Week 17 NFL Power Rankings

Jay Biggerstaff – USA Today Sports

The Week 17 NFL Power Rankings are still showing signs of craziness, considering some of the movement we’re seeing from last week. But, ultimately the playoff picture is starting to solidify. We’re starting to see teams that should make their marks in January start to separate themselves from the pack. And, we’re starting to see teams that will fall apart down the stretch start to show us why.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13)

Last week: 32

The Jacksonville Jaguars proved they belong in the basement of the Week 17 NFL Power Rankings this week by losing to the next worst team in the NFL. It was briefly a back-and-forth affair in the first quarter. But, the Jags were unable to take advantage of the Jets’ numerous mistakes. I don’t think interim coach Darrell Bevell is endearing himself much to the front office right now.

31. New York Jets (4-11)

Last Week: 31

On the flip side, the Jets proved they’re NOT the worst team in the NFL this week by outlasting the despondent Jaguars. The Jets took their first lead of the game on a 52-yard touchdown run by Zach Wilson that was really cool. But, they had to struggle for that win and never really felt like they had firm control.

30. New York Giants (4-11)

Last Week: 30

Someone go console the football fans in Jersey. The Jets are… the Jets, and the Giants appear totally rudderless. It was kind of cool to see Jake Fromm get his first NFL start. But, he turned out to be just as much of a disaster as Mike Glennon as he finnished with a 19.5 passer rating. Yikes. Mike Glennon ended up playing the savior role and, honestly, didn’t look much better. As bad as Daniel Jones was, this is a new level of Hell.

29. Detroit Lions (2-12-1)

Last Week: 29

The Detroit Lions came OH SO CLOSE to a winning streak in 2021! It feels unfair that we were forced to watch Tim Boyle ruin it with a goalline interception at the death. I won’t kill the Lions too badly in the Week 17 Power Rankings, though. It feels like Jared Goff would have won this game, and there’s no accounting for COVID.

28. Carolina Panthers (5-10)

Last Week: 28

The Carolina Panthers look broken. Luckily for them, everyone else in the Week 17 NFL Power Rankings bottom 5 looks more broken than them. Cam Newton was bad again. But, Sam Darnold returned to the field and looked serviceable. Fifth year option serviceable? No. But, Cam has looked completely washed since he’s settled in with the Panthers. So, might as well start Darnold the rest of the season to see if he can give you any reason to trust him for another year.

27. Seattle Seahawks (5-10)

Last Week: 24

What the hell happened to the Seahawks man? Russell Wilson was unspectacular, but efficient. Plus, the Seahawks running game absolutely sliced through the Bears this week! But, their defense fell apart when it mattered and the offense kept shooting itself in the foot on the final drive. I can’t do anything but lay into them in the Week 17 NFL Power Rankings for that.

26. Chicago Bears (5-10)

Last Week: 27

Barely beating a lost Seahawks team to improve to 5-10 isn’t exactly the most inspiring storyline of all time. But, they did win. I can’t imagine there’s anything the Bears can do at this point to save Matt Nagy’s job. But, perhaps they can string a few wins together at the end of the year to give the next regime something to build off of?

25. Washington Football Team (6-9)

Last Week: 23

Remember that brief time a few weeks ago when Washington looked as hot as anyone and might somehow find a way to wrestle the division away from Dallas? Yeah…. All that nonsense seems like a really abstract joke now. Washington continues their freefall in the Week 17 NFL Power Rankings after giving up the largest point total of any team this season. 

24. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7-1)

Last Week: 22

Somehow, despite a new 17 game schedule, the Pittsburgh Steelers feel like they’re well on their way to a .500 season. That said, I feel like tying the Lions should take at least .001 points off that record. .499 seems like a more accurate representation of their season this year. They certainly didn’t look like a dead average team this week against the Chiefs. Their offense is broken and their defense is exploitable.

23. Houston Texans (4-11)

Last Week: 26

Who knew that Davis Mills was the right choice for the Texans all along! For that matter, David Culley might actually be a pretty decent coach. This Texans team entered the 2021 season looking like a fully castrated organization considering the Watson drama and all the fallout of the Bill O’Brien era. But, they’re showing signs of life down the stretch. Who knows. Maybe the complete overhaul will yield a competitive team in a few years?

22. New Orleans Saints (7-8)

Last Week: 21

As bad as Taysom Hill has looked at points, Ian Book looked that much worse against the Dolphins. This game had all the simulated pressures of a playoff game. Both teams needed this one to stay on track to have a realistic shot to make the playoffs. There is still hope for the Saints to turn things around and sneak into that No. 7 spot. But, they’ll need to show some sign of life to win out against the Panthers and Falcons.

