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.

Bengals Week 17 Position Grades

bengals week 17 position grades
David Dermer/AP Photo

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

Cincinnati Bengals Week 17 Position Grades: Offense

Quarterback Grade: A+

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

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

Running Back Grade: B

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

Wide Receiver Grade: A+

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

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

Tight End Grade: B

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

Offensive Line Grade:  C+

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

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

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

Cincinnati Bengals Week 17 Position Grades: Defense

Defensive Line Grade: B+

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

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

Linebacker Grade: C+

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

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

Cornerback Grade: B-

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

Safety Grade: C

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

Special Teams Grades: B-

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

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

Coaching grade: B+

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

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

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

Bengals Week 13 Position Grades

Bengals week 13 position grades
Sam Greene – The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Cincinnati Bengals’ Week 13 position grades might surprise you a bit. Despite the Bengals really bad looking 41-22 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, I don’t think they performed all that badly. Sure, there were some really bad aspects and those issues will be reflected in the grades. But, overall, the final score looked worse than the game really was. There are no moral victories in the NFL, but position grades aren’t black and white. So, I think we need a bit more nuance to properly talk about what happened.

Cincinnati Bengals Week 13 Position Grades: Offense

Quarterback Grade: B-

Joe Burrow has been really confusing to get a read on in 2021. He’s been mostly great at driving this offense and helping them put points on the board. In fact, he did that this week with 300 passing yards and two all-purpose touchdowns. He put them in position to score a few more times than that and, unfortunately, was unable to get it accomplished. Had it not been for the killer mistakes, he probably would have deserved a grade in the “A” range this week.

But man those mistakes really sucked. You could make the argument that his first interception intended for Ja’Marr Chase was more on Chase than Burrow. Burrow hit Chase in stride and should have gotten a touchdown instead of a pick. But, that second pick was unacceptable. He must have just not seen Chris Harris right infront of CJ Uzomah.

When he tried to find his reliable tight end in the back of the endzone, it ended up in the defense’s hands and all hopes of making up the 16-point deficit with 8:07 left in the game were basically dead. 

I’m not sure why Burrow seems to have a few plays like this every game that potentially doom the Bengals’ hopes. But, it’s starting to become a pattern and that’s a bit worrisome.

Running Back Grade: D+

One unit that really doesn’t deserve much more nuance than they’re already getting is the running backs. I feel I’m giving them a very fair harsh grade in the Week 13 Position Grades because 2.8 yards per carry and a game-ruining fumble from Joe Mixon are absolutely unacceptable.

The one redeeming factor was Mixon and Samaje Perine’s combined 4.7 yards per carry and a touchdown during the team’s mid-game comeback attempt. The problem is those 80 yards and a touchdown accounted for almost all of the unit’s production on the day during a 21.5 minute stretch in the middle of a 60-minute game.

Wide Receiver Grade: C-

Emotionally, I want to give this unit an ‘F’ for Ja’Marr Chase’s absolutely disgusting bobbled deep pass that turned a game-breaking touchdown play into a game-breaking interception. Luckily for them, that’s not how I operate in the Week 13 Position Grades. Tee Higgins’ performance alone deserves commendation. 138 yards and a touchdown on nine catches is pretty impressive, especially considering he’s been struggling to break out this year.

With Tyler Boyd coming close to the 100-yard mark this week as well, it seems like the thought process of “you can’t stop all of us” is starting to come to fruition. Teams are respecting Ja’Marr Chase’s ability to break a game open, so Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are getting favorable matchups more often. They’re starting to take advantage of some key situations.

But, my god, Ja’Marr. You can’t do this.

Tight End Grade: C-

CJ Uzomah showed up a few times this week to make plays, which is why this unit’s Week 13 Position Grades aren’t too harsh. Drew Sample didn’t get a lot of playing time this week. But, when he did, he performed well as a pass blocker (74.6 per PFF) and ok as a run blocker (59.6). The interception Joe Burrow threw toward Uzomah was 100 percent not Uzomah’s fault. So, I think this unit deserves a coasting grade. They didn’t do much, but they also didn’t screw too much up.

Offensive Line Grade: C-

I really don’t understand, at all, why Jackson Carman is on the bench. Hakeem Adeniji looked like an absolute liability on the field this week. He graded below average in both pass blocking (51.1) and run blocking (48.0). He also was charged with two penalties on the day, one of which was a hold that killed every bit of momentum the Bengals had on a fourth quarter drive.

