NFL POWER RANKINGS: The Final Rankings

BY ADAM GREENE

At last we arrive at our final NFL Power Rankings, where I deliver the praise and scorn upon all 32 NFL franchises for the last time before they decide how to rank themselves over the following weeks.

1. GREEN BAY PACKERS (13-4)

While the Packers dropped their final game, they don’t drop in the rankings as they’d already sewn up home field advantage in the NFC and played back ups in the second half against the Detroit Lions. If anything, the fact that the Jordan Love version of the team lost to the Lions just shows what a self inflicted wound across the board that pick was. Last week: No. 1

2. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (13-4)

The Bucs dispatched the Carolina Panthers with barely any effort Sunday as a pre playoff tune up. After the little calisthenics that the Panthers provided, Tampa Bay landed the No. 2 seed in the NFC for their troubles. Last week: No. 3

3. TENNESSEE TITANS (12-5)

The Titans took a shot to the chops from a spunky Houston Texans team, but managed to hold on and retain the top seed in the AFC and the all important bye. A bye that just might put Derrick Henry back onto the field in the Divisional Round. Last week: No. 4

4. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (12-5)

The Chiefs were stuck with playing on Saturday, forced to fight it out against the Denver Broncos for four quarters while gaining absolutely nothing in the process. Watching Tyreek Hill hobble doesn’t make me feel great about the prospects of a third consecutive AFC title. Last week: No. 5

5. DALLAS COWBOYS (12-5)

Mike McCarthy, playing for pretty much nada, put his starters at risk against a Philadelphia Eagles team that didn’t take the game nearly as seriously. Because of that, Dallas put a 50 burger on the Eagles’ B team, but maybe it’ll serve as a solid tune up for a hot San Francisco 49ers squad that earned their spot in the postseason by knocking off their most hated foe in overtime. Last week: No.

6. LOS ANGELES RAMS (12-5)

The Rams can’t feel great about a sixth consecutive loss to the 49ers due to a last minute defensive collapse, but they still managed to win the NFC West thanks to the Arizona Cardinals managing to lose in their own season finale. Now they get a rematch with the Cards, the only NFC West team they split with, to advance to what will likely be a one way trip to Green Bay. Last week: No. 2

7. BUFFALO BILLS (11-6)

After suffering a humiliating defeat to the New England Patriots a little over a month ago, the Bills have been a tear, winning four straight, including a revenge game over those same Pats. Because of that, they get to claim the AFC East for the second straight year, something they haven’t done since the 1990 and 1991 seasons. Last week: No. 9

8. ARIZONA CARDINALS (11-6)

With the Rams facing their kryptonite team, the Cardinals had a chance to slide atop the NFC West at the last minute, but let Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks put a stop to that. Like both their fellow NFC Westers making the playoffs, a win here probably means a date with the Packers in around 5 degree weather. So, Godspeed, guys. Last week: No. 6

9. CINCINNATI BENGALS (10-7)

For al the talk about Joe Burrow vs. Justin Herbert, only one guy is still playing. While the Bengals are favored over the Las Vegas Raiders, history has other ideas. Cincinnati has not won a playoff game since 1991. But the last time Burrow was in a playoff, he went undefeated and pretty much slaughtered everyone he faced on the way to a National Title with LSU. Last week: No. 8

10. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (10-7)

Jimmy Garoppolo’s thumb injury turned out to be not so bad as he orchestrated both the game tying drive against the Rams and what would turn out to be a game winning drive in overtime. San Fran has now won six straight over Los Angeles and if this was Garoppolo’s last regular season game with the team, he’ll leave the NFC West having never lost to the be-horned SoCal franchise. Last week: No. 12

11. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10-7)

With the chance at an AFC East title, the Patriots took an Indianapolis Colts-like tumble against the Miami Dolphins. Now they get a rematch with the Bills, a team they shocked more than a month ago but got thoroughly spanked by in December. Last week: No. 10

12. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (9-8)

Facing a Cowboys team taking their final meaningless game of the season way too seriously, the Eagles decided to sit their starters and stay healthy for the playoffs. Because of that, they get a date with the defending Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers. No one is giving Philly much of a chance, but teams that no one believe in can find a way to shock the world in the playoffs. Last week: No. 14

13. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (10-7)

So we all know the story now. The Raiders were content to take a few knees and end Sunday’s game with the Los Angeles Chargers in a tie so both teams could make the playoffs. Chargers head coach Brandon Staley decided he didn’t want that and got his wish granted, with Vegas hitting a game winning field goal to send LA heading back to their Lay-Z-Boys for the foreseeable future. Derek Carr is set to make his first postseason start against another QB in Joe Burrow making his. History is going to be made by somebody. The universe itself has tried to count Las Vegas out this season, only to see the Raiders claw their way into mid January football. It would crazy to underestimate them now. Last week: No. 15

14. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (9-7-1)

Ben Roethlisberger gets the chance to go out on his shield in the playoffs, thanks to a win over the Baltimore Ravens and Brandon Staley’s ill advised time out against the Raiders. All he has to do now to extend his career is knock off the defending two time AFC Champion Chiefs at Arrowhead, a place they haven’t lost at in the postseason since the 2018-19 AFC Championship. Last week: No. 26

15 NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (9-8)

The Saints lost their quarterback to injury again, but still put a nice beating on the Atlanta Falcons to make the ending of the 49ers vs. Rams game way more interesting. In spite of leaving it all on the field, that’s where it’ll stay for New Orleans. Sean Payton really needs to get involved in the quarterback hot potato that is sure to happen this offseason. Deshaun Watson on this team, with its defense and offensive weapons, could lead to a potential dynasty. Last week: No. 17

16. MIAMI DOLPHINS (9-8)

After recording their second consecutive winning season and barely missing the playoffs a second time, the Dolphins made the inexplicable choice to fire head coach Brian Flores. Flores immediately became one of the top head coaching options available. That’s a pretty bad sign when the guy you just canned lands at the top of everyone else’s list. I have no idea what Miami is doing now. They were tied to Jim Harbaugh when the firing first happened, but now are interviewing everyone but him. Whatever they do, they better get it right because this franchise was heading in a positive direction under Flores and now they’re starting over from scratch. Last week: No. 19

17. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (9-8)

Back in the old NFL Films days, the recap of the Chargers game against the Raiders would be called “Staley’s Folley” and John Facenda would narrate the collapse of LA’s playoff hopes by pissing off an already psychologically damaged Raiders team. Karma doesn’t exist in the NFL, but this gets pretty close. Last week: No. 13

18. BALTIMORE RAVENS (8-9)

The irony of Lamar Jackson finishing the season out is every other unvaccinated QB actually caught Covid at some point in the second half of the season, but his ankle injury kept him from coming down with it in 2021-22. Hopefully he’ll get vaccinated this offseason and, as a reward, the Ravens will get him an actual NFL level offensive coordinator as an appreciation gift. Last week: No. 18

19. CLEVELAND BROWNS (8-9)

The Browns looked so much better with Case Keenum at the helm that the team could be fooled into handing him the keys next year. Don’t do it. The Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings made that same dumb mistake. Keenum is good coming off the bench. He’s not the guy. But, neither is Baker Mayfield. Last week: No. 20

20. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (8-9)

As the final whistle echoed Sunday in the Vikings victory over the Chicago Bears, I have to feel Mike Zimmer felt relief. He would no longer be stuck coaching the Vikings and Kirk Cousins. His long, epic quixotic quest to make Minnesota something respectable would be over. Now, he can take a year off if he wants or join a team as its defensive coordinator and leave this whole foolish world of NFL head coaching behind. It’s got to feel pretty good. Last week: No. 21

21. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (7-10)

So here’s the math if you’re curious. The Seahawks swept the 49ers, the 49ers swept the Rams,  the Rams swept the Seahawks and the Cardinals also swept the 49ers. The NFC West is the best and weirdest division in football. If that was Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll’s last game together (and who knows at this point?), it was a solid way to go out, knocking Arizona out of an NFC West championship. Last week: No. 25

22. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (3-14)

Not only is this the highest I’ve ranked the Jaguars this season, it’s probably the highest they’ve been ranked since 2019. Keeping Trent Baalke as general manager could be a disaster and I’m not excited about the coaching prospects being tied to the job — namely Jim Caldwell and Bill O’Brien. Regardless of what they do, no one can take away the fact that they knocked the first in-season Hard Knocks team out of the playoff picture by delivering their most dominating performance of the season. Last week: No. 32

