This feels like it could be a short one.*Edit before publish: It’s not.* Normally a lot of my top 10 commentary is justifying movement up and down the rankings, but this week, the top 7 won’t be moving. Outside of Philly with their backup QB, the 2-7 teams all played well enough to move up, but there’s just nowhere to go. Unless anyone seriously thinks 13-2 Philly should drop 6 spots because Minshew Mania™ came up just short. The bigger and more interesting stories are lingering around the 9 teams sitting at 7-8 trying to sneak in with a wildcard or gag-worthy division title. Week 17 will feature such household names as Jarrett Stidham, Mike White, and Josh Dobbs, along with journeymen Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater, Colt McCoy, and Carson Wentz. If you regularly read my power rankings, that last one should already tell you where the Commanders will fall on this list. Felt right to bring back the tiers this week.
Tier I – Unchanged Interchangeable Seven
1. Philadelphia Eagles
Still the best record in the NFL and almost beat a really good team, on the road, with their backup QB. This isn’t college football rankings; a loss doesn’t mean you automatically drop under every team that won. Methodology matters. And with Hurts at QB, they’re the best in the league right now.
2. Cincinnati Bengals
8-4-4. You can’t get a 22-0 score at halftime and think you can sit on it. This offense is too good to ever go 2 full quarters without a point.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
I like when teams find different ways to win towards the end of the season. They’re unpredictable and adaptable, a deadly combination. Despite that, they need to be ready this week. Broncos fired their coach, which makes them even more unpredictable than KC, which makes this a trap game.
4. Minnesota Vikings
Strong win over the Giants that featured JJets getting heavily targeted, Cousins with some clutchy plays, and a 61 yard game-winning bomb from Greg Joseph. Feels like the Vikings kicker curse may be exhausted. Can’t imagine they’re excited to go to Lambeau this week, but it’s a great chance to prove they’re for real and simultaneously shatter a rival’s playoff hopes. That should be some strong motivation.
5. San Francisco 49ers
I don’t wanna bash Brock Purdy because I think he’s pretty good and could be more. But can we please wait to crown him? The kid has yet to throw for 300 yards in a game. He’s yet to throw 3 TDs in a game. And the reason for that is because he hasn’t had to yet. That’s not an insult to him, it’s a compliment to a team with a dominant defense, an offense with a billion weapons, and a coaching staff that knows how to use them all. Purdy has been efficient and relatively mistake-free, and that’s all he needs to be on this team. We can marvel at that and perhaps watch him develop into something more in front of our very eyes without adding this weird requirement to kiss the ring he doesn’t have yet. This is nothing against Purdy, and it’s not as if he’s out there demanding attention. It’s a great story that will lead to an even better offseason story, and I’m here for all of it. But let the kid breathe a little.
6. Buffalo Bills
I’ve often had to justify ranking the Bills lower than probably anyone else out there brave enough to do power rankings and share them publicly. If you need to know why they’re here, it may help to go back and read my last few Bills entries. The one difference this week was their dominant run game, which I’d love to see more of with less Josh Allen carries. But does anyone really trust McDermott or Allen to know when to lean on that running game against a defense better than the Bears?
7. Dallas Cowboys
Big win, but yes, they get a bit less credit than this win would have normally given. It’s not that it was against a backup QB, it’s that their normally staunch defense gave up 34 points to that backup QB. That said, it was nice to not have to hear Cowboys fans wanting McCarthy fired and Dak benched for a few days. Seriously, that fan base turns on coaches and quarterbacks as fast as Packers fans turn on defensive coordinators. I still think they could win the Super Bowl and an unreasonable amount of fans would still want McCarthy fired.
Tier II – The First Cliff: I Can’t Explain Why They’re Here, But I Can’t Not Explain It Either
8. Los Angeles Chargers
It’s hard to say they’re here for any other reason than that they keep winning. The cliffs in this league are growing. The top 7 could be argued as interchangeable. I would honestly accept any power rankings with those 7 teams in any order. Then comes the first big drop. Every time I say it, it’s even more true… they need to unleash Herbert. That’s the only way to add themselves to the elite group above them. Brandon Staley has to know he’s playing for his job right now. If they miss the playoffs, I can’t imagine he’ll have a job when the first playoff game kicks off. Even if they make the playoffs, with Sean Payton dropped the Chargers name as a potential destination, Staley will need at least an AFC Championship appearance to hold the gig.
