7-round Mock Draft for the Cincinnati Bengals

7-round Mock Draft for the Cincinnati Bengals

The lead-up to the 2022 NFL Draft has been a very weird and unfamiliar experience for Bengals fans. In recent years, we’ve started looking deeply at the draft by mid-November or earlier. What’s the point in waiting when they have virtually no chance to make the playoffs? Back in the day we usually got to wait until at least December or early January, but having to wait until February this year left a lot of us playing catch up. The Bengals’ scouting department has had to play catch-up too due to a short offseason.

Now, we’ve all had roughly two months to play catch-up to this draft class. The Bengals did an excellent job addressing most of their needs in free agency, so they can have the luxury of focusing on quality prospects rather than needs. They’re still hoping to address minor holes like CB2, TE2, offensive line depth, wide receiver depth, and defensive line depth. But, the nice thing is there are no glaringly obvious holes like they’ve had to address the last few years. You can thank their success in free agency and the draft over the last few years for that.

My original plan for doing a 7-round mock for the Bengals ahead of tonight’s draft was to do it on my YouTube channel. Unfortunately, a particularly noisy fridge is destroying any hope of great audio quality, so we’re going to break down my selections as I imagine myself in the position of Bengals’ general manager. The following picks are made in the spirit of the Bengals’ particular need vs BPA ratio that they tend to follow. But, the final say is entirely what I think would be the best for the team. Think of it as an educated wish list. 

I also plan on releasing a full first-round mock of what I think all 32 teams will do later today. You might want to check that out too because it’s quite possible I will have a different selection for the Bengals in that article than in this one. But, without rambling any further, lets jump into these selections.

Using Pro Football Focus’s 7-round mock draft simulator as a basis for these selections, here is what we’re looking at initially.

PFF.com 7-round Mock Draft Simulator

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like PFF’s simulation was terribly kind to me as Tyler Linderbaum went two picks ahead of us at 29 to the Chiefs. They, of course, received that pick from the Dolphins for Tyreek Hill. I was also hoping to get guys like Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam and Zion Johnson, who are also gone. According to PFF, the best prospects available are wide receiver Skyy Moore, safety Lewis Cine and nose tackle Travis Jones. This would be a classic situation where trading down would be in the Bengals best interest. But, will they? I doubt it. I kind of like guys like Arnold Ebiketie, Nik Bonitto, and David Ojabo here. But, I can’t lie. I already know who I’m going with.

I know he didn’t test particularly well at the combine, and I’m sure most of you reading can figure out who I’m talking about based on that alone. Personally, I’m enamored with Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon. PFF has him ranked as the 58th best prospect in this draft. But, the way I see it, he has shown everything you need to succeed at the cornerback position.

Sure, he might need a bit of time to adjust to NFL speed. Luckily, the Bengals have a great No. 1 corner in Chidobe Awuzie and a serviceable No. 2 option in Eli Apple. Don’t get me wrong, picking Gordon at No. 31 comes with the intention of him taking Apple’s spot this season. However, it doesn’t HAVE to be Week 1. For that reason, I’m cool with betting on the upside. He won’t be available when we pick again at 63. So, ideally, we’d trade down. But, in this scenario I’m just going to take him.

Moving along to pick 63 in the second round, I’m still having pretty terrible luck with who is available.

PFF.com 7-round Mock Draft Simulator

I was definitely hoping to see someone like EDGE Nik Bonitto, tight end Trey McBride, or defensive lineman Logan Hall. Nope. They’re all gone. Yikes. The two remaining players I’m interested in are Kingsley Enagbare, the pass rusher from South Carolina and Dylan Parham, the interior lineman from Memphis. I’m really of a split mind on this one but I think I’m going to go with the guy who can bolster the Bengals’ pass rush.

I’m really confident in Joseph Ossai going forward. But, you can never have enough pass rushers, and Enagbare was one of the best in the country at that particular role. My issue with Parham is I feel he’s a bit of a project and after taking Jackson Carman last year I’d rather not risk Joe Burrow third season to more speculation on the offensive line. Not to mention, I like the depth that exists at interior OL more than I do the depth at edge. So, I’m taking Enagbare with pick 63.

Now we’re moving along to pick 96 and, would you look at that! There wasn’t a massive run on players I’m looking for!

PFF.com 7-round Mock Draft Simulator

Kentucky’s Wan’Dale Robinson did go to the Titans at 90. But, to be honest there’s another Kentucky prospect I’m eyeballing with this pick. I’m tempted to go with Virginia tight end Jelani Woods here because he has so much upside. At some point, I’m hoping to find a tight end to compliment Hayden Hurst because I REALLY don’t want to rely on Drew Sample, if possible. But, I think finishing the rebuild of this offensive line is imperative… especially going into Joe Burrow’s third season.

I’m picking up Luke Fortner here because, quite frankly, I’ve heard him described as a poor man’s Tyler Linderbaum. As a Kentucky fan, I can vouch for his consistency at the position. Personally, I’m 100 percent into the idea of taking a chance on him. If he’s ready to start right away, great! If not, Ted Karras can hold down the center position for now and Quinton Spain is still available to come back and solidify that left guard spot.

We’re moving along to the depths of the fourth round now and, once again, we’re back to slim pickings.

PFF.com 7-round Mock Draft Simulator

After losing Auden Tate to the Falcons, I think the Bengals could really use a really good fourth option at wide receiver. Perhaps I’m weird in thinking that Stanley Morgan Jr might actually be able to step into that role quite nicely. But, it might also be worth adding some talent. That’s why I’m looking at Velus Jones Jr from Tennessee.