23. DETROIT LIONS (3-13-1)

Here’s the good news about Jared Goff. The guy you got over  his last few starts is probably him. The bad news is, he still needs a lot to go right around him to make this team a contender, but they do have the draft capital to put it on the field. It starts with the No. 2 overall pick in April. Last week: No. 31

24. WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM (7-10)

After hearing one of the worst coaches in the league call his team a clown show, Ron Rivera used that show to dismantle the New York Giants and end Joe Judge’s NFL head coaching career. For that alone, Giants fans should be forever grateful. Last week: No. 26

25. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (9-8)

Well, if the Colts wanted to make Sunday interesting, they could not have done a better job. Not only were they never even in the game against the Jaguars, Carson Wentz played like garbage for the second consecutive game. It’s almost as if staving off a deadly disease keeps your body from being NFL football ready. I’m writing this on Wednesday and I’ve yet to watch it, but I have to believe we have the most hilarious episode of Hard Knocks on tap that we’ve ever seen. One thing is certain — no serious contending franchise will ever allow the NFL Films cameras into their facility during the season ever again. Last week: No. 11

26. DENVER BRONCOS (7-10)

Vic Fangio’s forgettable tenure with the Broncos ended with a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, a team he never defeated as a head coach. Denver is up for sale now with Peyton and Eli Manning rumored to be part of a group trying to buy the franchise. Hopefully, for the Broncos’ sake, the ownership is settled soon because no quality head coach is going to set foot inside the facility if they don’t know who they’re working for. Last week: No. 22

27. ATLANTA FALCONS (7-10)

With the actual talent on the Falcons’ roster, there was concern that they’d go ahead and knock all the intrigue out of the Rams vs. 49ers game by beating a depleted Saints team. But this Atlanta squad doesn’t know how to not lose. It’s in their DNA. Last week: No. 23

28. CHICAGO BEARS (6-11)

Leave it to Matt Nagy to go out in his final game with Andy Dalton at quarterback when he’d just won with Nick Foles. It’s just one more flabbergasting choice for Nagy, who’s head coaching tenure was filled with them. Ironically, he leaves a pretty solid team in his wake. Of all the open jobs, this one could be the best one available as they’ve also parted ways with general manager Ryan Pace. This roster is built to win and just needs the head coach to make it happen. I’d have Doug Pederson a contract in hand today. Last week: No. 24

29. HOUSTON TEXANS (4-13)

David Culley seems to have survived the coaching purge so far, while seven of his peers have found themselves in the unemployment line. Until the Texans overhaul the way the run the franchise and ban Jack Easterbay from the facility, there’s no point in bringing anyone else in. Frankly, this looked like a team that could go 0-17 in the preseason so the fact that Culley got them to four victories should get him a raise if nothing else. Last week: No. 29

30. CAROLINA PANTHERS (5-12)

Matt Rhule remains employed in spite of a pitiful end of the season that saw Carolina go 2-12 after a 3-0 start. There’s not a successful offensive system in place and not a quarterback in sight, in spite of the team trading for Sam Darnold a year ago and now being stuck with his contract for at least another season. Rhule has a year to make it work now, it seems, but will have to do it in a division with a rebuilt Saints squad and a Tampa team that’s going nowhere. Last week: No. 27

31. NEW YORK JETS (4-13)

I have no idea what to expect out of this Jets team next season and I don’t think anyone does. That’s not a good thing for a franchise that picked its “quarterback of the future” less than a year ago. There’s not much to hang your hat on for New York, especially a season finale loss where they barely hit double digits in points. Last week: No. 28

32. NEW YORK GIANTS (4-13)

After a week of “crackhead” (I put in quotes) rantings detailing how great a head coach he is, Joe Judge was summarily dismissed by the Giants in what might be the most deserved firing since Urban Meyer was kicked to the curb. The good news for Giants fans is Dave Gettleman is gone too. The new regime will get a boost on the rebuild with the No. 5 and No. 7 overall picks in the upcoming NFL Draft. Last week: No. 30

Follow Adam Greene on Twitter @TheFirstMan.

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