Joe Burrow ended up making lemonade out of lemons with a 12-yard pass to Tee Higgins that set them up in field goal range. But, I feel like they would have probably gotten a touchdown on that drive and brought the score to 24-20 and taken the lead on the following drive were it not for that hold.

Also, Carman did come in for 11 run blocking snaps this week and graded as the best offensive lineman on the team in those 11 snaps (77.9). Does the coaching staff just not like his attitude? Is he in Zac’s dog house the way John Ross ended up in Marvin’s? The difference is Carman tends to perform well on the field, unlike Ross. So, I don’t understand what’s going on here. 

But, I thought the overall unit deserved a bit of a shoutout in the Week 13 Position Grades, at least compared to the talk surrounding them. Adeniji was the only one who graded below average on the day. I’m sure it doesn’t help that Burrow was sacked six times and that’s always going to look like a complete reflection on the offensive line.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Defense

Defensive Line Grade: B-

For the most part, the defensive line had a good day against the Chargers. Trey Hendrickson, in particular, was constantly in the backfield making trouble for Justin Herbert. He hit the young quarterback twice and brought him down once, in addition to recording three other tackles on the day.

BJ Hill and DJ Reader combined for stifling interior trench play and Josh Tupou even showed up for a nice run stop in the second quarter. Larry Ogunjobi was a bit of a liability though. He did get to the quarterback a couple of times, but he also had an awful miss on one of his two tackling attempts.

Linebacker Grade: A

Overall, a really solid performance from the linebacker corps deserves some love in the Week 13 Position Grades. Without a doubt, this was the best performing unit on the team this week. Germaine Pratt, in particular, might have had one of the best games of his entire career. He received an elite grade from PFF for his performance (90.6) for basically letting nothing happen at the point of attack. Well, other than that one tackle he missed. But, that just goes to show how well he played on his other 61 snaps.

The liability this week was Logan Wilson. He did well wrapping up when he got to the ball carrier. But, too often he looked lost during the day. We’re still waiting for confirmation on how severe the injury that caused him to be carted off the field was. You never want to see that happen, especially for a player who has mostly been really solid all season. But, for the sake of the Week 13 Position grades, it should also be noted that Joe Bachie performed extremely well in Wilson’s absence.

Cornerback Grade: C

Any individual cornerback on the team did not deserve a ‘C’ in the Week 13 Position Grades. The issue is there was a WIDE disparity between the high performers and low performers. Chidobe Awuzie left the game with an injury, although it sounds like he’s going to be fine.

However, when he was on the field, dude was electric. That interception on Justin Herbert at the end of the first half didn’t end up yielding any points. But, it did take a potential score off the board for the Chargers. That ended up being huge for the Bengals comeback that almost was. Aside from that, he only allowed a 58.3 passer rating on the day. Eli Apple also played great. Strangely enough, he is starting to become a reliable No. 2 cornerback for the team. 

Safety Grade: D

Overall, Von Bell actually played pretty well this week in every area other than coverage. He was pretty bad in coverage though, allowing a 108.3 quarterback rating. Unfortunately, that’s going to be the biggest judgement on a safety’s performance. Jessie Bates… woof.

He allowed a 158.3 passer rating in coverage this week. I’m starting to get worried about him because 2021 was supposed to be a prove-it year. He hasn’t seemed like he’s proven much other than the Bengals may have been right to withhold a major extension. Perhaps he’s playing distracted because of the contract? I don’t think that’s an excuse though.

Special Teams Grades: F

Perhaps the most Chargers way to lose a game of all time is to do so because the special teams unit was SO BAD. Funnily enough, it was the Bengals who fit that bill this week. Evan McPherson did hit a 48-yard field goal, which was nice. But, he also missed an extra point. Kevin Huber was mostly a liability as a punter all day, only downing one inside the 20. And then, the special teams coverage. Yikes. What are we even doing at this point, guys?

Coaching grade: D-

I felt the Bengals went into this week with a pretty solid gameplan. That’s pretty much where my praise for the coaching staff in the Week 13 Position Grades ends. Some of the way that players were placed on the field made no sense to me through much of the game. The decision to play Logan Wilson on special teams looked really stupid BEFORE the injury.

You have to wonder what Darrin Simmons was thinking on that one. I think Lou Anarumo went into this game with a pretty solid idea of how to handle the Chargers. But, Simmons, Zac Taylor, and Brian Callahan absolutely dropped the ball this week. The offense looked sloppy, unprepared, and regularly in unfavorable positions. That’s definitely not Coach of the Year material.

