Week 15 NFL Power Rankings: Biggest breakthroughs for every team

The final stretch of the regular season offers as good a time as any for reflection.

Here’s a rundown of the Week 15 Power Rankings, as voted on by our power panel — a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities — with a look at some of the most notable statistical breakthroughs across the league.

ESPN Stats & Information’s John McTigue contributed the following information.

Methodology: These rankings are based on which teams voters think would win head-to-head matchups. Higher-ranked teams would be favored against lower-ranked teams. Coming off a win doesn’t guarantee a jump, and a loss doesn’t guarantee a fall.

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

2017 record: 11-2
Week 14 ranking: No. 5

The Steelers have more sacks in 13 games this season (41) than they did in all of 2016 (38). Part of that is Cameron Heyward recording a career-high 9.0 sacks. Another is T.J. Watt recording the most sacks (6.0) by a Steelers rookie since Kendrell Bell in 2001.

2. New England Patriots

2017 record: 10-3
Week 14 ranking: No. 1

The Patriots’ defense had a major turnaround following a 2-2 start to the season. Through Week 4, they had allowed the second-most points per game in the NFL (32.0). They’ve allowed an NFL-best 13.5 points per game since, with Monday night’s 27-20 loss to Miami being the only time the unit has allowed even 20 points in their past nine games.

3. Philadelphia Eagles

2017 record: 11-2
Week 14 ranking: No. 2

Carson Wentz’s season came to an abrupt end when he tore his left ACL in Sunday’s win over the Rams, but what he accomplished this year was stellar. Wentz currently leads the NFL in passing touchdowns and set a franchise record for touchdown passes in a single season (33).

4. Los Angeles Rams

2017 record: 9-4
Week 14 ranking: No. 4

The Rams averaged 14.0 points per game in 2016. This year they are averaging more than twice that (30.5). Jared Goff’s improvement has been notable, but Todd Gurley II has been the catalyst. He has accounted for 34 percent of the team’s yards from scrimmage, highest in the NFL.

5. Minnesota Vikings

2017 record: 10-3
Week 14 ranking: No. 3

There’s no bigger breakthrough for the 2017 Vikings than Case Keenum. Even after Sunday’s loss to the Panthers, Keenum still ranks third leaguewide in Total QBR and has led Minnesota to an 8-3 record in his starts. He entered the season with a career 9-15 record as a starter.

6. New Orleans Saints

2017 record: 9-4
Week 14 ranking: No. 7

The Saints’ running game has been a revelation this season, with both Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram ranking in the top five for yards per rush. As a team, they have 19 rushing touchdowns, their most since the 2009 Super Bowl season (21).

7. Carolina Panthers

2017 record: 9-4
Week 14 ranking: No. 9

Cam Newton has more completions to Christian McCaffrey this season (67) than he has ever had to Panthers running backs in a single season. McCaffrey leads the team and all rookies in receptions.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars

2017 record: 9-4
Week 14 ranking: No. 8

The Jaguars are allowing nearly 10 points fewer per game than they did last season, and currently boast the league’s best defense in terms of points allowed, takeaways and Total QBR. Last season they ranked 25th in points allowed, 30th in takeaways and 14th in opponent QBR.

9. Seattle Seahawks

2017 record: 8-5
Week 14 ranking: No. 6

Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas all have missed multiple games this season, but what has to be encouraging for Seattle is how the team has handled it. With any of those players off field this season the Seahawks have allowed a 39 Total QBR, which is better than their QBR allowed for the entire season (42).

10. Atlanta Falcons

2017 record: 8-5
Week 14 ranking: No. 10

The Falcons’ pass rush was dependent on Vic Beasley Jr. last year, but others are getting more involved, which has resulted in a sack rate up nearly two full percentage points from 2016. Most notable is veteran Adrian Clayborn, who at 29 years old has set a career high with 9.0 sacks.


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