He’s likely a developmental slot receiver at the NFL level, but that’s ok for me. Tyler Boyd only has two years left on his contract and this wide receiver room is about to get EXPENSIVE with Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins needing re-upped around that time. Jones could be a limited contributor for now and, perhaps, when the time is right, provide an insurance policy in case Boyd decides to move on in a few years.

All that said, the biggest reason I’m excited for Velus is his prowess as a kick returner. Y’all remember relying on Darius Phillips and Stanley Morgan to return kicks last season? Yeah. Muffs cost us a win against the 49ers. Darius Phillips is gone. Brandon Wilson, while reliable as a returner, doesn’t really add much value to the team at his natural position of safety. Picking Velus in the fourth round might be seen as a bit of a reach but I really don’t feel like he’ll still be there at 174. I’m making an executive decision. Let’s go.

As we move to the fifth round, it’s still looking pretty slim. I wouldn’t call this my ideal mock for the Bengals at all, but it is quite possible the real draft this weekend could play out like this.

PFF.com 7-round Mock Draft Simulator

Based on the list of available players I’m seeing here, I think most Bengals fans would want me to pick up nose tackle Curtis Brooks from UC. Personally, I don’t really get that. Definitely not in the fifth round. Yeah, sure, he’s athletic and tested very well. But, if the Bengals are going to pick up a defensive tackle I think they would probably be better off targeting a 3-tech rather than nose tackle. They’re pretty set with DJ Reader and Josh Tupou right now. Not to mention, it’s really hard to project what Brooks’ role would be in the NFL. Maybe if we see him again in the sixth round I’ll consider it but I think I’ll pass in the fifth.

I’m actually going to throw  a bit of a curve ball here. I’m going to take Brian Robinson Jr, the running back from Alabama. Why? Quite frankly I’m not a fan of Samaje Perine. I love Chris Evans, but Robinson provides a completely different set of skills than Evans. Notably, PFF calls him the best short-yardage bruiser in the draft class. Y’all remember when the Bengals couldn’t pick up one yard on three tries on the last drive of the Super Bowl? Pepperidge farm remembers. And Pepperidge farm ain’t gonna let that happen again. So sue me, I’m taking a running back.

Wouldn’t you know it, the sixth round is actually shaping up the way we want! If only the earlier rounds were like that.

PFF.com 7-round Mock Draft Simulator

Curtis Brooks is still here! I’m not going to lie though I’m still wondering about the value of taking a nose tackle, especially when the Bengals still need to shore up their offensive line depth. I’ve got my eye on offensive lineman Zachary Thomas here. He can play all five positions as a rotational backup if need be. Is that enough promise to betray all the UC fans who are probably screaming at me to take Curtis Brooks? Yes, I think it is. Sorry guys, I just think nose tackle is the one position we’re set at on the defensive line. Why take the chance with poor offensive line depth again when it literally cost us the Super Bowl? I’m going with Zachary Thomas here.

The Bengals actually have two picks in the seventh round this year and I think a lot of Bengals fans are wanting to use one of those picks on PUNT GOD Matt Ariaza. Unfortunately, it looks like he’s no longer on the board.

PFF.com 7-round Mock Draft Simulator

Honestly, that’s fine with me. Ariaza might be really good. But, it seems like the Bengals’ coaching staff really likes Drue Christman. We can probably find some solid competition for him in UDFA. Also, Curtis Brooks is gone too. Sorry, UC fans. 

Perhaps this is another curveball but I’m actually going to take Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy here. I was also thinking about Miami safety Bubba Bolden here but the Jags took him at the top of the round. The reason I’m thinking Purdy here is because.. let’s face it… Brandon Allen is a limited quarterback. He’s probably the best backup we’ve had since AJ McCarron, but that’s not saying much. He’s solid with his legs but he has accuracy issues and, for that reason, I don’t see any reason he shouldn’t have some real camp competition this year.

Years ago I thought Purdy was going to be a stud of a future NFL Draft prospect. He never quite hit that level, but I still think he’s really talented. I think he’ll adjust to the NFL extremely well and should be the kind of guy who can give you 70 percent of what Joe Burrow gives you in case Burrow has to miss time for any reason.

Finally, we’re moving to the Bengals’ final pick at 252 overall in the seventh round. Essentially, you’re just getting a head start on undrafted free agency here, so let’s see who is left.

PFF.com 7-round Mock Draft Simulator

I wanted to bring in a piece to compete with Drew Sample earlier in the draft. Unfortunately, the way things shook out, there were other great options available when I had the opportunity to take guys I really wanted like Colorado State’s Trey McBride, Virginia’s Jelani Woods, or Coastal Carolina’s Isaiah Likely. So, how about we go get Iowa State’s Chase Allen? He’s not going to wow you in any particular category but he’s a decent blocker and a decent underneath receiving option. At the very least, as I said, he can give Sample a run for his money. Plus, we can pair him back up with Brock Purdy.

So, there you have it. A full seven-round mock draft for the Bengals. I have no idea what they’re actually going to do for most of the draft. So, maybe it will be fun to go back and compare my mock to the actual results after the draft is completed. 

Hopefully I have a less noisy fridge by then and we can take the party back to YouTube. But, for now, this is what we’re working with and these are some of the players I think would make sense for the Bengals in 2022.

Final NFL Power Rankings

nfl power rankings
Chris Unger, Getty Images

These are the final NFL Power Rankings of the 2021 regular season. As we head into the playoffs, the season is officially over for over half the league. 14 teams still have some work to do to sort themselves through postseason football. But, the other 18 teams are all now locked in place until the first NFL Power Rankings of next season. Let’s see what the damage is.

