Week 18 NFL Power Rankings: Ravens Bludgeon Dolphins While Saints Dominate Buccaneers

In the waning moments of the season, the playoff picture remains muddied. However, the NFL power rankings look to bring some order to that madness.

With only a week left in the NFL season, what is the shape of the NFL power rankings? The playoff picture is nearly set, but which teams are on a roll, and which teams will be looking to turn things around when the playoffs come around on Jan. 13?

With TEN games in the 1 p.m. ET window, anyone trying to keep pace just ended up looking awkwardly at multiple screens like Ricky Bobby trying to get through an interview without his hands having a mind of their own.

NFL Power Rankings | Week 18

32) Carolina Panthers

A week after posting career numbers, Bryce Young and the Panthers’ passing attack turned back into a pumpkin against what had been a struggling Jacksonville defense over the past few weeks.

Even without Trevor Lawrence, the Panthers had absolutely no answers for the Jaguars. They need to look inward over the offseason to turn around this franchise because they’re quickly on their way to ruining their young QB.

31) Washington Commanders

Although it appeared as though the Commanders kept this game close for a while, it was not as close as the score suggested. It was a low-possession game, and the Commanders’ defense allowed five or more first downs on five of the 49ers’ eight offensive possessions.

Washington continues to play their way into potential QB territory in the 2024 NFL Draft.

30) New England Patriots

Despite four turnovers on the Patriots’ first six offensive drives, New England had a chance to win this football game late. After not finding a first down over their first five drives, New England’s offense started moving the ball in the second half, producing two 75+ yard touchdown drives.

29) Los Angeles Chargers

Easton Stick and the Chargers’ offense has no juice. It didn’t have much going for it with Justin Herbert under center, but Stick is nowhere near that level of player. Although his day overall looks fine, he doesn’t have the horsepower or precision in his arm to be a legitimate threat downfield.

The Chargers’ defense allowed one massive play that was the difference in the game. For 15 seconds during a Lil’Jordan Humphrey reception, the entire defense lost their ability to tackle.

28) Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals spoiled the Dallas Cowboys’ party early in the season with a surprising 28-16 win. But that spoil was subsided when they beat the Eagles 35-31 this week, handing Philadelphia their fourth loss in the past five games.

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Kyler Murray had himself a great day against the Eagles’ secondary despite not having much more than Trey McBride to legitimately target. But James Conner’s angry running style was a huge boost for Arizona, as was Michael Carter with his seven carries for 61 yards.

27) New York Giants

The Giants wanted to pull the upset against the Rams, but they came up short on their two-point conversion attempt that would have effectively won them the game. The Giants defense turned Matthew Stafford over twice, and Tyrod Taylor found some efficiency and explosiveness in his first game as a starter since October.

26) Tennessee Titans

Will Levis has been much better as a rookie than we could have hoped for. No matter the talent of a player, particularly a quarterback, the passer’s environment is incredibly important. Levis is surrounded by a dumpster fire, and he stepped into the flames without getting burnt too badly.

Unfortunately, the Titans’ defense was unable to live up to their expectations, a trend that has lasted the entire season. In fact, it even led to the team parting ways with Kevin Byard, a proverbial wave of the white flag before the trade deadline.

25) New York Jets

It was a kick in the pants to watch the Jets game on Thursday night against the Browns. The Browns are largely what the Jets should have looked like this season. They’re a team with a defense that flies around making plays with an offense that could run the ball and thrive off of play action with a veteran QB.
Unfortunately, we never got that.

The Jets will run it back in 2024 with the same coaching staff and front office, but there is no way that leash could extend too much longer, given the grace that unit has already received and the lack of success the Jets have had in their tenure.

24) Las Vegas Raiders

It’s amazing to think that the Raiders’ loss to the Colts was the final piece of their season puzzle. It took 17 weeks for them to be officially eliminated from the playoffs. The NFL is an 8-8 league, so it should be no surprise that through 16 games, 13 of the 32 NFL franchises have between seven and nine wins.

Despite firing their head coach and benching their starting QB for a fourth-round rookie, the Raiders somehow ended up winning seven games this season, with the potential to win an eighth against the Denver Broncos in Week 18.

23) Atlanta Falcons

The weather certainly wasn’t on the side of offense in Chicago, but that didn’t seem to matter for the Bears against the Falcons. The dome team had no answer for Justin Fields (as a passer or as a runner), DJ Moore on the outside, or Khalil Herbert in the backfield.

22) Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings’ defense has been arguably the most entertaining in the NFL this season. They’re aggressive and exotic without being a gimmick. Brian Flores is a madman, and his master plan has been a treat to watch as defenses surged back to life across the league in 2023.

