Baltimore Ravens (8-7)
The Ravens are on the ropes after 4 straight losses, and we don’t yet know if Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley or Josh Johnson will be starting against the Rams. A 1-4 divisional record is not going to help them if tiebreakers come into play in the tight squeeze that is the AFC North.
13 Cincinnati Bengals (9-6)
The computer’s complaints department clearly took note of my suggestion that 20th was a little low for the Bengals last week, and has lifted them 7 places after they thrashed the Ravens 41-21 with Joe Burrow posting 525 passing yards. If they can beat the Chiefs this week it would be massive, taking the pressure off a potentially huge last-day showdown with the Browns.
14 Arizona Cardinals (10-5)
The Cardinals are tumbling down the NFC rankings, and ours, after 3 straight losses, but they have the security of knowing that they’re in the playoffs even if that run reaches 5.
15 Philadelphia Eagles (8-7)
It’s 5 wins in the last 6 for the Eagles, who currently own the final playoff spot in the NFC. RB Miles Sanders (hand) will miss the game against Washington this week, but they need to add that win before taking on the Cowboys in Week 18.
16 New Orleans Saints (7-8)
A 20-3 scoreline undersells the extent to which the Saints were dominated on MNF with Ian Book making his first, and possibly last, NFL start. The Saints are 6.5-point favorites against the Panthers, and will hopefully have Taysom Hill or Trevor Siemian back in time for that game.
Read Jared Smith’s Early Birds column on how bettors should approach Covid-affected games
17 Minnesota Vikings (7-8)
The Vikings need to conjure up whatever it was they used to beat the Packers the first time they met because their loss to the Rams has left them outside the playoff spots looking in. Adam Thielen returned from injury only to get hurt again and there’s no margin for further errors.
18 Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)
Oh boy! The Chargers threw up a shocker for the ages with their 41-29 loss to the Texans as double-digit favorites. Justin Jackson stepped up at RB in Austin Ekeler’s absence, but the underdogs were in even worse shape with their roster, so there can be no excuses. A horrible loss deserves the 5-place drop it has earned them.
19 Cleveland Browns (7-8)
The shorthanded Browns have lost each of their last 2 games by 2 points, but at this time of the season it’s really no consolation that they outgained the Packers by 97 yards, and had 9 more first downs than their hosts. It’s not over yet though: if the Rams beat the Ravens and the Chiefs beat the Bengals this week, the Browns can still win the AFC North if they beat the Steelers on Monday and the Bengals next week. Cleveland is the +500 second-favorite for the division with FanDuel Sportsbook for that reason.
20 Seattle Seahawks (5-10)
Seattle’s game against Chicago in the snow looked pretty on TV, but it really doesn’t look great as the latest entry on a 5-10 record. Would they really let Russell Wilson go? You can see why he might want to leave.
21 Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7-1)
Monday Night Football should be a real grudge match with the Steelers and Browns both fighting to keep their seasons alive, but the Steelers looked like they’d had enough for the season at Kansas City. Maybe Big Ben has one more big win over the Browns at Heinz Field in him for old times’ sake?
22 Las Vegas Raiders (8-7)
This might look low for a team with a winning record that has won its last 2, but the Raiders have just been scraping by and they are now dealing with Covid issues as they prepare to visit the Colts.
23 Denver Broncos (7-8)
The Broncos are sliding out of contention and their chase for a new quarterback (or maybe quite an old one?) could be one of the features of the offseason.
24 Washington Football Team (6-9)
It’s almost all over for the Football Team, who raised the white flag against Dallas and look beyond redemption after 3 straight losses.
25 Atlanta Falcons (7-8)
It’s L-W-L-W-L-W for the Falcons in their last 6, but they were outgained by the Lions, who also dominated the time of possession in last week’s narrow Atlanta victory. It doesn’t scream late playoff push.
Check out Ricky Dimon’s view of what we saw in NFL Week 15
26 Chicago Bears (5-10)
The Bears move up a couple of spots after sliding past the Seahawks but who knows if it’s a positive or a negative that coach Matt Nagy is “operating under the assumption that he will coach the team’s final 2 games of the regular season”?
27 New York Giants (4-11)
It’s 4 losses in a row now for the Giants, who are just playing out the schedule. Head coach Joe Judge is reportedly safe but big changes will be needed and they have to be in the market for a new quarterback.
28 Carolina Panthers (5-10)
The Panthers are another team who looked like they didn’t want to be there in their thrashing by the Buccaneers, which was their 5th straight loss. Their hopes of a defiant finish have been hit by a Covid outbreak.
29 Houston Texans (4-11)
Four wins is more than many expected from the Texans and Sunday’s win over the Chargers was their 2nd against a proper team, as well as their sweep of the Jaguars. Considering they won only 4 games with Deshaun Watson and JJ Watt last year, it’s hard to be too tough on them for reaching the same mark without them.
30 Detroit Lions (2-12-1)
It was back to suffering tough losses for the Lions this week but it was another valiant effort from them, especially with Tim Boyle at QB and D’Andre Swift still out.
31 New York Jets (4-11)
The Jets and Jaguars did indeed put on the type of error-strewn display that led viewers to question whether either of them was actually trying to win. The Jets did win, but they might well find things tougher in their last 2 games against the Buccaneers and Bills.
32 Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13)
Having lost back-to-back games to the Texans and Jets, the Jags will probably come out and beat the Patriots and Colts to end the season, won’t they? No… that’s not going to happen.
Be sure to check out our full game preview for Jacksonville Jaguars vs New England Patriots
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