Week 17 NFL Power Rankings: Ho ho ho playoff race edition
The NFL has one week remaining and can anyone really identify a surefire Super Bowl favorite? Yes, New Orleans (13-2) has the best record but the Saints have struggled in their last three outings winning two games by just a field goal.
Not too long ago the Los Angeles Rams (12-3) and the Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) looked like the clear Super Bowl favorites but each team is 2-2 in the month of December. The Chicago Bears (11-4) certainly have a Super Bowl-caliber defense but that offense has produced just 53 total points in the last three outings, and did so with major help from the defense.
What all of this means is that we could be headed toward one heck of a month of playoff football in January where anything could happen. Who could ask for anything more?
1. New Orleans Saints (13-2). Last week: 1
Fentress says: The Saints clinched home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a 31-28 win at home over Pittsburgh. QB Drew Brees might have also locked up his first league MVP award by passing for 326 yards and one touchdown in the victory.
2. Chicago Bears (11-4). Last week: 5.
Fentress says: The Bears probably aren’t the second best team in the NFL but they have defeated the Rams and the Kansas Chiefs have faltered as of late. So, let’s go with Chicago at No. 2 by default, for now.
3. Los Angeles Rams (12-3). Last week: 6.
Fentress says: The Rams can clinch a first round bye with a win at home over San Francisco. Still, their offense now seems out of sorts. RB Todd Gurley is banged up and QB Jared Goff clearly misses WR Cooper Kupp.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4). Last week: 3.
Fentress says: Kansas City dodged a bullet with the Los Angeles Chargers losing to Baltimore and now can clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win at home against woeful Oakland. The defense, however, remains a major concern.
5. Los Angeles Chargers (11-4). Last week: 2.
Fentress says: The Chargers blew a golden opportunity by losing to Baltimore. Now it must win at home over Denver and hope for a miracle that Kansas City loses at to Oakland in order to win the AFC West and capture home field advantage in the playoffs.
6. Houston Texans (10-5). Last week: 4.
Fentress says: Houston's loss at Philadelphia hurt. The Texans can still clinch the AFC South title with a win over Jacksonville. If they lose, then the winner of the Indianapolis vs. Tennessee game would win the division. Either way, Houston is in the playoffs.
7. Baltimore Ravens (9-6). Last week: 10.
Fentress says: Baltimore moved into first place in the AFC North on Sunday when Pittsburgh lost at New Orleans. The Ravens’ 22-10 win at the Chargers on Thursday showed that their running game and defense could do damage in the AFC playoffs. But the Ravens must win at home against Cleveland to avoid scenarios that could boot them out of the playoffs altogether.
8. New England Patriots (10-5). Last week: 8.
Fentress says: The loss of WR Josh Gordon hurts an already inconsistent receiving corps and the health of TE Rob Gronkowski is always in issue these days. Navigating the upcoming postseason will be one of coach Bill Belichick’s greatest challenges.
9. Seattle Seahawks (9-6). Last week: 11.
Fentress says: Seattle clinched a playoff berth with a home win over Kansas City and then on Monday extended the contract of coach Pete Carroll through the 2021 season. He certainly has done a great job this season and the future looks bright with cap space and a young roster.
10. Indianapolis Colts (9-6). Last week: 9.
Fentress says: The Colts survived the New York Giants to win 28-27 and moved into the second AFC wild card position. However, they must win at Tennessee to remain there. Indy Could still win AFC South with a win and a Houston loss to Jacksonville.
11. Dallas Cowboys (9-6). Last week: 12.
Fentress says: Dallas clinched the NFC East title with a 27-20 win over Tampa Bay at home. Because Chicago defeated San Francisco, the Cowboys are locked into the No. 4 seed in the NFL playoffs.
12. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6-1). Last week: 7.
Fentress says: The Steelers could still win the AFC North with a win at home over Cincinnati and a Baltimore loss to Cleveland. If the Ravens win, then the Steelers are toast because the winner of the Colts-Titans game will claim the second AFC wild card spot unless they tie.
13. Tennessee Titans (9-6). Last week: 14.
Fentress says: The Titans get into the playoffs with a win over the Colts. Tennessee could win the AFC South with a win and a Houston loss.
14. Minnesota Vikings (8-6-1). Last week: 13.
Fentress says: The Vikings get into the playoffs with a win over Chicago. A loss and the Eagles could swoop into the playoffs with a win over Washington.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (8-7). Last week: 15.
Fentress says: What I said about the Vikings.
16. Cleveland Browns (7-7-1). Last week: 18.
Fentress says: QB Baker Mayfield really needs to get over his hate of former coach Hue Jackson.
17. Washington (7-8). Last week: 17.
Fentress says: Washington was eliminated from playoff contention with loss at Tennessee and the Vikings’ win.
18. Green Bay Packers (6-8-1). Last week: 19.
Fentress says: QB Aaron Rodgers threw for 442 yards and two touchdowns in overtime win at the New York Jets.
19. Atlanta Falcons (6-9). Last week: 23.
Fentress says: The Falcons could close the season with three consecutive wins next week at Tampa Bay. A five-game losing streak in the middle of the season, however, doomed Atlanta’s year.
20. Miami Dolphins (7-8). Last week: 16.
Fentress says: Slim playoff hopes ended with 17-7 loss to Jacksonville to follow up a 47-17 loss at Minnesota.
21. Carolina Panthers (6-9). Last week: 20.
Fentress says: Seven consecutive losses and counting. QB Cam Newton shutdown for the season.
22. Cincinnati Bengals (6-9). Last week: 21.
Fentress says: ESPN is reporting that if Denver fires coach Vance Joseph he could become the Bengals’ new defensive coordinator.
23. Denver Broncos (6-9). Last week: 22.
Fentress says: Pitiful showing at Oakland in 27-14 loss has reports stating that coach Vance Joseph's job is in peril.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-10). Last week: 24.
Fentress says: The Bucs reached double-digit losses for the seventh time in 10 seasons.
25. Buffalo Bills (5-10). Last week: 28.
Fentress says: According to reports, RB LeSean McCoy didn’t start in loss to New England because of a "situation" with coach Sean McDermott. #Drama
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10). Last week: 29.
Fentress says: LB Myles Jack said the team’s performance in 17-7 win over Miami proves that the players have not quit.
27. New York Giants (5-10). Last week: 25.
Fentress says: The Giants blew a 17-7 halftime lead at the Colts but looked solid in defeat.
28. San Francisco 49ers (4-11). Last week: 30.
Fentress says: San Francisco once again played tough against a good team, losing 14-9 to the Bears.
29. Oakland Raiders (4-11). Last week: 31.
Fentress says: The Raiders have won two of their last three games, if that means anything to anyone.
30. Detroit Lions (5-10). Last week: 26.
Fentress says: Lions’ offense once again looked pitiful in a 27-9 loss at home to Minnesota.
31. New York Jets (4-11). Last week: 27.
Fentress says: Rookie QB Sam Darnold had another strong game, passing for 341 with three touchdowns in loss to the Packers.
32. Arizona Cardinals (3-12). Last week: 32.
Fentress says: WR Larry Fitzgerald threw for the team’s only touchdown in 31-9 loss to the Rams. In the process he became the oldest WR to throw a touchdown pass since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.