NFL Power Rankings: Final Regular-Season Look for Week 17

BY Fansided and Peter Panacy/FanSided via Niner Noise • December 27, 2016

The 2016 season is coming to a close, and we’re getting a better idea on what the postseason picture is going to look like. Niner Noise has your Week 17 NFL power rankings heading into the final phase before the playoffs.

Dec 24, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount (29) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the second half against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Even in Week 16, things can get a little interesting in the final version of Niner Noise’s regular-season power rankings.

    Finally, there are no more winless teams. But other teams saw their postseason hopes come to a close.

    And injuries. Sadly there were a few.

    Being a 49ers site, we can talk a little more about how San Francisco pulled off its second win of the year over the Los Angeles Rams. While the win certainly generated a feel-good moment, how much did it hurt the Niners in preparation for the 2017 NFL Draft?

    Most of the remainder of the league isn’t too concerned about draft order yet. And a good chunk are still vying for a postseason berth.

    This surely puts these final Week 17 NFL power rankings into a greater perspective. Let’s take a look.

    Dec 24, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns defensive end Jamie Meder (98) and nose tackle Danny Shelton (55) celebrate after the Cleveland Browns beat the San Diego Chargers at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns won 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

    Cleveland Browns

    1-14

    Last week: 32

    And their Week 16 victory over the San Diego Chargers was a win-win situation too. Cleveland didn’t have to give up it’s No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft either. The Niners won too. Still, the Browns remain the worse team in the NFL, and our NFL power rankings reflect it.

    Dec 24, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) smiles after a 22-21come-from-behind win over the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

    San Francisco 49ers

    2-13

    Last week: 31

    The 49ers are pretty good against the Rams. Against the rest of the NFL though? Not so much. Both of San Francisco’s victories on the year have come against Los Angeles. And the Week 16 last-second victory might well be the last for both head coach Chip Kelly and quarterback Colin Kaepernick in a Niners uniform. Oh, and the win likely cost the 49ers a shot at the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Next: No. 30: New York Jets

    Dec 24, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles watches from the sideline against the New England Patriots in the second half at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Jets 41-3. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

    New York Jets

    4-11

    Last week: 29

    The New York Jets have given up on the 2016 season, and their 41-3 defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots revealed it. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall is embarrassed by the performance and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson was even willing to call him out on it. Will head coach Todd Bowles return next year? If so, what is the direction of this franchise? No one knows right now.Next: No. 29: Chicago Bears

    Dec 24, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Matt Barkley (12) leaves the field after the game against the Washington Redskins at Soldier Field. Redskins won 41-21. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

    Chicago Bears

    3-12

    Last week: 28

    So maybe Matt Barkley isn’t the answer at quarterback. Five interceptions on the day versus the Washington Redskins? Yikes! At least running back Jordan Howard looked good, as did wide receiver Cameron Meredith. Chicago has some pieces in place. Just nowhere near enough of them.Next: No. 28: Los Angeles Rams

    December 24, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) is brought down by San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ronald Blair (98) during the second half at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Los Angeles Rams

    4-11

    Last week: 27

    The Rams now have the distinction of being the only team the 49ers are capable of beating this season. That’s not a good look for the franchise’s first year back in Los Angeles. The Rams let the 49ers back into the game late in the fourth quarter, which is something the Niners haven’t been able to do against anybody all year long. Rookie quarterback Jared Goff had a rough day, and running back Todd Gurley hasn’t been the runner he was a year ago. At least the Rams can turn to another high draft pick… oh, wait. No.Next: No. 27: Jacksonville Jaguars

    Dec 24, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) celebrates after scoring a touchdown with Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson (15) in the second half against the Tennessee Titans at EverBank Field. The Jacksonville Jaguars won 38-17. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

    Jacksonville Jaguars

    3-12

    Last week: 30

    So former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley must have been the problem, right? Well, probably not. But when Jacksonville is able to deliver a touchdown pass to quarterback Blake Bortles — yes, you read that right — it’s just an indication how this team is willing to go with anything. It’s an impressive win over the Tennessee Titans in Week 16, in what has otherwise been a horrid season.Next: No. 26: San Diego Chargers

