The Week 18 NFL Power Rankings only have a few major changes. However, there have been more shakeups this week than over the past several weeks. Things are somehow staying interesting in the NFC and AFC playoff races at the top and for the seventh seeds.
Week 18 NFL Power Rankings: Tier 6 | Unadulterated Awfulness
32. Houston Texans
The Houston Texans got back to understanding the assignment in their 16th game. Over their last three games, they’d made it so we were forced to question whether they’d win their way out of the top pick in the NFL draft. Nevertheless, the Texans making sure they have their pick of the QB litter, made their triumphant return against the Jaguars.
While the team is likely still some way away from contending, drafting a quarterback with the top pick in the draft should inject some life into a currently lifeless franchise. The only question before that is whether Lovie Smith gets to oversee it.
31. Chicago Bears
The Bears join Houston in the bottom tier of these NFL Power Rankings for Week 18. They certainly worked hard to get here, losing nine straight games, and, most recently, in completely uncompetitive fashion.
With over $100 million to spend in free agency and likely the second pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Chicago could take an elite playmaker or hold the pick for a king’s ransom because there is no shortage of QB-needy teams in the upcoming NFL draft.
30. Indianapolis Colts
No team has looked as lifeless as the Indianapolis Colts since their fourth-quarter collapse against Dallas. Sure, they were up by 33 against Minnesota, but they ended up blowing that lead and eventually losing that game.
Sometimes, the “vote of confidence” isn’t real. But Jim Irsay seemed to genuinely believe it when he said Chris Ballard would be around for 2023. He absolutely MUST hit on a QB in the NFL draft with what looks like could be a top-five pick in the draft.
Tier 5 | Ugly Football Teams
29. Arizona Cardinals
J.J. Watt produced another sack in his final NFL season, giving him 10.5 for the season. But his departure leaves a massive hole in the front seven of a defense boasting just one other household name in safety Budda Baker.
Michael Bidwill has a ton of questions to answer this offseason. The team is completely incomplete after multiple years of incompetent roster construction. The Cardinals have their franchise QB, but they’ll most likely be looking for another offensive-minded head coach to try and get the most out of him.
And Arizona probably won’t even see Kyler Murray again until late in 2023, meaning they’re likely in for another ugly season with a new front office.
28. Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos battled today against the Kansas City Chiefs, who are still fighting to secure the top seed in the AFC playoff race.
There was jubilation at times in the coach’s box, as Russell Wilson and the Broncos’ offense actually showed signs of life, even if most of it was Wilson turning back the clock and using his legs as a weapon in opportune times.
But that’s exactly what Denver will need to squeeze out of Wilson in the coming seasons. He’s no longer the spring chicken he once was, but against Kansas City, Wilson flashed some of the juice that made him difficult to defend for so many seasons.
27. Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Chargers’ roster has some holes, but the Rams’ roster is filled with them at this point of the season. All of their top players not named Jalen Ramsey are sidelined, and he can’t play every position in the defensive backfield. Against the Chargers, it wouldn’t have mattered either way.
The Rams’ run defense was lost. Austin Ekeler ran for 122 yards, busting a 72-yard touchdown run to make it 14-3. The game felt over at that point. Despite their large deficit, Sean McVay decided to run the ball at a heavy rate, with Baker Mayfield not reaching 20 attempts until late in the fourth quarter.
26. Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons are in an interesting spot. Having won six games, they currently fall inside the top 10 of the 2023 NFL Draft. Desmond Ridder hasn’t been disastrous, but he also shouldn’t be the reason Atlanta pulls their hat out of the QB ring for the upcoming draft.
Even so, Ridder is far from the biggest issue on the Falcons’ roster. It will be nice to see him with a healthy Kyle Pitts alongside Drake London, but Atlanta’s defense needs a lot more talent before the team can be consistently competitive.
The thing is, Tom Brady is 44, the Saints are about to actually experience what cap hell is after pushing it off for seasons, and the Panthers are still searching for their franchise QB. So with the division ripe for a hostile overtake, it might be time to find an immediate answer at QB to try and take advantage.
Tier 4 | Future Hope
25. Cleveland Browns
Deshaun Watson only threw the ball 18 times on Sunday, but in that time, he threw three touchdowns and finally started showing why the Browns decided to hand him a terrifyingly lucrative guaranteed deal. It wasn’t so sharp that he could legitimately be “back,” but it was a start.
The Browns have had an underwhelming season because their defense was the letdown – not the offense – without their suspended QB for 11 games. Cleveland must address their horror show of a defensive interior, and they have to find a way to have their defensive backfield play as a unit and not five or six individuals.
This team should not be far away from contention in 2023. They have many of the pieces in place to be competitive.
24. Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders weren’t supposed to have a chance against the 49ers. San Francisco’s front four was supposed to absolutely decimate the Raiders’ ugly offensive line. However, Jarrett Stidham and Davante Adams had other ideas.
Las Vegas scored 34 points against a 49ers defense that felt impenetrable. Unfortunately, their own defense doesn’t necessarily set the world on fire, and for as good as the 49ers’ defense is, their offense is nearly as talented.
Las Vegas was officially eliminated from playoff contention, and they have a lot of work to rebuild this roster’s core. But they have the star power, and that will make them exciting in the meantime.
23. New Orleans Saints
The Saints’ defense dominated the Eagles’ offense, at least when it mattered most. A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith both got theirs, as they tend to do, but Marshon Lattimore and the New Orleans’ defense had the last laugh.
The best thing that could happen to New Orleans would be for Sean Payton to return, shifting Dennis Allen back to his defensive coordinator role. Unfortunately, Mickey Loomis has his work cut out for him to keep this roster recognizable for next season.
22. Carolina Panthers
What Steve Wilks accomplished with a team that fired their head coach after starting 1-4 is outstanding. Creating a rushing attack after trading away their best player, running back Christian McCaffrey, is baffling.
The Panthers need to get this hire — and this draft — right. They’re not too far away from being a contender, even if in the most underwhelming division in the NFL. A quarterback could change a lot for Carolina, and the market could be hot between the NFL draft and the professional carousel.
21. New York Jets
The Jets were one of the more exciting teams in the NFL early in the season, even without consistent offensive play. However, their inability to find consistent, or any, production at QB was their downfall. Unfortunately, they’ll be searching for a starting quarterback in the offseason.
The good news? They’re close. A healthy Jets team in 2023 with competent QB play could be dangerous, but Joe Douglas must be smart about this decision because it could be easy to fall into the same trap Chris Ballard has in Indianapolis.
Week 18 NFL Power Rankings: Tier 3 | The Playoff Contenders
20. Tennessee Titans
Unless the Titans find the doctors that created Steve Rogers, they’re probably going to lose seven straight games to end the season — and lose the division to Jacksonville in the process. Ryan Tannehill’s injury certainly doesn’t help the cause, but it’s far from the only reason for Tennessee’s horrific run.
The Titans have had issues all season, and it’s why Jon Robinson is no longer in the building. While their identity is almost solely Derrick Henry, the NFL is built on the passing game and the ability to separate. Tennessee’s receivers can’t consistently do that, and their offensive line hasn’t been good enough to overcome their lack of talent on the outside.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Once again, it looked like Tom Brady and the Buccaneers’ offense was going to keep shooting themselves in the foot early on. However, finding a mismatch with Mike Evans on the left side of the Panthers’ defense very, very far downfield made all the difference.
Brady has flashed glimpses of his old, younger self from time to time this season, but the flashes have been fleeting. Many have been reserved for late in the game when play-calling and situational cowardice cannot be a part of the equation.
If he has enough juice for a 60-minute playoff game, they could play spoiler to what looks like a more talented team, whoever the five seed may be.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers
Somehow, the Pittsburgh Steelers continue to avoid complete disaster, despite fielding one of the NFL’s five or six least-talented teams. Mike Tomlin is a wizard, and he deserves an incredible amount of respect. Not just for what he’s done over his career when the cards were in his favor, but over the past two seasons where he worked with scraps and put together two impressive results.
It felt like time to blow things up, particularly with the Bengals, Ravens, and Browns all seemingly more talented on paper than Pittsburgh. But the Steelers are the most consistent franchise in the sport, and that consistency and organizational culture seem to consistently overcome overwhelming odds.
A win against Baltimore gets the Steelers back to .500. If they win next week and bot Miami and New England lose, the Steelers won’t only have a winning record, they’ll make the playoffs.
17. Miami Dolphins
Without Tua Tagovailoa, it’s unlikely the Miami Dolphins can somehow squeeze enough offense out to win their Week 18 matchup against the New York Jets. Luckily for them, the Jets’ offense looks equally inept, so it’s not necessarily an impossible task.
Miami’s secondary is too undermanned for Josh Boyer’s aggressive defensive nature, and their offensive line is too banged up to block long enough for Teddy Bridgewater or Skylar Thompson. While possibly losing six straight games to end the season and miss the playoffs would be a failed season, a healthy Dolphins squad looked like one of the most dangerous teams in the league.
They’ll look to get right back into competition at the top of the AFC East next season.
16. Washington Commanders
The Washington Commanders are an enigma. After the game, their coach seemed not to understand that they could be eliminated from playoff contention if the Packers beat Minnesota. That probably wouldn’t have, and shouldn’t have, changed his decision to start Carson Wentz.
