NFL Power Rankings Week 15, 2016

The Dallas Cowboys faced off in a division-rivalry game against the New York Giants. And New York won a 10-7 defensive struggle, snapping Dallas’ 11-game winning streak.

See if the Cowboys hang on to the top spot in our Week 15 NFL power rankings, and check out last week’s rankings here.

1. Dallas Cowboys (11-2); lost to NY Giants 10-7, same spot – Dak Prescott hasn’t looked good over the last couple of weeks, and calls are already growing for Tony Romo. Even still, Dallas is the closest team to securing a first-round playoff bye. They’ll probably also get the NFC’s top seed.

2. New England Patriots (11-2); beat Baltimore 30-23, same spot – After jumping out to a 23-3 lead, it took Tom Brady’s heroics to keep from blowing this game. Nevertheless, a win over a hungry Baltimore team bodes well for New England, which lost Gronk and is still missing Danny Amendola.

3. Kansas City Chiefs (10-3); beat Oakland 21-13, up 1 spot – The Chiefs used their brand of football (defense, conservative offense) to muscle past Oakland for the AFC West lead. KC is also in line for a first-round bye right now.

4. Oakland Raiders (10-3); lost to KC 21-13, down 1 spot – Derek Carr had a nightmare 17-for-41 game against the Chiefs. But he wasn’t helped by Seth Roberts (drops) and Amari Cooper (bad routes). Oakland should still be good as long as the weather is warmer than 0 degrees.

leveon-bell5. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5); beat Buffalo 27-20, up 2 spots – Ben Roethlisberger’s road struggles continue, but that means little when Le’Veon Bell is racking up records.

6. New York Giants (9-4); beat Dallas 10-7, up 3 spots – The Giants complete a season sweep of the Cowboys, and they’re also the only team to beat Dallas this year.

7. Atlanta Falcons (8-5); beat L.A. 42-14, up 1 spot – No Julio Jones, no problem for the Falcons as they continued their strong season. The chances of them winning again are high as they face San Francisco this week.

8. Denver Broncos (8-5); lost to Tennessee 13-10, down 2 spots – Denver is missing ILB Brandon Marshall more than anybody knows after giving up 194 rushing yards to the Titans.

9. Detroit Lions (9-4); beat Chicago 20-17, up 1 spot – The Lions are masters of close games, winning yet another contest decided by a touchdown or less.

10. Green Bay Packers (7-6); beat Seattle 38-10, up 1 spot – Ever since Aaron Rodgers predicted that Green Bay would run the table, they’re 3-0. This blowout win over Seattle shows that his words have some merit.

11. Seattle Seahawks (8-4-1); lost to Green Bay 38-10, down 6 spots – The Seahawks played terrible against Green Bay, but they’re still only 1 win from clinching the NFC West.

kirk-cousins-steelers12. Washington Redskins (7-5-1); beat Philadelphia 27-22, up 1 spot – Kirk Cousins may have thrown an interception to help Philly get back into this one. But then he came down and threw the game-winning score with the pressure on.

13. Miami Dolphins (8-5); beat Arizona 26-23, up 1 spot – Ryan Tannehill only sprained his ACL and MCL joints, rather than tearing his ACL as first suspected. But he’s still set to miss multiple games at a crucial juncture where Miami is fighting for a playoff spot.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5); beat New Orleans 16-11, up 1 spot – The improvement shown by Tampa Bay’s defense over the past few weeks has been remarkable.

15. Baltimore Ravens (7-6); lost to New England 30-23, down 3 spots – Baltimore made a valiant comeback effort. But they still lost, which puts them in a difficult situation as far as making the postseason.

16. Minnesota Vikings (7-6); beat Jacksonville 25-16, same spot – Minnesota’s offense finally got something going in this game.

demarco-murray-titans17. Tennessee Titans (7-6); beat Denver 13-10, up 2 spots – The Titans didn’t do much after the first half, but 13 points is all they needed in this one.

18. Houston Texans (7-6); beat Indianapolis 22-17, up 2 spots – Jadeveon Clowney had the biggest game of his career and helped Houston win a crucial game.

19. Buffalo Bills (6-7); lost to Pittsburgh 27-20, down 2 spots – Facing a second-straight season without a playoff berth, Rex Ryan now has to worry about his job status.

20. Indianapolis Colts (6-7); lost to Houston 22-17, down 2 spots – With this loss, Indianapolis now has two teams to chase in the AFC South race.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (5-7-1); beat Cleveland 23-10, up 2 spots – Cincinnati has strung together a couple of wins, but it’s too little too late now.

22. Philadelphia Eagles (5-8); lost to Washington 27-22, down 1 spot – The Eagles looked like they might have a win here, but it slipped through their fingers in the final minutes.

bruce-arians-arizona23. Arizona Cardinals (5-7-1); lost to Miami 26-23, down 1 spot – Coach Bruce Arians has accused Miami of cheating, alleging that they mimicked Arizona’s snap count and caused Chandler Catanzaro to miss a field goal.

24. Carolina Panthers (5-8); beat San Diego 28-16, up 2 spots – Cam Newton was only 10-of-27 passing, but the Carolina defense picked Philip Rivers off three times.

25. San Diego Chargers (5-8); lost to Carolina 28-16, down 1 spot – Any slim postseason chances have disappeared for San Diego. The goal for next season will be staying healthy after losing Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead early on.

26. New Orleans Saints (5-8); lost to Tampa Bay 16-11, same spot – Any magic that Drew Brees and New Orleans had in the middle of the season is gone.

27. Chicago Bears (3-10); lost to Detroit 20-17, same spot – With little to cheer for regarding the Bears, the focus has switched to whether or not Matt Barkley has earned the starting QB role next season.

