NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand After Week 17?
The 2014 NFL regular season is over. Twelve teams are moving on to the playoffs, while the other 20 are headed home to begin work on the offseason.
How do the final regular-season rankings of the teams shake out? Remember, this isn't as simple as slotting the playoff teams as the top 12 and the non-playoff teams in the bottom 20. This is about who the best team in the NFL is and then a subsequent ranking of the next-best teams. Who comes in first and last?
We'll look at that and reflect back on where each team was ranked heading into Week 1 of the NFL season for a fun reminder that football remains the craziest, most unpredictable sport in the U.S.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-14)
Last Week: 31
This Week: 32
The 2014 season began with many in the media—myself included—thinking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be a dark-horse playoff contender in a weak NFC South. Oops.
The Buccaneers earned the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL draft with their 2-14 record (tied for league-worst) and will enter the offseason with a lot of work to do on a roster that was supposed to be better after free-agent and draft additions last year.
Lovie Smith and Co. have their work cut out for them.
Week 1 Ranking: 14
31. Tennessee Titans (2-14)
Last Week: 32
This Week: 31
In his last 28 games as head coach, Ken Whisenhunt's teams have gone 3-25. That's bad, folks, and it's why the Tennessee Titans are picking No. 2 overall in the 2015 draft and finish the season as a bottom-two team in the power rankings.
This wasn't a season with big expectations, but getting only two wins and the continued lack of development from quarterback Jake Locker makes it a disappointment nonetheless. The Titans head into the offseason with a decision to make at quarterback, but also with a roster lacking talent on defense and consistency on offense.
Week 1 Ranking: 30
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13)
Last Week: 30
This Week: 30
Year 2 of the Gus Bradley and Dave Caldwell era ends with 13 losses, but the Jacksonville Jaguars feel like they're pointed in the right direction. This is a team being built through the draft and with an eye on responsible salary-cap growth. Now they're in a position to potentially spend money on free agents and will once again have an early pick in the first round.
I expected the Jaguars to be slightly better than this in 2014, but injuries on offense pushed rookies into big spots earlier than anyone expected. This is a team to watch over the offseason for a big turnaround in 2015.
Week 1 Ranking: 26
29. Washington (4-12)
Last Week: 29
This Week: 29
Jay Gruden's team finishes the year right back where it started—ranked No. 29 overall.
It was a long, dysfunctional, frustrating year for Washington, and heading into the offseason, there is little certainty about the future of the team. Gruden should be back as head coach, but will he be forced to work with Robert Griffin III at quarterback or free to bring in his own player? That's just one of the many storylines to track here.
2014 was a disappointing year on and off the field for owner Daniel Snyder's franchise.
Week 1 Ranking: 29
28. Oakland Raiders (3-13)
Last Week: 28
This Week: 28
Facing a very difficult schedule in the AFC West, the Oakland Raiders weathered a tough season full of obstacles. The result, a 3-13 record and the No. 4 pick in the draft, is not what they had hoped for, but when considering the firing of a head coach in Week 4 and 10 straight losses to start the year, the finish is a good one.
The Raiders need a new head coach, and they need more talent on both sides of the ball, but a strong 2014 draft class has fans feeling optimistic. And they should be. Derek Carr, Khalil Mack and the young talent here is encouraging.
Week 1 Ranking: 32
27. New York Jets (4-12)
Last Week: 27
This Week: 27
The New York Jets won in Week 17 in impressive fashion—and with quarterback Geno Smith having a near perfect day throwing the ball. The victory pushed them to four wins and kept them outside of the top four picks of the draft. But who will be the one calling the shots on that pick?
The Jets fired head coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik on Monday, as owner Woody Johnson is cleaning house and setting up for a new regime in New Jersey. Whoever is at the helm will inherit a good defensive front seven and a strong running game, but a team with big questions on offense and in the defensive secondary.
Week 1 Ranking: 18
26. Chicago Bears (5-11)
Last Week: 26
This Week: 26
When the season began, the Chicago Bears had the look of a playoff team. That's why they ranked No. 9 overall prior to Week 1. Now, though, they've finished 5-11 and will pick No. 7 overall in the first round of the draft.
Something went wrong here, and fingers will be pointed at coaches, executives and the players. The Bears canned general manager Phil Emery and head coach Marc Trestman on Monday. Will quarterback Jay Cutler be the next one out the door?
