The weekend is finally here, which means it is time to place your NFL bets! Last week, we went 1-2 for the fifth straight week. We got burned by a fourth quarter offensive explosion in New England, and a second-half offensive freeze-up from the Cardinals. That brings us to a paltry 8-12-1 on the season for the NFL portion of our Best Bets series. In terms of units, we only dropped 0.76 for the weekend, which puts us down 1.58 units on the year.
We aren’t too far gone yet. Getting back to positive is still within striking distance. This week’s match-ups look pretty ugly, but it all pays out just the same. All lines come via Draft Kings as of Friday evening. Also, be sure to catch my, and my fellow ATB bettors’, locks and underdogs of the week on Around The Book. Let’s get started and dive into the best NFL bets for Week 8!
Texans at Panthers: Panthers ML (+145)
Let’s kick things off with a (mildly) hot take. This is finally going to be the week in which the Panthers get their first win of the season. It won’t be easy. The Texans are better than expected this year. However, there is reason to believe Carolina can get it done.
As well as Houston is playing this year, this is still very much a rebuilding team. They don’t have a ton of high-level talent, and their rookie quarterback is still developing. There are no easy wins for a team in their position.
The Panthers are in a very similar boat. While they haven’t played quite as well as the Texans, it feels like that win is right around the corner. This pick is rooted more in vibes than data, but sometimes that’s what you need.
Vikings at Packers: Over 42 (-108)
We are switching it up this week and betting on the over. While this NFC North match-up may be ugly, it has significant potential for points. The Vikings have an offense that can put up points and a defense that struggles to stop anyone. On the flip side, Green Bay is average to below-average on both sides of the ball.
Minnesota should have no problem scoring against the Packers. Also, Green Bay should be able to score more than usual against a weak Vikings defense. It doesn’t hurt that we get the added chaos of a divisional matchup.
The most advantageous part of this pick is the line. At 42, it is clear the bookies are trying to adjust to all the low-scoring games we’ve seen this year. This is the time to pounce. Expect both of these teams to be somewhere in the mid 20s. The over may not hit by a lot, but it will get there. That is all that matters.
Chargers at Bears: Over 46.5 (-110)
Let’s keep the over bets going with some Sunday night fireworks. Both of these teams can score, and neither play great defense. Also, it seems as though the Bears offense hasn’t missed a beat with Tyson Bagent at quarterback in place of the injured Justin Fields.
Offensively, the Bears and Chargers combine to average a little over 46 points per game. That doesn’t look great for the over, but it gets a lot better when you look at the defenses. On that side of the ball, these two teams give up over 52 points per game combined.
It is hard to say who will win this game, but we know there will be plenty of scoring. This game will likely be a race to 30 points. Hammer the over.
If anybody thought this NFL season was going to be a normal one, they were clearly mistaken. Severe injuries to star players like Aaron Rodgers, Nick Chubb and Saquon Barkley have already taken place, and we have several fanbases already calling for the termination of their coaching staff. There is a lot of football left, but there is a lot that we can learn from this past week’s games in the NFL. Here’s what we learned from Week 2.
What We Learned in Week 2 #1:
It’s Time To Be Concerned In Chicago
The Bears and quarterback Justin Fields were a lot of analysts pick to take the next step. Fields looked promising throughout the end of last season, and the team added play-makers across the board in DJ Moore, Tremaine Edmunds, and Yannick Ngakoue to help get the roster to the next level. However, after two weeks Fields looks completely lost in the pocket, and is seemingly completely misreading defenses missing wide open targets, and called out the coaches for his “robotic” play to start the season off.
Fields since clarified these comments, noting that “he has to play better”, but the fact that the comments were even made by the franchise quarterback in the first place is alarming. As for the defense, they are playing poorly, and are battling injuries in the secondary. On top of that it has already lost its defensive coordinator to unknown circumstances (more information on that when the situation becomes clearer).
Luckily for the Bears, they have multiple draft picks again in this upcoming draft to add talent if the team can’t turn things around soon. Time will tell if it is going to be this coaching staff and regime that are the ones to make those selections.
What We Learned in Week 2 #2:
Daniel Jones Isn’t Worth The Contract
The Giants squeaked by the Arizona Cardinals this past weekend after a crazy second half comeback down 20-0. However the storyline from that game shouldn’t be the comeback, or even the Giants injuries to Andrew Thomas and Saquon Barkley, but the play of Daniel Jones not warranting the 4 year $160 million dollar contract he signed this past off-season.
