NFL power rankings: Cowboys, Browns, Steelers climb as Dolphins, Eagles, Seahawks drop for Week 18

The 2023 NFL regular season is down to one game in the new year before the playoffs begin. Although the tournament toward Super Bowl 58 will eventually decide who the true “best teams” are in the next few weeks, it’s important to see who’s trending upward at the right time.

On the flip side, there are a handful of teams trying to stay further out of the proverbial basement. From 1-32, the makeup of the teams from top to middle to bottom is as surprising as usual.

Here’s the last non-playoff edition of Sporting News’ NFL power rankings after Week 17’s games:

MORE: Updated NFL playoff picture after Week 17

NFL power rankings Week 18

1. Baltimore Ravens 13-3 (previous week: 1)

The Ravens made sure they left no doubt about the team to beat ahead of Super Bowl 58 by throttling the 49ers and Dolphins in consecutive weeks. Along with those stellar offensive performances, Lamar Jackson has all but sewn up his second MVP.

2. San Francisco 49ers 12-4 (2)

The 49ers rebounded from that Ravens ripping at home with a get well game all-round traveling to the Beltway in Washington. They now can rest, get resettled and healthier for a hopeful deeper playoff run with the top-seed bye business wrapped up before Week 18.

3. Dallas Cowboys 11-5 (9)

The Cowboys needed to flex a little and even though the Lions pushed them to the limit, they made the needed offensive and defensive big plays to finish undefeated at home to give them a shot of opening the playoffs in prime position.

4. Cleveland Browns 11-5 (6)

How about Joe Flacco, again? Here comes a mini-season MVP outside of Baltimore and a rising Comeback Player of the Year favorite. He has the Browns on track to face his former team in a division rematch in the divisional round.

5. Detroit Lions 11-5 (4)

The Lions looked dead in Dallas until a late rally with their defense and big pass plays. They are pushing hard to go into the playoffs with momentum, hosing their first postseason game in 30 years. They need to stay sharp with Matthew Stafford and the red-hot Rams looming for them.

6. Miami Dolphins 11-5 (3)

The Dolphins just couldn’t keep up offensively vs. the Ravens without Jaylen Waddle and Raheem Mostert. Their defensive meltdown vs. Jackson is a big concern to hold off the Bills for the AFC East title next week.

7. Philadelphia Eagles 11-5 (5)

The Eagles’ defensive issues keep them vulnerable in every game as they’ve gotten worse vs. the pass and have started to leak against the run. That will lead to a short playoff stay unless they can better win shootouts.

8. Buffalo Bills 10-6 (7)

The Bills are a dangerous floater in the conference and are a win away from being close to their old nasty selves as a No. 2 seed wedged between the Ravens and Chiefs. They have the widest range of outcomes of any team alive in the AFC race.

Patrick Mahomes

9. Kansas City Chiefs 10-6 (8)

The Chiefs’ offense took a lot of uphill climbing to get enough points to beat the Bengals but their reliable defense keeps coming through. If Kansas City repeats, it would be because of how they’re playing on the other side of Patrick Mahomes.

10. Los Angeles Rams 9-7 (10)

The Rams have their offensive groove with the modern “fearsome foursome” of Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Puka Nacua and Kyren Williams. They are a threat to go deep in the NFC playoffs with some shored-up pass defense.

11. Pittsburgh Steelers 9-7 (12)

The Steelers have found a holiday offensive miracle with Mason Rudolph to George Pickens plus a whole lot of their running game. Mike Tomlin has once again clinched another winning season with a shot at finishing with a playoff return.

12. Jacksonville Jaguars 9-7 (14)

The Jaguars needed their defense to dominate with Trevor Lawrence not available for the offense and it did more than that in blanking the Panthers. At the same time, Travis Etienne got going with the rushing attack, too. They get another strong potential tuneup for the playoffs with the Titans next.

CJ Stroud 12032023

13. Houston Texans 9-7 (15)

C.J. Stroud’s return was a game-changer for the overall competency of the Texans as they jumped on the Titans early and didn’t let up offensively or defensively for a much-needed easy win before the Colts showdown.

14. Indianapolis Colts 9-7 (17)

The Colts found their defense and running game with Jonathan Taylor again and find more downfield pop in the passing game, too. The Colts are an unassuming playoff team but still a sneaky all-around tough one should they make it as a wild card.

