Vilardo: 2023 Week 16 NFL West Power Rankings & Previews

The 49ers wrapped up their division in the NFC and the Chiefs have a two-game lead in the AFC

Posted on December 20, 2023


  By Stephen Vilardo, SuperWest Sports

The playoff picture in the NFL has gotten slightly clearer after Week 15, but the blur is certainly still there.

In the NFC, the 49ers have wrapped up the division and can wrap up the number one seed with a win this week and losses by the Lions, Cowboys, and Eagles.

More than likely, it is going to take one more week for them. The Rams and Seahawks are among a crowded field for the Wild Card.

Essentially it is six teams vying for the final two spots in the playoffs.

In the AFC, the Chiefs find themselves with a two-game lead with three to play. A win on Sunday will clinch the division for the eighth season in a row.

The Broncos and Raiders currently rank 11th and 12th in the conference standings. They have a shot, but they are chasing a lot of teams—five of whom have eight wins already.

Week 15 was a much better week for my predictions. On the season I am still fifth in the rankings for the over/under totals per Tallysight.com.

For my picks for the entire NFL this week, I went 13-3 with an 8-6-2 mark against the spread and a 9-6-1 over/under totals. (Season long, I’m 142-86 overall, 116-100-7 ATS, 127-89-8 O/U)

Below are my Week 16 Power Rankings for the eight teams with a quick look at the upcoming week’s matchups and my game picks.

1. San Francisco 49ers (11-3) ◄►

Cardinals Review 

San Francisco’s offense was clicking on Sunday against the Cardinals. Deebo Samuel had a TD once again, making it four straight games with a TD for Samuel.

Christian McCaffrey had 187 scrimmage yards and three TDs, giving him 80 career TDs from scrimmage in 89 games giving him the fourth most in NFL history in his first 90 games.

Brock Purdy had four TD passes and had a QB rating of over 130 for the sixth game this season, tied for the most in a single season in NFL history.

Defensively the Niners continue to get good production from Charvarius Ward, who collected the first pick-six of his career to go along with his league-leading 22 passes defended this season.

The road win locked up the NFC West for San Francisco.

The lone problem area for San Francisco was slowing down the run game as Arizona ran for 234 yards, the first time the 49ers have allowed more than 200 yards on the ground since 2017.

Baltimore Ravens Preview 

Monday, December 25
5:15 pm PT, ABC/ESPN

The rushing game will need to be better against Baltimore this week. The Ravens lead the league in rushing yards this season with 2,293.

Baltimore has an NFL-leading 18 runs in 2023 of 20+ yards while ranking second in the NFL with 5.0 yards per carry.

A lot of those big plays on the ground came from Keaton Mitchell who left the Sunday Night game with a season-ending knee injury.

The Ravens still have Lamar Jackson though and the QB has been carrying Baltimore this season. San Francisco will need to keep him contained.

The Christmas Night game is a gigantic one for both teams and the winner will have a leg up on the No. 1 seed in their respective conferences.

The loser will be thrust back into a tight battle with just two games remaining after this one.

My Pick: 49ers 28, Ravens 24

[Advice: The 49ers are favored at home by 5 points, they will win but Baltimore keeps it closer than the spread. The game will go over the 45.5-point total.]

2. Kansas City Chiefs (9-5) ◄►

Patriots Review 

Patrick Mahomes avoided the first three-game losing streak of his career with a 27-17 win over New England on the road.

The offense was still pretty sloppy and allowed the Patriots to hang around. Kadarious Toney had another drop in this one that led to a Patriots interception, Rashee Rice had a drive-killing penalty and Skyy Moore struggled.

The WR position has just not been productive enough this season. As a team, the Chiefs now have an NFL-leading 26 dropped passes this season.

An issue in the loss to the Bills was production in the run game in the absence of Isiah Pacheco. That was once again an issue as KC only managed 43 yards on the ground.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire was much more productive this week catching passes out of the backfield as he had 64 yards and a TD receiving.

The run game will need to get better going forward, especially if road games are in store for January.

Las Vegas Raiders Preview 

Monday, December 25
10:00 am PT, CBS

Kansas City will meet the Raiders for the second time this season on Christmas day. The Week 12 contest in Las Vegas saw the Raiders jump out to a 14-0 lead before Kansas City was able to pull away for a 31-17 victory.

The Chiefs’ defense has allowed just one team to score more than 25 points this season. The 17.5 points allowed per game is the third-best in the league.

The Raiders offense has not been good this season.

They are coming off a 63-point outburst against the Chargers in which they resembled the Greatest Show on Turf, but I think the result had more to do with the Chargers than the offensive prowess of Vegas.

But the Chiefs cannot afford to let the Raiders get off to a fast start again this week. The momentum is there for the Raiders, and a fast start would keep things rolling.

The Raiders are 10th in the league against the pass this season but suffered some blown assignments last week. The Chiefs should be able to capitalize on Vegas’ mistakes and secure the season sweep.

