NFL Power Rankings Week 15: The NFC Opens Wide

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SLR’s Week 15 NFL Power Rankings: 24-17 Dec 8, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers cornerback Richard Marshall (31) stops New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (88) short of a first down late in the fourth quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

24. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9) NC

If the first half of their season wasn’t such an incredible firebomb, they’d be in the playoff hunt right now. They’ve won four of five, and appear to actually be building some positive momentum. Granted, two of those games came against the woeful Texans, but wins are wins. They have a lot of good to build on for next year. The only problem is, they’ve wrecked their draft position.

23. Tennessee Titans (5-8) ▼2

The Titans were presumed dead the moment Jake Locker went down for the season. Give them credit for rallying to stay in the equation for a few more weeks, much the same as they did against the Broncos. In both cases, they were simply overcome by superior firepower. Hard not to be excited about their young talent at receiver, though.

22. New York Giants (5-8) ▼3

Losing this year’s iteration of the “2004 Draft Bowl” (Eli Manning vs. Philip Rivers) eliminates the Giants from playoff contention, but to be honest, that was long overdue, considering this team started 0-6. Although having said that, actually look at their first six games. Cowboys, Broncos, Panthers, Chiefs, Eagles, Bears. It didn’t seem like it at the time, but that was a brutal stretch of games to open the season with.

21. St. Louis Rams (5-8) ▼1

Whatever hopes they had as a dark horse playoff team died with their loss on Sunday. It’s not surprising that they lost, by any means. It’s a little surprising that their defense got abused on the way there, especially considering the Rams formidable pass rush and the Cardinals’ questionable pass protection.

20. New York Jets (6-7) ▲3

The Jets snapped their losing streak with a dominant win over the Raiders. That’s good, and puts them a mere game out if the race for the AFC’s sixth playoff seed. But that was the Raiders. Can they play like that on the road against Carolina and Miami? They’ll need to if they’re thinking playoffs.

19. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-8) ▼2

The Steelers nearly stole a game with an incredible finish in a week full of incredible finishes. That couple of inches on the sideline probably made the difference between the Steelers being in the thick of the playoff hunt and now being almost assuredly out of it.

18. Green Bay Packers (6-6-1) ▲4

Oddly enough, Matt Flynn may have just saved Aaron Rodgers’ season. With another loss, the Packers’ season would have presumably been over, and they would have been better off giving Rodgers the entire offseason to heal up. But with the win over Atlanta and the Detroit loss, they’re a half-game out of first in the NFC North with Rodgers looking nearly ready to return. That’s much better shape than they probably thought they’d be in.

17. San Diego Chargers (6-7) ▲1

They’re still alive in the playoff hunt, because why not? They’ll need help (namely losses by the Ravens and Dolphins) to go anywhere, but hey, who knows? I can’t even tell which team is going to show up this Thursday against Denver: the one that embarrassed the Giants 37-14, or the one that lost 27-17 to the Raiders?