32. New York Giants (4-13)

Last Week: 31

There were a lot of bad, pathetic losses across the NFL this week. But, I think the most pathetic loss belongs to the New York Giants. They were already treading the bottom of the NFL Power Rankings after a rough, drama filled finish to the 2021 season. But, after watching Jake Fromm take over for Mike Glennon and show the world how valuable Daniel Jones somehow is, I had no choice. John Mara, this is what you get for the taunting emphasis. Now, the whole NFL is teabagging your franchise. I feel absolutely no sympathy for you.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-14)

Last week: 32

I don’t know how, but the Jaguars absolutely OWN the Colts in Duval. They’re now 7-0 against their division “rivals” at home since the Jags absolutely plastered the Colts 51-16 in Week 14 of the 2015 season. They’re also 4-1 in December and January since 2017. They’ve got the No. 1 overall pick in 2022. But, you could probably argue that’s an advantage for whomever gets the Jaguars’ head coaching job this offseason.

30. Carolina Panthers (5-12)

Last Week: 28

It sounds like Matt Rhule is sticking around in Carolina. Personally, I think that’s the right move. He had this team looking solid until the quarterback situation imploded. If he can’t figure something out next year we can talk seriously about moving on. Still, I can’t get that 24-point desolation by the Bucs out of my head. They looked like they quit.

29. New York Jets (4-13)

Last Week: 29

I’ll give the Jets some credit for keeping it close with Buffalo until the fourth quarter. But, the Jets just don’t have the firepower to keep up with an offense like that forever. I still feel like Robert Salah has put some foundational pieces together they can build on going forward. But, there’s still a lot of work to do.

28. Detroit Lions (3-13-1)

Last Week: 30

The Lions have something with Dan Campbell. I know the Packers had nothing left to play for and Jordan Love played the second half of the game. But, the Lions were beating Aaron Rodgers at halftime. They have a ton of work to do to get to a truly competitive level. But, I think Lions fans should feel like there’s a spark in this franchise for the first time in a while.

27. Washington Football Team (6-11)

Last Week: 27

Good job ending the season with a win over the worst team in football. How long is it going to be until people start wondering if Ron Rivera is the right coach for this team? I know they went to the playoffs last year. But, this year was a major disappointment. I’m not saying the conversation should be happening now. But, this team doesn’t appear to be on the path to being a contender any time soon.

26. Houston Texans (4-13)

Last Week: 26

I was all ready to give the Texans a huge boost in the final NFL Power Rankings. Unfortunately, they couldn’t complete the comeback over the Tennessee Titans. I have to say though. I really think there’s something to that Davis Mills kid. If the Texans can create some stability going forward, this could work.

25. Chicago Bears (6-11)

Last Week: 22

Part of the reason I’m dropping the Bears in the final NFL Power Rankings is because they fired their coach. It just seems like the next logical step. If you don’t have a head coach, you’re clearly not in a good spot. I have to admit though, the Bears would have been worse off to keep trying to force the Nagy situation to bear fruit. Hopefully the coaching change doesn’t stunt Justin Fields’ growth.

24. Atlanta Falcons (7-10)

Last Week: 22

Cordarelle Patterson really believes in what Arthur Smith is building in Atlanta. I’m not sure I do, based on the fact that their tendency to choke continued to be a problem with this coaching staff. But, it’s not fair to judge them on the results of one season. They made a three game improvement over last season and were on the bitter outskirts of the playoff race until the final few weeks. That’s definitely progress.

23. Seattle Seahawks (7-10)

Last Week: 25

You may have very well seen the last game Russell Wilson will ever play in a Seahawks uniform. If that is the case, he went out a winner. That deserves respect from me. The win didn’t make much of a difference and, if anything, it probably just hurt their draft positioning. But, I’ll give them a boost in the final NFL Power Rankings purely out of respect.

22. Denver Broncos (7-10)

Last Week: 19

I wonder what it’s like to be a Broncos fan dealing with Drew Lock. He’s clearly talented enough to elevate the Broncos’ ability to compete. But, he’s also very limited in other areas that really hold the Broncos back from the potential that defense gives them. What do you even do with that?

21. Minnesota Vikings (8-9)

Last Week: 21

Welp. The Vikings beat the Bears pretty decisively. I was going to give them a boost in the final NFL Power Rankings. Then they fired Mike Zimmer. I get it. He got eight years and more than half of them the Vikings hovered right around .500. They made the playoffs a few times and even advanced twice. But, at some point you want to see more. Still, I think it’s a step back for the Vikings, so I’m not moving them.

20. Baltimore Ravens (8-9)

Last Week: 17

Of all the teams left in contention before Week 18, the Ravens had the lowest chance to make the playoffs. Those odds probably also took into consideration the fact that they’re just not very good. I get injuries are a factor. But, still, to go from 8-3 to 8-9 is how you get an entire fanbase screaming “COACH OF THE YEAR!” to wondering “Is Harbaugh the right guy?”

19. Cleveland Browns (8-9)

Last Week: 20

Credit to the Browns. They clearly wanted to end the season on the most positive note they could. So, they took advantage of a Bengals team that was resting almost every starter and finished the year with a win. Now, you have to figure out what to do with Baker Mayfield. I think you have to keep him unless you can get Rodgers or Wilson. But, I’m not sure they can.

18. Indianapolis Colts (9-8)

Last Week: 13

WOW! Remember when I had this team as the fifth best team in the NFL a couple of weeks ago? Now they’re not even going to make the playoffs! That slow start the Colts had came back to bite them after all. You know it’s bad when you’re playing the biggest game of your season against fans dressed like clowns and you still can’t make it happen.

