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 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.

Week 13 NFL Power Rankings

week 13 nfl power rankings
Jeff Siner – Charlotte Observer

The Week 13 NFL Power Rankings have movement all over the place! The Patriots and Lions stay put as the best and worst teams this week, respectively. But, so many other teams are moving significantly from where they were in last week’s power rankings.

32. Detroit Lions (0-10-1)

Last Week: 32

I apologize to all the Detroit Lions fans out there. But, I’m rooting for 0-16-1 at this point. It’s a feat that I’m not sure we’ll ever see happen again. For an NFL team to be good enough to come so close to winning so many times and fail to do so every single time is just… special. It’s a rough life.

But, hey, I’ll give you this: The Lions are currently 1-9-1 in my eyes. The refs failed to penalize the Baltimore Ravens with a delay of game penalty at the end of the Week 3 game. It would have knocked the Ravens out of even Justin Tucker’s inhuman field goal range. You can always hang your hats on that.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9)

Last week: 30

The Jacksonville Jaguars are so bad they can’t even complete a comeback attempt over the Falcons. Obviously I’m poking a bit of fun at the Falcons with that comment. But, I guess my question is, where the hell was that effort the rest of the game? The Jags looked as snake-bitten as they’ve ever looked with turnovers on back to back drives in the second quarter.

They basically set the Falcons up with a 14-3 lead at halftime. The thought process was… hey, if the Jags can stop making killer mistakes, they could always turn this game around. The Falcons haven’t exactly fully earned their halftime lead. The problem is you still have to push the ball down the field, and the Jags were unable to do that.

30. Houston Texans (2-9)

Last Week: 27

Chin up, Texans fans! The only other teams to lose to the Jets this year were the Bengals and Titans and look where both of those teams are right now! Although, it’s a little different because the Texans’ offense was completely inept. Tyrod Taylor accounted for nearly 200 yards of total offense on his own, but nobody else could accomplish anything.

The Jets’ defense has been notoriously awful this season, so what does that say about the Texans’ offense? The Texans have some fundamental issues holding their football team back right now, hence their tumble in the Week 13 NFL Power Rankings.

29. New York Jets (3-8)

Last Week: 31

The much awaited return of Zach Wilson happened this week and… well, it wasn’t pretty. But, the Jets won. It was largely due to a running game that tallied 157 yards on the day. But, that doesn’t change the fact that the Jets’ air game failed to take flight all day. Wilson finished with 145 yards and an interception.

Thank god, for his sake, Mike White and Joe Flacco didn’t play any better. I can’t put them too high in the Week 13 NFL Power Rankings. But, I’ll give them a nice little boost for eclipsing their 2020 win total.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5-1)

Last Week: 23

Speaking of misleading records, how the hell is this Steelers team 5-5-1? Like the Falcons, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re average because they have a .500 record. But, this team couldn’t beat the Lions. The refs handed them a win over the Bears. They struggled to put 15 points up on a very injured Browns team. They lucked out against Geno Smith and got a Bills team that wasn’t ready to go in Week 1.

In my opinion, they’ve only had one convincing win all season against the Denver Broncos. So, losing 41-10 to the Bengals is honestly about what we should expect. Do you honestly expect them to beat the Ravens, Vikings, Titans, Chiefs, or Browns? The Steelers are very close to visiting the Week 13 NFL Power Rankings’ basement.

27. Seattle Seahawks (3-8)

Last Week: 24

What can I even say at this point? Russell Wilson came back and this team is still hot doodoo garbage. This week might have been Seattle’s last chance to turn this season into something relevant or interesting. If only to build momentum for next year. But, now, it’s looking like it’s almost time to blow the whole thing up and start over.

26. Atlanta Falcons (5-6)

Last Week: 29

The Atlanta Falcons’ 5-6 record is a bit misleading. You’d be forgiven for thinking they’re an average football team right now if you only looked at that number. But, dive a little deeper, and you’ll see so many blown opportunities that you’d never trust this team ever again for the rest of your life. They almost had another one against the Jaguars this week. But, they prevented a fall in the Week 13 NFL Power Rankings by holding Trevor Lawrence’s heroic comeback attempt off.

