NFL Power Rankings After Week 17
January 5, 2021
The NFL regular season is complete, and the playoff field is set. With each team getting through 16 games in this strange season, we can now judge teams on their full body of work. In this week’s NFL power rankings, find out who is at the top of the list and who is at the bottom. And with 14 teams set to take part in the playoffs, there is still room for some teams to climb to the top.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (Last Week: 32)
Jacksonville was finally put out of its misery in the final week of the season with a two touchdown loss to the Colts. The Jags were a revolving door at the quarterback this season. But they never stood a chance all over the field after all of the moves they made to ship talent out before the season started. NFL betting odds have Trevor Lawrence at -2000 to be drafted first overall. The lowest ranked team in our NFL power rankings will likely be the ones to take him.
31. New York Jets (Last Week: 31)
Finishing at number 31 in our NFL power rankings is the New York Jets. The Jets lost their final game of the season by two scores to the New England Patriots. Since then, they have made the decision to fire head coach Adam Gase. They will have to decide on a replacement, as well as who the team’s starting quarterback will be next season. At this point, everything is up in the air for the Jets.
30. Detroit Lions (Last Week: 30)
Another team with a head coaching vacancy heading into the offseason is the Detroit Lions. They dropped a 37-35 game to the Vikings in Week 17 to finish at number 30 in our NFL power rankings. Detroit allowed 519 points this season, the most in the league by any team. They go into the offseason needing to fix their porous defense and unsure of who their quarterback will be in 2021.
29. Cincinnati Bengals (Last Week: 28)
The Bengals know who their quarterback will be in 2021, assuming Joe Burrow is able to return from injury at some point. But the Bengals still have to build a roster around their injured face of the franchise. Cincinnati was blown out 38-3 by the Ravens in Week 17. That game demonstrated just how large the talent gap is between a playoff caliber team and one like the Bengals.
28. Atlanta Falcons (Last Week: 29)
Rounding out the bottom-five of our NFL power rankings are the Atlanta Falcons. This year was a disaster for the Falcons, who fired Dan Quinn as their head coach early on. They wrapped things up with a 17-point loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In that game, they allowed 399 yards through the air from Tom Brady. If Atlanta ever wants to compete for titles again, the defense has to be upgraded and soon.
27. Philadelphia Eagles (Last Week: 26)
The worst performance in Week 17 of the NFL season was from the Philadelphia Eagles. A six point loss to the Washington Football Team isn’t embarrassing. But the decision to throw the game while down just a field goal by putting in third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld is plenty embarrassing. Doug Pederson claimed the decision was made in an attempt to win the game, but the only thing worse than that lie was his coaching throughout the season.
26. Houston Texans (Last Week: 27)
Despite having the passing yardage leader in the NFL this season in Deshaun Watson, the Houston Texans come in at number 26 in our NFL power rankings. Watson was the lone bright spot on a Texans team that was mismanaged from a personnel standpoint. They finished the season with a competitive loss to the Titans, with the Texans defense again showing that it cannot handle high-level competition.
25. Carolina Panthers (Last Week: 25)
The Panthers were disappointing this year, losing their finale to the New Orleans Saints. First year head coach Matt Rhule and new offensive coordinator Joe Brady weren’t up to the challenge in year one. In their defense, it was more difficult than usual to build an organizational culture without training camps or regular practices. With Christian McCaffrey coming back from injury in 2021, they will be expected to be better.
24. Dallas Cowboys (Last Week: 23)
One of the best games of Week 17 featured the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas lost to the New York Giants, eliminating them from playoff contention thanks to a late Andy Dalton interception. Dallas would have likely run away with the NFC East had Dak Prescott not been injured. But there are no moral victories in the NFL, and the Cowboys are surely disappointed in not being able to overcome the loss of their starting quarterback.
23. Denver Broncos (Last Week: 21)
The final team in the bottom-10 of our NFL power rankings is the Denver Broncos. Denver played this season without stars Von Miller and Courtland Sutton. But even with those players, their quarterback play was likely not good enough to make them a contending team. Drew Lock played well in Week 17, but even that wasn’t enough in a high scoring loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.
22. Minnesota Vikings (Last Week: 22)
Minnesota ended their season on a high note, beating the Detroit Lions in a shootout. This season, the defense of the Vikings was its Achilles heel, not its offense. This was on full display against the Lions. Minnesota allowed 180 receiving yards to Marvin Jones, even without Kenny Golladay to focus on. The Vikings have a decent passing attack and a stellar running game. But they need to figure out their defense next season.
