The Week 18 NFL Power Rankings weren’t supposed to have any massive movers, but one team spat in our faces after securing their third straight improbable win. Many of the top NFC clubs struggled, but two of the three were able to secure victories. Which teams rose and fell the most heading into the final week of the season?
NFL Power Rankings Week 18 | Tier 6: The NFL Draft is the Super Bowl
The season is over for teams in this tier. Their best hope is building their rosters through the draft and free agency.
32) Jacksonville Jaguars
Over the course of the season, the Jaguars have proven their standing as the absolute standard for bad play. They possess the largest negative point differential in the NFL, and their offense has been missing all season. Through 17 weeks, Jacksonville’s highest single-game point total is 23.
If your team needs a get-right game, the Jaguars are the prescription. They don’t protect well, they cannot catch the ball, and their rookie QB is struggling on top of all that. The Trent Baalke controversy is another example of how poor a job Shad Khan has done with this franchise. I fear for Trevor Lawrence’s future.
31) New York Jets
Zach Wilson looked suspiciously comfortable against a good Bucs defense on Sunday. Michael Carter might have been on course for an easy 100-yard day before suffering a head injury early in the game.
Braxton Berrios has emerged as a legitimate receiving option in Elijah Moore’s absence. Bryce Hall looks like a real starting CB in this league. It’s nice to see some young players making plays for the Jets on both offense and defense.
30) Detroit Lions
Giving up 333 yards in a single half is going to be tough to overcome. That’s exactly what happened to the Lions against what had looked like a hapless Seahawks offense since Russell Wilson’s early return from mallet finger.
Rashaad Penny was the X-factor, which feels hilarious writing in real life. He had 144 yards at the half to go along with 2 TDs. Wilson was 14-of-20 for 167 and 2 TDs at the half as well. In total, the Seahawks practically doubled the Lions’ time of possession in the first half.
In a season where the Lions have battled like crazy, they couldn’t keep up with the Seahawks in Week 17.
29) Houston Texans
I hope we can all relax a bit with Davis Mills. We’ve seen a few instances of how good he can be when he gets hot, but he’s nowhere near consistent enough to give up on the possibility of drafting a QB.
However, the 2022 NFL Draft might not be the spot for the Texans to find their next QB. Mills should at least get more reps in 2022 to see how much he can progress mentally.
28) New York Giants
Well, I expected the Giants to struggle offensively, but I didn’t expect it to be so bad that they’d be down 22-3 at halftime while only throwing the ball TWICE! They’re truly not even trying to score at this point. New York ran the ball on almost every down, and they were just 1-for-5 on third down at the half.
I’m not sure how the product can continue to devolve further into a pumpkin by the week or how John Mara can continue to be happy with his decision to keep Joe Judge heading into next season. This isn’t just a bad football team – they’re an embarrassment. If they could move any farther down in the NFL Power Rankings, they would.
The G-Men limited their GM search to … whoever the heck is willing to work with Judge. Good luck!
27) Carolina Panthers
The Panthers can’t find an offensive identity. They had one in Christian McCaffrey, but his availability has proven pesky. It doesn’t matter if it’s Sam Darnold, Cam Newton, or Phillip Walker under center – there is no offensive firepower.
This week, the struggles were at least expected against a great New Orleans defense. However, there need to be wholesale changes to Carolina’s offensive line if they want to have any success. Matt Rhule’s job security after next season might be based on the decision he makes at QB heading into 2022. The Panthers can’t waste this talented young defense.
26) Chicago Bears
The Bears still have a ton of issues, but they absolutely dominated a far less talented team in the New York Giants. They weren’t even particularly explosive. Chicago scored on drives of 2 yards, 24 yards, 69 yards, -5 yards, 39 yards, and then 75 yards on their first drive in the third quarter.
New York’s offense made Chicago’s defense look like the ’84 Bears. The Giants did not belong on the same field as the Bears today, even without a great QB performance from Andy Dalton.
25) Atlanta Falcons
This feels more like the 2021 Atlanta Falcons. Honestly, it’s amazing they’d won so many games to begin with. Despite their 7-9 record, their -136 point differential is sixth-worst in the NFL, behind only the Lions, Giants, Texans, Jets, and Jaguars.
The Falcons actually outgained the Bills on a per-play basis, too. But they could only convert one third down in the entire game, and they went 1-for-4 in the red zone. That proved to be the difference as Atlanta was gifted a few Josh Allen interceptions but could only score 3 points outside of those turnovers and a safety.
24) Seattle Seahawks
It looked as if Seattle had bottled up all their frustrations and aggression for their Week 17 matchup against the Lions. The Seahawks blew up offensively, and former first-round pick Rashaad Penny had his fourth career 100-yard game in just one half of work.
Seattle’s season is over, and their future is about as murky as any team in the NFL. But at least the 12’s got to see a glimpse of what their franchise QB and the team once played like in what could be Russell Wilson’s final home game as a Seahawk.
NFL Power Rankings Week 18 | Tier 5: Bad now but fixable
Just give these teams a few franchise-level quarterbacks, and we’re cooking in bacon grease!
The game against Philadelphia, and in turn, Washington’s season, came down to not being able to convert in the red zone. The Football Team moved the ball decently well against the Eagles overall, averaging over 5 yards per play. They also converted 9 of 16 third downs.
Washington was certainly worried about the Eagles’ rushing attack. They clearly focused on stopping that part of Philadelphia’s game and forcing Jalen Hurts to win from the pocket. The problem for Washington is Hurts excelled from the pocket today.