My Pick: Chiefs 24, Raiders 16

[Advice: The Chiefs are 10-point favorites at home, I think this one will stay closer than that, but KC will win it. The total will be under 42.]

3. Los Angeles Rams (7-7) ▲1

Commanders Review 

The Rams are 4-1 in their last five games and head into the final three games of the regular season in the thick of the NFC playoff race. If the season ended today, they would be in as the seven-seed.

Cooper Kupp has had consecutive 100-yard games after a six-game stretch of being limited to under 50 yards per game while battling an ankle injury.

His return in production is a welcome sight for a Rams offense that is thriving. The passing game has multiple options with Kupp, Puka Nacua, and Kyren WIlliams going over 100 yards again.

The Rams have had issues getting teams off the field on third down this season; against Washington, they limited the Commanders to 3-of-14 on third down.

While the offense is rolling it will be the defense that will control their playoff fate.

New Orleans Saints Preview 

Thursday, December 21
5:15 pm PT, Prime Video

The Rams have a big one in the playoff race this week with the Saints coming to Los Angeles for a Thursday night contest. New Orleans is in the hunt for the wildcard and the NFC South title.

At 7-7, the Saints and Rams have matching records and New Orleans shares the lead in the South with Tampa Bay.

Amazon has finally got a bit better QB matchup this week with Matthew Stafford and Derek Carr. Carr is coming off perhaps his best outing of the season as the Saints won for the second week in a row.

Despite missing some key components on offense, Carr threw for three touchdowns and had a season-best QB rating of 134.8.

New Orleans has only allowed 12 points in their last two games, but the Rams offense is a lot better than the Panthers and Giants. Los Angeles is averaging 33.0 points per game in their last four games.

This one takes on added significance given the head-to-head nature of the playoff race and the fact that the Rams will close the season with the 49ers. A 2-1 finish could be enough to punch their postseason ticket.

My Pick: Rams 29, Saints 23

[Advice: The Rams are favored by 4, they will get the win and cover. The total will go over 44.5]

4. Seattle Seahawks (7-7) ▲1

Eagles Review 

What a win for the Seahawks on Monday night! That gets Seattle right in the thick of the playoff hunt.

If things ended today, they’d be on the outside looking in as the first team out, but luckily for them, they have got three more weeks.

Seattle broke their four-game losing streak with the win over Philadelphia. It was the first time in Pete Carroll’s career that he had lost four in a row as a coach.

The win also pushed Carroll’s regular season record against the Eagles to 8-0 all-time.

Drew Lock looked good in the win and looked like a Pete Carroll-coached QB. In his second straight start he spared the ball around to different receivers and most importantly did not turn it over.

Lock came up huge in crunch time as he had a ton of poise on the game-winning drive. The defense allowed the Eagles to convert too many third downs but came up big with the Julian Love interception to seal things.

Now, do we have a QB controversy in Seattle? I don’t think so just yet, but it could be a battle for the starting spot in camp next summer.

Tennessee Titans Preview 

Sunday, December 24
10:00 am PT, CBS

Geno Smith should be able to return against the Titans on Sunday. I think Smith will play, but any lingering effects of the groin injury or early troubles and Lock could get some run.

Tennessee has been playing better and is a physical team that will make things difficult in December, but they are now officially eliminated from playoff contention.

This is a winnable game for Seattle and the first of three to close out the season (vs. Pittsburgh and at Arizona being the other two).

Will Levis is the QB of the future for Tennessee and these last three games will be big in his development. Don’t look for Tennessee to roll over and give this one away though.

Seattle will need to stop the run and Derrick Henry. Before the loss to Houston, Henry had been averaging 203.6 yards per game in the five prior games.

The Texans limited him to nine yards on 16 carries. If the Seahawks can control the line they will be in good shape to leave Nashville with a win.

My Pick: Seahawks 19, Titans 14

[Advice: The Seahawks are favored by 2.5 on the road, they’ll get the win and the cover. The point total stays below 42.5.]

5. Denver Broncos (7-7) ▼2

Lions Review 

The Broncos played three road games in 13 days, and it looked like that schedule took its toll on the team in Detroit.

The offense was sluggish at the start with numerous three-and-outs. The defense held the Lions scoreless in the opening 15 minutes but looked gassed as the game wore on.

The run defense had no answers for the Lions ground game as Detroit became the fourth team this season to top 180 yards on the ground and the Broncos saw an opponent run for over 130 for the seventh time this season.

Patrick Surtain played well again, but his coverage just pushed things elsewhere and Jared Goff ended the day with five TDs, three of them to Sam LaPorta.

New England Patriots Preview 

Sunday, December 24
5:15 pm PT, NFL Network

The Broncos schedule will lighten up a bit as they make a final push for the playoffs. Two of the last three are at home with the road game in Las Vegas. The Broncos will get a visit from New England this week.

The Patriots are just 3-11 on the season and appear to be a team just playing out the string on what looks to be Bill Belichick’s final run with the Patriots.

New England has had trouble moving the ball all season and only totaled 206 yards of offense in their loss to the Chiefs. The Patriots are playing good defense, but the Broncos are playing for a lot more.

