NFL Power Rankings Heading into Week 17

After a great slate of NFL games during the Christmas weekend, we now have one week left of NFL regular season action before the exciting NFL Playoffs begin.

In week 16, Ben Roethlisberger led a 4th quarter comeback with three touchdown drives to beat the Ravens as the Steelers clinched the AFC North division title. Matt Ryan and the Falcons completed the season sweep over the Panthers as Atlanta clinched the NFC South title. The Cleveland Browns finally won a game with their 20-17 victory over the Chargers. Aaron Rodgers scored five total touchdowns as the Packers beat the Vikings to move to 9-6 and set up a showdown next week with the Lions for the NFC North title. The Cowboys and Texans clinched their divisions while the Dolphins, Chiefs and Giants booked their tickets for playoff football.

After sixteen weeks of the NFL season, here are the NFL Power Rankings heading into week 17.

  1. New England Patriots (13-2) – Ranked #1 last week
  • The Patriots went into Gillette Stadium, conquered the Jets, and left with their 13th win of the season. The Patriots defense pitched a near shutout as they created four turnovers. The Patriots pass defense might have had more trouble against their own practice squad quarterbacks. The Patriots are not done yet as they still have their sights set on the #1 seed in the AFC. A Patriots win over Miami will secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs so instead of resting key players, Bill Belichick will likely go ahead and play the starters in hopes of getting the #1 seed. 
  1. Dallas Cowboys (13-2) – Ranked #2 last week
  • The Cowboys picked up their 13th win of the season against the Lions and for the 3rd time in franchise history, the Cowboys have won at least 13 games in a season. Dez Bryant was finally a big part of the offense as he was targeted five times and he caught two touchdown passes along with completing his 1st passing touchdown. The Cowboys can just relax while they the rest of the NFC teams are fighting for playoff positioning. As it stands, the Cowboys could be playing either the Giants, Lions, Packers, Bucs, or Redskins in the divisional round. 
  1. Oakland Raiders (12-3) – Ranked #3 last week
  • The AFC playoff landscape suddenly changed in a split second during the Raiders and Colts game. Raiders QB Derek Carr went down and the Oakland Alameda Stadium went silent as fans could not believe what they were watching. It turned out that Carr broke his fibula and will be out indefinitely. Raiders did finish off the Colts 33-25 as Oakland rushed for 210 yards but all Raiders fans are wondering is what now without Carr? As it stands, the Raiders game against the Broncos in the regular season finale is a must win considering they’ll get the bye and a good preparation week for Matt McGloin. It will all come down to the Raiders defense regardless of McGloin’s performance. Oakland has spent big money bringing in players such as Bruce Irvin, Reggie Nelson, and Sean Smith to help bring in a valuable defensive veteran presence. Now if the Raiders fail to beat Denver and Kansas City beats San Diego, get ready for a Matt McGloin vs Tom Savage playoff game.
  1. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) – Ranked #4 last week
  • After a shocking loss to the Titans, the Chiefs proved that they are indeed the real deal in the AFC. Totaling 484 yards and 33 points is impressive but even more against the Broncos top 5 defense in the NFL. The Chiefs top playmakers Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce both had career games while the Chiefs defense forced three takeaways. This team is the ideal sleeper team in the NFL playoffs this season because while they are not elite on offense nor defense, they can put out strong performances like they did against Oakland and Denver where they limited mistakes on offense, were able to get clutch defensive turnovers and dominated time of possession. The Chiefs can still obtain a 1st round bye with a win next week against the Chargers and help from Denver with a win over Oakland. Getting Justin Houston and some of the other players with lingering injuries healthy and prepared for the playoffs will be a huge goal for the Chiefs.
  1. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5) – Ranked #5 last week
  • It was a stressful one for Steelers Nation but Big Ben and the Steelers delivered in the 4th quarter in a memorable and incredible game. The Steelers and Ravens did not disappoint in yet another close game in the rivalry as the Steelers came away with the AFC North title. Big Ben started out slow but give credit to Ben for orchestrating three clutch touchdown drives in the 4th quarter against the Ravens defense. Aside from the last Ravens touchdown drive, the Steelers defense, especially in the red zone, did well in pass coverage against Joe Flacco. The Steelers are locked in at the #3 seed so they might not play next week or at the least, play in the 1st half. We could finally see the Ben, Bell, and Brown trio all play in a playoff game.
  1. Atlanta Falcons (10-5) – Ranked #8 last week
  • Along with the Chiefs, the Falcons are a playoff sleeper team. Their defense has been questionable this season but they have stepped up as of late in allowing under 20 points in four of their last five games. In their game against the Panthers, the Falcons defense intercepted Cam Newton twice and held the Panthers offense to 4.4 yards per play. The Falcons are now in prime position to secure the #2 seed in the NFC and they will clinch it with a win against New Orleans.