9. Baltimore Ravens
This Lamar-less stretch has been brutal and it looks like it’ll continue this weekend. But did it come at a great time, or what? Broncos-Steelers-Browns-Falcons-Steelers. Those are the games he has/will miss. They’ve already won 3 of the first 4 of those by scoring 10 points, 16 points, and 17 points against some bad teams. Raven Roquan showed up and the defense has been in shutdown mode ever since. Now they get one more at home against the Steelers, and Lamar should be back for week 18 against the Bengals that could determine the division.
Tier III – A League Of Their Own
10. Jacksonville Jaguars
Best of the 7-8 teams and playing clear eyes, full hearts. In the last 7 games, Trevor Lawrence has thrown for 1,909 yards with 14 tuds and 1 pick. He’s for real, and finally has a coach who can bring it out of him. Texans are a trap game this week with a potential division title and playoff spot for the Jags on the line next week against the Titans. Gotta take care of business against Houston, who has given good teams fits lately and looks a lot better than their record.
Tier IV – The Second Cliff: Bigger Than The First
11. Miami Dolphins
I am not a doctor and not about to state anything that should be taken as pushing a medical opinion. I don’t know if Tua should play anymore this season, I don’t know how many concussions he’s suffered this season, and I don’t know how that affects his ability to continue.
Here is what I do know. He looked good against Buffalo last week, and he threw for 227 yards in the 1st half against the Packers, and sometime in the 2nd quarter his head bounced off the ground again. Then the 2nd half started and he was a different quarterback. There’s an obvious cognitive connection to the timing of the concussion and his play before and after.
The Google machine tells me a concussion can impair peripheral vision… go back and watch his 2nd and 3rd interceptions and look where the Packers defenders are when he throws the ball. It’s likely he never saw them if his peripheral vision was impaired. The last one especially. Even on multiple camera angles, Rasul Douglas looks like he’s taking Tyreek across the middle and isn’t even in view when Tua lets go, then falls off Tyreek’s route and drops into the zone right in front of the ball. Maybe Douglas just baited him well, and as a Packers fan I’d like to believe that, but logically I have to consider that Tua never saw him, or lost him in his peripheral as Tyreek crossed.
Either a head injury impaired his vision or decision-making and led to him being a completely different quarterback, or the Packers changed up their scheme so well that he went from dominant to horrible in half an hour, which just happened to coincide with his head bouncing off the turf. Occam’s Razor and all that.
That’s a big reason why I’m not dropping them too far, but also because Bridgewater is available and they won’t have to rely on Skylar Thompson. There’s still so much offensive talent and Bridgewater can put it in the right place and manage the offense. Pats and Jets aren’t easy matchups, but if Bridgewater stays healthy, I think they can still sneak into the playoffs and decide what to do with Tua from there.
12. Detroit Lions
Is it possible they got so good as the underdog that they stopped being the underdog but no one told them? I don’t know, but a running game would be nice. And a running defense. You could ignore literally every other stat and just look at the rushing yards for each team and have a pretty good idea of the score… Panthers 320, Lions 45. That is a bonkers number by both, and for obviously opposite reasons. Now the Lions find themselves in win out or go home territory, and a trap game against the Bears as they try not to look ahead to the Packers in a week 18 game that could determine which, if either, goes to the playoffs.
13. Green Bay Packers
For the Packers, this isn’t a trap game week, which somehow makes it better for them. They finally get a rematch for an embarrassing week 1 loss that created a lot of early season questions on radios in barns all across rural Wisconsin. With such a staunch opponent, no one on this team is looking ahead yet. They need to win out and get some help to get into the playoffs. Even though they currently have the same record as the Lions, they play them in week 18 so “winning out” would include overtaking them. That means they have to get past either the Giants or Commanders. Giants would have to lose both of their last games, Commanders just once. I refuse to consider what happens if anyone ties because why tf do we still have ties in football.
14. New York Giants
Still don’t think they’re a winning team and Daniel Jones is maybe slightly above average, but Daboll has them believing and man is Saquon fun to watch. I really hope he can stay healthy in his career going forward cause I love watching really good football players, even if they play for a fraudulent team. Winning 1 of their last 2 games, or a losses from a few teams in other of the last weeks puts the Giants into the playoffs, so they’re in one of the better bubble spots.
Tier V – Downward Spiral
15. New York Jets
Will Mike White’s return be too late? Their playoff chances are slim, and winning out is the first requirement. Then they just need the Pats to lose once to either the Dolphins or Bills. That part seems easier than the winning out part. Luckily they start with a team on a similar downward slide in Seattle. Not an easy place to play, but Seattle has struggled playing anywhere lately. Mike White needs to be the spark the Jets need to make a playoff run and that’s a weird sentence to even type out.
