2020 NFL Power Rankings: Week 17

The final edition of Power Rankings!

First off, thank you for following along during this crazy season. I did not think we would make it to Week 17 (maybe we shouldn’t have), but here we are. This has been the weirdest season ever. Part of that is COVID, maybe another part is being a Pats fan and not seeing the team be good, but oh well.

I see four teams that stand above the rest. Kansas City seems like the prohibitive favorite, but Baltimore did last season and they got bounced in the Divisional Round. I can’t see KC losing like that, partly because of Mahomes, but I also don’t see a team like that who would beat them (except Buffalo, who they wouldn’t be able to face in the Divisional Round anyway).

After that, Seattle and Tampa could make a run in the NFC, but Green Bay and New Orleans are a tick ahead of them. Seattle or Tampa would likely have to beat one or both if they want to make the Super Bowl.

7 teams have clinched a playoff birth so far: KC, Buffalo, Pittsburgh in the AFC, and Green Bay, New Orleans, Seattle and Tampa Bay in the NFC.

There are 7 playoff spots remaining, and 11 teams eligible for them. Washington, Dallas and the Giants could still win the NFC East. Washington gets in with a win, Dallas needs a win against the Giants and a Washington loss, and the Giants need to beat Dallas and have Washington lose.

The AFC South is up for grabs. Tennessee gets it with a win, while Indy needs a win and the Titans to lose. If each lose, Tennessee wins the division.

The following teams are fighting for the 6th and 7th seeds in the NFC: Rams, Bears, Cardinals. The Rams make the playoffs with a win versus Arizona or a Bears loss. Chicago makes the playoffs with a win versus Green Bay. Arizona will need to beat the Rams to make the playoffs.

The AFC wild card picture is more intense. No spot has been clinches, and 5 teams could end up in seeds 5-7: Tennessee, Baltimore, Miami, Cleveland and Indianapolis. Whoever wins the AFC South (Tennessee/Indy) is no longer in this picture. Baltimore (versus Cincy), Miami (versus Buffalo) and Cleveland (versus Pittsburgh) make the playoffs with a win, while Indy needs a win and one of those three teams to lose in order to make the playoffs. For the more complicated scenarios, look here.

The only seed that has been clinched is the one seed by KC, so every other playoff team in theory has something to play for (especially the top 3 teams in the NFC, who each have a path to the first seed – and a bye week).

Exhale.

For reference, Z = clinched conference, Y = clinched division, X = clinched playoff birth, e = eliminated.

And away we go.


Tier 1

Super Bowl contenders – the teams that should make the Super Bowl and have the best chance to win it

1. Z–Kansas City Chiefs

Record: 14-1 | Week 17 opponent: Los Angeles Chargers (home)

Kansas City has been the best team in the NFL all season. I’m worried about the string of one possession wins, but this is still the most talented team in the NFL and they should make it back to the Super Bowl. The offense is simply too talented and the defense is better than a season ago.

2. Y–Green Bay Packers

Record: 12-3 | Week 17 opponent: Chicago Bears (away)

Aaron Rodgers has been on fire and is wrapping up what should be his third MVP season in the NFL. This is the most balanced offense of any of the contenders, and although the defense may seem flawed at times, it has held up okay this season. This is the season for Rodgers to win another ring.

3. Y–Buffalo Bills

Record: 12-3 | Week 17 opponent: Miami Dolphins (home)

I came to the conclusion on Monday that Buffalo might be the hottest team in the NFL. I almost put them second here. They’ve won 5 games in a row and each win seems to be more convincing than the last. Josh Allen looks spectacular and the defense is rounding into form. The momentum they have right now could make things interesting for Kansas City’s path to the Super Bowl.

4. Y–New Orleans Saints

Record: 11-4 | Week 17 opponent: Carolina Panthers (away)

The Saints are good enough to make the Super Bowl, but that will hinge on Drew Brees. They have an awesome defense, and Alvin Kamara has been great, but that cannot be the only source of offense for this team. They should make the NFC Championship Game but I’m not sure I see it going any further.

