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Evan’s guide to all things NFL: Week 14 NFL power rankings

A closer look at the landscape of the NFL as some teams look ahead to the playoffs and other teams look ahead to the draft

Davante+Adams%2C+one+of+this+year%27s+breakout+receivers%2C+catches+a+touchdown+against+the+Chicago+Bears.+Adams%27+Packers+will+get+Aaron+Rodgers+back+for+Week+15.
Davante Adams, one of this year's breakout receivers, catches a touchdown against the Chicago Bears. Adams' Packers will get Aaron Rodgers back for Week 15.

Davante Adams, one of this year's breakout receivers, catches a touchdown against the Chicago Bears. Adams' Packers will get Aaron Rodgers back for Week 15.

Photo: courtesy: Getty Images

Photo: courtesy: Getty Images

Davante Adams, one of this year's breakout receivers, catches a touchdown against the Chicago Bears. Adams' Packers will get Aaron Rodgers back for Week 15.

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Preface: You didn’t get to view my power rankings from last week, but I’m still including each team’s movement from last week because the changes in these rankings are pretty striking because of the upsets and other developments that took place in Week 14. I’ll put the list of all 32 teams from last week’s rankings at the bottom, but I won’t include all the blurbs because that would just be too much to read. I think it’s important to see where each team stood last week, otherwise it wouldn’t make sense why these teams moved the way they did.

 

Biggest Jump: Broncos, 9 spots

Biggest Fall: Jets and Buccaneers, 9 spots

 

 

1. Steelers (11-2, up 4 spots)

The Steelers were guaranteed the top spot after the bizarre week of upsets sent several of the top teams falling. All signs point to the Steelers being as much of a contender as they’ve been in recent memory, and the group of “Killer Bees” (Ben, Bell and Brown, and Boswell if you love kickers) looks to be all they’ll need to make a run at the Super Bowl. We’ll have a presumptive AFC Championship preview on Sunday as they take on the Patriots, and based on how these two teams have performed, it looks more and more possible that the Steelers will win that matchup in Week 15 and be in the playoffs.

 

2. Rams (9-4, up 4 spots)

I’ve tried to have some rationale for the times I’ve bumped a team up in the rankings despite losing a game, and I think this instance is fairly justifiable too. The Rams-Eagles matchup we saw in Week 14 looked to pit two of the NFL’s best teams against each other, and the game was everything we hoped it would be. Of course, it ended in a heartbreaking loss for the Eagles as they won the game but lost Carson Wentz to a torn ACL. So had Wentz not suffered that injury, the Eagles would be right back up in the top spot, and the Rams wouldn’t have suffered much for losing to a very good team. The same goes now, but since the Eagles’ dominance is gone, the Rams benefit from having put up a good performance against an elite team when they had their star QB. Expect this Rams team to be able to compete with the best.

 

3. Saints (9-4, up 1 spot)

Like I said, Week 14 was pretty bizarre in terms of who won and who lost. The Saints lost to the Falcons, and just like the Rams, I’m moving them up in the rankings despite the loss. Here’s the thing – it was a pretty sloppy game all around (to be expected with Thursday night games), and the Saints were without their rookie superstar Alvin Kamara after he suffered a concussion. The Saints show no signs of being anything but elite. I have to keep them above the Panthers because of their two victories over them, which means the Saints will move even higher because the Panthers moved up as well. Suffice it to say that the final weeks of the NFC South race will be interesting.

 

4. Panthers (9-4, up 5 spots)

Indeed, I can’t let the Panthers jump the Saints because they’ve lost both of those matchups. The “who’s beaten who” aspect of each team’s season has a lot to do with how this order was determined. See the Panthers’ Week 4 win over the Patriots as an indication that they deserve to be ranked higher after a week in which the Patriots suffered a bad loss. I think that explains most of my rationale for the jumble-up that is the top ten of this week’s rankings. But specifically regarding the Panthers, here’s food for thought – they’ve beaten three teams with top-five Super Bowl odds (NE, MIN, ATL) and come within five points of another one (PHI). Watch out for this team.

 

5. Patriots (10-3, down 3 spots)

Since I’ve already tried to explain myself regarding the Patriots’ considerable drop from last week, I’ll focus on their matchup with the Dolphins. This team inexplicably lost to their division rivals who, for most of the season, have looked like the worst team in a reasonably bad division. It seems like the Dolphins always steal a game from the Pats no matter how good or bad either team is. This casts some doubt on the Patriots’ overall ability to win games, and certainly slows down the momentum they should have had going into Pittsburgh for this weekend’s showdown with the Steelers. It wasn’t going to be a walk in the park anyway, and now there’s an even better chance the Steelers will successfully defend their home turf.