There isn't much certainty in Chicago these days. It's clear the Bears have a long way to go before they're as good as we believed they would be 17 weeks ago.
Week 1 Ranking: 9
25. Cleveland Browns (7-9)
Last Week: 25
This Week: 25
The Cleveland Browns were one of the NFL's hottest teams during the middle of the 2014 season, but they fizzled out as the season wore on. They're still finishing the year higher than most folks expected, though, and getting to seven wins is very impressive considering the lack of talent at quarterback and wide receiver.
The Browns will have some hard questions to answer in the coming months, but this is also a team with strong coaching and talent on both sides of the ball. A stable quarterback situation, the addition of a No. 1 wide receiver and some beef on the defensive line could put them back in the AFC North race in 2015.
Week 1 Ranking: 28
24. St. Louis Rams (6-10)
Last Week: 24
This Week: 24
Ranking the St. Louis Rams at No. 25 overall before the season wasn't a popular opinion with fans on Twitter and in this comment section, but the lack of a starting-caliber quarterback and turnover in the secondary was expected to hurt this team. And it did.
Jeff Fisher has a great reputation as a head coach, but sooner or later he has to actually start winning, right? He hasn't had a winning record since 2008 (13-3 with the Titans) and has just six winning seasons in his 20 years as a head coach.
It would be a surprise to see Fisher fired this year, but 2015 is a huge season for him.
Week 1 Ranking: 25
23. Atlanta Falcons (6-10)
Last Week: 17
This Week: 23
With the playoffs and jobs on the line, the Atlanta Falcons laid an egg against the Carolina Panthers in Week 17. And that pretty much sums up the year. When the Falcons needed to win, they were erratic and puzzling.
That led to head coach Mike Smith receiving a pink slip on Monday, the No. 8 overall pick and a roster in need of a major shakeup. The Falcons weren't supposed to be great this year, but with the NFC South incredibly weak, they should have performed better than this given their talent and the experience in the coaching staff. It's an all-around disappointing season, to be sure.
Week 1 Ranking: 21
22. Miami Dolphins (8-8)
Last Week: 18
This Week: 22
An 8-8 record isn't bad for the Miami Dolphins—especially when weighed against preseason expectations. The same can't be said about the way the New York Jets manhandled them in Week 17. That's an awful taste to leave in mouths for eight months as fans wait for new football.
The Dolphins could make changes to the front office and coaching staff this offseason, but the bright spot of the season has to be the progress Ryan Tannehill made at quarterback. Keeping offensive coordinator Bill Lazor around to work with him is huge for his continued development.
Where the Dolphins go in 2015 remains to be seen, but this is a team very close to competing in the AFC.
Week 1 Ranking: 23
21. New York Giants (6-10)
Last Week: 21
This Week: 21
The 2014 season was a tough one for the New York Giants as the offense acclimated to new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, but there were some bright spots too. Big ones.
Eli Manning had a very good season after a sluggish start, and rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. became a superstar thanks to his highlight-reel catches and consistency over the final 12 games. The trio of Manning, Beckham and the returning Victor Cruz is enough to give any Giants fan hope in 2015.
The defense needs help, and the offensive line is a question mark due to so many injuries in 2014. However, with Tom Coughlin coming back as coach next year, per ESPN.com's Dan Graziano, the Giants should find themselves right back in the thick of the NFC East race.
Week 1 Ranking 20
20. Minnesota Vikings (7-9)
Last Week: 23
This Week: 20
The Minnesota Vikings started the year with Adrian Peterson, what was thought to be an up-and-coming offensive line and rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater throwing dimes to Cordarrelle Patterson, Kyle Rudolph and Greg Jennings.
Very little of that actually came to fruition.
Bridgewater was impressive, but Peterson only played one game before being suspended, and the offensive line took a major step back. That Mike Zimmer got seven wins out of this team in his first season as a head coach is simply amazing.
The Vikings head into 2015 with talent and room to improve. They should be able to make some noise with a healthy roster next fall.
Week 1 Ranking: 19
19. New Orleans Saints (7-9)
Last Week: 22
This Week: 19
A win in Week 17 does little to wash the bad taste out of the mouths of fans after a promising 2014 season ends with nine losses and no playoffs for the New Orleans Saints. And even more confusing, a team that's historically been very good at home under Sean Payton had a losing record (3-5) in the Superdome this year.