But the unit failed Sunday night in a must-win game against the Packers, allowing Jordan Love to light up the scoreboard. Minnesota ran out of steam on both sides of the ball as the year progressed, setting up a fascinating offseason in which Kirk Cousins will be a free agent.

21) Chicago Bears

The Bears have won four of their last five games, with their only loss being a three-point defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns. With an incredibly important decision about Justin Fields’ fifth-year option looming, he’s certainly making it hard to decide what the Bears should do with the top pick in the NFL Draft.

The news that Matt Eberflus would return for 2024 caught many by surprise, but maybe it shouldn’t, considering how much better Chicago’s defense looks now compared to what it looked like at the beginning of the season.

20) Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals certainly made things interesting in 2023. They started excruciatingly slow, came back, and looked good before they lost Joe Burrow for the season, and somehow, they kept things alive with Jake Browning under center.

Unfortunately, their defense never really got things going in 2023, despite some special efforts from Trey Hendrickson. Losing both safeties in free agency hurt them, but it was injuries and a slow start that derailed their season.

19) New Orleans Saints

Division games can lead to some wild outcomes, and the NFC South tomfoolery is always afoot. Of course, the Buccaneers would lay an egg against the Saints this week because why wouldn’t this division title, which nobody seemingly wants to win, come down to Week 18?

Derek Carr kept the train on the rails, and it was clear by halftime that the Buccaneers simply didn’t have the offensive firepower on this day to come back in this game. The Saints’ defense made a few big plays to turn the ball over.

18) Green Bay Packers

The Packers are a frustrating team, and that’s exemplified by Jaire Alexander’s decision to anoint himself captainship, which led to his benching. Joe Barry’s defense has been bad since its inception, and the offense is young and inconsistent.

But there is also a ton of potential on that offense. Jordan Love has every tool to make outlandish throws that few passers around the league could manage. While he’s still finding his consistency, the former first-round pick threw three touchdowns in a season-saving win victory on Sunday night. Win in Week 18, and the Packers are in the playoffs.

17) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers won four games in a row and had scored 29, 34, and 30 points along the way. But they had absolutely no answers against the Saints in a game that could have decided the NFC South title.

However, a loss doesn’t crush them. The Panthers look miserable on the pitch, and Tampa Bay holds the divisional tiebreaker against the Saints. But like in the AFC South, the Buccaneers can’t afford to lose in Week 18 if they want to win the division because if they lose, the winner of the Saints-Falcons game would be the division winner.

16) Denver Broncos

It’s felt clear for a while now that the marriage between Sean Payton and Russell Wilson had failed. Even though Wilson played much better than he did with Nathaniel Hackett, it was clear from the start that Payton was frustrated by his style of play.

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Benching him for a quarterback who is clearly not as good despite still being in playoff contention was the nail in the coffin. It was already clear that the Seahawks won that trade, but this move made it official.

15) Seattle Seahawks

Seattle’s defense let Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren run all over them, and they allowed Mason Rudolph to turn back the clock like he was throwing to Marcell Ateman and James Washington. Instead, he was connecting with George Pickens, Diontae Johnson, and Pat Freiermuth like he is a legitimate starting option in the NFL after starting as the team’s No. 3 QB.

Seattle moved the ball well on offense, but the second half was riddled with field goals instead of touchdowns, with drives stalling once they got into Pittsburgh territory.

14) Indianapolis Colts

Anybody who predicted that through 16 games, there would be three AFC South teams with nine wins is a wizard, a liar, or the luckiest person in the world. Nobody could have imagined that Indianapolis could end the season with a winning record with Gardner Minshew under center for most of the season without an elite defense.

But here we are. The Colts enter their final game with a legitimate chance to win the South, and Shane Steichen has all but proven his ability to coach his absolute tail off.

13) Houston Texans

The Houston Texans’ defense has been frustrating recently, but they absolutely dominated the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. They returned a strip sack for a touchdown while absolutely dominating them at the point of attack, on the back end, and on third down.

It was a breath of fresh air to see C.J. Stroud back on the field. And just like everyone (nobody, most likely) predicted, the AFC South comes down to what happens on Week 18 in two divisional matchups.

12) Pittsburgh Steelers

Mike Tomlin is a wizard. After years of keeping Mason Rudolph around and even replacing him as the backup with Mitchell Trubisky, the veteran backup finally got his number called, and he’s a big reason why the Steelers’ offense has finally found a bit of juice.

Incredibly, this team, with underwhelming cornerbacks and an offense that fired their offensive coordinator in the best division in the sport, will end with a winning record and will potentially see the playoffs.

11) Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars handled business against the Panthers Sunday, even without Lawrence, Zay Jones, or Christian Kirk. The AFC South all play one another next week, and all Jacksonville needs to do is beat the Titans to win the division. But with the Texans and Colts each at 9-7, Jacksonville can’t afford to have an off day next week.

