NFL power rankings: Cowboys, Packers climb in playoff picture; Steelers jump Patriots, Jets for Week 17

Week 16 in the NFL had more of a playoff feel to it throughout the league as the playoff picture is starting to come into final focus with the end of the 2022 regular season fast approaching.

The winter wonderland around Christmas is a chilling reminder the new year is coming and only 14 teams can play in the tournament for Super Bowl 57. Some of the best championship contenders flexed by either grinding out tough victories or finding a complete groove.

Even the teams near the bottom found some extra competitive spirit for the holidays. It’s time to deck the halls with another edition of Sporting News NFL power rankings, from still a most cheerful No. 1 to a a happier than usual No. 32:

MORE: Updated NFL playoff picture for Week 16

NFL power rankings Week 17

1. Philadelphia Eagles 13-2 (previous week: 1)

The Eagles gave it a great fight with Gardner Minshew and scored plenty with DeVonta Smith and others to win in Dallas, but they had to be a little concerned about key pass defense breakdowns given their pressure prowess and secondary strength. They are still the team to beat in the NFC but the D remains key.

2. Buffalo Bills 12-3 (2)

The Bills’ offense still isn’t the explosive machine that everyone expected, but it remains powered by the freight train Josh Allen and now he’s getting the right late-season locomotive help from the traditional running game and defense.

3. Kansas City Chiefs 12-3 (3)

The Chiefs are manufacturing offense in different ways as running backs Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon have become legitimate big-weapons to play well off Travis Kelce. Their defense also showed some needed timely pop against the Seahawks.

4. San Francisco 49ers 11-4 (4)

The 49ers’ rolled their eighth straight victory as Brock Purdy continues to take advantage of elite blocking and premier weapons such as Christian McCaffrey and George Kittle. The defense makes a rookie QB’s life much easier, too.

5. Dallas Cowboys 11-4 (7)

The Cowboys needed the win over the Eagles more for their confidence as real Super Bowl contenders out of the NFC vs. thinking they can still win the NFC East. Dak Prescott did have more interception woes, but he recovered in a much-needed way.

6. Cincinnati Bengals 11-4 (5)

The Bengals got a little sloppy and perhaps overconfident in finding easy offense vs. the Patriots in New England and were fortunate to win and stay in first place in the AFC North. Joe Burrow has been great, but he could be better by avoiding a few key mistakes.

7. Minnesota Vikings 12-3 (6)

The Vikings aren’t lucky. They put themselves in position to win with good offensive play design that involves top skill players Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook and T.J. Hockenson at the right times. They also proved defense and special teams can be a factor when needed.

8. Baltimore Ravens 10-5 (9)

The Ravens didn’t change much without Lamar Jackson as Tyler Huntley continues to grind with a run-heavy offense. The defense coming through again without Calais Campbell and Marcus Peters was impressive.

9. Los Angeles Chargers 9-6 (8)

The Chargers are surging at the right time with Justin Herbert and have also find more of a running game to match their passing juice with Austin Ekeler and others. Watch out if their defense can keep making more of an impact.

10. Miami Dolphins 8-7 (10)

The Dolphins, even after four consecutive losses, seem be the the unofficial dividing line for teams with a real shot at winning the Super Bowl because of their offensive firepower, but Tua Tagovailoa’s mistakes increasing near the end of the season is concerning.

Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill

11. New York Giants 8-6-1 (11)

The Giants have had a lot of positives this season, including Daniel Jones showing some of the qualities of a franchise QB while being supported by a healthy Saquon Barkley and a better offense. The goal next year for Brian Daboll is getting the right receiving pop and improved run stoppers.

12. Jacksonville Jaguars 7-8 (16)

The Jaguars have figured out everything offensively around breakout franchise QB Trevor Lawrence and despite their defensive struggles, are developing into a dangerous team for the AFC playoffs because of Doug Pederson’s Super Bowl pedigree.

MORE: Breaking down the Jaguars’ playoff chances

13. Washington Commanders 7-7-1 (13)

The Commanders’ uncertainty at quarterback between Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke is interesting for a playoff-positioned team. Their defense has been a backbone of late, but it got a real wakeup call in San Francisco.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7-8 (19)

The Buccaneers were able to escape the Cardinals because of more late Tom Brady heroics to shake off some early Brady mistakes and more inept passing. But their defense is getting big breaks at the right time.

15. Detroit Lions 7-8 (12)

The Lions have been an explosive offense and have excelled as a home team this season, but their issues overall defensively and not being able to play as well on the road will likely cost them a playoff shot under Dan Campbell.

