16. Pittsburgh Steelers, 8-8 (14)The loss of Ben Roethlisberger to injury and the 0-3 start were bummers from which they couldn’t recover despite the best efforts of Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler to make them a defense-heavy team, trying to hide their offensive shortcomings as much as possible. Winning games while scoring in the teens works only in a short window in today’s NFL.17. Atlanta Falcons, 7-9 (20)When it was all said and done for Dan Quinn’s team, the Falcons probably ended up with a record that truly matched their talent, given their running game and pass defense limitations. Quinn gave them every reason to keep him and show he isn’t the problem.18. Oakland Raiders, 7-9 (16)The next time we rank the Raiders, they will be representing Las Vegas. Jon Gruden did a pretty job in the end with a three-game improvement from 2018, staying in the AFC playoff hunt until the final week of the season.19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 7-9 (17)The Buccaneers ended up with a mild, two-game improvement with Bruce Arians, and we’ll never know what could have been had they figured out their pass defense and running game earlier in the season. As much as Jameis Winston’s 30 interceptions clouded his 33 TDs and 5,109 yards, his talent and grit proved he should be their QB keeper.20. Indianapolis Colts, 7-9 (18)The Colts dropped by three games in the transition away from Andrew Luck, and although Jacoby Brissett struggled at times trying to replace him, he also was dealing with a lot of offensive injuries (including one of his own), and the defense wasn’t immune, either. Expect Frank Reich’s team to rebound in 2020. 6. New England Patriots, 12-3 (7)What was that? The Patriots lost another home game, this time to an AFC East foe, and had a defensive breakdown late in the game. We can’t rule out Tom Brady and Bill Belichick even when they seem the most vulnerable, but consider them on the ropes for at least this playoff run with the odds of a repeat going down fast with a rare No. 3 seed.7. Seattle Seahawks, 11-5 (7)The Seahawks couldn’t quite finish another close game against the 49ers, but their No. 5 seed is more appropriate for their all-around level of play this season. They have enough offensive and defensive holes thanks to so many injuries for one to think they won’t get through a tough NFC field.8. Buffalo Bills, 10-6 (8)The Bills have played a physical style with timely big plays, and Sean McDermott needs to be a strong coach of the year candidate. They really needed to rest those indispensable bodies against the Jets, and they will go into the wild-card game in Houston with full, relentless force.9. Minnesota Vikings, 10-6 (9)The Vikings also could afford to be careful with their key players against the Bears, but now they need to hope having objects at rest doesn’t cost them against the locomotive that is the Saints. They can’t rely on a Minneapolis Miracle to get through a playoff game in New Orleans.10. Houston Texans, 10-6 (10)The Texans also were in position to sit regulars with no chance to improve from their No. 4 seed in the loss to the Titans. They should remember that winning the division and getting a home wild-card game didn’t help much season. They arguably match up worse against the Bills than they did against the Colts a year ago. (Getty Images) https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/a5/1/mike-tomlin-120919-getty-ftrjpg_tacz1lwln3gm1oyn8k9axcv8r.jpg?t=-346634474&w=500&quality=80 21. Denver Broncos, 7-9 (22)The Broncos’ strong finish to the season gives us reason believe they are a sleeper playoff team for 2020 with Drew Lock looking like an answer at quarterback and the defense having some newfound juice under Fangio. The one-game improvement feels a lot a bigger than it is.22. New York Jets, 7-9 (23)Adam Gase did the best he could with another team that was bitten by the injury and illness bugs. His first season in New York was disappointing because he was closer to his old team, Miami, than either of the two playoff teams in the division, New England and Buffalo.23. Cleveland Browns, 6-10 (21)Freddie Kitchens had to be let go based on their high expectations. Forget the fact that they fell well short of contending for the AFC North and getting a playoff spot. They were actually a game and a half better last season.24. Jacksonville Jaguars, 6-10 (25)Doug Marrone got his team to show life in the finale, but after a 4-4 start, a 2-6 finish that was mostly about offensive dysfunction and defensive ineptitude was a bad look for a team that was in the AFC championship game just two short years ago.25. Arizona Cardinals, 5-10-1 (27)For many, the Cardinals exceeded expectations of what they could do right away with Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray offensively, but the addition of Kenyan Drake made the running game the most reliable part of the team with the defense not doing much at all. They need to invest a lot on that side in the offseason. (Getty Images) https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/78/54/drew-lock-122919-getty-ftr_8y70w3seuldo1qneupqg9rl1m.jpg?t=1418250735&w=500&quality=80 11. Philadelphia Eagles, 9-7 (11)Now that the Eagles have pulled off another improbable December run to get into the playoffs despite all their injuries, we can’t sleep on Doug Pederson’s team in the NFC tournament, especially with a home game in hand to start. They have something new, too, for the playoffs — a healthy and determined Carson Wentz.12. Tennessee Titans, 9-7 (13)The Titans have had a great second half of the season fueled by their sudden dominant triplets, Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown and Ryan Tannehill. Arthur Smith has done a great job taking over the offense from LaFleur, and Mike Vrabel has helped keep the defense together despite injuries. They are tough and battle-tested, making them a dangerous matchup right off the bat for the Patriots.13. Los Angeles Rams, 9-7 (12)The Rams didn’t go into full Super Bowl hangover mode, as they managed to finish ahead