NFL Power Rankings Week 17: Updated Outlook After Sunday Night Football

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NFL Power Rankings Week 17: Updated Outlook After Sunday Night Football
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With Week 16 nearly wrapped up, the NFL regular season is almost over, and all 32 teams know pretty much where they stand in the league.

There were some surprising upsets this week, and the playoff picture is nearly set after those games.  Five of the six playoff spots in the AFC have now been locked up, while the NFC still has four open spots.  Still, no division title in the NFC has been clinched, and Week 17 will feature some very exciting games.

Below is a complete list of power rankings for all 32 teams after Sunday Night Football, breaking them down and explaining why they're ranked where they are.


32. Houston Texans

There are no surprises here.  The Houston Texans are still the worst team in football.  They kept up with the Denver Broncos for a while this week but ended up losing 37-13 while allowing 511 yards of total offense.

The only good news this season is that the Texans will likely get the No. 1 overall pick after losing their last 13 consecutive games.  This will give them a chance to possibly get a new quarterback and quickly turn the team around.


31. Washington

This has been a mess of a season for Washington.  Robert Griffin III has been shut down for the season, and what's worse is this team won't even get a first-round pick since it traded it to the St. Louis Rams back when it drafted RGIII.

The quarterback play hasn't been the only problem this season.  The defense has been terrible, giving up over 30 points per game, and until that changes, Washington will be unable to make any noise out of the NFC East.


30. Atlanta Falcons

Don't expect too much from the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football.  This has been an ugly season, and playing the San Francisco 49ers certainly isn't going to help.

Matt Ryan is trying to carry the team, but with how many injuries the Falcons have suffered, it just hasn't been working out.  The Falcons will be looking for a top-tier defender in the draft in May to help them out, and they could have an opportunity to be a playoff-caliber team in 2014 once everyone is healthy.


29. Cleveland Browns

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Losing to the New York Jets isn't going to help the Cleveland Browns move up the power rankings as the season winds down.  They may have won three straight games after trading away Trent Richardson, but they've won just one other game since.

The defense is looking good with players like T.J. Ward and Phil Taylor, but until they can get a quarterback, the Browns are going to keep struggling.


28. Oakland Raiders

Everyone wanted to board the hype train for Matt McGloin after his first start, but that hype has quickly died.  He isn't the answer at quarterback and neither is Terrelle Pryor.

With four wins this year, the Raiders have met expectations, as they're still a work in progress.  There's some young talent developing, so it will still be at least a few seasons before the Raiders are a potential contender.


27. Jacksonville Jaguars

Say what you will about the Jacksonville Jaguars, but they've refused to tank this season.  They've gone 4-3 over the past seven games, and a number of players are starting to shine.

But there are also some problems with this solid finish.  The Jaguars have essentially played out of the No. 1 draft pick, and some fans are starting to believe in Chad Henne.  That's a big mistake, and it's one that the franchise could make if it doesn't draft a quarterback in May.


26. Minnesota Vikings

That Week 15 win over the Philadelphia Eagles feels like years ago now, with the Minnesota Vikings losing 42-14 to the Cincinnati Bengals this week.  

There are a number of problems on this team, but the running back position is not one of them.  They need a lot of help on defense along with a reliable quarterback before they can make another playoff run like they did in 2012.


25. Tennessee Titans

Sure, the Tennessee Titans won this week, but it was by just four points against the Jaguars.  I know I said that the Jaguars have finished strong, but that's still an ugly win.

There will likely be some changes over the offseason, and who knows who will start at quarterback.  The secondary is in good shape with Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty, but the Titans are going to need help in other areas to challenge the rest of the AFC South.


24. New York Giants

In a completely meaningless game for them, the New York Giants refused to just roll over, pulling off the huge upset in overtime against the Detroit Lions.

Eli Manning has thrown a league-high 26 interceptions this season, but not all of that is his fault.  He doesn't have a lot of protection, and the offensive line needs to be fixed for him to start looking like his old self.


23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The loss to the St. Louis Rams was tough, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have looked much better over the past few weeks than they did at the beginning of the year.

Mike Glennon has been a big reason for that.  He's thrown 17 touchdowns and just eight interceptions this season, and he appears to be the long-term answer at quarterback.  This gives the front office the opportunity to build around him, and that's the key to a successful franchise.


22. New York Jets

They got the win, but the New York Jets still aren't a good football team.  It's been a much better season than the one just a year ago, but there are still a lot of holes on offense. 