  1. New York Giants (10-5) – Ranked #6 last week
  • Even though the Giants lost to the Eagles, they still clinched a playoff berth in week 16 due to the Bucs loss. This Giants defense is still capable of carrying the Giants to an NFC Championship and even the Super Bowl in Houston but can Eli do his part? Eli has been infamous for his memorable playoff performances but can he do it again without the turnovers that have burned him this season?
  1. Miami Dolphins (10-5) – Ranked #10 last week
  • The Miami Dolphins are officially heading to the playoffs and what a season. From a 1-4 start to a playoff berth, the Dolphins have become one of the best stories of the season. Their game against the Bills really showed what they are really about. A Jay Ayaji 57-yard overtime run along with previous defensive stops by the Dolphins defense helped Miami win their 10th game of the season.
  1. Green Bay Packers (9-6) – Ranked #11 last week
  • The Packers are one win away from “running the table”, as Aaron Rodgers would put it. Rodgers finished with five total touchdowns and 347 passing yards. Rodgers was slinging the ball across the field to eight different players for a total of 28 completions. Rodgers was connecting to receivers on wide open passes downfield and in tight windows in the red zone. Rodgers is truly “back” in MVP form and he is playing better than ever.
  1. Seattle Seahawks (9-5-1)  – Ranked #7 last week
  • For the first time this season, the Seahawks lost a game in which they scored over 30 points as they dropped their 5th game of the season to Arizona by a score of 34-31. It was also the first time this season that the Seahawks defense allowed at least 30 points in a game this season but don’t worry about them. They have had rough games in the past but this group will bounce back even without Earl Thomas. Get ready for a potential matchup with Aaron Rodgers. 
  1.  Detroit Lions (9-6) – Ranked #9 last week
  • The Lions allowed 40+ points for the first time this season as they lost to the Cowboys and it was a tough game for the Lions after the 1st quarter. The Lions just need to look over the game film for what went wrong and focus on next week’s showdown against the Packers. The Lions have an opportunity of winning their division for the 1st time since 1993. The Lions defense will definitely need a huge bounce back game as they face a Packers team that has scored 30+ points in three straight games. 
  1. Washington Redskins (8-6-1) – Ranked #16 last week
  • Even with the disappointing loss to the Panthers, Washington is still alive in the playoff race. They easily took care of business against the Bears as they scored 41 points, the 2nd time this season that they have scored over 40 points in a game. Kirk Cousins and the Redskins will need to beat the Giants next week to give them a chance to sneak into the 2nd wild card spot in the NFC pending the Lions vs Packers matchup.
  1. Houston Texans (9-6) – Ranked #17 last week
  • Texans are AFC South champions but it looks like it will set up a rematch with the Chiefs in the wild card round. The Chiefs beat the Texans 30-0 last season in one of the worst losses in Texans franchise history. Not only will the defense need to contain playmakers Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce but Tom Savage will also have to be effective in the passing game. Testing the Chiefs secondary with downfield passes and taking care of the football will be the x-factor if the Texans will beat the Chiefs. Before that potential matchup, Tom Savage will get playing time and more experience next week vs Tennessee.
  1. Tennessee Titans (8-7) – Ranked #12 last week
  • Opportunities like this do not come around very often for the Titans and that should be the biggest thing learned for this Titans team this season. A win against the Jaguars would have set up a Titans vs Texans matchup in week 17 with the AFC South division and the #4 seed in the playoffs on the line but the Titans blew it. The Jaguars suddenly looked like one of the best offenses in the NFL. The play of the game was Bortles 1st career touchdown reception as he lined up as a receiver to the left and Marqise Lee lobbed it up to Bortles to seal the game. For a Titans defense that has performed very well over their last three games, this was a huge setback and ultimately costed their playoff chances. Keep your head up high Titans fans, 8 wins and one of the best rush offenses in the NFL is a good accomplishment.
  1. Baltimore Ravens (8-7) – Ranked #13 last week
  • The Ravens were about a minute in game time away from taking the lead in the AFC North but Big Ben had other plans. With the loss, the Ravens were eliminated from playoff contention and it will be back-to-back seasons without playoffs. With Steve Smith Jr likely retiring after this season, the Ravens will now look to find a new #1 wide receiver.
