NFL

Week 16 NFL Power Rankings: 1-32 poll, plus the most underrated standout on each team

By this time of year in the NFL Power Rankings, most teams, star players and overarching subjects have been discussed. That is why we’re devoting the rankings before Christmas to highlighting players on each team who have been overlooked in 2020.

From players who should be bigger stars than they are to “glue” guys to players who occupy less-heralded positions, our NFL Nation writers picked one player from each team and gave them their overdue praise. How we rank in our Power Rankings: Our power panel — a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities — evaluates how teams stack up throughout the season.

Previous rankings: 15 | 14 | 13 | 12 | 11 | 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | Preseason

1. Kansas City Chiefs (13-1)

Week 15 ranking: 1

Most underrated star: CB L’Jarius Sneed

The rookie has not only been as dependable as one could expect of a fourth-round draft pick from Louisiana Tech, but he has also been a playmaker. Sneed is third on the Chiefs in interceptions, with three, despite missing six games because of a broken collarbone. He had an interception, a sack and three passes broken up in Sunday’s three-point win over Drew Brees and the Saints. — Adam Teicher

2. Buffalo Bills (11-3)

Week 15 ranking: 3

Most underrated star: WR Cole Beasley

While most of the focus on the Bills’ wide receiver corps has deservedly been on Stefon Diggs, Beasley has put together the best season of his career. He has set personal highs in receptions, yards and yards per catch, and with two games left, he is just 50 yards from his first 1,000-yard season. Beasley is a safety net for quarterback Josh Allen, and this offense would have a difficult time moving the ball without him — even with Diggs’ spectacular numbers. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

3. Green Bay Packers (11-3)

Week 15 ranking: 2

Most underrated star: OL Elgton Jenkins

An NFL All-Rookie Team selection at left guard last season, Jenkins has played everywhere on the line except right guard this season. That’s right: He has played left guard, left tackle, right tackle and center. “That kid’s special to do that,” Packers guard Lucas Patrick said. “I’ve never been around a player — high school, college or this level — to do that.” Since Corey Linsley’s Week 12 knee injury, Jenkins has started at center, a spot that could become his permanent home if the Packers don’t re-sign Linsley after this season. — Rob Demovsky

4. New Orleans Saints (10-4)

Week 15 ranking: 5

Most underrated star: DE Trey Hendrickson

The fourth-year pro is tied with Aaron Donald for the NFL lead with 12.5 sacks this season — including two Sunday against Patrick Mahomes, along with five QB hits and a forced fumble. Hendrickson was a rotational backup for most of his first three seasons, and not even the Saints saw this breakout coming, as they tried very hard to sign Jadeveon Clowney the week before the season started. The 6-foot-4, 270-pounder stepped up in a big way when projected starter Marcus Davenport missed the first four games because of injuries, and he hasn’t slowed down since. — Mike Triplett

5. Tennessee Titans (10-4)

Week 15 ranking: 8

Most underrated star: QB Ryan Tannehill

Tannehill is quietly having one of the best seasons by a quarterback since the franchise moved to Tennessee. His 31 touchdown passes are the most by a quarterback in Tennessee, and with two games left in the season, he’s 89 yards short of Matt Hasselbeck’s 2011 total of 3,571. Tannehill’s passing brings balance to the Titans’ offense and makes teams pay for focusing exclusively on running back Derrick Henry. The offense is averaging more than 30 points per game this season and has scored 436 points through 14 games, the second-highest total in franchise history. — Turron Davenport

6. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3)

Week 15 ranking: 4

Most underrated star: DB Cameron Sutton

The Steelers’ defense has suffered an onslaught of injuries recently but has mostly upheld its high level of play, thanks to versatile replacements such as Sutton. Sutton is a do-everything defensive back, at times filling in for Steven Nelson, Joe Haden and Mike Hilton. In a season in which he has made four starts, Sutton has three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception, along with seven passes defensed. Playing in the last year of his contract, Sutton might not be in Pittsburgh much longer because he has played himself into a decent payday on the open market. — Brooke Pryor

7. Baltimore Ravens (9-5)

Week 15 ranking: 10

Most underrated star: FB Patrick Ricard

It sounds strange that a 303-pound player goes unnoticed, but Ricard often goes overlooked as part of the NFL’s No. 1 rushing attack. Even after losing the league’s best blocking tight end in Nick Boyle, Baltimore has continued to dominate when running the ball because of the lead blocking of Ricard, a defensive lineman at Maine who shifted to offense in the NFL. He puts so many linebackers and defensive linemen on their backs that quarterback Lamar Jackson calls Ricard “Pancake Pat.” — Jamison Hensley

