NFL Power Rankings Week 14: Best-case scenario for every team

Ken Reid catches up with NFL analyst Kyle Brandt for this week’s Cover 4, where they talk Philip Rivers, riding with the Titans in the AFC South, whether Carson Wentz’s extension was a mistake, and Freddie Kitchens choice of T-shirt.

With their Thanksgiving win over the Atlanta Falcons, the New Orleans Saints officially begin the first team to clinch a playoff spot. They’ve still got a shot at home-field advantage, and, well, the sky’s the limit.

Not every team can say the same, of course. Some are setting their sights on other goals, like health. Or signs of life. Or high draft picks.

In this week’s power rankings, our expert panel took a look at each team to find their best-case scenario from here on out.

This week, the panel includes editor Geoff Lowe and staff writers Donnovan Bennett and Emily Sadler.

1. Baltimore Ravens

2019 record: 10-2
Last week: 1
Best-case scenario: Super Bowl win

With eight straight wins, the Ravens right now are playing the best football in the NFL, and they’re led by its most valuable player. Baltimore should fully expect that their ceiling is winning a Super Bowl, and Lamar Jackson winning personal accolades. (DB)

2. Seattle Seahawks

2019 record: 10-2
Last week: 3
Best-case scenario: Russell Wilson wins MVP, times two

Five straight wins has landed the Seahawks atop the strongest division in football. Five more, and we’re talkin’ Super Bowl. We’ve seen what Russell Wilson has accomplished in prime time all season, and it feels like the QB is destined to get to the biggest stage once again. (ES)

3. New Orleans Saints

2019 record: 10-2
Last week: 5
Best-case scenario: A well-rested Drew Brees leads the Saints on redemption tour

With the NFC South wrapped up, the Saints are in good position to secure a first-round playoff bye — the 49ers will pose a huge challenge, but the Colts, Titans and Panthers to close out the season should make their path to post-season redemption a smooth one. A week of rest would go a long way for 40-year-old Drew Brees’ Super Bowl campaign, and another win on the biggest stage would solidify his legacy among the best. (ES)

4. San Francisco 49ers

2019 record: 10-2
Last week: 4
Best-case scenario: A season finale win over Seattle lands them atop the division

One loss to the Seahawks is currently proving to be the difference between the No. 1 seed and the fifth. One win over Seattle in Week 17 — plus a few more along the way — would have them claim the coveted top spot. (ES)

5. New England Patriots

2019 record: 10-2
Last week: 2
Best-case scenario: Tom Brady and his WRs get on the same page ahead of the playoffs

If the on-field product wasn’t enough, all you need to do is read Brady’s lips to see the Patriots offence isn’t in a good place right now. With a berth in the playoffs all but sealed, the focus will undoubtedly turn to getting everyone on the same page with the post-season looming. (GL)

6. Green Bay Packers

2019 record: 9-3
Last week: 6
Best-case scenario: Top seed in the NFC

Aaron Rodgers has proven he can run the table and win a Super Bowl without home-field advantage, but it would be ideal to lock up a home playoff date in Lambeau on the way. (DB)

7. Buffalo Bills

2019 record: 9-3
Last week: 9
Best-case scenario: A division title

Given last week’s results, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Bills can win their first division title since 1995. Buffalo’s rolling after an eye-opening win in Dallas and a home date with Lamar Jackson’s Ravens looming while the Patriots offence is reeling after a loss in Houston. A Week 16 clash against in Foxborough could decide it, and the Bills have a better chance than ever to shock the NFL world. (GL)

8. Kansas City Chiefs

2019 record: 8-4
Last week: 8
Best-case scenario: Secure a playoff rematch against the Patriots — and win this time

Last year’s MVP had two chances to defeat the GOAT, but fell just shy both times — first in a thrilling Week 6 shootout and then in a wild rematch three months later with a Super Bowl berth on the line. Now, Patrick Mahomes & Co. have an opportunity to set the tone this Sunday and steel themselves for a probable rematch in January. (ES)

9. Houston Texans

2019 record: 8-4
Last week: 10
Best-case scenario: A first-round bye

Sunday night’s win would give Houston the tie-break over the Patriots should it come down to that at season’s end. It’s also likely that Deshaun Watson would have to lead the Texans to four straight wins to end the season, including two against rising division rival Tennessee, to get to 12 wins and hope the Patriots continue to struggle. (GL)