17. Miami Dolphins (9-8)

Last Week: 18

I might be in the vast minority on this one. But, I think the Dolphins moving on from Brian Flores was the right move. Tua is a talented guy with plenty of upside but Flores refused to develop him. He also had a tendency to be extremely fickle with his players. I know his record in Miami has been impressive considering the circumstances. But, I think he’s as responsible for the circumstances as anyone this year.

16. New Orleans Saints (9-8)

Last Week: 16

The Saints took care of the business they needed to take care of this week. So, they could have been in the playoffs. That’s pretty impressive for a team with such a chaotic QB situation this year. But, they put themselves in the position of needing help to get in and didn’t get that help. I’m not forgetting about the rest of the season in the final NFL Power Rankings just because they won a key game.

15. Los Angeles Chargers (9-8)

Last Week: 11

Brandon Staley, what are you thinking? I get analytics and putting your team in the best position to succeed on each play. But, there’s this thing called situational awareness. I fully believe if he hadn’t taken that timeout, the Raiders wouldn’t have been as aggressive trying to win the game. There are very few situations where playing for the tie is the right move. But, I think this is one of those times. As brilliant of a young football mind as he is, he’s going to have to prove he can learn from this mistake to win back the trust of Chargers fans.

14. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1)

Last Week: 23

Before the Steelers get obliterated by the Chiefs in the Wild Card round, I have to admit something that makes me sick. Mike Tomlin deserves nothing but respect for the coaching job he did this year. He dragged this Steelers roster kicking and screaming into the postseason. Most other coaches would have gone 4-13 with this roster. As long as Mike Tomlin is in Pittsburgh, you can never truly count them out.

13. Philadelphia Eagles (9-8)

Last Week: 14

I don’t know how much the Eagles are capable of doing in the playoffs this year. But, the fact that they got there at all is a testament to Nick Siriani. Despite how ugly things went this offseason with Doug Pederson and Siriani failing to endear himself to anyone, he made it work. I think the Eagles are right on the verge of being truly competitive. I doubt they do anything impressive in the playoffs this year. But, they have back to back picks in the top 16 this year in addition to their own first round pick depending on where they finish. The future looks much brighter than we all thought.

12. Arizona Cardinals (11-6)

Last Week: 12

I feel like the Cardinals deserve to drop in the final NFL Power Rankings after losing to the Seahawks and failing to take the NFC West. The opportunity was there, but they couldn’t get it done. The Cardinals seem like they peaked at the wrong time and now they have to play a high powered Rams team they, most recently, lost to.

11. Las Vegas Raiders (10-7)

Last Week: 15

I’m so damn proud of the Raiders, and I’m not even a Raiders fan. To go through what they’ve gone through this year and to still end up in the playoffs is truly impressive. The Raiders are the first team since, from what I can tell, 1957 to change head coaches mid-season and make it to the postseason. Would you believe the last team to do it was the national champion Detroit Lions?

10. New England Patriots (10-7)

Last Week: 8

Losing to the eliminated Dolphins, who fired their head coach the next day, is not the way you want to head into the postseason. It wasn’t too long ago I thought this was the most dangerous team in the AFC. Now, I wonder how far they can even make it.

9. San Francisco 49ers (10-7)

Last Week: 10

The 49ers took care of business this week in a must-win game that punched their ticket to the playoffs. You have to give them credit. After starting 3-5 people were starting to question Kyle Shanahan’s job. And, unlike the Eagles and Dolphins, they turned their season around against impressive competition. They swept the Rams, beat the Bengals, and took down a Vikings team that was looking really dangerous at the time.

8. Tennessee Titans (12-5)

Last Week: 9

I am fascinated by the season the Titans have had. Despite losing Derrick Henry against the Colts in Week 8, they found a way to win. They’re now the No. 1 seed in the AFC despite looking pretty rough down the stretch at times. They almost messed it up against the Texans. But, credit where credit is due. That said, their run of form lately still has me a bit worried about their ability to string wins against other playoff teams together. Luckily, they have a bye week to try to get healthier.

7. Los Angeles Rams (12-5)

Last Week: 4

I was going to destroy the Rams in the final NFL Power Rankings for losing to the 49ers with the division on the line. Luckily for them, the Cardinals might be even more unreliable than they are. The crazy thing is this team has a ton of firepower and are damn near unstoppable when they are on. But, can they keep up that consistency for four games in a row? I doubt it.

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4)

Last Week: 7

How do you put the stench of almost losing to the Jets and watching AB end his career in the middle of a game behind you? Beat the shit out of the Panthers for the second time in three weeks. There are a few worrying trends with the Buccaneers over the last six weeks or so. But, they’re still worthy division champions and should handle business against an Eagles team they’ve already beaten this week.

5. Buffalo Bills (11-6)

Last Week: 6

The Bills’ slow start against the Jets in their season finale was a tad worrisome. But, they really turned on the jets (no pun intended) in the fourth quarter. They’ve now won four straight and ended up winning the AFC East despite some struggles in the middle of the year. This Bills team is as dangerous as anyone in the playoffs and I wouldn’t be shocked to see them make a deep run.

4. Dallas Cowboys (12-5)

Last Week: 5

I don’t know about the decision to play Dak and Zeke for a full game in Week 18 despite having the division wrapped up and no shot at the No. 1 seed. To be fair, Dak took full advantage of one last opportunity to wrap up his case for any postseason awards he’s after. But, there would be a ton of criticism if he had aggravated an injury this week. It seemed like an unnecessary risk to me. But, they still showed why they are one of the favorites in the NFC and why the rival Eagles are not.