 

6. Vikings (10-3, down 5 spots)

I think it’s safe to say that the Vikings’ confidence has been rocked a little after suffering a loss at the hands of the Panthers. That’s not to say they aren’t still one of the elite teams in the NFL, it’s just that the Panthers were the better team on Sunday. The Vikings have an unbelievably good defense and an offense that is firing on all cylinders, as it has been most of the year with Case Keenum at the helm. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Vikings won every game from this point forward, because they’re playing for high stakes and they can’t afford to lose again. If they clinch home-field advantage in the postseason (the number one seed), they’ll play every game of the playoffs in Minneapolis, including the Super Bowl, if they make it that far.

 

7. Jaguars (9-4, up 1 spot)

The Jaguars continue to prove that they deserve to be in the conversation for the best teams in the NFL. It’s not very often that we see a team that is almost perfect at many positions but still has a weak link at QB. Blake Bortles was an okay experiment, but the Jaguars should set their expectations high for their QB of the future. In the meantime, they know they can count on their (arguably) league’s best defense to carry them into the playoffs and beyond, likely clinching the AFC South title along the way.

 

8. Eagles (11-2, down 5 spots)

It doesn’t feel right to see the Eagles so low, and it certainly doesn’t feel right to demote a team that just beat one of the NFL’s best teams. But if it wasn’t evident enough, Carson Wentz means everything to this team’s success, so losing him for the rest of the season is going to send the Eagles to the pit of misery (dilly dilly). Nick Foles is an okay QB and would probably be an upgrade at QB for one or two teams in the NFL, but he’s simply not going to lead them at the level Carson Wentz did. What’s worse is that Wentz’s recovery may keep him out of part of next season.

 

9. Chargers (7-6, up 2 spots)

The Chargers have been heating up ever since they started the season 0-4, and they certainly look like the favorites to take the AFC West. They get a Saturday showdown with the Chiefs to decide who really has the power in that division. I wouldn’t say Philip Rivers has had a resurgence because despite some inconsistency in recent years, he’s never lost his touch. With a future Hall of Fame QB leading the team, I have every reason to believe the Chargers will advance to the playoffs and maybe make a run.

 

10. Falcons (8-5, no change)

I would have moved the Falcons up because of their win over the Saints if not for Matt Ryan’s dismal performance. He had a stretch during which he threw three interceptions on four pass attempts. The Falcons are at their absolute best when Ryan is accurate and efficient, especially when he’s connecting with Julio Jones, so when they can’t manage that in a win, I don’t feel particularly obligated to move them above teams who have shown how truly dominant they’ve been in recent weeks.

 

11. Seahawks (8-5, down 4 spots)

The Seahawks had a great chance to put themselves in an even better position to make the playoffs and prove themselves against a very good Jaguars team, but they pretty much fell apart and would have lost by a lot more than six points if not for a couple of lucky plays on offense. The Seahawks have many points of weakness and should be counting their blessings that they still have a good shot to make the playoffs. They’ll have a chance to take the division lead back and cement their status as a top-ten team when they face the Rams in Week 15.

 

12. Packers (7-6, up 2 spots)

As Davante Adams said on Twitter, “Da King…has returrrnnn,” supposedly quoting Rafiki from The Lion King. Of course, what he means is that the king of Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers, is finally ready to return from injured reserve. The Packers officially activated him on Saturday, and he’ll be ready to face the Panthers on Sunday. The Packers’ chances of snagging a playoff berth are ever-so-slim, but if anyone in the NFL can lead his team to an improbable postseason, it’s Aaron Rodgers.

 

13. Ravens (7-6, no change)

The Ravens almost pulled the upset on the Steelers last Sunday night, but fell short. Even though they suffered a loss, they showed us that they aren’t to be ignored despite some poor showings so far this season. They’ve pitched an astonishing three shutouts, proving that every year, there’s always a team or two that inexplicably wins games in emphatic fashion thanks to their elite defense. The Ravens have what it takes to keep winning, including in the postseason, on the backs of their star defensive players.

 

14. Cowboys (7-6, up 2 spots)

The Cowboys have won two in a row, and they’re just one game away from Ezekiel Elliott’s return from suspension. Thus, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt that they’ll complete a full rebound when he comes back. They’d be in an even better position to miraculously sneak into the playoffs if they beat the Raiders on Sunday night, a feat of which they’re entirely capable if they play their best football. Zeke simply takes this team to a new level, and Dak Prescott’s struggles this season are hinting at the reality that Dallas’ extreme success last season was more an “Act of Zeke” as it were, as opposed to Dak’s expertise.

 

15. Chiefs (7-6, up 4 spots)

Well, the Chiefs forced my hand by winning again in Week 14, so I had to move them up a little bit. I still have zero confidence in them to make the playoffs after they’ve faltered so badly and the Chargers have assumed the position of being the almost-inarguably best team in the AFC West. Alex Smith, who at one point this season looked like an MVP candidate, now has a fairly uncertain future with the team that drafted the promising Patrick Mahomes tenth overall early in 2017. The Chiefs certainly have a shot to do some more damage this season, but the future is what they should be concerned about.

