[Editor’s note: With two Week 15 games left on Tuesday night, we decided to post the Week 16 rankings now, with an update to come based on the outcomes of Washgton-Eagles and Seahawks-Rams. Please be appropriately titillated by the potential changes that will be made by Wednesday morning.]
1. Packers (11-3, last week No. 1): The cheese is rising to the top.
2. Chiefs (10-4, No. 5): Three straight Super Bowl appearances suddenly isn’t out of the question.
3. Rams (9-4, No. 4): The NFC West is back in play, and the No. 1 seed is, too.
4. Cowboys (10-4, No. 7): Ugly wins are still wins, especially when other high-end NFC contenders are losing.
5. Patriots (9-5, No. 2): The lack of energy in the first half was almost as uncharacteristic as Bill Belichick apologizing for treating reporters the same way he has treated them for 22 years.
6. Buccaneers (10-4, No. 3): A 17-game season is a war of attrition, and the Bucs lost a huge battle on Sunday night.
7. Colts (8-6, No. 10): They’ll go as far as Jonathan Taylor takes them.
8. Cardinals (10-4, No. 6): From one seed to possible wild card, in the course of six days.
9. Titans (9-5, No. 8): Thursday night’s game becomes critical to their desire to finally close the deal in the AFC South.
10. 49ers (8-6, No. 12): They’re the Colts of the NFC, the team no one will want to play in the postseason.
11. Bills (8-6, No. 13): It all comes down to Sunday at New England.
12. Bengals (8-6, No. 14): Up and down and up and down and up again.
13. Ravens (8-6, No. 9): Going for two has fueled the current three-game losing streak.
14. Chargers (8-6, No. 11): The future is bright. The present is murky.
15. Vikings (7-7, No. 16): At least it didn’t come down to the last play, again.
16. Dolphins (7-7, No. 17): The winning streak could get to seven. The last two games will determine whether they make it to the playoffs.
17. Browns (7-7, No. 15): It’s now or never for the Browns. With a trip to Lambeau Field on deck, the clock may be about to strike never.
18. Steelers (7-6-1, No. 19): That tie is going to either just get them in or just keep them out.
19. Saints (7-7, No. 22): If only they could play the Bucs every week.
20. Broncos (7-7, No. 18): Will barely missing the playoffs save Vic Fangio?
21. Eagles (6-7, No. 20): Tuesday night’s game will go a long way toward determining whether they make an unlikely appearance in the playoffs.
22. Washington (6-7, No. 23): Can Taylor Heinecke get cleared to play on Tuesday morning? If not, the road to a wild-card may end in Philly.
23. Falcons (6-8, No. 21): They’re laying a good foundation for 2022. The question is whether their cap situation will allow them to build on it.
24. Raiders (7-7, No. 24): They still don’t look like a playoff team.
25. Seahawks (5-8, No. 25): An unlikely December turnaround comes down to Tuesday night at L.A.
26. Panthers (5-9, No. 26): The clock is ticking on Matt Rhule.
27. Giants (4-10, No. 27): There’s still time to bring back Eli.
28. Bears (4-10, No. 28): Like every other opponent, the Vikings let them hang around. Unlike every other opponent, the Bears couldn’t make Minnesota pay for it.
29. Lions (2-11-1, No. 30): Sunday’s win is that one great golf shot that gets a duffer to come back for another round.
30. Texans (3-11, No. 31): They’re the team that couldn’t tank straight.
31. Jets (3-11, No. 29): The Giants gave their season-ticket holders a free medium soda. The Jets are giving their season-ticket holders another mental wedgie.
32. Jaguars (2-12, No. 32): The first pick is in the bag. Will they screw it up?