Week 17 NFL Power Rankings: Bills and Chiefs Maintain AFC Supremacy

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Of the eight best teams on this list last week, the Philadelphia Eagles were the only team that lost this week. Despite the loss, my confidence in the Eagles isn’t shaken. Losing a game to one of the other strong teams in the NFC while starting a backup quarterback isn’t enough for me to drop the Eagles from the top spot in The Ringer’s NFL power rankings. The futures market remains high on the Eagles, too, as they rank first in betting odds among NFC teams to win the conference (+170) and the Super Bowl (+490). The AFC remains a three-horse race between the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, and Cincinnati Bengals for as long as Lamar Jackson is sidelined, but Trevor Lawrence and the red-hot Jacksonville Jaguars could be this year’s surprise playoff team to go on a run. Check out the rest of the updated NFL power rankings below.

Best of the Best

1. Philadelphia Eagles (13-2 | last week’s ranking: 1)

Gardner Minshew gave the Eagles a legitimate chance against the Cowboys on Saturday, but the Eagles’ second-half turnovers squandered any hope they had of clinching the NFC East title in Week 16. Whether it will be Minshew or Jalen Hurts quarterbacking the Eagles for the next two weeks, they simply can’t turn the ball over at the rate they did against Dallas if they hope to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

2. Buffalo Bills (12-3 | last week: 2)

The Bills will be an unstoppable force in the postseason if they run as well as they did against Chicago. The Bills entered Week 16 with the 26th-ranked offense in expected points added per rush; they hadn’t had a game this season when they’d rushed for more than 175 yards. Led by Devin Singletary (106 yards) and James Cook (99), the Bills rushed for more than 250 yards and finished the week second in EPA per rush in a truly dominant win over the Bears. Winning 35-13 in a game in which Josh Allen completed only 58 percent of his passes and threw two picks is an example of balance and shows that the Bills have a margin for error that the rest of the AFC should be scared of.

3. Kansas City Chiefs (12-3 | last week: 3)

There’s not a whole lot more to say here about Patrick Mahomes, so just watch this highlight on repeat:

Mahomes is in a tier by himself in terms of quarterback play this season. No one is doing it better than him right now, and the Chiefs are juggernauts because of it.

Deep Postseason Contenders

4. Cincinnati Bengals (11-4 | last week: 4)

Second-half sloppiness nearly cost the Bengals a much-needed win over a bad Pats team on Saturday, but they managed to survive the chaos and escape Foxborough with a win. The version of Joe Burrow and the Bengals that led 22-0 over New England at the half is a team that should be competing for an AFC championship. The danger comes if the sloppy second-half team we saw on Saturday shows up in critical games next month.

5. San Francisco 49ers (11-4 | last week: 5)

Brock Purdy’s 49ers are Super Bowl contenders. The 49ers are undefeated in their last four games with Purdy at the helm, and they’ve had the third-ranked scoring offense in that same stretch of games. Purdy still isn’t throwing the ball downfield a ton, but he doesn’t have to. The floor of the offense is already so high with Kyle Shanahan pulling the strings and the 49ers’ elite cast of weapons; Purdy just needs to distribute and keep the offense on schedule.

6. Dallas Cowboys (11-4 | last week: 6)

Outside of an improbable pick-six to Josh Sweat early in the first quarter, Dak Prescott was nearly flawless in the Cowboys’ 40-34 win over the Eagles. He completed 27 of 35 passes for 347 yards, with three touchdowns along with that pick. His best pass of the day—and arguably his season—was a 52-yard strike to the newly signed veteran T.Y. Hilton on third-and-30 when the Cowboys were trailing 34-27 in the fourth quarter. Prescott will be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFC playoff race, which bodes well for the Cowboys’ chances to go on a run, even if they end up as the no. 5 seed.

7. Minnesota Vikings (12-3 | last week: 7)

Justin Jefferson is a runaway favorite (minus-800) to win Offensive Player of the Year, and rightfully so. No other non-quarterback has done more for their team this season than Jefferson. Tyreek Hill has blown the top off the ceiling of the Dolphins’ offense, but what separates Jefferson is what he does to raise the floor for the Vikings offense and help his team win close games.

