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Updated NFL Power Rankings: 1-32 poll, plus pleasant surprises for every team

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Welcome to Week 16 of the NFL regular season.

Our power panel — a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities — has evaluated how teams are stacking up through 15 weeks.

As we near the end of the regular season, the surprises are still coming. The Minnesota Vikings staged an impressive 33-point comeback against the Indianapolis Colts; the Jacksonville Jaguars came from behind to beat the Dallas Cowboys in overtime; and the 1-12-1 Houston Texans took the Kansas City Chiefs to overtime. How do these games translate into this week’s rankings? Keep reading to find out — and yes there are quite a few changes in the top 10.

In addition to our updated rankings, we checked in with NFL Nation reporters across the league and asked them to name one player or coach on every team who has been a pleasant surprise this season. From rookies to veterans to interim coaches, these individuals stuck out from the rest in a good way.

Let’s take a look.

Jump to a team:
ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN
CLE | DAL | DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND
JAX | KC | LV | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF
SEA | TB | TEN | WSH

Week 15 ranking: 1

Pleasant surprise: RB Miles Sanders

There was no doubt Sanders was gifted and capable of a big season, but the production — north of 1,000 rushing yards already with double-digit touchdowns — has been a big bonus for this offense, especially after he was kept out of the end zone for the entire 2022 season. He has matured as a runner and has run more physical through contact. That, plus good health, has allowed him to thrive behind one of the best offensive lines in football and alongside Jalen Hurts. — Tim McManus

play

1:23

Dan Orlovsky explains what the significance of Jalen Hurts’ shoulder injury is for the Eagles.


Week 15 ranking: 3

Pleasant surprise: DT DaQuan Jones

The Bills added multiple defensive linemen in free agency this offseason, but Jones wasn’t one of the players who initially received significant attention. He has, however, been a key addition and one of the team’s best free agency moves. The veteran leads the team in run stop win rate (42.7%) and has two sacks (more than any other Bills defensive tackle). He has been disruptive up front and helps set up big plays. In a defensive line room full of personalities, Jones is one of the behind-the-curtain catalysts to the defense. — Alaina Getzenberg


Week 15 ranking: 2

Pleasant surprise: RB Jerick McKinnon

McKinnon has become a valuable member of the Chiefs’ offense. He plays on passing downs because he’s the team’s most trusted pass-protector and is accomplished as a receiver. He is third on the team in pass receptions with 46 and tied for second with six touchdowns. — Adam Teicher


Week 15 ranking: 7

Pleasant surprise: RB Samaje Perine

Perine has been the team’s primary back on third downs and has made big plays in the past, such as his touchdown reception in last year’s AFC Championship Game. This year, with Joe Mixon out during Weeks 12 and 13, Perine was effective as the top running back, with 38 rushes for 164 yards and a touchdown. Now, with Mixon healthy, Perine has commanded a higher snap share and helped the offense remain consistent during a six-game winning streak. — Ben Baby


Week 15 ranking: 5

Pleasant surprise: LB Dre Greenlaw

Greenlaw had been a solid player when healthy in his first three NFL seasons. However, he missed 17 games over the past two seasons and it was unclear whether he would ever take the next step. With three games left this season, it’s safe to say Greenlaw has taken more of a leap forward. He leads the Niners in tackles (111) and has 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 interception and 7 pass breakups. Fred Warner rightfully gets much of the credit for leading San Francisco’s defense, but Greenlaw has enjoyed a breakout season that has thrust his name into the conversation of the league’s best off-ball linebacker. — Nick Wagoner


Week 15 ranking: 4

Pleasant surprise: DE Dorance Armstrong

Armstrong has eight sacks, which is a career high. Not only that but eight also tops the career total he had in his first four seasons combined. When the Cowboys lost Randy Gregory in free agency, they needed another pass-rusher alongside Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence. Armstrong has more than filled that role. This very easily could have been Tony Pollard — as he is closing in on 1,000 yards rushing and surpassing his career touchdown total with 11 — but he already showed last season that he could be productive. — Todd Archer


Week 15 ranking: 6

Pleasant surprise: CB Duke Shelley

At one point this season, the Vikings had three of their top four cornerbacks — Cameron Dantzler Sr., Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth Jr. — on injured reserve. Shelley, a four-year veteran signed to the practice squad in Week 1, has helped them navigate that distress better than anyone could have imagined. He didn’t get a single defensive snap until Week 10, but he has started two games and made game-saving plays in both of them. Although Dantzler is back from injured reserve, it appears that Shelley has supplanted him as the starter opposite Patrick Peterson. He has gotten his hands on five passes since Week 12. — Kevin Seifert