16. Seattle Seahawks
Hawks are in a similar predicament. Despite their hot start, they now need to win out and gets some help to make the playoffs. They’ve had a really tough run lately and had to weather it with a limping backfield. Walker seems to be back, but he’s still being held out practices to rest his ankle, which means his breakaway speed may not be fully operational. That running game is on fumes, but they need everything Walker’s got left if they still want the playoffs.
17. New England Patriots
What a disaster. They’ve now dropped 4 of their last 5, with 1 lonely win coming against the Kyler-less Colt-led Cards. Whoever put this offense together is the author of a master class on poor coaching and how to not develop a quarterback. Marcus Jones delivered another huge play with a pick 6, further establishing himself as the only player allowed to be exciting in Belichick’s presence. If Mac isn’t allowed to throw downfield, then just give the ball to Jones every play and let us watch something fun.
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Young guys are intercepting Tom Brady and asking him to autograph the ball. I don’t really have anything else to say. That’s just hilarious. This entire team is gonna break a hip.
19. Vegas Raiders
Speaking of Brady, perhaps the warmth of Florida is no longer enough and his old bones require a drier climate, one that features his old OC and Davante Adams. Seriously WordPress, Adams is not an uncommon last name… stop correcting me. Anyway, that’s the rumor. That might be the only way they get Josh Jacobs to stay.
Tier VI – A League Of Their Own 2
20. Carolina Panthers
320 yards rushing last week. 320. That’s bonkers. Only the Eagles have had more in a single game this season. A month ago we were talking about which top 5 QB the Panthers would take in the draft. Now they’re in the running for a division title and could be a handful for someone on wildcard weekend.
Tier VII – The Third Cliff
21. Cleveland Browns
Is 4 games long enough to start judging Deshaun Watson’s play yet? Cause his 4th game back was his worst yet. And at some point, players in that locker room are gonna start wondering why Jacoby Brissett is still on the bench when he’s clearly their best option to win right now. Treating the last part of the season as a preseason for Watson, while the team was still on the playoff bubble, is not a good look for the guys out there sacrificing their bodies.
If they finish the way they’ve played lately, the questions will really start coming in. What happens if Watson gets a full camp and preseason and 4 weeks into the 2023 regular season he still looks mediocre or worse? His contract basically makes this ride or die. There’s no out year. Even if they cut or trade before the final year of his contract in 2026, his dead cap number that year is $54 million. Anytime before that, the number is so prohibitive it’s not even worth talking about. This contract is such an absurd roll of the dice. And if Watson never gets back to form, this will make it hard to compete for years.
22. Los Angeles Rams
Sounds like Stafford plans on coming back next year. But based on his play, I think the question will eventually have to be asked if Stafford is a better option than Baker in 2023. I’m sure Baker will get offers elsewhere, but he clearly works well with McVay, and I bet McVay could do even more to tailor the offense to be even better for Baker. I’m just saying, don’t be surprised if McVay starts to view the only 27 year old Baker as the future of the franchise.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers
It’s hilarious to me seeing Steelers fans wanting Sean Payton to replace Mike Tomlin. Starting over with a brand new QB, Tomlin has them at 7-8 and somehow not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. If the Steelers actually dumped him, he would have a new team in an hour. I’m sure most Steelers fans know that, but the loud ones are being silly.
24. Tennessee Titans
Previously they seemed desperate for the title of worst division winner over the Bucs, but they may not win their division. Now they’re tied with the Jags and starting Josh Dobbs at QB, with a win and in showdown next week. Oh, and Derrick Henry is out. Good luck.
Tier XXV – Washington Commanders ft. Carson Wentz
25. Washington Commanders
I warned you what would happen. Carson Wentz goes 2-4 as the starter, then Heinicke comes in and rattles off 5 wins over the next 6 games and inexplicably puts them in the playoff race. Then after a tie and a loss to the Giants, Heinicke actually looks pretty good against the Niners best-in-league defense, but gets benched for Wentz. And now Wentz gets the starting gig back.
There’s little doubt in my mind that Wentz is far more gifted and capable of taking the offense to a different level, if he wants. But that depends heavily on Wentz, and that’s a risky gamble and gives way too much power to an unreliable entity. Maybe he shows up and takes them to the playoffs, maybe even wins a wildcard game. But there’s a reason Philly and Indy gave up on him so easily. He’s poison. And it’ll fester as long as he’s in the locker room. He could take them straight through to the Super Bowl this year and I’ll still have no faith they can win week 1 with him next season. That’s why this will continue to be the Commanders ft. Carson permanent spot.