8. Baltimore Ravens (10-5 | last week: 8)

The Ravens are fortunate that they were able to run against Atlanta’s defense on Saturday because their passing attack is still abysmal, with backup Tyler Huntley starting in place of the injured Lamar Jackson. Huntley has ranked 30th in EPA per dropback since Jackson’s injury; the only quarterbacks who are ranked below him and have enough dropbacks to qualify over the three weeks are Brett Rypien, Trace McSorley, and Colt McCoy. Jackson suffered a sprained PCL in Week 13 but is expected to be healthy enough to return to the field prior to the end of the regular season.

Dangerous Wild-Card Hopefuls

9. Los Angeles Chargers (9-6, last week: 10)

The Chargers clinched a playoff berth with their convincing win over the Colts on Monday Night Football. Justin Herbert is as good as any quarterback in the NFL, and now Brandon Staley’s defense is gaining steam (though it helps to play an inept offensive team like Indianapolis). It’s not outrageous to imagine the Chargers as a legitimate Super Bowl threat if they can continue to produce on both sides of the ball.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-8 | last week: 12)

Trevor Lawrence put on a show against the vaunted Jets defense on Thursday in consistent rain and cold winds. He completed 20 of 31 passes for 229 yards and finished Week 16 eighth in EPA per dropback among starters. That Lawrence could play so well in those conditions is a sign that the Jags are equipped for some competitive January football.

11. Miami Dolphins (8-7 | last week: 9)

The only reason the Dolphins aren’t in a lower tier on this list is because I still believe in first-year head coach Mike McDaniel’s ability to maximize the offense and the roster—with or without quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa entered the concussion protocol on Monday, a day after he struggled in the fourth quarter of the Packers’ loss to Green Bay. Tagovailoa threw picks on Miami’s final three possessions. Miami’s roster is talented, and now it’s up to McDaniel to get creative with backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and hope the Dolphins can play mistake-free football to end their four-game skid.

Still in the Playoff Hunt, but Fraudulent

12. Detroit Lions (7-8 | last week: 11)

Just as the Lions started to receive national attention for their high-scoring offense and an improved defense, the Panthers beat them to a pulp. Carolina rushed for more than 300 yards and averaged 7.4 yards per carry in an absolute bludgeoning of Detroit’s front seven on Saturday. It’s hard to buy the Lions as legit playoff contenders after such an embarrassing blowout loss.

13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-8 | last week: 16)

The Bucs offense is sloppy and lethargic. The supporting cast lacks top-end speed and explosiveness, and the offensive play-calling can lull you to sleep. The only reason the Buccaneers aren’t in the mix for a top pick in next year’s draft is because Tom Brady is still capable of comebacks like what we saw against the Cardinals on Sunday Night Football.

14. Green Bay Packers (7-8 | last week: 22)

It’s fitting that Aaron Rodgers’s Packers are ranked here because I view them as very similar to the Bucs, one spot above. Both teams have underperformed all season, with aging quarterbacks who are capable of much better production in better situations. Both have supporting offensive casts that are underwhelming, and the play-calling for both teams is dangerously conservative and predictable. However, all that can’t hide the fact that Brady is still Brady and Rodgers is still Rodgers. If the Packers can win their next two games—they’ll need another strong performance from the secondary like they got against Miami on Christmas if they want to slow down Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson—they could make the playoffs. And if they get there, Rodgers is capable of carrying the Packers to a postseason win, given how inconsistent the NFC has been all season.

15. Seattle Seahawks (7-8 | last week: 13)

The Seahawks have hit a wall. In weeks 1-9, Seattle ranked sixth in scoring offense and seventh in defensive success rate. In weeks 10-16, they dropped to 14th and 30th, respectively, in those two metrics. Geno Smith’s production has fallen off a cliff, rookie running back Kenneth Walker III has battled injuries, and the front seven is getting hammered on the ground. Smith and Co. will go from one of the NFL’s feel-good stories to forgettable if they continue their recent struggles over the next two weeks and miss the postseason.

16. New York Giants (8-6-1 | last week: 14)

The Giants’ magic in one-score games has worn off. They have yet to beat a team by more than eight points and are now 2-5-1 since Week 8. In that nine-week stretch, New York ranks 18th in offensive points per game and 30th in scoring defense. If missing the playoffs makes it easier for general manager Joe Schoen to move on from Daniel Jones and commit resources to rebuilding the roster, it may be the best outcome for the G-Men.