of .500. But they found offensive answers with Todd Gurley, Tyler Higbee and Robert Woods a little too late, and their defense was a frustrating yo-yo despite the investment in Jalen Ramsey.14. Chicago Bears, 8-8 (19)The Bears also didn’t live up to the expectations of being a returning playoff team, as they fell hard in the NFC North behind the Packers and the Vikings. Their offensive inconsistency with Matt Nagy and Mitchell Trubisky was maddening and more prevalent when their defense had a natural drop-off tied to injury and losing Vic Fangio.15. Dallas Cowboys, 8-8 (15)The Cowboys were appropriately .500 with Jason Garrett, given two steps forward and then two steps back has been the trademark of his tenure. The offense toggled between explosive and inefficient, and the defense went from less bending to more breaking. (Getty Images) https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/33/24/carson-wentz-092629-getty-ftrjpg_5h4kkh73woi91u538xssmfcne.jpg?t=1845689325&w=500&quality=80 (Getty Images) https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/35/f6/tom-brady-091719-getty-ftrjpg_tl2mn14xzzej1q4lnc7k8qtjk.jpg?t=1092722813&w=500&quality=80 (Getty Images) https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/32/64/philip-rivers-102118-getty-ftrjpg_8z6m4bl1xmu81r5a9dqff917a.jpg?t=-1745930906&w=500&quality=80 MORE NFL:Playoff schedule | Mock draft with new orderFrom top to bottom, here’s how Sporting News ranks them, for the last time until after the Super Bowl.NFL power rankings1. Baltimore Ravens, 14-2 (previous ranking: 1)The Ravens have never been this good, and their history includes a couple of strong Super Bowl runs. Their rushing offense and defensive depth give them the right makeup for January and February.2. San Francisco 49ers, 13-3 (2)The 49ers’ defense keeps fighting through key injuries to make stops, so they will welcome the first-round bye to heal. Their offense has become so dangerous because of its diverse personnel and play-calling, and there are bound to be many wore wrinkles in the playoffs in what could be Kyle Shanahan’s redemption song.3. Kansas City Chiefs, 12-4 (5)The Chiefs’ offense keeps finding more answers around Patrick Mahomes with his full health and Damien Williams taking over the backfield like he did late last season. Steve Spagnuolo’s installation of the 4-3 scheme has paid off big-time, from Frank Clark to defensive MVP Tyrann Mathieu.4. New Orleans Saints, 13-3 (4)The Saints didn’t have much difficulty dispatching the Panthers on the road in Week 17. They were playing a lesser opponent, but they are the only one of the playoff powerhouses that is riding a dominant, non-resting game into the playoffs. That momentum is bound to help them try to make a run two steps deeper than last year.5. Green Bay Packers, 13-3 (3)The Packers haven’t gotten many style points for their massive rebound season with Matt LaFleur, in part because Aaron Rodgers isn’t putting the team on his back and lighting it up because it’s all on him. He’s been a little off, but when the defense and the running game hit some walls in the playoffs, you know Rodgers is the biggest ace in the hole for any team in the league. 26. Los Angeles Chargers, 5-11 (24)The Chargers had the worst drop-off of any team, seven games worse than they were in 2018. Philip Rivers’ turnover woes, the offensive line issues and defensive injuries all get some of the blame. There was a real lacking identity for much of the season after showing such attitude last year.27. Miami Dolphins, 5-11 (29)The Dolphins, down to their shocking upset of the Patriots in Week 17, threw all notions of their tanking out the window. Ryan Fitzpatrick did his best to bring out their offensive talent, led by DeVante Parker, and Brian Flores amazingly got the most out of a “no-name” defense. This team can be scary good in a hurry, sitting on three draft picks and about to chase down a franchise QB.28. Carolina Panthers, 5-11 (26)What was that? The Panthers went into the tank without Ron Rivera, as their defense somehow got worse, and their offense came apart wherever Christian McCaffrey wasn’t playing. Their new coach has a lot of work cut out for him, starting with the QB decision.29. New York Giants, 4-12 (28)Daniel Jones is the real deal as the franchise quarterback, and the offense looks like it will be just fine going forward with Saquon Barkley there to help, too. The defense is what needs a successful overhaul for the Giants to join the Broncos as a hot playoff sleeper next season.30. Detroit Lions, 3-12-1 (30)The Lions may have saved their coach and general manager, and they played well and smart for most of their finale against the Packers, but the talent issues, especially defensively, continued to cause them to unravel. They will need to become at least respectable on that side of the ball if they expect to win more games with Matthew Stafford back leading a somewhat loaded offense.31. Washington Redskins, 3-13 (31) The 2019 NFL regular season is finished. While 12 teams have separated themselves to advance to the playoffs with a shot at Super Bowl 54, the other 20 can now focus solely on the offseason.The playoffs will determine both the league champion and the final hierarchy, but it’s time to take another look how the teams stack up against each other after Week 17. The most powerful flexed their muscles again, and all throughout the middle, there was a natural regression to the mean. The Redskins were decimated by injuries, which counteracted all the heart and fight they were showing with interim coach Bill Callahan, at least on the scoreboard. Now they will be adapting to big changes as they desperately keep searching for relevance in a weakened NFC East.32. Cincinnati Bengals, 2-14 (32)The Bengals have not worried about their confirmed draft status the past couple of weeks, and that led to plenty of veteran fight from players such as Andy Dalton, Tyler Eifert and Joe Mixon. Zac Taylor had a tough rookie campaign, but there’s promise for him to oversee a turnaround, especially with Joe Burrow on the way.