The 2014 season is one to forget, but can the Saints build on this year? Drew Brees showed obvious signs of regression, Rob Ryan clearly didn't fix the defense and the team won enough games to get bad luck in the draft order (No. 13 overall). With little money to spend under the expended salary cap, it's all on Mickey Loomis and the front office to draft well.
Are we seeing the end of the Saints' run, or was 2014 just a bad year? We'll find out soon enough.
Week 1 Ranking: 4
18. San Francisco 49ers (8-8)
Last Week: 19
This Week: 18
Winning the final game of the regular season put the San Francisco 49ers at 8-8 and closed out the Jim Harbaugh era with four straight years over .500. But now Harbaugh is gone, a move "mutually agreed to," per the team's statement to the press. Harbaugh is reportedly off to Michigan, according to Bleacher Report's Jason Cole, and the 49ers are looking for a new head coach.
The new coach will inherit a strong front office and scouting staff, a promising roster once healthy and a team with Super Bowl expectations. Sure, they'll have to replace free agents like wide receiver Michael Crabtree and guard Mike Iupati, but general manager Trent Baalke drafted for those departures. The new coach's first order of business will be healing the locker room and working with quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
2014 will go down as a disappointing season for the 49ers, and a landmark year in that ownership moved on from a proven head coach in order to find harmony for the front office and locker room.
Week 1 Ranking: 6
17. Carolina Panthers (7-8-1)
Last Week: 20
This Week: 17
The Carolina Panthers finish the year right about where I thought they would in the Power Rankings, but they do so with a playoff berth and an NFC South championship. Somehow.
The NFC South was down this year, but the Panthers held on throughout a long season that saw them overcome injuries and a loss of talent to retirement and free agency that would have crippled most clubs. Ron Rivera doesn't get much credit in this space, but his coaching job this year was impressive in this regard.
The Panthers don't rank inside the top 12 as most playoffs teams will, but if the goal was a division title in 2014, they accomplished it.
Week 1 Ranking: 16
16. Kansas City Chiefs (9-7)
Last Week: 16
This Week: 16
The Kansas City Chiefs finished the year well ahead of where I predicted they would be back in August: nine wins after overachieving their way to 11-5 the year before. To win nine games with so much turnover on the offensive line, so little production from the wide receivers and big question marks in the secondary is a testament to Andy Reid's coaching.
The Chiefs are now entering a critical offseason. They must build a passing attack around quarterback Alex Smith, patch holes on the offensive line and come up with a game plan to improve the secondary. With pick No. 18 in the first round, that won't be easy, but the Chiefs have compensatory picks coming their way after seeing so many free agents leave in 2014. Using those to build the roster is the smart, successful move.
Week 1 Ranking: 24
15. Buffalo Bills (9-7)
Last Week: 15
This Week: 15
Beating New England in Week 17 with the No. 1 seed already locked up isn't much for the Buffalo Bills' resume, but the 2014 season ends at 9-7 with a narrow miss of the playoffs. And that is impressive.
Doug Marrone's second season as head coach of the Bills will go down as a success based on the team's record, the play of rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins and the still-dominant defense led by Jim Schwartz after Mike Pettine became the head coach in Cleveland. With no help coming from the quarterback position, the Bills were a hot team over the first half of the season and a competitive one for the entire year. I'm not sure you can ask for much more than that.
With no first-round pick in the 2015 draft barring a trade, the Bills will have to be creative to fill holes, but the foundation is in place for this team to be scary next year.
Week 1 Ranking: 27
14. Houston Texans (9-7)
Last Week: 14
This Week: 14
Before the season, I ranked the Houston Texans at No. 31 overall coming off a two-win season and a roster that looked ill-suited to compete in the AFC South. Then, first-year head coach Bill O'Brien won nine games with zero impact from the first pick in the draft (Jadeveon Clowney) and with starters at quarterback named Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett and Case Keenum.
O'Brien will head into 2015 with a chance to improve his roster and his record, and every team in the AFC South should take notice. Sure, the Colts have Andrew Luck, but the Texans are a stable quarterback away from taking this division.
Week 1 Ranking: 31
13. San Diego Chargers (9-7)
Last Week: 12
This Week: 13
A loss to the Kansas City Chiefs pushed the San Diego Chargers out of playoff contention in Week 17, but how will fans and ownership feel about the 9-7 season?
This is about on par with how the Chargers should have performed this year. The offense still needs work on the line, and the defense was once again banged up and has remaining holes to fill. But overall, the Chargers showed again that Mike McCoy is a quality head coach with big upside to get this team into contention.
