The first 17-game season in NFL history is well underway. And while there are still plenty of games ahead to judge how we remember this season, we’ve already seen big changes in our NFL power rankings:
Following another exciting week of the 2021 NFL season, let’s dive into our Week 17 NFL power rankings.
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32. Jacksonville Jaguars (LW: 32)
The Jacksonville Jaguars can tolerate losing, it happens pretty much every week. But seeing James Robinson go down with a torn Achilles, was a devastating blow for this franchise. If there’s any bright side for Jacksonville, being last in the NFL power rankings also means getting the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.
31. Detroit Lions (LW: 29)
Already one of the worst NFL teams in 2021, starting a backup quarterback and running back only made things worse for the Detroit Lions. While Dan Campbell’s squad lost, they once again showed a rare level of fight for a team at the bottom of the NFL standings and that keeps them out of the last spot in our NFL power rankings.
30. New York Giants (LW: 27)
Ignore records, this is where the New York Giants belong in NFL power rankings. This is a franchise without competent leadership, which starts at the ownership level and trickles down everywhere. While teams like the New York Jets and Houston Texans have a bright future, the same can’t be said about the Giants.
29. New York Jets (LW: 31)
Zach Wilson delivered one of his wildest performances of the year to end 2021. The New York Jets rookie didn’t fare well through the air (102 yards on 22 attempts), but 91 rushing yards and a 52-yard touchdown run will get fans excited. But what’s even better for New York, far more meaningful than the win, Michael Carter providing he can be a force in this offense.
28. Houston Texans (LW: 30)
Maybe the Houston Texans have something in Davis Mills. Since replacing Tyrod Taylor, Mills has completed 73-of-106 attempts (69% completion rate) with a 5-1 TD-INT ratio, 794 passing yards and a 3-1 record. It’s more than enough to make him the starter in 2022, especially since the draft class lacks a high-end quarterback prospect.
27. Carolina Panthers (LW: 26)
Firing Joe Brady didn’t fix the problem and rotating quarterbacks isn’t suddenly fixing the Carolina Panthers. Matt Rhule will be given another season, but it’s fair to wonder if the college coach who only spent a single season in the NFL (2012, New York Giants offensive line coach) just isn’t a fit for pro football.
26. Seattle Seahawks (LW: 24)
We’re in the final days of the Russell Wilson era. It was evident even before the Seattle Seahawks took the field in Week 16. The fact that they blew a lead in the fourth quarter, with bad coaching and worse throws by Wilson proving costly in the final minutes, it’s quite clear an organizational overhaul is necessary.
25. Chicago Bears (LW: 28)
The Chicago Bears won in Week 16, but the biggest win wasn’t seen on scoreboard. Matt Nagy is headed out the door and sweeping organizational changes are on the table. It’s something this franchise desperately needs and while the Bears will likely be near the bottom of our 2022 NFL power rankings, the future will be brighter with new leaders in charge.
24. Atlanta Falcons (LW: 25)
Look what happens when Kyle Pitts is an integral part of this offense. The Atlanta Falcons still technically have playoff hopes, but everyone knows that outcome is practically impossible. Really, these victories are only hurting the Falcons’ draft position. But we’ll give the front office some benefit of the doubt, believing they will begin the long rebuild.
23. Washington Football Team (LW: 22)
If the Washington Football Team gained anything from Sunday’s blowout loss it was clarity. Taylor Heinicke, as nice as his redemption story might be, isn’t a starting-caliber quarterback for a playoff contender. With five interceptions, 10 sacks taken and a 73.6 passer rating in the last four games, Washington should now realize it must do better this offseason.
22. Denver Broncos (LW: 21)
The Denver Broncos season is effectively over, even with two games left on the schedule. For fans, the focus now shifts to the offseason as it will be a defining moment for this team’s future. if the Broncos bring in the right owner and land a franchise-caliber quarterback, this can be a great team in 2022.
21. Las Vegas Raiders (LW: 23)
The Las Vegas Raiders coaching search is underway, the start of a crucial process for this franchise. While this team is still competing on the field, with two games remaining, hiring the right head coach and potentially general manager will be pivotal in the outcome of this team’s offseason goals.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers (LW: 18)
Even to the casual observer, it quickly became evident on Sunday that the Pittsburgh Steelers were going to get pushed around by the Kansas City Chiefs. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. The Steelers are still floating at the .500 mark and have slim playoff odds, but this team doesn’t deserve to compete in the postseason and it won’t.
19. Minnesota Vikings (LW: 19)
The Minnesota Vikings are headed for a losing season. Fans will remember 2021 for all the one-score losses and constant heartbreak, but this year could be exactly what the organization needed. Failing to reach the playoffs means sweeping organizational changes are possible and this team could finally hit the reset button.
18. New Orleans Saints (LW: 17)
The New Orleans Saints have a recipe for winning games. When the defense plays up to its talent level and when Alvin Kamara is treated as the centerpiece of this offense, this team can compete in nearly every game. Unfortunately, the Saints were without north of 20 players due to COVID-19 protocols Week 16 against the Dolphins. Fresh off shutting out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, this led to a 20-3 loss with rookie Ian Book finding himself sacked eight times. It’s hard to move the Saints down too much given these issues.
17. Cleveland Browns (LW: 16)
While the Cleveland Browns still have a shot of making the playoffs, the odds of competing in the postseason are just as likely as Baker Mayfield becoming the franchise-caliber quarterback this franchise needs. It’s time for the front office to evaluate its potential quarterback options this offseason because it’s clear Mayfield hasn’t earned an extension.