17. New England Patriots (7-8 | last week: 18)

Nothing about the Patriots offense is good. Quarterback Mac Jones is frustrated with the offensive coaches and supporting cast and vice versa. The bets on Jones, Matt Patricia, Joe Judge, and a significant free agent haul in 2021 (e.g., Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor) have all failed and are the biggest reason the Patriots remain a playoff long shot.

18. New York Jets (7-8 | last week: 19)

On Thursday, Zach Wilson was benched for a former CFL quarterback on his fourth NFL team in three years. Even if head coach Robert Saleh is adamant that we haven’t seen the last of Wilson, no Jets fan can want that to be true right now. The Jets desperately need Mike White—and they received good news about the status of White’s ribs on Monday—and some other miracles along the way to make the playoffs.

19. Carolina Panthers (6-9 | last week: 20)

Sam Darnold has been the second-ranked quarterback in EPA per dropback since he made his 2022 debut in Week 12. Combine that passing efficiency with a rushing attack that just cleared 300 yards in a win over the Lions on Saturday, and the Panthers have the seventh-ranked scoring offense over the past five weeks. They’re still too inconsistent overall to be legit playoff contenders, but the improvement under Steve Wilks can’t be overstated; it feels like he’s more than earned an opportunity to coach without the interim tag in 2023.

20. Washington Commanders (7-7-1 | last week: 17)

The Commanders have now lost back-to-back games coming out of their Week 14 bye and benched Taylor Heinicke in their most recent loss to San Francisco. As of Monday afternoon, Ron Rivera had yet to name a starter between Heinicke and Carson Wentz, but it feels safe to say that neither of those mediocre quarterbacks is capable of taking the Commanders on a run in the postseason, if they manage to even make it that far.

21. Tennessee Titans (7-8 | last week: 15)

As long as Ryan Tannehill is a “long shot” to return as the team’s starter this season, the Titans are a long shot to make the playoffs. Without him, they’ve really got no shot. The growing pains for third-round rookie Malik Willis are hurting a Tennessee offense that was already struggling to move the ball before Tannehill suffered his ankle injury. Willis has yet to throw for more than 100 yards in any of his three starts this season, and he has had zero passing touchdowns, three interceptions, and 10 sacks in those games.

Bad but Not Dead

22. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8 | last week: 24)

The Steelers have won four of their past five games but still need teams ahead of them in the AFC playoff picture to lose if they’re going to make the postseason. FiveThirtyEight gives Pittsburgh just an 11 percent chance to make the playoffs even if they beat the Ravens and Browns in their two final regular-season games. Credit head coach Mike Tomlin and rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett for continuing to remain competitive despite an extremely poor start to the season, but they simply dug too deep of a hole to rally down the stretch.

23. New Orleans Saints (6-9 | last week: 25)

What in the hell will the Saints do at quarterback next year? Andy Dalton has underwhelmed as the starter and will be an unrestricted free agent in March. Jameis Winston, who is due $15.6 million in 2023, was the Week 1 starter for the Saints but lost his job to Dalton after Winston missed time with back injuries early in the season. Taysom Hill has more snaps at tight end than quarterback this season, but he’ll be the fifth-highest-paid tight end in the NFL if the Saints pay his $13.9 million cap hit in 2023. The Saints will take on more than $10 million in dead cap if either Winston or Hill is cut or traded from the team in the offseason. New Orleans is in a special salary cap and draft capital hell that will require multiple years to get out of, and its path to a quarterback of the future seems nonexistent.

24. Las Vegas Raiders (6-9 | last week: 23)

Another week, another embarrassing loss for the Raiders, this time to the Steelers at prime time on Christmas Eve, which has the Raiders on the verge of elimination. But when there’s so much embarrassment to go around, there’s no wrong choice when assigning blame. Josh McDaniels has failed to maximize the talent of a roster that he and general manager Dave Ziegler put together this offseason. Quarterback Derek Carr has thrown nine picks in the past five games. The defense is lacking top-end talent outside of Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones.