Tier IX – Ready For The Draft
26. Atlanta Falcons
I’m so excited for Atlanta. This year is a bust as they’re officially out of the playoffs, but there’s so much to look forward to. Their 2022 draft hit on a lot of picks.
1st rounder Drake London, despite the crucial fumbles the past couple weeks, is far better than I thought he would be. I thought he should’ve gone more towards the end of the WR draft run, but I was wrong. He’s a 50/50 ball threat and a coverage nightmare.
3rd rounder Desmond Ridder… if you look at the score and see 9 points, you might think he isn’t good, but watch the clips. He can make every throw with confidence. Mark it down now: After an offseason working with London and Pitts and Tyler Allgeier, Ridder will be in the top half of QBs next season.
Speaking of Allgeier, he’s their 5th round pick who could flirt with 1,000 yards rushing in his rookie year. He should easily pass that in yards from scrimmage as he’s recently shown some ability as a receiver.
Other picks are still developing. Troy Anderson and Arnold Ebeketie have tons of potential. But already knowing you hit on 3 big picks at QB/RB/WR in a single draft is huge. With some line help, this team could own the highly own-able NFC South for years.
27. New Orleans Saints
On the other end of the NFC South is the aging Saints, who apparently are rumored to be trying to bring Sean Payton back and pair him with Tom Brady next year. Because that’s what this team needs, more age. I’m sorry, but it’s time to blow it up. Let Payton go somewhere else and get that team’s draft picks in exchange, then trade whoever you can for picks and start from scratch. They keep trying to piece together just enough each year to not be horrible. They could still win the division and make the playoffs, but why bother?
28. Chicago Bears
I’ve been excited for Bears fans, but it has always been lingering in my mind, and sometimes written on this page, that Ryan Poles and their dysfunctional front office would do something to screw it up. It looks like they finally understand the levels to which Justin Fields can take this team, and that’s progress. They could get a #1 WR this offseason, but I see no reason to give up everything for it with Claypool and Mooney, plus the emergence of Cole Kmet. They literally need to use every single pick and available salary cap dollar on defense, obviously holding back some cash flow for the escrow check on Fields extension in a couple years. Eberflus deserves a lot of credit for this year. Somehow a 3-12 has high morale and they just know, record aside, they’re on the way up.
29. Houston Texans
Out of the toilet! After 2 weeks of taking the Cowboys and Chiefs to the wire, the Texans took out the Titans for win number 2 of the season. They have the 1st or 2nd overall draftpick locked in, and even if they flip spots with the Bears on draft order, they’ll likely still be able to get whatever QB they want. Then the Davis Mills-Bryce Young timeshare can be born.
30. Indianapolis Colts
Turns out the Jeff Saturday experiment didn’t go so well. Who could’ve seen that coming besides everyone but Irsay. They currently have the 5th pick in the 2023 draft, and lots of QBs on that board. Time to start looking towards a future that doesn’t include trying to rehabilitate old and washed up quarterbacks.
Tier X – The Toilet
31. Denver Broncos
They belong here. I think they’ll give the Chiefs a run for it this week, only because teams always seem to play well for an interim coach’s first game. But this organization needs to find a way to make Russ work, cause they mortgaged their draft and cap for him.
Finding a way to make Russ work will require a head coach who knows him. In my week 12 power rankings, I said this:
I’m now 500% sure Nathaniel Hackett was 300% sure Rodgers would follow him. And since Denver’s front office seemed to want to bring in a HC/QB duo, don’t be surprised when they give Darrell Bevell a look after Hackett gets the 64 yard boot.
Now that Hackett got that boot, big name analysts like Mike Florio are out here talking about Bevell like they came up with the idea. I SAID IT FIRST, POSERS. AND I GOT THE RECEIPTS. And come on, that 64 yard boot thing was gold and no one used it when he got fired.
Not only was Bevell the OC for Seattle during Russ’s best years, they’re arguably the 2 best QBs in Wisconsin Badgers history. I don’t know what they think of each other, but they’ve worked well together and the Broncos need someone who can turn things around quickly, which means someone who can get through to Russ quickly. No, not Sean Payton. Shut up. Everyone just shut up about Sean Payton.
32. Arizona Cardinals
Another complete mess of a team. Currently they’ve got the 4th pick in the draft, and they’re committed to Kyler and mostly committed to Kingsbury. Gonna be one hell of a reflective offseason for these guys. Maybe try to sneak that iPad clause back into Kyler’s contract.