25. New York Giants (4-7)

Last Week: 26

You have to give credit to the Giants’ defense. Considering the offensive production we saw, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have won this game without it. Three interceptions on Jalen Hurts put a bowtie on this pig of a game for Giants fans. Saquon Barkley was ineffective, Daniel Jones was uninspiring, and nobody had an answer for Hurts’ legs.

But, they found a way to get the job done. I don’t think it saves Joe Judge’s job. But, it’s the kind of hard-fought division win the locker room can hang their hat on.

24. Chicago Bears (4-7)

Last Week: 25

Wow. Um. Good job, Bears? You sure showed the Lions you could… score 16 points against them. Look, to be fair, the Bears got a win this week. It doesn’t matter in the final standings that it came against a Lions team that hasn’t won a game since Week 13 of last year (against the Bears, by the way).

Andy Dalton looked like Andy Dalton. But, hey, Darnell Mooney had a nice game! Maybe you’ve got a nice piece to build that receiving corps with?

23. Carolina Panthers (5-7)

Last Week: 21

So much for Cam Newton coming home to save the Panthers’ season, huh? Cam’s 5.8 passer rating this week was worse than anything the Panthers have ever seen out of Sam Darnold. He only completed five of his 21 passing attempts and threw it to the other team twice.

Then, perhaps even more insanely, the Panthers benched him for PJ Walker and he was sacked FOUR TIMES! The man only played two drives. I think there might be something fundamentally wrong with the Panthers, rather than their quarterbacks.

22. New Orleans Saints (5-6)

Last Week: 18

Life without Jameis Winston is tough in New Orleans. They were absolutely decimated by the Buffalo Bills on Thanksgiving this week. They didn’t even sniff the end-zone until the fourth quarter. And, if that wasn’t enough, they couldn’t even convert the two-point conversion after the fact.

The Saints’ defense did pretty well through most of the first half, but the whole team fell apart in the second half. If they’re not careful, the Saints could find themselves out of the playoff race when they looked like shoo-ins a few weeks ago.

21. Miami Dolphins (5-7)

Last Week: 27

Don’t look now, but the Miami Dolphins are only a single game out of the playoff race. It seems like they’re starting to get more comfortable with the idea of letting Tua take over in a more balanced offense. It’s not exactly the prettiest way to win games. But, it is one they could be successful with. It might seem crazy, but Brian Flores could potentially save his job if he learns to trust the quarterback the team spent a No. 5 overall pick on.

20. Denver Broncos (6-5)

Last Week: 22

Rumors of the Broncos’ demise have been greatly exaggerated. Patrick Surtain showed why he was worth a high draft pick this week by essentially putting the final nails in the Chargers’ coffin with a pick six. The Broncos’ offense was largely unspectacular, but it was efficient. Teddy Bridgewater avoided any major mistakes and finished with a 101.4 passer rating. This is the formula for winning, Broncos. I could see them right back in the playoff picture if they keep riding this strategy.

19. Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)

Last Week: 16

It’s pretty difficult to win a game when Jalen Hurts throws three interceptions like that. The Eagles are running out of breathing room in the playoff race. If they’re not careful, they could be out of it entirely in a few weeks. Dropping games to the lowly Giants is not going to help at all. Maybe they should run the ball more? After all, they did record 208 yards rushing on the day. They sure couldn’t accomplish anything through the air.

18. Cleveland Browns (6-6)

Last Week: 15

The Browns are currently in the AFC North’s basement when they could have been back in control of a playoff spot with even a modicum of offensive competence. Baker Mayfield’s case to remain the future of the Browns’ quarterback position took a massive hit this week. He mostly looked lost and totally out of sync with his receivers this week.

It reminded me a lot of the connection between Baker and OBJ, but this was every receiver on his team. Even Jarvis Landry missed a connection with Baker multiple times, despite finishing with 111 yards on the day. This Browns team is going to be back under .500 this year if their offense keeps playing like this.