Bad and Eliminated

25. Cleveland Browns (6-9 | last week: 21)

Deshaun Watson has been the 31st-ranked quarterback (among 34 qualifiers) in EPA per dropback since making his first Browns start in Week 13. And overall, the offense is performing substantially worse with Watson (minus-0.26 EPA per drive or worse) than it did with Jacoby Brissett (when it was below minus-0.15 just once in Brissett’s 11 starts). Officially eliminated from the playoffs after Saturday’s loss to New Orleans, Cleveland’s top priority in its last two games must be to show any signs of life offensively with Watson at the helm.

26. Atlanta Falcons (5-10 | last week: 26)

Falcons rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder took significant steps forward in his second career start on Saturday. He had no turnovers and completed 22 of 33 passes for 218 yards in the Falcons’ 17-9 loss to Baltimore. Continued improvement from Ridder over the next two weeks is the best that Falcons fans can hope for now that they’re officially eliminated from the dismal NFC South race.

27. Los Angeles Rams (5-10 | last week: 30)

Baker Mayfield, who threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns and earned the Nickelodeon Valuable Player award for his performance against the Broncos, is handling his audition with the Rams quite well. The Rams are 2-1 since his arrival in Week 14, and he’s the no. 7 passer in EPA per dropback in that span. You’ve got to think he’s playing his way into at least a backup role with the team if head coach Sean McVay and veteran starter Matthew Stafford both return to the Rams in 2023.

28. Chicago Bears (3-12 | last week: 31)

Because Justin Fields has been a human highlight reel in recent weeks, it’s easy to forget just how bad the supporting cast is in Chicago. No other team in the NFL has had a lower payroll than the Bears in 2022. Their leading receiver is Darnell Mooney (493 yards), and he hasn’t caught a pass for the team since Week 11 because of injury. No offensive line is allowing pressure at a higher rate than the Bears. The good news for the Bears is that they are currently in position for the no. 2 pick in the draft, have a potential path to no. 1 if the Texans mess around and win a couple of more games, and don’t need to spend whatever top pick they do have on a quarterback.

Worst of the Worst

29. Arizona Cardinals (4-11 | last week: 28)

Far more interesting than whatever the Cardinals tried to do with third-string quarterback Trace McSorley on Sunday night (spoiler alert: It wasn’t great!) is what the team will do whenever this year comes to its merciful conclusion. General manager Steve Keim has taken an indefinite leave from the team, and ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and Josh Weinfuss reported recently that “multiple people close to [head coach Kliff Kingsbury] have openly wondered whether he would walk away after the season.” Quarterback Kyler Murray, who signed a $230 million extension this offseason, will still be recovering from an ACL injury through at least the preseason. There are no easy answers for a team facing so many major questions.

30. Denver Broncos (4-11, last week: 27)

Fire this team into the sun, please. First-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett was finally fired after an embarrassing blowout loss to the Rams on Christmas, and the Broncos named Jerry Rosburg the interim head coach. Who is Jerry Rosburg, you ask? Oh, he coached special teams in Cleveland, Atlanta, and Baltimore from 2001 to 2018, was out of the league for the three subsequent seasons, and was then hired in the middle of this year by Hackett to help with clock management. The jokes write themselves.

31. Houston Texans (2-12-1 | last week: 32)

Beating Tennessee on Saturday says more about the Titans than it does about the Texans’ chances of turning things around. The quarterback carousel of Davis Mills, Jeff Driskel, and Kyle Allen is still a ride that the Texans will be desperate to jump off of when they’re picking at the top of the 2023 NFL draft.

32. Indianapolis Colts (4-10-1, last week: 29)

The Texans obviously have a worse record than the Colts, but at least they’re not an embarrassment to the league. Indianapolis has a -58 point differential since Jeff Saturday took over as the interim head coach in Week 10, and somehow that abysmal stat doesn’t even fully capture how inept they’ve been. On Monday night, Nick Foles—the third starter the Colts have tried this year, after Matt Ryan and Sam Ehlinger each failed—threw two interceptions in the first quarter and was sacked seven times. Maybe that should be a sign to Colts owner Jim Irsay that the team’s problems are bigger than just the quarterback.

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