Understandably, there's a lot of attention being directed at the Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys Week 16 tilt at Lincoln Financial Field, a game that will likely determine who wins the NFC East.
However, the game with the most long-lasting playoff implications is likely to be the Minnesota Vikings-Green Bay Packers Monday Night Football showdown.
The 10-4 Vikings will welcome the Packers to U.S. Bank Stadium, where they are undefeated in 2019. To win the NFC North, the Vikings need to defeat the Packers in Week 16, win against the Chicago Bears in Week 17 and have the Packers lose in Detroit in Week 17.
While not impossible, it does seem unlikely that Aaron Rodgers and the 11-3 Packers will lose their final two games of the 2019 season.
That said, a loss to Minnesota in Week 16 could cost the Packers a chance to have a first-round bye and a home playoff game in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs. It would certainly prevent the Packers from claiming the top spot in the NFC, and securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
With five teams in the NFC that could realistically make a run to the Super Bowl, Week 16's Vikings-Packers battle, which will affect seeding in the NFC playoffs one way or another, is one of the most important games of the 2019 season.
Ahead of the penultimate week of the 2019 NFL season, here are RADIO.COM's NFL Power Rankings:
1. Baltimore Ravens (Last Week: No. 1)
In Week 15, Lamar Jackson broke Michael Vick's single-season quarterback rushing record. Quietly, he also leads the NFL with 33 touchdown passes, five of which came in the Ravens' Thursday Night Football win over the New York Jets. The Ravens will almost certainly enter the AFC playoffs as the No. 1 overall seed, which would allow them to have a bye in the first round and home-field advantage as long as they're alive. Since a 2-2 start, they've rattled off 10 consecutive wins. It's hard to say they aren't the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
2. New Orleans Saints (Last Week: No. 3)
The most remarkable part about the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era is that heart-breaking losses don't seem to cripple the team. After a 48-46 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14, the Saints blew the Indianapolis Colts out 34-7 on Monday Night Football in Week 15. Brees had one of the most memorable games of his illustrious career, as he completed 29 of 30 pass attempts for 307 yards and four touchdowns. Casually, he also broke Peyton Manning's record for career touchdown passes. The Saints need some help to secure a first-round bye, but they are as dangerous as any team in the NFC.
3. Seattle Seahawks (Last Week: No. 6)
Following a Sunday Night Football loss to the division-rival Los Angeles Rams, the Seahawks bounced back well with a 30-24 win over the Panthers in Carolina in Week 15. Russell Wilson tossed two touchdown passes, while Chris Carson ran for 133 yards and two touchdowns. With the San Francisco 49ers' Week 15 loss, the Seahawks have temporarily reclaimed the top spot in both the NFC West and NFC as a whole.
4. San Francisco 49ers (Last Week: No. 2)
A last-second loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 15 shouldn't have overwhelming consequences, but it may. With the loss, the 49ers lost the lead in the NFC West, which means they are currently on track to have to go on the road on Wild Card Weekend and make a postseason run on the road. The 49ers' elite rushing attack and defense will travel well, but they would obviously prefer to have a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. To do that, the 49ers will have to win their final two games, including a showdown in Seattle in Week 17.
5. Kansas City Chiefs (Last Week: No. 5)
Quietly, the Chiefs have won four games in a row. Notably, Steve Spagnulo's defense has limited opponents to an average of 11.25 points per game over the last month. Their schedule - and a snowstorm this past weekend - have perhaps contributed to that, but it's worth mentioning nonetheless. The Chiefs still have a realistic path to a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs, but they'll need to win out and probably have the Buffalo Bills defeat the New England Patriots in Week 16.
6. Green Bay Packers (Last Week: No. 4)
In Week 16, the Packers have a chance to clinch the NFC North title with a win over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football. Even if they aren't able to pull out a win on the road, they would still win the division if they are able to defeat the Detroit Lions at home in Week 17. That said, they currently are on track to have a first-round bye, and they'll almost certainly need to win both of their remaining games to stay in one of the top two spots in the NFC.