In their return to Denver, the Broncos will get the win.

My Pick: Broncos 17, Patriots 10

[Advice: The Broncos are 6-point favorites and I think they will cover that at home. The total will stay under 34.5.]

6. Las Vegas Raiders 6-8 ◄►

Chargers Review 

For as much as things looked bad in the 3-0 loss to the Vikings, things looked really good in the 63-21 win over the Chargers last Thursday night.

The Raiders completely dominated Los Angeles as they racked up a franchise record 63 points. Las Vegas forced five turnovers, collected 20 first downs, and converted nine of 16 on third down.

Everything went the Raiders way as they built up a 42-0 lead at the half and the Chargers were finished.

Kansas City Chiefs Preview 

Monday, December 25
10:00 am PT, CBS

If there was one issue for the Raiders in the dominant win it was some lapses in the pass coverage. The Raiders will need to make sure they don’t let the Chiefs get behind them or it could be a big day for Patrick Mahomes.

Bo Hardegree moved from the field to the press box to call the plays against LA and it paid off. The Raiders put up a season-high 378 yards of offense and Aidan O’Connell had his best QB rating at 120.7.

The Raiders will need to continue to perform on offense, but it will be a much tougher task against a good Kansas City defense.

If the Raiders can open up a lead on the Chiefs like they did in the Week 12 meeting they may be able to sustain things with the momentum they have built.

My Pick: Chiefs 24, Raiders 16

[Advice: The Chiefs are 10-point favorites at home, I think this one will stay closer than that, but KC will win it. The total will be under 42.]

7. Arizona Cardinals (3-11) ▲1

49ers Review 

The Cardinals moved up a spot this week, did they win? No. Did they allow 63 points to a team that had one of the worst offenses in the NFL? No…But still, they move up.

Arizona kept things tight for a bit with San Francisco. It is a theme we have seen a few times this season from the Cardinals. Play hard, keep it close for a little while, then run out of steam.

Arizona moved the ball on the ground against the 49ers to the tune of 234 yards. San Francisco was down a few DTs, but 234 yards in an NFL game is impressive.

The Cardinals are a franchise that is going to be moving in the right direction soon. Adding a playmaker on the outside and shoring up the back end of the defense are areas they can look to improve heading into 2024.

Chicago Bears Preview 

Sunday, December 24
1:25 pm PT, FOX

This week could go a long way in determining if the Cardinals will be able to select a difference-maker in the top three of the draft or not.

If the season ended today, they would be drafting third. The Bears are 5-9 and are a winnable matchup for the Cardinals. Chicago is playing better than they were at the start of the season.

And this one is in Chicago and it is late December, when the wind might be ripping and it will not feel like Phoenix. But playing better and being good are two totally different things.

Chicago sacked Joe Flacco three times and picked him off three times, one of them returned for a TD….and Chicago still lost.

The Bears offense went three-and-out eight times against the Browns. The Cardinals will be able to move the ball on the ground, it’s just a matter of if they can get it in the endzone enough times.

I think Chicago gets the win at home. And for what it is worth, Darnell Mooney literally dropped the win on the final play of the game against Cleveland.

My Pick: Bears 20, Cardinals 17

[Advice: Chicago will get the win at home, but Arizona will cover the 5 points. The total will stay under 44.5.]

8. Los Angeles Chargers (5-9) ▼1

Raiders Review 

Dean and John Spanos finally pulled the trigger and ended the tenure of Brandon Staley and Tom Telesco. Telesco’s 11-year run ends with just two playoff wins.

Staley’s time closes out with a 24-24 mark and just one playoff, the complete meltdown last January against the Jaguars.

The 63-21 beatdown at the hands of the Raiders may have been the final straw, but the writing has been on the wall since that defeat in Jacksonville.

Letdowns and mediocrity have been the Chargers’ way for a lot longer time than the Staley/Telesco years. And the main reason for that has been the failed hires of the ownership.

They need to get it right this time or the career of Justin Herbert—at least his time in LA—will be marred without ultimate success. The new era will soon be upon the Chargers, and we’ll see if it yields better results.

Buffalo Bills Preview 

Saturday, December 23
5:00 pm PT, Peacock

Easton Stick was not the answer against the Raiders and this week it will be the Bills coming to SoFi for a Saturday evening affair.

The Bills are playing good football at the moment and this one could get away from the Chargers in a hurry. The 63 points given up were inflated a bit by the five turnovers and short field Vegas had much of the first half.

So, will this one be a 42-point loss? Probably not. But it also might not be pretty. The good news for LA fans, the final three see the Bills and Chiefs visit LA with a trip to Denver sandwiched in between.

The new era of the Chargers will most likely be starting with a top-five draft choice.

My Pick: Bills 32, Chargers 17

[Advice: The Bills are 11.5-point favorites on the road, and I’ll take that every day of the week. The total is 42, I see this going over, but the Chargers will need to score some points to get it done, I think (hope) they will.]




—More from Stephen Vilardo—