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NFL Week 16 Power Rankings: Detroit Lions get their swagger back

Checking in on where the Detroit Lions stand in the national rankings heading into Week 16 of the NFL season.

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Denver Broncos v Detroit Lions Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

The NFL season is a grind. A constant battle between competitors to see who has the endurance to outlast their opponents, while still producing at a high level. The teams that have the talent and drive to be the best will eventually outlast the competition and can enjoy the spoils of a job well done.

But that grind doesn’t just take place on the football field, it happens in everything football-related, including in the media rooms that cover the game. This is extremely evident when examining the content different media outlets produce at this time of the year. Some continue to grind and deliver a better product than when they started the season, while others succumb to the pressure of a long season and start cutting corners.

You can see that pattern in this week's power rankings, as some media are still diligently working to deliver a high-quality product, while others are pre-writing articles and not bothering to update after games. Some are in a rush to get their product out first, cut corners to do so, and are focused more on getting articles written than the quality within them.

For example: How accurate are your power rankings if you’re publishing them on Sunday night before all the games are played and you certainly haven’t watched them? Or if you did happen to watch every game (or at least the highlights), how did you watch the Lions dismantling of the Broncos and come to the decision to move Detroit down in your rankings?

I know I personally didn’t watch all the games—of course, I am also not putting out a list of power rankings with my name on them—but I did watch the games of the teams typically listed ahead of the Lions this week, and let’s just say, I have some disagreements.

But I digress. At the end of Week 15, the Detroit Lions are 10-4 on the season, have a three game lead over the Vikings in the NFC North (with three games remaining), currently sit at the No. 3 seed in NFC, and have a 99% chance of making the playoffs.

In addition to watching the Lions get their swagger back, Lions fans also got to consume a long weekend of football, where we saw the Packers, Vikings, Bears, Cowboys, and Eagles all lose—LOL Matt Patricia—all opening the door even further for the Lions this postseason.

With that, let’s take a closer look at this week’s national power rankings to see why the Lions landed where they did on each ranker's list.

MMQB: 4 (Last week: 6)

From Connor Orr:

“Third-and-6, with about 13:50 left in the second quarter of a 0–0 game. Sam LaPorta comes off the line and absolute buries Baron Browning, then recovers his footing, looks up and catches a football being thrown at his chest. If Dan Campbell didn’t find his spitting image in the draft, I don’t know what else to make of LaPorta, who has been so phenomenal this year. A mold-breaking tight end who is only getting better.”

Sporting News: 4 (Last week: 7)

From Vinnie Iyer:

“The Lions got back on track at home on Saturday with the elite running game plowing through a porous Broncos un defense. That returning development also resettled Jared Goff at home to play well and inspired the defense. They can now feel better about their playoff dangerous status as soon-to-be new division champions.”

CBS Sports: 5 (Last week: 7)

From Pete Prisco:

“They snapped out of their two-game funk by beating up on the Broncos. They can clinch the division by beating Minnesota this week.”

ESPN: 6 (Last week: 6)

From ESPN staff, excerpt from Eric Woodyard:

We’re No. 1 ... in percentage of plays with five receivers in pass routes.

“Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson could be a head-coaching candidates this offseason as he has the Lions’ offense in a great spot through 14 games. Under Johnson’s playcalling, it makes sense that Detroit would attack with five receivers 70.5% of the time. The Lions have seen big production from receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown, Kalif Raymond, Josh Reynolds, Jameson Williams and Donovan Peoples-Jones while even lining up running backs Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery and tight ends Sam LaPorta and Brock Wright for pass routes at points. The Lions average the third-most offensive points per game, and a big part of that stems from the creativity on offense.”

The Athletic: 7 (Last week: 8)

From Josh Kendall:

Surprise: Sam LaPorta

“It’s not shocking that the rookie tight end is good, but this good? LaPorta had three touchdown catches Saturday night and now has nine on the season, the fourth-most receiving touchdowns in the league. LaPorta, the No. 34 pick in the 2023 draft, already has 758 receiving yards, the sixth most by a rookie tight end in the history of the league. If he hits his average the rest of the season, he will end up third behind only Mike Ditka and Kyle Pitts.”

Touchdown Wire: 7 (Last week: 8)

From Jarrett Bailey:

“Is there a team better coming off a loss than the Lions? This is the second time this season they have just dismantled an AFC West team after a bad loss. This Detroit team can beat anyone when they are at their best.

USA Today: 8 (Last week: 7)

From Nate Davis:

“One more win or Vikings loss – the Lions can make both those things happen in Minnesota on Sunday – means the NFC North flag will fly in Motown for the first time ever. Too bad the game’s not in prime time, where Detroit has won five in a row.”

NFL.com: 7 (Last week: 7)

From Eric Edholm:

“This was the get-right game the Lions needed, and even though it was a slog early on against the Broncos, it was also poetic. It required the defense, which had taken its share of lumps in recent games, to hold its water early as the offense was getting preheated in the first quarter. But even as the defense softened a bit in the second half, Jared Goff and Sam LaPorta got it going with the first of three TD connections and Jahmyr Gibbs showed just how he can be when he gets in a groove. It was a stunning display of offensive prowess when that unit had been waning in recent games, especially coming against a Denver defense that was among the league’s better units in recent weeks. Now the Lions are tantalizingly close to the postseason bid they narrowly missed out on last year. Their issues might not be magically cured, but they’re a lot less concerning now.”

Yahoo Sports: 8 (Last week: 8)

From Frank Schwab:

“There was a lot of good news in the win over the Broncos, but the best news might have been Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery combining for 185 rushing yards on 6.6 yards per attempt. The Broncos don’t have a good run defense, but the Lions getting their running backs going again would be a great sign.”

Pro Football Network: 8 (Last week: 8)

From Dallas Robinson:
Note: this is a different writer this week and the article was written/published before MNF

“The Lions can clinch their first playoff berth since 2016 if the Seahawks lose on Monday night, and they’ve all but locked up the NFC North. Detroit has a three-game lead on Minnesota with three weeks to play. Although the Lions and Vikings will play twice to close the year, Dan Campbell’s club would have to collapse not to secure the division title.”

The Ringer: 8 (Last week: 9)

From The Ringer collective staff, excerpt from Danny Kelly:

“The Lions got a massive boost on offense from two rookie playmakers on Saturday, with running back Jahmyr Gibbs and tight end Sam LaPorta leading the charge in a 42-17 beatdown of the Broncos. Gibbs showed why the team was willing to take him with the 12th pick of the NFL draft last April, rushing for 100 yards on 11 carries (a 9.1-yard average) while adding two catches for 8 yards and a score through the air. Gibbs, whose explosive acceleration helps him destroy pursuit angles and access rush lanes that aren’t available for other players, quietly went over 1,000 scrimmage yards for the season. LaPorta, meanwhile, caught five passes for 56 yards and three touchdowns in the blowout, a statement performance that puts the second-rounder in rare company among rookie tight ends in league history. With 71 catches for 758 yards and nine scores on the year, LaPorta is now one of three tight ends all time (joining John Mackey in 1963 and Mike Ditka in 1961) to record 700-plus yards and seven-plus touchdowns in their rookie season. The performance of the team’s rookie class (which has also gotten production out of linebacker Jack Campbell and safety Brian Branch) has this team on the verge of clinching a playoff berth. A win over the Vikings next would do just that.”

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