28. New York Jets (4-9); beat San Francisco 23-17, up 1 spot – Bilal Powell had a career game, rushing for 145 yards, adding 34 receiving yards, and scoring twice.

jeff-fisher-rams-fired-129. LA Rams (4-9); lost to Atlanta 42-14, down 1 spot – It seems an odd time to fire Jeff Fisher, given that L.A. has to quickly turn around and play Seattle on Thursday.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11); lost to Minnesota 25-16, same spot – The regression that this Jacksonville squad has shown in 2016 is terrible.

31. San Francisco (1-12); lost to NY Jets 23-17, same spot – The Niners are playing so bad that many accuse them of tanking to ensure that they get a top pick.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-13); lost to Cincinnati 23-10, same spot – Robert Griffin III’s first game back from a season-opening injury didn’t offer Cleveland any more hope than Josh McCown and Cody Kessler have.

Rams Fire Jeff Fisher – Now What?

jeff-fisher-rams-firedAfter signing a 2-year extension in the offseason, it seemed like Jeff Fisher’s baffling job security would continue in the face of four straight losing seasons. But that all changed this week, when Fisher was fired after securing his fifth losing season with the Rams.

The fact that Fisher was axed is no surprise, given that Los Angeles lost eight out of their last nine games after a promising 3-1 start. The final straw was a 42-14 loss to Atlanta, where L.A. looked totally noncompetitive. It also didn’t help that running back Todd Gurley characterized the Rams’ scoring efforts as a middle school offense.

Los Angeles’ offense could be described as middle-schoolish in any of Fisher’s five seasons, given that they never finished in the top 20 in points scored or yards gained.

The Rams’ inability to move the ball helped contribute to Fisher’s 31-45-1 record with the team. He hasn’t made the playoffs since 2008, and the last time that he won a postseason game was in 2003 with the Tennessee Titans. In 22 seasons as a head coach, he has just six winning seasons.

Beyond performance issues, Fisher also had some high-profile incidents this season. One included arguing with Rams legend Eric Dickerson over the phone. He also refused to give Jared Goff a chance at QB until later in the season.

L.A. Move Was Rough On Fisher’s Job Security

This year marked the Rams’ first season since moving from St. Louis to Los Angeles. And as NFL.com’s Jenny Battista points out, success is difficult to come by when a franchise changes cities. Fisher has experience in this area, managing the Tennessee Titans’ move from Houston.

Experience meant little, though, as the Los Angeles Coliseum drew fewer and fewer fans. Those who were in attendance were booing the Rams’ sad performance against the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday.

jeff-fisher-rams-fired-1But the team’s play over the last nine games indicates that this was more than just mere relocation pains and a new fan base. Even after Fisher’s 7-9 rant on HBO’s Hard Knocks, the team failed to find any semblance of success. The coach was quick to blame management for not bringing in the players he needed to win.

But this team was more talented than in any of Fisher’s other seasons. This is especially the case on the defensive end, where Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn, Alec Ogletree, and Marc Barron form a strong core.

Based on the fact that L.A. fans were becoming disillusioned with the losses, Kroenke had to make a move to keep the fan base interested. Changing from Case Keenum to Jared Goff at QB didn’t prove to be a difference-maker because Goff is too raw. So Kroenke’s latest move re-energize the franchise involves getting rid of Fisher.

Owner Stan Kroenke’s Statement on Fisher’s Firing

Here’s a look at what team owner Stan Kroenke had to say on the matter:

“Making a decision such as this – especially during the season – is one of the most difficult in sports. I have great respect for Jeff as a coach, person, father and friend.

“He has worked tirelessly despite some challenging circumstances. He played an integral role in helping this team make history in returning the NFL to Los Angeles, and we always will be grateful for his commitment and dedication to our organization.

“However, this is the right time to make a change as our performance has not lived up to my or our fans’ expectations. We all are focused on improving as an organization and building a team that makes Los Angeles proud. Our mission is to celebrate a Super Bowl title with our fans in Los Angeles. Today is the first step to bringing us closer to that goal.”

What’s Next for the Rams?

Fisher’s firing comes at a strange time, given that L.A. plays Seattle on Thursday night. According to our GTBets line, the Rams are already +15.5 for tomorrow’s game. And you might even be getting value with this 2-plus touchdown spread, considering that the Rams are changing coaches on a short week.

john-fassel-ramsSpeaking of which, special teams coordinator John Fassel, son of former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel, will serve as the interim head coach.

Fassel’s quick ascension resulted in him leading an hour-long walkthrough without much chance to react. He didn’t even have time to tell his father John the good news.

”A lot has happened in a little amount of time,” said Fassel. ”It will be an interesting couple days. It happened fast. Football, you got to be able to adapt and react and this is one of those situations you can’t ever really prepare for.”

”The last 24 hours I’ve been learning on the fly. It’s been an incredible experience. I would love to know everything Coach Fisher knows. Just there are so many things and I’ll never learn all of it, but it’s interesting to be on that side of it.”

Many Rams players were disappointed to see Fisher fired, given that he was respected and well-liked by the team. But they also know the importance of changing gears and getting ready for the NFC West leaders on Thursday.

”Can’t help but feel some type of responsibility, but Seattle’s not going to care how we feel. Our last three opponents aren’t going to care how we feel,” said safety T.J. McDonald. ”We just know we got to go out and keep playing, keep fighting and get better every week.”

Despite the odds against them tomorrow night, L.A. has actually played well against Seattle, winning three straight games. They’re 1-0 this season against the Seahawks, notching a 9-3 victory in September.

”Usually it’s a knockdown drag-out all the way to the last play and we see that same type of game coming,” said Ogletree.

A win over Seattle would be the perfect way to start Fassel’s stint as head coach. But again, the Rams’ +15.5 line doesn’t make their chances look very promising.