Week 11 Bengals Position Grades

Week 11 Bengals Position Grades
Chris Unger – Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals got back on track after their bye this week with a 32-13 win over the Las Vegas Raiders. The Week 11 Bengals position grades were a bit tough to formulate because it wasn’t a perfect performance by any means. But, all around, it was good enough to get the job done. It’s really hard to knock a team, or a unit, when they achieve that goal.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Offense

Quarterback grade: B+

It wasn’t the most spectacular game in the world for Joe Burrow. But, at the end of the day, he played well enough to lead the offense to 30+ points. He did a pretty good job recognizing when he needed to run the ball and finding the lanes to do so effectively.

He only managed to throw for 148 yards. But, he completed 20 of his 29 passes and found Ja’Marr Chase for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. From that point on, the Bengals looked fully in control of the game and the result wasn’t in doubt.

So, you could describe Burrow’s performance this week as… unspectacular, but clutch. He also avoided throwing any interceptions for the first time since week 4, and only the third time all season. When Joe Burrow plays concise, efficient football… the Bengals tend to win. But, I can’t give him an ‘A’ in the Week 11 Bengals position grades with the limited production he had.

Running Back grade: B+

By the end of the day, Joe Mixon looked like a huge reason why the Bengals won this game. It’s not necessarily false, but it took him a while to get to that point. In the first half, he was only averaging 2.5 yards per carry. Not nearly good enough for the Bengals to win. But, he really got it going in the second half, finishing with 123 yards on the ground and 4.1 yards per carry. Furthermore, his two touchdowns came at critical turning points in the game.

Samaje Perine wasn’t nearly as effective, however. He totaled 1.5 yards per run on the day. He wasn’t really needed because Joe Mixon managed to get things going in the second half. But, Perine had a mostly quiet day. Ultimately, he made more special teams tackles on the day than first down plays.

It was nice to see Chris Evans back in the lineup, though. He only caught one pass for seven yards on a drive that ended in a punt. But, he was occasionally brought in on certain packages that gave the Bengals a much more dynamic look on offense than they had without him.

Wide Receiver grade: C+

It seems like every receiver on the roster crawled out of the woodwork to get involved in the passing game this week. It was particularly encouraging to see Tyler Boyd get featured so much after struggling to make an impact against the Browns. Tee Higgins made some plays too, so it felt like the Bengals didn’t need an all-time performance from Ja’Marr Chase to develop a solid passing attack.

That said, the passing attack still never really developed. Receivers struggled in contested catch situations all night. Yeah, you could make the argument that a lot of the targets were broken up by good defensive play or were difficult to catch. But, there were way too many missed opportunities from this unit.

It’s really a testament to the Bengals’ offensive potential that they managed to put up 30+ points despite their highly touted receiving corps receiving such an average grade in the Week 11 Bengals position grades.

Tight End grade: C-

Drew Sample and CJ Uzomah were largely absent in the passing game this week. Although, Uzomah did convert a key third down late in the third quarter. The ensuing drive eventually led to the Bengals taking their first double-digit lead of the game.

However, the real impact in this game from the tight ends was the blocking. Drew Sample was excellent as a lead blocker. He did well in both the H-back role and simply blocking from the tight end spot. You could make the argument that Joe Mixon probably wouldn’t have gotten going in the second half if Sample didn’t lay down some really strategically advantageous blocks.

Offensive line grade: C+

Don’t look now, but the Bengals’ offensive line has been doing a really great job lately of not committing penalties. Quite often, offensive line penalties can be some of the biggest momentum sucks over the course of a game. So, as much as you can point out certain flaws in their game, you have to respect their discipline.

That said, Jonah Williams and Riley Reiff got worked all day. Joe Burrow was constantly dealing with pressure in his face and it was largely due to problems coming from the tackles. That’s particularly problematic because the tackles are supposed to be the ones we can rely on this year.

Joe Burrow’s fumble on the first drive happened almost entirely because Riley Reiff couldn’t handle Yannick Ngokoue. The offensive line’s Week 11 Bengals position grades are largely representative of those issues.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Defense

Defensive line grade: B+

The way Sam Hubbard closed out that game on the Raiders’ final meaningful drive was a work of art. To just completely, single handedly turn the Raiders’ chances on their heads and break their hearts with back to back sacks and a fumble recovery. Oh by the way, Trey Hendrickson was the one who forced the fumble. 

