1. PANTHERS (14-0) (1): Cam Newton puts on yet another performance worthy of his stature as the frontrunner for the coveted MVP award. Newton becomes the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 340 yards and five touchdown passes while rushing for 100 yards in the same game. Oh, and he also engineered the game-winning drive to win it at the buzzer to keep the Panthers perfect.
2. PATRIOTS (12-2) (2): The Patriots get the layup victory at home against the Titans to maintain firm command on the AFC’s top seed. Now for the return matchup against the Jets, who nearly pulled off the upset in Foxborough earlier this season.
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3. CARDINALS (12-2) (3): Rookie tailback David Johnson powers the Cardinals to a dismantling of the Eagles to win the NFC West title. Coach Bruce Arians isn’t satisfied with winning the division, though. He’s got something else in mind – the game that ends with the winner getting the Lombardi Trophy.
4. SEAHAWKS (9-5) (4): The Seahawks continue to peak at the right time, and Russell Wilson continues to throw touchdown passes at an electrifying rate. He’s the first quarterback in NFL history to throw at least three TD passes and no interceptions in five straight games.
5. PACKERS (10-4) (6): Aaron Rodgers knows the offense isn’t perfect – he had only one touchdown pass and 204 yards in a 30-20 win over the Raiders – but it’s good enough to clinch a franchise record seventh straight trip to the playoffs.
6. STEELERS (9-5) (8): Ben Roethlisberger with yet another sensational comeback win, one that may have saved the Steelers’ playoff chances. Roethlisberger and All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown connected on a whopping 16 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns.
7. BENGALS (11-3) (10): The Bengals use a smothering defense and solid play from A.J. McCarron in his first NFL start to get past the 49ers on the road and clinch a fifth straight playoff berth.
8. BRONCOS (10-4) (5): Crisis time for the Broncos, who lose a second straight game and now find not only their divisional title hopes in peril, but their playoff chances suddenly in question. Will it be Peyton Manning to the rescue?
9. CHIEFS (9-5) (7): The Chiefs stay on their blistering pace by winning their eighth straight as Alex Smith cruises on the road against the Ravens to keep Kansas City within striking distance of the Broncos. With home games remaining against the Browns and Raiders, it’d be a huge upset if they don’t make the playoffs.
10. JETS (9-5) (9): The Jets were mostly awful against the Cowboys in a virtual must-win situation, but Ryan Fitzpatrick gathered himself at the end for two scoring drives in the fourth quarter, including the game-winner that ended with Ryan Bullock’s 46-yarder with 36 seconds left.
11. VIKINGS (9-5) (11): Teddy Bridgewater puts on one of his best efforts yet in a 38-17 pounding of the Bears as the second-year QB throws for a career-high four touchdown passes and no interceptions. The Vikings can clinch a wild card spot with a win over the Giants at home on Sunday night.
12. REDSKINS (7-7) (13): Kirk Cousins continues to show consistent improvement, the latest evidence his four touchdown performance in a home win over the Bills to put his team a leg up on the NFC East title chase.
13. TEXANS (7-7) (18): Of all the unlikely twists and turns of this unpredictable NFL season: Brandon Weeden leads the Texans to a potentially division-deciding win at Indianapolis in Week 15. Of course he does.
14. GIANTS (6-8) (14): The Giants continue to find ways to lose in spectacular fashion, the latest a 38-35 home loss to the Panthers after they rallied to tie it at 35-35 late in the fourth quarter. They not only lose the game, but they lose Odell Beckham Jr. – pending an appeal – to a one-game suspension for delivering a head shot to cornerback Josh Norman.
15. EAGLES (6-8) (12): The focus with Chip Kelly’s team is almost always on the quarterback, but the Eagles’ defense is positively morbid. After back-to-back wins over the Patriots and Bills, Philly is mauled, 40-17, at home by the Cardinals. That’s three times in their last five games the Eagles have allowed 40 or more points.
16. BILLS (6-8) (16): More problems for Rex Ryan, who loses on the road in Washington and hears more second-guessing from defensive end Mario Williams about why the coach’s defense doesn’t work. Williams is a goner in the offseason, but Rex certainly can’t defend his team’s play this season.
17. FALCONS (7-7) (23): Finally a meaningful victory – heck, just a victory of any kind – for the Falcons, who had lost six straight head into Sunday’s game in Jacksonville.
18. LIONS (5-9) (25): Matthew Stafford’s offense comes alive against the Saints – come to think of it, which team’s offense doesn’t come alive against the Saints – as the Lions run it up early in New Orleans and then hang on at the end.
19. RAIDERS (6-8) (17): What began as a season filled with hope will end with a 13th consecutive year with no playoffs. The Raiders went from 4-3 to 6-8 in what seemed like the blink of an eye.
20. BUCCANEERS (6-8) (15): Jameis Winston made things interesting with a 17-point fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a Rams’ lead that had swelled at one point to 31-13.
21. SAINTS (5-9) (19): Remember when the Saints used to be a lock at home in prime time? Those days are over, as Monday night’s 35-27 loss to the Lions indicates.
22. COLTS (6-8) (20): Big changes are likely now that the Colts are close to playoff elimination? New coach? New GM? Could be both.
23. BEARS (5-9) (21): The Bears are going quietly into the night as they are blown out by the Vikings on the road. Now, what to do with Jay Cutler in the offseason?
24. RAMS (5-9) (28): In what may have been the team’s final game in St. Louis, the Rams outlast the Buccaneers to give their fans a likely going-away present.
25. CHARGERS (4-10) (32): In what could be the Chargers’ final game in San Diego, Philip Rivers puts on a fine showing with three touchdown passes to Danny Woodhead (who added a fourth on the ground) as the Bolts pounded Miami.
26. JAGUARS (5-9) (22): One step forward, two steps back – the story of the 2015 Jaguars.
27. COWBOYS (4-10) (24): Kellen Moore will get a look-see the final two games of the season now that the Cowboys realize Matt Cassel isn’t the answer.
28. 49ERS (4-10) (26): Who’s the coach in 2016? Who’s the quarterback? For that matter, who’s the owner? Any other questions?
29. DOLPHINS (5-9) (27): The Dolphins continue to come apart at the seams as they limp toward the finish and an inevitable coaching search.
30. RAVENS (4-10) (31): The lone bright spot in this lost season: third-year wide receiver Kamar Aiken, who has eight catches for 128 yards and a touchdown in a home loss to the Chiefs.
31. BROWNS (3-11) (29): Johnny Manziel has had plenty of problems with the current coaching staff, but he’d like to see Mike Pettine back for another try in 2016. At this point, it’s not a lock that even Manziel will be back next year.
32. TITANS (3-11) (30): Marcus Mariota can’t finish the game against the Patriots because of a knee injury, so the Titans might as well shut him down the rest of the way and regroup for next year.