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NFL power ranking roundup for Week 15

The Bengals saw their biggest jump on a power ranking in quite some time despite losing to the Browns.

New York Jets v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The magic of Andy Dalton’s return wasn’t nearly as strong against the Browns. You could say Denzel Ward took it away when he returned his interception of Dalton back for a touchdown, which was ultimately the score that made the difference in the game.

By the time the fourth quarter ended, the Bengals officially got back to their losing ways, but they still remain to avoid being the bottom ranked team in every list. 30 (Last week 32)

Just as expected, the return of Andy Dalton has injected life into the Bengals’ offense. The veteran passer played well in the Week 13 win over the Jets, and he had the Cincy attack moving again in Sunday’s loss to the Browns. The Bengals finished with 451 total yards, the most by the team since Week 7 of 2016. It’s also the most total yards in a game that the Bengals lost since Week 9 of the 2013 season. Such is life when you’re 1-12. The offense was powered by Joe Mixon, who enjoyed a career day. The running back finished with 23 rushes for 146 yards and Cincinnati’s only touchdown. The arrow is pointing up for the AFC’s 2018 rushing champion, who has averaged 109.5 scrimmage yards per game over the past four weeks. As for the big picture, the Bengals remain on track for the No. 1 overall pick with three games to play. And you thought there was nothing left to play for?

ESPN: 32 (Last week 32)

Their standing at the bottom of the offensive and defensive rankings shows why the Bengals are the worst team in the NFL. Both sides have struggled with consistency throughout the season, and they will need major upgrades at key positions in order to be competitive in 2020 and beyond.

Sports Illustrated: 32 (Last week 31)

The Bengals outpaced the Browns in every offensive category (and had fewer turnovers) expect the one that keeps drives alive–third down conversions. That, a 1-for-5 mark in the red zone and this costly pick-six early on (one of two defense/special teams TDs for Cleveland) came back to haunt Cincy.

Yahoo Sports: 32 (Last week 32)

It’s still interesting to see if A.J. Green plays this season. I’m not sure there’s a reason for him to return, but it’s weird we haven’t seen him weeks after it was anticipated he’d be ready to go. We’ll see.

CBS Sports: 32 (Last week 32)

They competed against the Browns, and did some good things. I think this team has some nice pieces for 2020 when Joe Burrow gets there.

Washington Post: 31 (Last week 31)

Joe Burrow is warming up in the bullpen for the Bengals. Pity the poor kid. He has no idea what he’ll be getting into.

Bleacher Report: 32 (Last week 32)

The Bengals did do some things well in a game. Tailback Joe Mixon was impressive, piling up 146 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. The Bengals outgained the Browns by well over 100 yards and forced a pair of turnovers. But Cincy couldn’t get off the field on third down and couldn’t get out of its own way, tallying eight penalties for 99 yards. With three games to play (including a Week 17 rematch with the Browns), the Bengals are one week closer to securing the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft. Chase Young vs. Joe Burrow is just about the only thing fans in Cincinnati are going to have to get excited about over the next few months.

The Bengals now find themselves gathering a handful of believers that they aren’t THE worst team in the NFL. The past few weeks have really helped their case. The defense has been very much improved since the bye week. They haven’t allowed an offense to score more than 20 points in that span (Dalton’s pick six accounted for 7 points last week). The offense has also been able to roll the past two weeks with Dalton back, and Joe Mixon’s career day against the Browns solidifies his own resurgence.

The biggest argument for Cincinnati to exit the 32nd spot is the existence of worse teams. Power rankings really should take into account what teams have done recently more. The Jaguars keep getting blown out, and the Giants have hit a nine-game losing streak. The Bengals should easily be less of an unanimous worst-team pick. Although, they still do deserve to be in the conversation.