17. Washington Football Team (5-6)

Last Week: 20

Astoundingly, the Washington Football Team is in control of a playoff spot! How crazy would that be, by the way, if WFT could make it into the playoffs as a Wild Card team with a losing record? I doubt that would happen, but it seems so fitting of a team that made it that way last year by winning the division. I’m not sure what’s gotten into them lately, but let’s see if it keeps up now that the schedule is about to get a lot harder.

16. Minnesota Vikings (5-6)

Last Week: 12

Welp, believing in the Vikings was fun while it lasted. I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot this year. But, they fall back down to dead-middle in the Week 13 NFL Power Rankings due to following up a huge win over a division rival with a flattening loss to a team they’re competing with for a Wild Card spot.

Plus, now Dalvin Cook is going to be out for a few weeks with a dislocated shoulder. Luckily, they draw the Lions, Steelers, and Bears over the next three weeks so he should have plenty of time to heal up before the Rams come to town in week 16.

15. Indianapolis Colts (6-6)

Last Week: 14

What a shame. The Colts had the Bucs right where they wanted them. Every Titan fan in the country was starting to sweat. Then, Carson Wentz imploded. They even pushed the ball down field late in the game to tie things up. But, the defense had no answer for Leonard Fournette. One somewhat predictable Carson Wentz interception later and the big statement upset had completely slipped out of their grasp, along with control of a playoff seed.

14. San Francisco 49ers (6-5)

Last Week: 17

Winners of four of their last five games, the 49ers are coming. It seems like not too long ago many of us were wondering how long Kyle Shanahan can keep resting on injury excuses to keep his job. Well, I think this recent run of form has bought him a bit of time. This was a key win the 49ers absolutely needed against the Vikings, considering the playoff implications.

They snatched that opportunity by forcing Minnesota to make key mistakes. They’re currently the No. 6 seed in the NFC. I probably don’t have them high enough in the Week 13 NFL Power Rankings. But, give it a week or two. I’m sure they’ll be up higher soon the way they’ve been playing.

13. Las Vegas Raiders (6-5)

Last Week: 19

That’s more like it, Raiders! After looking absolutely dead in the water the past few weeks, the Raiders reminded everyone that they’re still a very talented football team in Dallas. Unfortunately, they’re just barely on the outside of the playoff race looking in due to losing to the Chargers earlier this year.

But, if they can at least keep pace, they’ll get another shot at them in Week 18. Vegas has a lot of winnable games against teams competing for a wild card spot down the stretch. So, we’ll learn if they are built to last or not.

12. Los Angeles Chargers (6-5)

Last Week: 11

The Chargers have not exactly been lighting the world on fire lately. Since their bye week, they’ve only won two of five. In fact, they almost choked one away to the Steelers. It could have easily been only one of the last five. The key factor in a lot of these losses has been Justin Herbert’s erratic, inconsistent play.

Yes, he’s an extremely talented individual. I’m not trying to suggest he isn’t a generational talent. But, he’s thrown seven interceptions in his last six games and taken 12 sacks. That’s a big reason why it looks like the wheels are starting to come off.

11. Los Angeles Rams (7-4)

Last Week: 9

Speaking of teams who have been presenting worry trends lately, the Los Angeles Rams haven’t won since October. There has to be something in the water in LA, right? Why else would BOTH Los Angeles teams be suddenly collapsing after such promising starts?

It’s actually, once again, a quarterback issue. Matt Stafford was inefficient most of the day and threw an absolutely crushing pick six just ahead of their comeback attempt. Reverse that play and the Rams have a legit opportunity to pull this one off at the end.

10. Buffalo Bills (7-4)

Last Week: 14

The Buffalo Bills got back to form this week with a total domination of a reeling Saints team. It was a good look, but not quite enough to wipe losing to the Jaguars and being dominated by the Colts out of my memory. They’ll have an opportunity to prove themselves with a couple games against the Patriots left on their schedule. But, I’m still not sure if I’m ready to bring the Bills back into the top echelon of the Week 13 NFL Power Rankings.