22) Minnesota Vikings
Sean Mannion and the Vikings couldn’t play in a track meet with the Green Bay Packers. In fact, they hardly even showed up. Center Garrett Bradbury’s miraculous 21-yard catch was easily the most exciting part of the game, and it happened to be the Vikings’ second-longest reception.
21) Cleveland Browns
Baker Mayfield was underwhelming once again vs. Pittsburgh. He struggled to complete even 40% of his passes on Monday night, and he was no stranger to sacks, either. The Steelers sacked him a total of 9 times in what seems like Ben Rothlisberger’s final game at Heinz Field.
20) Pittsburgh Steelers
It was amazing to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers win another game against Cleveland. At 8-7-1, the Steelers still find themselves outside of the playoffs looking in. However, they are much more competitive than their prior ranking in the NFL Power Rankings. They dominated the Browns on Monday Night Football, with T.J. Watt picking up 4 sacks.
19) Denver Broncos
Losing Teddy Bridgewater should not have been a death blow for the Broncos, but it appears to have been. Their defense didn’t have too bad of a day on a per-play basis, but they allowed a return touchdown and three 10-plus play drives that ended in points for the Chargers.
Drew Lock didn’t have a terrible day by the numbers, but Denver’s offense couldn’t convert on third or fourth down. They also struggled early on in the red zone. By the time the Broncos made some moves, it was 34-6.
NFL Power Rankings Week 18 | Tier 4: Can still somehow make the playoffs
The odds are certainly not in the favor of these teams, but they can still somehow backdoor their way to the playoffs.
18) New Orleans Saints
The Saints have no offense, and neither did their opponent, the Panthers. Yet, New Orleans’ defense has been playing together for a long time, and they have talent at all three levels to make plays.
They allowed just 3 yards per play against Carolina. Although they allowed conversions on 6 of 14 third downs, they only allowed the Panthers to enter the red zone once. The Saints also forced 4 possessions of negative yardage and didn’t allow any points after the first two drives.
17) Miami Dolphins
During the Dolphins’ seven-game win streak, there was a ton of talk about their relatively easy schedule. Still, it’s important to note that it’s incredibly difficult to win football games in the NFL, no matter what the level of competition looks like. This season has been proof of that.
But in bad weather, Miami’s passing attack was rendered non-existent outside of one deep bomb to Jaylen Waddle. Tua Tagovailoa struggled under pressure from Tennessee’s front four, and he never found a groove throwing the ball- – or keeping control of it – in the wind and rain.
16) Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are a devastated team. They’ve played incredibly tough all season for John Harbaugh, but they’re simply too injured to overcome it all.
The fact that Baltimore kept it together as long as they did has been incredible to watch, but they’ve collapsed in epic fashion to end the season, losing their past five games and getting pushed out of the Wild Card race.
NFL Power Rankings Week 18 | Tier 3: Playoff-caliber ugly
The teams in this tier have critical flaws precluding them from being legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Yet, they could sneak into the dance through the vents.
15) Philadelphia Eagles
Jalen Hurts wasn’t bothered much by the Washington pass rush, and in turn, looked quite comfortable from within the pocket against Philadelphia’s divisional opponent.
The Eagles control their own destiny, but they have a tough matchup against the Cowboys to finish their season. Hurts hasn’t played well against Dallas yet in his career. It would be massive for the perception about him if he played well in that game.
14) Las Vegas Raiders
I have no idea how the Las Vegas Raiders are on a three-game win streak and in the driver’s seat for the playoffs, but here we are. What an absolutely wacky NFL season we’ve seen.
Over the last three weeks, the Raiders have beaten three teams battling for playoff contention. It’s impossible to continue to ignore this trend, although none of it makes much sense, aside from their defense waking up from their mid-season slumber.
The Raiders skyrocket in the NFL Power Rankings after their third straight impressive win.
13) Tennessee Titans
Well, a bad weather game at home was the remedy for the Tennessee Titans, and that same weather was a death sentence for the Miami Dolphins. Tennessee kept Tua Tagovailoa moving in the pocket. And between the pressure and weather, he was unable to find success through the air.
D’Onta Foreman had a great day as the lead back for the Titans, and Ryan Tannehill made the most of his sparing opportunities. Tennessee’s offense got back to what they looked like with a healthy Derrick Henry, but the passing attack had to work to find efficiency.
This will be a dangerous playoff team if Henry can return healthy.
12) San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers kept things tight against Houston for a while, but the better team finally got the best of the Texans. San Francisco nearly doubled their yards per play, and they dominated with big plays in the passing attack and a consistent rushing game.
The Niners only managed 2 touchdowns, but for most of the contest, it felt like they were trying to get a feel for things with Trey Lance at QB. Today’s victory puts them at 9-7 and firmly in the driver seat for a Wild Card spot.
11) Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers were incredibly efficient on offense against the Denver Broncos. They got a few big plays on the strength of Justin Herbert’s right arm, but they did a fantastic job sustaining drives.
In fact, they had drives of 14, 11, and 14 plays in the game, keeping the ball in the hands of their offense. More importantly, LA kept their underwhelming defense off the field. However, the Chargers’ defense was stout against the run for once, which was a recipe for disaster for the Broncos, who really wanted to lean on the ground game.
10) Indianapolis Colts
The Raiders made Carson Wentz try to beat them, and he obliged their request. The Colts struggled on third down, and Wentz performed poorly throughout the game, which is worrisome considering Indy got most of their impact starters back from the reserve/COVID-19 list before kickoff.
I thought when Jonathan Taylor tallied north of 100 yards rushing we could just go ahead and give the Colts the auto-win, but I guess that would be a question to ask the nerds. This is still a really good football team, but they’re now battling to make sure they remain in the Wild Card hunt next week.
Luckily, the “get-right” Jaguars are up next for them.