Todd Gurley and the NFC West champs are entering the final week of the regular season with plenty of momentum
The last week of the NFL regular season is finally here after a long slog of 16 weeks full of injuries, upsets and wild endings galore. While we know where most of the league is headed in either the postseason or in the draft, there’s still plenty to play for on the final Sunday in the NFL and all that it brings with it.
Doing as much as one can to sort through all that and factoring in everything from overall roster strength, to quarterback play, to the coaching staff, here is the latest edition of NFL power rankings and where every team stacks up from 1 to 32.
Week 17 NFL Power Rankings
1. New England Patriots
Last week: 1
Safe to say halftime adjustments were pretty good out of Bill Belichick and his staff in that romp over Buffalo, even if things in the first half were pretty close. Still, the class of the AFC looks well positioned for a title defense and a run toward a historic Lombardi Trophy if Rob Gronkowski (above, right) and company keep up this level of play.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last week: 2
No team they face in the postseason will be anywhere close to as bad as the Texans were on Christmas but at least that kind of all-around domination with the first team in is a nice way to forget about the ending of the Patriots game. How far this team can go after next week though might depend on the health of Antonio Brown, the league’s leading receiver.
3. Minnesota Vikings
Last week: 3
Amazing to see the Vikings recorded their first shutout since 1993 on Saturday and their first against the Packers since... 1971. Given the frigid conditions, that was still a pretty solid all-around performance and they won’t have to worry about those kinds of temperatures unless they see the Eagles in the NFC playoffs.
4. Carolina Panthers
Last week: 4
The Panthers aren’t mathematically eliminated from securing a first-round bye in the playoffs but even if they don’t, this is still a pretty dangerous team if you’re trying to game plan around them. That effort against the Bucs was concerning though, especially when it came to the pass defense, but it definitely helps to have Cam Newton at quarterback to lead a rally just when you need it.
5. Los Angeles Rams
Last week: 5
From league laughing stock to NFC West champs, it’s been quite the ride for the Rams and their new coaching staff. While this will be the most inexperienced team in the playoffs, you can’t say they’re not a threat to win it all given how well Todd Gurley and the defense are playing right now.
6. New Orleans Saints
Last week: 6
While that was a rather strange game against the Falcons to put the Saints back in the driver’s seat for the NFC South, those kinds of defensive stands are the ones you’ll need come time for the postseason if you want to go further than Wild Card Weekend.
7. Phiadelphia Eagles
Last week: 7
The No. 1 seed is clinched, which was the biggest news in that win over Oakland on Christmas. Still, not exactly the kind of performance you wanted out of the Eagles against a team playing only for pride on national TV and perhaps a bit concerning given how the rest of the NFC is peaking right now.
8. Kansas City Chiefs
Last week: 12
Beating up on Miami isn’t that impressive but it’s pretty clear that the Chiefs are back in the groove that we saw much earlier in the year on offense. Alex Smith and this defense isn’t going to cause anybody to say KC is a true Super Bowl contender but the matchup issues this team causes make them a tough out in the playoffs.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last week: 8
While the Jags did run into the Jimmy G. buzz kill, that kind of performance from Blake Bortles is why nobody really trusts this team in the postseason — especially on the road.
10. Atlanta Falcons
Last week: 9
Atlanta fans have seen that performance in the Superdome all too often but a wild-card berth is still in the cards for this team if they can bounce back on Sunday. All things considered this hasn’t been an awful Super Bowl hangover type of year but as any Falcons fan would lament, it hasn’t been a good one either with the offensive struggles in big moments.
11. Baltimore Ravens
Last week: 11
You expected a little more out of this team at home against the lowly Colts but the bottom line is the Ravens are a step closer to reaching the playoffs after winning five of their last six. Joe Flacco has seemed to find his stride in the passing game, which is good news considering how opponents will want to make Baltimore one-dimensional in crunch time next month.
12. Seattle Seahawks
Last week: 16
That win was probably more about the Cowboys’ blown opportunities than the Seahawks snatching a victory but at least the team lives to fight another day for a postseason berth. And is anybody really going to count out Russell Wilson rallying to claim that final NFC spot? Given how he’s been in the fourth quarter, the answer is nobody.
13. Los Angeles Chargers
Last week: 16
Not the nicest of performances against the beat-up Jets but L.A. will take it as the Rams keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Maybe you could blame that outing on flying across the country but the team will need more if they want to close out the season on a high note next Sunday.