9. Baltimore Ravens (8-3)

Last Week: 10

Well… the Ravens won. I guess. It was about as ugly of a win as you could manage. But, it was a win. Lamar Jackson really needs to clean up the sloppy play and the turnovers if this Ravens team wants to make noise in the playoffs. At this point, I’d be shocked if they fell off and missed entirely. Although, the NFL is weird. So, I almost wouldn’t be shocked. Almost. Especially considering the rough schedule they have coming up.

8. Dallas Cowboys (7-4)

Last Week: 6

Are the Cowboys starting to turn into pretenders? Maybe, maybe not. But, you can’t spin the recent run of form in any way that’s positive. The Raiders looked like the much better team for almost the entire contest this week. Dak was efficient, but the Cowboys couldn’t run the ball.

The defense just got absolutely worked all game. Thank god the Eagles lost, right? That was almost under consideration for being an issue there for a minute! But, if the Cowboys have higher ambitions than a division championship, they’ll need to turn things around.

7. Tennessee Titans (8-4)

Last Week: 5

The Bucs ended their two-game losing streak on Monday night against the Giants. Tom Brady doesn’t typically deal well with being embarrassed, which is usually bad news for the next team up. He made the Giants pay for the sins of the Football Team and Saints with 307 yards and two touchdowns on the night.

There was a really ugly interception thrown deep in Bucs territory early in the second quarter that led to a game-tying touchdown. But, the mistake was compartmentalized and it was basically a slaughter from that point forward.

6. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4)

Last Week: 8

Back on track. The Bengals stumbled a little with back-to-back alarming games against the Jets and Browns. Had they held onto that 11-point lead in the fourth quarter over the Jets, I don’t think the pushback after the Browns game would have been as strong. But, it happened, and now everyone who dismissed the Bengals (including myself) looks pretty stupid. The Cincinnati Bengals are a bona fide contender in 2021 and you can’t convince me otherwise.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-3)

Last Week: 7

It’s kind of nuts to think about the fact that Leonard Fournette might be having a better career as a rotational player in Tampa Bay than he ever had as the feature back with the team that drafted him No. 4 overall.

He was absolutely electrifying in Indianapolis this week, and a huge reason the Bucs came from behind to keep their playoff seeding bid intact. Because, that’s pretty much what they’re playing for at this point, right? They have a 3-game lead in the division with six games left to go. So, I’d say probably.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)

Last Week: 3

I know it’s weird to knock a team down in the Week 13 NFL Power Rankings after a bye week. But the Chiefs are in sole possession of the AFC West after their rough start you say! Only good things happened during the bye week! What even is this trash article!

Well, sorry, but that’s part of the deal with being up this high. When you don’t do anything for a week, teams with big wins like the Packers could move you out of the way. Don’t take it as anything other than logistics.

3. Arizona Cardinals (9-2)

Last Week: 2

Same deal here. The Cardinals saw the Rams fall two games behind them on their bye week. So, how are they falling in the Week 13 NFL Power Rankings, you ask? Keep reading to find out.

2. Green Bay Packers (9-3)

Last Week: 4

A massive victory this week for the Green Bay Packers this week. They absolutely came to play against a Los Angeles Rams team that needed a big win to keep up in the division race. But, Aaron Rodgers was efficient, clinical, and hard to keep in check. AJ Dillon was the baaaad man this week with 90 all purpose yards and a rather photogenic touchdown.

All in all, you should be scared of this Packers team right now. They’re clearly the class of the NFC. In fact, they’re only half a game behind the No. 1 seeded Cardinals, whom they hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over.

1. New England Patriots (8-4)

Last Week: 1

The Patriots spanked the Titans this week, proving they’re worthy of the No. 1 spot. How crazy is it that Bill Belichick seems to be building a third championship caliber era Patriots team with a completely new quarterback? There isn’t any question that Tom Brady was a big part of winning six Super Bowls back in the day. But, perhaps we’ve been too easy to forget the man who made Tom Brady who he is today. The Patriots are back.

7 Up, 7 Down: So Nice, Do it Thrice

Week 3 of the NFL season has been done and dusted. Who stood out in a positive manner? Who has some work to do as we move forward to Week 4? How will week three be perceived in the long run of the gauntlet? Will it be nice that everyone will look at it thrice?