The Bengals only came down with two sacks on the day. But, they mostly kept Josh Jacobs and Kenyon Drake in check. There were still a few issues with missed tackles on the day. But, they made the ones they needed to. This unit’s Week 11 Bengals position grades are much improved from last week because they were mostly where they needed to be when they needed to be there. It was a huge step up from the last two games.

Linebacker grade: C

Another unit that, on the whole, you could argue largely did their job when they needed to, was the linebackers. That is, other than in coverage. It was painfully obvious the Bengals were missing Akeem Davis-Gaither, their best linebacker in coverage. Darren Waller finished the day with 116 yards on seven receptions.

In fact, the Raiders needed only three plays to put together their only touchdown drive of the game. How did they do it? Back-to-back 20-yard passes to Darren Waller and another one to Fabian Moreau, who Logan Wilson completely lost in coverage. It was a weakness the Raiders probably should have exploited more. Luckily they didn’t, but it could be an issue the Bengals need to keep an eye on going forward.

Cornerback grade: A

Chidobe Awuzie and Eli Apple had one of their best games of the season this week. There were a few bad plays sprinkled in here and there during the game. So, it wasn’t perfect. But, Derek Carr only completed five passes for 50 yards to wide receivers this week. One of those was a weird 20 yard pass to Zay Jones on broken coverage. But, everything else went to Hunter Renfrow, who only averaged 7.5 yards per catch.

Then, there was Eli Apple’s beautifully timed interception. It was like a gift from the football gods. I remember it in my head as though I watched it in slow motion. Did Eli Apple really just make one of the most clutch defensive plays I’ve seen from the Bengals all year?

Yes, yes he did. The Bengals capitalized on that interception with a touchdown when the Raiders had brought the game within just a couple of drives earlier. For as much crap as I’ve given him all year, I have to give him a shoutout in the Week 11 Bengals position grades.

Safety grade: B

What the hell is going on with Jessie Bates this year? Is his contract situation so distracting that he can’t play coverage? Part of the reason for Darren Waller’s big day was Jessie Bates’ lack of coverage. Going into this season, everyone in their right mind would have pegged him as the Bengals’ unquestioned superstar on defense. But, he hasn’t lived up to the hype even a little this year.

Vonn Bell was much more effective. He led the team in tackles and did a great job of cleaning up plays over top before they broke for long gains. A big reason why the Bengals only allowed one touchdown this week was because he played his role very well. It’s a big part of why I didn’t grade this unit lower in the Week 11 Bengals position grades.

Special teams grades: A+

Rookie kicker Evan McPherson joined Josh Scobee, Morten Andersen, Neil Rackers, and Sebastian Janikowski as the only kickers in NFL history to convert three 50+ yard kicks in a game. I don’t care if it happened in a closed stadium. That’s still damn impressive and was a huge reason the Bengals won this game. Sure, the Bengals would have still won by 10 points even without those field goals.

But, until the fourth quarter, it was basically the only reason they were winning. What’s even weirder is he capped all that off by missing an extra point late in the fourth quarter. But, he made up for it by converting a 47-yard field goal. I don’t get it, but I’ll take it.

The Bengals’ special teams coverage was absolutely lethal this week. The Raiders regularly started behind the 20-yard line this week. It was partially due to questionable returning decisions, but it was also because the Bengals’ special teams was all over the ball carrier. Darrin Simmons’ unit gave the Bengals a really underrated advantage this week.

Coaching grade: A

This might not be a direct representation of how the coaches performed in the game itself. But, I just have to point out how nice it is to watch a Bengals team look ready and prepared for an opponent after a bye week. Too many times we watched Marvin Lewis coached teams in Cincinnati look like they were hoping for an extra week of vacation after byes.

The Bengals came into this game needing to be ready to go and ready to make an impact. They did just that and took back control of a playoff seed in the process.

You really have to give credit to Zac Taylor’s staff for putting together a really effective game script and executing it as well as they did. Lou Anarumo’s defensive unit, for all its flaws, came out and played a really solid game. Yes, they let Darren Waller shred them. But, they didn’t allow much else. The Raiders were only able to find the endzone once this week, and the offense went over 30. That’s a winning formula if there ever was one.