21. Washington Football Team (Last Week: 24)
The beneficiaries of Philadelphia’s blatant tanking, the Washington Football Team won the NFC East in Week 17. Their performance was far from impressive, as they only beat a team trying to lose by six points. But the Football Team does have a great pass rush, which could come in handy in the playoffs. They will try and use that pass rush to disrupt Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in their first round matchup.
20. San Francisco 49ers (Last Week: 18)
San Francisco cracks the top-20 of our NFL power rankings, despite their Week 17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The Niners were banged up all season long, which killed their chances of competing in the NFC West. San Francisco now needs to decide if they are going to continue moving forward with the fragile Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback or if it is time to move in another direction.
19. New England Patriots (Last Week: 20)
New England finished their season on a high note by beating the Jets in Week 17. The Patriots were the team hit hardest by players opting out due to the pandemic. They also just did not have a good enough quarterback this year in Cam Newton. But the Patriots still managed to finish a respectable 7-9. Where they go from here is anyone’s guess, as they need to improve their offense dramatically.
18. New York Giants (Last Week: 19)
It didn’t end up getting them into the playoffs, but the Giants played with heart in their win over the Cowboys. The Giants finished a game out of the NFC East lead when the season was said and done. Yes, the Giants should have won more than six games if they wanted to win their division. But their schedule down the stretch was simply more difficult than that of Washington. And sometimes, that is enough to offset a sweep like the one the Giants performed on Washington this season.
17. Arizona Cardinals (Last Week: 16)
The final team in the bottom half of our NFL power rankings is the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona fell short in week 17 against the Los Angeles Rams. Both teams had to use their backup quarterback in the game. But the Cardinals’ backup was simply the second best backup on the field that day. They missed the playoffs via tiebreaker as a result, and will look to get better on defense heading into next season.
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16. Las Vegas Raiders (Last Week: 17)
It took a late two-point conversion for the Raiders to beat the Broncos in Week 17. This season did not turn out the way the Raiders had hoped. Despite being in the playoff hunt late in the season, Jon Gruden’s team could not keep it together down the stretch. But a 6-2 record on the road this season is encouraging. Las Vegas will expect to do better at home next season with fans in the stands.
15. Chicago Bears (Last Week: 14)
Chicago is in the playoffs despite losing in Week 17 to the Green Bay Packers. At 8-8, the Bears finished the season on a 3-7 run after a 5-1 start. They will have to go to New Orleans to face the Saints in the Wild Card round. With Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback, that might not bode well for Chicago. It will be interesting to see if their defense can do enough to keep them in that game.
14. Los Angeles Chargers (Last Week: 15)
The Chargers are one of the highest ranked non-playoff teams in our NFL power rankings. The Chargers beat a reserve Chiefs squad in Week 17. They picked up their fourth straight win in the process to finish the season at 7-9. Los Angeles has fired head coach Anthony Lynn after the regular season. And given the talent they have on both sides of the ball, they might be the most desirable head coaching destination.
13. Miami Dolphins (Last Week: 11)
Miami is the highest ranked non-playoff team in these NFL power rankings. The Dolphins fell out of the top seven in the AFC in Week 17. They were destroyed by the Buffalo Bills in their final regular season game. With the Bills needing to win to clinch the second seed, Miami ran into a better team with a sense of urgency in that contest. Though they missed the playoffs, the Dolphins appear to have a bright future ahead of them.
12. Pittsburgh Steelers (Last Week: 12)
Pittsburgh played backup quarterback Mason Rudolph in the final week of the regular season. They lost a tight game to the Cleveland Browns, but managed to win the AFC North regardless. They have fallen down our NFL power rankings in recent weeks, but the Steelers still have a chance to make a run in the AFC. If they can reclaim their early season form on offense, they could be a legitimate headache for the rest of the field.
11. Los Angeles Rams (Last Week: 13)
Needing a win to guarantee themselves a place in the playoffs, the Rams beat the Cardinals in Week 17. They did so with backup quarterback John Wolford, whose only previous professional experience came in the Alliance of American Football. With Jared Goff set to miss the Wild Card round, Wolford is now tasked with taking on the Seattle Seahawks. This poses a huge challenge for Sean McVay, who will need to get Wolford ready for a defense that is playing very well.
10. Cleveland Browns (Last Week: 10)
Cleveland moves into the top-10 after beating the Steelers to clinch a playoff spot in Week 17. The Browns likely wanted a blowout against Steelers backup quarterback Mason Rudolph. But they will settle for a win and a playoff berth. Cleveland will have to overcome COVID-19 cases if they are going to beat the Steelers in the Wild Card round this coming weekend.