Tier 2

Deep playoff run potential – teams that could put together a run to make a conference championship game, with a small chance of making the Super Bowl

5. Y–Seattle Seahawks

Record: 11-4 | Week 17 opponent: San Francisco 49ers (away)

Seattle has had an easy batch of games to prop up their record of late, but I’m encouraged by their defense seemingly figuring it out. They haven’t let up 20 points since Week 11 and 300 passing yards since Week 9. Russell Wilson hasn’t been as elite as he was to start the season, but he’s more than capable of turning it on when it matters.

6. X–Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Record: 10-5 | Week 17 opponent: Atlanta Falcons (home)

I know what you’re saying, it’s been against inferior competition, but Tom Brady and this offense are heating up. I’ve seen Tom Brady finish a season strong too many times, and I’m not betting against him. Tell me the last time he finished a season strong and didn’t end up in the Super Bowl.

Tier 3

Stay a little while – teams that should (and will) make the playoffs and could win a game (yes, I know two of these teams will likely face each other)

7. Y–Pittsburgh Steelers

Record: 12-3 | Week 17 opponent: Cleveland Browns (away)

It wasn’t a must-win game, but the Steelers needed to end their 3-game losing streak, and they did. If Big Ben is calling the plays, maybe they have a chance, but this is a beatable team in the playoffs. The defense (the foundation of their early season success) has let up over 23 points in 4 straight games. We know they can do more, but I don’t see it.

8. Tennessee Titans

Record: 10-5 | Week 17 opponent: Houston Texans (away)

I probably have the Titans higher than I should, but that’s due to my respect for Mike Vrabel. They proved last postseason their running game can carry them in the postseason, and Ryan Tannehill does have a great impact. Their defense? Not that good. They’ll need to control time of possession to have a chance.

9. Baltimore Ravens

Record: 10-5 | Week 17 opponent: Cincinnati Bengals (away)

Similar to the Seahawks, the Ravens have been feasting on inferior competition. Lamar Jackson looks much better, and their win against the Browns was impressive. They need one more win to get in the playoffs, and could make some noise if they make it. Still, that would involve a better performance than the last two postseasons.

10. Indianapolis Colts

Record: 10-5 | Week 17 opponent: Jacksonville Jaguars (home)

I think this Colts team looks better on paper than they actually are. Maybe Philip Rivers is just the QB he’s always been (good but not clutch). Blowing their game against Pittsburgh may have cost them a playoff birth, and not making the playoffs at 11-5 (or 10-6) would be a major disappointment.

11. Cleveland Browns

Record: 10-5 | Week 17 opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers (home)

I can’t believe the Browns are at this point. Part of it has been out of their hands due to COVID, but part of it just feels like the never-ending curse of being the Cleveland Browns. I really hope they make it to the playoffs, and I think they could win a game if they do, but they just might be cursed.

Tier 4

Living on the edge – still playoff eligible, could make it, but they’ll lose in the Wild Card Round if they do make it

12. Miami Dolphins

Record: 10-5 | Week 17 opponent: Buffalo Bills (away)

Their Week 16 win versus the Raiders was awesome. Unfortunately for the team, Fitzpatrick won’t be available tomorrow due to COVID. I like this group, they seem resilient, but I don’t think Tua is ready for these moments just yet. They should make it to the playoffs, and they’ll put up a good fight, but I don’t expect an upset from this group. Still, the future is bright.

13. Los Angeles Rams

Record: 9-6 | Week 17 opponent: Arizona Cardinals (home)

I really wanted to believe in this team and give them a chance, but Jared Goff just sucks. I still cannot believe they lost to the Jets. Their defense is really good, but it’s just proving not to be enough to compensate for Goff. McVay can only scheme around it to a point. At least he’s not starting tomorrow!

