Eagles Hold Tight, Bengals Ascend, and Vikings Break Records

The NFL Power Rankings return for Week 17 without much movement, but with some teams making some very important moves in their most recent matchups. The elite teams in the NFL have separated from the pack, but a few teams in Tier 3 could surprise us down the stretch and into the playoffs.

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Week 17 NFL Power Rankings: Tier 6 | Unadulterated Awfulness

Only one team graces Tier 6, and unless things go horribly wrong for another low-win franchise, it’s tough to imagine any team will join Houston here for the rest of the season.

32. Houston Texans

The Houston Texans still haven’t locked in the top pick in the NFL Draft after their win against the Tennessee Titans, but they’re still on track to have their pick of future QB, and they have played some respectable football over the past three weeks.

The Texans have a few core pieces in the secondary from the 2022 NFL Draft and will have an outstanding young runner in Dameon Pierce returning in 2023. The roster still has a ways to go, but seeing them battle when they have absolutely no reason to other than pure pride has been a treat in December.

A few of the teams in Tier 5 aren’t mathematically eliminated from playoff contention yet, but it would take a miracle to happen, and their seasons haven’t exactly been pretty to this point.

31. Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals are a complete dumpster fire on and off the field at this point. After a tumultuous few weeks consisting of firing their offensive line coach in Mexico the day before a game, a Kyler Murray ACL tear, their general manager taking a “health-related” leave of absence, and a scathing ESPN article that painted exactly zero people inside of the Cardinals organization in a positive light, fans must be hoping they can fast forward the rest of the season.

However, they could play spoiler against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday Night Football. Tampa Bay is looking to separate itself in the underwhelming NFC South, and a win against the Cardinals would keep them a game clear of Carolina and New Orleans.

30. Denver Broncos

The Broncos have had a season they’d rather forget, especially considering the moves they made in the offseason and the performance of their defense in 2022. 

They rank 28th in offensive DVOA and dead last in special teams DVOA, but their defense ranks fourth in the league. And while this season has been a disaster, they possess a ton of young talent on the defensive side of the ball, and there’s no doubt Denver will do everything within their power to fix the offense.

Russell Wilson was playing his best football before being injured two weeks ago. A good game on Christmas and an improved run down the stretch could save Nathaniel Hackett’s job and give Broncos fans some confidence heading into the offseason.

29. Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears kept the game close, but they never really stood a chance against the Buffalo Bills once the game got rolling. Buffalo’s defense didn’t let up, allowing just 11 first downs for the game and making crucial stops after too many offensive turnovers.

Chicago could only manage 3.5 yards per play, and Justin Fields had his least productive day on the ground this season, gaining only 11 yards on seven carries.

The Bears have now lost their last eight games and only have one win since September. If not for the Houston Texans, they’d be the worst team in the NFL.

28. Los Angeles Rams

Rams fans can take solace in Matthew Stafford’s statement this week confirming he will return for the 2023 NFL season. While their Super Bowl hangover was one of the most prominent in recent memory, they still have the firepower to go on another run in 2023 if they can stay healthy.

Baker Mayfield wasn’t able to reproduce the same magic he found in his first game with the Rams, but he is trying to put on his best face for all 32 NFL teams as an upcoming free agent. Without Stafford, Aaron Donald, and Cooper Kupp on the field, there isn’t much to write home about for the Rams.

27. Indianapolis Colts

For the third time in five weeks, the Indianapolis Colts are occupying one of our prime-time spots on TV. The 4-9-1 Colts will start Nick Foles instead of Matt Ryan on Monday night, practically assuring us that Ryan has played his final NFL snaps.

The Colts’ collapse against Minnesota was the largest in NFL history, but it may somehow be only the third-most embarrassing moment of the Colts’ season. There’s a chance that they clean house in the offseason, and it might be what’s best for the organization.

26. Cleveland Browns

Seeing the Cleveland Browns throw the ball 31 times in weather that a polar bear would find unkind was a bit surprising. Deshaun Watson hasn’t played well since returning from his 700-day football hiatus, and he was certainly never going to light the world on fire in the Cleveland conditions.

Cleveland faces the Commanders and Steelers to finish the season, and they might start worrying about the future they’ve committed to if they don’t see a little improvement from Watson over the past few weeks. However, they have bigger defensive fish to fry before they become true contenders in 2023.

25. Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders could have thrown in the towel midway through November, but they didn’t. Instead, coming into Week 16, they had won four of their last five games and had beaten the Seahawks, Chargers, and Patriots over that stretch.

They weren’t able to make it five of six. Against the Steelers, the Raiders had the lead throughout the majority of the game. In fact, it wasn’t until the final minute that they were behind.

