The top seven of the Week 17 NFL power rankings remain the same from last week, with the Chiefs and the Bills still the clear top two teams with the postseason approaching.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (14-1) | Last week: 1
Patrick Mahomes has looked somewhat human as of late, but he and the Chiefs tied an NFL record for most comeback wins in a single season (ten), with a chance to break the record this Sunday if the Chargers can keep it close and be up in the fourth quarter. Kansas City has the first-round bye locked up, but I wouldn’t expect them to rest their starters for the entire game, as it could lead to them being rusty when they return to action.
2. Buffalo Bills (12-3) | Last week: 2
Finally, it seems everyone is on the Buffalo Bills bandwagon, realizing that this has the feel of a special team that Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane did an amazing job of building. There’s still one week to go, but Josh Allen is the MVP in my opinion. Allen has been the best player in the league all year, and I think the Bills are playing better than anyone right now—they just can’t be No. 1 in the power rankings over a one-loss Chiefs team that has homefield advantage and the only playoff bye in the AFC.
3. Green Bay Packers (12-3) | Last week: 3
The Packers came into their snowy Sunday night game at Lambeau Field with the plan to shut down Derrick Henry, and they did a good job (limiting him to 98 yards, which seems like a lot, but it could have been much worse for Green Bay). Aaron Rodgers continues to play near-perfect football, but he did throw a very rare home interception in December/January—perhaps getting it out of the way before the postseason.
4. Seattle Seahawks (11-4) | Last week: 4
Russell Wilson and the offense didn’t light it up, but I don’t think Pete Carroll minds playing the type of games they’ve been involved in over the past few weeks. The Seattle defense is rounding into form at just the right time, and Wilson can get hot at any time and win a shootout or come from behind when necessary. Still, it’d be good to see the offense heat up a bit in the regular season finale, and facing the Niners will be an ideal test.
5. New Orleans Saints (11-4) | Last week: 5
The defensive performance by the Vikings was an embarrassment, but give the Saints credit for feeding the ball to Alvin Kamara while dealing with a depleted receiving corps around Drew Brees. The extra time off should give Brees an opportunity to get more comfortable as he continues to deal with his rib issue, and the entire New Orleans squad will look to keep clicking and build momentum heading into the playoffs.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-5) | Last week: 6
Tom Brady played just one half last Saturday against the Lions, but 30 minutes was all he needed to throw for 348 yards and hit four different receivers (Rob Gronkowski, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown) for touchdowns in Week 16. They aren’t getting talked about much, but Tampa Bay is a scary team and will likely remain my pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3) | Last week: 7
The Steelers remained in their funk early against the Colts, but Ben Roethlisberger and the receivers turned it on in the second half for a come-from-behind victory that could be the spark to give the unit confidence in January. Roethlisberger will sit in Week 17, so hopefully that doesn’t stop the momentum he built last week. While Big Ben will not play, Pittsburgh would still love to keep Cleveland out of the postseason this Sunday.
8. Baltimore Ravens (10-5) | Last week: 11 (+3)
The Ravens are another team that looks to be trending in the right direction at the right time. Passer rating is certainly not a perfect measurement, but Lamar Jackson has a quarterback rating of over 110.0 in three consecutive games after not hitting the mark since Week 2. Following January struggles the past two years, the passing attack will be key in the playoffs, so Jackson and his receivers will look to put together another positive performance this weekend.
9. Miami Dolphins (10-5) | Last week: 13 (+4)
Brian Flores has seemingly pushed all the right buttons with the Dolphins since the middle of last season, and he has a major weapon off the bench that can instantly heat up the offense in Ryan Fitzpatrick—the veteran quarterback was unhappy when he was benched, but he’s clearly brought into his sparkplug role. The defense gave up some big plays last week versus the Raiders, but they’ve shown they can match up with almost any offense, and this Sunday against the Bills will be interesting if Buffalo plays its starters.
10. Los Angeles Rams (9-6) | Last week: 8 (-2)
Jared Goff tried to tough out his broken right thumb that required surgery and will likely keep him out of Week 17, but he was clearly not himself late against the Seahawks. John Wolford will now get his first NFL action as they Rams attempt to clinch a playoff spot without their starting quarterback. Sean McVay should put together an excellent gameplan, and it’ll help if Cam Akers (ankle) can get back into the lineup.
11. Tennessee Titans (10-5) | Last week: 9 (-2)
As Cris Collinsworth mentioned a couple of times on the NBC broadcast while referring to footing, the Titans seemed like they weren’t quite ready to play in snowy Lambeau the other night—not in terms of effort, but in terms of being prepared for the elements. The Tennessee defense has been unable to get after opposing quarterbacks this season, and their formula to clinch the AFC South should be all Derrick Henry to control the game against the Texans.