14. Chicago Bears

Record: 8-7 | Week 17 opponent: Green Bay Packers (home)

Wow… I can’t believe the Bears might actually make the playoffs. Will they beat Green Bay tomorrow? Maybe! (probably not), but still, they seemed as good as done a month ago but Mitch Trubisky is playing some great football and giving this team a chance.

15. Arizona Cardinals

Record: 8-7 | Week 17 opponent: Los Angeles Rams (away)

I said from Day 1 I didn’t like Kliff Kingbury and thought he was overhyped. He did a bit better than I thought he would, but he’s holding this team back. Arizona should easily be a playoff team. I hope for Kyler Murray’s sake he gets a coach that can maximize his skillset in the years to come.

Tier 5

NFL Purgatory – not good enough to make the playoffs (sans NFC East winner), not bad enough to have a great draft pick (but one good offseason could lead to a postseason appearance in 2021)

16. e–Las Vegas Raiders

Record: 7-8 | Week 17 opponent: Denver Broncos (away)

Deja vu all over again. The Raiders were 6-4 last season before finishing 7-9. This season they were 6-4 yet again after 10 games, and have won one game since. There’s talent here, but these finishes in back-to-back seasons is not promising. I don’t think Jon Gruden is going anywhere either, so any fixes will need to be internally.

17. e–San Francisco 49ers

Record: 6-9 | Week 17 opponent: San Francisco 49ers (home)

Just when you think they’ll pack it in for good, the 49ers get another good win. Yes they won’t make the playoffs, but this group has fought hard all season through the endless injuries. They’ll need to evaluate the QB position this offseason, because as good as Jimmy G can be when healthy, he just isn’t healthy enough. I’d love to see a healthy and consistent QB with Kyle Shanahan.

18. Washington

Record: 6-9 | Week 17 opponent: Philadelphia Eagles (away)

If Alex Smith was healthy the past 2 weeks the division would be a wrap. He’s 4-1 in his 5 starts this season. Washington has as awesome defense, and if they can find a competent QB this offseason, they could be better than average. I’m rooting for them to win this crazy division.

19. e–Los Angeles Chargers

Record: 6-9 | Week 17 opponent: Kansas City Chiefs (away)

The Chargers have looked awesome since their loss to the Patriots. Three straight wins and suddenly they could finish 7-9, which seemed impossible a few weeks ago. The future is bright here. I think they should hire a new coach because with better coaching this could have been a playoff team this season; a new coach could get them to the Super Bowl very soon.

20. Dallas Cowboys

Record: 6-9 | Week 17 opponent: New York Giants (away)

I thought the Cowboys were done awhile ago, but they’ve stayed alive in the NFC East and 6 wins going into Week 17 gives you a chance to win the division. They’re 4-2 since the bye week and have won 3 in a row. They’d get destroyed in the playoffs, but hey, making it would be fun.

21. e–New England Patriots

Record: 6-9 | Week 17 opponent: New York Jets (home)

It’s been an up-and-down season for the Patriots. New England had a chance to make the playoffs after getting to 6-6, but they lost three straight games, 2 in very bad fashion, and have shown this just isn’t their season. The flaws go further than QB, but if Brady was around they’d make the playoffs; I guess this is what the rest of the NFL has felt like for the past 20 years.

22. e–Minnesota Vikings

Record: 6-9 | Week 17 opponent: Detroit Lions (away)

The Vikings seem to mirror the Patriots. Their trends seem to mirror each other, and when each seemed to be ready for a strong finish, they fell apart. It’s gonna be disappointing when you look back at this team and see they made the playoffs just once in three seasons with Kirk Cousins.