Keeping the playoff window open as Philip Rivers gets into the final act of his career is important, but general manager Tom Telesco has done well so far drafting and building through free agency. Fans can feel good about the team's potential.
Week 1 Ranking: 11
12. Arizona Cardinals (11-5)
Last Week: 10
This Week: 12
The Arizona Cardinals are stumbling into the playoffs after losing their final two games, but give credit to head coach Bruce Arians and his staff for back-to-back seasons of double-digit wins in the desert.
Making the playoffs, even as a wild-card team, is a huge accomplishment for Arians in his second season with the Cardinals. Even more impressive is that the team made it this far with so much instability at quarterback after Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton were both lost to injury. A strong defense, playmakers at wide receiver and damn-good coaching went far for the Cardinals.
But the road is likely to end soon. A first-round playoff meeting with the Carolina Panthers may get the Cardinals to the second round, but the lack of quarterback talent will hurt their playoff run—which is why they rank so low among playoff teams here.
Week 1 Ranking: 15
11. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
Last Week: 11
This Week: 11
The Philadelphia Eagles finish the year at 10-6 and outside the playoffs, but that won't affect their ranking here. If all was right in the universe, the Eagles would be in the postseason over the Carolina Panthers (7-8-1), but until the NFL decides to reward season winners and not division winners, this is what we're stuck with.
There may be some fans disappointed with the non-playoff year, but given the talent level of this team, 2014 was a good season in Philadelphia. Chip Kelly showed that he's still a top-level coach in only his second season and the roster is in good shape to be turned over for the needed additions.
If Kelly can solve the quarterback question this offseason (through acquisition or development), the Eagles could be Super Bowl-worthy very soon.
Week 1 Ranking: 7
10. Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
Last Week: 13
This Week: 10
It was not always pretty, but the Baltimore Ravens fought their way to 10 wins and a playoff berth—and that's a victory for John Harbaugh's team.
The 2014 season was thought to be one with playoff potential but not real Super Bowl hopes, and that's exactly where we are 17 weeks later. The Ravens are a very good football team, and outside of some holes in the secondary, they could make a legitimate run through the AFC on paper. On the field, anything is possible, and this team is battle-tested in postseason football.
The Ravens make it back to where they started the year—No. 10 overall—with an eye toward a postseason run.
Week 1 Ranking: 10
9. Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1)
Last Week: 8
This Week: 9
The Cincinnati Bengals' loss in Week 17 gives the Pittsburgh Steelers the AFC North, but they enter the playoffs as an intimidating team.
The combination of A.J. Green, Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard will scare most teams, and the Bengals aren't afraid to throw out crazy plays with Mohamed Sanu and Andy Dalton, either. Defensively, they've been inconsistent in the secondary but can be good enough to make plays and have big games.
The playoffs—for the fourth year in a row—come down to Dalton's ability to make plays in the postseason. The Bengals have never missed the playoffs with him as quarterback, but they've also never won a playoff game. Round 1 against the Indianapolis Colts will give Dalton and Marvin Lewis their chance to fix that.
Week 1 Ranking: 12
8. Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
Last Week: 9
This Week: 8
The Indianapolis Colts take home another AFC South championship and will again host a playoff game, but they don't have the look or feel of a team ready to make noise in the postseason.
The strength of the team—quarterback Andrew Luck and his weapons in the passing game—are good enough to keep the Colts alive in any game, but Luck has also gone through a bit of a slump the last month of the season and must cut down on his turnovers and missed chances if the Colts are to beat the Cincinnati Bengals.
First place in the division, getting to 11 wins and remaining competitive in the conference is a win for the Colts, but the Houston Texans are coming for them. Beating the Bengals on Wild Card Weekend will go a long way in legitimizing the Colts.
Week 1 Ranking: 8
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
Last Week: 7
This Week: 7
Count me in as a believer in the Pittsburgh Steelers—as long as Le'Veon Bell is healthy.
The AFC North champs will host a playoff game—against the Baltimore Ravens—and have the offensive firepower and defensive pass-rush to really make a run this year. With Ben Roethlisberger, Bell, Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant making up a fearsome foursome for Pittsburgh, this isn't the old-school steel curtain but a new-school electric offense powering the team.
The Steelers have a lot going for them—namely the experience of Roethlisberger and the coaching staff in the playoffs. If the Bell isn't too hampered by the hyperextended right knee he suffered in Week 17, don't be surprised if Pittsburgh winds up in the AFC Championship Game.