DK Metcalf, Derrick Henry

16. Tennessee Titans 7-8 (14)

The Titans may not be able to salvage another AFC South title and a wild-card berth with rookie Malik Willis thrust into an overwhelming starting QB role without Ryan Tannehill. Their rash of injuries on both sides of the ball and offensive limitations away from Derrick Henry also have been magnified.

17. Seattle Seahawks 7-8 (15)

The Seahawks have had major issues stopping the run and containing tight ends all season and those problems were prevalent as they lost again in Kansas City with not enough offense to compensate. They have overachieved regardless but finishing below .500 is disappointing.

18. Green Bay Packers 7-8 (21)

The Packers amazingly are in control of their playoff fate after their massive win in Miami to stay alive. You can bet the Vikings don’t want to see Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs right away at home. The Packers will be laser focused on beating the Vikings and Lions to end the season with much of it on Rodgers’ play.

MORE: Breaking down the Packers’ playoff chances

19. Pittsburgh Steelers 7-8 (23)

Counting out Rodgers is much like counting out Mike Tomlin. They both have their Super Bowl rings for a reason as great competitors who dig deep to make the most of what they have. Tomlin’s master motivation is being seen most in the defense, as expected.

20. New England Patriots 7-8 (17)

The Patriots were getting ripped by the Bengals’ offense and could do nothing around Mac Jones before a desperate and aggressive defensive approach worked. Unfortunately, the personnel and execution in big close games isn’t the same under Bill Belichick.

Zach Wilson

(Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

21. New York Jets 7-8 (18)

The Jets’ offense went into the tank against a shaky Jaguars run defense and blew a big chance to reboot their AFC wild-card chances. But it’s now clear Zach Wilson isn’t the answer at franchise QB, even in Year 2.

22. Carolina Panthers 6-9 (24)

The Panthers followed their Week 14 game plan from running all over Seattle on the road to run all over Detroit on the road. Carolina has a lot of problems overall, but it can win the NFC South if it wins out.

MORE: Breaking down Panthers, Buccaneers’ playoff chances in NFC South

23. New Orleans Saints 6-9 (25)

The Saints marched into cold and windy Cleveland and stayed gritty under Dennis Allen, keeping themselves in the NFC South race. They just haven’t been able to put their defense, running game and passing attack all together like they would have liked in a lost season under Kevin Stefanski.

24. Las Vegas Raiders 6-9 (20)

The Raiders cannot get out of their own way to be consistent and are too reliant on either surviving or rallying to win close games. It’s caught up to them big time against lesser opponents.

25. Cleveland Browns 6-9 (22)

The Browns’ first abbreviated season with Deshaun Watson will end without a playoff trip and not because of quarterback play and the running game, but more for porous defense that became injury-riddled and struggled mightily vs. the run at times and broke down vs. the pass at the other times.

26. Los Angeles Rams 5-10 (28)

The Rams had an offensive explosion sparked by their defense and Baker Mayfield, and continued the redemption run of Cam Akers. Credit to Sean McVay for having them play so well and hard so late with nothing on the line except pride.

27. Atlanta Falcons 5-10 (26)

The Falcons were eliminated from playoff contention in Week 16 after their offensive-limited loss to the Ravens because of falling into clear last place in the NFC South. After overachieving early, their passing game and defensive issues couldn’t be overcome.

MORE: Updated 2023 NFL Draft order after Week 16

28. Indianapolis Colts 4-10-1 (27)

The Colts were eliminated from playoff contention in Week 16 once the Jaguars won to take over the AFC South lead from the Titans. They are failed to get a late-season spark from Nick Foles ahead of what should be the final two games under Jeff Saturday.

29. Arizona Cardinals 4-11 (30)

The Cardinals’ effort was strong with a third-string quarterback, especially defensively, on Sunday night. But it’s not certain if moral victories and major injuries will be enough to save Kliff Kingsbury’s job.

30. Denver Broncos 4-11 (29)

That loss to the Rams probably didn’t save Nathaniel Hackett’s job. That was the most embarrassing performance by a bad team all season and was the exclamation point to a dumpster fire of a first season with Russell Wilson.

Justin Fields

31. Chicago Bears 3-12 (31)

The Bears tried to run away with a shocking win over the Bills, but their major all-around defensive woes began to manifest in a massive way once the visitors cleaned up their own mistakes. Defense and receiving help will be high priorities in the 2023 offseason.

32. Houston Texans 2-12-1 (32)

The Texans were showing some scrappiness against the Cowboys and Chiefs and it added up to breaking through for a big spoiler victory at Tennessee. They still are down here with their shaky QB play and awful run defense.

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