12. Indianapolis Colts (10-5) | Last week: 10 (-2)
The Colts appeared set to rout the Steelers, but they now sit on the outside looking in of the AFC playoff picture after giving up a big lead. Indianapolis curiously went away from stud rookie running back Jonathan Taylor and the run game a bit, so look for them to remedy that this weekend in a must-win game against the one-win Jaguars.
13. Cleveland Browns (10-5) | Last week: 12 (-1)
I don’t normally question NFL head coaches and teams, but the Browns had a curious gameplan, too. With their top four receivers out due to COVID-19 protocols, the Browns still decided to throw the ball over 50 times instead of pounding away with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Give credit to the Jets for doing a nice job of limiting Chubb and Hunt on the ground, but Chubb in particular will pop a long run if given enough opportunities. Cleveland should have a fuller team in Week 17, and they get to face a Pittsburgh team resting Ben Roethlisberger.
14. Chicago Bears (8-7) | Last week: 17 (+3)
The Bears are not only playing well, but they are putting up huge offensive numbers with at least 30 points in each of the past four games. Mitchell Trubisky clearly benefitted from sitting for a bit to perhaps clear his mind, and the former No. 2 overall pick is now 25-12 in his career with Matt Nagy as his head coach. Trubisky has far too many negative haters, and he’ll have a chance to silence them with a win over the Packers this Sunday—but it will be a challenge for Chicago.
15. Arizona Cardinals (8-7) | Last week: 14 (-1)
Kliff Kingsbury has done a nice job of getting the Cardinals in the playoff mix in his second year leading the team, but he may have gotten a bit too aggressive in Week 16, likely because he was frustrated the offense couldn’t get much going down the field. Again, Kingsbury still has his team in position to make the playoffs with a win to end the regular season, which is a spot they certainly would have signed up for a few months ago. Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins were both banged up in last Saturday’s loss to the 49ers, but I expect they will both be fine for Week 17’s win-and-in contest with the Rams.
16. Washington Football Team (6-9) | Last week: 15 (-1)
As stated last week, I would have cut Dwayne Haskins immediately after his off-field incident, and Washington basically did feel the same way. They likely just waited because they were relying on him to start if Alex Smith (calf) was out again, as was the case. It’s not a great look overall to wait until you started him and then cut him after he didn’t play well (again), but Washington still arrived at the right spot—Haskins probably didn’t have much confidence from the rest of the guys in the locker room. Hopefully Smith is ready to go for Sunday night against the Eagles.
17. Dallas Cowboys (6-9) | Last week: 21 (+4)
This season has undoubtedly had some very ugly stretches for the Cowboys, but Mike McCarthy has shown why he’s a Super Bowl winning head coach—getting to 7-9, even if Washington ends up winning the NFC East, would be a noteworthy feat. The defense has taken considerable strides from its undeniably terrible play for much of the season, and McCarthy has gotten the offense humming with Andy Dalton under center.
18. New York Giants (5-10) | Last week: 19 (+1)
The Giants played one of their worst games of the season last week, with Daniel Jones getting demolished by the Ravens defense. But thanks to Washington’s loss to Carolina and Dallas’ win over Philly, New York still has a shot to win the division and make the postseason in Joe Judge’s first year as a head coach. The offensive line must do a better job of protecting Jones this week, and the Giants defense also has a tough task defending the Cowboys’ trio of receivers.
19. Las Vegas Raiders (7-8) | Last week: 16 (-3)
Derek Carr returned to the lineup after missing most of Week 15 with a groin injury, and he played well against a tough Dolphins defense to keep the Raiders in it—mostly distributing the ball to Darren Waller and Nelson Agholor, one of the league’s most underrated one-two punches among passing attacks. Agholor is 161 yards away from his first 1,000-yard campaign, and he’s made himself a lot of money this year after taking a one-year veteran minimum deal during free agency.
20. San Francisco 49ers (6-9) | Last week: 23 (+3)
After giving up big points to the Cowboys the previous game, the Niners bounced back with one of their best all-around defensive performances of the year in a Saturday afternoon win over the Cardinals. There’s been much discussion about the status of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, but Kyle Shanahan gave a detailed answer on the state of Jimmy G and the quarterback position, and I’d be somewhat surprised if San Francisco has a different starter in 2021.
