NFL power rankings, Week 18

Each week of the NFL season, The Baltimore Sun will rank all 32 NFL teams. The rankings will take into account not just weekly performance, injuries and roster depth, but how well each team measures up as Super Bowl contenders.

Here are the rankings heading into Week 18:

1. Ravens (13-3, No. 1)

Last week: Win vs. Dolphins, 56-19

Up next: vs. Steelers

The Ravens put an exclamation point on a brilliant regular season, dismantling one of the league's best teams to secure the top seed in the AFC. Lamar Jackson likely wrapped up his second NFL Most Valuable Player Award with five touchdown passes and a perfect 158.3 passer rating, showing he's more than ready to finally make a deep postseason run. Without starters Kyle Hamilton and Brandon Stephens, the defense held strong, even after cornerback Marlon Humphrey went down early with a calf injury. Justice Hill, Isaiah Likely, Charlie Kolar and Patrick Ricard combined for four touchdowns. This might not be the most talented roster in the league, but it's tough, fundamentally sound and boasts perhaps the league's best player at quarterback. It's Super Bowl or bust.

2. San Francisco 49ers (12-4, No. 2)

Last week: Win vs. Commanders, 27-10

Up next: vs. Rams

The schedule makers were kind to the 49ers, who followed a tough Christmas night game against the Ravens with a trip to Landover. A calf injury to star running back Christian McCaffrey that will keep him out in Week 18 is the most notable takeaway from Sunday's win, as Brock Purdy bounced back from the worst start of his NFL career and the defense feasted against rookie quarterback Sam Howell to wrap up the NFC's top seed.

3. Buffalo Bills (10-6, No. 6)

Last week: Win vs. Patriots, 27-21

Up next: at Dolphins

Thanks to two interceptions from midseason acquisition Rasul Douglas, including one he returned for a touchdown, and two touchdown runs from Josh Allen, the Bills were able to survive an ugly game in New England to strengthen their playoff position. Buffalo can win the AFC East with a victory over Miami on Sunday night and clinch a home playoff game, though there's still a chance it falls short of the postseason with a loss. That would be a heartbreaking result for a team on such a hot streak.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6, No. 7)

Last week: Win vs. Bengals, 25-17

Up next: at Chargers

A frustrating season was not enough to derail the Chiefs' grip on the AFC West, as they won their eighth straight division title. Kansas City needed six field goals from Harrison Butker to do it, but a win over a conference rival fighting for its playoff life never comes easy. It's hard to buy into the Chiefs as title contenders given all the dropped passes (an NFL-leading 40 this season), but it would be foolish to write off Patrick Mahomes when he's supported by strong defense and special teams.

5. Dallas Cowboys (11-5, No. 9)

Last week: Win vs. Lions, 20-19

Up next: at Commanders

The Cowboys narrowly avoided a third straight loss thanks to some help from the officials, who overturned a 2-point pass that would have given the Lions the lead with 23 seconds left. And who knows, maybe Brandon Aubrey (now a perfect 35 for 35) would have kicked a game-winning field goal anyway. Dallas was in control for most of the game thanks to Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb, who set the Cowboys' single-season receiving yards record with a monster 13-catch, 227-yard performance.

6. Cleveland Browns (11-5, No. 8)

Last week: Win vs. Jets, 37-20

Up next: at Bengals

Could Joe Flacco and the Browns be the biggest threat to the Ravens in the AFC? It certainly feels like it with the way the 38-year-old quarterback is playing right now. Cleveland's elite defense kept the team afloat despite some of the league's worst quarterback play, but now Flacco is giving the offense some life, throwing three more touchdown passes in Thursday night's win. Injuries to wide receivers Amari Cooper and Elijah Moore loom large heading into the postseason.