8. Seattle Seahawks (10-4)

Week 15 ranking: 7

Most underrated star: LT Duane Brown

The 35-year-old Brown is having a season worthy of his fifth Pro Bowl nod. He’s tied for third among tackles in ESPN’s pass block win rate, at 94.0%, and has not missed a game. Brown regularly gets days off as part of a scaled-down practice regimen that seems to be working. “It’s amazing,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “I would say he’s the heartbeat of the offensive line. He’s one of the leaders. For a guy to miss as much practice time as he does, it’s amazing that you play at that level.” — Brady Henderson

9. Cleveland Browns (10-4)

Week 15 ranking: 11

Most underrated star: LG Joel Bitonio

The Browns boast one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. The anchor of that unit remains the ever-reliable Bitonio, who is on his way to a third consecutive Pro Bowl. Bitonio leads the NFL in pass block win rate among offensive guards and is in the top 10 for run block win rate as well. Unlike in recent seasons, he has more help up front, thanks to the offseason arrivals of tackles Jedrick Wills Jr. and Jack Conklin. As a result, Bitonio is proving that he can be the driving piece spearheading a dominant line. — Jake Trotter

10. Indianapolis Colts (10-4)

Week 15 ranking: 9

Most underrated star: DL Denico Autry

Justin Houston and DeForest Buckner are the rightful headliners on the Colts’ defensive line. But Autry has made his impact there, too. He is tied with Houston and Buckner for the team high in sacks, with 7.5. What makes Autry’s performance even more impressive is that he has recorded those sacks while missing two games because he was on the reserve/COVID-19 list. — Mike Wells

11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-5)

Week 15 ranking: 12

Most underrated star: K Ryan Succop

Succop has converted 92.6% of his field goal attempts, tied for seventh in the league and better than what the team had the past eight seasons. Considering the challenges the Bucs have had in trying to get Tom Brady to jell with the offense and the struggles the Bucs have had with their kickers since Matt Bryant, Succop’s consistency has been invaluable. “When you look back at his history before his injuries, he was money inside of 50 [yards],” coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s gotten stronger. I’m watching him kick 58-yarders in the wind. … It’s nice to know when you send a guy out there, you’re getting points.” — Jenna Laine

12. Miami Dolphins (9-5)

Week 15 ranking: 13

Most underrated star: DE Emmanuel Ogbah

The Dolphins have a top-two scoring defense, and Ogbah has been the team’s best front-seven player, helping to dramatically improve what was the NFL’s worst pass rush in 2019, when Miami totaled 23 sacks and no player had more than five. Ogbah has a team-high nine sacks, putting him in the top 10 in the league, for an NFL-high 95 yards. Ogbah has consistently won his one-on-one matchups by showing supreme hand usage. His two-year, $15 million deal in March is looking like a steal, and he’s a prime candidate for a long-term extension. — Cameron Wolfe

13. Los Angeles Rams (9-5)

Week 15 ranking: 6

Most underrated star: S John Johnson III

On a top-ranked defense that includes star defensive tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey, Johnson doesn’t garner much attention. However, as the defensive signal-caller, the fourth-year pro has been critical to the unit’s success. He has played 100% of the snaps, and he has a team-high 95 tackles and seven pass breakups. “When you have those safeties that have that high football capacity and great command over everything that’s going on, it’s not the norm,” coach Sean McVay said of Johnson’s signal-calling duties. “But John Johnson is kind of an outlier in terms of his versatility as a player.” — Lindsey Thiry

14. Arizona Cardinals (8-6)

Week 15 ranking: 14

Most underrated star: LB Jordan Hicks

While the Cardinals’ defense is full of individual stars such as Chandler Jones, Budda Baker, Patrick Peterson, Isaiah Simmons and Dennis Gardeck, it’s Hicks who keeps the unit together at inside linebacker. He’s the quarterback of the defense, and he hardly comes off the field, playing 901 snaps this season, second most on the team and 22nd in the NFL, while leading the team in tackles. Hicks has been quietly consistent, also leading the team in defensive snaps and tackles last season. Without him, the Cardinals’ defense wouldn’t rank as a top-10 unit since Week 8. — Josh Weinfuss

15. Washington Football Team (6-8)

Week 15 ranking: 18

Most underrated star: RT Morgan Moses

There are a few deserving players, but all of them have received attention, whether that’s P Tress Way, TE Logan Thomas or RB J.D. McKissic. Even DT Jonathan Allen, who warrants more praise, is part of a decorated D-line group. But Moses is having arguably his best season coming off one of his worst. He rededicated himself to training in the offseason and reported to camp in excellent shape, and his play has benefited. On a line that has dealt with numerous injuries, Moses has been a rock. Because of multiple injuries to others, Moses also started two games at left tackle and played well as Washington won both. — John Keim