10. Minnesota Vikings

2019 record: 8-4
Last week: 7
Best-case scenario: Dalvin Cook bounces back from his shoulder injury

Even after losing Monday night to the Seahawks, the Vikings are prime position to make the playoffs. But they’ll need Kirk Cousins to prove he can win a big game — he’s now 0-8 on Monday Night Football — and a healthy Cook to make any waves when they get there. (DB)

11. Los Angeles Rams

2019 record: 7-5
Last week: 12
Best-case scenario: Win out and upset the division

With four straight wins down the stretch (including victories against the Seahawks this Sunday and the 49ers in Week 16) and a little luck, the Rams can still fulfill pre-season expectations and re-claim their spot atop an insanely tough NFC West. (ES)

12. Pittsburgh Steelers

2019 record: 7-5
Last week: 15
Best-case scenario: Making a post-season appearance

The Steelers’ playoff odds are at 40.3 per cent, according to Football Outsiders. The fact they are in the playoff hunt means they’ve already exceeded expectations. Their best case is that they grab a wild-card spot and the rival Browns do not. If they do, Mike Tomlin will be in line for coach of the year. (DB)

13. Tennessee Titans

2019 record: 7-5
Last week: 14
Best-case scenario: Riding Tannehill to the post-season

The Titans are 5-1 when Tannehill has started and are very much in the conversation for the division and wild card. With two games still remaining against the Texans, riding the Tannehill wave to an AFC South title would be a remarkable turnaround for a team that has finished 9-7 in each of the last three seasons. (GL)

14. Dallas Cowboys

2019 record: 6-6
Last week: 11
Best-case scenario: Finding a way to beat teams above .500

After losing to the Bills in front of 30 million viewers, the Cowboys are 0-5 against teams with a record better than .500. The good news is just one of Dallas’s remaining opponents have a record over .500 (the Rams), but Jason Garrett will need to find a way to beat good teams if the Cowboys are to find any of the success Jerry Jones demands. (GL)

15. Indianapolis Colts

2019 record: 6-6
Last week: 13
Best-case scenario: Collapses from the Texans, Titans and Steelers

Losers of four of their last five, the Colts have dropped back-to-back games against division rivals and now need a lot of help to either win the division or squeak into the second wild-card spot. (GL)

16. Chicago Bears

2019 record: 6-6
Last week: 20
Best-case scenario: Playing the spoiler down the stretch

The Bears have just a three per cent shot at the playoffs despite the fact they’re 6-6. Their upcoming matchup against the similarly 6-6 Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night has huge playoff implications for multiple teams in the NFC. The Bears may be all but out of the post-season, but they can be the team nobody wants to play down the stretch, and build some momentum for next year. (DB)

17. Oakland Raiders

2019 record: 6-6
Last week: 16
Best-case scenario: Just win, baby

The Raiders face just one team with a winning record down the stretch — that’s the Titans, this Sunday — and could very plausibly find themselves in the playoffs should they win out. (ES)

18. Carolina Panthers

2019 record: 5-7
Last week: 17
Best-case scenario: Kyle Allen corrects mid-season mistakes and Cam Newton makes a full recovery

Four straight losses has all but ruled out a playoff run, but it feels like the Panthers have more pressing concerns at the moment anyway: What to do at quarterback? Cam Newton’s health is the biggest factor here — should he hit 100 per cent, Carolina has options when it comes to the future of their pending free agent. If Kyle Allen can close out the season and prove he’s a reliable No. 1, the Panthers can spend big money around him and make a run next year while star running back Christian McCaffrey is still a rookie-deal bargain. (ES)

19. Cleveland Browns

2019 record: 5-7
Last week: 18
Best-case scenario: Building chemistry between Odell Beckham Jr. and Baker Mayfield

At this point, the future of the franchise depends on the relationship between Beckham and Mayfield. The latter injured his hand in the loss to Pittsburgh, but he should be fine to play in Week 14. Beckham has three games this season with fewer than 30 yards. He’s only had two previously in his career. (DB)

20. Philadelphia Eagles

2019 record: 5-7
Last week: 19
Best-case scenario: Winning out to steal the NFC East

Sunday’s loss in Miami is a low point of Doug Pederson’s tenure on the sidelines in Philadelphia, but the Eagles haven’t been completely grounded yet. If they win all of their remaining games, including a Week 16 showdown in Philly against the Cowboys, the Eagles will be in the post-season. They’re not likely to win a game, but they’ve got a chance to be there. (GL)