16. Baltimore Ravens (LW: 15)
No NFL team is happier 2021 is over than the Baltimore Ravens. Injuries decimated this roster on both sides of the ball, stripping away key starters who are integral to this team’s success. Starting a third-string quarterback, fourth-string running back and backup corners, just being here in the NFL power rankings is a credit to John Harbaugh.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (LW: 20)
Three consecutive victories for the Philadelphia Eagles and suddenly this team looks like a playoff threat. Philadelphia didn’t need its rushing attack to dominate the New York Giants because Jalen Hurts (199 yards, 2 TDs) and this defense (two takeaways, 192 total yards allowed) carried the team. If Philadelphia wins in Week 17, which is very possible against Washington, Nick Sirianni and Co. will have a well-earned winning record.
14. Miami Dolphins (LW: 13)
From 1-7 to 8-7, the turnaround by the Miami Dolphins is remarkable. Brian Flores was squarely on the hot seat over a month ago and now this team is fighting its way into playoff consideration. We’re likely at Miami’s ceiling in the NFL power rankings, but it deserved appreciation for this seven-game win streak.
13. San Francisco 49ers (LW: 11)
So much for the San Francisco 49ers believing Jimmy Garoppolo can still be the starter in 2022. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan settled this season and it could have long-term consequences. Or maybe everything is going according to plan, a plan that Lynch firmly believes in as he reads through tweets at Christmas Eve mass.
12. Los Angeles Chargers (LW: 8)
This is fitting for the Los Angeles Chargers. A week after putting up an incredible fight against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Chargers looked completely flat. Losing to the Houston Texans, the owner of the worst roster in the NFL, is inexcusable. But it’s also so typical of this franchise.
11. Arizona Cardinals (LW: 9)
As promised, the Arizona Cardinals drop from the top-10 of our NFL power rankings after a third consecutive loss. What makes it even worse is that the Indianapolis Colts played short-handed due to COVID-19, but still found a way to win. Set to face the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17, things look bleak for Arizona.
10. New England Patritos (LW: 7)
When the New England Patriots defense isn’t dominating, it puts a lot of pressure on rookie Mac Jones to perform. Once again, we saw he isn’t ready for the game to be on his shoulders. Jones completed just 43.7% of his passes, averaged 4.5 ypa and was picked off twice. All of those mistakes and missed throws are why the Patriots have plummeted down the Week 17 NFL power rankings.
9. Tennessee Titans (LW: 14)
A healthy A.J. Brown makes all the difference. We still aren’t seeing the 2020 version of Ryan Tannehill, largely because Derrick Henry is on injured reserve. But the offense finally looked explosive again with Brown back on the field and that pairs nicely with an underrated defense. If we know Henry is 100% for the playoffs, the Titans will be a lot higher in our NFL power rankings.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (LW: 12)
The Cincinnati Bengals owned Baltimore this season. While it’s fair to argue Sunday’s victory came against a Ravens’ roster that is killed by injuries, this marks two huge wins over Baltimore in 2021. Moving to 9-6 on the season with firm control of the AFC North, the Bengals are one of the best stories in 2021.
7. Los Angeles Rams (LW: 6)
The Los Angeles Rams had to scrap their way ti victory on a day when Matthew Stafford (3 INTs) was off. But the good news is this team found a way to win despite the turnovers, which wasn’t the case in November. Los Angeles is in the drivers’ seat for the NFC West and that home playoff game and it could be a huge advantage.
6. Buffalo Bills (LW: 10)
That’s what everyone wanted to see from the Buffalo Bills. On the road at Gillette Stadium, Josh Allen played at an MVP-caliber level and the defense resembled the takeaway-generating machine we saw earlier in the season. Atop the AFC East, this version of the Buffalo Bills can challenge for the Super Bowl.
5. Indianapolis Colts (LW: 4)
Credit where credit is due. The Indianapolis Colts needed Carson Wentz to come up clutch in the fourth quarter and he delivered one of his best stretches in 2021. Indianapolis won with a backup offensive line and without linebacker Darius Leonard. While the Colts are still a tier below the top teams in our NFL power rankings, the gap is narrowing.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (LW: 3)
There’s a reason Bruce Arians keeps going against his morals for Antonio Brown. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers desperately needed a playmaker with Chris Godwin (torn ACL) done for the year and Brown filled that void. As for the other injuries (Mike Evans, Lavonte David, Leonard Fournette), all that matters is they’ll be healthy for the playoffs.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (LW: 2)
Playing without Travis Kelce and watching the Steelers blanket Tyreek Hill, Patrick Mahomes was forced to live with the underneath throws on Sunday. To no one’s surprise, it worked. Mahomes delivered one of his best games of the season, pushing Kansas City to an easy win over Pittsburgh. The Chiefs are back as the best team in the AFC and there’s at least a case to put them No.1 in the NFL power rankings.
2. Green Bay Packers (LW: 1)
Another win for the Green Bay Packers means they are the runaway favorite to earn the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. But the best team in the NFL is alarmingly flawed. With opponents averaging 166 rushing yards per game against Green Bay in the last three weeks, that’s a new problem that Green Bay is running out of time to solve.
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1. Dallas Cowboys (LW: 5)
The Dallas Cowboys have put it all together. Inconsistency on offense was the one thing holding this team back, but Dak Prescott played like an MVP on Sunday Night Football and this aerial attack loaded with stars finally put it all together. When you pair that with an elite defense and excellent special teams, everything comes together. The most well-rounded and talented team deserves the No. 1 spot in our NFL power rankings entering Week 17.