Midseason Position Grades for Cincinnati Bengals

Bengals midseason position grades
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That might have been one of the Cincinnati Bengals’ best bye weeks of all time. Things started to look bleak after losing to the lowly Jets and falling 41-16 at home to the Browns. So, the bye week seemed like it was coming at a good time anyway. It was an opportunity to rest, relax, and reset after this young Bengals team appeared to be letting early success get to their heads.

Then, the Baltimore Ravens fell to the even lowlier Miami Dolphins on Thursday Night Football. The New England Patriots completely upended the Cleveland Browns 45-7. It looked way worse than what the Browns did to the Bengals the week before. The Pittsburgh Steelers failed to win against the winless Detroit Lions.

Had the Lions converted a missed extra point earlier in that game, the Steelers would have lost and the Bengals would be back in control of a playoff seed. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. But, it was still a monumentally useful bye week for the Cincinnati Bengals, who are still looking fully alive at midseason.

Cincinnati Bengals Midseason Position Grades: Offense

Quarterback grade: A-

Most of Joe Burrow’s 11 interceptions this season have not been his fault. Although, he is tied for third in the NFL with five turnover worthy plays.  But, perhaps it provides some context for the main area he’s been struggling this season.

For what it’s worth, he’s also tied for third in the NFL in Big Time Throws. They’re defined as “a pass with excellent ball location and timing, generally thrown further down the field and/or into a tighter window” per PFF.

So, yeah, he’s been a bit erratic and inconsistent. But, he makes it work. In the last four games, he’s led the Bengals’ offense to 30+ point outings in all but one game. That one game against the Browns is the one freshest in our memories. But, it shouldn’t hold any more weight than any other game in the midseason position grades.

Running Back grade: B+

Joe Mixon is currently on pace for his best rushing season yet. If he continues his current production, he’d finish with 1,201 yards and 13 touchdowns. Samaje Perine is also on pace for his best season since his relatively solid rookie season in which he started eight games for Washington.

The Bengals are still trying to find ways to incorporate Chris Evans into the game plan. But, he still has 133 all purpose yards and a touchdown. That’s pretty impressive for a third string running back who has only touched the ball 13 times, in five of nine games.

The one area this unit could stand to improve in the midseason position grades is pass blocking. For the most part it’s been ok, but inconsistent. Chris Evans has done a solid job filling in for Giovani Bernard’s vacated pass protecting role when he’s been on the field. Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, on the other hand, have had as many struggles as they’ve had good plays in this department.

Wide Receiver grade: B

At the midway point, Ja’Marr Chase’s overall rookie season has been legendary. Especially, considering the general narrative surrounding his awful preseason. To be fair, he had a rocky last two weeks. The Jets locked him down and he and fell apart against the Browns.

But, even then he’s still on pace to shatter Bill Groman’s rookie receiving yards record of 1,473. Even in a 16 game season he would be on pace to break it with 1,484. But, with the extra game, it would be more of a surprise if he didn’t at this point. Especially considering he’s currently on pace for 1,577.

It hasn’t been as lucrative for Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, whom some were expecting could join Chase as 1,000 yard receivers in 2021. Neither are currently on pace for it, whether due to drops or simply not getting open enough.

With NFL teams starting to pay more attention to Chase, opportunities for Higgins and Boyd could certainly open up soon. But, they’ll need to take advantage of those opportunities to get there.

Tight End grade: B-

CJ Uzomah has been a revelation this year. He’s currently on pace for 591 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s not exactly going to be shattering any records (other than his own) with those numbers, but it’s still impressive for a tight end room many considered to be the worst in the NFL heading into this season. Uzomah’s fantastic season is a big reason why this unit grades so well in the midseason position grades.

Drew Sample, on the other hand, hasn’t been quite as impressive. He’s been below average as both a run and pass blocker. He’s been targeted only eight times as a receiver and, even then, only caught five passes for 45 yards. I think the Bengals were expecting a lot more out of their No. 52 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Offensive line grade: C-

Joe Burrow has been sacked 25 times this year. That’s seventh most among quarterbacks in the NFL, and fifth most for quarterbacks who aren’t known as a habitual scrambler. The Bengals’ offensive line ranks 23rd in the NFL this season in PFF’s pass blocking grade (57.8). That’s largely due to the revolving door at right guard for the second year in a row.

Second round pick Jackson Carman appeared to be doing a decent job of holding the position down, but has seemingly fallen back out of favor among the coaching staff despite earning their stamp of approval earlier in the season.

