2016 NFL Power Rankings Playoff Edition: Broncos Earn No. 1 Spot in AFC

By Dan Parzych

2016 NFL Power Rankings Playoff Edition

NFL Power Rankings
(Chris Humphreys/USA Today Sports)

From the Denver Broncos securing the top spot in the AFC to the Minnesota Vikings taking the NFC North title, here's a look at the 2016 NFL Power Rankings Playoff Edition.

32. Tennessee Titans 3-13 (32)

NFL Power Rankings
(Thomas J. Russo/USA Today Sports)

32. Tennessee Titans 3-13 (32)

NFL Power Rankings
(Thomas J. Russo/USA Today Sports)

Even though this season didn't go as expected for the Tennessee Titans, at least Marcus Mariota was able to gain some experience at quarterback during his rookie season. Plus, having the No. 1 pick in the draft will help this team as they certainly need help on both sides of the football.

31. Cleveland Browns 3-13 (31)

NFL Power Rankings
(Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

31. Cleveland Browns 3-13 (31)

NFL Power Rankings
(Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

The Cleveland Browns wasted no time clearing house after the team fired both head coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer. Up next, this team will need to decide on what to do with Johnny Manziel--who made headlines once again this weekend after numerous people claim they spotted him in Las Vegas on Saturday night.

30. San Diego Chargers 4-12 (29)

NFL Power Rankings
(Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

30. San Diego Chargers 4-12 (29)

NFL Power Rankings
(Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

The San Diego Chargers were so close to ruining the No. 1 seed for the Denver Broncos, but they just made too many mistakes in the fourth quarter. With only four wins on the season, this year was obviously a disappointing one for the Chargers, but it would have turned out better without all of the costly injuries.

29. Dallas Cowboys 4-12 (26)

NFL Power Rankings
(Tim Heitman/USA Today Sports)

29. Dallas Cowboys 4-12 (26)

NFL Power Rankings
(Tim Heitman/USA Today Sports)

Remember when the Dallas Cowboys started off 2-0 and everybody picked them as the team to beat in the NFC East? This season showed just how much this team needs Tony Romo at quarterback as this offense just couldn't get anything rolling all season and it's crazy to think six of their losses came by single digits.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars 5-11 (28)

NFL Power Rankings
(Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)

28. Jacksonville Jaguars 5-11 (28)

NFL Power Rankings
(Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)

It's crazy to think how the Jacksonville Jaguars were in the hunt for the AFC South title a few weeks ago--only to finish the year with a 5-11 record. The defense clearly needs some adjustments during the offseason, but the Jaguars have to be pleased with how well Blake Bortles (4,428 passing yards and 35 touchdowns) looked with this offense in just his second season.

27. Baltimore Ravens 5-11 (27)

NFL Power Rankings
(Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports)

27. Baltimore Ravens 5-11 (27)

NFL Power Rankings
(Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports)

The Baltimore Ravens are never going to win games when Ryan Mallett is forced to throw the football 56 times like he did against the Cincinnati Bengals. This was an interesting season for John Harbaugh and the Ravens as the head coach is used to making the playoffs, but it's clear this year would have been much different if it wasn't for all of the season-ending injuries this team had to deal with.

26. San Francisco 49ers 5-11 (30)

NFL Power Rankings
(Cary Edmondson/USA Today Sports)

26. San Francisco 49ers 5-11 (30)

NFL Power Rankings
(Cary Edmondson/USA Today Sports)

The argument can be made that no team was a bigger mess this season than the San Francisco 49ers and the team wasted no time with making changes after firing Jim Tomsula--who only lasted one season as head coach. After the 49ers averaged just under 15 points per game this season, we can see why the decision was made.

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6-10 (24)

NFL Power Rankings
(Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports)

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6-10 (24)

NFL Power Rankings
(Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports)

We fully understand why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Jameis Winston with the top pick in last year's draft as the rookie put up surprising numbers in his first season (4,042 passing yards and 28 total touchdowns). Between Winston and other young weapons on offense like Doug Martin and Mike Evans, the Buccaneers should be a team to watch in the NFC next season.

24. Chicago Bears 6-10 (23)

NFL Power Rankings
(Matt Marton/USA Today Sports)

24. Chicago Bears 6-10 (23)

NFL Power Rankings
(Matt Marton/USA Today Sports)

Don't let their 6-10 record fool you as the Chicago Bears lost seven games by single digits this season (including Sunday's loss). If anything, the Bears should be pleased with how the offense looked in 2015 and should be excited about what's in store for Jay Cutler heading into next year.

23. New York Giants 6-10 (21)

NFL Power Rankings
(Jim O'Connor/USA Today Sports)

23. New York Giants 6-10 (21)

NFL Power Rankings
(Jim O'Connor/USA Today Sports)

After missing out on the playoffs for the fourth-straight season, it shouldn't be a surprise to see the Giants part ways with Tom Coughlin. As bad as it sounds, there's no reason why the Giants shouldn't have been able to win the NFC East this season and when looking at some of the decisions made by the Giants at the end of some of their losses, you can't help but blame Coughlin.

