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Week 16 NFL power rankings: 49ers can shake up the NFC playoff picture

The No. 2 and No. 3 seed are in play for now.

The NFL wrapped up Week 15 with a wild fourth quarter of Monday Night Football. The New Orleans Saints trailed the Carolina Panthers for most of the game before taking a 12-7 lead early in the fourth quarter. The Panthers ran back the conversion attempt to cut the lead to 12-9. Late in the game, the Saints had the ball and looked ready to put it away with a touchdown only to have wide receiver Tommylee Lewis fumble the ball out of the end zone for a touchback. Carolina could not move down the field in the final minute and lost to drop to 6-8.

With the win, New Orleans is now in position to clinch the No. 1 seed and home field advantage in the NFC with a win next week over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Los Angeles Rams lost to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football, and now find themselves only a game up on the Chicago Bears for the No. 2 seed and the accompanying first round bye.

We’re back with Week 16 NFL power rankings, and we’re seeing bunching up top. I’ve dropped the New England Patriots to seventh following their loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Los Angeles Chargers and Houston Texans have both climbed ahead of New England, and are two of the more dangerous teams in the AFC. The Kansas City Chiefs are on track to claim the No. 1 seed, but the AFC is pretty wide open.

The NFC is another question entirely. If the Saints had to go on the road, it would be a little more wide open, but it’s going to be a tough slog for any team to go into the SuperDome and spring an upset. The Chicago Bears strike me as the most dangerous team, and if they can move past the Rams for a first round bye, they might be my pick to come out of the NFC.

That being said, our San Francisco 49ers can factor into how that final seeding shakes out. They host the Bears this weekend, and then travel to face the Rams next week. If they beat the Bears this week, and the Rams beat the Cardinals, LA gets the No. 2 seed and might decide to rest some starters next week if the Saints clinch the No. 1 seed. On the other hand, if the 49ers lost to Chicago this week and the No. 2 seed remains in play, the Rams will be playing all out for it if Chicago wins their earlier game in Week 17.

The 49ers are playing some solid football right now. I would be surprised if they swept these final two games, but could they find a way to earn a split? It wouldn’t help their draft position, but it would certainly offer even more momentum. Considering they went 1-3 in their easiest stretch of games (@ AZ, vs. OAK, vs. NYG, @ TB), a chance to go 3-1 this final stretch is kinda crazy.

Week 16 NFL power rankings

Rank Team LW
Rank Team LW
1 New Orleans Saints (12-2) 2
2 Kansas City Chiefs (11-3) 1
3 Chicago Bears (10-4) 4
4 Los Angeles Rams (11-3) 3
5 Los Angeles Chargers (11-3) 5
6 Houston Texans (10-4) 7
7 New England Patriots (9-5) 6
8 Indianapolis Colts (8-6) 10
9 Tennessee Titans (8-6) 11
10 Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1) 15
11 Baltimore Ravens (8-6) 13
12 Seattle Seahawks (8-6) 8
13 Dallas Cowboys (8-6) 9
14 Minnesota Vikings (7-6-1) 14
15 Philadelphia Eagles (7-7) 16
16 Cleveland Browns (6-7-1) 18
17 Miami Dolphins (7-7) 12
18 Carolina Panthers (6-8) 17
19 Denver Broncos (6-8) 19
20 Green Bay Packers (5-8-1) 20
21 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-9) 21
22 Detroit Lions (5-9) 22
23 Cincinnati Bengals (6-8) 23
24 Washington (7-7) 25
25 New York Giants (5-9) 24
26 Buffalo Bills (5-9) 28
27 Atlanta Falcons (5-9) 29
28 San Francisco 49ers (4-10) 30
29 New York Jets (4-10) 27
30 Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10) 26
31 Oakland Raiders (3-11) 31
32 Arizona Cardinals (3-11) 32