Jones through two weeks has 425 yards with 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Those stats don’t look horrible until you dig into them, as the majority of them came in the second half of this week’s game against Arizona, who most deem as the worst team in the NFL. He played well in the second half against Arizona, but will we see that play consistently against much better teams? That is still to be determined.
Luckily for the Giants, the contract does have an out after next season if Jones does not elevate his game to take the Giants to the next level. It is going to be hard to buy into the Giants as a serious threat in the NFC East with Dallas, Philadelphia, and now seemingly Washington in that division. But more than that, it is hard to buy into the Giants with Daniel Jones as their quarterback moving forward.
What We Learned in Week 2 #3:
Brandon Staley Should Have Been Fired Last Season
This take should not be a surprise to anybody. Brandon Staley’s coaching malpractice is costing the Chargers football games. Justin Herbert is arguably the most gifted quarterback in the league when it comes to physical football traits, and Kellen Moore is one of the league’s most creative offensive minds in the league. The Chargers are fourth in the league in total offensive yards and sixth in the league in points through two weeks. Herbert is playing at a near MVP level, and the Chargers are getting contributions from everybody on offense.
So why are the Chargers 0-2? Their defense.
The Chargers have allowed the most total yards through two weeks this season at 438 yards per game, and the third most points through two weeks at 31.5 a game. With the amount of money invested in players like Khalil Mack, J.C Jackson, Derwin James, Sebastian Joseph-Day, and Joey Bosa, the defense should be performing better than it is. The blame should be placed on nobody else other than the architect of the defense; head coach Brandon Staley.
Staley was on the hot seat after last season and that seat has only gotten hotter through two weeks this year.
What We Learned in Week 2 #4:
It’s Time To Respect Eric Bienemy As A Viable Head Coaching Candidate
Eric Bienemy has gone through numerous NFL head coaching interviews over the last several seasons after successful years with Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs, but to no avail. This past off-season, Bienemy took a chance, bet on himself, and took the offensive coordinator job of the Washington Commanders. He did so without certainty at the QB position.
Through two weeks, the Commanders are 2-0, and Sam Howell looks like a true NFL starter. Last season the Commanders ranked in the bottom half in points per game, yards per game, and passing yards per game. Under Bienemy this season, the Commanders are seventh in the league in points per game, and look like a much more efficient offense.
If Bienemy is able to keep this performance up throughout the entire season, he can shake off the comments about needing Andy Reid or Patrick Mahomes, and has a really good chance at making a case for this own head coaching gig next off-season.
What We Learned in Week 2 #5:
Houston Is Heading In The Right Direction
This team is not good, but man they are fun to watch. The Texans are letting rookie quarterback CJ Stroud sling the ball all over the place, and the offense has looked quite dynamic in his first two starts, averaging the fifth most passing yards in the league. Stroud looks electric, even without a consistent running game behind him or offensive line in front of him, and Nico Collins and Tank Dell are a very fun duo at wide receiver to watch.
However, the team is 0-2, and that should not be a surprise. The roster is not filled with enough talent, yet, to compete at a high enough level to win games consistently, and that was expected. One thing Houston’s front office, coaching staff, and fans can be happy about is the development of their new franchise QB. It has been a long time since Houston has gotten consistent play at the position, and now they finally have their guy, Stroud, at the helm of this rebuild.
Getting Stroud reps and getting more talent around him should be the next step of this regime to take the leap into consistently winning games.
The AFC West made some major changes this off-season making it the toughest division in football. Every team believes they are super bowl contenders, and rightfully so. This division has superstar quarterbacks, dynamic play-makers, elite pass rushers, and just about anything else you can think of. So who will come out on top? Will every AFC West team make the playoffs? Let’s take a look at what each team lost and gained, and how their season will unfold in this AFC West preview.
