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Week 18 NFL power rankings: Cleveland Browns soar, Dolphins and Eagles drop after Week 17

Week 18 NFL power rankings
Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Week 17 of the NFL regular season is in the books and it wraps up 2023 itself. As football fans celebrate New Year’s Day and welcome in 2024, our latest Week 18 NFL power rankings take a look at everything that happened this weekend.

The NFL’s playoff picture has taken a clear shape as we prepare for the final week of the regular season. In Week 17, the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers secured the No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences, earning first-round byes. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns clinched a playoff spot and the race for the NFC East opened up.

Related: Rose Bowl predictions

Let’s dive into our Week 18 NFL power rankings, reviewing and evaluating all 32 teams after Week 17.

Week 18 NFL power rankings: Worst NFL teams in 2023

32. Carolina Panthers

  • Previously: 32nd in NFL power rankings

The Carolina Panthers are the worst NFL team in 2023 and they won’t even have the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. It should tell you everything you need to know about the Panthers’ organization and why the future feels so bleak for Carolina. The upcoming offseason could ultimately dictate whether or not Bryce Young is a draft bust and if the Panthers’ image is redeemable under team owner David Tepper.

Related: Carolina Panthers coaching candidates

31. New England Patriots

  • Previously: 29th in NFL power rankings

There’s a reason New England Patriots fans desperately want to see this team lose, Bailey Zappe isn’t the answer. Quite frankly, very few offensive players currently on the Patriots’ roster are long-term starters. New England will need a complete reset in 2024 and if it can land the No. 2 pick, putting itself in a position to draft Drake Maye or Caleb Williams, the Patriots will have been winners this season.

Related: New England Patriots coaching candidates

30. Washington Commanders

  • Previously: 31st in NFL power rankings

This is the end of the Ron Rivera era, but at least the Washington Commanders are showing a little fight at the end. At this point, we can only look ahead to the 2024 offseason with a 3new general manager, head coach and quarterback just being the start of the Commanders’ to-do list in the spring.

Related: Washington Commanders coaching candidates

29. Tennessee Titans

  • Previously: 25th in NFL power rankings

The white flag has been waved by the Tennessee Titans, it’s all about draft positioning now. As Tennessee heads into the final game of its season, fans should be prepared to give Derrick Henry a fond farewell in his final performance in a Titans’ uniform. As for what happens this spring, we’ll address that next week.

28. Los Angeles Chargers

  • Previously: 28th in NFL power rankings

The Los Angeles Chargers are already in offseason mode. It starts with a new search for an architect to build this roster and there are some appealing Chargers general manager candidates. Once a head coach and general manager are in place, there are a lot of moves that need to be made for Los Angeles to get under the salary cap and those transactions will likely make this team worse in 2024.

Related: Los Angeles Chargers coaching candidates

27. New York Jets

  • Previously: 26th in NFL power rankings

We can only look ahead to 2024 for the New York Jets. Nathaniel Hackett and 40-year-old Aaron Rodgers are returning. Rodgers would seemingly improve the Jets’ offense by magnitudes, but only if New York addresses its offensive line this offseason. It should come as no surprise that Rodgers has a new wishlist for the Jets.

Related: New York Jets own up to costly mistake from 2023 season

26. New York Giants

  • Previously: 27th in NFL power rankings

The Tommy DeVito experience was fun for fans, but Tyrod Taylor was always the better quarterback on the New York Giants roster. As New York’s season draws to a close, it’s clear the 2022 season was a fluke. Now, the Giants’ front office must actually surround Daniel Jones with better talent. Otherwise, New York could replace everyone in 2025.

Related: 2024 NFL salary cap projection

25. Arizona Cardinals

  • Previously: 30th in NFL power rankings

It’s hard not to like the young Arizona Cardinals. They’ve fought against some of the best NFL teams this season, even recording victories over the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. With two first-round picks, ample cap space, a franchise quarterback and a quality coaching staff, the Cardinals could take flight in 2024.

