NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Heading into Week 17?
We're heading into the final week of the 2017 NFL season. While the playoff picture isn't 100 percent set, we're beginning to get a very good idea of what it's going to look like. From what I've seen, the postseason is going to have a very intriguing dynamic.
The New England Patriots are the favorites to win the Super Bowl. Anyone who believes otherwise is kidding themselves. This is Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the greatest dynasty the NFL has ever seen. Does this mean they'll win the Super Bowl? Of course not, but to say the Patriots aren't the favorites is ridiculous.
Here's the thing, though. The Patriots are kings of a flawed conference. After watching the Jacksonville Jaguars melt down on Sunday, it's clear that only the Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers are complete teams in the AFC. The lesser teams in the conference aren't likely to provide that much of a challenge. There's a good chance that whichever of these two teams comes out of the AFC is only going to have survived one tough postseason matchup to get to the Super Bowl.
The NFC, on the other hand, is chock full of complete teams. There's a ton of talent and physicality at the top of the conference. There's a chance the NFC's best teams cannibalize each other in a brutal conference tournament.
Here's some food for thought about this dynamic. It could lead to a Super Bowl where the NFC's representative is beaten up and exhausted, while the AFC's champion is relatively fresh. It could also lead to a game in which the AFC team simply isn't able to match the intensity the NFC team has had to have since Day 1 of the postseason.
After one more week of regular-season action, we'll start seeing how all of this plays out. Here's how I view things heading into that final week. Last week's power rankings can be found here.
32. Cleveland Browns
Last Week's Ranking: 32
For me, it's over for Hue Jackson and DeShone Kizer. If I'm the Browns, I'm moving on from Jackson, and I'm definitely looking at a quarterback with the No. 1 pick in the draft.
I fully believe new general manager John Dorsey will get this franchise sailing in the right direction, but it's going to take some time. For now, the Browns are what we thought they were: the worst team in football. There's some talent in the front seven, and the offensive line is good when healthy, but there aren't enough difference-makers on either side of the ball.
With the Steelers still in play for the AFC's No. 1 seed and hosting Cleveland in Week 17, it's time to realize the Browns aren't going to win a game this year.
31. New York Giants
Last Week's Ranking: 30
This season has been a joke for the New York Giants. What else can we say?
Offensively, it's been a disgrace. I truly have to wonder what the market for Eli Manning might be in the offseason. I don't know how anyone can watch the same film of him I have and think that he's the guy to lead their franchise. It'll be interesting to see if the Giants keep him, try to move him or if Manning simply decides to retire.
Defensively, New York has to be embarrassed with some of its defensive performances this year. This is one of the more expensive defenses in football, and it disappointed more often than not.
The offense has been embarrassing at times. The defense has been embarrassing at times. Of course, the situation in the front office was embarrassing most of the time. Expect a fresh start in 2018.
30. Indianapolis Colts
Last Week's Ranking: 31
I may sound like a broken record because I've probably said this every week for the last 15, but I have to give the Indianapolis Colts credit for the way they fight. The Colts are always well-prepared. It's a shame that coach Chuck Pagano could get fired, because the team's problems aren't his fault.
Ownership and former general manager Ryan Grigson have been bigger problems than Pagano, I can tell you that. Of course, not having Andrew Luck has made things more difficult. Pagano will probably pay the price for a lost season, though. That's life in the NFL.
On the field, the inexperience of quarterback Jacoby Brissett has hurt Indianapolis, as has the lack of offensive playmakers aside from T.Y. Hilton. The defense has been underwhelming all season.
Indianapolis is a team that is heading in the right direction under new GM Chris Ballard, but there are big holes on both sides of the ball.
29. Houston Texans
Last Week's Ranking: 29
This has been an unlucky year for the Houston Texans. Week 16 wasn't any different. Injuries and being beat-up are really the theme of the entire year. However, the Texans have a really bright future.
It doesn't make sense to make changes to the organization in the offseason. They'll get a few high draft picks to add to a roster that is impressive when healthy. We have to recognize that the team we saw on Monday isn't the same team we'll see when J.J. Watt, Deshaun Watson and Whitney Mercilus are in the lineup.
Houston can be a serious contender next year. Watson might not have 100 percent mobility early n the season, but he'll continue to get better as the season goes on. Even without his usual quickness and agility, Watson will be dangerous because he can really throw it.
Watch out for the Texans in 2018.
28. Denver Broncos
Last Week's Ranking: 26
The Denver Broncos have to be embarrassed by how they performed against the Washington Redskins. There's no way they should have lost 27-11.
