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NFL Power Rankings: Week 18 (2021)

by January 4, 2022
Taysom Hill

The playoff picture is much clearer in the NFC and AFC, with just one week to go in the NFL season.

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The NFC remains the clearer of the two conferences as it has been for much of the season. We’ve got two teams vying for one spot after the Vikings fell to the Packers on Sunday night. Six of the eight teams who’re still alive have clinched; if the 49ers win, they’re in. If the Saints win, they need San Francisco to lose, and they’ll claim the final Wild Card slot.

Over in the AFC, the top five teams have clinched a playoff berth, and two open spots are remaining with five teams fighting. Baltimore and Pittsburgh are technically still alive, but they need some serious help. The Colts, Chargers, and Raiders control their fate. If any of those three teams win, they’re in – Las Vegas and Los Angeles play each other, too.

Let’s see where all 32 teams fall in the final regular-season edition of NFL power rankings. 

NFL Power Rankings Week 18

Team Rank (Δ) Last Week Next Week Notes
Green Bay Packers 1 (+1) W 37-10 vs. MIN @ DET Five wins in a row and back on top.
Kansas City Chiefs 2 (-1) L 34-31 @ CIN @ DEN And just like that, the home field sits with the Titans.
Los Angeles Rams 3 (+1) W 20-19 @ BAL vs. SF Five wins in a row.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4 (-1) W 28-24 @ NYJ vs. CAR Yet another comeback victory for Tom Brady.
Buffalo Bills 5 (+2) W 29-15 vs. ATL vs. NYJ Playoff spot clinched.
New England Patriots 6 (+2) W 50-10 vs. JAC @ MIA Playoff spot clinched.
Cincinnati Bengals 7 (+3) W 34-31 vs. KC @ CLE AFC North champs.
Arizona Cardinals 8 (+1) W 25-22 @ DAL vs. SEA Still alive for the division crown.
Dallas Cowboys 9 (-3) L 25-22 vs. ARI @ PHI This loss will hurt their playoff seeding when it’s all said and done.
Tennessee Titans 10 (+1) W 34-3 vs. MIA @ HOU AFC South Champs.
Indianapolis Colts 11 (-6) L 23-20 vs. LV @ JAC Uh-oh, but a win next week still gets Indy in.
San Francisco 49ers 12 W 23-7 vs. HOU @ LAR Win next week, and they’re in.
Los Angeles Chargers 13 W 34-13 vs. DEN @ LV Win next week, and they’re also in.
Philadelphia Eagles 14 W 20-16 @ WSH vs. DAL Playoff spot clinched.
Las Vegas Raiders 15 (+1) W 20-3 @ NO @ TEN Beat the Chargers next week – they’re in, and LA is out.
Miami Dolphins 16 (-1) L 34-3 @ TEN vs. NE The win streak and their playoff hopes are both over.
Baltimore Ravens 17 (-1) L 20-19 vs. LAR vs. PIT They need some help, but Baltimore is somehow still alive.
New Orleans Saints 18 (+5) W 18-10 vs. CAR @ ATL Like the Ravens, they’ll need some help, but they’re still alive, too.
Pittsburgh Steelers 19 (+2) W 26-14 vs. CLE @ BAL Still mathematically alive in the AFC.
Minnesota Vikings 20 (-1) L 37-10 @ GB vs. CHI Minnesota is officially eliminated, and Kirk Cousins has yet to start every game in a season as a Viking.
Cleveland Browns 21 (-2) L 26-14 @ PIT vs. CIN And just like that, the Browns are back in the market for a QB.
Chicago Bears 22 (+3) W 29-3 vs. NYG @ MIN They don’t have a first-round pick, so why not keep winning?
Denver Broncos 23 (-2) L 34-13 @ LAC  vs. KC Denver’s officially eliminated, but they lasted longer than many people expected.
Washington Football Team 24 (-2) L 20-16 vs. PHI @ NYG Disappointing season for Washington.
Seattle Seahawks 25 (+1) W 51-29 vs. DET @ ARI It means nothing for the playoffs, but it has to feel good to put up 50.
Atlanta Falcons 26 (-1) L 29-15 @ BUF vs. NO They’ll end the year with at least seven wins and none against teams over .500.
Carolina Panthers 27 L 18-10 @ NO @ TB Carolina is 22-42 since David Tepper purchased the team.
New York Jets 28 L 28-24 vs. TB @ BUF Once they gave Brady the ball back, it was over.
Houston Texans 29 L 23-7 @ SF vs. TEN Nearly 40% of their yards came on one drive.
Detroit Lions 30 (+1) L 51-29 @ SEA vs. GB Detroit is an easy team to root for heading into next year.
New York Giants 31 (-1) L 29-3 @ CHI vs. WSH -10 net passing yards. What a disgrace.
Jacksonville Jaguars 32 L 50-10 @ NE vs. IND Back-to-back number one picks.

Big Movers

Cincinnati Bengals
The future is bright in Cincinnati. They’re not just in; they’re AFC North Champions. It was an unbelievable year for a team ticketed for last place in their division and a coach nearly written off in the preseason. Joe Burrow is the real deal, Ja’Marr Chase is one of the best receivers in football already, and they just beat the red-hot Chiefs to lock themselves into the postseason.

Buffalo Bills
Another weather game in Buffalo – what else is new? A few weeks ago, it looked like the Patriots were back on top, but not so fast. Josh Allen, Sean McDermott, and this defense righted the ship and ensured another year of postseason football in Western New York after so many years without it. But the Bills took care of business and now only have to beat the hapless Jets to lock up their second-straight AFC East crown.

New Orleans Saints
New Orleans was incredibly shorthanded last week but got some of their key pieces back this week – namely Taysom Hill. They lost Drew Brees to retirement, Jameis Winston to a torn ACL, and Michael Thomas hasn’t played a single game, but Sean Payton continues to prove why he’s one of the best head coaches in the business. It wasn’t pretty, and their playoff chances aren’t exactly glimmering with hope, but the Saints are still alive, and that’s all they can ask for after everything that’s gone on around this organization.

Random Musings

Indianapolis Colts
Uh-oh… sort of. The Colts have to beat the Jaguars on Sunday, and they’ll lock up a playoff berth. So not all is lost. But things would have been much simpler had they just beaten the Raiders at home and not breathed life into Las Vegas’ playoff chances in the process. Carson Wentz wasn’t a lock to play, and after missing practice all week and dealing with COVID, he just looked off. There isn’t much time left for Wentz to get back on track, the season ends in a week, but he’s going to have to be much better if the Colts want to advance in the postseason.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
They’re in, they’re division champions, and they have Tom Brady. But it took a late-game comeback from Brady to beat the Jets, and Tampa Bay lost a valuable player in the process. We’ve all seen the videos by now, but what happened with Antonio Brown goes beyond the Bucs losing a key receiver. Brown’s issues have been well-documented, but that was a scary scene at Metlife Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Many have said that Tampa Bay got what they deserved after giving Brown so many chances, but here’s to hoping he gets the help he needs off the field. As for the Bucs, we’ll see who they tab to step up in Brown’s place.

Washington Football Team
I, and many experts around the league, were sky-high on Washington in what we all thought would be a weak NFC East again this year. They had the defense, added to their skill positions, and brought in Ryan Fitzpatrick. Well, Fitzpatrick played half of Week 1, the skill positions players were largely underwhelming outside Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson, and this defense underachieved greater than any unit in the entire NFL. Ron Rivera has posted eight losing seasons in 11 years as a head coach.

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Mike Wagenman is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him on Twitter @mjwags23.

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