Related: 2024 NFL Draft order, picks by team

24. Las Vegas Raiders

  • Previously: 22nd in NFL power rankings

A road loss to the Indianapolis Colts will certainly cool some of the buzz for Antonio Pierce to be the Las Vegas Raiders coach in 2024. Team owner Mark Davis still likes to make big splashes and if the Raiders can’t end the regular season with a victory, we wouldn’t be surprised if Davis writes a blank check to bring Jim Harbaugh to Las Vegas.

Related: Las Vegas Raiders coaching candidates

23. Minnesota Vikings

  • Previously: 21st in NFL power rankings

Unless you have the best defense in the NFL (Cleveland Browns), there’s only so much you can do as a team when you’re starting your fourth-string quarterback. The 2023 Minnesota Vikings season was undone by injuries, that happens. What has to be concerning long-term for Minnesota is seeing the Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears suddenly accelerate their timelines and all look like playoff contenders in 2024.

22. Atlanta Falcons

  • Previously: 20th in NFL power rankings

Arthur Smith entered Week 17 well-positioned to keep his job in 2024 barring an ugly showing to close out the season. Losing 37-17 to the Chicago Bears pushes one foot out the door. Neither Taylor Heinicke nor Desmond Ridder was the answer, but everyone knew that already. If Smith sticks around next season, Atlanta needs to go all-in for a quarterback.

21. Chicago Bears

  • Previously: 24th in NFL power rankings

The Chicago Bears traded the No. 1 pick in 2023 for an unprecedented haul, using those assets to build around quarterback Justin Fields. If Fields closes out the season the way he played against Atlanta’s defense, no one would blame Chicago fi it traded the first pick for the second consecutive year. If that happens, the Bears could quickly build one of the best foundations in the NFL.

Related: NFL insider reveals Matt Eberflus’ fate for 2024

2023 NFL power rankings: Packers move up, Seahawks fall

20. Denver Broncos

  • Previously: 18th in NFL power rankings

The Denver Broncos secured the win in Week 17, but the damage is already done. Denver’s treatment of Russell Wilson this year and Sean Payton’s comments about the entire team don’t just raise eyebrows around the league, they could cost the Broncos dearly. It’s not unfair to wonder if both Denver and Payton which they could have a do-over on that trade with the Saints.

Related: Highest-paid NFL coaches

19. Seattle Seahawks

  • Previously: 15th in NFL power rankings

We said it last week, it truly might be time for the Seattle Seahawks to start considering a coaching change. There’s a lot of talent on this roster, but Pete Carroll and his coaching staff aren’t even squeezing a consistent, average amount of production offensively or defensively. All the close losses and late-game issues suggest Seattle might be better off long-term if it makes changes to its coaching staff in 2024.

18. New Orleans Saints

  • Previously: 23rd in NFL power rankings

Credit to the New Orleans Saints for rallying with their season on the line. It wasn’t an efficient day for the offense, but Derek Carr delivered 2 touchdowns and the Saints’ defense picked off Baker Mayfield twice, creating four total takeaways. The Saints are alive and so is Dennis Allen heading into 2024.

17. Green Bay Packers

  • Previously: 19th in NFL power rankings

On Sunday Night Football, the Green Bay Packers looked like the team that beat the Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions. Jordan Love looked like a star, Aaron Jones was healthy and this defense actually played well. It’s put Green Bay in a win-and-in scenario, the same situation as last year. The problem is, we also saw the performances against New York and Tampa Bay. There’s no telling which version of the Packers show up in Week 18, but the best version can make noise in the playoffs.

Related: Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator candidates

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Previously: 11th in NFL power rankings

An opportunity missed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a reminder that this team isn’t especially good, it’s just in a bad division with a weak schedule. One game shouldn’t cost Baker Mayfield a hefty raise with a new contract from Tampa Bay in 2024, but it is a reminder that he’s not the long-term solution at quarterback.