AFC West Preview
4. Denver Broncos
Key loses – WR DaesSean Hamilton, QB Drew Lock, TE Noah Fant, DE Shelby Harris, P Sam Martin
Key additions – HC Nathaniel Hackett, QB Russell Wilson, NT DJ Jones, OLB Randy Gregory, CB K’Waun Williams, OLB Nik Bonitto, P Corliss Waitman, TE Greg Dulcich
Re-signed – LB Jonas Griffith (1-year), OLB Malik Reed (1-year), RT Calvin Anderson (1-year), ILB Josey Jewell (2-years), DE DeShawn Williams (1-year), RB Melvin Gordon (1-year), SS Kareem Jackson (1-year)
Extensions – QB Russell Wilson (5-year, $245 million)
The 2021-22 season for the Denver Broncos saw the departure of longtime pass rusher Von Miller. While Miller went to LA and won another ring, the Broncos struggled. They went 7-10 after starting the year 3-0.
It was the last year quarterback Drew Lock had to impress Broncos fans and the organization, as they made a major trade for Russell Wilson. Adding Wilson wasn’t enough, as they brought in outside linebacker Randy Gregory to replace Miller as primary pass rusher. However, in this division, Denver could still miss the playoffs.
The offense struggled last year, finishing 19th in total offense. That should change drastically this year with Wilson under center. Going from Lock to Wilson is the biggest QB upgrade by any team this off-season.
First year head coach Nathaniel Hackett will have some fun working with this offense. Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon are back to be the double-headed monster in the backfield. They rank in the middle of the league with offensive line, but if center Lloyd Cushenberry III can improve again, they can be a borderline top-10.
Wideout Jerry Juedy will look to make a jump with Wilson running the offense. We will have to wait and see if he can stay healthy. Overall, this offense should be ranked in the top 10 with Wilson, at worst top 15.
The defense ranked eighth last year in total defense, and I believe it got better. With pass rushers Randy Gregory and Bradley Chubb, they should have no issue getting to the quarterback. Safeties Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons lead the secondary with sophomore CB Pat Surtain III looking to make a leap in 2022.
The linebacker corps is the concerning part of this defense. Josey Jewell showed signs of being a run-stuffer, but coming back from an injury is never easy. Jonas Griffith and Alex Singleton have not proven to be reliable linebackers. This makes it interesting to see if Hackett can maximize the corps talents. This defense should finish around the top 10 again.
I have the Broncos going 10-7, tied for last in the division with the Raiders. They will go 3-3 in the division, splitting with each team. If this team was in any other division, they would probably be the favorite, but with the stacked AFC West, finishing at the top will be a tough mission.
3. Las Vegas Raiders
Key loses – 2022 first and second round picks, DE Yannick Ngakoue, WR Bryan Edwards, OG Richie Incognito, WR Zay Jones, CB Casey Hayward, QB Marcus Mariota, CB Trayvon Mullen Jr.
Key additions – HC Josh McDaniels, WR Davante Adams, CB Rock Ya-Sin, OLB Chandler Jones, DT Bilal Nichols, LB Jayon Brown, RB Zamir White, OG Dylan Parham
Raiders fans had an interesting year last year. Even with Henry Ruggs and Jon Gruden leaving the team for off-the-field issues, they still made the playoffs. Interim head coach Rich Bisaccia was able to get the team to rally and win their last four games to finish 10-7.
As the fifth seed, they lost in the first round to the Cincinnati Bengals, 26-19. With a new head coach and plenty of new talent, the Raiders are looking to make a bigger splash and finish first in the AFC West.
Derek Carr loved this offseason. He signed an extension, and they brought in superstar wideout and former college teammate Davante Adams. Adams may be the best receiver in the league, and he is now next to wide receiver Hunter Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller.
The NFL’s 11th ranked offense last season got even better, so I would expect Derek Carr to have his best season yet. The only question on offense is the run game. They finished 28th in rushing last season, and the new regime doesn’t seem confident in Josh Jacobs. Combine that with one of the worst offensive lines in the league, it’ll make Raiders fans yell at their TV anytime they see a hand-off.
The defense of the Raiders is an interesting one. They finished 14th in total defense last season, but didn’t excel against either the pass or run. Adding Chandler Jones across from Maxx Crosby makes for a ferocious pass rush.
A major concern is the linebacker corps. Bringing in Jayon Brown to work next to Denzel Perryman is an upgrade, but I would still put this group of linebackers in the bottom 10 of the league.
The linebackers are bad, but the secondary might be even worse. Losing Hayward and Mullen leaves the Raiders with Ya-Sin and Nate Hobbs as their best corners. Their safety duo is above average, but with weak corners, they could get exposed a lot. This should be a middle of the road defense, with the chance of being one of the worst in the league.