Coming into the Week 16 matchup vs. the Steelers, the Las Vegas defense ranked 32nd in DVOA and 26th in EPA per play allowed. The Raiders’ rushing attack has been vastly improved in 2022, and Davante Adams has been getting targeted at a far more consistent rate recently.

Unfortunately, the Raiders offense as a whole wasn’t consistent enough tonight, throwing three interceptions to the Steelers’ defense and leaving the East Coast with a loss. After earning six first downs on the first drive, they could only manage seven for the rest f the game.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers would need multiple miracles to make the playoffs, but they’re still within range of avoiding a losing season for Mike Tomlin’s 16th consecutive season. After starting the season 2-6, they’re now 5-2 in their last six games and sit at 7-8.

On the night the Steelers honored the late Franco Harris and the Immaculate Reception, they were able to come back from a small deficit to take the lead in the final minute of the game. Credit to the Steelers’ defense for keeping them in the game.

Kenny Pickett’s return was a welcome sight. Although the Steelers offense couldn’t remain consistent on Saturday night, the young unit came up big on the final drive of the game that gave them the go-ahead field goal.

23. Green Bay Packers

After the Packers defeated the Dolphins, FiveThirtyEight now gives the Packers a 27% chance to make the playoffs. Green Bay needs to win out and get a little help along the way, but they’re inching close to the improbable.

Will it come at a cost, though? If Green Bay wins the Super Bowl, then no. But if they fall short, it could hurt them long-term because they have an interesting decision to make regarding Jordan Love in the offseason.

If the Packers get eliminated before Week 18, they can get a glimpse of Love. If they don’t, they’ll have to decide whether to make him the starter or trade him before 2023 without seeing him in a whole lot of meaningful game action.

But that’s on the back burner now. The Packers must win out to have a realistic shot at the playoffs, and they’ll need some solid efforts from an underwhelming defensive unit against two strong offenses in Weeks 17 and 18.

Tier 4 | The NFC South

It’s literally just the NFC South.

22. Atlanta Falcons

We thought the Falcons’ passing attack couldn’t be any more underwhelming, but we were wrong. Desmond Ridder has a long way to go before being considered a viable franchise option, and the Falcons could consider drafting a quarterback high in the first round of the upcoming draft if they fall in love with one.

The Falcons need Drake London and Kyle Pitts on the field together next season, and Arthur Smith must find a way to utilize the outrageous size advantages both players give the Falcons’ offense.

If they can continue to gash teams on the ground the way they are this season in 2023 with an improved passing attack, they could have one of the funniest offenses in the league.

21. New Orleans Saints

The warm-weather, dome-having Saints went into the frozen tundra that was Cleveland on Saturday and came away with an ugly 17-10 win to remain alive in the NFC South pillow fight.

A Deshaun Watson interception by none other than Daniel Sorenson was the difference in the game. Neither offense could manage better than 4.5 yards per play, and the two offenses couldn’t combine for 30 first downs.

It was so cold that throwing the ball was nearly impossible, so the Saints kept things on the ground and converted on seven of their 15 third-down attempts. They also scored touchdowns on two of their three red-zone attempts.

20. Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers showed up with a plan for the cold conditions, and they absolutely blasted through the Detroit Lions’ defense for four quarters. They amassed 570 offense yards, averaging over seven yards per rush and over 11 yards per attempt.

The Panthers haven’t been on the same kind of winning streak their opponent was on, but they’ve been a much-improved team since relieving Matt Rhule of his coaching duties, and the NFC South has remained lackluster.

With the Buccaneers and Saints remaining on their schedule, they control their own destiny.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers have lost three of their last four games, and the Buccaneers’ offense can’t seem to get out of its own way. They turned the ball over on five straight possessions against the Bengals and had five turnovers against the 49ers the week prior.

Tampa Bay’s defense actually played the Bengals well, but short fields ended up making them look bad in the end. They’ve played around a top-10 level in efficiency this season and should have a good day against one of the worst offenses in the NFL in Arizona.

Week 17 NFL Power Rankings: Tier 3 | The Playoff Contenders

A few teams were added to this tier because they deserved to share space with competent football teams and not be bundled in with the NFC South.

18. Seattle Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks offense was unable to get going until late in the second quarter, but by then, it was too late. They ended up with 19 first downs on the day but could only manage six in the first half, with five of the six coming on the final drive of the half.

The Seattle defense actually played the explosive Kansas City offense well, forcing four three-and-outs and eight drives with only one first down, a tough task against the best offense in the NFL. They’ll need solid defensive performances against the Jets and Rams if they want to make a playoff push with consecutive wins to end the season.