Related: NFL coaching hot seat

15. Indianapolis Colts

  • Previously: 17th in NFL power rankings

If you told us before the season that the Indianapolis Colts would enter Week 18 with favorable odds to make the playoffs, we wouldn’t have believed it. If you then said that Michael Pittman Jr., Anthony Richardson and Jonathan Taylor would all miss multiple games and Indianapolis finished with a winning record, we would’ve called you crazy. All of this is a testament to first-year coach Shane Steichen who has done phenomenal work with this team. Even if the Colts don’t make the playoffs, we can’t wait to see what they can do in 2024.

Related: NFL QB rankings

14. Cincinnati Bengals

  • Previously: 13th in NFL power rankings

There’s just only so much the Cincinnati Bengals can do with a backup quarterback under center while fielding one of the worst defenses in football. The Kansas City Chiefs helped keep things close, turning it over and going 3-for-12 on third downs, but the Bengals just don’t have enough at this point to beat very good teams. As for Jake Browning, backups typically have a good three-game run and then reality hits. Reality is here.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Previously: 16th in NFL power rankings

On an afternoon that saw the Pittsburgh Steelers defense really struggle until the fourth quarter, this offense came through. Mason Rudolph did just enough to likely keep the starting job, but the real standouts in Week 17 from Pittsburgh were Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren. The Steelers’ running backs made eclipsing 200 scrimmage yards look easy and it’s because of them that Pittsburgh has another winning season.

Related: NFL Defensive Player of the Year race

12. Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Previously: 14th in FNL power rankings

Trevor Lawrence needed a week for his body to recover after struggling to play through injuries for a month. Fortunately, the Panthers allowed the Jacksonville Jaguars to do that without it resulting in a loss. Jacksonville needed that win just as badly as Lawrence needed a rest. Thanks to the victory, the Jaguars can clinch the AFC South win a win in Week 18.

Related: NFL expert picks

11. Philadelphia Eagles

  • Previously: 8th in NFL power rankings

It turns out switching out defensive play-callers from Sean Desai to Matt Patricia didn’t do wonders for the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense. Philadelphia struggled defensively against one of the worst NFL teams in 2023, with a 99-yard pick-six by Sydney Brown truly saving the Eagles in Week 17. To make matters worse, the Eagles were dominated by Arizona in the second half and it cost them dearly. The fact of the matter is Philadelphia isn’t a Super Bowl contender and serious changes are needed to recapture that form in 2024.

Related: Philadelphia Eagles stripped coach of key play-calling duties after bye

Week 18 NFL power rankings: Best NFL teams right now

10. Los Angeles Rams

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 10th in NFL power rankings

A little too close for comfort for the Los Angeles Rams in Week 17. On a day when Matthew Stafford struggled to protect the football, Puka Nacua and Kyren Williams stepped up for Los Angeles. While there is a lot of buzz around the NFL about the Rams being the “team you don’t want to face” this defense is the reason why we’re not going to set our expectations beyond reaching the Divisional Round for Los Angeles.

Related: Fan of Los Angeles Sports? Check out LAFBNetwork.com

9. Houston Texans

Syndication: The Tennessean
Credit: Denny Simmons / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Previously: 12th in NFL power rankings

Will Anderson Jr. and C.J. Stroud make a world of difference for the Houston Texans. With their two best players back on the field, Houston estimated Tennessee. Anderson Jr. helped DeMeco Ryans’ defense work more effectively and the trio of Stroud, Devin Singletary and Nico Collins were cooking in Bobby Slowik’s offense. If the Texans sneak into the playoffs as a wild-card team, watch out because they can make some noise.