In case you missed the previous weekly editions, they can be found below

Week 1: Opening Overreactions

Week 2: A Perceptive Repeat

Up

1. Herbert is legit top ten, if not top five QB 

– The precocious young gun from Oregon went into rowdy Arrowhead Stadium and outdueled the superstar Patrick Mahomes. Which is to put him in rarified air as few signal callers can claim legitimate victories over the league’s most electrifying passer. Herbert can make every improbable throw look perfectly natural as a simple pitch and catch. He has been blessed with physical gifts that few quarterbacks in history have possessed. Much will be anticipated when these two quarterbacks meet up and with good reason. Herbert has a bright future in this league. 

2. Special Teams are FUNdamental

– What a fun week for special teams histrionics. The most overlooked phase of the game got its time in the sun on Sunday with several epic standout plays as seen below. 

First up, Dustin Hopkins kicks a deep shot and then recovers his OWN kick. How? 

Not to be outdone, Younghoe Koo led off the walk-off kick bonanza with a 40 yard bomb for the Falcons

Mason Crosby called Koo’s kick and raised it with his own bomb

Not to be outdone, the evergreen Justin Tucker called Crosby’s shot, re-raised with a record-breaking Giancarlo Stanton level nuclear strike

Earlier in the day, the previous record-holder Matt Prater had an insane 68 yard try returned for a KICK SIX remix

3. All the King’s…posters?

– Derrick Henry paced the Titans offense once again with several impact runs including another posterization of a poor, hapless defender who accepted the challenge. The latest victim: star linebacker Darius Leonard. The King also low key destroyed Julian Blackmon who thought himself worthy of taking him on. At this point, the pantheon of defenders who bravely went at the king is too numerous to count. He’s just built differently than any other running back in the league today. How many times does it need to happen before defenders realize that challenging Henry in one on one situations is just foolhardy? Quandre Diggs (censored) around and found out last week as well. 

4. Josh Allen is pretty, pretty good

– Allen had yet another standout performance on Sunday against a really good Washington front who never really got in his face. The fourth-year pro is looking very well primed for another MVP run with five total touchdowns this past weekend. OC Brian Daboll has definitely unlocked the star potential from the young man. With Allen at the helm, the Bills can legitimately go blow for blow with the suddenly vulnerable Chiefs now. The league is in good hands with the young guns as more and more old star passers age out. Allen might be tops among them pretty soon if he keeps this up. 

5. Ja’Marr Chase might be good after all 

– Chase’s young career is off to a similar start to his speed. Flying. He had a breakout performance on Sunday against the hated Steelers, scoring on multiple big plays. The mysterious vanishing act during the preseason is a thing of the past as he’s proven to be an astute pick as long the Bengals’ offensive line can hold up. The Burrow to Chase connection is off and running again, much to the chagrin of everyone on the Bengals’ schedule. He has a pretty good case for offensive rookie of the year thus far into the season. 

6. Gus Johnson in the NFL 

– Two weeks, two instantly iconoclast Gus Johnson calls. Need I say more? Like many football fans, I’m glad he’s returned to announcing NFL duties after spending time exclusively in the hinterlands of amazing college football broadcasts. He simply belongs at the pro level, expressing his high-intensity emotive moods in an NFL broadcasting world often devoid of such brilliant missives, much like Marv Albert did for the NBA.  

7. R-E-L-A-X and enjoy “The Last Dance”

– We don’t know how the story of the 2021 Green Bay Packers will end but Aaron Rodgers might have a few self-authored chapters to write just yet. Speaking of stories, Kyle Shanahan and late-game mismanagement are one as old as time immemorial. Turns out even 37 seconds is too much time left for the future Jeopardy host to launch remarkable comebacks. If it is indeed the last hoorah for Rodgers in a Packers uniform, I hope for Jordan Love’s sake that he soaks up a lot of institutional knowledge learning at the feet of AR. GM Brian Gutenkunst must be feeling some type of way though. His offseason was a story unto itself. A story of what not to do in terms of managing a relationship with your ultra superstar quarterback. 