7. Minnesota Vikings (Last Week: No. 7)
At the very least, the Vikings have a chance in Week 16 to play spoiler to the Green Bay Packers' chances of clinching a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. If they are successful in defeating Aaron Rodgers and company on Monday Night Football, they'll leave open the possibility that they could leapfrog the Packers for the NFC North title in Week 17 with a win over the Chicago Bears and a Packers' loss to the Detroit Lions. One thing at a time, though.
8. New England Patriots (Last Week: No. 8)
As much as a win over the one-win Cincinnati Bengals isn't going to qualm fears the the Patriots don't have enough offensive playmakers to make a Super Bowl run, it's still important that they snapped a two-game losing streak. With their 34-13 win in Week 15, the Patriots moved to 10-3, which keeps them in control of the No. 2 seed in the AFC. A first-round bye, especially as Tom Brady deals with an elbow injury, is crucial to the team's Super Bowl chances.
9. Buffalo Bills (Last Week: No. 9)
The Bills have perfected the art of winning games 20-14. Perhaps that style won't allow them to be successful in the postseason against the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs or Houston Texans, but it could work in a playoff game against the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers or Tennessee Titans. That theory will be tested in Week 16 as they travel to Foxborough to take on a Patriots team that they could still leapfrog in the AFC East.
10. Houston Texans (Last Week: No. 13)
The Texans let things get a little too close for comfort after jumping out to a 14-0 lead in their Week 15 matchup with the Titans, but the bottom line is they defeated their division rivals in Tennessee. With that, they have sole possession of the top spot in the AFC South, and a home game against the Titans to fall back on in Week 17.
11. Tennessee Titans (Last Week: No. 10)
Regardless of how the remainder of the season plays out, the Titans will probably move forward with Ryan Tannehill as their quarterback. Unfortunately for them, they're currently on the outside looking on the AFC playoff picture. The feeling here is that they would be the Pittsburgh Steelers head to head, but that doesn't matter. After losing to the division-rival Houston Texans in Week 15, they find themselves a game back in both the AFC South and AFC Wild Card race. The Titans' final two games are against the New Orleans Saints in Week 16 and in Houston in Week 17.
12. Pittsburgh Steelers (Last Week: No. 11)
Minkah Fitzpatrick has helped the Steelers build an elite defense, which is why he checked in on RADIO.COM's top five NFL MVP candidates last week. But after a 17-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills at home on Sunday Night Football on Week 15, it's fair to wonder if the Steelers have enough on offense to hold off the Tennessee Titans and secure the final Wild Card spot in the AFC. They may luck out, though. They have a very winnable game in New Jersey against the Jets this week. In Week 17, they're in Baltimore, but the Ravens may not need to play their starters if they've already clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The Titans' schedule, as noted above, isn't lining up in as friendly of a way.
13. Dallas Cowboys (Last Week: No. 16)
Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard each ran for over 115 rushing yards in the Cowboys' 44-21 win over the Los Angeles Rams in Week 15. There's no reason that Jason Garrett and company shouldn't continue to lean on their running game in Week 16, as they play in Philadelphia in a game that will likely decide who wins the NFC East. Whether the Cowboys can run their way to at least the NFC Championship Game and save Garrett's job is less clear.
14. Los Angeles Rams (Last Week: No. 12)
After a blowout loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the 8-6 Rams will almost certainly miss the postseason. When you consider that they traded for former All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey during the season and don't have a first-round pick until 2022, the Rams altogether missing the playoffs when they are in win-now mode would be a disaster.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (Last Week: No. 15)
Carson Wentz has fumbled 11 times in the last five games, which is an alarming trend for a fourth-year quarterback. That said, he had arguably the nicest touchdown pass of the season in the team's Week 15 win over the Redskins, and later completed the game-winning touchdown pass to Greg Ward Jr., his second consecutive week with a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. Ward Jr., a former college quarterback that has spent the bulk of his young career on the Eagles' practice squad, has turned into the Eagles' top wideout over the past two weeks. Wentz still, of course, has Zack Ertz and Miles Sanders, but it does say something about him that the Eagles have won consecutive games - even if they have been against bad teams - with so few NFL-caliber skill-position players.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Last Week: No. 18)
Jameis Winston had one of the best games of his career in Week 15. While Winston threw his league-leading 24th interception, he also tossed four touchdown passes and threw for 458 yards in a win over the Detroit Lions. The Buccaneers are 7-7, and with Winston's rookie deal up at the conclusion of the season, it still may be in the Buccaneers' best interests to find a way to sign him for the 2020 season and hope he figures out a way to limit turnovers in his second year with Bruce Arians.
