NFL Power Rankings – Week 17

December 23, 2008 | Thyrl Nelson

As the season winds down, it becomes easier and easier to figure who will be getting the chance to extend their fortunes beyond the regular season. Every team falls into one of four categories at this point. The bookends are absolutes for the most part; they are the teams that have already either assured themselves a place in the post season, and those who have insured that they won’t get that chance. For many of those teams, draft picks or final seedings still may lie in the balance, but if power is based on your ability to walk away with the hardware, then teams in both categories have already determined their fates more or less.


In the middle though, are two much more interesting categories of teams as the season comes to a close. They are the teams who control their own playoff destinies, and those who will need to benefit from someone else’s misfortune in order to get in. It seems that most of the teams who were in control of their own destinies last weekend were unable to capitalize on that control. And likewise, those teams that seemed to benefit from the misfortunes of others, failed to capitalize themselves on their own good fortune. What it all boils down to is that the last weekend of the season is soon to be upon us, with many teams’ post season fates still very much up in the air.


Week 17 NFL Power Rankings


NFL Power Rankings Archive –  34567 – 8 9 – 10 – 11 – 12 – 13 – 14 – 15 – 16


(last week’s rankings in parentheses)


1 Tennessee Titans (3) – 13-2 – They may have faltered a bit in recent weeks, but when the Titans had something to play for again, they showed that they can seemingly turn it on at will. They may not be quite as intimidating as they were a month and a half ago, but the road to the Superbowl in the AFC goes through Tennessee at this point. Next Week: @ IND


2. New York Giants (4) – 12-3 – The Giants, like the Titans seemed to come back to Earth in recent weeks, but proved their mettle in a potential NFC Championship preview. In the process they also proved to themselves and the world that they won’t be easy to put away. Next Week: @ MIN


3. Carolina Panthers (2) – 11-4 – The Panthers went on the road last week in near playoff conditions and gave the world champs all that they could handle. They may have come out on the losing end this time around, but they showed that they’ll be a factor before it’s all said and done. Next Week: @ NO


4. Pittsburgh Steelers (1) – 11-4 – It’d be easy to put the Colts here, as they beat the Steelers head to head a few weeks ago.  But it’s just as easy to figure that the brutal schedule they’ve endured finally caught up to the Steelers last week. They still have a first round bye locked up and will get to stay home against anyone but the Titans. Next Week: vs. CLE


5. Indianapolis Colts (5) – 11-4 – Depending on what happens in a now meaningless game against the Titans this week, the Colts could ride into the playoffs on the NFL’s longest current winning streak. They looked all but dead through the first 8 weeks of the season, but have been invincible ever since. Something tells me that someone is going to wish that they’d put this team away when they had the chance. Next Week: vs. TEN


6. Baltimore Ravens (7) – 10-5 – The Ravens have hung tough through what looked like an impossible stretch in their schedule, and in doing so have turned themselves from a nice story to a legitimate factor in the AFC race. They’re not in the playoffs just yet, but they are one of the few teams that has been beating the teams that they’re supposed to beat consistently. Next Week: vs. JAX


7. Atlanta Falcons (14) – 10-5 – The Falcons have shown what they’re made of and secured a trip to the playoffs in the process. And the upside isn’t done yet, as the Falcons still have a shot a winning their division and even securing a first round bye. And to top it all off, Bobby Petrino’s Razorbacks were 5-7 this season, so much for greener pastures. Next Week: vs. ST.L


8. Miami Dolphins (15) – 10-5 – No matter where they finish, from 1-15 to where they stand now is nothing short of amazing. Still, it will likely be of little consolation to Sparano and his bunch if they miss their opportunity to finish this season in the playoffs. They’re not there yet, but just one win is all it will take. Next Week: @ NYJ


9. Minnesota Vikings (6) – 9-6 – The Vikings missed out on an opportunity to secure their place in the postseason and make a couple of other week 17 games meaningless in the process. Now they’ll have to fight for their playoff lives against the Giants who may or may not approach it all out. Remember how the Giants finished last season when their playoff seeding was already assured. This is no sure thing for the Vikes. Next Week: vs. NYG


10. Arizona Cardinals (8) – 8-7 – Maybe the Cardinals, with their playoff fate already basically assured weeks ago, intentionally went into the tank since no one was taking them very seriously in the first place. Maybe they can turn it on when it counts and will take the playoffs by storm. More likely, this team is headed in the opposite direction of where a playoff bound squad should be at this point. Next Week: vs. SEA


11. San Diego Chargers (25) – 7-8 – As improbable as it would have seemed just a few weeks ago, the Broncos have failed to finish their job, and have allowed the Chargers a chance to take away a years worth of bad luck in one fell swoop. It doesn’t hurt the Chargers chances either, that the game is in their stadium, and that the NFL may feel a bit of an obligation to help San Diego out in this particular match up. Next Week: vs. DEN


12. Dallas Cowboys (10) – 9-6 – The Cowboys had quite the whirlwind weekend last week. Having control of their own destiny, and losing it in embarrassing fashion in their Texas Stadium finale, their fate seemed to have been all bit sealed. Instead, the door that they opened went unused by everyone in line behind them, and Dallas is once again in control of their own playoff destiny. Next Week: @ PHI


13. Denver Broncos (9) – 8-7 – For those who thought the idea of the Broncos in the playoffs was a joke, there’s good news. The Broncos may have played themselves out of that position, and allowed another 8-8 club to stumble into the playoffs in their place. This will undoubtedly be a season for the books in Denver. Next Week: @ SD