Geno Smith has been very bad, and a good part of that is on him, but you also have to realize that he has no help around him.  There are no trustworthy receivers and an ugly backfield, forcing him to have to make plays, and that's not the situation you want to force a rookie quarterback into.


21. Detroit Lions

They may be 7-8, but the Lions were successfully able to eliminate themselves from the playoffs this week with the loss to the Giants, officially capping off their incredible collapse.  The Lions looked like they were going to have no problem wrapping up the NFC North after a big 40-10 win on Thanksgiving, but they've now lost three straight while also losing five of their last six.

This is one of the most talented teams in the league, but stupid penalties and ugly drops won't translate into wins no matter how many great players you have.


20. Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills were successfully able to get a nice win against a playoff-caliber team this week, using their pass rush to disrupt the passing game.  Still, they're only 6-9, and this season was more about developing young talent than anything.

There are a lot of impressive offensive rookies that have a lot of potential, and if they can continue to improve, this will be a team with some real playoff potential in a couple of years.


19. St. Louis Rams

The Rams keep finding ways to win without Sam Bradford.  They play in easily the toughest division in the NFL, yet they still stand at 7-8, which would put them near the top of most divisions instead of at the bottom.

The front seven is quite intimidating.  Give them some help in the secondary and the defense will be golden.  The offense needs some help as well, but a healthy Bradford could help in that regard next season.


18. Green Bay Packers

This team has quite simply been exposed without Aaron Rodgers.  The Green Bay Packers are good, but they've struggled to pull out wins without their star quarterback.

They're only 7-7-1, but the crazy thing is that the Packers could be the NFC North champions with a win next week against the Chicago Bears.  If Rodgers comes back, which is no guarantee, then the Packers could start heating up at exactly the right time.


17. Pittsburgh Steelers

That was a huge win for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Packers, but a lot of things still need to happen in order for them to somehow make the playoffs.  After starting with just an 0-4 record, they've gone 7-4 since, going 5-2 in their last seven games.

Ben Roethlisberger is still capable of making plays, and they have a very talented rookie running back in Le'Veon Bell.  But that offensive line isn't doing them any favors, and that will be something to focus on over the offseason for them.


16. Dallas Cowboys

Tony Romo proved all of the critics wrong on Sunday.  On 4th-and-goal and down six, Romo found DeMarco Murray for a game-winning touchdown over Washington to keep their playoff hopes alive.

The Dallas Cowboys are going to have to keep giving Murray the ball.  He's averaging over five yards per carry this year, and the team tends to do well when he gets plenty of touches.  The defense is still a big concern, but the offense has enough weapons to keep them in games.  If they win next week against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys are in the playoffs while also proving that they can win big games.

No pressure.


15. Miami Dolphins

Since the whole situation regarding Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, the Miami Dolphins had turned things around lately, but that all came undone this week with a shutout loss to the Bills.

The pass protection concerns resurfaced this week, with Ryan Tannehill being sacked seven times.  The Dolphins are still in the hunt for a playoff spot, but they won't last very long if they can't protect their starting quarterback.


14. Baltimore Ravens

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Entering the week with four straight games, expectations were pretty high for the Baltimore Ravens coming into this game.  Instead, the Ravens lost 41-7 and severely hurt their playoff chances.

If the Ravens want to have a shot at making the playoffs, they're going to have to win a very tough game against the Cincinnati Bengals next week.  Joe Flacco has been hobbled with a knee injury, and the running game has struggled all year, running for just 82.9 yards per game.  If the offense can't get going, then the Ravens won't be able to grab that last wild-card spot.


13. San Diego Chargers

With three straight wins along with victories in four of their last five games, the San Diego Chargers have looked great as the season has started to wind down.  The defense has started to look a lot better, and the offense just keeps making explosive plays.

Philip Rivers is having one of his best seasons ever, throwing for over 4,200 yards along with 29 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.  Meanwhile, Ryan Mathews has run for over 1,100 yards for the first time in his career, giving the Chargers a balanced offense deadly enough to pull off some impressive upsets.


12. Chicago Bears

In what was easily the worst loss of the season for the Chicago Bears, the team just simply looked lost.  The offense couldn't do a whole lot, and the defense was gashed for over 250 rushing yards and over 500 total yards.  They could have taken the NFC North title on Sunday Night Football, but that blowout loss really hurt.

Now, the Bears will have to regroup and take on their hated rivals in the Packers to win the division.  The defense will have to step up and figure out how to stop the run, or the Bears will be in very big trouble, especially if Rodgers comes back for Green Bay.