17. New York Jets

The Jets have one big question to answer in the offseason — who will be the Jets QB when the 2023 NFL season commences? It would be a complete shock if it was Zach Wilson at this point. They have a few short-term options in free agency, but they absolutely cannot waste this talented young defense.

They’re still technically in the playoff hunt, but they absolutely must win their final two games to have a chance. Unfortunately, that’s a difficult task against the Seattle Seahawks and Miami Dolphins remaining on their schedule.

16. New England Patriots

The Patriots’ offense played unserious football for the better part of 45 minutes against the Cincinnati Bengals. Their first seven drives came with six punts, four first downs, and the end of the first half. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the offense came alive, and it took a Joe Burrow pick-six to ignite some fire in the Patriots team.

It should come as no surprise that Bill O’Brien has been linked to the Patriots offensive coordinator role for 2023. Bill Belichick haphazardly made his bed with Matt Patricia playing the role this season, even though he’s barely seen the offensive side of a meeting room over the past decade and a half.

The Patriots’ playoff hopes aren’t completely dashed yet, but it would take consecutive wins against the Dolphins and Bills to even have a realistic chance.

15. Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans lost their divisional lead with their loss against the worst team in the NFL on Saturday. The Jacksonville Jaguars have ascended to another level of good over the past six weeks. The Titans have disintegrated due to injuries on the defensive side of the ball and on the offensive line.

The problem is their offense was already bad. Now, there’s a very good chance we don’t see Ryan Tannehill again this season, and they clearly do not trust Malik Willis to consistently drop back and pass the football.

They still control their own destiny in the AFC South, but they have to get past a Dallas offense that’s on a roll right now and then somehow beat a Jaguars team that’s playing some incredibly good football right now.

14. Washington Commanders

Washington ran into a buzzsaw on Saturday against the San Francisco 49ers. As any Taylor Heinicke team does, the Commanders battled to keep the game close, making it a one-possession game before halftime.

Then, the floodgates opened, and the 49ers showed all of us just how dominant they are heading into the home stretch of the season.

But the big news is Carson Wentz played, and he looked pretty good in relief of Heinicke when he was inserted in the fourth quarter. With Washington still in control of their playoff destiny, it will be fascinating to see who their starting QB is moving forward.

13. New York Giants

The Giants’ game against Minnesota sums up their season and showed who the better cinderella team actually is. The Vikings came out with the last-second win on a 61-yard field goal. And in the end, it was the Giants’ injured secondary that let up the ground that got Minnesota into position to kick it.

Daniel Jones played well against an underwhelming Vikings secondary but was often let down by his receivers dropping passes and once by his own doing on an interception thrown behind his receiver.

However, a win against Indianapolis in Week 17 means they’re in the NFL playoffs, which is a massive win for a Giants organization that’s had the most losses in the NFL over the past five seasons.

12. Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jacksonville Jaguars still have work to do if they want to supplant the Tennessee Titans for the AFC South division championship, but Thursday went a long way toward their goal. They dominated the New York Jets throughout the game, and the score only remained close because the Jaguars struggled to finish with touchdowns in the red zone.

MORE: NFL Playoff Race After Week 16

Trevor Lawrence is playing some outstanding football, and he even used his legs a few times against New York, something he’ll have to utilize should the Jaguars sneak into the playoffs.

The Jaguars’ defense played well, but they weren’t necessarily challenged by the Zach Wilson-led Jets.

11. Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers still feel a bit fraudulent, but they’re in a great position to make a playoff push and to win 10 or 11 games with the Colts, Rams, and Broncos remaining on the schedule.

There is so little margin for error in the Chargers’ offense that it makes them a difficult team to count on a week-to-week basis. They lack speed on the outside, and Herbert is consistently asked to make pinpoint passes to receivers draped by defensive backs.

Pair that with what has been an underwhelming defense all season, and it’s honestly amazing that they’re 8-6.

10. Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions got embarrassed in Carolina. The Lions offense that usually runs the ball well could not on Saturday. Even though Jared Goff had a big day through the air and despite the cold weather, they punted on five straight possessions and found themselves down 31-7 in a hurry.

The Lions’ defense was the main culprit. When they tackled somebody with a Panthers jersey on, it was by accident. For a while, there was legitimate concern they were about to allow the most rushing yards in NFL history.

And after six wins in seven weeks, the cracks in the armor finally showed. Now, they have work to do if they want to make the playoffs.

9. Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins nearly would have guaranteed themselves a playoff birth with a win against the Green Bay Packers on Christmas Day. And it looked that way in the first half, with the Dolphins’ offense giving us flashbacks to the first half of the season.

