1. Green Bay Packers (13-3) | Last week: 1
The Packers coasted against the Vikings to secure the No. 1 seed in the NFC and their third consecutive 13-win season under Matt LaFleur. Now the big concern for Green Bay is figuring out what to do with their starters in Week 18, as you don’t want to come into the playoffs rusty after not playing for two weeks.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4) | Last week: 2
The Buccaneers cannot get a first-round bye, but there is no consideration to resting starters for them. The Antonio Brown situation was simultaneously surprising and not surprising, and losing him is a blow to their chances to repeat after I called him a key to winning it all after Chris Godwin went down.
3. Tennessee Titans (11-5) | Last week: 5 (+2)
After last week, the Titans are now in position for the No. 1 seed in the AFC—they can secure it with a win over Houston on Sunday. Oh, and they might have this guy coming back pretty soon:
— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) January 5, 2022
4. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) | Last week: 3 (-1)
It looked like a great sign for the Chiefs to get going offensively against a likely playoff team, which we hadn’t seen. But second-half struggles at Cincinnati kicks Kansas City out of homefield advantage in the playoffs. They do get an extra day ahead of the postseason thanks to them being put on Saturday to conclude the regular season.
5. Buffalo Bills (10-6) | Last week: 4 (-1)
While it wasn’t always pretty, the Bills were able to get a snowy win over the Falcons to lock up a playoff spot. Josh Allen is one of four quarterbacks in NFL history to have consecutive seasons of 40 total touchdowns and 4,000 passing yards (Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Tom Brady—who also did it the past two years—being the others).
6. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) | Last week: 11 (+5)
Following a win over the Chiefs during which Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase went off, I think we can say the Bengals are ultra-confident heading into the playoffs:
— xz – Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) January 3, 2022
Despite seeding still being in play, Cincinnati will rest Joe Burrow and potentially other starters this week with an eye toward the postseason.
7. Los Angeles Rams (12-4) | Last week: 8 (+1)
Matthew Stafford continues to struggle at quarterback for the Rams, but he did come through with a game-winning touchdown to Odell Beckham Jr. versus the Ravens. I don’t know where LA would be without Sony Michel stepping up at running back late in the season.
8. New England Patriots (10-6) | Last week: 9 (+1)
It’s an excellent sign for the Patriots that they have had a few blowout wins this season, showing that they come into weeks fully prepared and focused. Nothing less is expected from a Bill Belichick squad.
9. Indianapolis Colts (9-7) | Last week: 6 (-3)
The Colts were unable to keep their good stretch rolling in a loss to the Raiders last week, and now they need to get a victory at Jacksonville—something they haven’t done since 2014.
10. Arizona Cardinals (11-5) | Last week: 10
Kyler Murray sure likes playing in Texas, particularly in AT&T Stadium, where he’s 9-0 in his life dating back to high school. For a team that’s struggled late in seasons, the Cardinals needed that type of win on the road (where they are 8-1 this season) late in the year to get some confidence with the playoffs coming up.
11. Dallas Cowboys (11-5) | Last week: 7 (-4)
The Cowboys drop a few spots in the power rankings, but I still like where they are at with one week remaining in the regular season. Head coach Mike McCarthy has taken the right approach all season in my opinion, and he’s indicated Dallas is playing to win at Philly on Saturday night. However, don’t discount the loss of Michael Gallup (torn ACL) on the outside.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) | Last week: 12
Maybe I’m wrong, but it appears the Eagles might be taking the opposite approach to Week 18, potentially resting starters (many of them were already placed on the COVID list anyway). But Philadelphia might benefit from 100% playing to win versus a team like the Cowboys, as they haven’t beaten any above-.500 teams during their run to the playoffs.
13. San Francisco 49ers (9-7) | Last week: 13
Trey Lance played well with Jimmy Garoppolo (thumb) out to help the Niners improve to 9-7. Still, San Francisco needs a win over the Rams this week to ensure that they grab the last wild-card spot in the NFC.
14. Los Angeles Chargers (9-7) | Last week: 16 (+2)
Despite the disappointing outing against the Texans a couple of weeks ago, the Chargers beat the Broncos handily last week and put themselves in a win-and-in scenario on Sunday night. Expect to see Justin Herbert step up and play well in a de-facto playoff game.
15. Las Vegas Raiders (9-7) | Last week: 21 (+6)
On the other side, Derek Carr will also be looking to step up with a huge opportunity for the Raiders. It’d be a massive accomplishment to make the postseason after all that’s happened with Vegas this season.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7-1) | Last week: 17 (+1)
Mike Tomlin will again finish without a losing record, and Ben Roethlisberger thankfully went out with a win in his last home game, but the Steelers still have a chance to make the postseason and make some noise in January. I would think Roethlisberger is going to throw the ball around a ton in what might be his final NFL game.