    Dec 24, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) throws a touchdown pass to tight end Antonio Gates (not pictured) during the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

    San Diego Chargers

    Last week: 25

    What’s worse — a Rams team losing to the 49ers or a Chargers team losing to the Browns? Well, both are bad. And San Diego is pretty bad too.Next: No. 25: Cincinnati Bengals

    Dec 24, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Cincinnati Bengals kicker Randy Bullock (4) reacts after missing a field goal during the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Cincinnati Bengals

    5-9-1

    Last week: 24

    The Cincinnati Bengals’ season couldn’t be over soon enough, and losing to an offensively challenged Houston Texans team 12-10 is just another perfect example of everything wrong for head coach Marvin Lewis’ unit right now. At least wide receiver Brandon LaFell made an impact. But that was about it.Next: No. 24: Carolina Panthers

    Dec 24, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) talks with head coach Ron Rivera in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium. The Falcons defeated the Panthers 33-16. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    Carolina Panthers

    6-9

    Last week: 19

    Just when you thought the Carolina Panthers were getting things back on track — albeit too late — in the season, they drop an ugly divisional loss to the Atlanta Falcons to set them far back in NFL power rankings. Quarterback Cam Newton had one of his worst games of the year, and the Panthers defense had no answers for Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and Co.Next: No. 23: Philadelphia Eagles

    Dec 22, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) slides in front of New York Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (41) during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. The Philadelphia Eagles won 24-19. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    Philadelphia Eagles

    6-9

    Last week: 26

    The New York Giants were one of the hottest teams in the NFL entering Week 16, and the Philadelphia Eagles ensured the Giants wouldn’t carry that momentum over into Week 17. Philadelphia’s 24-19 victory over New York shows the Eagles aren’t giving up, despite how bad things have gotten in the second half of the year. At least that’s something to build on for rookie quarterback Carson Wentz and Co.Next: No. 22: Minnesota Vikings

    Dec 24, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford (8) takes the snap against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Wm. Glasheen/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin via USA TODAY Sports

    Minnesota Vikings

    7-8

    Last week: 21

    The Minnesota Vikings are a shell of their former early season selves, and their Week 16 38-25 loss to the Green Bay Packers is yet another example of the Vikings downfall this year. Quarterback Sam Bradford played well enough to earn a win. But Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was simply too much for Minnesota’s defense to handle.Next: No. 21: Indianapolis Colts

    Dec 24, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Frank Gore (23) reacts in the fourth quarter against the Oakland Raiders during a NFL football game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Colts 33-25. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Indianapolis Colts

    7-8

    Last week: 20

    Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton were about the only things going for Indianapolis during their 33-25 loss to the Oakland Raiders in Week 16. The Colts have now been eliminated from playoff contention, which likely puts head coach Chuck Pagano’s job in doubt heading into the offseason.Next: No. 20: Arizona Cardinals

    Dec 24, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) celebrates after throwing an 80-yard touchdown pass against the Seattle Seahawks during the second quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

    Arizona Cardinals

    6-8-1

    Last week: 23

    The Arizona Cardinals looked like their vintage 2015 selves after knocking off the Seattle Seahawks 34-31 in Week 16. Although Arizona’s defense wished it had clamped down on Seattle a bit more in the fourth quarter, which would have avoided a crucial game-winning field goal at the end of regulation. But the victory proved it’s too early to give up on veteran quarterback Carson Palmer. These kinds of wins in Seattle certainly aren’t easy, and we have to include that consideration in our NFL power rankings.Next: No. 19: Buffalo Bills

    Dec 24, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan leaves the field after losing in overtime to the Miami Dolphins at New Era Field. The Dolphins beat the Bills 34-31 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