11. Kansas City Chiefs

Fun fact: the Kansas City Chiefs have won just one game all season against a team with a winning record.  They've gone 11-4 this year, but they've been unable to beat good teams, and their record shows that.

The loss to the Indianapolis Colts exposed a lot of weaknesses for the Chiefs, especially on defense.  This was a great team to start the season, but they're cooling off as the season ends, which is the exact opposite of what they want to be doing with the playoffs getting ready to start up in a couple of weeks.


10. Indianapolis Colts

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This is such a hard team to figure out.  At times, they look like one of the worst teams in football, yet at others they look like they can beat anyone in the league.  The win over the Chiefs was a big one, as it was easily their best game since losing Reggie Wayne.

The young receivers in Griff Whalen and Da'Rick Rogers have stepped up recently, and that's exactly what this team needs.  Andrew Luck needs someone to throw the ball to, and with these two guys stepping up, the Colts have the potential to win a playoff game or two.


9. Philadelphia Eagles

It looks like Chip Kelly's offense transitioned effectively to the NFL.  Nick Foles fits the system perfectly, and LeSean McCoy is going to hold the rushing title at the end of the year.

With six wins in their last seven games, the Eagles are red hot right now.  They will have to beat the Cowboys in order to grab a spot in the playoffs, but if they do, they could make a surprisingly deep run with that offense.


8. Arizona Cardinals

Bruce Arians is making a serious case for the Coach of the Year award for the second straight season.  His team is now 10-5 and coming off of a huge 17-10 win over the Seattle Seahawks, showing everyone just how good they can really be.

Carson Palmer hasn't been the best quarterback, but the rest of the team around him is top-notch with the exception of the offensive line.  He has some solid running backs, great receivers and a defense that loves to make big plays.  They might not even make the playoffs, but the Cardinals are one of the best teams in the league.


7. Cincinnati Bengals

When Andy Dalton shows up and plays well, this team can do almost anything.  The Bengals came away with a dominant 42-14 win with Dalton throwing for 366 yards and four touchdowns.

While Dalton will be key for a deep playoff run, the Bengals have a tremendously talented team around him with a number of great players.  Injuries haven't slowed down this team too much, and right now all the Bengals want to do is win a playoff game, which is something they've struggled to do recently.


6. New England Patriots

No Rob Gronkowski?  No problem.

Tom Brady only threw for 172 yards and a touchdown, but the running game was great, putting up 142 yards and two scores.  The offense will find ways to keep running without Gronk, and if the defense can keep holding opponents to just seven points, then the Patriots will be in good shape entering the postseason.


5. San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers are getting healthy at the right time.  Michael Crabtree is finally back, and he's continuing to look more healthy every week, helping get the passing game that's struggled at times this year get things going.

With an easy Monday Night Football matchup, the 49ers should be heading to the playoffs.  This was the team that represented the NFC in the Super Bowl last year, and with Crabtree back along with a solid defense, the 49ers are in great shape.


4. New Orleans Saints

You can't put too much into a loss against a tough team in the pouring rain, which is why the New Orleans Saints don't fall too far in the latest power rankings.  They've already clinched a playoff spot, although it's looking like they will be a wild-card team instead of the NFC South champions.

Rob Ryan has completely turned the defense around, and now the only big concern for the Saints is protecting Drew Brees.  He was sacked six times this week while throwing two interceptions, and he can't be effective with pressure constantly in his face.


3. Seattle Seahawks

For the first time since 2011, the Seattle Seahawks lost a regular-season game at home.  The streak had to end at some point, but this is still one of the best teams in football with a strong 12-3 record.

Against a tougher defense, however, the offense was ineffective.  Russell Wilson threw for just 108 yards, and the entire offense put up just 192 total yards.  This might have just been a fluke, but it's something to keep an eye on with the season winding down.


2. Carolina Panthers

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Even the most optimistic of Carolina Panthers fans couldn't have seen this team winning the NFC South thanks to an eight-game win streak in the middle of the season, but a division title is a real possibility with a game against the Falcons next week.

Cam Newton has had yet another great season, but the real story all year has been the defense.  They keep finding ways to dominate even the most explosive of offenses, and that is what has made them one of the best teams in the league.


1. Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning is having the greatest season an NFL quarterback has ever had, and that's why the Denver Broncos are the best team in the league.

The star quarterback broke the season record for passing touchdowns, throwing his 51st this week against the Texans.  The Broncos have the highest-scoring offense in the league, and although their defense hasn't been nearly as dominant, that offense is what will help lead them to a deep playoff run.

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