17. Chicago Bears (Last Week: No. 14)
After a few good games, Mitchell Trubisky struggled in a winnable game against the the division-rival Green Bay Packers, throwing two picks. Additionally, the Bears struggled to run the ball, a theme that has been present throughout the course of 2019. The duo of Tarik Cohen and rookie David Montgomery have struggled in attempting to replace Jordan Howard, who the Bears gave up for a sixth-round pick this past offseason.
18. Atlanta Falcons (Last Week: No. 25)
After opponents averaged 31.25 points per game against the Falcons through the first eight weeks of the season, defensive-minded head coach Dan Quinn handed over defensive play-calling duties to Jeff Ulbrich. Since then, the Falcons have limited opponents to 19.2 points per game, and they've gone 4-2. Whether that's enough to save Quinn's job remains to be seen, but the Falcons have obviously been successful at making in-season adjustments.
19. Arizona Cardinals (Last Week: No. 24)
In the first year of the Kyler Murray/Kliff Kingsbury era, the Cardinals have shown enough to get you excited for the future in the desert. While their 4-9-1 record still isn't pretty, they've twice played the San Francisco 49ers tight and defeated the Cleveland Browns in Week 15. Murray has 17 touchdowns to 10 interceptions in his rookie season, and has added in 504 rushing yards. The Cardinals need to continue to retool the offense around him - along with their secondary - but they appear to have the quarterback position solidified for the foreseeable future.
20. Oakland Raiders (Last Week: No. 17)
Your final year before relocating to a new city isn't supposed to be pretty. So while Jon Gruden deserves credit for leading the Raiders to an improbable 6-4 start in 2019, it's not shocking that the team has lost four consecutive games and weren't given a warm reception in their final home game at the Oakland-Alameda County Colesium. Derek Carr hasn't had a bad 2019 season, but it will be interesting to see this offseason if Gruden thinks there's a veteran that can be more of a difference-maker at quarterback.
21. Cleveland Browns (Last Week: No. 20)
As tantalizing as the Browns' skill-position talent remains, it's hard to imagine bringing this group back in 2020 and thinking things will click. Perhaps it's as simple as making a coaching change, though NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported prior to the team's Week 15 loss that the Browns hope to retain Kitchens. Anyways, it's not that simple. Odell Beckham Jr. is averaging a career-low 65.0 receiving yards per game, and whispers that he would prefer to be traded this offseason aren't dying down. The Browns have their work cut out this offseason.
22. Indianapolis Colts (Last Week: No. 19)
Once upon a time, the Colts were 5-2, and looked like they may have a cinderella season following the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck late in the preseason. Since then, injuries have devastated them, and perhaps water has found its level to a degree, as the Colts have lost six of their last seven games. In Week 15, nothing worked. Jacoby Brissett was limited to 165 passing yards, Marlon Mack led the team with 19 rushing yards and the defense was shredded by Drew Brees on a historic night. The Colts have two winnable games to finish their season - they'll host the Panthers in Week 16 and play in Jacksonville in Week 17 - but there's no reason to think they're certain to win either.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars (Last Week: No. 29)
Gardner Minshew II completed 17 of his 29 pass attempts for 201 yards and two touchdowns in a 20-16 Jaguars' win in Oakland in Week 15. At 5-9, though, the fate of head coach Doug Marrone is probably sealed. It's possible that the Jaguars win out - their final two games are against the Atlanta Falcons and Indianapolis Colts - but it's hard to imagine the Jaguars running things back with their current coaching staff (and maybe entire power structure) in 2020.