    Buffalo Bills

    7-8

    Last week: 18

    The Buffalo Bills couldn’t stop Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi and backup quarterback Matt Moore. While both Bills QB Tyrod Taylor and running back LeSean McCoy looked good in the loss, questions have to emerge about head coach Rex Ryan’s future with the franchise. He always seems to helm the third-best team in the AFC East each year.Next: No. 18: New Orleans Saints

    Dec 24, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) celebrates after a two point conversion during the second half of a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Buccaneers 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

    New Orleans Saints

    7-8

    Last week: 22

    Credit the New Orleans Saints for coming to play against the red-hot Tampa Bay Buccaneers last weekend. The Saints’ 31-24 win is, perhaps, one of the last feel-good moments New Orleans will have on this season, hindering the Bucs’ playoff hopes with one game remaining on the year. Quarterback Drew Brees was masterful again, and his efforts were a big reason why the Saints pulled off this hard-fought victory.Next: No. 17: Tennessee Titans

    Dec 24, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) is carted off of the field following a leg injury during the third quarter of an NFL Football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

    Tennessee Titans

    8-7

    Last week: 16

    Tennessee couldn’t have suffered a worse loss than what the Titans had to endure in their Week 16 loss to the Jaguars. Aside from losing to an inferior team, second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota (leg) is now out for the year, and his status for the start of next season is in doubt. 2016 had been a productive year for Tennessee, and it still could be considered such. But losses like that to Mariota cast a serious shadow over where the team will be in Week 1 of next season. And that’s why they’ll fall in Week 17 NFL power rankings.Next: No. 16: Denver Broncos

    Dec 25, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) breaks up a pass intended for Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters (22) during the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 33-10. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

    Denver Broncos

    8-7

    Last week: 14

    The Denver Broncos won’t be returning to the playoffs to defend their Super Bowl title, after losing 33-10 to the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s too bad, since the Broncos defense is still pretty good. But Denver lacks any sort of running game, the quarterback play from Trevor Siemian isn’t adequate and the entire Broncos offense is hurting as a result. General manager John Elway needs to make some upgrades here and try to get rookie QB Paxton Lynch into the equation as soon as possible.Next: No. 15: Houston Texans

    Dec 24, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans inside linebacker Brian Cushing (56) tackles Cincinnati Bengals running back Rex Burkhead (33) during the fourth quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Houston Texans

    9-6

    Last week: 17

    Exactly how again are the Houston Texans in the playoffs? Oh yeah. They play in a weak AFC South division and have a pretty good defense. And that’s it. Winning over the hapless Bengals 12-10 doesn’t get any difficulty points for Houston. But at least Texans quarterback Tom Savage and Co. will be headed to the dance.Next: No. 14: Washington Redskins

    Dec 24, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) carries the ball to score a touchdown against the Chicago Bears during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

    Washington Redskins

    8-6-1

    Last week: 15

    The Redskins might have been embarrassed by the Panthers a week ago. But Washington wasn’t going to let the same thing happen to the Bears, especially with a shot at the postseason on the line. Quarterback Kirk Cousins continues to ensure he’ll get a big payday this offseason, and he was helped tremendously by wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. Now the question is whether or not Cousins and Co. can punch their ticket to the playoffs. They’re currently on the outside, looking in.Next: No. 13: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Dec 24, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) is tackled by New Orleans Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata (93) during the fourth quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Buccaneers 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    8-7

    Last week: 13

    While the Buccaneers have been hot down the stretch, back-to-back playoff losses have seriously hindered Tampa Bay’s chances to get into the postseason. Losing a close game to the Saints won’t help matters at all, and second-year quarterback Jameis Winston is going to have to play better to ensure the Bucs’ ascension continues on the right path. They’re still in sight and have an edge over the Redskins in the playoff picture, so they get the edge in NFL power rankings too.Next: No. 12: Baltimore Ravens

    Dec 25, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) throws a pass from the pocket during the fourth quarter of a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won the game 31-27. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