Down

1. Injuries

– The 2021 season is turning out to be quite Darwinian as the litany of injuries continues to pile up across the league to key players. Week 3 saw the likes of Quenton Nelson, AJ Brown, Josh Norman, K.J. Hamler, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Terron Armstead, James White, and Dalton Risner leave and do not return. Khalil Mack and Rob Gronkowski were injured but returned, fortunately. The Colts (Kwity Paye and Rock Ya-Sin) and Giants (Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton) were particularly hard hit with two key guys each ruled out. May the injured return to full health as quickly as possible. 

2. Hollywood turning into Marquise

– Lost in all the hoopla of Justin Tucker’s utter destruction of the longest field goal record is Marquise Brown. He dropped three critical passes including an easy touchdown that would’ve likely rendered the field goal attempt moot in the first place. Maybe it was just a bad game as he was on fire the week prior against the Chiefs. Still, the potential game-breaking option is there. Next up for Brown and the Ravens: The Broncos tough secondary. We will see if this is a worrying trend or just a blip on the radar. 

3. Seattle’s defense in a tailspin 

– The Vikings just ran roughshod all over the struggling Seahawks’ defense with a backup running back, no less. Letting Derrick Henry run wild is one thing, letting Alexander Mattison do it is entirely another. Kirk Cousins went off on Sunday as well. The secondary has been torched repeatedly with horrifically substandard play. The next two weeks are likely not going to help either with the high-powered 49ers and Rams on the docket. They can’t keep on relying on Russ cooking to save the defense over and over, right? Pete Carroll needs to try everything possible underneath the sun to try to fix the hemorrhaging defense, otherwise, they will be also-rans in the wild and wacky NFC West. 

4. The end has emphatically arrived for Big Ben 

– As remarkable as Ben Roethlisberger’s return to play after a devastating elbow injury was, the fall has been just as stunning. The Steelers’ offensive line was expected to be below average entering the season and it has been, save for flashes of improvement. Roethlisberger is notorious for stringing out the play but his body isn’t responding as it once did. The receivers in the game against Cincy last week did not help by getting hurt but he should’ve been better. It’s time for the Steelers to see what they have in backup Dwayne Haskins. The end for the future Hall of Fame quarterback was none more glaring than checking down to the back in a must-have, do-or-die play. 

5. Jonnu Smith’s nightmare fuel game

– The $50 million tight end has had a rough start to his career in Foxboro, no play is more evidence of his struggles than a tip drill pick-six that Malcolm Jenkins snagged. He’s had multiple drops and has failed to make the expected impact for the Patriots offense led by rookie quarterback Mac Jones. To be fair to Smith, his start in Tennessee wasn’t the most illustrious either. Fellow big money tight end signing Hunter Henry has also failed to live up to his high-priced contract so Smith isn’t alone. It’s going to be a long year for Jones if his two tight ends can’t get it going. Let’s hope that they do. 

6. Justin Fields’ mental and physical health

– Well, that was a demolition job by the Browns on poor Justin Fields making his first start in lieu of Andy Dalton’s injury. The young passer had zero chance from the minute he was announced as the starter and subsequently was sacked NINE times by Cleveland. If you’ve ever seen a blatantly egregious example of horrendously illogical cancerous coaching malpractice, that was it. Coach Matt Nagy refused to adjust his gameplan to account for his franchise passer getting destroyed in the pocket. Then he had the utterly dumbfounding unrepentant arrogant malevolence to say what he said after the festivities. The arrogance of this man is limitless. If Justin Fields were to succeed, he needs to get Windy City Adam Gase terminated with immediate effect for at least his mental health. GM Ryan Pace does not escape scrutiny either as he built the floundering offensive line. Asking a washed-up almost 40 years old Jason Peters to protect Fields is tantamount to a hostile work environment. Drafting a giant medical risk in Teven Jenkins who, to no one’s surprise, got injured is another. Matt Nagy is done in Chicago, there’s no going back.