Week 15 ranking: 8

Pleasant surprise: CB Kader Kohou

The undrafted rookie was thrust into a starting role after injuries to Byron Jones and Trill Williams and has not disappointed. He ranks fifth on the team in tackles and third in passes defended despite not having a full-time role until Week 5. He still makes rookie mistakes, but his ascension has called Jones’ future with the team in question. — Marcel Louis-Jacques


Week 15 ranking: 10

Pleasant surprise: WR DeAndre Carter

The Bolts signed Carter as a return specialist but have depended on the fifth-year pro to play a significant role after wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams were sidelined by injuries. Carter has caught 41 passes for 481 yards and three touchdowns. “He is just a fix-it guy. You have four different positions you can be at as a receiver … and he is one of those smart guys that can play all of those positions,” offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said. “He has been fantastic for us.” — Lindsey Thiry


Week 15 ranking: 9

Pleasant surprise: ILB Patrick Queen

He suddenly went from being an underachieving first-round pick to a defensive force since the Ravens added Roquan Smith to the middle of their defense. Queen is not trying to do too much anymore and has been playing with more composure. Flying all over the field, he is one of five defensive players this season to record over 90 tackles along with multiple sacks and interceptions. Queen has been playing so well that the Ravens have to consider picking up his fifth-year option this offseason. — Jamison Hensley


Week 15 ranking: 16

Pleasant surprise: WR Darius Slayton

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Slayton was seventh on the depth chart this summer. He was struggling to catch the ball, and his confidence was shot. The fact that he’s their clear-cut No. 1 receiver now with 631 yards receiving (more than 200 yards clear of his teammates) is a testament to his perseverance. Slayton’s success has been monumental in helping this offense stay afloat. — Jordan Raanan


Week 15 ranking: 17

Pleasant surprise: LB James Houston

Nicknamed “Da Problem,” Houston is living up to the name. The Jackson State product has been wreaking havoc over the past four weeks. The rookie was elevated from the practice squad ahead of the Thanksgiving Day game against Buffalo and has been a solid contributor, registering five sacks in his first four career games. He is the third player since sacks became official in 1982 to record at least one sack in each of his first four contests, joining Terrell Suggs in 2003 and Santana Dotson in 1992, per ESPN Stats & Information research. — Eric Woodyard


Week 15 ranking: 13

Pleasant surprise: S Darrick Forrest

The 2021 fifth-round pick missed most of his rookie season with a hamstring injury but opened coaches’ eyes with his special teams play late in the year. He has muscled his way into the starting lineup and forced Washington to use mostly three-safety sets — along with Kam Curl and Bobby McCain. It has created versatility in the secondary. Forrest plays smart and physical; he has intercepted three passes, forced two fumbles and recovered one, and is fourth on the team in solo tackles. — John Keim


Week 15 ranking: 11

Pleasant surprise: CB Tariq Woolen

Woolen had off-the-charts measurables coming out of UTSA but an unrefined game, as a former wide receiver who played cornerback for only two seasons in college. So he was considered a project pick when the Seahawks drafted him in the fifth round in 2022, a high-upside player who would need quite a bit of grooming before seeing the field. So much for that. Woolen has started every game at right cornerback, and although there continue to be growing pains, he’s making more big plays than mistakes. Woolen is tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions and tied for third with 13 passes defended. — Brady Henderson


Week 15 ranking: 14

Pleasant surprise: DL DeMarcus Walker

The Titans signed Walker in May, and he worked his way into the defensive line rotation during training camp. The sixth-year veteran’s emergence has made him a complementary interior presence next to Jeffery Simmons. Mike Vrabel credited Walker for playing with a lot of energy and taking advantage of the snaps he has gotten. Walker has played 35% of the Titans’ defensive snaps but is third on the team with a career-high 6.5 sacks. He also has career highs in quarterback hits (13) and tackles for a loss (8). — Turron Davenport


Week 15 ranking: 19

Pleasant surprise: S Rayshawn Jenkins

Jenkins has been significantly more impactful in his second season in Jacksonville. The Jaguars are using Jenkins as more of a box safety, resulting in career highs in tackles (95), solo tackles (60) and forced fumbles (2). He also has a career-high three interceptions, including two in the team’s overtime victory over Dallas on Sunday. He took the second one back 59 yards for the winning score. — Michael DiRocco

play

1:10

Liz Loza wonders if Trevor Lawrence can replicate his Week 15 fantasy performance against the Jets.