9. Indianapolis Colts (Last Week: 9)
The Colts beat the Jaguars by two touchdowns en route to a Week 17 victory. That win and the loss by the Dolphins got them into the playoffs. As the seven seed in the AFC, the Colts are going to Orchard Park to take on the Bills. Indianapolis has had one of the best defenses in the league this season. They will need it to be at its absolute best to disrupt MVP candidate Josh Allen and the Bills offense.
8. Seattle Seahawks (Last Week: 7)
Seattle beat the 49ers in the final week of the 2020 regular season. That win didn’t end up benefiting the Seahawks from a seeding standpoint. Seattle remained in the third spot in the NFC with the win. That third seed earned them a home date against their division rivals in the Rams. Against a backup quarterback, they are considered the favorites to move into the second round.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Last Week: 8)
Tampa Bay blew the Atlanta Falcons out in the final week of the season. In that win, Tom Brady and Antonio Brown appeared to be on the same page. In the playoffs, Tampa has drawn the Washington Football Team in round one. The Washington pass rush could be a problem for Tom Brady. But if he is clicking with Brown, along with the rest of his weapons, the Bucs might be able to move forward.
6. Tennessee Titans (Last Week: 6)
Tennessee won a shootout with the Houston Texans in Week 17. That win clinched them the AFC South over the Indianapolis Colts. With a 2,000 yard rusher in Derrick Henry, and an explosive passing game, the Titans are a team that opponents will not want to see in the playoffs. Their defense is a huge concern, but the Titans will be good for some entertainment in the playoffs if nothing else.
5. Green Bay Packers (Last Week: 5)
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers secured the top seed in the NFC with a win in week 17 against the Bears. They land at number five in our NFL power rankings. Rodgers is the clear favorite to win the MVP award through the regular season. Green Bay has won six straight games heading into the playoffs. Their reward for that success is a first round bye, after which they will face the lowest seeded team remaining in the NFC.
4. New Orleans Saints (Last Week: 4)
The Saints beat up on the Carolina Panthers to close out their regular season. They did so without any conventional running backs due to COVID-19 concerns. They will need Alvin Kamara and company back for the playoffs, and should have them at home against the Chicago Bears this week. Even without their normal running back rotation, the Saints should have enough firepower to beat Chicago.
3. Buffalo Bills (Last Week: 3)
Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills destroyed the Dolphins at home in Week 17. The win clinched the two seed in the AFC for the Bills. It also ended a regular season in which the Bills went 7-1. The Bills were one of two teams in the league this season to score more than 500 points. They will look to improve to 8-1 at home this season in the first round of the playoffs when they take on the Colts.
2. Baltimore Ravens (Last Week: 2)
Baltimore is red-hot at the right time. The Ravens beat the Bengals 38-3 to finish the regular season on a high note and clinch a spot in the playoffs. They are so high in our power rankings thanks largely to an exemplary point differential. The Ravens had a point differential of +165 for the year to put them at number one in the league. They will look to improve on that number against the Titans on Wild Card Weekend.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (Last Week: 1)
The Chiefs didn’t try very hard in Week 17. They played the Chargers and lost with their backup quarterback in action. Kansas City will enjoy a first round bye this coming weekend. After that, they take on the lowest remaining seed in the AFC. Kansas City is the favorite to win the Super Bowl coming into the postseason, with odds of +225 to lead the pack.
NFL Power Rankings FAQ
Who is drafting third overall?
The Miami Dolphins have the third overall pick in the NFL Draft. Instead of the Texans having that spot, they traded the pick to the Dolphins. That is a huge boost to a Dolphins team that already won 10 games this past season. If they can put some weapons around Tua Tagovailoa using that pick, the Dolphins would be contenders in the AFC again next year.
Which conference is better in the NFL?
Right now, the AFC is the better of the two conferences in the NFL. As evidenced by our NFL power rankings, the bulk of the top teams in the league are from that conference. And with the NFC East dragging the NFC down considerably, the AFC has to be considered the better of the two conferences.
Whose legacy benefits most from a Super Bowl?
Tom Brady could benefit the most from a Super Bowl. Winning a seventh title, and a first in Tampa, would make him the greatest player of all-time without debate. Doing so without Bill Belichick would be a huge boost to his individual legacy as well. Whether or not he can do that remains to be seen.