Welcome back to the futile exercise of ranking NFL teams. This will be the final installment of the 2021 season. 2022 season power rankings will begin in March before free agency begins. After 272 regular-season games and 13 playoff games, the NFL’s longest season is officially over. The Los Angeles Rams have won their second Super Bowl, defeating the Cincinnati Bengals. Let’s have one final breakdown of those two teams.
Numbers in parentheses refer to last week’s rankings.
Note that this ranking only includes the two teams who made the Super Bowl.
No.2: Cincinnati Bengals (-1)
There were many factors that led to the Bengals’ loss on Sunday, but the general discussion for the two previous weeks was correct. When the season was on the line, the Bengals’ offensive line folded. After a stellar first half against the Rams, the offensive line turned into five turnstiles, allowing a bevy of third-quarter sacks. All told, the Bengals’ offensive line allowed 19 pressures, and none of their offensive linemen earned a PFF pass-blocking grade above 50.9. The right-side pair of Hakeem Adeniji and Isaiah Prince allowed 12 total pressures.
Joe Burrow was by no means perfect, but he did put the Bengals in an advantageous spot for the first 35 minutes of the game. In the last 25, he could not overcome a porous offensive line. He limped to the end, quite literally, finishing with a 58.2 PFF passing grade. It was his lowest-graded game since Week 11. Burrow might be an elite quarterback, and he will be among the favorites for MVP in 2022, but the Super Bowl was not one of his best games.
Moving forward, the Bengals have several strong suits that will help them in offseason power rankings. Having Burrow will help significantly, but the Bengals do have flaws that will keep them from the NFL’s elite in a purely holistic method. The offensive line is a massive pit of despair, and the secondary could be shaky if Jessie Bates leaves in free agency. However, the trio of Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, and Tee Higgins is quite the foundation for success.
No.1: Los Angeles Rams (+1)
Congratulations, Rams. In the second half, the defense dominated, putting the offense in position to scratch out a victory. Von Miller racked up six pressures and a pair of sacks in a vintage performance for the two-time Super Bowl winner. Aaron Donald led the way with seven pressures, sacking Burrow twice on one drive to force a field goal. Behind the star two, four other Rams had at least three pressures. Ernest Jones posted four while Leonard Floyd, A’Shawn Robinson, and Greg Gaines tacked on three each.
The Cooper Kupp show did not stop Sunday as the Offensive Player of the Year posted 99 yards from scrimmage and scored a pair of touchdowns. He hauled in the game-winning touchdown on a Santonio Holmes-like drive, securing Super Bowl MVP. Kupp is now one of two players in NFL history to win Offensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl MVP in the same season, joining Joe Montana’s 1989 season. Kupp wrapped up his season with a total production of 178 catches, 2,425 receiving yards, and 22 receiving touchdowns. He scored a touchdown in each of the Rams’ last six games.
While Matthew Stafford did throw a pair of interceptions, he was the better quarterback Sunday night. He added three passing touchdowns and four big-time throws. His game-winning drive will go down in NFL history as one of the clutchest, and his throws will be the next in the line of Tom Brady, Eli Manning, and others. Stafford earned an 89.0 PFF passing grade in the playoffs, notching 11 big-time throws.
Moving forward, the Rams are set to be among the power-ranking elite for the entire offseason. They have top-tier talent in every meaningful location. Their weaknesses are in less important facets (such as their linebacker corps). The Rams might have roster upheaval with the potential losses of Odell Beckham (free agency and an injury) and Andrew Whitworth (retirement), but the likes of Jalen Ramsey, Donald, Kupp, and Stafford will return. Even with Beckham out of the picture, Robert Woods is returning from a knee injury of his own. Throw in Sean McVay, and the Rams are deserving favorites to be at the top of any offseason power rankings even without the Super Bowl victory.
Follow Ryan Potts on Twitter @MrSplashMan19
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