The playoff field is almost set in the NFL, with the AFC already decided and the final two spots in the NFC to be determined on the final Sunday of the regular season.
But with all 32 teams still having one more game to play in Week 17, we can still work out the league’s hierarchy. If any two given teams played, who would win? That’s what fans always want to know, that’s what power rankings are all about, and that’s how we break down the NFL each week.
32. New York Jets
Wait, what? We have a new No. 32? You bet your sweet bippy, and the completely uncompetitive New York Jets deserve every bit of Dead Last after doing what they did last week and running Ryan Fitzpatrick out there again.
31. Los Angeles Rams
In the rematch of the very worst season-opening game in modern football history, the Rams were every bit as unwatchable—and once again lost to the horrible San Francisco 49ers.
30. San Diego Chargers
You lose to the Cleveland Browns, you get ranked beneath them. That’s the rule.
We got it done for the #DawgPound!
29. Cleveland Browns
Woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo victory! It doesn’t mean much—except, of course, it means everything.
28. San Francisco 49ers
Can’t put the 49ers beneath the Browns because they won, too. Oh, and it was another appearance of Good Kaepernick, even if only for the first and last quarters.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars
To quote Animal House: “What we need is a really futile and stupid gesture.” Rising up and ruining the Tennessee Titans’ season — and breaking poor Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota’s leg in the process — exactly the kind of Delta House move these Jaguars would pull after Gus Bradley got expelled.
26. Chicago Bears
Yeah, I think we’ve reached the useful end of “Hey, actually the Bears have been losing pretty close these days.” Even this high is probably generous.
25. Cincinnati Bengals
Aw, Bengals. You were almost doing kind of good for a little while there. Maybe this will push owner Mike Brown into making some overdue changes.
24. Houston Texans
Somehow the flailing Texans found a way to beat a Bengals team who’d recently beat some good teams and played some great teams close. Despite the best-laid plans of general manager Rick Smith going completely to heck, and J.J. Watt watching from the sidelines, the Texans are repeat division champs.
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) December 24, 2016
23. Carolina Panthers
I gave up on figuring out the Panthers a long time ago, but I can’t drop them too far for losing to the mighty Atlanta Falcons, especially coming off two straight wins.
22. Minnesota Vikings
Their performance in Lambeau Field was a million times better than the egg they laid at home in Week 15, but they’re still nowhere near as dangerous as they were earlier in the year.
21. Indianapolis Colts
They followed up a tremendous, high-watermark road blowout of the Vikings by playing the AFC’s second-best team really close. Way too little, way too late, but this is a strong-looking finish to a disappointing season.
20. Buffalo Bills
Once again, the Bills put themselves in position to win a game they really need to win. Once again, they didn’t win it. Rex Ryan is already out, but we’ve seen this offense stand up and play hard for new head coach Anthony Lynn already — when he was promoted mid-season to replace fired offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
19. Arizona Cardinals
Vengeance for that horrible Monday Night Football tie has successfully been wrought.
18. Philadelphia Eagles
Hey, there are the Eagles that spent the first half of the season looking like one of the league’s five best teams! And also, there are the flawed New York Giants everybody thought would lose a lot of their games down the stretch.
— NFL (@NFL) December 26, 2016
17. Denver Broncos
We’re here on the Great Divide of the NFL Power Rankings, where good teams that are fading down the stretch collide with late bloomers blooming just a little too late.
16. Tennessee Titans
Literally and figuratively painful. Not only did the Titans faceplant against the woeful Jaguars after upsetting the Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, they lose quarterback Marcus Mariota until at least OTAs, and didn’t get the season-saving help they needed from the Bengals. The most exciting young dark horse in the league has been ridden right out of the playoffs.
15. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders didn’t fall this far because they lost one game. They fell this far because that’s the dropoff from starting quarterback Derek Carr to backup Matt McGloin.
.@MarkIngram22 takes care of business.
— NFL (@NFL) December 24, 2016
14. New Orleans Saints
The Falcons have the No. 1 scoring offense, and the Saints have the No. 2 scoring offense. Both teams have bottom-third scoring defense. The Falcons, though, are outscoring their opponents by an average of 8.6 points; the Saints just 1.4. That’s been the difference between 10-5 and 7-8, and the difference between this rank on the list and… way higher.
Washington’s first emphatic win in what feels like forever couldn’t have been at a better time. Now they control their path to the playoffs — as long as the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions don’t battle to a tie.
12. Seattle Seahawks
This is probably too generous, honestly. They’re now 2-3 in their last five, and coming off an embarrassing home loss to an eliminated team.
For your viewing pleasure!
Cameron Brate's TD tied a Bucs single-season TE touchdown record! https://t.co/BpARA2Cvas
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@TBBuccaneers) December 24, 2016
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
They were arguably the NFC’s hottest team… and then they got beat pretty emphatically by the eliminated Saints. There’s no shame in losing to Drew Brees in the Superdome — but the next team on the list went into New Orleans and won.
10. Detroit Lions
I mean, I guess? They lost two very tough games, and really needed to win one of them. If they don’t beat the Packers at home, they can still sneak into the playoffs — but if they don’t beat the Packers, they’ll have proven they can’t beat a real playoff team.
9. New York Giants
They are who we thought they were: Good, not great, with some real flaws a conference-title contender can’t have.
For the first time in 2,925 days the Miami #Dolphins hit 10 wins in a season. Jay Ajayi
8. Miami Dolphins
I’m putting the Dolphins pretty high up here, because that was an extremely impressive comeback road win over a talented division rival that was more desperate for the W. Backup quarterback Matt Moore proved the Dolphins are gonna be just fine with him under center.
7. Baltimore Ravens
I know, I know: Two losses in their last three games. But they were two road losses New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers — and they were really, really close games the Ravens had a chance to win. They’re eliminated, but they’d be a heck of a lot tougher out right now than quite a few teams that will make the postseason field.
6. Kansas City Chiefs
The Raiders losing Derek Carr not only opens up the door for the Chiefs to snatch the AFC West crown, and the AFC’s No. 2 seed, but skyrocket up this list. An emphatic win over the Denver Broncos affirms their place among the real contenders not only in their conference, but in the league.
5. Green Bay Packers
Absolutely nobody wants to play this team right now. Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback of his generation and he’s been playing like it for a couple of months. More terrifyingly for the Lions (and every team the Packers might face in the playoffs), receiver Jordy Nelson has finally found his burst again — making the Packers offense extremely hard to slow down.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
Balance. Consistency. Toughness. Results.
Everything the Steelers have been missing all season, the re-emergence of Le’Veon Bell has supplied. Though all of their six straight wins haven’t exactly come against playoff contenders, their big comeback win over the Ravens proves the Steelers are ready to make a real run.
3. Atlanta Falcons
What the Falcons have done is nothing short of amazing. They’ve got a historically great offense, and a defense that consistently does exactly what it needs to do to get wins. Their extremely tough schedule isn’t letting up in the last week, though. They’ll need to beat the Saints in the Superdome if they want a shot at the No. 2 seed.
Dez out here THROWING TDs???
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) December 27, 2016
2. Dallas Cowboys
Pedal to the metal, all hands on deck, whatever you want to call it: The Cowboys gave the Lions everything they had and it was way, way more than enough to secure the NFC’s No. 1 seed…
1. New England Patriots
… but it wasn’t enough to unseat the Patriots, who put some truly outlandish clownshoes on the Jets in Week 16. This team doesn’t feel like an invincible juggernaut, but very few teams have been able to exploit any of this team’s identifiable flaws — and what might be Bill Belichick’s best coaching job yet leaves them standing atop the heap going into Week 17.