21. Atlanta Falcons (7-8)

Last Week: 25

I know barely beating the Lions despite flirting with another classic Falcons choke job isn’t exactly the most impressive win of all time. But, it’s still a win. If the Falcons can find some way to beat the Bills this week, their unlikely playoff dreams could stay alive. Is it likely? No. But, I’ve seen crazier comebacks.

20. Minnesota Vikings (7-8)

Last Week: 18

At a certain point, does giving the Vikings credit for keeping things close against a quality opponent matter? What really matters is finding a way to win those games, and the Vikings simply do not do that. They technically have a tiebreaker advantage over the Falcons and Saints for the top spot in the NFC playoff hunt. But, they’ll need to pull off another massive upset against the Packers in Lambeau to have a realistic chance to regain control of a playoff spot.

19. Denver Broncos (7-8)

Last Week: 17

It’s kind of sad, really. The Broncos got off to such a hot start in 2021. We all thought for sure they’d be in contention by the end of the year. But, as things currently stand, they’re one loss away from being eliminated from playoff contention. But, you’re never going to get where you want to go if you base your whole offensive identity on running the ball then gain 18 yards in a gotta have it game.

18. Cleveland Browns (7-8)

Last Week: 14

The Browns arguably don’t deserve to fall this far in the Week 16 NFL Power Rankings. After all, they fought hard and nearly found a way to win against a Packers team nobody gave them a chance against. For me, the reason they’re falling so far is because Baker Mayfield’s arm looks completely useless at this point. We all respect guys who can tough it out and play through the pain. But, sometimes it’s about making smart decisions, and the Browns did not make a smart one with Baker in 2021. Oddly enough, they still have a pretty realistic shot to win the AFC North. But, I don’t see how they beat the Bengals in Week 18 if his arm is this dead.

17. Baltimore Ravens (8-7)

Last Week: 15

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. In the Ravens’ defense, they can’t help the historically terrible luck they’ve had lately with injuries and COVID. But, it doesn’t change the fact that they look completely done. Lamar Jackson wasn’t playing up to his standards before the ankle injury. So, I’m struggling to see how they bounce back. If they don’t find some way to take down a hot Rams team this week, they’ll be eliminated from playoff contention. So, I have no choice but to continue dropping them drastically in the Week 17 NFL Power Rankings.

16. Las Vegas Raiders (8-7)

Last Week: 20

Like Rocky, the Raiders didn’t hear no bell. At any point this season. Not after the slew of dramatic circumstances derailed their season. Not after losing five of six games in the middle of the season. Not even after getting absolutely demolished by the Chiefs twice in a span of five weeks. The Raiders still need a lot of help to squeak into the playoffs. But, they took care of what they could take care of this week by completing a season sweep of the Broncos.

15. Arizona Cardinals (10-5)

Last Week: 12

Speaking of mighty teams falling, the Cardinals were a mainstay at No. 1 this year. But, certainly not in the Week 17 NFL Power Rankings! There’s no shame in losing to a Colts team that is as hot as anyone right now. But, for the Cardinals, it’s their third loss in a row. They haven’t won a game since the first week of December. They haven’t looked dominant since the first week of November and have now lost control of the AFC West.

14. Miami Dolphins (8-7)

Last Week: 19

The Miami Dolphins are officially a playoff favorite, everyone! They still have a pretty tough schedule to get through with the Titans and Patriots up the next two weeks. But, they’ve battled back from an abysmal start and would be in the playoffs if they started today. Granted, those wins came against a slew of the worst teams in the NFL. It’s not hard to bounce back from 1-7 when you’re playing teams like the Jets, Texans, Panthers, and Giants every week. But, give them credit for knocking off a Ravens team that hadn’t started collapsing yet. Also, a Saints team that was also desperate to keep their playoff hopes alive.

13. Philadelphia Eagles (8-7)

Last Week: 16

Yeah, it’s just the Giants. But, I thought the Eagles taking the Giants behind the woodshed was a good way for them to announce their presence. Jalen Hurts is playing efficient football and it has this Eagles team looking like a team ready to make some noise. There’s always that one team that sneaks into the playoffs and randomly becomes a tough out every year. Why not Philly?

12. Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)

Last Week: 9

The only reason the Chargers are ranked this high in the Week 17 Power Rankings is out of respect for what they’re capable of. But, getting blown out by the Texans in the middle of the playoff race? That’s hard to look past. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for now because I think they’re better than the Broncos and Raiders. But, if they lose either of the next two weeks, things could get hairy quick.