Tier 6

Can they find a QB – Teams that aren’t good right now, but if they find the right QB in the offseason they could make a leap

23. New York Giants

Record: 5-10 | Week 17 opponent: Dallas Cowboys (home)

The Giants still have a chance at winning the division! Just when they got some respect and turned some heads, they lost three straight games and dug themselves a hole. That’s the reality of being in the NFC East this season. I think they have the right coach, but I don’t think they have the right QB.

24. e–Carolina Panthers

Record: 5-10 | Week 17 opponent: New Orleans Saints (home)

I like this team, even if they are 5-10. 8 of their 10 losses have been by one possession (the 2 that weren’t were against Tampa). How different would this season be if Christian McCaffery played more than 3 games? They should be searching for a QB in the draft, but given Matt Rhule’s history, Panthers fans should be excited for the next few seasons.

25. e–Denver Broncos

Record: 5-10 | Week 17 opponent: Las Vegas Raiders (home)

Another team that is an enigma. They’ve pulled off some unexpected wins, but when push has come to shove, they aren’t good enough. Drew Lock does not seem like the right guy, as he has regressed even with the investments at receiver made around him last offseason. It’s been a mess for this team since Peyton Manning retired.

Tier 7

Major overhaul required – teams that need, and are already in search are, a new football infrastructure. This includes a new head coach, GM, QB (in some cases all of the above), and have other major roster flaws. Some have easier paths than others

26. e–Philadelphia Eagles

Record: 4-10-1 | Week 17 opponent: Washington (home)

This team has a lot of problems. After starting 0-2-1 they went 3-2 in their next 5 games, and even though they lost 2 games they were close losses. Then they lost 4 straight after their bye week, and it became apparent Carson Wentz needed to be benched. Jalen Hurts has gone 1-2 in 3 starts, but he can’t solve all the problems of this team. It’s going to be a long offseason, and they don’t have a lot of resources to improve.

27. e–Atlanta Falcons (4-11)

Record: 4-11 | Week 17 opponent: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (away)

Atlanta seemed like they might finish 7-9 again after another slow start, but have lost 4 straight games. They’ll start over next season with a new coach and front office, but just how much else will change? That remains to be seen.

28. e–Cincinnati Bengals (4-10-1)

Record: 4-10-1 | Week 17 opponent: Baltimore Ravens (home)

The Bengals have won 2 in a row, which might have saved Zac Taylor’s job. It remains to be seen if Joe Burrow will be healthy for next season, but he seems like the right guy for the future of this team. They still have a lot of work to do.

29. e–Houston Texans

Record: 4-11 | Week 17 opponent: Tennessee Titans (home)

It’s funny (or sad) how good Deshaun Watson has been this season but how bad this team has been. They were 21-11 the last two seasons and have lost that many games this season. Still, with Watson here, the next head coach and front office will have a great foundation. It just might take a bit due to the hole Bill O’Brien dug.

30. e–Detroit Lions

Record: 5-10 | Week 17 opponent: Minnesota Vikings (home)

What a mess. They pulled off one win without Matt Patricia, but you can’t look much worse than they did in the first half against Tampa Bay last week. I can’t imagine this job being appealing to many prospective head coaches and GMs.

31. e–New York Jets

Record: 2-13 | Week 17 opponent: New England Patriots (away)

The Jets have a winning streak! I did not think this was gonna happen, but 2020… oh well. They have secured the second pick in the draft, which gives them a lot more options; that could be either really good or really bad, depends on just how good Trevor Lawrence is with Jacksonville.

32. e–Jacksonville Jaguars

Record: 1-14 | Week 17 opponent: Indianapolis Colts (away)

The Jags have won two things this season: one game and the right to select Trevor Lawrence. They’ll have a lot of work to do, but they’ll be loaded with cap space and have additional draft picks to work with due to trades. This might be the best head coach/GM opening, but if Lawrence is as good as we think he is, they’ll be immediate pressure to make it work.


Credit to photo above goes to Charles Krupa of the Associated Press

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Author: Nick Collins

Boston sports fan sharing his love for sports and perspectives as a fan

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