Looking forward, John Elway has to find his franchise quarterback. Denver still has a defense that is capable of being elite, but it's getting older and isn't going to be a championship-caliber unit forever.
The 2015 Super Bowl Broncos are no longer there. Elway is going to have to have one of his best offseasons ever in order to push this team into the future. The Broncos need more creativity, more playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, a quarterback who can take care of the ball and possibly a new coaching staff.
It hasn't been a good look for Denver because the Broncos have been clearly out-coached in several games this season. Elway needs to seriously consider what he wants to do with his staff moving forward.
If Elway makes all the right moves, the Broncos can be right back in the playoff conversation next year.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week's Ranking: 28
This game went the way I expected. I figured Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' passing attack would give the Carolina Panthers trouble.
Winston made some phenomenal plays, and the defense played at a high level. Really, the Buccaneers dominated the game and were the better team on the field for most of four quarters. Once again, though, Winston made a mistake—in this case, a fumble—that cost Tampa a winnable game.
Look, Winston has small hands, and he needs to do a better job of securing the ball when under pressure. If he can learn to take care of the football and stop making head-scratching mistakes, this team will be ready to take the next step toward the playoffs.
I don't think Dirk Koetter will be there, though. I think Koetter is out as head coach, and we're going to see Jon Gruden leading the team in 2018.
26. Chicago Bears
Last Week's Ranking: 27
There are a lot of key pieces for the Chicago Bears to like moving forward. Chicago has its quarterback, a stellar offensive line and a nasty front seven. The offseason needs to be about adding some legit NFL receivers and some cover cornerbacks.
General manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox have built a solid foundation for the future. While the Bears only have five wins this season, they aren't that far away from being legitimate playoff contenders.
Hopefully, Chicago has the sense to keep both Pace and Fox around to see the rebuild turn its next corner. I don't see glaring problems with coaching or roster construction when I look at this team.
25. Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week's Ranking: 25
I have a lot of respect for Marvin Lewis and the run he's had with the Cincinnati Bengals. I also respect the way Cincinnati came out against the Detroit Lions and played with some pride after two consecutive blowout losses.
Don't tell me NFL players don't have pride when nothing's on the line.
Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and certainly Giovani Bernard were fantastic on Sunday. A lot of the game, though, hinged on the fact the Bengals had the talent in the secondary to slow down Detroit's passing attack. Cincinnati was able to turn the contest into a close, physical one, which is the type of game the Bengals are built to win.
24. New York Jets
Last Week's Ranking: 24
I wouldn't change much about the New York Jets in the offseason if I were in charge. New York is very close to being a really good team; the Jets just have to find their franchise quarterback.
Whether it's through the draft or free agency, New York needs to find a legit starting quarterback. They also need another receiver to help boost the pass game.
There is a lot of young talent on this Jets team. Todd Bowles has done an outstanding job coaching up that talent and delivering a season that far exceeded the low expectations of the summer. I won't be shocked at all if the Jets are in the playoff conversation next year.
23. San Francisco 49ers
Last Week's Ranking: 23
Games like Sunday's show why the future is bright for the San Francisco 49ers. We got to see how special Kyle Shanahan is as an offensive play-caller. We also got to fully experience the energy he and Jimmy Garoppolo have brought to the franchise.
The Jaguars are one of the most physical teams in football, and the 49ers smacked them around early.
With Shanahan and Garoppolo on board, the 49ers have the potential to field one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL next season. They have the confidence, they have the key pieces in place, and they have a ton of cap space to utilize in free agency.
22. Miami Dolphins
Last Week's Ranking: 19
I'm disappointed by the performance of the Miami Dolphins in Week 16. I believed the Dolphins would be able to move the ball more on the Kansas City Chiefs. They didn't, they lost, and now their playoff hopes are officially dead.
Still, there's a lot to like about Miami heading into 2018. A healthy Ryan Tannehill will be better than Jay Cutler at quarterback. Kenyan Drake is becoming a special running back, and Miami has an exceptional group of pass-catchers.
Most importantly, I have faith that head coach Adam Gase and defensive coordinator Matt Burke will steer the ship in the right direction next season.
21. Oakland Raiders
Last Week's Ranking: 22
The Oakland Raiders deserve credit for playing tough Monday night at Lincoln Financial Field. Marshawn Lynch—who is still in unreal physical shape—was fantastic, and the offensive line did its part. The problem is that offensive coordinator Todd Downing didn't do his.
Derek Carr has played below-average ball, and against the Philadelphia Eagles, he missed too many throws again. Too often, we've seen the ball die before it reaches its target. This isn't the same quarterback we saw last year. If Carr doesn't clean up his lower-body mechanics, his subpar play will continue.
