Welcome back to the futile exercise of ranking the 31 NFL teams and the clown show known as the Jacksonville Jaguars. As always, these Power Rankings will be updated weekly, so be sure to watch out as teams move up and down. If teams continue to win, they will rise. If teams continue to lose, they will fall. Similarly, a loss does not necessarily equate to a team being ranked lower than their opponent. Upsets in the NFL do happen, so trends will usually be needed for a team to drop many slots.
Numbers in parentheses refer to last week’s rankings.
No.32: Jacksonville Jaguars (+0)
On the bright side, the Jaguars made it close this week. Trevor Lawrence did his best to throw the game away prematurely, but an incompletion on the final play did the job for the worst team in football. There is little positive to take away from the Jaguars’ 13th loss in 15 games. They are positioned nicely to get the No.1 pick for the second year in a row, however.
No.31: Carolina Panthers (-1)
If you have one bad quarterback, why not compound your issues and play two of them! Matt Rhule is comparing himself to Jay-Z when in reality, he is Lay-Z and should be looking for employment in a few weeks. After a 3-0 start, the Panthers have spiraled into a 2-10 rut. The defense has dealt with many injuries, and the Panthers have an eyesore of an offense.
No.30: New York Jets (+1)
The Jets won in a funky fashion on Sunday, getting help from an offensive line receiving touchdown and a kickoff return touchdown, but it was a win. Zach Wilson had one of the best runs of the season. His passing was less than desirable, but the Jets were missing many weapons. The ship has likely sailed on the No.1 pick, but the Jets are big winners with the Pacific Northwest implosion.
No.29: New York Giants (-2)
Staying in East Rutherford, Jake Fromm and Mike Glennon are both outright disasters. Daniel Jones may not be good, but he is miles better than Fromm and Glennon. This means that the Giants’ grade for 2021 is incomplete. For better or for worse (likely for worse), the Giants will be running the same crew back in 2022. It could get ugly, but that will be a 2022 question.
No.28: Detroit Lions (+0)
Despite not having Jared Goff, the Lions fought, and they nearly pulled off a stunning victory in Atlanta. Amon-Ra St. Brown has been one of the unsung heroes of December, and his services should be excellent moving forward. The Lions have nearly locked in a top-two pick, and they would improve dramatically from an infusion of draft talent. Unlike the previous four teams, this team has a pulse.
No.27: Houston Texans (+2)
The Texans shocked the world Sunday afternoon with a stunning upset of Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers. Davis Mills likely bought himself a full 2022 at the helm. While Mills is nothing special, this is a massive win for the Texans. Instead of feeling pressured to get a quarterback in the 2022 draft, they can focus on building a roster around the 2023 quarterback. If Mills improves, they can keep using the draft to bolster the roster. If Mills struggles, they will have a high pick. It is a win-win scenario for a team desperate for a win.
No.26: Seattle Seahawks (-2)
The season is officially over for the Seahawks. For just the second time in Russell Wilson’s tenure, he will not be playing in the playoffs. The Seahawks are at a crossroads. They have an easy scapegoat for this season (Wilson’s injury). Will they use that to justify not making changes, or will they blow up the current roster and descend into a rebuild? They should begin the rebuilding process, but they may look at 2022 as one final ride.
No.25: Chicago Bears (+1)
The Bears knocked the Seahawks out of playoff contention with a vintage Nick Foles comeback win. Robert Quinn could get some All-Pro consideration, but beyond Quinn, there were few positives to take away from the Bears. Matt Nagy is likely entering his final month as head coach, and the Bears will look elsewhere. They desperately need to hit for the sake of Justin Fields.
No.24: Atlanta Falcons (+1)
The Falcons knocked off a plucky Lions team to win their seventh game of the season. It was the Falcons’ first win in Atlanta since 2020. The Falcons have a 2% chance of making the playoffs, but they need a decent amount of help in the last two weeks. Even if they win out, they would only have a 31% chance at making the playoffs.
No.23: Washington Football Team (+0)
The Football Team got blasted so badly on Sunday night that Twitter thought they should drop “Football” from their name. Either way, it was a pitiful performance in all three phases. The Football Team has a 5% chance of making the playoffs, a mark that would jump to 20% with a pair of wins. Maybe they should change their name to the Washington Fighting Teammates.