8. Kansas City Chiefs

Syndication: The Enquirer
Credit: Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Previously: 9th in NFL power rankings

If the Kansas City Chiefs are going to have any success in the playoffs, Rashee Rice and Isiah Pacheco have to be just as involved as Travis Kelce. We know Patrick Mahomes can amplify this offense, helping Rice look like a No. 1 receiver and Pacheco a dangerous three-down back. Kansas City also still demonstrated that it has the defense capable of helping this team win multiple playoff games. However, the Chiefs’ offense is still dealing with costly turnover problems and it will have to face much better defenses in the playoffs.

Related: Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator candidates

7. Detroit Lions

Syndication: Detroit Free Press
Credit: Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Previously: 5th in NFL power rankings

The Detroit Lions lost to Dallas, but Dan Campbell and Co. should feel confident when the playoffs arrive. Detroit has already secured the No. 3 seed and a home game in the Wild Card round. If they win that game, which they have the talent to do, Detroit has proven it can go on the road and compete with some of the best teams in the NFC. A win would’ve been nice, but it shouldn’t shake confidence in the Lions’ playoff outlook.

Related: Footage shows Taylor Decker reporting as eligible to ref

6. Buffalo Bills

NFL: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 4th in NFL power rankings

It was an ugly game for the Buffalo Bills offense and quarterback Josh Allen, but Terrel Bernard (2 sacks) and Rasul Douglas (2 interceptions) came through in a defensive-led win for Buffalo. With Miami also losing in Week 17, the stage is set for the Bills vs Dolphins to decide the winner of the AFC East. Football fans couldn’t ask for anything better than this.

Related: Super Bowl odds

5. Miami Dolphins

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens
Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 3rd in NFL power rankings

The Miami Dolphins proved they could hang around with bonafide playoff threats, but a Week 17 home matchup against the Baltimore Ravens showed the gap between these two AFC teams. It certainly didn’t help that Xavien Howard went down, with the Dolphins’ pass defense struggling after. Miami is a very good team and they have enough to make a Super Bowl run, but a lot of dominoes need to fall their way in a game against the Ravens, Browns or Bengals for that to happen.

Related: NFL stadium rankings

4. Dallas Cowboys

NFL: Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys
Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 6th in NFL power rankings

The Dallas Cowboys benefitted from a baffling mistake by the referee in Week 17, but that same officiating crew missed a tripping call that proved costly for Dallas. Still, the Cowboys’ run defense as already a problem, and now it’s collapsed on game-ending drives in consecutive weeks against two of the best NFL teams right now. Still, as long as Tyron Smith and Tyler Smith are out there on the left side of the Cowboys’ offensive line, Dak Prescott can play at an MVP-caliber level in the playoffs and the Dallas’ big-play defense can win a game.

3. Cleveland Browns

NFL: New York Jets at Cleveland Browns
Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 7th in NFL power rankings

Joe Flacco doesn’t have to be elite for the Cleveland Browns to make a playoff run. Cleveland already has victories over Baltimore Jacksonville and San Francisco during the regular season. It boasts the best defense in the NFL, the leading Coach of the Year candidate and an offense capable of making enough explosive plays to win a low-scoring game against the Ravens or Chiefs. Take the Browns seriously, they have a worthy resume.

Related: 4 insane Joe Flacco stats that capture his Cleveland Browns magic

2. San Francisco 49ers

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Washington Commanders
Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 2nd in NFL power rankings

After losing to the Baltimore Ravens, the San Francisco 49ers seemed to let that carryover against Washington. San Francisco simply played down to its competition, with the 49ers’ defense struggling. All that matters for the 49ers, though, is recording the win. As long as this team stays healthy, the 49ers can beat anyone and that still includes Baltimore.

Related: NFL defense rankings

1. Baltimore Ravens

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens
Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 1st in NFL power rankings

The Baltimore Ravens are the best NFL team right now. Week 17 represented the latest blowout victory over one of the best NFL teams in 2023, now reeling off one-sided wins over the 49ers and Dolphins. The Ravens are the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs and that home-field advantage could prove pivotal for a Super Bowl run.

Related: NFL playoff predictions

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