I believe the Raiders will go 10-7, 3-3 in the AFC West. This team has the offense to contend, but the defense will hold them back. They are a dark-horse team to make a run, but I do believe they will make the playoffs.
2. Los Angeles Chargers
Key loses – 2022 second round pick, OG Oday Aboushi, OT Bryan Bulaga, TE Jared Cook, CB Chris Harris, RB Justin Jackson, DT Linval Joseph, OLB Uchenna Nwosu
Key additions – OLB Khalil Mack, CB J.C. Jackson, DL Sebastian Joseph-Day, DL Austin Johnson, TE Gerald Everett, LB Kyle Van Noy, CB Bryce Callahan, P J.K. Scott, OG Zion Johnson, S J.T. Woods, RB Isaiah Spiller, LB Troy Reeder
Re-signed – WR Mike Williams (3-years), K Dustin Hopkins (4-years)
Extended – SS Derwin James (4-years, $76.5 million)
The 2021-22 season did not go as anticipated for the Chargers, as they finished 9-8, good for third in the AFC West. A crushing loss in OT against the Raiders in Week 18 ended their season while simultaneously sending Las Vegas to Cincy for the playoffs.
Justin Herbert is back though, and the expectations for this Chargers team are through the roof. Adding studs on the defensive side is giving them hope that maybe this is their year. However, in a tough AFC West, it will be easier said than done.
The offense finished fourth in total yards last year, and it is expected to be just as good. Wide receiver Mike Williams is back to help out Herbert, but I don’t see him as the x-factor on this offense. The major concern for the Chargers last season on offense was the run game. They were 21st in the league even with superstar Austin Ekeler.
While Ekeler is dual-threat back in a pass heavy offense, they may need more production on the ground. They have a borderline top 10 offensive line, and head coach Brandon Staley will need to scheme up how to utilize the ground game better. It should be another big year for Herbert and company as they look to be elite again.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Chargers struggled last year. The pass rush will be elite with Mack and Joey Bosa, but that is not the worry. They finished 30th against the run last year and they are hoping Sebastian Joseph-Day can help plug up the middle.
The secondary has some elite play-makers in Derwin James and JC Jackson. Funny enough, Jackson might not be the biggest piece they added in the secondary. Bryce Callahan is the new slot corner and is elite in that spot. With Asante Samuel Jr. now being a sophomore, this secondary is looking like it could be top 5.
The linebacker group is one of the worst in the league. Kenneth Murray can’t cover, and Drue Tranquill hasn’t shown to be reliable. That will hurt them a little bit, but I still expect them to finish around the top 10.
The Chargers are looking to make the playoffs for the first time with Herbert, and I have them doing that. I have them at 11-6 overall, 3-3 against the AFC West. The toughest division in the NFL could hold them out of the playoffs, but I believe they have too much talent to not get there.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
Key losses – WR Tyreek Hill, SS Tyrann Mathieu, DE Melvin Ingram, CB Charvarius Ward, LB Anthony Hitchens, CB Mike Hughes, WR Demarcus Robinson, DT Jarran Reed
Key Additions – WR Juju Smith-Schuster, WR Sky Moore, SS/FS Justin Reid, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, RB Ronald Jones, CB Trent McDuffie, DE George Karlaftis, DE Carlos Dunlap, CB Lonnie Johnson
Re-signed – LT Orlando Brown (franchise tag)
The Chiefs lost in the AFC Championship game last season after beating the Buffalo Bills in one of the best playoff games ever. They went 12-5, finishing first in the AFC West and second in the conference. There’s not much that needs to be said about how good they are and can be, but it will be interesting to see their offense without Tyreek Hill.
They traded Hill to the Dolphins this off-season and replaced him with Juju Smith-Schuster. They still have Patrick Mahomes so it shouldn’t matter too much, and Chiefs fans should be ready for another fantastic season.
We all know what Patrick Mahomes is capable of, and he showed it again last year. He led the Chiefs to the third-ranked offense in the league. Although, as mentioned, they lost Tyreek Hill. The speedster was replaced in the draft by Skyy Moore and Smith-Schuster. While Hill is seen as a generational player, the Chiefs should be just fine.
The rushing attack looks to be a little bit better with Ronald Jones in the mix with Clyde Edwards-Helaire this season. After finishing 16th in rushing, if the run game can improve, we could see Kansas City finish atop the offensive leaders. A great offensive line will help that, and I’m eager to see the Hill-less KC offense.