No.22: Cleveland Browns (+0)
Baker Mayfield laid an egg, but the defense had one of their best performances in 23 seasons. The Browns still have a shot in the division, and they could have a pair of elimination games on the horizon. With help from the Kansas City Chiefs, the Browns will have a chance to win two games to win their first AFC North title. Without help from the Chiefs, the Browns will have microscopic playoff chances.
No.21: Denver Broncos (-2)
Drew Lock was competent, but the rest of the offense was not. Bradley Chubb had a highlight-reel interception, but it was not enough to keep the Broncos above .500. They have a pair of divisional games left, but the season is over. Vic Fangio may be in his final month as the head man, and the Broncos could be players for a disgruntled quarterback from elsewhere this offseason.
No.20: Las Vegas Raiders (+1)
It was ugly, but the Raiders walked out with a victory. They only have a 16% chance of making the playoffs, but they control their destiny, so they just need to win out to make the playoffs. With a loss in either game, they would need significant help from around the AFC. Despite the tumult of the season, the Raiders have continued to fight, so that is a moral victory for their fanbase.
No.19: New Orleans Saints (+1)
The Saints moved up because the Broncos lost. With Ian Book at the helm, the Saints resembled a pee-wee offense. They hung in well for most of the game on defense, but the offense mustered only three points. It was one of the worst offensive performances in the Sean Payton era, and the Saints need one of their previous starters to come back as soon as possible.
No.18: Baltimore Ravens (-1)
Even with Josh Johnson, the Ravens were able to move the ball through the air. However, the rushing offense and entire defense were left in Baltimore. Paul Brown Stadium turned into a runway for passing offenses with Johnson going over 300 and the Ravens allowing over 500. Even with Lamar Jackson or Tyler Huntley, the Ravens have likely lost too many pieces defensively to be a serious playoff threat.
No.17: Pittsburgh Steelers (-2)
That was ugly. For yet another week, the Steelers had no offense for a half. This week, their defense got shredded, and they ended up losing by 26. The playoffs are not out of reach, but the Steelers only have a 12% to make it. They close out the season with the Browns and Ravens. With two wins, they would jump up to a 62% chance of making the playoffs.
No.16: Minnesota Vikings (-2)
Even with Matthew Stafford spiraling out of control, the Vikings could not muster up much offense on Sunday. Dalvin Cook missed the game with COVID, and Adam Thielen left early. It was an uphill battle, and the Vikings came up short. For the season, they have a 13% chance of making the playoffs. They could be eliminated as early as next week if the wrong games hit.
No.15: Philadelphia Eagles (+3)
The red-hot Eagles are not favorites to make the playoffs. They have a clinching scenario in Week 17, but even a modest 1-1 over their last two games would give the Eagles an 84% chance of making the playoffs. They have a limited ceiling, but they are the NFL’s top rushing offense and could exploit the right matchup. The Eagles open the window of teams who have a path to win the Super Bowl.
No.14: Arizona Cardinals (-2)
The Cardinals are stuck in a tailspin. They have lost three in a row, and they have given up the lead in the NFC West. However, they will make the playoffs. They have a 23% chance to win the division, and they are not mathematically eliminated from the No.1 seed in the NFC, but it would take divine intervention. If there is a bright side for the Cardinals, they have seven double-digit wins on the road.
No.13: Los Angeles Chargers (-3)
The Chargers had a comically easy stretch to end the season, but they tripped over the first obstacle, and now they have a weird road to the playoffs. The Chargers have the best wild card odds of the teams fighting for the last spot, but they do not control their destiny. While the Chargers are better than the Broncos and Raiders, they have no reason to overlook them as they did with the Texans.
No.12: San Francisco 49ers (-3)
The 49ers are in an odd spot. Jimmy Garoppolo suffered an injury to his hand, so they may be forced to start Trey Lance. However, reports from practice say Lance has been playing better. Lance is likely a better option than an injured Garoppolo, but Garoppolo is pushing to return. The 49ers have a solid shot of making the playoffs even if they lose their next two games, so it could be worse.
No.11: Tennessee Titans (+5)
A.J. Brown returned in dominant fashion, torching the 49ers for a Team of the Week-worthy performance. Derrick Henry will need to return for the Titans to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender, but they only have to win one of their last two games to clinch the division. The Titans could use a loss from the Chiefs to earn a bye week in the playoffs, but the Titans likely just want to make the playoffs.