17. Baltimore Ravens (8-8) | Last week: 15 (-2)
The Ravens made it a game, as you’d expect under John Harbaugh, but falling to 8-8 with the loss to the Rams was very tough—not being able to find the end zone and having to settle for four field goals ultimately cost them. They need a lot of help to make the playoffs.
18. New Orleans Saints (8-8) | Last week: 20 (+2)
With Taysom Hill (COVID) back in the lineup and improved defensive play, the Saints were able to get back on track with a win. New Orleans is now looking to finish the season with a winning record while hoping for a little help with a Niners loss.
19. Miami Dolphins (8-8) | Last week: 14 (-5)
The postseason is again not in the cards for the Dolphins, but Brian Flores again deserves props for turning the team around following a 1-7 start. I have not liked some of the personnel decisions Miami has made over the past few years, so an 18-14 record since 2020 with the group is a promising sign for Flores.
20. Minnesota Vikings (7-9) | Last week: 19 (-1)
Not having Kirk Cousins (reserve/COVID-19 list) on Sunday night was just too much to overcome, and now the Vikings are looking to finish the season on a relatively high note. Mike Zimmer’s job appears to be in serious jeopardy, but I’m not sure that should be the case—I might talk more about that on The Wolf Sports Show this week.
21. Cleveland Browns (7-9) | Last week: 18 (-3)
Peyton Manning getting angry about the Browns not using Nick Chubb enough just about sums it up for Cleveland:
Peyton speaking for.. EVERY HUMAN WATCHING 😂😂 pic.twitter.com/RKiKOeMt9n
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) January 4, 2022
Baker Mayfield’s season is over, and he’ll have left shoulder surgery. The No. 1 overall pick’s future appears up in the air heading into the offseason.
22. Atlanta Falcons (7-9) | Last week: 23 (+1)
It was absolutely ridiculous that Matt Ryan’s touchdown run to put the Falcons within one possession at Buffalo was overturned and then the ball moved back because of a taunting penalty that was more so Ryan voicing his displeasure with what he felt was a late hit. You have to admire the fight and grit Ryan has shown during disappointing seasons the past few years.
23. Denver Broncos (7-9) | Last week: 22 (-1)
Running back Melvin Gordon lamented that the Broncos will not be competing in the postseason, saying that it’s a “well-built” team stacked with talent. I agree to some extent, and not getting near-elite play from the quarterback spot might be what’s holding Denver back.
24. Washington Football Team (6-10) | Last week: 24
John Bates slipped just a bit on the game-sealing interception by the Eagles, officially (mathematically) sealing Washington’s fate. The big news for Washington—aside from part of the tunnel collapsing, where thankfully no one was hurt—is that the new team name will be announced on February 2.
25. Chicago Bears (6-10) | Last week: 25
The Bears defense dominated at Soldier Field to get a little winning streak going over the final stretch. Rookie Justin Fields (ankle) will be back in the lineup for the finale on Sunday.
26. Seattle Seahawks (6-10) | Last week: 26
D.K. Metcalf finally got going with a three-touchdown performance in a win over the Lions, and Rashaad Penny continues his scorching late-season play. There’s a chance this week is the last game for Russell Wilson and/or Pete Carroll with the Seahawks, but I think they’ll both be back in 2022.
27. Carolina Panthers (5-11) | Last week: 27
Derrick Brown and the Carolina defense played well in the 18-10 loss to the Saints, but the Panthers offense just hasn’t had it this season. That side of the ball is going to need to be revamped in some way this offseason.
28. New York Jets (4-12) | Last week: 28
The Jets are showing some promising things on offense late in the season, and it took a game-winning drive from Tom Brady to knock off New York last week. It was both funny and audacious of Brandin Echols asking Brady to sign his interception ball after the game.
Tom Brady signed the ball that Echols intercepted! 😂👏 pic.twitter.com/8Ue9hwbZzb
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) January 2, 2022
29. Houston Texans (4-12) | Last week: 29
The Texans’ loss to the 49ers was closer than the 23-7 score indicates, and I again feel Houston is showing promising signs to close out the season.
30. Detroit Lions (2-13-1) | Last week: 30
The Lions were lit up by the Seahawks, but they kept battling and put up some points themselves despite not having Jared Goff (knee) in the lineup.
31. New York Giants (4-12) | Last week: 31
The Giants have just been bad and have lost each of their past five games by double digits. Honestly, I have not watched his full press conferences this season to get a feel on the situation, but some have speculated that Joe Judge is trying to save his job through the media.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14) | Last week: 32
As expected, the Jaguars didn’t stand much of a chance at Foxboro last week. One of the only redeeming qualities about this season for the Jags is that Trevor Lawrence was able to take some lumps after winning a ton of games at Clemson.