NFL power rankings, Week 17 | Football

NFL power rankings, Week 17 | Football

Each week of the NFL season, The Baltimore Sun will rank all 32 NFL teams. The rankings will take into account not only weekly performance, injuries and roster depth, but also how well each team measures up as a Super Bowl contender.

Here are the standings in Week 17:

The main candidates

1. Philadelphia Eagles (13-2, No. 1 last week)

2. Kansas City Chiefs (12-3, No. 2)

3. Buffalo Bills (12-3, No. 3)

4. Cincinnati Bengals (11-4, No. 4)

5. San Francisco 49ers (11-4, No. 5)

The Eagles had a chance to secure the NFC East title and the No. 1 overall seed in the conference in a 40-34 loss to the Cowboys on Christmas Eve, but there’s no reason to panic just yet. With quarterback Jalen Hurts sidelined as he recovers from a sprained shoulder, Philadelphia nearly beat Dallas with backup Gardner Minshew throwing for 355 yards and two touchdowns thanks in large part to standout receivers DeVonta Smith and AJ Brown. Despite three costly turnovers by Minshew — including a third-quarter fumble and fourth-quarter interception that led directly to Cowboys points — the Eagles still had a chance to win in the final minute. If Hurts can return soon and help Philadelphia secure a first-round bye, this loss won’t mean much.

The Eagles’ loss was just the only change at the helm this week. Kansas City beat Seattle, 24-10, for its eighth win in its last nine games; Buffalo outscored Chicago, 35-13, for sixth straight victory; Cincinnati held off New England, 22-18, for its seventh straight victory; and San Francisco defeated Washington, 37-20, for its eighth straight league win. The 49ers haven’t lost a game with rookie Brock Purdy joining Hall of Famer Kurt Warner as the only two quarterbacks since 1950 to start their careers 3-0 with multiple passes in each game. Even a second consecutive lackluster performance by the Bengals, who nearly blew a 22-0 lead, wasn’t enough to end their streak. Don’t overlook Cincinnati’s dominance in the first half, which included Joe Burrow completing 28 passes — the most by any quarterback in a half this season — for 284 yards and three touchdowns.

Disadvantaged competitors

6. Minnesota Vikings (12-3, No. 6)

7. Dallas Cowboys (11-4, No. 7)

8. Baltimore Ravens (10-5, No. 8)

9. Los Angeles Chargers (9-6, No. 9)

The Vikings can apparently keep getting away with this one. Thanks to running back Greg Joseph’s 61-yard field goal as time expired in a 27-24 win over the Giants, Minnesota is now 11-0 in one-possession games this season. Even a poor defensive performance against an uninspiring Giants offense wasn’t enough to derail the Vikings, who look like this year’s lucky team given how they’ve continued to make plays in clutch moments. That includes a blocked punt and two forced turnovers Saturday, as well as a bit of luck on a dropped interception by Giants rookie cornerback Cor’Dale Flott late in the third quarter. The old saying goes that it’s better to be lucky than good, and no team embodies that philosophy more than Minnesota.

The Ravens have been anything but lucky this season, enduring more injuries and late-game collapses than any team. However, they are still postseason bound thanks to a 17-9 win over the Falcons on Saturday, once again led by their running game and a dominant defense. The absence of star quarterback Lamar Jackson due to a sprained knee makes the Ravens one of the biggest mysteries in the league heading into January, with everything from a wild-card loss to an improbable Super Bowl run Bowl apparently on the table. At stake is Jackson’s uncertain future in Baltimore as he completes the final year of his rookie deal. Will he be healthy enough to play well and earn the big contract he wants, or will the Ravens settle for putting the franchise tag on the 2019 MVP in 2023? Is there a scenario in which Jackson and the Ravens are so far apart in negotiations that both sides are looking to move forward? It’s a fascinating team both on and off the pitch, mainly because so much is still unknown.