24. Denver Broncos (Last Week: No. 21)
It would be unfair to say that rookie quarterback Drew Lock's magic ran out in Week 15. But, playing at Arrowhead Stadium in a blizzard isn't exactly ideal for a rookie quarterback - or anyone. Lock was limited to just 208 passing yards and a pick in a loss to the Chiefs, with the Broncos held to just 52 rushing yards.
25. Los Angeles Chargers (Last Week: No. 22)
Sometimes, it's just time for a change. A year after going 12-4 and winning a playoff game, the Chargers find themselves at 5-9 after a blowout loss to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 15. Philip Rivers tossed three more interceptions in Week 15, and now has 18 on the season. From here, the 38-year-old should be a Hall of Famer. But with his contract set to expire and the Chargers moving into a new stadium, this may be the best time to go in another direction at quarterback.
26. New York Jets (Last Week: no. 23)
Before scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter, the Jets were outscored 35-7 in the first three quarters of their Thursday Night Football loss in Baltimore. It's possible that the 5-9 Jets will lose out, as their final two games are against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills, two teams competing for playoff positioning.
27. Carolina Panthers (Last Week: No. 26)
It's pretty amazing how quickly the Panthers have devolved into a disaster. Their four-game winning streak feels like a lifetime ago, as evidenced by the fact that the man who helped lead them on that run - Kyle Allen - has been benched in favor of rookie Will Grier. All this feels especially sad when you consider how remarkable Christian McCaffrey has been - the third-year pro has 1,307 rushing yards, 814 receiving yards and 18 total touchdowns. The Panthers have wasted what will almost certainly be the best year of McCaffrey's career.
28. Detroit Lions (Last Week: No. 27)
It isn't Matt Patricia's fault that the Lions' season has collapsed without quarterback Matthew Stafford. However, he was hired as a defensive mind and the Lions were gashed through the air by Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 15, a continuation of what's been a disastrous defensive season. That reflects the poorest on Patricia, and is the best argument for not bringing him back for a third season.
29. New York Giants (Last Week: No. 31)
As cool of a story as it was for the Giants to win in Eli Manning's final home game as a Giant, it doesn't feel like an understatement to say that Week 15 could prove to be disastrous for the Giants' future. By defeating the Miami Dolphins, the Giants are a win over the Washington Redskins in Week 16 away from losing out on the No. 2 overall pick. By winning in Week 15 - with Daniel Jones on the sideline - the Giants may have cost themselves a chance to select Ohio State defensive end Chase Young in the 2020 NFL Draft. Young has suggested he may return to Ohio State for his senior season, though if he enters the draft, he would be one of the best prospects in the last five years.
30. Washington Redskins (Last Week: No. 30)
The Redskins lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 15, but there were things to like. Rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins completed 19 of 28 pass attempts for 261 yards and two touchdowns. Terry McLaurin, who is proving to be one of the steals of the 2019 NFL Draft, had five catches for 130 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown. And, all of a sudden, future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson is running the ball at a strong clip again. It will be interesting to see if the Redskins have interest in retaining the 34-year-old for 2020. More interesting will be who coaches the team moving forward. The guess here is that it won't be Urban Meyer.
31. Miami Dolphins (Last Week: No. 28)
The Dolphins still will need a loss by the New York Giants in one of the last two weeks of the season, but after losing to them in Week 16, they own the tie-breaker in regards to draft positioning if they each finish with the same record. First, though, the Dolphins need to find a way to lose to the team currently on track to have the No. 1 pick - the Cincinnati Bengals - who they will host in Week 16. A win would likely push them out of the sweepstakes for Ohio State defensive end Chase Young.
32. Cincinnati Bengals (Last Week: No. 32)
While the Bengals were blown out by the New England Patriots in Week 15, it was a successful weekend. Saturday, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow was named the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner. Sunday, the New York Giants won their third game of the season, all-but assuring that the 1-13 Bengals will have the chance to select Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.