15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 8-8 (11)

Baker Mayfield and the momentum of the offense came to a screeching halt at the wrong time and the realigned defense couldn’t recover in time vs. the Saints. Luckily, they get a key division-clinching mulligan vs. the Panthers in Week 18.

16. Green Bay Packers 8-8 (20)

The Packers have a shot at the playoffs again going into Week 18 with Jordan Love getting better all the time with key young weapons such as Jayden Reed helping to grow his confidence. Matt LaFleur has done a sneaky good post-Aaron Rodgers job regardless.

Jayden Reed, Packers

17. Seattle Seahawks 8-8 (13)

The Seahawks’ run defense woes dragged them down against the Steelers and they couldn’t recover in time offensively, also giving up big pass plays at the same time. They now need to worry a lot about the feisty spoiler-minded Cardinals on the road next week.

18. Denver Broncos 8-8 (18)

The Broncos didn’t find much offense without Russell Wilson and Courtland Sutton, but they also were facing a shell of a Chargers team at home. The bottom line is the first (and likely only) season of Sean Payton and Wilson was arguably a worse disaster to more obvious one-and-done under Nathaniel Hackett.

19. Cincinnati Bengals 8-8 (16)

The Bengals did their best to stay competitive in the AFC playoff race without Joe Burrow and found a capable backup in Jake Browning, but ultimately key defensive problems against running games and tight ends cost them.

20. New Orleans Saints 8-8 (22)

The Saints marched into Tampa Bay as a more confident and put-together team, now with Derek Carr playing well for about a month. They just better hope it wasn’t too little, too late for their disappointing defense.

Derek Carr

21. Chicago Bears 7-9 (24)

The Bears should not being thinking about moving Justin Fields now given what he gives the offense with his constant all-around improvement. Watch for Matt Eberflus carrying this upside well into next season.

22. Las Vegas Raiders 7-9 (19)

The Raiders did their best to stay competitive offensively adjusting from josh McDaniels and there were some flashes late from the future, including Aidan O’Connell and Zamir White. They remain attractive for the next coach, especially defensively with Maxx Crosby.

23. Minnesota Vikings 7-9 (21)

The Vikings, like the Bengals, tried to survive as an offensive-minded playoff team as long as possible without Kirk Cousins. Now they must decide if this season proved they need to bring back Cousins badly or provide further evidence of needing to hastened a more complete rebuild.

24. Atlanta Falcons 7-9 (23)

Arthur Smith still has one more week to possibly salvage the NFC South title only because of the division being so weak. But the expected result vs. the Saints shouldn’t be good after his consistent fickle personnel usage.

25. New York Jets 6-10 (25)

The Jets’ lost season has fallen apart with no offensive consistency, which started to affect the defense behind issues vs. the run late. They’re treating this is a do-over with Robert Saleh so the pressure will be on with a healthy Aaron Rodgers in the new year.

26. Arizona Cardinals 4-12 (30)

The Cardinals have shown their true colors with Kyler Murray playing well in the new offense with plenty of help from the running backs and healthy receivers. Jonathan Gannon’s defense is due for a leap next with an infusion of young talent.

27. New York Giants 5-11 (27)

The Giants have showed their relentless DNA with defensive high effort and offensive reinvention regardless of QB. Brian Daboll should get a mulligan for his injury-marred mess of a second season.

28. New England Patriots 4-12 (26)

The Patriots are playing out the string well for Bill Belichick, swarming hard defensively and rallying around Bailey Zappe, despite his big passing mistakes. It’s hard to believe the BB era comes down to one more game.

29. Tennessee Titans 5-11 (28)

The Titans need to do some page-flipping offensively with their youth movement around Will Levis and both the offensive line and secondary need upgrades for them to be a lot more competitive in a sudden tough division.

30. Los Angeles Chargers 5-11 (29)

The Chargers are headed to some big changes after their injury-riddled, coach-firing mess to end the season. This team’s potential is high but there are many schematic vs. personnel things that must be cleaned up around Justin Herbert and the defensive foundation.

31. Washington Commanders 4-12 (31)

The Commanders looked alive offensively and defensively for a brief moment against the 49ers before all their overall talent and QB shortcomings came to light again. Ron Rivera likely won’t see the next rebuilding step. 

32. Carolina Panthers 2-14 (32)

The Panthers showed some recent fight with Bryce Young playing better and the defense still motivated. Then the shutout disaster happened in Jacksonville, with the owner’s actions being a lot more embarrassing than his effort.

Source : ESPN.com

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