3. Cincinnati Bengals (10-7)

Last Week: 3

The Bengals rested almost all of their starters this week against a Browns team that was resting way fewer starters than expected. And yet, they still came within an onside kick of coming away with a victory this week. With the seeding race working out to the Bengals drawing the Raiders instead of the Patriots in the Wild Card round, it almost felt like a win.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (12-5)

Last Week: 2

How good of a pickup was Mark Ingram for the Chiefs? The Broncos played the Chiefs tough this week, as they always do. But, the Chiefs proved to be a little too much to overcome, even when they aren’t playing at their best. Patrick Mahomes is a weapon. As long as he’s on the field, you have to consider them the favorite in the conference.

1. Green Bay Packers (13-4)

Last Week: 1

It feels weird to keep at team at the top of the final NFL Power Rankings after losing to the Lions. But, it was nothing but an exhibition game for the Packers. Aaron Rodgers rested after halftime. They locked up the NFC’s No. 1 seed last week, so why bother putting everything out there this week? And now Za’Darius Smith is coming back? Yeah. I have no reason to move them.

Week 18 NFL Power Rankings

week 18 nfl power rankings
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Week 18 NFL Power Rankings are a lot less chaotic than in previous weeks. But, we still saw some massive results this week changing everything we thought about the power structure in the NFL. We’re going to get that into all the risers and fallers this week as we start to really separate the playoff teams from the teams that will be sitting on the couch in a couple of weeks.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)

Last week: 32

Ever heard of that boost that happens for a football team when an interim coach the players like takes control? Doesn’t seem to be the case for Darrell Bevell. Trevor Lawrence imploded in the second quarter to essentially hand the Patriots a red carpet straight to the endzone. The Jaguars are one loss away from clinching the No. 1 seed for the second straight year. It would be the eight time in NFL history a team has “earned” the No. 1 pick two years in a row. Can they go for an NFL record three next year?

31. New York Giants (4-12)

Last Week: 30

The New York Giants may not have the second worst record in the NFL. But, for the purposes of the Week 18 NFL Power Rankings, they absolutely are the second worst team in the NFL. They put up 161 yards of rushing against the Bears and STILL had virtually no offense. Mike Glennon is clearly not the answer. Neither is Daniel Jones. Neither is Joe Judge. I don’t even know what to do at this point.

30. Detroit Lions (2-13-1)

Last Week: 29

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. New York Jets (4-12)

Last Week: 31

I’m not trying to act like the Jets almost beating a good team is as good as actually winning a game. But, when the franchise is in the state it currently is… I think you have to take what you can get. The Jets have shown some progress in Robert Salah’s first season and Zach Wilson even had a decent game this week. Maybe a glimmer of light in Jersey B?

28. Carolina Panthers (5-11)

Last Week: 28

Is there any relief for Panthers fans watching their team play a division rival, who is currently fighting for their playoff lives, close? Probably not when the quarterback they banked their hopes on this year threw the game away in the redzone only down by a touchdown and a 2pt conversion with 54 seconds left in the game. Ouch. I don’t think firing Matt Rhule is the right move. But, I understand why people are starting to feel that way.

27. Washington Football Team (6-10)

Last Week: 25

It’s been over for Washington for a while now. It’s really a shame the season is going to end with a whimper for a team we briefly thought might be able to take down Dallas for the NFC East title. But, to have the first half they had against a division rival only to be shut out and lose in the second half is rough.

26. Houston Texans (4-12)

Last Week: 23

It was a nice little run the Texans went on there for a minute. But, that shouldn’t distract from the fact that this is a bad football team. And, it won’t distract me in their placement in the Week 18 NFL Power Rankings. Defensively, they had no answer for Trey Lance this week. Davis Mills was highly ineffective. They avoided disaster a few times. But, Mills’ interception on their first drive of the second half gave the 49ers a lead and momentum. It wasn’t even really a contest after that.

25. Seattle Seahawks (6-10)

Last Week: 27

The playoffs have been out of the question for the Seahawks for a while now. But, Seahawks fans still have to enjoy seeing Russell Wilson go absolutely ham on an opponent for the first time this season. It might be the last time he ever does it in front of the home crowd in Seattle. But, if it is, at least he’s going out with a bang.

24. Chicago Bears (6-10)

Last Week: 27

The Chicago Bears have now equaled their longest win streak in 2021 with back to back wins over the Seahawks and Giants. It’s kind of a shame they’re going to have to hit the reset button at the end of this season. A win over the Vikings next week would have them finish 7-10 and with some momentum going into next year. Unfortunately, it’s clearly broken. You have to blow it up.

23. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7-1)

Last Week: 24

Welp, they did it. The Pittsburgh Steelers somehow overcame being a bad football team to somehow clinch yet another non-losing season for Mike Tomlin. Gotta give credit where credit is due. I didn’t think they had it in them. That’s not to say I think this is a good, or even average football team. But, they definitely deserve some separation from the Houstons and the Carolinas of the world.

22. Atlanta Falcons (7-9)

Last Week: 21

The Falcons’ slim playoff hopes came to an end this week. They looked like they had a chance against the Bills when they held a 15-14 lead at the half. But, they had virtually no offense in the second half. It was all right there in front of them. But, this is why no one really took the Falcons seriously as playoff contenders.