But after the second interception, that tune should have changed. It’s fine to seek a spark for the offense, but Wentz held the lighter but was soaked in so much gasoline that he lit the offense on fire. It didn’t look like Washington was the team competing for a spot in the playoffs this week, and with Dallas possibly playing for the division — and potentially the top seed in the NFC — it’s unlikely they look much better in Week 18.
15. Seattle Seahawks
A win against the Jets means the Seahawks need to win against the Rams in Week 18 and a loss from the Green Bay Packers to secure the seventh seed in the NFC. Seattle dominated the Jets, who have completely forgotten that offense is a part of the game.
The Seahawks’ rushing attack finally got going against New York, averaging 5.2 yards on the ground against a strong Jets defense. Mike White struggled against Seattle’s defense, who were opportunistic on a few poor decisions and throws from him.
14. New England Patriots
The Patriot’s offense is underwhelming, but when their defense continues to score for them, it takes some of the sting away. There are so many playmakers in the secondary to complement a ridiculously talented front seven that generates pressure as well as any team in the NFL.
And while Mac Jones hasn’t impressed anybody the way he had as a rookie, he looked sharp against an underwhelming Dolphins secondary. To make the dance next week, he must do it against a Bills defense with significantly more talent at every level.
But if New England beats Buffalo, they’ll punch their ticket to the playoffs.
13. Green Bay Packers
The Packers dominated the Minnesota Vikings in all three facets of the game. Jaire Alexander is quickly becoming to Justin Jefferson what Marshon Lattimore is to Mike Evans. Alexander got into the receiver’s head early, and Jefferson was clearly frustrated by the cornerback and the situation surrounding him.
It looked like a normal Packers game against the Vikings from the past. Green Bay looked like the cream of the NFC North crop. Unfortunately, their inability to play well early in the season kept them from contending for the division, and they might still miss the playoffs.
But if they beat Detroit next week, they’ll punch their ticket.
12. Detroit Lions
Who the hell are the Detroit Lions? They were embarrassed a week ago against the Panthers but absolutely dominated against the Bears a week later. Detroit’s won seven of their last nine, and it looks like it could all come down to their Week 18 matchup against Green Bay.
The Lions will need to beat the Packers and hope that the Seahawks somehow drop their game against the Rams. But no matter what happens from a playoff perspective, like the Lions’ season, their franchise direction appears to be pointing up sharply. They’re building talent and will have two picks in the first round of the NFL draft, including one inside the top 10.
11. New York Giants
The New York Giants punched their ticket to the playoffs in emphatic fashion Sunday, beating the hapless Colts 38-10 in a game that was never particularly close. New York nearly doubled the first downs Indianapolis could manage, and they dismantled an underachieving Colts offensive line.
Earlier this week, reports claimed that New York is looking to extend both Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley. Jones was outstanding against Indianapolis, using his feet as arguably the Giants’ best offensive weapon.
Another year of Brian Daboll, Mike Kafka, and Wink Martindale could mean trouble for the NFC East if Joe Schoen can continue to build a defensive backfield that can support Martindale’s aggressive nature.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars
Few teams have looked more impressive than the Jacksonville Jaguars over the past five weeks. A dominating win against the Texans doesn’t do much to make us feel better about them, but the Jaguars’ past four weeks have been outstanding, beating three teams looking to make the playoffs over that span.
Not only did Jacksonville play spoiler, but they look like they’ll end up winning their division if they can handle business against a reeling Titans team in their Week 18 matchup. The Jaguars spent a lot of money in the offseason to build a team around Trevor Lawrence, and he’s looked outstanding over the past two months.
9. Los Angeles Chargers
A healthy Mike Williams makes a world of difference for the Chargers. But it was the Chargers’ rushing attack that made the biggest difference in their win against the Rams.
Their model probably falls flat once they get to the playoff stage, but it’s nice to see the Chargers taking care of business against lesser opponents late in the season. Additionally, it’s been nice to see them get healthier as of late.
But no matter how the playoffs unfold, the Chargers are close. And with a bit of speed and a few defensive tweaks, they could finally be the powder blue contenders we always dream them to be.
8. Minnesota Vikings
The late, great Dennis Green once said, “they are who we thought they were.” It’s never been more relatable than watching the Vikings play against good NFC teams. Philadelphia, Dallas, and now Green Bay have thoroughly embarrassed the 12-4 Vikings.
Minnesota’s negative point differential tells the story. They’ve feasted on one-score games, using some sort of dark magic to come out on top time after time. But when faced with a true challenge, save for an impressive win against the Buffalo Bills, the Vikings have been playing down to “lesser” opponents before somehow coming from behind to win late.