Week 15 ranking: 12

Pleasant surprise: RB Zonovan “Bam” Knight

The undrafted rookie from NC State had a poor game Sunday, but he has emerged as their lead back over the past few weeks. He got into the lineup because of injuries to Breece Hall and Michael Carter and has rushed for 253 yards, 4.3 per carry, and one touchdown. Knight is faster than his 40 time (4.58), showing the ability to accelerate upfield in the Jets’ outside-zone scheme. The Jets should be all set at running back next season with Hall, Knight and Carter. — Rich Cimini


Week 15 ranking: 15

Pleasant surprise: DE Josh Uche

The 2020 second-round pick from Michigan has 10.5 sacks, and his ability to win one-on-one matchups in obvious passing situations has contributed to the Patriots ranking third in the NFL in sacks. Talking about Uche, Bill Belichick said, “The biggest thing with Josh is just him being out there. He’s always put good plays on film and good plays on the practice field, and he’s flashed. This year he’s been able to stay out there on a consistent basis, and that’s allowed him to continue to move ahead and build on his repertoire, build his communication and execution with his teammates on pass rush games and communication, drops, coverage adjustments and things like that, which he’s involved in, to a degree.” — Mike Reiss


Week 15 ranking: 20

Pleasant surprise: CB/KR Keisean Nixon

Signed for only $965,000 in late March, the fourth-year veteran has given the Packers a boost with his kickoff returns. He leads the NFL in kickoff return average among qualified players (26.4 yards per return) and leads with eight returns of 30-plus yards — the most by a Packers player in a season since 2012. Including Monday’s 52-yarder, he has had two kick returns for more than 50 yards, including one for 53 yards earlier this season. He was tied for fourth on the team in special teams tackles entering Monday’s game and has filled in on defense in the nickel package with an interception and a forced fumble. — Rob Demovsky


Week 15 ranking: 24

Pleasant surprise: WR Donovan Peoples-Jones

The former sixth-round pick out of Michigan has been one of Cleveland’s most consistent performers all season. Starting opposite WR Amari Cooper, Peoples-Jones has 782 yards along with 57 receptions, both the second most on the team behind Cooper. Peoples-Jones had his second TD catch of the season in Saturday’s 13-3 win over Baltimore. He even delivered a punt return TD, as well, in a Week 13 victory at Houston. Receiver was a major question mark coming into this season, and DPJ’s emergence has quieted that concern. — Jake Trotter


Week 15 ranking: 21

Pleasant surprise: RB Jaylen Warren

Although Najee Harris is still the Steelers’ primary back, the undrafted rookie free agent caught the coaches’ attention in training camp. He has followed with a solid season as a complement to Harris and the team’s third-down back. Warren had a career-high 11 carries and scored his first touchdown of the season against the Panthers on Sunday. On the season, he has 53 carries for 244 yards and is averaging 4.6 yards per carry. He also has 21 receptions for 178 yards. — Brooke Pryor


Week 15 ranking: 18

Pleasant surprise: Punter Jake Camarda

The Bucs haven’t had much success in recent years drafting special teams players, but Camarda, a 2022 fourth-round pick out of Georgia, has made a real impact. He played a key role in the Bucs’ win over the Rams in what has been dubbed one of the greatest performances ever by a Tampa Bay punter. Three of his punts in that game were among the eight longest in franchise history, and in games when a punter has punted six or more times, his 59.5-yard gross average is tied for the best in NFL history. His 48.98 yards per punt for the season is eighth in the NFL. — Jenna Laine


Week 15 ranking: 23

Pleasant surprise: RB Josh Jacobs

Jacobs has been more than a pleasant surprise after not having his fifth-year option picked up by the Raiders’ new regime; he’s been the team’s MVP. After GM Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels built an RB-by-committee approach, Jacobs “surprised” McDaniels and has more than proved his worth as RB1. His career-high 1,495 rushing yards leads the NFL, and his 86-yard walk-off scamper in Seattle is the league’s longest run of the season. Jacobs, who also has 11 TDs and 46 catches for 363 yards, is about to be paid. — Paul Gutierrez

play

1:03

Dan Orlovsky, Rex Ryan and Ryan Clark sound off about the Patriots’ decision to lateral the ball instead of just letting the game go to OT.