In my mind, the Raiders need to abandon ship on this coaching staff and find a new culture. This will be a critical offseason for Oakland.
20. Green Bay Packers
Last Week's Ranking: 18
Quarterback Brett Hundley showed his inexperience against the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday night. I'm not sure how much the Green Bay Packers were expecting from him, though, and I really hope fans don't blame Hundley for the loss.
What Saturday's game really did was drive home just how much this team depends on Aaron Rodgers. There's nothing special about Green Bay other than No. 12. When he got hurt, the Packers' season fell apart. It's not like the schedule was especially tough, this just isn't a playoff team without Rodgers.
I like Mike McCarthy as a head coach, but he needs to have a serious conversation with himself about bringing in a new offensive coordinator. The Packers are in need of new ideas on offense, and they may need to retool the defensive system as well.
Green Bay isn't loaded with talent, but the current schemes don't maximize the talent that is there.
19. Arizona Cardinals
Last Week's Ranking: 21
The Arizona Cardinals are the most inconsistent team in football. There's talent there, but there are also holes on the roster. This leads to some uneven performances and an uneven team on a week-to-week basis.
This is going to be a huge offseason for Arizona. Carson Palmer is at the end of his career, and the team needs to find his replacement sooner rather than later. He's not the only player who needs a successor. There is very little middle ground when it comes to age with this roster—it's mostly young talent and aging veterans.
I also have to wonder if Bruce Arians will be back as head coach next season. The word on the street is that he might retire. Regardless, general manager Steve Keim is going to have his work cut out for him.
18. Buffalo Bills
Last Week's Ranking: 17
When you're presented with early opportunities in the game and squander them, it's hard to beat the Patriots in Foxborough. The Buffalo Bills dominated the first half of Sunday's game—and I do think they were ripped off when Kelvin Benjamin's touchdown was overturned—but the Bills couldn't even carry a lead into the half.
Ultimately, Buffalo is a team I don't view as playoff-caliber. The offensive scheme needs to be more creative, and there needs to be more playmakers on both sides of the ball. It can't just be LeSean McCoy all the time on offense, and the defense cannot always rely on a bend-but-don't-break formula.
Buffalo is headed in the right direction, but it looks like the playoff drought is going to last for at least one more season.
17. Detroit Lions
Last Week's Ranking: 12
I knew this would be a tough matchup for the Lions, but I certainly thought they'd be able to win a close one. The reality, though, is that the Bengals have more talent on their roster than Detroit does.
Detroit needs to put more support around Matthew Stafford. Other than Rodgers and Russell Wilson, no one carries the team more on a week-to-week basis than Stafford. Detroit's defense is average at best, and the Lions haven't had a player rush for more than 1,000 yards since 2013.
The Lions have to head into the offseason trying to find a run game and a couple more defensive playmakers.
16. Washington Redskins
Last Week's Ranking: 20
Sunday's performance against the Broncos is an example of why the Redskins should maintain the status quo in Washington. They shouldn't fire Jay Gruden, the coaching staff should be unchanged, and Washington should definitely keep Kirk Cousins.
Yes, Washington didn't have the season it wanted this year, but a lot of unfortunate injuries played into that. This team is set up nicely to have success in 2018.
The Redskins need help in the secondary, and they need another playmaking receiver on the outside. Otherwise, this is a team that is close to being really, really good.
15. Tennessee Titans
Last Week's Ranking: 15
I hate to say I told you so, but I've been telling you this all year. The biggest question surrounding the Tennessee Titans is whether the passing game can carry the team when the ground game isn't dominating.
I don't mean this as a crack at Marcus Mariota, either. He's improving, he's going to continue to improve, and he may be able to lead this franchise to a Super Bowl one day. Right now, though, he isn't able to just throw the team on his shoulders, and the Titans don't have enough playmaking pass-catchers for him to do so.
Tennessee lacks defensive playmakers too. When the run game isn't rolling and the defense is forced to spend a lot of time on the field, it can start to give up big plays with alarming frequency.
Tennessee is a good team. It isn't a great team, and it isn't a playoff team this year.
14. Dallas Cowboys
Last Week's Ranking: 10
This was a heartbreaking loss for the Dallas Cowboys. It's the type of loss that makes me want to tell people to pump the brakes on the Dak Prescott hype. He's good, but he had no business being Offensive Rookie of the Year last year.
Prescott has a bright future, but he's not a top-10 quarterback. If he was, he wouldn't have thrown two interceptions and kept the Seahawks in the game.