14. Dallas Cowboys
Last week: 10
It’s a good thing Jerry Jones kept insisting that Jason Garrett’s job status was not in question after the way Dallas blew that game against Seattle because just about everybody else might have been thinking about packing their bags following that debacle.
15. Tennessee Titans
Last week: 17
In a year where it should be a cakewalk to make the AFC playoffs, the fact that the Titans may miss out is reason enough for a coaching change. The regression of Marcus Mariota and the offense might be the bigger issue as a once promising season in Nashville slips away.
16. Detroit Lions
Last week: 13
On the road with a playoff berth on the line, it seemed like everybody in Detroit was expecting that kind of game out of the Lions as they kissed their postseason hopes goodbye. Given how the roster has underachieved this year, it’s safe to say that the debate will be vigorous over whether this coaching staff should return.
17. Buffalo Bills
Last week: 18
There’s still a chance to break that 17-year playoff drought despite the loss that Patriots, which really seemed to turn after that controversial play just before halftime completely flipped momentum for the Bills. Still, this team needs plenty of help to sneak into the big dance at the end.
18. San Francisco 49ers
Last week: 22
Jimmy G. may not lose ever again. It’s remarkable how much a top-flight quarterback has injected life into this team and could make the 49ers a division contender in 2018 given the trajectory they’re on.
19. Washington Redskins
Last week: 19
Was that the final game Kirk Cousins has played at FedEx Field? If it was, not a terrible way to go out given how well the offense was moving the ball on what is still a pretty solid defensive unit.
20. Arizona Cardinals
Last week: 20
You know things are going well when the incomparable Larry Fitzgerald is completing passes. Given the way the year has played out in terms of injuries, even being in position to squeak out a .500 season is quite the accomplishment for this group.
21. Green Bay Packers
Last week: 15
The ending to 2017 has been like air slowly being let out of a balloon in Green Bay but the upside of all these young players getting game experience is that the front office has a better idea of what they need in what is looking like a pivotal offseason.
22. Oakland Raiders
Last week: 21
While Jack Del Rio may be safe as head coach, it seems pretty apparent that the rest of the coaching staff will be full of new faces in Oakland next season — and you wonder how many veterans might join them on the way out of town after the way things have gone down the stretch.
23. Cincinnati Bengals
Last week: 26
Nice way to send Marvin Lewis off with a win in what is all but certain to be his final appearance in Cincinnati as the Bengals’ head coach.
24. Miami Dolphins
Last week: 23
This team having a 6-9 record given some of the injuries they’ve had is about the only thing nice about the Dolphins in another forgettable season in South Florida.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last week: 24
Giving up six sacks and fumbling three times will lose games in the NFL every time and Tampa certainly knows that after nearly pulling the upset of Carolina on Sunday. That was one of the better performances the team has had in a while and sets up a whole bunch of questions about the franchise going forward.
26. Chicago Bears
Last week: 25
Every Bears fan saw that they were a home favorite to Cleveland and just assumed the worst on Sunday. Things didn’t play out that way as the defense stood tall in the red zone and the offense seemed to do okay given the conditions.
27. Denver Broncos
Last week: 27
The game against the Redskins was probably not as big of a deal for those in Denver than the fact that John Elway was scouting Wyoming QB Josh Allen at the Potato Bowl last week.
28. New York Jets
Last week: 28
If there was any question that the Bryce Petty experiment would be done after this season, his play against the Chargers probably put an end to things. Still, more gutsy play against a potential playoff team by an undermanned Jets team once again.
29. Indianapolis Colts
Last week: 31
A good fight by the Colts on the road despite being overmatched against the bruising Ravens. It’s even better that they were at least competitive in the game while also keeping that high draft slot in the end though.
30. New York Giants
Last week: 29
Dreadful performance out in the desert as the offense was shutout but at least the Giants secured the No. 2 pick in the draft.
31. Houston Texans
Last week: 30
There’s bad, and there’s bad luck. The Texans are what happens when you combine both of those things. To make matters worse, they could lock up a pair of top four picks in the NFL draft... for Cleveland.
32. Cleveland Browns
Last week: 32
The words everybody has expected to hear are now true: The Cleveland Browns are now on the clock in the 2018 NFL Draft. (Having two top-five picks doesn’t hurt either)
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.