7. LeBron’s High School Quarterback

– On more of a funny note, LeBron was a guest on the ManningCast on MNF and the legendary hoops superstar delivered a gem. He also noted that both the Seahawks and Cowboys offered him a roster spot during the 2011 NBA lockout. The current Laker star joked that if he had a better QB in high school, he’d have a pro football career. Imagine being some random dude in Ohio sitting down with his family watching Monday Night Football and catching a stray from the top rope from one of the best basketball players of all time. Poor guy. He most likely has been roasted by EVERYONE in his circle, not to mention social media. 

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades after beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-10

Position grades are always a fun exercise, especially when the Bengals slay one of their biggest demons. This week, they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Heinz Field for the first time since Week 8 of the 2015 season. Almost 6 years ago. The convincing victory also gives the Bengals an early lead for first place in the AFC North.

It wasn’t a perfect game from the Bengals, who sputtered a bit in the fourth quarter and gave Bengals fans across the world heart palpitations. That sputtering will be reflected in the position grades, mostly because we’ve seen the Bengals lose too many games like this in the past. But, to their credit, they buttoned up where it mattered. That will also be reflected in the position grades.

Offensive Week 1 Position Grades

Quarterback grade: A-

If you only look at the box score and watch the highlights, you’re likely to think Joe Burrow was an interception away from being nearly perfect on the day. It was certainly a great day for him. But, the interception was an absolutely boneheaded decision to throw into triple coverage with Terrell Edmunds also in the area. It was an interception reminiscent of some of the worst he’s ever thrown in a Bengals uniform. On top of that there was a pattern of overthrowing the ball that Joe will likely want to address in the film room. Luckily, on one of those overthrows, Ja’Marr Chase bailed him out with an incredible touchdown catch.

Other than that, you have to like what you saw from Burrow this week. He was mostly accurate, willing to scramble when he needed to, and didn’t let mistakes turn into patterns. At the end of the day, he only missed four throws and found the endzone three times. So, I really don’t have much to criticize.

Running Back grade: A

Joe Mixon’s 5.0 yards per carry was a huge reason the Bengals performed as well as they did this week. The Bengals only ran 42 offensive snaps as opposed to the Steelers’ 73, but they still managed to dictate the tempo of the game. That was mostly because Joe Mixon ran the ball so well.

The only reason this grade isn’t higher is because Mixon was largely non-existent in the passing game. However, Samaje Perine turned in an 8-yard catch on a scoring drive. So, you can’t knock the unit’s position grades too hard for that one element.

Wide Receiver grade: A+

Yelling and screaming about how the Bengals made the right choice taking Ja’Marr Chase with the No. 5 overall pick is starting to feel a bit redundant. At this point, it just feels like beating a dead horse. This week, Chase put the conversation to rest by becoming only the ninth receiver in NFL history to score a touchdown in each of his first three NFL games. In fact, he tacked another one on in the third quarter.

Tyler Boyd also got in on the touchdown action in the first quarter. He caught another 3 passes for a total of 36 yards across all four receptions. Despite the absence of Tee Higgins, Mike Thomas and Auden Tate both got their catches in on the day. Tate came down with his catch for 14 yards and Thomas went for 19. I’m not sure what more you could want from a unit that looks like one of the best in the NFL.

Tight End grade: C-

The Bengals’ tight ends didn’t really do much in this game to swing their position grades one way or the other. CJ Uzomah was only targeted once in the passing game. You could argue he could have been more aware of the ball and come down with the pass. But, I would argue it was Burrow’s fault for throwing the pass behind him. Drew Sample helped prevent a pick six on the interception, but that was about it.

Offensive line grade: A-

After two weeks, the Bengals’ offensive line looked dead in the water. Arguably, the worst performing member of the unit was Xavier Su’a-Filo. A knee injury kept him sidelined this week in favor of second round rookie Jackson Carman. It looked like a massive upgrade, and Burrow was barely touched all game. In fact, he was only pressured twice all game.

Upon further review, per PFF, Carman seemed to struggle a bit as a run blocker (35.8). However, he graded generally well as a pass blocker (68.8). His poor performance as a run blocker was essentially negligible given high quality run blocking performances by Jonah Williams (79.0) and Isaiah Prince (85.6).