 

16. Titans (8-5, down 4 spots)

Thank you, Tennessee Titans, for finally losing a game so I could demote you from your too-high position. I was reluctant to rank the Titans too high anyway, but now that they’ve suffered their fifth loss, which came to a pretty bad Cardinals team that managed to beat them with four field goals as their only source of points, I have the obligation to drop them down, and sixteenth in the rankings seems reasonable. The Titans’ huge victory over the Jaguars earlier in the season now looks inexplicable, and if I were the Titans, I’d be very concerned about having to face the Jags again, this time with the division title on the line.

 

17. Lions (7-6, no change)

As they have been most of the season, the Lions are boring and consistently mediocre. They don’t have the flash or showiness of the top NFL teams, and they aren’t winning enough games to make themselves any kind of contender. Matthew Stafford simply doesn’t have the weapons he needs to have a chance at winning the NFC North, and while the defense is underrated and accomplished, it’s not a defense too many teams are truly afraid to face. This Lions team looks to be going nowhere.

 

18. Raiders (6-7, down 3 spots)

The Raiders got totally embarrassed by the Chiefs in Week 14, a team that didn’t seem capable of winning after their recent meltdown. So it was a bad loss for the Raiders, who cement their status as a total disappointment for this season. They have the assets to be a good team, but they just didn’t live up to their potential. Amari Cooper and Derek Carr need to click like they did last year, and the defense badly needs to be improved. The Raiders’ top draft choice should be spent on a defensive player.

 

19. Dolphins (6-7, up 4 spots)

The Dolphins surprisingly toppled the Patriots in Week 15 and reminded us that no one is safe on Monday nights. It was a good performance by the Dolphins, but despite math telling us otherwise, there’s simply no way the Dolphins make the playoffs. They should get used to the feeling of being behind the Patriots in the divisional standings despite winning that matchup every once in awhile, because Miami doesn’t look poised to take control of this rivalry anytime soon.

 

20. Bills (7-6, up 5 spots)

Much like the Dolphins, the Bills are still *technically* in the playoff berth hunt. In fact, they’re actually the six seed going into Week 15, which means they’d face the Jaguars in Jacksonville if the playoffs started today. But I think we can all agree that it’s totally ridiculous that a team as bad and incapable of consistent success as the 2017 Buffalo Bills does not deserve to make the playoffs. Not that the NFL should switch to an invitational system to determine playoff order, but the Bills simply don’t have any postseason magic in them.

 

21. Cardinals (6-7, down 1 spot)

This season looks like a lost cause for the Cardinals. With Adrian Peterson headed to injured reserve, they’ve lost their last good weapon that could help them make any kind of run, and they still wouldn’t be contenders even then. I’d be repeating myself if I went over all the trouble spots the Cards need to address in the offseason, so I’ll refer you to previous weeks of these power rankings and encourage you to eventually view an upcoming mock draft I have in the works.

 

22. Bengals (5-8, down 1 spot)

Speaking of lost causes, we have the Bengals. They dropped an easy win to the Bears in Week 14, albeit without Joe Mixon. Andy Dalton simply doesn’t have what it takes to win games for this team with any sort of consistency. It might be time to move on from Dalton for the last few games of the season, because the Bengals have arguably one of the NFL’s best backups in AJ McCarron. This offseason might be the right time to pull the trigger on the inevitable Bengals rebuild.

 

23. Broncos (4-9, up 9 spots)

It was probably a little overzealous of me to drop the Broncos all the way to last place in last week’s rankings (yes, I did do that, check below). They routed the Jets, primarily with defense, reminding me that a good defensive team still deserves recognition, even with a putrid offense. I’m going to break my own rule of not discussing the Thursday night game in the power rankings from the week before, because I’d be out of things to say if I didn’t remark that Trevor Siemian’s dislocated shoulder that is forcing him to be out for the season might be a blessing in disguise.

 

24. Jets (5-8, down 6 spots)

I think this is punishment enough for the Jets – being dropped below the team that just held them scoreless. But the Jets have a few bigger problems for the remainder of this season – Josh McCown broke his hand and is out for the year, which means the reins of the team will be handed over to Bryce Petty, a proven failure in the NFL. For my own fantasy purposes, that means Robby Anderson’s potential to produce took a hit, so I’d suggest you find better options for your fantasy playoffs. And of course, don’t use Bryce Petty.