21. Minnesota Vikings (7-9)

Last Week: 20

Mike Zimmer doesn’t want to see Kellen Mond this week. I don’t blame him. I wouldn’t want to see anyone on the team right now if I was him. Despite pulling off the miraculous victory over the Packers earlier this season, the Vikings never felt like they stood a chance without Kirk Cousins in Lambeau. Had the Vikings made the playoffs, I think there’s a chance Zimmer could have earned another year. But, at this point I can’t see it. So, they stay low in the Week 18 NFL Power Rankings.

20. Cleveland Browns (7-9)

Last Week: 18

The Cleveland Browns were eliminated from the playoffs this week before they ever got to play their Monday Night contest against the Steelers.

19. Denver Broncos (7-9)

Last Week: 19

18. Miami Dolphins (8-8)

Last Week: 14

You knew it was coming. Hats off to the Miami Dolphins for clawing their way back from 1-7 to end up 8-7 and briefly in control of a playoff spot. But, those wins almost all came against awful teams. Well, that and the pre-decimated Ravens. But, they had to get through two playoff teams to actually finish the miracle off. The Titans reminded us all that the Dolphins were never serious contenders. It was nice while it lasted, but they’re moving back down in the Week 18 NFL Power Rankings.

17. Baltimore Ravens (8-8)

Last Week: 17

Technically, there’s also a chance for the Baltimore Ravens. A two percent chance, per Five Thirty Eight. BUT! And you’re really going to need to follow me on this one. If they beat the Steelers next week. All they need is for the Browns, Dolphins, Colts, and Chargers to lose. Although, considering the Colts play the Jaguars… yeah, that’s why the two percent.

16. New Orleans Saints (8-8)

Last Week: 22

So you’re saying there’s a chance? Yes. If the Saints beat the eliminated Falcons this week, which they should. And, if the Rams beat the 49ers, which they should. I would argue they should be the favorites for the No. 7 seed in the NFC. But, I get it. The 49ers hold the inside track, so technically they’d have to be the favorite. Which is kind of insane, when you think about it. The Saints are my No. 16 team in the Week 18 NFL Power Rankings and the 49ers are at No. 10. But, it seems to me like the Saints are more likely to finish things out.

15. Las Vegas Raiders (9-7)

Last Week: 16

Despite all the odds this season, the Las Vegas Raiders are right on the verge of making the playoffs. Right now, they sit on the outside looking in behind the Chargers. Luckily, they play the Chargers next week. It’s a win and you’re in scenario for both teams. Essentially a play-in game for the playoffs. Who saw that coming after all their mid-season drama?

14. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)

Last Week: 13

I’ll be damned, but Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles found a way to make the playoff this year. I thought they were doomed after starting the season 3-6. But, they’ve done a hell of a job turning things around. They almost let things slip out of their grasp against Washington this week. But, now they have the opportunity to walk into the playoffs on a 5-game win streak. That’s the stuff of nightmares for opposing teams.

13. Indianapolis Colts (9-7)

Last Week: 5

If Jonathan Taylor and a mistake-free Carson Wentz aren’t enough to overcome a mistake prone Raiders team, I don’t know what is. The Colts’ earned their way into the top 5 by pulling off win after win under incredible circumstances. But, the facade comes loose a little when they don’t find a way to win. The game was more important for Las Vegas than Indy. But, the Raiders might be the exact kind of team the Colts are going to need to be able to beat in the playoffs. Not a great look.

12. Arizona Cardinals (11-5)

Last Week: 15

That’s more like it, Cardinals. I was getting worried there for a minute because they weren’t overcoming injuries. I know it’s difficult, but great teams find a way to do it. I’m still a bit skeptical because they didn’t exactly win in convincing fashion down the stretch. But, they made poor clock management by the Cowboys work in their favor. Sometimes you have to grind a win out against a tough opponent.

11. Los Angeles Chargers (9-7)

Last Week: 12

Despite all their chargering, the Chargers still managed to wax the floor with an opponent they desperately needed to beat to stay relevant in the playoff discussion. They made it happen and now have the inside track to a playoff spot. Sort of. They’ll need to beat the Raiders next week or be eliminated. But, if the playoffs ended today they’d be in.

10. San Francisco 49ers (9-7)

Last Week: 10

I already mentioned how I actually expect the Saints to knock the 49ers out of the playoffs next week. But, next week isn’t here yet. This is the Week 18

 NFL Power Rankings. And, as of Week 17, the 49ers are still rocking. I don’t know if they can hold on next week against the explosive Rams. But, the 31-10 drubbing of the Rams earlier this season is what kicked off this run the 49ers have been on. So, you never know! If the 49ers can pull it off, they’re as dangerous as anyone.

9. Tennessee Titans (11-5)

Last Week: 9

The Tennessee Titans are currently the AFC’s No. 1 seed. So, why are they ranked below other AFC teams you ask? Well, I’m still not sure what we’re going to see from the Titans when the competition starts roaring back up in the playoffs. If Derrick Henry comes back and gets right back to where he left off, this team will probably win the Super Bowl. But, it seems more likely that Henry might need some time to adjust back to football shape. If that’s the case, I doubt the Titans make it far in the playoffs. Regardless of how badly they beat the pretender Dolphins.