7. Detroit Lions (11-5, No. 4)

Last week: Loss vs. Cowboys, 20-19

Up next: vs. Vikings

The officiating controversy Saturday night cost the Lions a chance to win the NFC's top seed, but that shouldn't overshadow a gritty performance on the road in Dallas, which still hasn't lost at home this season. For Detroit to come so close to winning despite two interceptions from Jared Goff and a mediocre showing on defense speaks volumes about its resolve. Amon-Ra St. Brown, Sam LaPorta and a healthy Jameson Williams will be tough to defend in the postseason.

8. Miami Dolphins (11-5, No. 3)

Last week: Loss vs. Ravens, 56-19

Up next: vs. Bills

Just about everything that could go wrong Sunday did. Miami was completely outmatched by the Ravens after scoring on its opening drive and later lost cornerback Xavien Howard (foot) and pass rusher Bradley Chubb (torn ACL) to injuries. The Dolphins suddenly face the possibility of playing on the road during wild-card weekend after entering Sunday with a chance to win the No. 1 seed, showing how quickly fortunes can change in this league.

9. Philadelphia Eagles (11-5, No. 5)

Last week: Loss vs. Cardinals, 35-31

Up next: at Giants

What happened to the Eagles? After blowing a 21-6 halftime lead against the lowly Cardinals, the defending NFC champions have lost four of their past five games. Coach Nick Sirianni and quarterback Jalen Hurts both pointed to the postseason as an opportunity to turn things around, but Philly could be headed for a quick exit if it continues to struggle on both sides of the ball.

10. Los Angeles Rams (9-7, No. 10)

Last week: Win vs. Giants, 26-25

Up next: at 49ers

The Rams were fortunate to escape with a victory and a playoff berth Sunday after turning the ball over three times and giving up a 94-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, but coach Sean McVay said sometimes you need those types of games. Matthew Stafford looked sharp despite throwing two interceptions and Kyren Williams continued his breakout season with three touchdowns, creating plenty of optimism for an offense that seems to be peaking at the right time.

11. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7, No. 13)

Last week: Win vs. Seahawks, 30-23

Up next: at Ravens

Hindsight is 20/20, but you have to wonder where the Steelers would be if they had turned to third-string quarterback Mason Rudolph sooner. He has provided a spark and developed an instant connection with receiver George Pickens, helping the offense turn the corner at a crucial time. The Steelers enter Saturday's game in Baltimore with a 28% chance to make the playoffs, according to The New York Times' simulator, a remarkable achievement considering how dire things looked just a few weeks ago.

12. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-7, No. 14)

Last week: Win vs. Panthers, 26-0

Up next: at Titans

A get-right game against the league's worst team couldn't have come at a better time, as Jacksonville ended a four-game losing streak and gained some confidence heading into a pivotal Week 18. If the Jags beat the Titans, they win the AFC South and will host a wild-card game for the second straight season. Giving injured quarterback Trevor Lawrence a week to rest should help him reset after a rash of turnovers.

13. Houston Texans (9-7, No. 15)

Last week: Win vs. Titans, 26-3

Up next: at Colts

The Texans' draft sure looks good now, as C.J. Stroud threw for 213 yards and a touchdown in his return from a concussion and Will Anderson Jr. recorded two sacks to set the franchise rookie single-season record with seven. Houston enters the final week of the regular season with a chance to win the division and make the playoffs, a fantastic outcome for a young team with a first-year coach.

14. Indianapolis Colts (9-7, No. 17)

Last week: Win vs. Raiders, 23-20

Up next: vs. Texans

Jonathan Taylor delivered at a crucial time, rushing for a season-high 96 yards and a touchdown Sunday to help the Colts hang on. Indianapolis can win its first division title since 2014 with a win against Houston and a Jacksonville loss to Tennessee, which would be a stunning outcome considering it lost rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson early in the season and has been without Taylor for most of the season.

15. Green Bay Packers (8-8, No. 19)

Last week: Win vs. Vikings, 33-10

Up next: vs. Bears

It has been rocky at times, but Jordan Love is starting to look like the quarterback the Packers envisioned as Aaron Rodgers' successor. He went 24 for 33 for 256 yards and three touchdowns and even ran for a score Sunday night to set up a de facto playoff game against the Bears after starting the season 2-5.