22. St. Louis Rams 7-9 (15)

NFL Power Rankings
(Cary Edmondson/USA Today Sports)

22. St. Louis Rams 7-9 (15)

NFL Power Rankings
(Cary Edmondson/USA Today Sports)

The St. Louis Rams were one of the toughest teams to figure out this season--especially when it came to their two wins against the Seattle Seahawks. If they could just figure out their quarterback situation and find a way to be more consistent, this team could be a surprise in the NFC during the 2016 season.

21. Miami Dolphins 6-10 (25)

NFL Power Rankings
(Robert Duyos/USA Today Sports)

21. Miami Dolphins 6-10 (25)

NFL Power Rankings
(Robert Duyos/USA Today Sports)

With the way this season went, you know the Miami Dolphins felt good about ending the year on a positive note with a win over the New England Patriots. Now, the team just needs to decide whether or not Ryan Tannehill deserves another year as the starting quarterback--which is a tough decision when considering the quarterback is coming off a 2015 season in which he threw for 4,208 passing yards and 24 touchdowns.

20. Oakland Raiders 7-9 (19)

NFL Power Rankings
(Denny Medley/USA Today Sports)

20. Oakland Raiders 7-9 (19)

NFL Power Rankings
(Denny Medley/USA Today Sports)

Despite a 7-9 record, the Oakland Raiders have a bright future (believe it or not) with the young weapons they have on offense. The fact that Derek Carr threw for just under 4,000 yards and 32 touchdowns shows just how much progress he's made at quarterback and we can only imagine what 2016 will be like now that Amari Cooper has a year of experience under his belt.

19. Detroit Lions 7-9 (22)

NFL Power Rankings
(Kamil Krzaczynski/USA Today Sports)

19. Detroit Lions 7-9 (22)

NFL Power Rankings
(Kamil Krzaczynski/USA Today Sports)

Even though the Detroit Lions finished the year with a 7-9 record, it should be noted they did win six of their last eight games on the season. If only this team hadn't started off the season on such a poor note, they may have actually been a playoff team.

18. Philadelphia Eagles 7-9 (20)

NFL Power Rankings
(Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

18. Philadelphia Eagles 7-9 (20)

NFL Power Rankings
(Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

You have to love the irony behind DeMarco Murray rushing for a 54-yard touchdown just days after the firing of former head coach Chip Kelly. This team certainly has an interesting offseason coming up between finding a new head coach and deciding on whether or not to bring back Sam Bradford at quarterback.

17. New Orleans Saints 7-9 (18)

NFL Power Rankings
(Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

17. New Orleans Saints 7-9 (18)

NFL Power Rankings
(Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

Will Sean Payton return as head coach for the New Orleans Saints? Payton has already drawn interest from numerous teams in need of a head coach and it will be interesting to see what the Saints end up doing with their head coach this offseason.

16. Atlanta Falcons 8-8 (13)

NFL Power Rankings
(Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

16. Atlanta Falcons 8-8 (13)

NFL Power Rankings
(Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

Can you believe the Atlanta Falcons missed out on the playoffs despite starting off with a 5-0 record? What happened with this team is nothing short of embarrassing as the Falcons should have been able to at least earn a Wild Card spot with dangerous weapons like Julio Jones and Matt Ryan.

15. Indianapolis Colts 8-8 (17)

NFL Power Rankings
(Brian Spurlock/USA Today Sports)

15. Indianapolis Colts 8-8 (17)

NFL Power Rankings
(Brian Spurlock/USA Today Sports)

With all things considered, the Indianapolis Colts should have been able to win the AFC South when looking at the competition. Obviously, not having Andrew Luck for most of the season played a major factor, but it's still disappointing to see the Colts miss out on the playoffs and it wouldn't be a surprise if the team parts ways with Chuck Pagano as well.

14. Buffalo Bills 8-8 (16)

NFL Power Rankings
(Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

14. Buffalo Bills 8-8 (16)

NFL Power Rankings
(Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

The Buffalo Bills may not have made the playoffs, but you know they enjoyed every second of knocking the New York Jets out of the playoffs with a win on Sunday. In their defense, the Bills dealt with numerous key injuries on the season and we can only hope Tyrod Taylor continues to grow at quarterback in his second season at quarterback under Rex Ryan.

13. New York Jets 10-6 (5)

NFL Power Rankings
(Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

13. New York Jets 10-6 (5)

NFL Power Rankings
(Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

The New York Jets have nobody to blame but themselves for missing out on the playoffs after Sunday's loss to the Bills ruined their chances. It's a shame to see Ryan Fitzpatrick throw three costly interceptions in the second half when he's done such an amazing job for the Jets' offense all season.

12. Houston Texans 9-7 (12)

NFL Power Rankings
(Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)

12. Houston Texans 9-7 (12)

NFL Power Rankings
(Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)

They say defense wins championships and the fact that the Houston Texans found a way to win the AFC South with four different quarterbacks this season is simply just amazing. The Texans' defense has carried this team all season and you have to give them credit for making the postseason despite a 1-4 start.

