NFL Power Rankings: 2008 Week 16 Edition

Updated: December 17, 2008, 6:50 AM ET
Week:

Applaud the NFL's schedule makers. They've plotted to make the remnants of the 2008 regular-season extra interesting, especially in light of ESPN.com's latest NFL Power Rankings.

Week 16 features these beauties Sunday: The Pittsburgh Steelers, newly christened the rankings' No. 1 team, visit the No. 2 Tennessee Titans. Later that evening, the No. 3 Carolina Panthers visit the No. 4 New York Giants. These could be previews of the conference title games next month. The only way to improve on this would be to have the games' winners meet for the regular-season rankings title in Week 17.

The weekly poll of our experts rewarded the Steelers a bump of two rungs to No. 1 on the strength of their controversial 13-9 victory over the Baltimore Ravens. The Titans were demoted a notch to No. 2 in wake of their 13-12 loss to the Houston Texans.

After routing the Denver Broncos, the Panthers rose one step to No. 3. The Giants, who traded the No. 1 slot with the Titans for much of this season, now find themselves at No. 4 after losing 20-8 to the host Dallas Cowboys.

The Indianapolis Colts, the league's hottest team with a seven-game winning streak, round out this week's top 5.

ESPN.com's Power Rankings
The rankings were determined by a poll of ESPN.com's NFL staff: writers John Clayton, Jeffri Chadiha, Tim Graham, Matt Mosley, James Walker, Kevin Seifert, Paul Kuharsky, Pat Yasinskas, Bill Williamson and Mike Sando, and Scouts Inc. Insiders Jeremy Green and Matt Williamson.


Before the big-four clash Sunday, the No. 6 Cowboys and the No. 7 Ravens could produce more rankings shakeups when they meet in Texas Stadium's regular-season finale Saturday.

The Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings each rose three spots, tying them for the distinction of being the week's best climbers. The Falcons re-entered the top 10, landing at No. 8 by beating the NFC South rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13-10. The Vikings, now No. 12, might be the most impressive of the risers, as they routed the NFC West champion Arizona Cardinals 35-14.

The Cardinals fell six spots, to No. 15, as the result of their blowout home loss to the Vikings. The Bucs were the week's other big tumblers, dropping four spots to No. 10 in the wake of the loss at Atlanta.

The Detroit Lions continue to rule the rankings basement, although they were competitive with the Colts earlier in the season. The Lions need to beat the New Orleans Saints, the No. 19 team this week, to avoid becoming the NFL's first 0-15 team.

• Rank 'em | Our voting | NFL Nation blog | Rate your coach | Playoff picture

• Watch: Panthers-Giants preview | Football Today: Green | Week 16 Pick 'em

(Editor's note: LW indicates each team's ranking last week.)

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