16. Seattle Seahawks (8-8, No. 12)

Last week: Loss vs. Steelers, 30-23

Up next: at Cardinals

The Seahawks' defense let them down again, allowing 202 rushing yards and 468 total yards against an offense that has been tough to watch for most of the season. It's the sixth straight game Seattle has allowed at least 135 rushing yards. The Seahawks enter Week 18 with a 21% chance to make the playoffs, according to The New York Times' simulator, disappointing odds for a team that looked at times like a potential NFC title contender.

17. New Orleans Saints (8-8, No. 21)

Last week: Win vs. Buccaneers, 23-13

Up next: vs. Falcons

It might be too little, too late, but the Saints showed plenty of fight Sunday to deny Tampa Bay a chance to wrap up the division title. Derek Carr has played well in three straight games after a disappointing midseason stretch, though running back Alvin Kamara's ankle injury looms large entering a must-win regular-season finale.

18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8, No. 11)

Last week: Loss vs. Saints, 23-13

Up next: at Panthers

Running back Rachaad White said the Bucs played with "no juice, no energy" Sunday, which is hard to believe considering a third straight division title was there for the taking. Tampa Bay can still clinch first place with a win over the lowly Panthers, but it can't afford to come out flat with so much on the line.

19. Cincinnati Bengals (8-8, No. 16)

Last week: Loss vs. Chiefs, 25-17

Up next: vs. Browns

The Bengals deserve credit for hanging in the playoff race as long as they did after Joe Burrow's season-ending wrist injury in November, but there are a lot of lingering questions heading into the offseason. How Cincinnati retools on defense under coordinator Lou Anarumo — if he doesn't get a head coaching job — is one of the biggest after allowing the most plays of 20 yards or more in the league.

20. Chicago Bears (7-9, No. 24)

Last week: Win vs. Falcons, 37-17

Up next: at Packers

The Bears and general manager Ryan Poles once again control the draft after clinching the top pick Sunday thanks to the Panthers' 14th loss. While picking a quarterback often felt like a no-brainer, Justin Fields has played well enough to keep his job, giving Chicago the option to trade down for the second year in a row and continue to build the roster around him.

21. Denver Broncos (8-8, No. 23)

Last week: Win vs. Chargers, 16-9

Up next: at Raiders

With the Broncos and Russell Wilson likely headed for a split this offseason after he was benched Sunday for Jarrett Stidham, Denver becomes one of the league's most fascinating teams. Just how far will coach Sean Payton go to retool this roster, and who will be playing quarterback in 2024? Stidham did not impress against a bad Chargers defense, though he gets another chance to prove himself against the Raiders.

22. Las Vegas Raiders (7-9, No. 18)

Last week: Loss vs. Colts, 23-20

Up next: vs. Broncos

Two late defensive penalties against the Colts ultimately cost the Raiders a chance to extend their season. It also might have cost interim coach Antonio Pierce a chance to secure the full-time job. A new quarterback and coach — maybe Jim Harbaugh? — seem likely to usher in a new era after Josh McDaniels and Jimmy Garoppolo failed to meet expectations.

23. Atlanta Falcons (7-9, No. 20)

Last week: Loss vs. Bears, 37-17

Up next: at Saints

Does Arthur Smith deserve a chance to coach this team again next season? As exciting and innovative as his offense has looked at times, it has often failed to execute in critical moments despite having some of the best young talent in the league. Perhaps a better quarterback will make everything click, but that's putting a lot of faith in a team that has been wildly inconsistent under Smith's leadership.

24. Minnesota Vikings (7-9, No. 22)

Last week: Loss vs. Packers, 33-10

Up next: at Lions

With rookie quarterback Jaren Hall struggling and the defense missing several key starters, the Vikings did not stand much of a chance Sunday night. Injured quarterback Kirk Cousins, who ripped off his shirt and led the home crowd in a pregame chant, remains Minnesota's best hope to turn things around in 2024.