11. Green Bay Packers 10-6 (11)

NFL Power Rankings
(Jeff Hanisch/USA Today Sports)

11. Green Bay Packers 10-6 (11)

NFL Power Rankings
(Jeff Hanisch/USA Today Sports)

How much do you think the Green Bay Packers miss Jordy Nelson on offense? This has looked like a completely different team over the last two weeks and as bad as it sounds, they could be in trouble when it comes to their playoff matchup against the Washington Redskins.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6 (14)

NFL Power Rankings
(Scott Galvin/USA Today Sports)

10. Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6 (14)

NFL Power Rankings
(Scott Galvin/USA Today Sports)

For weeks, we've been saying how the Pittsburgh Steelers have one of the most dangerous offenses in football and will be the last team any AFC opponent will want to play if they were to make the playoffs. After earning the final Wild Card spot thanks to some help from the Bills, look out for this dangerous Steelers team in the postseason.

9. Washington Redskins 9-7 (10)

NFL Power Rankings
(Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports)

9. Washington Redskins 9-7 (10)

NFL Power Rankings
(Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports)

Who would have thought it would be the Washington Redskins representing the NFC East in the playoffs at the beginning of the season? Kirk Cousins has been playing at an extremely high level in the second half of the season and it's safe to say he's earned a big contract once the offseason rolls around.

8. Cincinnati Bengals 12-4 (9)

NFL Power Rankings
(Joshua Lindsey/USA Today Sports)

8. Cincinnati Bengals 12-4 (9)

NFL Power Rankings
(Joshua Lindsey/USA Today Sports)

Can AJ McCarron finally lead the Cincinnati Bengals to a playoff win? This team missed out on plenty of opportunities for a first-round bye and now they get the last thing any AFC team wanted--a matchup with the Steelers.

7. New England Patriots 12-4 (3)

NFL Power Rankings
(Andrew Innerarity/USA Today Sports)

7. New England Patriots 12-4 (3)

NFL Power Rankings
(Andrew Innerarity/USA Today Sports)

We're not used to say this, but the New England Patriots should be concerned heading into the playoffs after ending the year on back-to-back losses. At least the Patriots will have two weeks to rest up and get healthy as the team still managed to claim the No. 2 seed in the AFC.

6. Seattle Seahawks 10-6 (8)

NFL Power Rankings
(Matt Kartozian/USA Today Sports)

6. Seattle Seahawks 10-6 (8)

NFL Power Rankings
(Matt Kartozian/USA Today Sports)

The argument can be made that no quarterback is playing as well as Russell Wilson at the moment as the Seattle Seahawks have won six of their last seven games. Experience always plays a key factor during this time of the year and with two Super Bowl appearances over the last two seasons, you know Wilson is anxious to turn that number into three.

5. Denver Broncos 12-4 (7)

NFL Power Rankings
(Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

5. Denver Broncos 12-4 (7)

NFL Power Rankings
(Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

Who would have thought the Denver Broncos were able to earn the No. 1 seed in the AFC thanks to Peyton Manning coming off the bench to spark the offense? This team has an unimaginable situation to ponder over the next two weeks when it comes to who will get to play quarterback in the playoffs, but the answer should clearly be Manning if he's healthy enough to go.

4. Minnesota Vikings 11-5 (6)

NFL Power Rankings
(Benny Sieu/USA Today Sports)

4. Minnesota Vikings 11-5 (6)

NFL Power Rankings
(Benny Sieu/USA Today Sports)

One of the biggest surprise teams this season was the Minnesota Vikings and Mike Zimmer deserves all of the credit in the world for leading this team to an NFC North title. Of course, the biggest challenge will be competing with the Seahawks--who embarrassed them earlier in the season--in the first round of the playoffs.

3. Kansas City Chiefs 11-5 (4)

NFL Power Rankings
(Denny Medley/USA Today Sports)

3. Kansas City Chiefs 11-5 (4)

NFL Power Rankings
(Denny Medley/USA Today Sports)

Nobody could have predicted the Kansas City Chiefs to earn a Wild Card spot after starting the season with a 1-5 record, but they managed to do so after winning 10-straight games to end the year. Andy Reid has kept this team focused over their last 10 games and they certainly have the defense to make a run in the playoffs.

2. Arizona Cardinals 13-3 (1)

NFL Power Rankings
(Matt Kartozian/USA Today Sports)

2. Arizona Cardinals 13-3 (1)

NFL Power Rankings
(Matt Kartozian/USA Today Sports)

This wasn't the typical game we expected from the Arizona Cardinals, but we can only assume they weren't as motivated to win after seeing the way the Carolina Panthers--who secured the No. 1 seed in the NFC--were playing against the Buccaneers. Don't let this game fool you as the Cardinals are still one of the most dangerous teams in the NFC and the argument can be made they're the best overall team with all of the weapons they have.

1. Carolina Panthers 15-1 (2)

NFL Power Rankings
(Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports)

1. Carolina Panthers 15-1 (2)

NFL Power Rankings
(Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports)

After locking up the No. 1 seed in the NFC, the Carolina Panthers may be the most fun team to watch in the playoffs. Cam Newton has carried this team on his shoulder for the entire season despite numerous key injuries and we can only hope the front runner for MVP carries the success over to the postseason.

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