NFL top-10 rankings: 49ers hold top spot; Ravens, Lions climb; Cowboys slide

Bucky Brooks

The playoff picture has started to come into focus in Week 15. The 49ers clinched the NFC West title and the Cowboys, Eagles and Ravens have all secured postseason berths. 

But those four teams seem headed in very different directions. The Niners continue to look like the class of the league, winning their sixth straight game after an October swoon. The Ravens matched the 49ers with their 11th win of the season, a road victory in Jacksonville that featured plenty of Lamar Jackson wizardry.

Dallas and Philadelphia, however, are a different story. The Cowboys went to Buffalo and were massively outplayed by a resurgent Bills team. The Eagles will try to break their two-game losing streak on Monday night in Seattle. 

Meanwhile, the Dolphins showed that they could run up the score even without Tyreek Hill. And the Chiefs and Lions got back on track with wins over New England and Denver, respectively. Detroit’s victory was especially impressive against a team that had been on a roll. 

So the Niners hold the top spot this week, while the Ravens and Lions move up and the Cowboys and Eagles slide down a spot. The Jaguars fall off the list and two upstart teams with backup quarterbacks enter. 

With Eagles-Seahawks still on the Week 15 docket, here is my NFL top 10.

1. San Francisco 49ers 
Record: 11-3; Last Week: 1

The Brock Purdy-led 49ers are peaking at the right time, with the offense, defense and special teams units dominating the competition. The second-year quarterback sets the tone with his efficient play and edginess as a feisty competitor. With few teams capable of matching the 49ers’ speed, explosiveness and physicality, the road to Super Bowl LVIII runs through Santa Clara.

Did Brock Purdy lock up MVP award with performance vs. Cardinals?

Did Brock Purdy lock up MVP award with performance vs. Cardinals?

2. Baltimore Ravens
Record: 11-3; Last Week: 3

Lamar Jackson is playing at an MVP level for a team that routinely dispatches elite competition. The former MVP runs around like he’s in a video game, a “Create A Player” producing jaw-dropping splash plays as an elite runner and passer. With a crafty set of playmakers around Jackson, the Ravens’ dynamic offense perfectly complements a stifling defense that keeps opponents guessing on every snap. 

3. Miami Dolphins 
Record: 10-4; Last Week: 2

Despite missing Tyreek Hill, the Dolphins offense did not skip a beat against the Jets, with Jaylen Waddle starring in the WR1 role. The speedster posted his third 100-yard game of the season, showcasing the burst and explosion that makes Miami’s No. 1 and No. 2 receivers the most feared combination in football. With Mike McDaniel capable of crafting plays for either playmaker to excel on the perimeter, the Dolphins’ high-powered offense is problematic for defensive coordinators around the league. 

4. Detroit Lions
Record: 10-4; Last Week: 7

Jared Goff & Co. bounced back with a spectacular performance against the Broncos that silenced the naysayers doubting the quarterback’s game. The veteran completed 24 of 34 passes for 278 yards with five touchdowns in a dazzling pitch-and-catch exhibition at Ford Field. As Goff tossed the ball to eight different receivers on an assortment of short and intermediate throws, he showcased the Lions’ balance and diversity as an offensive juggernaut with Super Bowl potential.  

5. Dallas Cowboys 
Record: 10-4; Last Week: 4 

A disappointing road loss to the Bills exposed the Cowboys’ warts to the football world. The defense’s inability to stop the run or match Buffalo’s physicality at the point of attack leads to questions about Dallas’ chances against Bully Ball teams such as the 49ers and Lions in the playoffs. After the Cowboys faltered against another NFL heavyweight in a marquee game, it is hard to view them as legitimate contenders despite an impressive record that could result in a top seed. 

Dave Helman reacts to Bills crushing Cowboys

Dave Helman reacts to Bills crushing Cowboys

6. Philadelphia Eagles
Record: 10-3; Last Week: 5

The defending NFC champs are reeling amid a two-game losing streak that has showcased the team’s biggest offensive and defensive flaws. Although Nick Sirianni’s squad could turn things around with a strong performance Monday night, the lack of consistency from the ultra-talented team is a major concern heading down the stretch. 

7. Kansas City Chiefs
Record: 9-5; Last Week: 6

The offense continues to sputter despite Andy Reid’s desperate attempts to tweak and adjust the game plan to accentuate the unit’s strengths. Though the Chiefs put up 27 points against a rock-solid Patriots defense, the offense’s inconsistencies and sloppy play put a lot of pressure on Steve Spagnuolo’s defense to come up with game-changing plays and crucial stops. 

8. Cleveland Browns
Record: 9-5; Last Week: 8

Joe Flacco has the Browns inching closer to a wild-card spot as a substitute QB1 with a winning pedigree. The 38-year-old signal-caller is far from perfect, but he plays winning football and displays enough grit to overcome mistakes that would crush young or inexperienced signal-callers. With Kevin Stefanski willing to trust Flacco in key moments, the Browns offense has been good enough to complement the NFL’s top-ranked defense in an improbable playoff push.  

Dave Helman, Mark Sanchez and Kevin Kugler break down Browns’ win

Dave Helman, Mark Sanchez and Kevin Kugler break down Browns' win

9. Indianapolis Colts
Record: 8-6; Last Week: NR

Credit Gardner Minshew for helping the Colts win five of their past six games to creep back into playoff contention. The spunky backup QB has found a way to move the ball with a cast of backups around him on the perimeter and in the backfield. While Minshew has not been perfect at the helm, the Colts have found ways to minimize his miscues and misfires while rallying around his energy and enthusiasm. 

10. Cincinnati Bengals
Record: 8-6; Last Week: NR

Jake Browning continues to impress as Cincinnati’s starting quarterback. The journeyman has the team on a surprising three-game winning streak based on his efficient play from the pocket. As Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd routinely make the quarterback look good with spectacular plays on the perimeter, the Bengals have scored 27 points or more in their past three contests while climbing back into the AFC playoff hunt. 

Bucky Brooks is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. He also breaks down the game for NFL Network and as a cohost of the “Moving the Sticks” podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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