16. Las Vegas Raiders (7-7)

Week 15 ranking: 15

Most underrated star: K Daniel Carlson

Quietly, Carlson has been a steadying influence on special teams for the Raiders, converting 41 of 42 extra point attempts and 28 of 30 field goals, including all four from 50 yards or longer. Trust? Coach Jon Gruden had Carlson ready to try an NFL-record 65-yarder at the end of regulation Thursday against the Chargers, but a botched hold thwarted that drama. In fact, entering Sunday, Carlson’s 125 points scored led the NFL (he’s tied for second now). — Paul Gutierrez

17. Chicago Bears (7-7)

Week 15 ranking: 21

Most underrated star: LB Danny Trevathan

Trevathan is often overshadowed by fellow inside linebacker Roquan Smith, but the 30-year-old veteran is having another solid season, with 100 total tackles through 14 games. Trevathan — re-signed to a three-year contract with $13.625 million guaranteed this offseason — suffered a gruesome elbow injury in November that landed him on injured reserve and therefore required offseason rehabilitation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because NFL teams were forced to cancel offseason programs and shorten training camps, Trevathan looked a little rusty to open the season, but he has rebounded nicely. Trevathan’s experienced leadership is also a bonus for the Bears. — Jeff Dickerson

18. Minnesota Vikings (6-8)

Week 15 ranking: 16

Most underrated star: RT Brian O’Neill

The interior of the Vikings’ offensive line is where most of the team’s pass-protection issues lie, not with the tackles. O’Neill has put together a strong season at right tackle and gives the Vikings long-term security at the position, with an extension likely coming up in the offseason. He has improved every year since he was drafted in 2018, ranking 26th of 83 tackles, according to Pro Football Focus, and he has been a bright spot for a group that has gone through an array of ups and downs this season. — Courtney Cronin

19. New England Patriots (6-8)

Week 15 ranking: 17

Most underrated star: P Jake Bailey/K Nick Folk

Is it possible to split the vote between a punter and a kicker? Bailey is making a serious charge for All-Pro honors, which is saying something, considering that he kicks in the Northeast. Entering this past week’s games, he was fourth in average (48.8 yards per punt) and first in net (46.1), and in 40 attempts, he had just three touchbacks, with 23 punts downed inside the 20. As for Folk, he has drilled two 50-plus-yard field goals with no time on the clock in regulation and has made 25 straight field goals. — Mike Reiss

20. San Francisco 49ers (5-9)

Week 15 ranking: 18

Most underrated star: FS Jimmie Ward

Other than middle linebacker Fred Warner, no player on the Niners’ defense has more snap-to-snap responsibility than Ward, who has finally settled in as a free safety after years of bouncing among positions in the secondary. Although Ward would like to add more takeaways to his ledger, he’s a good tackler who excels in coverage and allows coordinator Robert Saleh to take more chances up front, knowing that Ward will be in the right position on the back end. — Nick Wagoner

21. Los Angeles Chargers (5-9)

Week 15 ranking: 23

Most underrated star: WR Keenan Allen

He is the most trustworthy receiver on the squad. Allen ranks third in the league in receptions (100), 13th in receiving yards (992) and tied for 10th in receiving touchdowns (eight). Despite that, he doesn’t get mentioned much among the league’s top receivers, but the Chargers rely on him for steady leadership and influence. He’s one of QB Justin Herbert’s go-to guys and a reason the first-rounder is on the verge of breaking the record for most passing touchdowns by a rookie. — Shelley Smith

22. New York Giants (5-9)

Week 15 ranking: 20

Most underrated star: LB Blake Martinez

Martinez’s impact can’t be measured by statistics, even though those are pretty good. He’s tied for fourth in the NFL with 128 tackles to go with eight tackles for loss, five QB hits, an interception and two forced fumbles. Martinez is an extension of defensive coordinator Patrick Graham on the field. He gets the Giants lined up in the right defense and is the centerpiece of it all. It’s no coincidence that the Giants’ defense has gone from being ranked 25th to being 12th in the span of a year. Their middle linebacker, though not a star, has been integral to their success. — Jordan Raanan

23. Philadelphia Eagles (4-9-1)

Week 15 ranking: 24

Most underrated star: DE Brandon Graham

He finally received a Pro Bowl bid for the first time in his standout 11-year career. With two games to play, Graham sits at seven sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 14 QB hits. More than just a hero of Super Bowl LII, Graham has been a constant energy source for the team over the past decade-plus — a role that took on even more importance in a year with no fans in the stands. — Tim McManus