The defense last year for the Chiefs was embarrassing. Finishing 27th in total defense and having one of the worst passing defenses in the league. Carlos Dunlap and rookie George Karlaftis should see some snaps rotating in to give guys a break. After finishing towards the bottom of the league in sacks, they will need those guys to step up.
While the young linebackers Nick Bolton and Willie Gay struggled early last season, they ended with some promising performances. I expect this group to take another step and become one of the better corps in the league.
The secondary is interesting, as Trent McDuffie comes in now. Adding Reid to take Mathieu’s spot is a great move, but I’m not sold on the secondary as a whole. There are a lot of questions about this defense, but I expect them to finish better than last year as a mid-tier defense.
The AFC West champs are looking to win it again, and I believe they will. I have them finishing 12-5 again, with a record of 3-3 against the AFC West. This is the closest this division has been since Mahomes has taken over, but they’ll be perfectly fine — barring an injury.
The 2022 NFL schedule was released this week. With that comes record predictions, ticket-purchasing, and more storylines than anyone can keep track of. The Raiders schedule is no different. It showcases a matchup against the reigning Super Bowl champions, a revenge game 50 years in the making, and more AFC West matchups than your heart can handle. So, let’s look at three of the biggest storylines to keep track of in 2022.
Week 1: Las Vegas Raiders @ Los Angeles Chargers
It’s the game you’ve been waiting all offseason for. The Raiders will head to SoFi Stadium for their first game of the season to try and take down Justin Herbert and a revamped Charger’s defense.
As you may remember, the Raiders beat the Chargers in the last regular season game of the 2021 season, sending the Silver and Black to the playoffs, and ending the Bolts season without a second thought. Los Angeles has spent the duration of the offseason trying to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Since the two teams last met, they have added numerous Pro-Bowlers to their defense including J.C. Jackson, Kyle Van Noy, and former Raider, Khalil Mack.
Mack, who spent the first four seasons of his career with the Raiders, was traded to Los Angeles this offseason. He is infamously known for being a player Raider Nation saw leading the team to their next Super Bowl win. That is, until the former regime sent him off to Chicago. Since leaving Oakland, Mack’s statistics have declined. However, his game-changing talent and sure-fire want for revenge is still cause for concern in Las Vegas.
On top of being a revenge game for many reasons, the Raiders second home is in Los Angeles. It’s not uncommon for Raider Nation to take over SoFi stadium and make it their own, adding fuel to the fire.
Week 15: New England Patriots @ Las Vegas Raiders
While there are numerous storylines in between Week 1 and Week 15, the Patriots vs. Raiders game is what everyone will be looking forward to. Head coach Josh McDaniels will lead his new team out proudly (we hope), as he takes on the man that taught him everything he knows.
Before being hired as the Raiders head coach in January, McDaniels spent 13 seasons with the Patriots. He served as everything from their offensive assistant to their offensive coordinator, learning the ins and outs of coaching from one of the best in the business, Bill Belichick.
McDaniels was joined in Las Vegas by new general manager, Dave Ziegler, who also spent the previous seasons in New England. McDaniels and Ziegler wasted no time in bringing their favorite former Patriots to Sin City, making Week 15 even more meaningful.
Las Vegas has added six players this offseason who played for the New England Patriots including running back Brandon Bolden, tight end Jacob Hollister, fullback Jakob Johnson, and quarterback Jarett Stidham, among others. Along with players, McDaniels also hired several former New England coaches to his staff.
The sheer volume of Raiders that have played or coached for the Patriots is something that doesn’t go unnoticed, making Week 15 a must win game for the Silver and Black.
Week 16: Las Vegas Raiders @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Fifty years in the making, the Raiders will return to the scene of the “Immaculate Reception” one day after its half-century anniversary. If you’ve been a Raiders fan for a while, or have ever known a Raiders fan, its likely you know exactly what play we’re talking about. If not, you can read up on the controversial play, here.
No matter how much time passes, it will never be clear what happened that day. You’ll get a different story from every player, and every referee working that game. The Raiders are three Lombardi trophies better off than they were that day in Pittsburgh, but they’ll never forget. And they’ll be sure to remind the Steelers of that in December.
The Raiders schedule is tough, with a lot valuable storylines in 2022. If they want to return to the playoffs for a second consecutive year, they’ll have to prove each and every week why they deserve to be there.
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.