 

25. Redskins (5-8, down 3 spots)

The Redskins just keep on losing. Kirk Cousins is running out of reasons to stay in Washington beyond this season, and it would come as almost no surprise at this point if he leaves. The Redskins might be wise to lose the rest of their games and guarantee themselves a high draft pick so they can build around the pieces they already have in place. Losing Chris Thompson a while ago really hurt the Redskins, and their best hope of improving next season will be getting him back.

26. 49ers (3-10, up 2 spots)

Remember when the 49ers decided to keep CJ Beathard as their starter when Jimmy Garoppolo was ready to play? Yeah, that wasn’t smart. Garoppolo has been the catalyst of the two half-decent wins on San Francisco’s schedule, and he’s proving his worth as the future of the franchise. I look forward to seeing what he brings to a team that will be in prime position to make a total turnaround from this season after improving in the upcoming draft and free agency.

 

27. Bears (4-9, up 2 spots)

Mitch Trubisky is looking a little better, but it seems like the Bears’ best games come when Jordan Howard sees a lot of carries and gets going on the ground. And that doesn’t exactly happen all the time – Howard is not only a “boom-bust” fantasy player, he’s “boom-bust” in real life for the Bears. There are just some games that he’s clicking and some games that he can’t get anything done in the run game. Chalk the Bears up as having a lost cause season as well.

 

28. Colts (3-10, down 1 spot)

The Colts were robbed of a win in Week 14’s winter wonderland in Buffalo, as the officials called a player for an illegal pick play on the two-point conversion that would have given them the win. It was a bad call that may have been inevitable in the blizzard. Despite the loss, the Colts put up a fight, and I know this team is capable of good things if they make the right improvements. One such improvement would be the firing of Chuck Pagano – he means a lot to the city of Indianapolis and he’s been through a lot, but he should be held to a standard if he can’t win.

 

29. Texans (4-9, down 3 spots)

As if the QB situation couldn’t get any worse, the Texans have now lost Tom Savage to an ugly concussion, and they’re turning to TJ Yates, possibly for the remainder of the season. What’s most unfortunate is that the Texans don’t have a first round draft pick as it stands right now – all that this bad performance does is guarantee the Browns another high draft pick because the trade for the #12 overall pick in last year’s draft that Houston used to select Deshaun Watson came from the Browns. The payoff for the Browns is a likely top-five pick in 2018.

 

30. Buccaneers (4-9, down 6 spots)

The Bucs’ record may not implicate them for a bottom-three spot, but in a week that saw a few bad teams win, the Bucs still couldn’t win, so I felt it was reasonable to drop them this low. And even if they had won, this team looks as bad as they’ve looked all season, with no reason to feel excited about next year’s efforts. Jameis Winston has regressed behind a terrible offensive line, and the Bucs’ secondary is just so bad.

 

31. Browns (0-13, down 1 spot)

If you haven’t checked already, I actually pulled the Browns out of last place in last week’s rankings, so this is a demotion for them. As I’ll explain, I prefer to base late-season power rankings more on potential and future power so we get a better idea of what’s to come in the NFL. That said, 31st place is nothing to be proud of and the Browns really need to win a game this year. Better to save your dignity than go winless, because you’ll still get the number one pick even if the final record is 1-15. Plus, the Giants suck and should be the ones to occupy last place this week.

 

32. Giants (2-11, down 1 spot)

Yep, the Giants suck and should be the ones to occupy last place this week. I’ve already gone in depth about their QB situation, and I don’t think I have to explain again that that’s the position the Giants should target with their presumptive second overall pick. There’s also merit to trading away the few assets the Giants have left to try to secure another high pick in an attempt to draft a top skill-position player like Saquon Barkley, Bryce Love, Anthony Miller, etc. to work with this new QB and his immediate favorite target, Odell Beckham.

 

And here are last week’s rankings for reference. Bear in mind that there will be some things that stand out as ridiculous (Browns at 30, I know), but that’s mostly because I tend to consider potential more than current situation when ranking the bottom-tier teams now that we’re in the fourth quarter of the season. Indeed, the Browns have a bright future if they smartly build around Josh Gordon and have a good offseason for a change, while the Broncos’ QB situation struck me as horrible enough to put them at the absolute bottom (their shutout of the Jets reminded me they’re not that bad).

  1. Vikings
  2. Patriots
  3. Eagles
  4. Saints
  5. Steelers
  6. Rams
  7. Seahawks
  8. Jaguars
  9. Panthers
  10. Falcons
  11. Chargers
  12. Titans
  13. Ravens
  14. Packers
  15. Raiders
  16. Cowboys
  17. Lions
  18. Jets
  19. Chiefs
  20. Cardinals
  21. Bengals
  22. Redskins
  23. Dolphins
  24. Buccaneers
  25. Bills
  26. Texans
  27. Colts
  28. 49ers
  29. Bears
  30. Browns
  31. Giants
  32. Broncos
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