    Baltimore Ravens

    8-7

    Last week: 11

    The Baltimore Ravens faced a must-win game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Christmas Day and nearly looked to have it. But with less than two minutes on the clock, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger engineered a comeback drive to help get wide receiver Antonio Brown into the end-zone for a game-winning score. It was a tough loss for the Ravens in what eliminated Baltimore from playoff contention.Next: No. 11: Detroit Lions

    Dec 26, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) reacts to throwing an incomplete pass in the third quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    Detroit Lions

    9-6

    Last week: 8

    The Detroit Lions are falling apart at the wrong time, and their 42-21 defeat at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys came at precisely the wrong time. Detroit is still holding onto a playoff berth, but a key contest versus the Green Bay Packers in Week 17 will determine the champion of the NFC North and help decide whether the Lions’ late-season woes will cause them to miss the postseason altogether.Next: No. 10: Oakland Raiders

    Dec 24, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) is helped off the field during the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at the Oakland Coliseum. The Oakland Raiders defeated the Indianapolis Colts 33-25. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    Oakland Raiders

    12-3

    Last week: 4

    The Oakland Raiders might have pulled off a victory over the Colts. But the Raiders lost the season, thanks to standout quarterback Derek Carr suffering a season-ending leg break that will tremendously hinder Oakland’s chances to make it deep in the playoffs. And that’s why the Raiders fall so hard in our NFL power rankings. Oakland’s defense isn’t good enough to stand on its own. And unless backup quarterback Matt McGloin works some incredible magic, it’s hard to see the Raiders making a deep run with Carr out of the picture.Next: No. 9: Seattle Seahawks

    Dec 24, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett (16) is injured as he is tackled by Arizona Cardinals cornerback Brandon Williams (26) during the second quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

    Seattle Seahawks

    9-5-1

    Last week: 3

    The Seattle Seahawks fall hard in our NFL power rankings this week because their loss to the Cardinals in Week 16, combined with the Atlanta Falcons victory pushed quarterback Russell Wilson and Co. out of the home-field advantage picture beyond the Wild Card game. And with critical injuries to safety Earl Thomas and wide receiver Tyler Lockett — that one was gross, and we should all hope for a speedy recovery — hurt a ton. At least the Seahawks will have an easy win, most likely, over the 49ers to close out the regular season.Next: No. 8: New York Giants

    Dec 22, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham (13) takes the field for action against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The Philadelphia Eagles won 24-19. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    New York Giants

    10-5

    Last week: 5

    The last thing the Giants wanted to do was lose to the Eagles in Week 16, and that’s exactly what the Giants did. New York’s 24-19 loss ensured the Dallas Cowboys would get the NFC East title and the No. 1 seed in the playoff picture. But more importantly, the Giants lose a great deal of momentum late in the season. While New York should still have an edge over the Redskins to close out the regular season, it’s clear to state the Giants want to secure home-field advantage in Round 1 of the playoff picture. That’s on the line right now.Next: No. 7: Pittsburgh Steelers

    Dec 25, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) has his fasemask grabbed while he extends the ball across the goal line to score the game winning touchdown against Baltimore Ravens strong safety Eric Weddle (32) in the fourth quarter. The Steelers won 31-27 at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

    Pittsburgh Steelers

    10-5

    Last week: 9

    The Steelers needed a win over the Ravens to secure the AFC North crown and a trip to the postseason. So Pittsburgh put its faith in the hands of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown with the game on the line late in the fourth quarter. Trailing by three points with less than two minutes remaining in regulation, Roethlisberger found Brown for a go-ahead four-yard touchdown pass, which Brown willed himself to get the ball over the plane. Pittsburgh’s defense may be garbage. But the Steelers offense is good enough to mask it up.Next: No. 6: Green Bay Packers

    Dec 24, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) signals a change at the line while calling a play during the Packers 38-25 victory over the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Rick Wood /Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY NETWORK