The Cowboys and Jerry Jones are going to have some interesting decisions to make about the future of this franchise. Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott aren't going anywhere, but high-salary veterans like Dez Bryant may have to.
13. Seattle Seahawks
Last Week's Ranking: 16
What can I really say about Seattle? They had no business winning against the Dallas Cowboys, but the magic of Russell Wilson and the drive of the team itself allowed the Seahawks to do exactly that.
Aside from perhaps the Patriots, there isn't a team in the league that has competed harder week in and week out than Seattle. It is the epitome of 60 minutes of football.
Dallas dominated the Seahawks for much of the game, but because Seattle never gave up and had enough playmakers to battle back, it didn't matter. This is exactly why the Seahawks are always a threat to win on any given day.
I don't believe the Seahawks are a playoff team, but because of Wilson, Pete Carroll and that resiliency, they might get in.
12. Los Angeles Chargers
Last Week's Ranking: 14
This was an uninspiring win for the Chargers. I'll give L.A. credit for getting the win in a tough situation. It's not easy—and I honestly don't think it's fair—for West Coast teams to play at 10 a.m. their time.
Regardless, the Chargers have not been playing their best football in recent weeks. They were lucky to escape New York with a 14-7 win and keep their playoff hopes alive.
Even though the Chargers haven't been playing great as of late, they're still going to be a pain in the ass in the postseason if they get there. L.A. has a seasoned quarterback in Philip Rivers, a competent ground game, plenty of playmaking pass-catchers and the best pass-rushing duo in football.
11. Atlanta Falcons
Last Week's Ranking: 9
The Atlanta Falcons offense was inconsistent Sunday. It made a few big plays, but it struggled to convert on third and fourth down. When you're that inconsistent and you turn the ball over two times on the road against a superior team, you're not going to win.
That's what happened against the New Orleans Saints. Now the Falcons will be forced to fight for their playoff lives in Week 17.
This isn't the same Atlanta team that we saw reach Super Bowl LI. It's still a dangerous team, and as far as Super Bowl hangovers go, a 9-6 record is relatively mild. Yet, if the Falcons do end up missing the playoffs, it'll still sting.
10. Baltimore Ravens
Last Week's Ranking: 11
It wasn't a pretty win for the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night. I still question whether the offense will be able to consistently move the ball in the playoffs if they get in.
The Ravens defense is sound. However, I do wonder if there are enough big-time playmakers on that side of the ball to carry Baltimore to a Super Bowl. That's the Ravens' goal, and they're going to want to ride their defense to another title game.
It's going to take timely explosive plays on offense and on defense to get Baltimore another Lombardi Trophy. We haven't seen a ton of them this season. Still, the Ravens are a big and physical team that won't be pushed around come January.
If those explosive plays do come and Joe Flacco has another run like he had in the 2012-13 playoffs, the Ravens could be back in the Super Bowl.
9. Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week's Ranking: 13
The Chiefs have gotten things rolling again on offense. The thing that stands out most is how Kansas City is being more patient with the run game. Kareem Hunt is certainly one of the best players on the team. When the Chiefs run him, it makes life easier for Alex Smith and opens things up in the passing game.
We saw that against Miami, even though Hunt didn't have a huge statistical day. Rushing attempts are sometimes just as important as rushing yards.
When the Chiefs keep the attempts up and force you to respect the ground game, the offense becomes difficult to defend. There are several explosive playmakers who will make you pay as soon as you sneak an extra defender into the box.
While the Chiefs defense still isn't good, it's been doing more creative things on that side of the ball. That's encouraging going into the playoffs.
8. Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week's Ranking: 8
Well, this was the first time the reality that Carson Wentz is out came to the forefront. Last week, the offense was put in good situations, and Nick Foles took advantage. An ugly game like this, though, called for a quarterback who can create plays on his own. Foles is a competent signal-caller, but he cannot create plays with his arm and his legs the way Wentz can.
I still wish the Eagles would run downhill more with their stable of running backs behind this powerful offensive line.
The encouraging thing is we saw the defense look more like the dominant unit from earlier in the season—other than cornerbacks still biting on the double move.
The Eagles are good and are going to be tough to beat, but they don't look Super Bowl-caliber right now.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week's Ranking: 7
I knew this would be a tough matchup for Jacksonville because of the experience Shanahan has with their defensive scheme. Still, we've seen no offense shred the Jacksonville defense like the 49ers did early on Sunday.
Still, I'm not all that worried about Jacksonville's defense moving forward. It's still special. What I'm worried about is the same thing I've been worried about all season. When Jacksonville cannot dominate on the ground, can the Jaguars win through the air?
