Facing long odds, the NFL was able to complete Week 17 on time, and only a few games were ultimately rescheduled along the way. This is no time for pats on the back, because now the real fun begins. For the first time since the 1982-83 season, more than 12 teams have earned playoff berths. The 14 franchises still standing have one common goal: hoist the Lombardi Trophy in Tampa on February 7th.
Over the next month, we will see who is better than whom. That’s the beauty of sports. In the meantime, we have power rankings. Since many of us have been unable to host or attend parties for nearly a year, this week’s rankings will be grouped into tiers of partygoers: Invitees, Party Crashers, and Guests of Honor. Invitees are those teams who have qualified for the playoffs and will likely bow out on the first weekend. Kudos to them for making it. Party crashers are the wild cards–they may leave quietly after one game, or they may stick around and wreck things for the rest of us. Guests of honor are expected to stay for the duration. This is their party. Without further ado, let’s get to the RSVPs.
14. Washington Football Team (7-9, Last week: 17)
As he was leaving the field after defeating Philadelphia and clinching the NFC East, Washington rookie Chase Young
shouted, “I want Tom! I want Tom!” Oh, you’ll get him, Chase. In fact, the only chance that Washington has of advancing will be for Young and his linemates to sack Brady nearly every time he drops back to pass. Otherwise, the Football Team cannot keep up offensively.
Next week: vs. Tampa Bay (11-5)
13. Chicago Bears (8-8, Last week: 7)
At their zenith, the Bears were 5-1 and looked like legitimate contenders. At their nadir, they were 5-7 and could barely cross midfield on offense. The real Chicago team is somewhere in the middle. Traveling down to New Orleans will almost certainly be the end of the road.
Next week: at New Orleans (12-4)
12. Los Angeles Rams (10-6, Last week: 16)
Every few years, a team with real title hopes gets handed a string of injuries (or one major one) and can’t overcome their bad luck. The Rams look like that team. Aaron Donald
and Jalen Ramsey
shut down the Cardinals’ offense to earn the six-seed, but without Jared Goff
, Los Angeles is going nowhere. Shame.
Next week: at Seattle (12-4)
11. Cleveland Browns (11-5, Last week: 11)
Congratulations to Cleveland on earning its first postseason appearance since 2002! The Browns’ reward, unfortunately, is a return trip to longtime rival Pittsburgh. The Steelers will be back at full strength on Sunday night, and Cleveland’s storybook season might be slammed shut.
Next week: at Pittsburgh (12-4)
10. Indianapolis Colts (11-5, Last week: 13)
Thanks to Miami’s loss in Buffalo, Indianapolis was able to fend off Jacksonville and clinch the AFC’s seven-seed. The Colts are completely unpredictable, as they are the only team to both beat the Packers (Week 11) and lose to the Jaguars (Week 1). The ONLY reason they are in the Party Crashers and not the Invitees is because of Jonathan Taylor
and his favorable matchup against Buffalo’s subpar run defense (26th in yards per carry allowed).
Next week: at Buffalo (13-3)
9. Tennessee Titans (11-5, Last week: 12)
The Titans gutted out a last-second win over Houston and secured the AFC South title. So instead of traveling to Buffalo, Tennessee now gets to host the red-hot Ravens. Derrick Henry
and Co. derailed Baltimore’s Super Bowl aspirations a year ago. Here’s hoping for some fireworks on Sunday.
Next week: vs. Baltimore (11-5)
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4, Last week: 8)
and Josh Dobbs
did what they could, but neither is an adequate substitute for Ben Roethlisberger
. Big Ben is not the player he once was, yet he can make enough plays to keep the Steelers in contention. Complementary football and defensive takeaways will remain Pittsburgh’s key to victory.
Next week: vs. Cleveland (11-5)
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5, Last week: 6)
No team has ever won a Super Bowl in its host city. To break that mold, Tampa Bay will need to protect Tom Brady
and prevent mental lapses on defense. The Bucs have proven all year that they are super talented, although they need to fully jell before they can make a final push for the championship.
Next week: at Washington (7-9)
6. Seattle Seahawks (12-4, Last week: 5)
Seattle came out on top of the wacky NFC West, after three different teams held the top spot over the course of the season. Now, Russell Wilson
is looking to win his second ring, and he has the offensive firepower to do it. A return to the “Legion of Boom” style of defense would help put the Seahawks over the top.
Next week: vs. Los Angeles Rams (10-6)
5. Baltimore Ravens (11-5, Last week: 9)
There may not be a hotter team in the league than Baltimore right now. Lamar Jackson
and J.K. Dobbins
are firing on all cylinders, and the Ravens have no shortage of defensive playmakers. Will they exact revenge against the Titans after being run out of town a year ago?
Next week: at Tennessee (11-5)
Guests of Honor
4. New Orleans Saints (12-4, Last week: 4)
This is reportedly Drew Brees
‘ last hurrah. He may be without star running back Alvin Kamara
, at least against Chicago. New Orleans’ defense will have to shoulder the load for a bit longer. So far, they have been up to the task.
Next week: vs. Chicago (8-8)
3. Buffalo Bills (13-3, Last week: 2)
The forecast calls for clear skies in Buffalo on Saturday, which is too bad. A snowy playoff game in January just feels right, doesn’t it? The Bills are on a tear offensively, shredding defenses left and right. Barring unforeseen mishaps, Josh Allen
should have a day against the Colts’ mediocre pass defense (18th in completion percentage allowed, 20th in yards per game allowed).
Next week: vs. Indianapolis (11-5)
2. Green Bay Packers (13-3, Last week: 1)
Hall of Fame quarterback? Check. Dynamic supporting cast? Check. Relentless pass rush? Check. Green Bay has all the ingredients of a championship team, and they will hold court on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. Good luck, NFC.
Next week: idle
1. Kansas City Chiefs (14-2, Last week: 3)
The reigning champs did not suffer a Super Bowl hangover, and they are back where they expected to be: on a bye week with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Kansas City’s defense is less reliable than it was last season, and they have been plagued by slow starts of late. On paper, though, this is still the best team in football.
Next week: idle
– Jesse Pierson covers the National Football League for Full Press Coverage. Like and follow on Twitter @jessetpierson
Follow @FullPressNFL and Facebook.