But that all came apart in the second half, as Tua threw three straight interceptions and was one of the main reasons why Miami lost to Green Bay.

The Dolphins have now lost four straight games. In these games, Tagovailoa has completed just 52.6% of his passes with six touchdowns, five interceptions, and a passer rating of 80.6. That latter number is almost impossible to do when you average 8.5 yards per attempt, as Tagovaioa has during that stretch.

The Dolphins need answers. Quickly.

8. Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens won an ugly game against the Atlanta Falcons and breathe a massive sigh of relief as the win officially puts them in the playoffs. They would obviously like to win the division, but they’ll need to get through the Steelers and Bengals to accomplish that. For now, they just want to see Lamar Jackson back on the field.

Baltimore’s defense has turned things around since their early-season collapses and just needs to get one of the most unfair offensive weapons in the league back to be true contenders in the AFC.

Tier 2 | Conference Championship Contenders

Three teams remain legitimate conference championship contenders as two teams elevate into Tier 1.

7. Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings might be the most incredible team ever. No team has ever won 11 one-score games in one season, and the Vikings remain undefeated in such games. Justin Jefferson broke the Vikings record for receptions in a season, and Kirk Cousins’ eighth fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives are both records.

MORE: Vikings Set Records in 27-24 Win Over Giants

The Vikings feel like a slightly above-average football team destined for greatness. They’ll most likely secure the second seed in the NFC and play home games in the playoffs unless they face Philadelphia in the conference championship game.

6. Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys survived against the division-rival Philadelphia Eagles, but they were without Jalen Hurts. Philadelphia’s offense was able to keep the game close because Dallas is struggling to manage key injuries on the defensive side of the ball.

Dallas’s offense is practically unstoppable if Dak Prescott isn’t throwing interceptions. And while the fault he shares in each interception varies, his turnovers have been a problem since his return from injury.

But despite the interceptions, Dallas ranks fourth in offensive EPA since his return and ranks third without turnovers.

Tier 1 | The Elite Teams

Cincinnati enters the elite tier, even though they made things interesting against New England.

5. Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals have been one of the best teams in the NFL since their Week 2 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. They were completely dominant for most of the game against New England, but a Joe Burrow pick-six changed the complexion of what looked like a blowout.

Burrow and the Bengals’ passing attack is so versatile at this point of the season. Burrow has been outstanding in the quick game for most of the season, which is the next step in his evolution as one of the game’s greats. And with Lou Anarumo coaching an outstanding unit defensively, the Bengals could once again be giant-killers come January.

4. San Francisco 49ers

We keep waiting for the league to catch up to the Brock Purdy-led 49ers offense, but we might be kept waiting into the playoffs. Brock Purdy looks outstanding, and the 49ers managed to gain 371 yards on just 51 offensive plays.

They scored on six of their seven offensive drives in the second half, with three touchdowns and three field goals. Their offense looks different with Purdy than it did with Jimmy Garoppolo, but it might have an even higher ceiling, given Purdy’s ability to create where Garoppolo cannot.

3. Buffalo Bills

Buffalo just sort of survived the Chicago Bears for most of the game. While they were undoubtedly the better football team, three turnovers and a missed field goal didn’t help them really stretch their legs and make this a comfortable game.

The Bills have arguably the most talented team in the NFL, and it appears their run game is coming together. But they still rely on their alien QB to carry them to victory, which could come back to haunt them in a one-game playoff sample.

But even though they haven’t been as dominant as we expected for 16 consecutive weeks, they are still a very well-rounded team.

2. Kansas City Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes somehow remains the best player, the most underrated player, and the sneakiest athlete all in one. The fact he’s not running away with the MVP award is a shame, considering how much he means to the Kansas City Chiefs.

His touchdown scamper to make it a 24-3 game was one of those special moments you get from a special player like Mahomes. Even in a career full of outrageous no-look and cross-body throws, it’s often his elegant scrambles that are ingrained in memory.

Oh, and the Chiefs’ pass rush seems to be coming alive at the right time, which could spell doom for the AFC over the next month.

1. Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles remain the best team in the NFL, even in their loss to Dallas. Yes, the defense was absolutely blasted by the Dallas offense, but the Dallas offense has been doing that pretty consistently as of late.

They went toe-to-toe against Dallas without Jalen Hurts. DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown showed how special they were, and if not for some turnover regression smacking them in the face, Philadelphia might beat the Cowboys with their backup QB.

It’s simply hard to poke holes in this team through 16 weeks of play. The run defense is a problem, but they’re so solid everywhere else that it’s easy to overlook.

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