Yes, I know Blake Bortles has been good the last few weeks against some of the worst pass defenses in the league. However, the San Francisco pass defense isn't that great, and Bortles struggled against it.
I'll say this again: The Jaguars have the most talented team in football. They just have a quarterback who isn't franchise-caliber. Bortles has been better at times this season, but his inconsistencies could cost Jacksonville in the playoffs.
6. Carolina Panthers
Last Week's Ranking: 6
The Panthers did a great job winning a game in which they didn't play well. Hopefully, it serves as a learning experience.
All of the concerns I've had about Carolina were prevalent on Sunday. There was too much pressure on Cam Newton, and he doesn't have the weapons at receiver to help him out when he's under pressure. Tight end Greg Olsen is terrific, and running back Christian McCaffrey is a nice outlet, but there aren't any weapons on the outside who can stretch the field and back the defense off the line of scrimmage.
Newton was amazing on Carolina's last scoring drive, but he cannot be asked to do everything on his own so often.
Defensively, the Panthers gave up too many big plays in the pass game. This has been a concern all year. The Panthers defense is good, especially up front, but the secondary isn't built to contain elite passing offenses. That could be a major issue heading into the postseason.
5. New Orleans Saints
Last Week's Ranking: 5
When the Saints play like they did against Atlanta, they're a dangerous team. Now that the offensive line is healthy and playing well as a unit, you're going to see New Orleans' rushing attack carry the Saints into the playoffs and deep into the postseason.
The rushing tandem of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram combined with quarterback Drew Brees is scary. While the defense isn't great, it's solid and has a couple of real difference-makers.
When you have a corner like Marshon Lattimore who can go all day one-on-one against Julio Jones, you have something special. He's the Defensive Rookie of the Year in my eyes. He and pass-rusher Cameron Jordan can change what you're able to do on defense and what opposing offenses are capable and willing to do.
After years of being a pass-heavy team, the Saints are one of the more complete teams in football.
4. Los Angeles Rams
Last Week's Ranking: 4
The Rams didn't have kicker Greg Zuerlein on Sunday, and that stood out. His replacement, Sam Ficken, missed an extra point and his lone field-goal attempt. Zuerlein is out for the year, and the kicker position will be something to watch moving forward. Zuerlein was a big and reliable weapon for Los Angeles.
Even with a kicking issue, the Rams are able to win in all three phases. They still have tremendous special-teams players, an opportunistic pass defense, a quality pass rush and a bevy of offensive weapons. They also have Todd Gurley, who would be my pick for NFL MVP.
A year after going just 4-12, the Rams have a legitimate shot at going to the Super Bowl.
3. Minnesota Vikings
Last Week's Ranking: 2
It was an uninspired, lackluster win for the Vikings on Saturday. Quarterback Case Keenum wasn't at his best, and the defense wasn't as disruptive as we've seen. Because the game was cold and the field was soft, Minnesota's team speed wasn't as much of an asset against the Packers.
It wasn't a great game for the Vikings, but I'm not going to let one subpar performance that still resulted in a 16-0 victory sway me from my belief that Minnesota is Super Bowl material.
Yes, the Vikings are a Super Bowl contender, even with Case Keenum at quarterback. Yep, they can win it with a quarterback who's completing over 67 percent of his passes and has 21 touchdowns with just seven picks.
I'm saying Keenum is good. Got it? Thank you very much.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week's Ranking: 3
Pittsburgh is the second best team in football, in my opinion. If you made me pick one team to knock off the Patriots, this would be it. Even without Antonio Brown, I believe in Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers.
Let's be serious, the Patriots are a special kind of dynasty. Beating them is no easy task, but if any team does this postseason, it'll be Pittsburgh. The offense is going to be dangerous, and the defense is only going to get better now that Joe Haden is back in the fold.
I'd be shocked if the Steelers and Patriots don't meet again in the postseason.
1. New England Patriots
Last Week's Ranking: 1
The Patriots didn't play their crispest game, and Brady has been off the last few weeks. Maybe it's the achilles injury, but Brady hasn't looked like the quarterback he was earlier in the year. That's concerning if you're a Pats fan.
What's also concerning is the fact we've been seeing the defense give up big plays in recent weeks, similar to the way it was in the first month of the season.
What's encouraging is the fact New England was able to get its run game going against the Bills. This is something the team needs to rely on a little more in the postseason. The Patriots can get a bit pass-happy at times, and they're better when they stay patient with the ground game.
New England isn't perfect, but it's the best team in the AFC and has already bought itself an extra week of playoff preparation. A win next Sunday would give the Patriots home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.