Week 15 ranking: 26

Pleasant surprise: WR Rashid Shaheed

Shaheed joined the team as an undrafted rookie coming off an ACL tear and has battled for more playing time with each week. He is consistently coming up with huge plays and showing off his speed as both a wide receiver and kick returner. He averages 22.3 yards per catch. He has been one of the biggest surprises among the Saints’ young players and is in line to replace Deonte Harty, who entered this season on a restricted free agent tender before going on season-ending IR. — Katherine Terrell


Week 15 ranking: 22

Pleasant surprise: RT Kaleb McGary

The Falcons declined the fifth-year option on their former first-round pick back in May — and McGary responded with his best and healthiest season of his career. Always considered a strong run-blocker, McGary has shown marked improvement as a pass-blocker in Falcons coach Arthur Smith’s scheme with a career-high pass block win rate against single defenders (78.6%) and double-teams (91.1%). McGary has played well enough to believe there could be reason for a continued relationship beyond this season if both player and franchise can find reasonable financial terms. Huge, huge win for McGary. — Michael Rothstein


Week 15 ranking: 25

Pleasant surprise: Interim coach Steve Wilks

The Panthers have gone 4-5 since Wilks took over a 1-4 team coached by Matt Rhule and remain in contention for the title in the weak NFC South, only a game out with three to go. He has kept the team playing hard when many thought the organization would tank. The respect players had for him before he took over has multiplied. He’ll get an interview for the full-time job, and if owner David Tepper doesn’t hire him, another team might. — David Newton


Week 15 ranking: 30

Pleasant surprise: LT Braxton Jones

The fifth-round pick from Southern Utah had no issue holding his own against FBS defensive linemen during the Senior Bowl, which initially caught Chicago’s attention as the Bears looked to shore up protection of QB Justin Fields’ blind side. Although the Bears have struggled at times in pass protection, not much of that pressure is being allowed by the left side of the O-line. Jones has taken every snap at tackle and has exceeded all expectations, turning in one of the best seasons of all rookie tackles (5 sacks, 4 hits and 24 hurries allowed) while developing into a mainstay on the Bears’ offensive line. — Courtney Cronin


Week 15 ranking: 29

Pleasant surprise: WR Tutu Atwell

The 2021 second-round pick saw time on special teams before injuring his shoulder and being placed on injured reserve in November. Atwell had a few long catches early in the season but has especially impressed the Rams coaching staff since his opportunities increased with the injuries to Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson II. Earlier in the month, head coach Sean McVay said Atwell should have had more opportunities sooner. “That’s something that I won’t run away from,” McVay said, “because all this guy has done is answer the bell when he’s had his chances.” — Sarah Barshop


Week 15 ranking: 28

Pleasant surprise: LB Zaire Franklin

The 2018 seventh-round draft choice had never played more than 18% of defensive snaps in his career. But this season, with injuries to Shaquille Leonard, he was forced to handle a massive increase in playing time, and he has been a revelation. While playing 100% of defensive snaps, Franklin has become a playmaker, ranking fourth in the NFL with 141 tackles. Only five off-the-ball linebackers have more than Franklin’s nine tackles for loss this season, as his impact is finally being felt beyond special teams. — Stephen Holder


Week 15 ranking: 27

Pleasant surprise: LB Myjai Sanders

The 2022 third-round pick hasn’t experienced the rookie learning curve others in his class have. Sanders has three sacks and four pass breakups in 160 defensive snaps. He has started two of the past three games, a sign of his growth and the growing trust in him by defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. — Josh Weinfuss


Week 15 ranking: 31

Pleasant surprise: RB Latavius Murray

Murray was signed off the Saints practice squad Oct. 4 after Javonte Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury. Melvin Gordon III was then released after too many fumbles. And Mike Boone went to injured reserve, returned and suffered a season-ending ankle injury. Now, 32-year-old Murray is the Broncos’ leading rusher with 510 yards, averaging just over 4 yards per carry, and is coming off a 130-yard effort Sunday in a win over the Cardinals. — Jeff Legwold


Week 15 ranking: 32

Pleasant surprise: DE Jerry Hughes

Hughes leads the Texans in sacks (8) after compiling 6.5 in the past two years combined with the Bills. Many believed the star pass-rusher would be defensive end Jonathan Greenard, who had eight sacks in 12 games in 2021, but he has dealt with injuries this season. According to ESPN Stats & Information data, Hughes has 33 first pressures — tied for 21st among defenders in the league. The 34-year-old has shown he still has more than enough left in the tank. — DJ Bien-Aime

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