8. New England Patriots (10-6)

Last Week: 8

Wow! Talk about an absolute clinic! Bill Belichick wrote the book on how to take advantage of an inferior opponent this week! Mac Jones may not have thrown for a billion yards, but he did throw for three touchdowns and no interceptions. If this is a bounce-back game for the Patriots, the rest of the AFC should watch out over the next month. But, I’ve still got the back-to-back losses to the Bills and Colts fresh on my mind. I’ll take this Jaguars game as a sign they’re still worthy of being in the top 10.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4)

Last Week: 6

Normally, I don’t knock teams down after a win. But, the Bucs have looked vulnerable in recent weeks. After losing 9-0 to the Saints a few weeks ago, now almost losing to the Jets? And then that whole debacle with Antonio Brown. Everyone on the planet knew that was going to blow up in their face eventually. Then again, it’s tough to call them out for much when they’ve built such a successful team in Tampa over the last two seasons. Still, it’s not the best look. The Bucs look vulnerable heading into the playoffs.

6. Buffalo Bills (10-6)

Last Week: 7

The Bills struggled to put a vastly inferior Atlanta Falcons team away this week. I’m not going to knock them down in the Week 18 NFL Power rankings. But, I’m not going to give them a boost, either. They’re the last division leader in the AFC to not clinch their division yet. Granted, none of those other AFC teams are competing with a second place team as strong as the Patriots. I still think they’re one of the best teams in the AFC, but I also think there’s some vulnerability that concerns me.

5. Dallas Cowboys (11-5)

Last Week: 4

Dak Prescott tried his damndest this week, but Mike McCarthy’s poor clock management was too much to overcome. All in all, I think the Cowboys played a decent game. I have no hesitation to say there’s no reason they can’t beat the Cardinals in a playoff rematch. But, they’ll have to overcome the little mistakes. I still think this is a great team. But, I’m wondering if they’re quite championship caliber.

4. Los Angeles Rams (12-4)

Last Week: 3

I said I don’t normally do this earlier in this article. Yet, here I am knocking a team down in the Week 17 NFL Power Rankings yet again despite a win. Why? Matt Stafford worries me. There’s no question he’s talented enough to contend for a Super Bowl and the Lions were holding him back. But, his penchant for absolutely devastating turnovers have me worried about what happens when this team plays great teams every single week. The Ravens were up 16-7 at the beginning of the fourth quarter and it was almost entirely because Stafford kept turning the ball over.

3. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)

Last Week: 11

Those of you who follow my ATB coverage and my YouTube Channel know it fills me with joy to have an excuse to put the Cincinnati Bengals up this high in the Week 17 NFL Power Rankings. But, you also know I strive for analytical objectivity. Objectively, the Cincinnati Bengals stamped their name in the book of Super Bowl contenders this week with a clutch victory over the top team in the AFC this week. Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase are absolutely lethal together at all levels of the sport.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)

Last Week: 1

Despite losing to the Cincinnati Bengals this week, I still think the Kansas City Chiefs are a hell of a football team. I would still put my money on them if they see the Bengals again in the playoffs. I don’t want to hear the excuses about the refs, because it’s a load of crap. But, I have to admit the Chiefs were one or two properly executed plays away from winning that game. They’re still super dangerous. I would be wary of counting this team out.

1. Green Bay Packers (13-3)

Last Week: 2

The Green Bay Packers are the only team in football without a damn thing to fight for in Week 18. They took care of business against Sean Mannion’s Vikings this week and left no doubt about who the best team in the Week 18 NFL Power Rankings is. Davante Adams had another huge game. Aaron Rodgers was damn near perfect. Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon were a fearsome two-headed beast in the backfield. Show me a major weakness on this team, other than some of their long-term injuries.

Bengals Week 17 Position Grades

bengals week 17 position grades
David Dermer/AP Photo

The Cincinnati Bengals Week 17 Position Grades aren’t going to be particularly hard this week. Aside from a few nuances here and there, everyone had a great game! They were going to need it considering they were up against the AFC’s current No. 1 seed Kansas City Chiefs. David beat Goliath this week. So, yes, we’re going to have some fun with it.

Cincinnati Bengals Week 17 Position Grades: Offense

Quarterback Grade: A+

Technically, the Bengals quarterbacks’ Week 17 position grades are influenced by two players. Personally, I thought Brandon Allen did an A+ job of kneeling and spiking once Joe Burrow left the field of play due to slight knee soreness. Beyond that, Joe Burrow was nearly perfect for the second week in a row. Had I written a Week 16 Position Grades article, I may have had to invent a grade higher than A+. 

He didn’t have quite as legendary a game this week. But, he still went toe-to-toe with Patrick Mahomes and came away with a 76 percent completion rating for 446 yards and four touchdowns. He also was excellent at keeping the ball and running it when he needed to. I have absolutely no notes.

Running Back Grade: B

The Bengals didn’t elect to run the ball much against the Kansas City Chiefs this week. Perhaps it had something to do with the state of the Chiefs’ secondary. Regardless of the reason though, the running backs didn’t have many chances to make an impact this week. That said, Joe Mixon finished the game with 4.5 yards per touch and Samaje Perine finished with 7.0. When their numbers were called, they did their job. It wasn’t spectacular. But, it’s all you can really ask.

Wide Receiver Grade: A+

Oh my god. Ja’Marr Chase is not human. He just isn’t. He was doing that thing again where the Bengals offense needs a spark so he turns a routine reception into a field-spanning touchdown. That particular aspect looked like a young AJ Green. But, he’s so much more talented than that. He did have one weird looking drop on the day. But, you have to accept things like that happen sometimes when he turns around and drops 266 yards and three touchdowns. Seriously, what drop?

But, the Bengals have a lot of wide receivers. Just because Ja’Marr Chase had an A+ performance doesn’t mean the rest of the unit automatically gets plus marks in the Week 17 Position Grades. Don’t worry though. Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd made their presence known, too. In fact, Boyd added a fourth touchdown to the unit’s total. When this unit plays like this, nobody can stop them. There just aren’t enough defensive backs.