14. New England Patriots (13) – 10-5 – The Patriots may be the league’s hottest team over the last few weeks, and certainly punctuated it with a blowout against the Cardinals on Sunday. Unfortunately for them, they may have to try and sustain that momentum into next year, as without some help the Pats will be on the outside of the playoffs looking in this year. Next Week: @ BUF


15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12) – 9-6 – Even if they do stumble into the playoffs somehow at this point, these are not the same Bucs that we were seeing just a few short weeks ago. It still wouldn’t be a shock to see them get in, but it’s tough to take their chances seriously at this point. Next Week: vs. OAK


16. Chicago Bears (17) – 9-6 – The team may not be very exciting but their games sure have been. For some reason, the Bears seem capable of playing with anyone, but destined to play with everyone. No team in the league has seemingly had more nail biting finishes. They have a couple of ways to possibly get in, but still need to win and get help. Next Week: @ HOU


17. Philadelphia Eagles (16) – 8-6-1- It seems that those who thought they might benefit from a tie were wrong. A tie with Dallas or Pittsburgh maybe, but anything less than a win against Cincinnati can’t be an advantage for a playoff team. Their playoff hopes aren’t dead yet, but it’s close. Next Week: vs. DAL


18. New York Jets (11) – 9-6 – If the Jets have one reason to be hopeful, it’s that no team that has been in control of the AFC Easthas stayed there for very long. They’ll need help to get into the playoffs this season, but aren’t out of it just yet. Next Week: vs. MIA


19. New Orleans Saints (19) – 8-7 – There probably wouldn’t have been many who would have guessed that the Saints would go into week 17 with nothing to play for, except a shot at Dan Marino’s passing record. The rest of the division may have taken New Orleans by surprise, but they’re still a dangerous looking club going forward. Next Week: vs. CAR


20. Buffalo Bills (21) – 7-8 – They went into the tank from controlling the division and appeared to be in freefall since mid season. But the Bills still managed to make themselves a factor in the playoff race last week against Denver and have another chance to play spoiler this week, this time in their own division. Next Week: vs. NE


21. San Francisco 49ers (22) – 6-9 – Mike Singletary’s unique brand of leadership has rescued this club from seeming freefall, and given them reason to be hopeful going forward. In the NFC West, it seems that anything is possible. Next Week: vs. WAS


22. Washington Redskins (20) – 8-7 – The Redskins may have hit their stride a little too early. After a tremendous start, they enter the off-season with seemingly the same old problems as before. They were still a factor in the playoff race last week, playing spoiler against the Eagles. This week should be a decent test for them too. Next Week: @ SF


23. Houston Texans (18) – 7-8 – Their momentum took a major hit last week, but the Texans still have lots of reasons to be proud of their efforts this season. They’ll get a good chance to play spoiler this week, and to test their mettle against a playoff caliber team. Next Week: vs. CHI


24. Jacksonville Jaguars (23) – 5-10 – They showed a pulse last week, but still look like a club that packed it in a long time ago. They’ll have a chance to be a playoff spoiler against the Ravens this week, we’ll see if they take it. Next Week: @ BAL


25. Green Bay Packers (24) – 5-10 – The Packers trip from the NFC title game a year ago to their current depths has to be one of the major disappointments this season. It will also probably overshadow the fact that Aaron Rodgers played pretty well in Brett Favre’s stead, and probably isn’t the reason for their difficult turnaround. Next Week: vs. DET


26. Seattle Seahawks (30) – 4-11 – The Seahawks proved that they can play well when they are properly motivated, as they gave Mike Holmgren a rousing sendoff in his home finale. In the process they managed to spoil the Jets playoff hopes too. Next Week: @ AZ


27. Cincinnati Bengals (27) – 3-11-1 – The Bengals were finally able to muster enough of a ground game to overcome their quarterbacking issues. Unfortunately for them, they only get to see the Browns twice per season and missed on their first opportunity. Next Week: vs. KC


28. Oakland Raiders (29) – 4-11 – There are definitely more questions than answers for the Raiders at this point, and with Al Davis at the helm that’s a trend likely to continue. Still, JaMarcus Russell is finally looking like a quarterback, and the Raiders have played proudly in the face of nationwide ridicule all season. Next Week: @ TB


29. Cleveland Browns (26) – 4-11 – They’re clearly going nowhere fast with virtually no one left at quarterback. The key for the Browns will be focusing on their improved defense and moving forward without letting this season beat them mentally. Next Week: @ PIT


30. Kansas City Chiefs (28) – 2-13 – The Chiefs play with a lot of character, and may have found something in Tyler Thigpen, but otherwise have little reason to be hopeful going forward. Little except that they’ll have someone new in charge of running the team in the future. Next Week: @ CIN


31. St. Louis Rams (31) – 2-13 – The Rams have played a few teams tough this season, and have a couple of young components worth building around for the future. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have a lot of toughness, and that’s never easy to teach. Next Week: @ ATL


32. Detroit Lions (32) – 0-15 – They’ve got the top pick in the draft locked up, and a bunch of other picks that they acquired from Dallas in the Roy Williams trade to go with it. In today’s NFL, turnarounds happen all the time, and with Matt Millen finally out of the picture, there’s reason to be hopeful in Detroit. Next Week: @ GB