21. Minnesota Vikings (6-9) | Last week: 18 (-3)
There’s not much to write about for the Vikings here, as their Christmas Day performance really couldn’t have been much worse. Mike Zimmer elevated the defense for stretches, but that side of the ball was dealing with injuries and inexperience, so they’ll have some major work to do this offseason.
22. Carolina Panthers (5-10) | Last week: 24 (+2)
It’s good to hear that people are recognizing the Panthers as a team that plays very hard for first-year head coach Matt Rhule—they are no easy team to beat. Carolina made things interesting by defeating Washington last week, creating a three-team race in the NFC East heading into Week 17. Just two of the Panthers’ ten losses this season have been by more than one possession, and they were both against the Bucs.
23. Los Angeles Chargers (6-9) | Last week: 25 (+2)
Justin Herbert set the rookie record for touchdown passes in a season, and he’s likely on his way to an Offensive Rookie of the Year nod after playing like a ten-year veteran quarterback from the moment he took over for the Chargers. Heading into Week 17, the status of head coach Anthony Lynn is one of the biggest things to watch, but Lynn has gotten his team to respond and play well since getting destroyed by the Patriots a few weeks ago.
24. Atlanta Falcons (4-11) | Last week: 27 (+3)
They lost, but the Falcons rise three spots in this week’s power rankings for pushing the defending champion Chiefs to the limit last Sunday. Raheem Morris has made at least a decent case to become Atlanta’s full-time head coach, but a critical offseason looms for the franchise. I think it would be crazy to get rid of Matt Ryan, but this week could be the last time we see the former league MVP under center for Atlanta.
25. New England Patriots (6-9) | Last week: 22 (-3)
It was cool to watch Bill Belichick embrace Bills head coach Sean McDermott after the Monday night loss, especially with the Patriots getting routed. Starting with Tom Brady unexpectedly leaving and then having more COVID opt-outs than anyone, New England has delt with a lot of adversity this year. Clearly, it’s frustrating for Belichick, but no one should be counting out the Pats as we gear toward 2021.
26. Philadelphia Eagles (4-10-1) | Last week: 20 (-6)
The Eagles showed flashes and played with energy in the previous two weeks, but the issues with how the club was built were shown in an elimination game against the Cowboys. Jalen Hurts started strong but had some struggles in the loss; however, we have to keep in mind that it’s just his third career start in a rookie year that did not include a normal offseason/training camp or any preseason games. Philadelphia has a chance to play spoiler in the regular season finale on Sunday night.
27. Denver Broncos (5-10) | Last week: 26 (-1)
Jerry Jeudy had a tough day in Week 16, but it’s nuts that people are already calling him a “bust”. Perhaps Jeudy won’t pan out as a star receiver in the NFL, but it wasn’t too long ago that some were calling Colts rookie running back Jonathan Taylor a bust—look at him just months later. It’s good to hear that Vic Fangio will be back for a third season as the Broncos’ head coach, as two years isn’t enough to turn around most teams, and Von Miller did not play this season due to injury.
28. Cincinnati Bengals (4-10-1) | Last week: 30 (+2)
If his job wasn’t safe last month, it should be now. Bengals head coach Zac Taylor has rallied his team—also dealing with numerous injuries—and has earned a third year to lead the franchise. The Bengals have won their way out of a top-three pick in next year’s draft, but they are doing things the right way. If you want to become a winning organization, you win games, not play for better draft picks.
29. Houston Texans (4-11) | Last week: 29
Sticking with the theme of winning games and trying hard no matter the record, J.J. Watt gave a spot-on speech when discussing Houston’s situation:
J.J. Watt was asked about regrouping and finishing the season and … I'll let him take it from here. 10,000% pure unfiltered truth. pic.twitter.com/IOtsy9ELYr
— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) December 27, 2020
He’s 100% right, and the answer also speaks to why I feel it doesn’t make sense to blame a head coach when players don’t respond or play hard. They are professionals and should do their jobs.
30. Detroit Lions (5-10) | Last week: 28 (-2)
After arriving back with the organization in a key front-office role, Chris Spielman obviously sees there’s a lot of work to do for the Lions. Not having a few coaches definitely hurt, but Detroit almost looked like they barely belonged in the NFL last Saturday.
31. New York Jets (2-13) | Last week: 31
It’s just difficult to put a two-win team higher than this in the power rankings, but the Jets are playing better than at least a couple of the teams ahead of them. We’ll see what happens, but I wouldn’t lock it in as a given that Adam Gase will be fired after the season.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-14) | Last week: 32
The Jaguars have secured the No. 1 overall pick and the potential opportunity to select Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence this spring, but it’s been an ugly year. Jacksonville will look to avoid 15 consecutive losses after a Week 1 win.