11. Cincinnati Bengals (9-6)

Last Week: 13

For most of 2021, whether or not the Bengals are talented has not been a question. Their problem has been consistency. Basically, the ability to STAY good. If they could find a way to string results together, we might be talking about this team as a top-5 unit. But, that’s not who they’ve been this year. They have a chance to completely re-write the narrative this week with the Kansas City Chiefs coming to town. But, they haven’t won three games in a row all season. Hence, why I’m hesitant to give them too much credit for their historic blowout win in the Week 17 NFL Power Rankings.

10. San Francisco 49ers (8-7)

Last Week: 8

You could make the argument the 49ers don’t deserve to be this high in the Week 17 NFL Power Rankings. After all, their season as a whole certainly isn’t ridiculously inspiring. But, they’ve won six of their last nine games and played the contending Titans close. I’m not going to knock them down too far for losing a close game against a good team.

9. Tennessee Titans (10-5)

Last Week: 11

For all the setbacks the Tennessee Titans have experienced in the last month and a half, they’re still good enough to win against good teams. Granted, the 49ers are the first good team they’ve beaten since Week 9 when they took down the LA Rams. But, they’ve shown some moxie lately and set themselves up extremely well early this season. They’ll coast into the playoffs. If Derrick Henry is able to return to the same level of play he left at, this Titans team will be tough to stop.

8. New England Patriots (9-6)

Last Week: 3

A big fall in the Week 17 NFL Power Rankings for the former No. 1 team. Mac Jones looked awful when asked to throw more than three passes against the Bills this week. The Patriots’ slow start in 2021 meant they needed to dominante the whole rest of the way if they wanted to stay among the top echelon of NFL teams. Now, they’re back to the Wild Card race unless the Bills slip up.

7. Buffalo Bills (9-6)

Last Week: 10

The Bills caught their fall against the Patriots this week. They took that embarrassing loss a few weeks ago personally and are now back to looking like a team that can beat anyone. With two games remaining against the Falcons and Jets, it feels like the Bills being crowned AFC East champions this year is inevitable.

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4)

Last Week: 7

You know what would have been worse than losing to an identity-crisis riddled Saints team? Following that loss up with another loss to the moribund Panthers. Tom Brady and the Bucs put that Saints loss in the past and returned to their winning ways this week by completely annihilating a Panthers team that just wasn’t ready. With the Jets and a rematch against the Panthers filling out their remaining schedule, I doubt we’ll be analyzing a loss for them again this regular season.

5. Indianapolis Colts (9-6)

Last Week: 6

It’s a shame the Colts took so long to get going this year while the Titans got off to a blazing hot start. They have basically no chance to win the AFC South at this point because the Titans hold a season sweep over them. But, the late-bloomer Colts are clearly the best team in the AFC South right now. Without a doubt, they’re one of the best teams in the AFC after taking down the Cardinals.

4. Dallas Cowboys (11-4)

Last Week: 5

No team has scored 56 points in a single game in 2021. Wasn’t that Washington defense supposed to be really good this year? Well, first of all they haven’t quite lived up to that expectation. Also, not if Dak Prescott has anything to say about it. Dak followed up a rough few games with a career performance against Washington to prove once and for all that the Cowboys are a legit contender this year.

3. Los Angeles Rams (11-4)

Last Week: 5

When the Rams can win important games despite Matthew Stafford playing poorly, you know there’s something special going on. This is why Stafford wanted to leave Detroit. He wanted to go to a team where he can have the occasional off day and the entire thing wouldn’t fall apart. The Rams are made of championship caliber material. So Stafford is playing poorly? Big whoop. We’ll just get 131 yards out of Sony Michel and still drop 30 points.

2. Green Bay Packers (12-3)

Last Week: 1

Taking the Packers out of the top spot in the Week 17 NFL Power Rankings was a tough call. Yes, they won. Yes, Aaron Rodgers played extremely well. Yes, they put up over 100 yards rushing on the day. Yes, they pulled in four interceptions and racked up five sacks. And yet, they still barely held on to beat a floundering Browns team. The Packers are nursing a slim lead for the No. 1 seed in the NFC despite lucking their way into wins against every AFC North team this year.

1. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)

Last Week: 2

No team in the NFL looks more deserving of the top spot in the Week 17 NFL Power Rankings right now than the Kansas City Chiefs. While the Packers struggled to put away a destitute Browns squad, the Chiefs mopped the floor with a Steelers team the Packers also struggled to put away. I hesitated to buy into the “Chiefs are washed” narrative earlier this year. Why? Because they were always capable of randomly turning back into this. The defense is clicking and the offense, while a bit inconsistent, is getting the job done. Watch out.

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