  1. Denver Broncos (8-7) – Ranked #14 last week
  • The defending champion Denver Broncos were officially eliminated from playoff contention with their disappointing loss to the Chiefs. It was an all-around ugly game as the Broncos did not record a sack, allowed over 200 rushing yards and allowed a 70-yard touchdown play and an 80-yard touchdown play. This is nothing like the Broncos that we all know but it was just a tough game from the start as the Chiefs dominated in all phases. To make matter worse, the Broncos offense totaled just 246 yards. In the off-season, John Elway will not have to worry about the defense but rather look to improve the offensive line and make the final decision on whether it will be Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch or another quarterback to become the Broncos franchise quarterback.
  1. New Orleans Saints (7-8) – Ranked #20 last week
  • It was good to see a New Orleans victory with Drew Brees getting help from all over. The Saints rushed for 123 yards against the Bucs with 93 and two touchdowns coming from Mark Ingram, who is now 60 yards away from his 1st 1,000 rushing yards season. On defense, the Saints were able to get a sack from Cameron Jordan and Sheldon Rankins as well as two interceptions from Jairus Byrd. Heading into next season, the Saints do have good talent on defense from Jordan to Fairley but depth will be the #1 goal for the Saints front office.
  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-7) – Ranked #15 last week
  • Although the Bucs need a near miracle to get into the playoffs, it is safe to say that the Bucs will miss out on playing playoff football this season. The Bucs loss to the Saints was the knockout blow to the Bucs playoffs chances as they needed a win to keep pace with Washington, Green Bay and Detroit. This season is far from a failure for the Bucs. They ended up with great wins over teams such as Seattle and Kansas City. Jameis Winston took a good step forward in going from 22 touchdown passes last season to currently 27 this season and he has increased his completion percentage over the 60% mark. Winston has also improved in play-action plays and throwing the football outside of the pocket. For the defense led by Gerald McCoy, they will only get better from here.
  1.  Indianapolis Colts (7-8) – Ranked #18 last week
  • For the 1st time in nearly 20 years, the Colts will miss the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. Like he’s done all season long, Andrew Luck tried to carry the Colts to victory but his interceptions and the Colts defense inability to stop the Raiders rush offense hurt their chance of a comeback. Colts GM Ryan Grigson will face plenty of questions this offseason: will the Colts go with Frank Gore, will they focus on linebacker and defensive line talent in the NFL Draft, and will the Colts look to build around Ryan Kelly in their offensive line?
  1. Arizona Cardinals (6-8-1) – Ranked #23 last week
  • You can always expect drama and unpredictable moments in Cardinals vs Seahawks games. Cardinals kicker Chandler Catanzaro was able to redeem himself from the previous meeting between the two NFC West teams as he kicked the game-winning field goal to give the Cardinals the win. This came right after the Seahawks game-tying TD with a Russell Wilson touchdown pass to Paul Richardson. This was one of the craziest games of the season as 41 total points were scored in the 4th quarter. If you love defense, then the 1st meeting of the season will suit you more but if you love a great offensive game, then this 34-31 Cardinals win over the Seahawks is the game for you. Also in this game, David Johnson continued to build up his Offensive Player of the Year resume as he reached over 2,000 yards from scrimmage on the season and scored his 20th total touchdown of the season.
  1. Buffalo Bills (7-8) – Ranked #19 last week
  • For the 3rd time this season, the Bills allowed a 200+ yard rusher in a game. The Ryan brothers were brought in to build a stout rush and pass defense and while they have been above average overall, they can also look like a disaster in a couple of games. Losing to the Dolphins might have been the final chance for Rex Ryan to prove that he is the coach to lead the team to the playoffs as they clinched their 11th non-winning season since 2005.  
  1. Minnesota Vikings (7-8) – Ranked #21 last week
  • As Vikings fans reflect back to this season, well what happened? With the loss to Green Bay, the Vikings were eliminated from playoff contention. The Vikings joined teams such as the 1993 Saints and 2009 Giants as teams to miss the playoffs even though they started the season 5-0. Despite not getting a ton of help from the offensive line and rushing attack, Sam Bradford was still able to throw for his 1st 300-yard and three touchdown game of the season against Green Bay. A healthy Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson will be something that Vikings fans can look forward to as well as the Vikings front office addressing the offensive line’s struggles.
  1. Philadelphia Eagles (6-9) – Ranked #25 last week
  • The Eagles beat the Giants and more importantly, Carson Wentz’s arm took a workload that was much lower compared to his previous three games. In Wentz’s previous three games, he threw at least 40 pass attempts in each of those games but against the Giants, he threw just 24 passes. Eagles had more play calls in for rushing plays to keep the offense unpredictable and it worked. It has been another disappointing losing season for the Eagles but a win in their season finale against the Cowboys can go a long way in terms of confidence building into next season.