25. Arizona Cardinals (4-12, No. 31)

Last week: Win vs. Eagles, 35-31

Up next: vs. Seahawks

It sure feels like the Cardinals will stick with Kyler Murray as their starting quarterback next season after his standout performance in Sunday's upset win. Just over a year removed from a torn ACL, he completed 25 of 31 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns as Arizona outscored Philadelphia 29-10 in the second half. With two first-round draft picks and plenty of cap space, the Cardinals could return a much better team in 2024.

26. New York Jets (6-10, No. 25)

Last week: Loss vs. Browns, 37-20

Up next: at Patriots

The best thing you can say about this Jets season is that it's almost over. Even the defense, considered the strength of the team, has looked vulnerable down the stretch, allowing 28 or more points in five of the past seven games. There's plenty of blame to go around, but that's a disappointing way to end the year.

27. New York Giants (5-11, No. 27)

Last week: Loss vs. Rams, 26-25

Up next: vs. Eagles

Tyrod Taylor's missed throw to a wide-open Saquon Barkley on what should have been the go-ahead 2-point conversion in the final minutes Sunday is a microcosm of the entire season. The Giants have had their chances, but poor execution has often sunk the team in big moments. Give credit to coach Brian Daboll for keeping his team competitive heading into an important offseason that could push New York closer to the top of the NFC East.

28. Tennessee Titans (5-11, No. 26)

Last week: Loss vs. Texans, 26-3

Up next: vs. Jaguars

It will be an interesting offseason in Tennessee, and that's assuming coach Mike Vrabel doesn't leave for another job. The Titans are projected to have the second-most salary cap space in the league after an expected exodus of free agents, including Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill, and will likely have a top-10 pick in the draft. How aggressive they are in building around quarterback Will Levis is the biggest question.

29. New England Patriots (4-12, No. 28)

Last week: Loss vs. Bills, 27-21

Up next: vs. Jets

It's still strange to see a team coached by Bill Belichick look so sloppy. With four more turnovers Sunday, including three interceptions by quarterback Bailey Zappe, the Patriots are poised to finish with a negative turnover differential (minus-10 entering Week 18) for the first time since the 2005 season. At least the outlook for 2024 is bright, especially if New England hits on a rookie quarterback.

30. Los Angeles Chargers (5-11, No. 29)

Last week: Loss vs. Broncos, 16-9

Up next: vs. Chiefs

The Chargers have big decisions looming this offseason in hiring a new coach and general manager, and that extends to the players on the field, too. After missing time with injuries again this season, defensive end Joey Bosa and wide receiver Keenan Allen could both be cut to clear cap space. It doesn't seem like running back Austin Ekeler will be back either. Next season's team could look remarkably different.

31. Washington Commanders (4-12, No. 30)

Last week: Loss vs. 49ers, 27-10

Up next: vs. Cowboys

With the Commanders climbing the draft board and Sam Howell looking shaky again in the second half Sunday after hastily being reinserted into the starting lineup, we'll likely see a new quarterback in Washington next season. Wide receiver Terry McLaurin's comments about wanting to build a culture similar to what he enjoyed at Ohio State and saw across the sideline with San Francisco resonate for a franchise that finally has an opportunity to completely overhaul its approach to building a winning team.

32. Carolina Panthers (2-14, No. 32)

Last week: Loss vs. Jaguars, 26-0

Up next: vs. Buccaneers

It's hard enough to rebuild a team through the draft and even harder when top picks don't work out. Left tackle Ikem Ekwonu has allowed a league-leading 18 sacks this season after being drafted sixth overall in 2022, wide receiver Jonathan Mingo has not lived up to high expectations and quarterback Bryce Young looks incapable of rising above a weak supporting cast. One of the team's few bright spots, defensive end Brian Burns, is heading for unrestricted free agency. Owner David Tepper is throwing drinks at rival fans. Oh, and Carolina's No. 1 overall pick is heading to Chicago. There's no guarantee 2024 is going to be any better.