Welcome back to the futile exercise of ranking NFL teams. 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.
Note that this ranking only includes the 18 teams who were eligible for playoff contention entering Week 18.
No.19: Baltimore Ravens (-1)
The Miami Dolphins were eliminated in Week 17, but they jump both the Ravens and the next team in the power rankings. For the Ravens, the writing has been on the wall for most of the last two months. The Ravens were once one of the better teams in the NFL. However, dozens of injuries have shook the team to its core, and they must rebound in 2022.
No.18: New Orleans Saints (-1)
At one point during Sunday’s action, the Saints had a 99% chance of making the playoffs. They took care of business in Atlanta, but a miraculous Jimmy Garoppolo comeback snuffed the Saints’ season. Like the Ravens, the Saints were largely undone by injuries. If Jameis Winston does not miss half of the season, the Saints are likely playing next weekend rather than watching the playoffs from home.
No.16: Indianapolis Colts (-7)
The Colts have been to an AFC title game more recently than they have won in Jacksonville. Week 18 marked the seventh consecutive road loss for the Colts against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Colts had an all-time disaster of a collapse, losing a pair of games they were favored in en route to missing the playoffs at 9-8. While they had a shot at the playoffs despite the loss, the Ravens did not win, so the Colts were eliminated before the late window.
No.15: Los Angeles Chargers (-2)
It appears that Brandon Staley is the sole reason why the Chargers are out of the playoffs. In overtime against the Las Vegas Raiders, Staley opted to call a timeout with less than a minute to play. It was a head-scratching decision that gave the Raiders time to catch their breath and close out the game with consecutive run plays. This season is a classic disappointment for the Chargers and their fans.
No.14: Pittsburgh Steelers (+2)
With the Colts’ loss and the non-tie on Sunday Night Football, the Steelers clinched their second consecutive playoff berth. It was an ugly game in Baltimore with a bevy of turnovers and punts, but the Steelers prevailed thanks to a handful of late-game conversions. They are sizable underdogs in the playoffs, but one cannot count out Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers just yet.
No.13: Philadelphia Eagles (+1)
The Eagles rested their players in Week 18 after clinching in Week 17. They earned the No. 7 seed in the NFC playoffs, which means they will not play at home under any circumstance. While the Eagles are limited, they do know what they do best: run the ball. It is unlikely, but the Eagles might keep their next playoff game within the spread.
No.12: Las Vegas Raiders (+3)
The Raiders held their destiny entering Week 17. They responded by knocking out the Colts in Indianapolis, and then the Chargers in Week 18. They have moved all the way to the No. 5 line in the AFC playoffs. Derek Carr and much of the Raiders’ team will make their playoff debuts. The Raiders have flaws, but they also have a little bit of Madden Magic kicking around. Remember that the Raiders were the first Wild Card team to win the Super Bowl.
No.11: San Francisco 49ers (+1)
The 49ers were on the verge of losing, but their defense came up with a season-saving stop at the end of the fourth quarter. Garoppolo and the offense wasted no time, tying the game. In overtime, the 49ers struck first before ending the game on an interception. Much to the chagrin of Saints fans, the 49ers will make their triumphant return to the playoffs. They own the No. 6 seed in the NFC.
No.10: Arizona Cardinals (+0)
Despite losing on Sunday, the Cardinals remained as the fifth seed in the NFC. Rashaad Penny ran rampant against a gassed Cardinals’ run defense, but reinforcements could be waiting in the wings with J.J. Watt eligible to return. Without Watt, the Cardinals are fringe contenders, but Watt is exactly the player the Cardinals need to traverse the NFC playoff hunt.
No.9: New England Patriots (-2)
The Dolphins completed the season sweep of the Patriots, bookending their season. The Patriots did not have much to play for, but they did fall to the No. 6 seed in the AFC. With a win, they would have remained the No.5 seed, but New England would be heading on the road regardless of their result. Their next matchup is a repeat of a Monday night snooze fest with the Buffalo Bills.
No.8: Dallas Cowboys (+3)
Dak Prescott and the offense appears to be firing on all cylinders. They scored 50 points for the second time in three weeks, polishing off a perfect 6-0 record within the NFC East. They have a less-than-ideal 6-5 record against non-NFC East teams, but they are a serious Super Bowl threat. If Prescott and the offense continues to hum, it may finally be the Cowboys’ season.
No.7: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1)
The Buccaneers steamrolled the Carolina Panthers to clinch the second seed in the NFC. They will host the Eagles, a rematch of a Thursday Night Football game from earlier in the season. The Buccaneers are strong favorites, for good reason, but their run defense will be tested this weekend. Tom Brady will receive decent MVP consideration, and the Buccaneers are a major contender to lift the Lombardi.
No.6: Tennessee Titans (+0)
The Titans held off the Houston Texans despite Davis Mills and Danny Amendola turning into Brady and Amendola from their Patriot days. With the win, the Titans locked up the top seed in the AFC. Not only do the Titans only have to win two playoff games to make the Super Bowl, but they likely will also have the services of Derrick Henry for their playoff run.
No.5: Los Angeles Rams (-2)
The Rams led 17-0 at one point on Sunday, but they squandered the lead. They then led 24-17, needing one first down to eliminate the 49ers from the playoffs. In overtime, the Rams had a chance to drive the field and score a touchdown to knock the 49ers out. As mentioned in the 49ers’ details above, the Rams failed in all three aspects, ending the regular season with a whimper and falling to the No. 4 seed in the NFC.
No.4: Buffalo Bills (+1)
It was in doubt for part of the afternoon, but the Bills came through and knocked off the New York Jets. Josh Allen played a strong game, and the Bills were stifling on defense. The scoreline got ugly later in the game, matching how well the Bills played. With the win, the Bills clinched their second consecutive AFC East title and will host the Patriots this weekend.
No.3: Kansas City Chiefs (+1)
Despite the best efforts of Patrick Mahomes trying to lose the game, the Chiefs went into Denver and emerged victorious. The defense stole the show with a heart-stopping scoop-and-score in the fourth quarter. Melvin Ingram punched the ball free from Melvin Gordon, and Nick Bolton raced nearly 90 yards for the touchdown. With the win, the Chiefs maintained their spot as the No. 2 seed in the AFC, and they will host the Steelers.
No.2: Cincinnati Bengals (+0)
The Bengals rested most of the key pieces on Sunday, so the loss to the Cleveland Browns will not affect their ranking. While they do slide to the fourth seed with the loss, they will get the slight benefit of playing a worse team (at least according to these power rankings). Either way, the Bengals dominated the Raiders in Las Vegas when the teams played earlier in the season.
No.1: Green Bay Packers (+0)
The Packers played their starters for one half against the Detroit Lions before conceding the game after the break. Aaron Rodgers has likely sealed his fourth MVP, and the Packers were already locked into the top seed in the NFC. For the second season in a row, the NFC will run through Lambeau Field. It remains to be seen if the Packers will win their first NFC crown since 2010.
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