10) Los Angeles Rams

The Rams are a fun and talented team, but like the Packers, the Rams’ youth makes them inconsistent, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. It only takes the ball bouncing a few weird ways in a football game to change the outcome, particularly in the NFL, where parity is rampant.

But it’s hard to imagine any of the NFC division winners want to see the Rams in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs. Stafford, Puka Nacua, Cooper Kupp, Kyren Williams, and Sean McVay can be devastatingly efficient when they’re rolling.

9) Kansas City Chiefs

Things certainly haven’t been pretty in Kansas City this season, at least relative to the expectations we’ve come to set for the Chiefs. However, their win against Cincinnati extends their streak of AFC West championships. Although Patrick Mahomes won’t play all of his playoff games at home for the first time in his career, he’ll get one of them at home.

He can still hang his hat on Travis Kelce, even though the future Hall of Famer isn’t playing to that level at the moment. Rashee Rice’s emergence was huge for the Chiefs this week and has been huge for them as the season has progressed.

And at the end of the day, Steve Spagnuolo remains one of the best single-game planners among coordinators, giving this defense an advantage in the playoffs.

8) Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles have been a flawed team all season that was battling to somewhat ugly wins early in the season. They even got through a stretch against Miami, Dallas, Kansas City, and Buffalo with wins. But they’ve fallen apart since the massive loss to the 49ers, losing four of their last five games.

They no longer control their destiny in the NFC East because Dallas holds the tiebreakers, and they now have the same record. The Eagles’ defense has significant problems, and they need to figure things out before the playoffs roll around.

7) Detroit Lions

Dan Campbell (understandably) tilted after the Lions’ successful two-point conversion attempt was called back by a bogus penalty on offensive tackle Taylor Decker, who reported eligible on the play and caught the pass.

Detroit’s run defense looked outstanding, and their rushing attack looked dominant at times against Dallas’ defense. However, a few mistakes from Jared Goff led to turnovers, and the Lions’ pass defense remains the team’s Achilles heel.

6) Cleveland Browns

The Browns maintained their momentum on Thursday Night Football against the Jets. Joe Flacco and the Browns’ play-action passing attack continues to look outrageously productive, and the Cleveland defense has the talent to aggressively attack the opposing QB while living in man coverage on the back end.

If there is a team that could make a surprising run from a Wild Card bid, the Browns feel like the team that could do it, as long as Flacco continues to take care of the football.

5) Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys appeared to enter the Lions game with a plan to establish the run. They haven’t been particularly successful in that arena all season, and that lack of pop continued against Detroit. If they want to have any postseason success, the Cowboys must lean on Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb.

But that’s a problem as well. The Cowboys’ pass protection isn’t particularly productive. Prescott is doing a great job creating, but against teams like the 49ers, who can rush with four and drop seven into coverage, the Cowboys stand little chance offensively.

4) Miami Dolphins

Miami had absolutely no answer for Baltimore on Sunday. After a strong first quarter against Baltimore, the defense deteriorated, and the offensive turnovers piled up.

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This could be a completely different game if Tyreek Hill comes down with an easy touchdown reception that he bobbled. But in the end, Baltimore had more firepower on this day, which officially locked up the top seed in the AFC.

3) Buffalo Bills

The Bills absolutely needed to take care of business against the Patriots, but divisional matchups are a different beast. Josh Allen completed only half of his pass attempts, failing to throw a touchdown on the day and accumulating only 169 yards on 30 attempts.

A late-game shot on a game-sealing run gave us all a scare with Allen, who has a propensity to take big hits. Buffalo can win the AFC East next week with a win against the Miami Dolphins, which is something nobody saw coming midway through the year when Buffalo’s defense was reeling after the loss of Tre’Davious White and Matt Milano.

2) San Francisco 49ers

Although the 49ers didn’t quite win in the same kind of dominating fashion we’ve become accustomed to seeing, they still had few issues with the Washington Commanders on Sunday. A Christian McCaffrey calf injury is the big story of the game and will be something to monitor as the 49ers enter the new year.

1) Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have officially made it hard to feel uneasy about their ability to produce when it matters. Lamar Jackson is often a heart attack when he drops back to pass, and their recent injury history is hard to forget.

However, the Ravens appear to be an incredibly well-coached team in all three phases of the game, boasting an elite defense and one of the most versatile offenses in the NFL, despite missing Mark Andrews.

Want to predict the rest of the 2023 season with our FREE NFL Playoff Predictor? Looking for the most up-to-date NFL standings? What about a breakdown of team depth charts or the NFL schedule? Pro Football Network has you covered with that and more! 

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