24. Denver Broncos (5-9)

Week 15 ranking: 22

Most underrated star: DE Shelby Harris

In a season in which the Broncos have four defensive starters on injured reserve, including Pro Bowl players such as Von Miller and Jurrell Casey, and a fifth defensive starter who has been suspended for the remainder of the season in A.J. Bouye, Harris has had to be a little of everything for the Broncos. He is tied for fourth among the league’s defensive linemen in batted passes, with five, he is fourth on the team in sacks, with 2.5, and he is third in quarterback hits. That’s all despite his missing three games because of COVID-19. Harris signed a one-year deal last offseason to return to the team and will be an unrestricted free agent in March. — Jeff Legwold

25. Detroit Lions (5-9)

Week 15 ranking: 25

Most underrated star: P Jack Fox

Defensive end Romeo Okwara is another worthy candidate, but Fox has had a phenomenal rookie season. He has averaged 49.5 yards per punt and a net punting average of 45.5 yards. As of now, his gross average yardage is the No. 11 all-time, single-season mark in NFL history, and his net punting average is third all time. He has flipped fields with regularity and been an asset mere months after winning a close battle with Arryn Siposs in training camp. Now he looks like a long-term solution at the position and represents one area the team’s new general manager and coach don’t have to be concerned with. — Michael Rothstein

26. Dallas Cowboys (5-9)

Week 15 ranking: 28

Most underrated star: TE Dalton Schultz

This is a difficult choice because of the Cowboys’ lack of success, but Schultz has overdelivered. He entered the season with 13 receptions in his first two years, and when Blake Jarwin went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 1, the Cowboys needed Schultz to come through. He has 53 receptions for 524 yards and four touchdowns. He has helped move the chains in an offense that has needed help. Jarwin will be the starter when he is healthy again in 2021, but Schultz has shown that he can be a solid contributor. — Todd Archer

27. Atlanta Falcons (4-10)

Week 15 ranking: 26

Most underrated star: WR Russell Gage

With Julio Jones battling injuries throughout the season, Gage has become a key contributor to the offense, setting career highs in receptions (59), targets (94), yards (672) and touchdowns (three) with two games to go. At age 24 and with changes coming to the Falcons, he has become not only an underrated part of the Falcons’ present but also a potential dynamic part of their future. — Michael Rothstein

28. Carolina Panthers (4-10)

Week 15 ranking: 27

Most underrated star: DE/OLB Brian Burns

The Panthers have only two real difference-makers on defense: Burns and rookie Jeremy Chinn. Chinn gets more publicity because he’s in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year. His historic game against Minnesota, in which he returned consecutive fumbles for touchdowns, also helped. But the pressure Burns puts on quarterbacks, despite having only six sacks, has been key to Carolina’s defensive success. — David Newton

29. Cincinnati Bengals (3-10-1)

Week 15 ranking: 30

Most underrated star: S Jessie Bates III

Outside of Cincinnati, Bates doesn’t get nearly enough credit for what he does. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Bates leads all safeties with 15 pass deflections and has the lowest expected points added of any safety when targeted (minus-10.9). The big knock against Bates this season is that he hasn’t been able to convert on some big interception opportunities. Then again, the fact that Bates has been in position for a couple of potential pick-sixes shows how well he has played this season. If Bates played for a good team, he probably would get the recognition he deserves. — Ben Baby

30. Houston Texans (4-10)

Week 15 ranking: 29

Most underrated star: ILB Zach Cunningham

There isn’t a long list to pick from because most of the success the Texans have had is due to how QB Deshaun Watson has played. But one player who has shown up on the stat sheet regardless of how poorly the defense is playing is Cunningham. The Texans’ 2017 second-round pick, who signed a contract extension before the season, leads the NFL in tackles. “Zach has had a good season,” interim head coach Romeo Crennel said Monday. “He is a very active defensive player for us. He runs and hits. He fills gaps, and he is productive from that aspect.” — Sarah Barshop

31. New York Jets (1-13)

Week 15 ranking: 32

Most underrated star: S Marcus Maye

It’s tough to hand out any sort of MVP on a 1-13 team, but Maye has played virtually every snap and has two interceptions, two forced fumbles and seven pass breakups. He’s a natural free safety, but he played a few games at strong safety because the team needed him there. At 27, he’s the elder statesman in the Kiddie Corps secondary. He isn’t a dynamic player like former Jet Jamal Adams, but he’s steady and smart. Maye will be a free agent after the season, and the Jets should re-sign him. — Rich Cimini

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-13)

Week 15 ranking: 31

Most underrated star: P Logan Cooke

The Jaguars are 1-13, so I’m taking some liberty with “success” here, but Cooke has become one of the league’s better punters. His 43.4-yard net punt average is sixth, and he has put 11 punts inside the 10-yard line. Essentially, he’s making opposing offenses work a little harder to average 30.2 points per game against the Jaguars’ defense. — Mike DiRocco

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