Tier 2 | Conference Championship Contenders
7. Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens needed to beat their bitter rivals on Sunday Night Football to ensure they’ll be facing the Cincinnati Bengals for the AFC North division title in Week 18. Instead, they lost, and now their chances of making the playoffs sit at 16%, per FiveThirtyEight. But if the Bengals lose on Monday night, the Ravens still control their destiny.
With names like Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, DeSean Jackson, and James Proche at WR, Baltimore will need to lean heavily on the rushing attack and their TEs in Week 18, as the Ravens tend to do. But somehow, they must figure out a way to consistently move the chains and find a few explosive plays to make the difference when they face the Bengals.
The past two seasons have shown exactly how much their offense is exposed when Lamar Jackson is not around to make everything better, like a kiss from mom where you bumped your elbow. But with Jackson healthy enough to play, anything is possible.
6. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys find themselves in an intriguing position heading into the final week of the season. It would have been easy to rest some starters in Week 18 with an Eagles win, but the Gardner Minshew-led Eagles couldn’t get past the Saints.
The Vikings’ loss to Green Bay makes things interesting as well. Dallas could realistically battle for one of the top two seeds in the NFC with a win and an Eagles loss to the Giants. However, New York is locked into the sixth seed and could easily rest their starters and eat a loss.
The Cowboys’ win against Tennessee was the same story we’ve seen for a while. Weird turnovers from Dak Prescott kept a lopsided game somewhat close. Dallas is just waiting for a regression to the mean when it comes to the turnovers, and they could be a dangerous unit. But even with their turnovers, they’re still first in the NFL in turnover margin.
Tier 1 | The Elite Teams
5. Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati faces the Buffalo Bills in what is the most significant game of the season. The Bengals are fighting for the NFC North and the top seed in the conference, while the Bills are also in the mix for the top seed.
Cincinnati and San Francisco may be the two best teams in the NFL, given their performances over the back half of the season. Joe Burrow has somehow grown into an even more mature version of his already mature self when it comes to picking apart defenses, and the Bengals’ run game has improved to a point where it’s at least threatening.
Lou Anarumo is one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL, making a somewhat lackluster name of outside cornerbacks remain useful.
4. San Francisco 49ers
It wasn’t a pretty defensive performance for the 49ers. But if you’re going to beat the 49ers’ defense, it’s going to be with an elite outside receiver who can keep things isolated on the outside in 1-on-1 situations, which keeps the ball away from the dangerous middle of the field San Francisco so furiously defends.
It wasn’t Brock Purdy’s best performance as the 49ers’ starter, but he’s yet to blow up, or really even look flustered. His calm demeanor fits in perfectly with San Francisco. It doesn’t hurt to have Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, or Christian McCaffrey, either.
The 49ers are still within earshot of the top seed in the NFC. They need the Eagles to lose and to beat Arizona to make it happen.
3. Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles were the best team in the NFL with Jalen Hurts on the field. But Hurts hasn’t played for the past two weeks, and the Eagles have dropped both games. While their offense looked good against Dallas a week ago, it came up short against New Orleans. Philadelphia’s only score came by way of a Herculian effort by A.J. Brown.
The 49ers finally showed some warts against the Raiders, and Philadelphia should get Hurts back for their Week 18 showdown against a Giants team that could be resting starters. They need to win that game to secure home-field advantage. If they don’t, they open themselves up to both San Francisco and Dallas overtaking them. If Dallas wins and Philadelphia loses, the Eagles will once again travel to Tamp Bay for a playoff game.
2. Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills are incredible. It feels like they’ve been underwhelming this season, and in particular, over the past two months. But in that time, they’ve won six straight games, with their only two losses coming against the Jets and Vikings.
The Bills are terrifying for a few reasons. Josh Allen, when he’s going at his best, is arguably a more unstoppable force than even Patrick Mahomes. However, there’s still a bit more variance in his game on average, and Buffalo seems much more reliant on him for their offensive success.
If the Bills’ defense really gets going in the playoffs, they might walk to the Super Bowl. But they’d really like to be able to do that by forcing teams to play in Buffalo in front of Bills Mafia. To do that, they must beat Cincinnati first.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
It’s probably not a great sign that Russell Wilson’s two best games of the season came against the Kansas City Chiefs. Yet, even with a defense ranking in the 20s in most metrics, it’s tough to bet against Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. Mahomes is the best player in the world, and in a playoff track meet, nobody is faster. Buffalo found that out a season ago.
The problem is, a good offensive performance will outdo any great defensive performance. That’s how the league wants it. And because of that, the Chiefs’ offensive efficiency is the most valuable entity in the league.