NFL Power Rankings Week 17: Bills rise, Patriots fall, and Cardinals tumble

The NFL Power Rankings for Week 17 go under the knife. They needed a change because a few teams cemented themselves against good opponents.

NFL Power Rankings Week 17 | Tier 2: Dangerous playoff teams

Every team in this category could win the Super Bowl in a weird season like 2021. However, flaws have kept them from reaching the top tier.

8) New England Patriots

My fear with the Patriots’ offense was what would happen if Mac Jones needed to throw them back into a game. We’ve received failing tests in the past two weeks against quality opponents.

This isn’t a shot at what Jones could be. His weapons failed him at times against Buffalo, and Jones simply looked like the rookie that he is over the past two games. Even the greats have had their fair share of horrific outings in 2021.

The Jaguars in Week 17 offer a prime opportunity for a get-right game, and Jones could carry some confidence into the playoffs if he performs well against a tough Brian Flores-coached Dolphins defense in Week 18.

7) Buffalo Bills

That was the Buffalo Bills team I’d been expecting all season. The defense made rookie QB Mac Jones look like a rookie despite losing Tre’Davious White weeks ago to a season-ending injury. Meanwhile, Josh Allen looked like the kid at recess that hit puberty before everyone else. He’s the best player on the field at all times.

Don’t get me wrong – he’s still far from perfect. But I’ve been so impressed with Allen’s toughness in the back half of Buffalo’s season. He’s put the team on his back, carrying them in the run game and the passing attack. He’s not the team’s leading rusher yet, but he might get there in the next two games.

The Bills beat a really good Patriots team, putting themselves in a position not just to make the playoffs but to win the AFC East.

6) Indianapolis Colts

Jonathan Taylor only had 5 rushes of more than 5 yards against the Cardinals. Indy’s defense wasn’t out stealing footballs from Arizona like Swiper in Dora the Explorer. The Colts needed Carson Wentz to be efficient and avoid mistakes, and that’s exactly what he did against the Cards despite missing multiple offensive linemen.

The Colts probably won’t want to compete in a track meet come playoff time, but their opportunistic defense and great rushing attack can carry them in January if Wentz can play mistake-free football. Only the Patriots and Chiefs have looked as good in the past 10 games.

5) Los Angeles Rams

Matthew Stafford is officially worrying me. I jested quite a bit during the offseason when some proclaimed the trade for Stafford would elevate the Rams to the upper echelon of NFC teams. However, I still expected better-sustained production than we’ve received from Stafford.

He’s thrown 9 INTs in his last seven games. Today, it really looked like Sean McVay was trying to let Stafford throw himself out of his mid-game slump like a basketball coach does a volume shooter. For most of the game, Los Angeles ran the ball more effectively than they threw it. Yet, they didn’t consistently lean on their rushing attack, even though Minnesota struggles to defend it.

Cooper Kupp isn’t the league MVP, but he’s most certainly the Rams’ most valuable offensive player at this point. Stafford doesn’t need to be leashed yet, but McVay must keep an eye out for when the veteran quarterback leans back into the realm of Detroit Stafford trying to do too much.

4) Dallas Cowboys

Frankly, I’ve never seen a more dominant half of football than we saw Dallas play against Washington on Sunday Night Football. They gained 388 net yards on offense, intercepted Washington twice, and scored 6 total TDs in one half that saw them lead 42-7. Somehow, it didn’t feel that close.

Obviously, we can’t expect this offense to play at such a torrent pace against a team not throwing haymakers at one another. But if they can be even close to this offensively down the stretch, it’s tough to find a more complete team on offense and defense.

NFL Power Rankings Week 17 | Tier 1: Super Bowl Contenders

These teams have played the most consistent football all season and have the talent to legitimately make a Super Bowl run.

3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

No Chris Godwin, no Mike Evans, no Antoine Winfield Jr.? No problem. The Bucs are one of one. They’re the only team with the depth and completeness on their roster to sustain blows to two high-end receiving weapons and a fantastic safety.

They moved the ball with relative ease both through the air and on the ground. One week after being embarrassed by the Saints, Tampa needed that offensive effort against a pretty good Panthers defense. But what the Saints do defensively is not replicable by any other defense.

The Buccaneers have two more weeks to really get rolling before they head into the playoffs.

2) Green Bay Packers

The Packers are a very good football team with one big red glaring flaw. They’re officially the worst run-defending team in the NFL on a per-play basis after the Browns game. They’re dead last in EPA/play allowed against the run, and they possess the third-worst success rate. Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric ranks them 25th. No matter how you cut it, they struggle against rushing attacks.

But they also have Aaron Rodgers, the great equalizer in the sport. His accuracy and decision-making are unmatched, and he can still – despite his broken toe – make plays outside of structure like he’s not a 38-year-old. He’s the league MVP, and it’s not particularly close.

1) Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs are back, and I truly hope all the doomsday preppers from earlier this year feel silly. This offense was still moving the ball at will and was simply suffering from some awful turnover luck. They also made some key changes to the defensive depth chart which turned the tide of their season, as their offense did go through a bit of a rough patch.

Kansas City is the best team in the league right now, with arguably the most talented quarterback of all time just starting to hit his stride in the 2021 NFL season. They deserve the top spot in the NFL Power Rankings as we head into Week 17.

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