Wild cards

10. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-8, No. 13)

11. Miami Dolphins (8-7, No. 10)

12. New York Giants (8-6-1, No. 12)

13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-8, No. 19)

14. Green Bay Packers (7-8, No. 20)

What a difference a few weeks make. Heading into their Week 11, the Jaguars were 3-7 and facing the 7-3 Titans in the AFC South. With four wins in their last five games to coincide with a five-game losing streak to Tennessee, Jacksonville looks poised to win its first division title since 2017. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence has been the driving force behind the turnaround, as the 2021 No. 1 overall draft pick has completed 66.7% of his passes for 1,415 yards with 11 touchdowns and just one interception in his last five games. In Thursday night’s 19-3 win over the Jets, the defense stole the show, allowing just 4.1 yards per play, recording three sacks and forcing two turnovers. If they beat the Texans and Titans to close out the season, the Jags can complete one of the best turnarounds from worst to first in NFL history.

While Lawrence is part of a growing group of young quarterbacks in the AFC, the old guard in the NFC isn’t going away just yet. With an ugly 19-16 overtime win over the Cardinals on Christmas night, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers maintained their lead in the lowly NFC South. It was far from an inspiring performance from Brady, who threw two interceptions and averaged 5.9 yards per attempt. Tampa Bay needed a fumble recovery with 4:49 left in regulation to overcome a 16-6 deficit and run out the clock against a team already eliminated from playoff contention and playing a third-string quarterback in Trace McSorley.

The Packers’ performance was a bit more inspiring, especially on the defensive end. After allowing 20 points in the first half, Green Bay stopped Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on three straight drives in the fourth quarter to help erase a 10-point deficit in a 26-20 victory. Aaron Rodgers was far from perfect, finishing with a lower passer rating than Tagovailoa (78.6 vs. 80.8), but the Packers remain a dangerous team with the MVP running back leading the offense. If starting receiver Christian Watson can avoid missing more time after leaving Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury, Green Bay’s offense may finally be able to live up to its promise.

It’s not done yet

15. Detroit Lions (7-8, No. 11)

16. Seattle Seahawks (7-8, No. 15)

17. Washington Commanders (7-7-1, No. 16)

18. New York Jets (7-8, No. 17)

19. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8, No. 23)

20. New England Patriots (7-8, No. 22)

21. Tennessee Titans (7-8, No. 14)

22. New Orleans Saints (6-9, No. 24)

23. Carolina Panthers (6-9, No. 25)

The race for the final three playoff spots in each conference will be fascinating. With the Giants and Buccaneers likely to punch their tickets to the NFC, it will be a four-way battle between Detroit, Seattle, Washington and Green Bay for the final spot. While the Lions came back down to earth in a 37-23 loss to the Panthers in which they allowed 570 total yards, they still have a talented roster that is more than capable of winning against the Bears and Packers. Seattle was woeful against the 49ers and Chiefs in back-to-back weeks, but quarterback Geno Smith and company showed flashes of being a postseason contender during their 6-3 start.

The Commanders and Jets are perhaps the two most intriguing playoff contenders left considering their quarterback situations. After more problems with turnovers and red-zone scoring in Saturday’s loss to the 49ers, Taylor Heinicke was benched for Carson Wentz, who will likely get the chance to start the last two weeks. The Jets, meanwhile, may have seen the last of quarterback Zach Wilson, as the No. 2 overall in 2021 struggled once again in a loss to the Jaguars. With Mike White cleared to return from a rib injury, New York should at least have some hope that the offense can move the ball and give its outstanding defense a chance to win.


24. Los Angeles Rams (5-10, No. 27)

25. Las Vegas Raiders (6-9, No. 18)

26. Cleveland Browns (6-9, No. 21)

27. Atlanta Falcons (5-10, No. 26)

28. Indianapolis Colts (4-10-1, No. 30)

29. Chicago Bears (3-12, No. 29)

30. Arizona Cardinals (4-11, No. 31)

31. Houston Texans (2-12-1, No. 32)

32. Denver Broncos (4-11, No. 28)

The Broncos didn’t even give head coach Nathaniel Hackett a chance to finish his first season, firing the former Packers assistant on Monday after an ugly 51-14 loss to the Rams on Christmas Day. While Hackett didn’t help himself with clock mismanagement and questionable decision-making, most of the blame falls at the feet of Russell Wilson, who threw three interceptions on Sunday to continue the worst season of his career. Denver invested so much in Wilson — including a premium draft package and $161 million guaranteed over a five-year deal — and expected immediate results. Instead, the Broncos are stuck with Wilson’s onerous contract and are now back in the coaching market. It’s hard to see a path back to contention without finding a player who can coax the most out of the 34-year-old quarterback.

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