In fairness, the Steelers’ defensive line was decimated by injuries. TJ Watt, Alex Highsmith, Stephon Tuitt, and Tyson Alualu were all out this week. Let’s see what they do against teams like the Ravens and Browns before we call this unit “fixed”. But, aside from a smattering of penalties in the first 35 minutes of the game, it was a refreshingly solid performance from a much maligned unit.

Defensive Week 1 Grades

Defensive line grade: A

Another week, another great performance from the Bengals’ most improved unit in 2021. The four sacks from BJ Hill, Trey Hendrickson, Cameron Sample, and Sam Hubbard felt like an homage to the early 2010s Bengals units that dominated in the trenches. Najee Harris couldn’t get a thing going on the ground, putting up a measly 2.9 yards per carry. Six times the Bengals managed to stop a Steelers ball carrier in the backfield for a negative gain. The Bengals are looking like a truly competitive team through 3 weeks, and this unit looks to be the most responsible.

Linebacker grade: A+

Logan Wilson looks like the next elite NFL linebacker. Not only did he lead the team in tackles (14) but he also recorded two interceptions on Ben Roethlisberger. The first interception came a few plays after Joe Burrow’s interception, essentially nullifying the impact. The second interception set the Bengals up in the red zone for an easy touchdown drive that gave the Bengals a 24-7 lead in the middle of the third quarter.

Germaine Pratt, Akeem Davis-Gaither, and Jordan Evans also assisted in some really big stops. On the whole, the unit was above average in pass coverage, elite against the run, and instrumental in creating turnovers.

Cornerback grade: C

Opposing teams seem to be catching on to the fact that Eli Apple is a liability. Chase Claypool tripled the receiving production of anyone else on the team other than Najee Harris, likely due to there being an obvious mismatch. Apple was regularly getting burned by Claypool and combined with Chidobe Awuzie for a pair of infuriating pass interference penalties that didn’t need to happen. Darius Phillips also struggled on the day, particularly down the stretch.

Other than that, it was a pretty solid performance from this unit. Awuzie may have had that pass interference on 3rd and 11 that gave the Steelers a free first down. But, he generally held his man in check most of the day. Mike Hilton rarely got beat and got to enjoy celebrating a much needed revenge win over his former team.

Safety grade: B

It was another day where the safeties didn’t have to get involved much, which is always nice. It’s a huge change of pace from last year where Jessie Bates was required to be the superhero so often. This week, he played well on cleanup duty, only once allowing a play to go for more than three yards when he got involved. Vonn Bell was used sparingly as a blitzer and contributed to the pressure the Bengals were able to generate on Roethlisberger. But, other than a single pass deflection, he didn’t have much of an impact on this game.

Special teams grades: C-

Kevin Huber continued to prove he is an absolute weapon this week, pinning the Steelers inside the 20 three times and inside the 10 once. Unfortunately, the same sentiment can not be had about the punt coverage, or the return unit. Early in the game, Huber punted the ball inside the Steelers’ 6, but poor coverage allowed a 14 yard return. The defense held the Steelers to a punt on the following drive, but mistakes like that could be critical against more explosive teams.

Evan McPherson did hit a 43-yard field goal early in the second half that gave the Bengals some momentum coming out of halftime. But, it wasn’t exactly the prettiest kick. It’s nit-picking, for sure, but it was probably the first time I’ve seen McPherson attempt a kick that I wasn’t 100 percent sure was going to go through after it came off his foot. But, he did hit it, and converted all his extra points. So, it’s still infinitely better than what the Bengals dealt with at kicker last year.

Coaching grade: A

Personally, I went into this game thinking – if they lose, I’m out on Zac Taylor. But, if they win, that’s huge for their confidence and momentum going forward. Well, they won, and I think Zac earned at least the rest of the season to make his case for continuing to be the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals.

It was a very well coached game from start to finish. For the second time this season, the Bengals held onto a lead despite the best efforts of the opposing team. The play calling was on point all game, the gameplan was clearly well thought out, and the Bengals generally avoided most huge mistakes.

Even when mistakes were made, they didn’t turn into meltdowns, which has been an issue the Bengals have needed to solve during Taylor’s tenure.