NFL power rankings, Week 18: Titans, Bengals back amongst top teams as Chiefs, Colts slip up

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  • Taylor Heinicke
    Taylor Heinicke
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Here’s Touchdown Wire’s latest NFL power rankings poll heading into Week 18:

Lions running back D’Andre Swift (32) Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)

Last week: 32

Losses don’t get much worse. A 50-10 final against the Patriots. Thanks for playing, Jags.

31. Detroit Lions (2-13-1)

Last week: 31

Another brutal bottom-three loss. The Lions did show a little life late, but it was way too far gone as the Seahawks eventually put them away, 51-29.

30. New York Giants (4-12)

Last week: 30

The Giants were about a touchdown away from letting the Lions actually move up the rankings despite a blowout loss of their own. We won’t be that mean, though. The Giants have been hard enough on themselves, losing five straight.

Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

29. Houston Texans (4-12)

Last week: 29

A second half to forget for the Texans. After heading into the break with a 7-3 lead, the 49ers put up 20 points in a 23-7 final. Sloppy play like an interception by QB Davis Mills and a missed field goal from Ka’imi Fairbairn happened for Houston while San Fran scored on five of their last seven drives.

28. New York Jets (4-12)

Last week: 28

So close, yet so far away. The Jets have seen QB Tom Brady put up his fair share of comebacks back in his AFC East days. Another happened for him as Tampa topped New York, 28-24, thanks to some late heroics from the signal caller. The Jets showed some hopeful signs, but they’ve clearly got to learn to close these ones out.

27. Carolina Panthers (5-11)

Last week: 27

No spoiler for the Panthers this week. The Saints kept their playoff hopes alive with a 18-10 win over the Panthers. Carolina lost this one in the trenches against New Orleans in a game that wasn’t exactly the prettiest in terms of offense. QB Sam Darnold started, for what it’s worth, and it went as expected for the Panthers.

26. Washington Football Team (6-10)

Last week: 26

QB Taylor Heinicke got Washington out to a strong start but the Eagles got enough from QB Jalen Hurts to squeak out their 20-16 win. Heinicke nearly brought the Football Team back late, but a slip near the end zone on a pass turned into a game-sealing interception by Philadelphia’s defense.

Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny (20) Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

25. Seattle Seahawks (6-10)

Last week: 25

The Lions hadn’t won all season on the road and the Seahawks made sure that continued in a 51-29 rout. While Detroit did start to press the issue slightly after Seattle got out to a big lead, they were put right back down. WR DK Metcalf had three touchdowns for Seattle while Rashaad Penny added another two on the ground with 170 rushing yards.

24. Chicago Bears (6-10)

Last week: 24

Chicago’s defense completely controlled things against New York, highlighted by sacks and four takeaways. The Giants didn’t put up much of a fight and offensively they got 173 yards and a touchdown from QB Andy Dalton while RB David Montgomery rushed in another two scores. That was plenty enough.

23. Atlanta Falcons (7-9)

Last week: 22

A 29-15 loss to the Bills was a bit closer than it looks after QB Matt Ryan had a late touchdown run called off. But Atlanta’s defense did show signs of fight with three interceptions but it wasn’t enough to slow down a surprise rushing attack from Buffalo.

22. Minnesota Vikings (7-9)

Last week: 21

Behind the eight ball before things even got started, the Vikings were blown out by the Packers in a 37-10 fashion. Without QB Kirk Cousins, the Minnesota offense never got a thing going and it wasn’t close.

21. Denver Broncos (7-9)

Last week: 20

Down QB Teddy Bridgewater and several starters on defense, the Broncos were knocked around 34-13 by the Chargers. Denver’s failures on special teams and misfires on fourth down gave them an uphill battle against a Bolts team looking to rebound… which is exactly what they did.

A video tribute to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

20. Cleveland Browns (7-9)

Last week: 18

No playoffs for the Browns became official this weekend before kickoff and the way Cleveland played against the Steelers it could’ve been an audition… for QB Baker Mayfield. It didn’t go well in the 26-14 loss. Mayfield was 16-for-38 passing with two scores and two interceptions. He started the game 1-for-10. Now Cleveland will focus on what to do next this offseason.

19. New Orleans Saints (8-8)

Last week: 23

Business as usual for the Saints. Their defense looked like a masterclass unit against the Panthers in their 18-10 win. But it was only a one-touchdown difference despite how much better New Orleans looked on that side of the ball. The postseason is still alive for them heading into the finale, at least.

18. Baltimore Ravens (8-8)

Last week: 15

The Ravens won’t have much to show for in terms of how much fight they had in 2021. But that is what they’ve certainly done through some injuries. Even with their banged up lineup, Baltimore had the Rams on the ropes until some late Los Angeles heroics in a 20-19 loss.

17. Miami Dolphins (8-8)

Last week: 14

A No. 17 spot in the middle for the Dolphins seems fitting. In their winning streak against some poor competition, Miami got the job done. In their first meeting in awhile against a promising side in the Titans, a 34-3 loss was the outcome. Now the focus is on the offseason and what to do with QB Tua Tagovailoa much like the Browns with Mayfield.

16. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7-1)

Last week: 17

The Steelers kept their outside playoff hopes alive by sending off QB Ben Roethlisberger with a win in what will be his final home game. On the field, Pittsburgh’s defense was the story as they dominated the Browns to lock in the victory.

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

15. Las Vegas Raiders (9-7)

Last week: 19

Another walk-off field goal for Daniel Carlson locked up the win of the weekend as the Raiders downed the Colts, 23-20. QB Derek Carr had two picks but spread the ball around between WRs Zay Jones (120 yards) and Hunter Renfrow (76 yards, TD) to squeak it out. This win set up a flexing of the Raiders’ next game against the Chargers thanks to playoff positioning.

14. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)

Last week: 16

The Eagles are heading back to the playoffs perhaps by the skin of their teeth. But you can’t deny Philadelphia didn’t get the clutch play. DB Rodney McLeod had the game-winning interception late as the Eagles offense led by QB Jalen Hurts came back after trailing 16-7. Getting RB Miles Sanders back soon will be important for the Philly run game.

13. San Francisco 49ers (9-7)

Last week: 13

Rookie QB Trey Lance threw two touchdown passes in a 23-7 win against the Texans. Now it remains to be seen who starts their finale, Lance or Jimmy Garoppolo, who will be back this upcoming week. The Niners need a win for the postseason. At least defensively San Francisco showed they don’t need to worry much.

12. Los Angeles Chargers (9-7)

Last week: 12

Week-to-week it’s hard to know which Chargers team is going to show up sometimes. But it was pretty clear the good one did against the Broncos. The Bolts took a 34-13 win to secure the No. 7 seed heading into Week 18 on Sunday.

11. Indianapolis Colts (9-7)

Last week: 7

A 100-yard game for RB Jonathan Taylor… but the Colts lose? That’s a first for this season, but it happened against the Raiders. Indy was otherwise lackluster aside from Taylor and it cost them.

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase (1) (USAT photo)

10. New England Patriots (10-6)

Last week: 10

The Patriots beat the Jaguars, 50-10. Just by the score, you know how it went.

9. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)

Last week: 11

What a message sent by the Bengals. A 34-31 late win over the Chiefs helped them lock up their AFC North title and Cincy looks like a serious threat in the conference after beating one of the front runners. QB Joe Burrow had 466 yards and four touchdowns while rookie WR Ja’Marr Chase had a ridiculous 266 of those yards. A new rookie record.

8. Buffalo Bills (10-6)

Last week: 8

The Bills beat the Falcons 29-15 but things were even a bit closer than that. Buffalo appeared to be gearing up to roll Atlanta, but QB Josh Allen’s three interceptions kept them in it. The Bills did expertly adjust their game plan, at least.

7. Tennessee Titans (11-5)

Last week: 9

The Titans still completely flexed without RB Derrick Henry (who could return soon) against the Dolphins. So much so, there will be no postseason in Miami. Tennessee took a 34-3 win, rolling behind two TD passes from QB Ryan Tannehill while RBs D’Onta Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard both grabbed a score of their own.

6. Dallas Cowboys (11-5)

Last week: 4

There wasn’t much ground lost by any means in a 25-22 loss to the Cardinals for the Cowboys in the postseason race. Dallas can take some confidence away from turning it around late and nearly pulling off the win had they been able to challenge a call before running out of timeouts. The Cowboys and Cards are on a crash course for a wild-card rematch, so that moral boost might actually come in handy for the Cowboys.

Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

5. Arizona Cardinals (10-5)

Last week: 7

Finally the disastrously run for Arizona is gone… at least for now. The Cardinals held off the Cowboys in a 25-22 matchup between NFC playoff teams. Cards QB Kyler Murray had a pair of TDs to WR Antonie Wesley and extended drives just enough to stay undefeated at Dallas in his lifetime.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)

Last week: 2

The Chiefs-Bengals is going to be remembered for the numbers put up on the other sideline. But there’s no denying that Kansas City let this one slip away away. The Chiefs led 14-0, 21-7 and 28-14 in the first half but let Cincinnati hang around long enough for them to pull it off in the end.

3. Los Angeles Rams (12-4)

Some struggles from the Rams and QB Matthew Stafford made things harder than they needed to be against an… always shorthanded Ravens team this season. But at WR Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. are starting to come together as a reliable duo as Los Angeles squeaked out a win.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4)

Last week: 4

It was only the Jets, but the Buccaneers had no right winning in Week 17… and they did. Not only did the Bucs look lost for most of the day on the road, Antonio Brown’s outburst was kept at bay as QB Tom Brady was surgical in bringing his team back in the second half.

1. Green Bay Packers (13-3)

Last week: 1

The reigning No. 1 team in our poll routed a team (the Vikings) this past week. Of course the Packers are staying right where they were. QB Aaron Rodgers put up two touchdowns icluding to WR Devante Adams, who had a 136-yard outing himself against a shorthanded Vikes team.

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