NFL Power Rankings Week 17: Latest 2018 Standings and Pre-Finale Reaction

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistDecember 25, 2018

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 07: Mark Ingram #22 of the New Orleans Saints and Alvin Kamara #41 react during the NFC Wild Card playoff game against the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 7, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

We've reached the final stretch of the regular-season marathon. Half of the league is still in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy while the other half looks to extract positives from an unsuccessful year.

Going into Week 17, power rankings are largely based on where a club lands in the playoff picture—in contention or outside the bubble. Regardless of how talented a roster looks, results override potential.

The order of the top 10 brings the toughest decisions. How do we rank division leaders, potential wild-card squads and fringe playoff clubs?

Take a look at the NFL standings below to catch up on the current records, the final regular-season power rankings and further analysis of teams to watch going into Week 17. Which clubs are falling and rising heading into January?

        

NFL Week 17 Division Standings

AFC East

1. New England Patriots (10-5)

2. Miami Dolphins (7-8)

2. Buffalo Bills (5-10)

4. New York Jets (4-11)

         

AFC North

1. Baltimore Ravens (9-6)

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6-1)

3. Cleveland Browns (7-7-1)

4. Cincinnati Bengals (6-9)

          

AFC South

1. Houston Texans (10-5)

2. Indianapolis Colts (9-6)

3. Tennessee Titans (9-6)

4. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10)

            

AFC West

1. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)

2. Los Angeles Chargers (11-4)

3. Denver Broncos (6-9)

3. Oakland Raiders (4-11)

           

NFC East

2. Dallas Cowboys (9-6)

1. Philadelphia Eagles (8-7)

3. Washington Redskins (7-8)

4. New York Giants (5-10)

              

NFC North

1. Chicago Bears (11-4)

2. Minnesota Vikings (8-6-1)

3. Green Bay Packers (6-8-1)

4. Detroit Lions (5-10)

             

NFC South

1. New Orleans Saints (13-2)

2. Atlanta Falcons (6-9)

2. Carolina Panthers (6-9)

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-10)

              

NFC West

1. Los Angeles Rams (12-3)

2. Seattle Seahawks (9-6)

3. San Francisco 49ers (4-11)

4. Arizona Cardinals (3-12)

            

Week 17 Power Rankings

1. New Orleans Saints (12-3)

2. Chicago Bears (11-4)

3. Los Angeles Rams (12-3)

4. Los Angeles Chargers (11-4)

5. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)

6. New England Patriots (10-5)

7. Indianapolis Colts (9-6)

8. Seattle Seahawks (9-6)

9. Minnesota Vikings (8-6-1)

10. Dallas Cowboys (9-6)

11. Houston Texans (10-5)

12. Baltimore Ravens (9-6)

13. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6-1)

14. Tennessee Titans (9-6)

15. Philadelphia Eagles (8-7)

16. Cleveland Browns (7-7-1)

17. Green Bay Packers (6-8-1)

18. Atlanta Falcons (6-9)

19. New York Giants (5-10)

20. Miami Dolphins (7-8)

21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-10)

22. New York Jets (4-11)

23. Detroit Lions (5-10)

24. San Francisco 49ers (4-11)

25. Buffalo Bills (5-10)

26. Oakland Raiders (4-11)

27. Denver Broncos (6-9)

28. Washington Redskins (7-8)

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10)

30. Carolina Panthers (6-9)

31. Cincinnati Bengals (6-9)

32. Arizona Cardinals (3-12)

          

New Orleans Saints Lock Up Home-Field Advantage in NFC Bracket

Bill Feig/Associated Press

Even if they lose a meaningless game to the Carolina Panthers, the New Orleans Saints will finish with the overall best record because of their tiebreaker over the Los Angeles Rams.

At times, the product on the field didn't look good. The Saints opened the season with a home loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, struggled to put up points against the Dallas Cowboys and fought down the wire to win a road game in Carolina during Week 15. However, it's the trials, tribulations and slim-margin victories that test a team's mettle. 

Despite their 13-2 record, the Saints have shown resilience and the ability to bounce back from subpar performances through the year. It's a battle-tested club ready for the postseason.

While Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has brought style to his wins and losses, signal-caller Drew Brees has a legitimate case for league MVP.

Although his numbers don't compare to Mahomes', the 39-year-old is completing a league-leading 74.4 percent of his passes and served as a deciding factor in big games.

Aside from their MVP candidate, the Saints field the No. 1 run defense. It's a group that will force opponents to go over the top to move the ball. If the secondary can tighten up on yards allowed (28th), New Orleans could go to Atlanta in February as a strong contender for a title.

             

Kansas City Chiefs Clinging on to Top-5 Spot

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 13:  Quarterback Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs reacts after throwing a touchdown pas during the first half against the Los Angeles Chargers on December 13, 2018 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Ph
Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

In his second season, Mahomes has exceeded expectations. He's the franchise leader in touchdown passes (48) in a single season.

The 23-year-old can make an assortment of throws inside and outside the pocket or off balance. The Chiefs offense looks explosive, and it's a group capable of scoring 30 points in any game. 

Clearly, Kansas City's offense isn't as strong without running back Kareem Hunt. Damien Williams has been a solid fill-in starter, but he's yet to log more than 13 rush attempts in a game; Hunt averaged 16.5 carries per contest. The Chiefs don't have a ball-carrier who can control the tempo and take some pressure off of Mahomes' arm in a scoring shootout. It's an important feature with a weak defense. 

Furthermore, without a volume ball-carrier, the Chiefs don't have the firepower to simply outscore opponents as they did earlier in the season. Now, the defense must come up with some critical stops down the stretch to close tight games. As witnessed in the last two outings, defensive coordinator Bob Sutton's unit hasn't been able to slow down the opposition.

Mahomes' spectacular play keeps the Chiefs within the top five, but the defense ranks 29th in scoring and 31st in yards allowed. It's an Achilles' heel that will likely shorten this club's playoff run.

            

Indianapolis Colts Creep into Top 10

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - DECEMBER 23: Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrates after a touchdown in the game against the New York Giants in the third quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 23, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robb
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts started the year 1-5; now they're knocking on the playoff door. This squad has won eight of the last nine games as arguably the hottest team in the league.

Quarterback Andrew Luck's play jumps out as a major storyline. Clearly, he's a strong candidate for Comeback Player of the Year after missing the entire 2017 campaign with a shoulder injury.

While it's impressive to see Luck throw 36 touchdown passes and only 14 interceptions while completing a career-high 67.2 percent of his attempts, it's important to note the pieces around him.

The 29-year-old has been sacked just 17 times, the defense ranks 11th in yards allowed and features two unheralded contributors in rookie second-rounder Darius Leonard and Denico Autry, who leads the team with nine sacks.

In recent years, the Colts have been criticized for poor protection around Luck and a soft defense that lacks playmakers. They've flipped the script on both fronts.

Now, with an opportunity to clinch an AFC wild-card berth, we should view Indianapolis as the team that may surprise everyone with a deep postseason run if it wins Sunday.

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