  1. Carolina Panthers (6-9) – Ranked #22 last week
  • A season after being NFC champions, the Panthers clinched a losing season for the 3rd time in Ron Rivera’s tenure as head coach. Against the Falcons, Cam Newton had another poor game as he completed under 50% of his passes and he threw two crucial interceptions. With one game remaining, Newton has completed 52.7% of his passes with a ratio of 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Heading into next season, the development of defensive backs James Bradberry and Daryl Worley will be something to keep an eye on. It will be also interesting to see the Panthers draft game plan: get a dynamic rusher like Leonard Fournette, a wide receiver, or focus on offensive line help.
  1. Cincinnati Bengals (5-9-1) – Ranked #24 last week
  • The Bengals had a golden opportunity to beat the team that eliminated them in 2011 and 2012 but they were unable to do so in a game where Andy Dalton struggled without A.J Green, no rushing attack and an offensive line that had a tough time in pass and run blocking. The Texans escaped with a victory while the Bengals lost their 9th game of the season. Some Bengals fans continue to call for the firing of Marvin Lewis.
  1. San Diego Chargers (5-10) – Ranked #26 last week
  • The Chargers have quietly had one of the most frustrating seasons of any team in the NFL over the last decade. The team has faced relocation to Los Angeles rumors all season long, the devastating injuries, close losses throughout the season and now a loss to the Browns. Just looking ahead, making the move to Los Angeles might be the right move for financial reasons but the fans in San Diego deserve to keep their team there. As for the team, it is time for a fresh start with a new head coach as an all-important NFL Draft awaits.
  1. New York Jets (4-11) – Ranked #27 last week
  • Well, what can you now say about this Jets team? This week, they were blown out by the Patriots 41-3 and a “feud” has escalated between Sheldon Richardson and Brandon Marshall after Richardson called out Marshall right after the Jets latest loss. It is a guarantee that Ryan Fitzpatrick will be gone but will Todd Bowles follow and will the Jets go through a short rebuild?
  1. Chicago Bears (3-12) – Ranked #28 last week
  • While Bears fans are shaking their head at yet another loss by the Bears in a game which was not competitive, they can be proud that Jordan Howard is on their team. Howard recorded 119 rushing yards against Washington to bring his season total to 1,178 rushing yards. Howard is now averaging 5.1 yards per carry and he continues to be the bright spot in a three win Bears season. The Bears will definitely head into the off-season with a potential quarterback move in place and also looking to bolster their defensive line and linebacker depth.
  1. Los Angeles Rams (4-11) – Ranked #29 last week
  • It has been a difficult season for the Rams with one of the worst offense in the NFL and a coach that was fired a month before the end of the season but they might have just hit rock bottom with their latest loss. It is not just the fact that they lost to a then one win 49ers team but they lost bragging rights to one of their now most disliked rivals. Like the Lakers and Warriors/Kings, Kings and Sharks, and of course the Giants and Dodgers, Rams and 49ers have joined the Los Angeles and Bay Area sports rivalry. This season, the 49ers finished the 2-0 sweep over the Rams with a shutout victory in their 1st meeting and a late touchdown victory in their 2nd meeting. Jared Goff said that things will get better from here and with the talent on this team, there should be no doubt that things will only go up from here.
  1. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-12) – Ranked #30 last week
  • Wonder what Gus Bradley was thinking when he was watching the Jaguars vs Titans matchup? The Jaguars have been dreadful on offense throughout the season and their defense has been unreliable but it was a completely unrecognizable team against the Titans. Blake Bortles threw for over 300 passing yards on a 68% pass completion percentage with a touchdown pass and touchdown reception. Allen Robinson totaled for 147 yards with his longest reception of the day going for 37 yards. On defense, the Jaguars held the Titans #3 rush offense to 58 yards and the Jags were able to get two takeaways. Did this Jags team really dislike Gus Bradley that much or what? This is the Jags team that has received all of the preseason hype and coverage to be a sleeper team in the AFC but it’s way too late now. Jags interim head coach Doug Marrone can make a strong case to be in consideration for the head coaching position next season with a convincing win over the Colts next week.
  1. San Francisco 49ers (2-13) – Ranked #31 last week
  • The 49ers won their 2nd game of the season but also lost the #1 pick in the NFL Draft that they temporarily held due to the Browns win. In what was projected to be a boring and lackluster game, the 49ers and Rams game came down to the ending stages of the 4th quarter where the 49ers drove downfield for a game-winning touchdown with a 2-point conversion to secure a victory.
  1. Cleveland Browns (1-14) – Ranked #32 last week
  • The Browns finally did it. The Browns “shocked” the NFL world with their 1st win of the season against the Chargers after a last second missed field goal attempt by San Diego. It was an ugly game to watch as RG3 and Cody Kessler were sacked for a combined 9 times but Browns fans just care that they will not be 0-16. Expect a parade almost as big as the Cavaliers championship parade.