    Green Bay Packers

    9-6

    Last week: 10

    Remember when the Packers would have to win out to earn a trip to the postseason after what had been a disastrous start to 2016? Well, that could happen. And the Packers merely have one more win over the scuffling Lions in Week 17 to ensure another trip to the playoffs. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers continues to mesmerize, and there are few teams that have climbed so high in our NFL power rankings after such a disastrous start towards the beginning of the year.Next: No. 5: Miami Dolphins

    Dec 24, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills free safety Corey Graham (20) dives to try and tackle Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (23) during the second half at New Era Field. The Dolphins beat the Bills 34-31 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

    Miami Dolphins

    10-5

    Last week: 13

    The Miami Dolphins don’t seem to need quarterback Ryan Tannehill (knee) under center. Backup QB Matt Moore will do just fine. He was 16-of-30 for 233 yards, two touchdowns and just one interception. But the real story was running back Jay Ajayi, who torched the Bills for a whopping 206 yards on just 13 carries. Yeah, he’s pretty good. Miami is back in the postseason dance again, so it will be interesting to see how well first-year head coach Adam Gase works his magic with this upstart group.Next: No. 4: Atlanta Falcons

    Dec 24, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) changes the play during the third quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. The Falcons defeated the Panthers 33-16. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    Atlanta Falcons

    10-5

    Last week: 7

    If Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan continues to play like he has this season, Atlanta will wind up being one of those teams opponents simply don’t want to face in the playoffs. He was phenomenal against the Panthers up-and-down defense over the weekend, and the Falcons are reaping the benefits of the No. 1 offense in the NFL. Paired with the Lions’ loss, Atlanta has now earned a trip into the postseason. Even while the Falcons defense is suspect, Ryan and Co. are good enough to ensure this shortcoming won’t hurt them too much.Next: No. 3: Kansas City Chiefs

    Dec 25, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs players congratulate nose tackle Dontari Poe (92) after he threw a touchdown pass during the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 33-10. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

    Kansas City Chiefs

    11-4

    Last week: 6

    The Chiefs have had plenty of ups and downs this season. But a decisive Christmas Day win over Broncos ensured Kansas City’s AFC West rivals wouldn’t be back to the playoffs in 2016. Quarterback Alex Smith didn’t have to be great. Instead he put his faith in tight end Travis Kelce, who had 160 receiving yards on 11 catches and a touchdown on the night. And the Chiefs defense may likely be one of the main reasons Kansas City actually makes a deep playoff run this year. This unit simply handled Denver quarterback Trevor Siemian and the Broncos offense.Next: No. 2: Dallas Cowboys

    Dec 26, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) celebrates with tight end Jason Witten (82) after throwing a touchdown pass to him during the second half at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    Dallas Cowboys

    13-2

    Last week: 2

    If the Cowboys’ victory over the Buccaneers last week put to rest any questions about quarterback Dak Prescott’s effectiveness, Dallas’ decisive Week 16 win over the Lions only ensured it was reality. Prescott is for real, and the Cowboys have all the momentum they need heading into the playoffs. The only remaining issue is whether or not Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott will be able to get the Cowboys’ “playoff monkey” off their backs and, more importantly, meet the pressure associated with January football.Next: No. 1: New England Patriots

    Dec 24, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; A New England Patriots fan holds a sign from the stands against the New York Jets in the second half at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Jets 41-3. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

    New England Patriots

    13-2

    Last week: 1

    The Patriots shouldn’t get any style or difficulty points in our NFL power rankings for walloping the non-trying Jets 41-3 in Week 16. But the Pats are so good, it doesn’t matter anyway. They won’t shift out of the No. 1 spot this week. As long as quarterback Tom Brady continues to play at this level, we should expect the Patriots to remain AFC contenders all the way until, well, they aren’t. New England has nothing left to play for in Week 17, so it wouldn’t be too surprising to see the Patriots put things into cruise control. But would we expect head coach Bill Belichick to do such a thing?

    More from Niner Noise

      Be sure to tune into Niner Noise’s final regular-season NFL power rankings next week as the 2016 campaign shifts to postseason mode.



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