NFL Power Rankings Week 18 | Tier 2: Dangerous playoff teams
The teams in this category have the goods to make legitimate playoff runs if they can tweak just a few things.
9) Cincinnati Bengals
Ja’Marr Chase, have yourself a gosh darn day, why don’t ya! Joe Burrow once again threw for a billion yards, with 266 of them going to Chase, along with 3 of his 4 passing TDs.
The Bengals slowed things down in the second half, and the Chiefs were unable to get anything going with only three total possessions and 3 points in the second half. A late penalty in the end zone by Kansas City’s secondary allowed Cincinnati to kneel and kick the game-winner.
8) New England Patriots
The Patriots needed a rebound, and they got an undefended one against the Jaguars, who didn’t offer much resistance from the very start of the game. New England led 28-3 at the half, and they extended that lead to 35-3 on the first drive out of halftime.
Mac Jones and the Patriots’ passing attack did whatever they wanted to, and the rushing attack didn’t have any trouble, either. New England faced just 4 third downs in their first five drives, and they converted on all four.
7) Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys didn’t deserve to beat Arizona. Cowboys fans will complain about the refs, but missed kicks, fumbles, and poor clock management is to blame for this loss. It also doesn’t help when Dak Prescott – who has only run when absolutely forced to as a last resort this season – is the team’s leading rusher with 20 yards.
The defense played just fine against a talented Cardinals offense. They struggled with a few big plays downfield, but the biggest issue was they weren’t able to coordinate a consistent rush against the shifty Kyler Murray. That proved to be their death blow.
6) Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals got out to a lead against Dallas, and they never once gave it away. Early in the season, when Arizona was near the top of the NFL Power Rankings, it was because they were performing well against good competition. In Week 17, they took it to a good conference opponent and controlled the entire game.
Arizona was able to cover and generate pressure when they rushed four, and they got consistent pressure when they sent more. Their speed and aggression also caused quite a few penalties that nullified big plays for Dallas, who in turn completely abandoned the run.
5) Buffalo Bills
Today was a test of what the Bills – and more specifically Josh Allen – could get away with and still win. They beat a Falcons team that could barely stick around despite winning the turnover battle and outgaining the Bills on a per-play basis.
However, Buffalo’s defense was stifling on third down, and their offense was opportunistic in both the red zone and on third down. The Bills were the far better team, and the result – despite their poor play – was proof of that. They moved up in the NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 18 after their snowy performance.
4) Los Angeles Rams
Matthew Stafford is not playing well. He’s always been a bit streaky, but we assumed that in a better situation in Los Angeles, some of the “doin’ too much” gene would subside a bit. It has not.
He’s still making some boneheaded plays week in and week out that leave viewers shaking their heads. It appears every throw has to be the most difficult one he can find. Stafford is like a trick shot artist on TikTok. He’s playing the role of retired Brad Johnson doinking passes off goalposts.
Nevertheless, the Rams were still able to drive downfield when it mattered to secure the win against Baltimore. Odell Beckham Jr. made a massive play on fourth down to keep the game alive, and the Ravens somehow forgot Cooper Kupp existed on a play. If the Rams can get more consistent play from Stafford, they are one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL heading into the playoffs.
NFL Power Rankings Week 18 | Tier 1: Super Bowl Contenders
This tier remains three teams. Even in defeat, the first half of the Bengals game showed just how incredibly dangerous Kansas City is. They still deserve Tier 1 status.
3) Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs proved for the first time in nine weeks that they are human, as their offense stalled in the second half and the defense allowed too many chunk plays against Ja’Marr Chase.
Despite sacking Joe Burrow 4 times and hitting him 10 times, Kansas City was unable to force him into mistakes, which has been the only real way to consistently stop the Bengals’ passing attack.
2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady got the ball back down by 4 points with just two minutes remaining. There was no other result to prophesy. Brady was going to drive the field against a bad Jets defense and put up 7 points to secure the win.
Tampa Bay struggled to stop the run throughout the game, and New York continued to pull every trick out of their bag offensively to score points and try to compete against the better team.
With Carolina on the docket next week, Tampa Bay should be able to coast into the playoffs. But things become more complicated now without Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown, who is no longer a Buccaneer after his … outburst.
1) Green Bay Packers
The Packers have secured the top spot in the NFC playoffs after knocking off the Minnesota Vikings. Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams always get theirs. They did so again on Sunday Night Football. Adams dominated the target share, and Rodgers was efficient in getting him the football.
But Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon balled out against Minnesota too. Dillon once again out-touched Jones, but Jones had the more explosive day. However, Dillon averaged a good chunk on the ground, and he didn’t even have a 10-plus yard carry in his first 14 attempts. His ability to always get positive yardage is so valuable.