21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2019 record: 5-7
Last week: 21
Best-case scenario: They answer pressing roster questions

Two straight wins has Tampa Bay’s wild card hopes hanging on by a thread. Four more down the stretch plus a lot of luck around them could steal them a spot. A much more realistic scenario involves the club locking up two of the league’s top three receivers in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans to extensions and deciding once and for all the fate of quarterback Jameis Winston. (ES)

22. Denver Broncos

2019 record: 4-8
Last week: 27
Best-case scenario: Drew Lock saves the season

Drew Lock’s debut brought two things in Denver: A much-needed win over the Chargers to stay alive in the AFC West race and the hope that John Elway has finally (!) drafted a starting QB. A few more wins could make things interesting in a division that’s still up for grabs. (ES)

23. Atlanta Falcons

2019 record: 3-9
Last week: 22
Best-case scenario: They nosedive for Chase Young

Now that the playoffs are no long an option, it’s time for the Falcons to dive in the standings and get themselves a pass rusher in the draft — we already know Chase Young looks good in red and white. (ES)

24. Jacksonville Jaguars

2019 record: 4-8
Last week: 23
Best-case scenario: Minshew is the answer under centre

After less than three games, the Nick Foles era in Jacksonville may have already played out. Now the reins are officially in Minshew’s hands and, with the Jaguars out of the playoff picture, seeing the offence take strides under the rookie QB would be a big win. (GL)

25. Miami Dolphins

2019 record: 3-9
Last week: 29
Best-case scenario: Continue to stay competitive while getting a top-three pick

Say what you will about the way Miami’s front office has built this team — Brian Flores has done an excellent job of coaching this squad of misfits. But the future is still the key for the Dolphins, and too many more wins will actually hurt the larger goal. (GL)

26. Detroit Lions

2019 record: 3-8-1
Last week: 25
Best-case scenario: Getting building blocks healthy enough to contend next season

They’ve left the door open for Matt Stafford to return from a back injury by listing him as “week to week,” but they should shut him down. First-round pick T.J. Hockenson was already put on IR and shut down due to an ankle injury. (DB)

27. Arizona Cardinals

2019 record: 3-8-1
Last week: 26
Best-case scenario: They stock up for next year

A five-game losing streak has officially eliminated Arizona from playoff contention, but that doesn’t mean this season is lost. Fans should feel good about rookie quarterback Kyler Murray and head coach Kliff Kingsbury, and even better about the prospect of landing a defensive star or offensive weapon early in the draft. (ES)

28. Los Angeles Chargers

2019 record: 4-8
Last week: 24
Best-case scenario: They cleanse themselves of the curse that’s been plaguing them all season

Three straight losses with eight interceptions thrown by Philip Rivers has us feeling like injuries weren’t the only bad luck spell placed on the Chargers this year. (ES)

29. Washington Redskins

2019 record: 3-9
Last week: 30
Best-case scenario: Some development from Dwayne Haskins

So far he’s thrown 133 passes, and managed just two TDs against six INTs. If he can show that he has the chops to develop into a QB1, he’ll hit the jumpstart button on this rebuild and allow Washington to skip drafting a QB and instead focus on shoring up the rest of the team. If he can’t, well, eeeeeeeek. (CB)

30. New York Jets

2019 record: 4-8
Last week: 28
Best-case scenario: Hang with some of the AFC’s best

After Miami this weekend, which could be a walk or a nightmare (just ask the Eagles), the Jets are at the Ravens, home against the Steelers and end the season in Buffalo against the Bills. If Sam Darnold and the Jets can show some progress and give these three playoff-type teams a run, fans of Gang Green can feel good heading into next season. (GL)

31. Cincinnati Bengals

2019 record: 1-11
Last week: 32
Best-case scenario: Securing the No. 1–overall pick

The worst-case scenario for Cincinnati would have been to go winless. That crisis has been averted. Now the best case is they don’t get hot and win a few meaningless games only to lose the first pick in the draft and then lose A.J. Green in free agency. (DB)

32. New York Giants

2019 record: 2-10
Last week: 31
Best-case scenario: Getting the most from the Youngsters

For this season to end on a high note, the Giants have to show that the kids are alright. Getting the best of Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley and Darius Slayton over the last month of the season would do a lot of good in enticing a top-notch head coach to sign on in the Big Apple when Pat Shurmur is inevitably fired. (GL)

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