The run blocking has been better, although still not perfect. In this category, they rank 17th in the NFL (66.0). It’s a testament to how well the running backs have been performing that they’ve been putting up as much production as they have. 

Overall, the offensive line appears to be a step forward from where they were last year. Hence, their slightly below average result in the midseason position grades. It’s not a complete train wreck. But, there are still clear and obvious areas for improvement next year.

Perhaps Jackson Carman isn’t the answer at Right Guard? Maybe Tre Hopkins can be replaced at center? The tackles are doing fine, but the interior still has a lot of issues.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Defense

Defensive line grade: B-

Another unit that looks massively improved from last year in the midseason position grades is the defensive line. Last year, they were a major part of an abysmal 17 sack season that ranks among the worst in franchise history. Through nine games, they’ve already passed their mark from last year. They are tied at No. 11 in the NFL for most sacks (23). Granted, it hasn’t really shown up much the past couple of weeks. 

They also rank No. 10 in the NFL per PFF’s run defense grade (61.7). I know it hasn’t looked like it the past few weeks, but this defense is performing like a top 10 unit this year. If they can get themselves back on track after the bye week, there’s no one the Bengals can’t beat in the NFL.

Linebacker grade: C+

Logan Wilson’s hot start this season, with the turnovers and the sacks, has been mostly reversed after he’s struggled to make a major impact in recent weeks. Granted, he’s still the team’s leading tackler virtually every week. But, there is an argument out there that the Bengals’ best overall linebacker in 2021 through nine games has been Akeem Davis-Gaither.

Unfortunately, he’s going to miss a good chunk of the rest of the season with a serious foot injury that sent him straight to Injured Reserve.

Cornerback grade: C+

For the most part, Chidobe Awuzie has been a godsend to a Bengals’ cornerback room that was bereft of talent in 2020. He has missed an uncomfortable number of tackles (seven, 11th among cornerbacks). But, he’s been lethal in coverage. He is only allowing 54.2 percent of the passes thrown his way to be competed. And, has the 13th most stops in the NFL (13).

You’d like to see him come down with more interceptions. But, overall the Bengals love what the results of their most recent free agent acquisition at cornerback.

What holds this unit back is the No. 2 cornerback spot. Last year’s big money free agent signing at the position, Trae Waynes, has only gotten on the field twice this year. When he was on the field, he didn’t look particularly good.

In fact, the much maligned Eli Apple has had more good games this year (3) than Waynes has played in his entire Cincinnati Bengals career. This unit really needs someone to step up at CB2, which is why I can’t grade this unit higher in the midseason position grades.

Safety grade: C+

We were all hoping Jessie Bates would step up and make a huge impact in his contract year. His All-Pro performance in 2020 led to a lot of people hoping he could be a major player on defense in 2021. But, he’s looked pretty average, in general.

Vonn Bell has been a major player this year, lining up all over the defensive backfield and making big plays that really helped this defense get off to a fast start. Even Ricardo Allen got in on the action before going down with an injury he just recently got back from.

Overall, however, this unit needs Jessie Bates to go back to playing at an All Pro level. Their midseason position grades are suffering as a result.

Special teams grades: A

Despite some of the week-to-week mishaps than happen for any NFL team, Darrin Simmons has coached up on of the best special teams units in the NFL this year. Their 91.4 overall grade per PFF ranks second in the NFL, behind only the also 5-4 New Orleans Saints.

Players like Joe Bachie, Wyatt Ray, Chris Evans, and Mitchell Wilcox, who generally struggle to make much of an impact in their primary roles, have really stepped up this year. Stanley Morgan, of all people, leads the unit with four tackles.

Rookie kicker Evan McPherson has had a few struggles, missing three of his 14 field goal attempts. Two of those misses happened in the same game. But, he hasn’t let it rattle him and has converted the winning field goal twice already this season, despite never having the opportunity in college.

Coaching grade: B

In general, I think Zac Taylor has done a solid job in 2021. The Cincinnati Bengals are 5-4 through nine games, despite analysts across the country squawking about how they wouldn’t win more than 6 games in 17 attempts. It seems more likely than not they’ll wind up in the playoffs, after going just 6-25-1 through his first two seasons.

Lou Anarumo has looked much improved as well. Granted, the recent two week skid makes you worry his unit overperformed through the first seven weeks. The last two have looked a lot more like what they’ve looked like the last three years. So, for the coaches to get up to an ‘A’ after the midseason position grades, Anarumo will need to get his unit back on track to playing at a high level.