No.10: Miami Dolphins (+3)
The Dolphins have rattled off seven wins in a row, and they control their destiny in the AFC playoffs. They have to knock off a pair of playoff teams, but the future is in their hands. Tua Tagovailoa played reasonably well against the Saints outside of an ugly interception, and the defense was elite. The Dolphins have one of the lowest ceilings of any team in the NFL, but they can force bad offense as few can.
No.9: New England Patriots (-3)
The Patriots have lost back-to-back games, and they now sit in a wild card spot. With the Jaguars and Dolphins on the schedule, they need one win in their final two weeks. They should easily dispatch the Jaguars before their Week 18 clash in Miami. Mac Jones will need to play better, but the Patriots are one of the most matchup-dependent teams in the AFC. If they get the right matchups, they could win the Super Bowl. If they get the wrong matchup, they could get blown out in the first round.
No.8: Cincinnati Bengals (+3)
The Bengals piled on all of the offense against the Ravens. Joe Burrow ended with 525 passing yards, good for fourth in NFL history, and he was an overturned touchdown from five. It was a horrific defensive performance against a third-string quarterback, but defense is irrelevant when the offense scores on every drive. The Bengals have a 72% chance to win the division needing just one win or absolute carnage from the rest of the division.
No.7: Dallas Cowboys (+1)
56-14. Dak Prescott and the offense were so overpowering that he sat for much of the second half. The Cowboys were elite in all three phases, and they returned to their spot as the No.2 team in the NFC. While they clinched the division before kickoff thanks to the Raiders, they took a victory lap for the world to see on NBC.
No.6: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1)
The Buccaneers seemed to be playing with their food on Sunday. Both Ronald Jones and Ke’Shawn Vaughn scored touchdowns, and Tom Brady settled for a modest day of passing. The Buccaneers are now losing a bevy of players to injury, however. Chris Godwin is out for the season. Mike Evans could miss Week 17 with a combination of COVID and an injury. Shaquil Barrett will miss the final two weeks of the regular season.
No.5: Indianapolis Colts (+0)
After a cold start, the Colts have been one of the best teams in the NFL since their Week 5 loss to the Ravens. Since then, they are 8-2, and Jonathan Taylor has entered MVP consideration. They need to get healthy as they were short-handed against the Cardinals, but a healthy Colts could be the best team in the NFL. Their playoff hopes hinge on Carson Wentz. If he is even a passable option at quarterback, the Colts can win the Super Bowl.
No.4: Buffalo Bills (+0)
The Bills are now in the driver’s seat for the AFC East. They have an absurdly easy final two games with the Falcons and Jets on the docket. They should win both games in blowout fashion and progress into the playoffs. Josh Allen is dialed in, and the Bills are a threat to win the AFC. They are perhaps the one team equipped to knock off the Chiefs in January.
No.3: Los Angeles Rams (+0)
Despite a Stafford stinker, the Rams walked out of Minneapolis with a win and a secured playoff berth. Darrell Henderson will be sidelined for the rest of the season, but Cam Akers has completed a Herculean return from a torn Achilles. The Rams should blast the Ravens next week, and Cooper Kupp will lay siege to the receptions and receiving yards records. In his last two games, he needs 18 catches and 231 yards to break both records. He could get both of them against the Ravens.
No.2: Kansas City Chiefs (+0)
Even without Travis Kelce, the Chiefs obliterated the Steelers. The Chiefs’ defense continued to be sensational at home, and the offense cranked up 36 points. With Kelce and Harrison Butker back in the fold, the Chiefs are the best team in the AFC, and they might be the best team in the NFL. Patrick Mahomes needs to take one more step in the right direction, but he is at least avoiding turnovers.
No.1: Green Bay Packers (+0)
It was closer than one would imagine, but the defense pulled through to help the Packers to 12-3. After a Mayfield interception, the Packers were unstoppable, scoring three touchdowns in three meaningful drives. On all other drives, the Packers scored three points. It is slightly worrying, but the Packers have a bevy of ways to win, and they have an 85% chance of hosting the full NFC playoffs.
Follow Ryan Potts on Twitter @MrSplashMan19
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