Tight End Grade: B

I feel like I say this every week. The Bengals’ offense does not really feature tight ends. So, it’s hard to ever give this unit a particularly high grade. But, both tight ends were useful this week. CJ Uzomah added another weapon for Joe Burrow to utilize, just to keep the defense on their toes. He finished with a modest, but still respectable four catches for 32 yards. Drew Sample continued to be absent as a pass catcher. But, he was one of the Bengals’ better pass blockers per PFF (71.2).

Offensive Line Grade:  C+

Four sacks looks ugly. But, I feel it’s important to give this unit some credit in the Week 17 Position Grades. Yes, Burrow was hit 10 times on the day. But, that’s largely because Kansas City thought it was a good idea to blitz Joe Burrow all day. If you’re an NFL defensive coordinator reading this article, for some reason, don’t do that. It doesn’t work.

Jackson Carman, Isaiah Prince, and Trey Hopkins were all credited with quite a few of those hurries and pressures. But, Jonah Williams had an A+ day as a blocker, particularly in the running game. Same goes for Jackson Carman and Fred Johnson, in all of the five snaps he played.

At the end of the day, this unit is playing pretty average football. Some guys are trending generally above average, some are trending generally below average. But, none of them are awful. That seems to be enough for the Bengals to find ways to win, and that’s what matters.

Cincinnati Bengals Week 17 Position Grades: Defense

Defensive Line Grade: B+

When you have the ability to create pressure with four rushers, you have a massive advantage going into each game. The Bengals have that advantage with guys like Sam Hubbard, Trey Hendrickson, Larry Ogunjobi, BJ Hill, and DJ Reader all pushing the unit to perform at a high level every single week.

The defensive line was unable to actually bring Patrick Mahomes down for a sack this week.

Linebacker Grade: C+

Considering the circumstances, I feel like the linebacker unit deserves a lot of commendation in the Week 17 Position Grades. They had to overcome the loss of Germaine Pratt to COVID this week. Logan Wilson did return to the field for the first time in four weeks after his shoulder injury. But, he looked limited by that injury at times on the field. He did a pretty good job in pass coverage and run defense. But, his tackling left a lot to be desired. He completely whiffed on two of his eight tackling attempts and, at one point, looked like he just froze in the middle of a play while Patrick Mahomes got free.

Markus Bailey made up for Wilson’s tackling issues, though. He also played well in pass coverage. In fact, the two linebackers combined to hold Travis Kelce to only five catches for 25 yards and a touchdown. It wasn’t perfect, but the linebackers overcame a lot of tough circumstances.

Cornerback Grade: B-

If it wasn’t for how dominant the Bengals’ defensive line has looked this year, I’d say the cornerback room has been the most improved unit on the defense this year. The addition of Chidobe Awuzie has been an absolute godsend for the Bengals. He allowed a passer rating of only 82.8 this week, recorded four stops. Mike Hilton and Eli Apple both let a couple of plays go on their end. But, on the whole, the unit played well this week when it really mattered.

Safety Grade: C

Jessie Bates was rough in coverage this week. In particular, when he had to cover Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardiman. But, when he did get to his man, he was damn near perfect tackling. Vonn Bell got picked on a bit in coverage too. But, like the linebackers, they held Travis Kelce down to a relatively harmless day. This game despite the entire city of Cincinnati being terrified of what the former UC Bearcat would do to this defense that tends to struggle against tight ends.

Special Teams Grades: B-

Had Kansas City’s kickoff return for a touchdown not been nullified by penalty, I would have had a lot more to say about this unit in the Week 17 Position Grades. But, all things considered, it was a pretty decent day for Darrin Simmons’ unit. There was virtually no excitement on punt and kick returns for Trent Taylor. But, after that debacle against the 49ers a few weeks ago, you have to take that.

Kevin Huber had an ok day punting. Although, he did kind of botch the opportunity to pin the Chiefs deep in their own territory when punting from the Chiefs’ 45. Evan McPherson wasn’t tested much as a field goal kicker, although he did convert the walk-off field goal. It was from 20 yards, but still. The one issue I have, though, is he had some really odd looking issues on kickoffs early in the game. Nothing to get up in arms about, but maybe worth keeping an eye on.

Coaching grade: B+

My god. The absolute balls on Zac Taylor and Lou Anarumo to call the game the way they did. First of all, Anarumo’s decision to zero blitz Patrick Mahomes in the red zone worked. But, I’ll be damned if it wasn’t a hell of a risk. Then, Zac Taylor’s decision to KEEP GOING FOR THE TOUCHDOWN ON FOURTH DOWN IN A TIE GAME ON THE BENGALS’ LAST POSSESSION WITH ONLY ONE TIMEOUT AND PATRICK MAHOMES ON THE OTHER SIDE DAMN NEAR GAVE ME A HEART ATTACK.

But, I also have to give credit where credit is due. The Chiefs kept making little mistakes that kept giving the Bengals more opportunities to attempt to move the ball ONE YARD. He got lucky in that the Chiefs ended up draining all their timeouts and the Bengals were able to run the clock out and walk off with a field goal. But, if either of those penalties not been called the Chiefs would have gotten the ball with 50-58 seconds left and only needing to get in field goal range. 

Luckily, that didn’t happen, so I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt in the Week 17 Position Grades. If the Bengals lost because he decided not to just take the damn points after getting stuffed FIVE TIMES IN A ROW, all hell would have broken loose. But, to be fair, the Bengals said they wanted to be an aggressive team. They’re proving that’s who they are, and it worked. Thank god.

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.