Week 1 Ranking: 13
6. Detroit Lions (11-5)
Last Week: 6
This Week: 6
The Detroit Lions overachieved in 2014, at least according to preseason rankings. Jim Caldwell's first year as head coach has been a success thus far, but getting a playoff win over the Dallas Cowboys as a wild-card team would definitely make things sweeter.
The Lions are among the league's most talented teams, but they are also maddeningly inconsistent at times. They can't afford to have an off-day in Dallas against an offense that excels at controlling the game and putting up points. The Lions have the weapons on paper to make the game interesting and ultimately win, but they need Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson to bring their A-games.
Week 1 Ranking: 17
5. Denver Broncos (12-4)
Last Week: 5
This Week: 5
The Denver Broncos quietly beat the Oakland Raiders in Week 17 to clinch the No. 2 seed in the AFC as champions of the West. That means they'll be at home unless they're asked to travel to New England for the AFC Championship Game.
The last few weeks of the season showed weaknesses in the Broncos' game, but this is still one of the league's most talented rosters, and they're quarterbacked by a genius under center in Peyton Manning. If he's able to compensate for regressing arm strength with timing, anticipation and field vision in the postseason as he did all through the regular season, anything short of a conference title appearance is a disappointment.
The Broncos loaded up their roster for a Super Bowl run, and they're definitely one of the more viable teams left alive.
Week 1 Ranking: 3
4. Dallas Cowboys (12-4)
Last Week: 4
This Week: 4
The biggest overachievers of the season (based on where they were ranked before Week 1), the Dallas Cowboys took home the NFC East and will host a playoff game.
The Cowboys are in good shape for a deep playoff run. Is this the best chance for a Super Bowl in the Tony Romo era? Adam Lefkoe and I think so. Check it out in the video above.
Week 1 Ranking: 22
3. Green Bay Packers (12-4)
Last Week: 3
This Week: 3
The Green Bay Packers are who we thought they were—a damn good team.
Mike McCarthy's ballclub took home another NFC North title and the No. 2 seed in the conference—which means at least one home playoff game at Lambeau Field. Good luck to whomever has to travel there in the second round of the playoffs.
The Packers have Aaron Rodgers, and that's reason enough to think they can win another Super Bowl. But they also have a defense that's improved dramatically and a battering ram in running back Eddie Lacy. To say this is the most balanced Packers team of the McCarthy era wouldn't be an overstatement.
All that could lead to a Packers berth in the Super Bowl. First, they have to take care of business at home and then in a potential NFC Championship Game. And that will not be easy.
Week 1 Ranking: 5
2. Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
Last Week: 2
This Week: 2
Way back in Week 1, when the Seattle Seahawks dominated the Green Bay Packers, it was a common thought that they would walk through the NFC and face off for a second straight Super Bowl title. Over the ensuing weeks, the team struggled and cooled off as the locker room needed sorting out and the roster needed to jell. But now, with January almost here, the Seahawks are back to being the NFC's dominant team.
Home-field advantage is dangerous for any team, but for Seattle, it's life. The road to the Super Bowl goes through their home turf, and with two games under the crushing crowd noise, they will be the favorites no matter the opponents.
No team in the NFC is as complete as Seattle. And perhaps most importantly, they do not make mistakes on offense, defense or special teams. That's why they're a clear favorite to repeat as NFC champs.
Week 1 Ranking: 1
1. New England Patriots (12-4)
Last Week: 1
This Week: 1
In my time covering the NFL and the NFL draft, I've never had the opportunity to evaluate a New England Patriots team that wasn't good (or even great). And I'm betting a lot of fans and readers here haven't either.
We tend to take for granted just how good the Patriots are every year. September rolls around and we all expect 11 or 12 wins, an AFC East title and a strong run in the postseason that should at least end with an appearance in the AFC title game. And for the last 14 years, the Patriots have delivered on those expectations. No other team in the NFL can attest to that consistency.
And so here we are again with January set to begin and the Patriots once again the best team in football. But this is old-school Patriots football. A strong defense with an attacking secondary bringing back memories of Ty Law and Rodney Harrison with Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower filling that Junior Seau role. These Patriots aren't just Tom Brady's right arm—and that's why they have a chance to win a fourth Super Bowl title.
As of right now, no one looks capable of beating them.
Week 1 Ranking: 2