I had these all set, expecting just a bit of movement at the top at the conclusion of the Bills-Bengals game, and then tragedy struck and power rankings kinda flew off my radar. I didn’t necessarily move either team, but they did both get bumped up thanks to some shaky play by teams previously ahead of them. I considered some adjustments before writing this, but ultimately felt the only fair shake is to leave everything as it was right before that game and treat this as though those teams had a bye week.
Bit of a somber farewell to my first full regular season of power rankings, but I’ll continue with some upcoming game previews through the playoffs.
1. Cincinnati Bengals
Props to them and their city for the way they dealt with what happened to Damar Hamlin and his family, and I really hope Tee Higgins comes out of this without a sense of blame nagging in the back of his mind. All that aside, the Eagles look lost without Jalen Hurts, and Cincy was hotter than fire even before the Buffalo game, where they came out and scored a TD on their first drive. I know it doesn’t matter unless the game somehow resumes, but Burrow walked off that field with a perfect passer rating. If they can shake off what they just experienced, there’s not a team in the league playing at a higher level.
2. Philadelphia Eagles
I know, backup QB, blah blah. Minshew didn’t even look terrible, which isn’t a good thing. I’ve been harsh on Buffalo for having so much of their offense tied up in one player, so it’s concerning that they can’t seem to win without Hurts. Still unknown if he’ll play this week as they try to lock up the top seed in the NFC.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
There’s just something to be said about gritting it out and finding ways to win. I respect that. And don’t let the score fool you. That was not the same bad Broncos team we’d seen all year. Interim coach and nothing to lose makes for the ultimate trap game, and KC handled their business.
4. Buffalo Bills
There was a part of me that, based on my methodology, wanted to put the Bills at number 1 this week. Does anyone seriously think the Pats have a chance in Buffalo this week? That crowd is gonna be fired up, and Buffalo’s players need both a release of frustration and something else to focus on. And that focus will be on the Pats. Bills are 7.5 point favorites right now, and I expect that to go up. Vegas isn’t stupid. They know what’s coming. My biggest concern is that Josh Allen tries to overcompensate to project a “we’re not scared” attitude and gets himself hurt in the process. They’re going to play hard; just remember to also play smart.
5. San Francisco 49ers
Maybe not exactly fair to drop them below Buffalo after they won, but their vaunted defense just let Jarrett Stidham light them up. I have little doubt they’ll clean it up and I honestly don’t see a way they don’t shut out the Cards this week, but I still have to see it.
6. Dallas Cowboys
That win over the Titans was good enough. But the Titans are also really bad right now. Hopefully Tony Pollard is back this week, but I’m guessing Zeke will handle a larger load so Pollard is fresher for the playoffs.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
If there’s an AFC team even near the heat level of the Bengals, it’s the Jags. I feared going into last weekend that Houston could be a trap game and the Jags would play down to their level, but Jacksonville just went in there and torched the place. This was not a fair fight. Tennessee isn’t much of a fair fight, either, and last season’s worst team in the league has a chance of winning their division this week.
8. Los Angeles Chargers
I both love them and don’t trust them. There’s just nothing about them to grab onto and say, “this is what’s so good about the Chargers.” They have really good players who disappear and reappear at random, save for Austin Ekeler, who may be the most consistent skill position player in the NFL. This could be a dangerous playoff team, especially if they can roll in at 11-6 off a win in Denver.
9. Detroit Lions and 10. Green Bay Packers
Let’s just talk about these two together. Both are red hot, both have defenses and running games playing their best football of the year, and I would give them the same ranking if I could. But that’s not how rankings work, and Detroit has the head-to-head bump right now. Barring a Seattle win, which would eliminate Detroit, these two teams will play for the last spot in the playoffs on Sunday night in Green Bay. If Seattle does win, you know Detroit will wanna play spoiler for their division rival, plus a winning record is still a big achievement after last season.
11. Minnesota Vikings
Is this bias? I’m trying not to let it creep in, but Jaire Alexander painted a very loud picture of how to stop the Vikings offense, and I don’t know if Kirk Cousins is prepared or capable of doing the things necessary to fix it. Let me say it slowly so everything can understand. Justin. Jefferson. Force. It. To. Him. Oh, you tried and he didn’t catch it. So then you tried again, right? Oh, and then he didn’t catch that one, either. Crazy. So how about this… TRY AGAIN. Jaire got into JJets head, and a capable QB and playcaller should’ve been able to find any way to get the ball to the most talented receiver in the NFL. Run a reverse, run a screen, have him take the damn snap. This is ridiculous. And a team unwilling to use such talent doesn’t belong in the top 10. If JJets touches it 20 times this Sunday, they could be back in the top 5. Fix it or stay home after Wildcard Weekend.
12. Baltimore Ravens
Tough matchup with the Bengals this week, especially with Lamar still on the sidelines. He’s made a lot of money just by letting Tyler Huntley keep playing. They’re in the playoffs, but their seed will depend on their game this weekend, and if the Bills-Bengals game is resumed at some point. Regardless, Lamar is expected back for the playoffs, at which point anything goes.
13. New York Giants
We’ll talk more when we know who they’ll be losing to in the first round of the playoffs.
14. Miami Dolphins
No Tua, possibly no Teddy, and Skylar Thompson isn’t starting a QB controversy anytime soon. It’s been a frustrating year for Miami, with rolling ups and downs tied almost directly to Tua’s health. This roster could do a lot of damage in the playoffs if they can get there and Tua is able to play. Or even if Teddy can play. I’ll never count out Mike McDaniel from being able to scheme up something none of us expected.
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Come on, really? I mean, come on, RLY? I can’t remember if I ever wrote this down and I don’t feel like looking, but I’ve had this thought for a while that Brady could play til he’s 50 if they just have him come in when they need him to run a no huddle in the 4th quarter. Maybe 55. I swear, the NFC Championship is gonna be Brady v. Rodgers and all the young guys will be at home watching like, how does this keep happening?
16. Seattle Seahawks
They need a win and a Packers loss, and they need to do it with a hobbled Kenneth Walker and basically no momentum other than the sprinkle they got from beating the less than no momentum J-E-T-S. They get Baker and the Rams at home, which is no cakewalk, but a playoff team should be able to handle it.
17. New England Patriots
Good luck this week. 37% chance of making the playoffs. All they really have to do is win, but that’s a tall task going into Buffalo.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers
Kenny Pickett is special. I was wrong. Tomlin may somehow still come out of this season with a winning record, and I still hear people say he should be fired. I’ll say it again… fire him, and he will have a new job before he hangs up the phone. It won’t happen. If they don’t sneak into the playoffs this year, they’ll be back in next year.
19. New York Jets
All I can say is their defense is really good and “Zach Wilson’s Cougars” is the funniest fantasy name I’ve seen all year. Serious question, if Saleh brings him along successfully and he wins a Super Bowl in a few years, will Jets fans admit they were wrong? More importantly, will they accept any blame? I didn’t think so. Thought I’d ask.
20. Vegas Raiders
Tell me right now you don’t think Josh McDaniels would go into 2023 training camp with Jarrett Stidham as his starter. I don’t believe you. They may draft a QB in the 1st round to develop, but Stidham knows the offense and it is not an easy offense to learn. Remember how Davante went to Vegas cause he didn’t wanna be part of a rebuild? You beter start believing in rebuilds, Mr. Adams…