The NFL’s first-ever 17-game season is in the books, and the 14-team playoff field is set for the 2021-22 NFL season.
Week 18 didn’t feature the hardest-hitting matchups, with the majority of playoff berths being clinched by the end of Week 17, but there was still important results and upsets with playoff implications.
The biggest loser of Week 18 was easily the Indianapolis Colts, who simply needed to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars to earn a playoff spot: but they couldn’t. Instead, the Pittsburgh Steelers, who grinded out a 16-13 win over the Baltimore Ravens earlier in the day, earned the AFC’s final playoff position after the Las Vegas Raiders downed the Los Angeles Chargers 35-32 on Sunday Night Football to earn a playoff spot of their own.
In the NFC, the New Orleans Saints did their part by beating the Atlanta Falcons, but ultimately didn’t qualify for the postseason, as the San Francisco 49ers came back to beat the Los Angeles Rams in overtime.
With a 17-game sample size, there wasn’t huge swings in this week’s rankings, but there’s still changes to be found: including shake-ups in the Top 10, a new team at #32, and a playoff team falling to #19.
Read on for my final Power Rankings of the season, and if you’d like to debate or discuss any rankings, join the conversation with @SakSports on Twitter.
See Also: Last Week’s Rankings
Post-Week 18 Power Rankings
- Green Bay Packers (13-4) [Last Week: 1]
- Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers starters played n the first half, but the team ultimately lost 37-30 to the Lions in meaningless circumstances. Green Bay still finishes the season with the best record in the NFL, and if you take away this game as well as the Packers loss to the Chiefs with Jordan Love under center, Green Bay went 13-2 in meaningful games with Rodgers at quarterback this year.
- Kansas City Chiefs (12-5) [Last Week: 2]
- The Broncos gave the Kansas City Chiefs a run for their money on Saturday afternoon, but 11 Chiefs points in the fourth quarter allowed Patrick Mahomes and company to officially close the season on a 9-1 stretch. Kansas City is one of the hottest teams in the league heading into the postseason.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-5) [Last Week: 3]
- Tom Brady broke records and led the league in passing at 44 years old this season, and after a 41-17 win over the Panthers in Week 18, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished the season on a 7-1 stretch and just one game behind the Packers for the best record in the NFL. The defending Super Bowl champions weren’t perfect this season, but have as good a chance as anybody to advance to Super Bowl 56.
- Los Angeles Rams (12-5) [Last Week: 4]
- The Los Angeles Rams squandered a chance to keep the 49ers out of the postseason, falling 27-24 in overtime in a result that could have (but didn’t) cost Los Angeles the NFC West title. Despite the loss, the Rams enter the playoffs having won five of their last six games.
- Buffalo Bills (11-6) [Last Week: 5]
- I wanted to bump the Buffalo Bills up to #4 after their recent four-game win streak, but besides an important win over the Patriots in Week 16, Buffalo only beat the Panthers, Falcons, and Jets. Losing to the Colts, Patriots, and Buccaneers during a 1-3 stretch before their current win streak still looms over Buffalo’s heads as they enter the postseason. Josh Allen and the Bills can beat up on bad teams, but can they beat the good teams when it counts?
- Dallas Cowboys (12-5) [Last Week: 7]
- Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys had another huge win in Week 18, downing the Eagles 51-26 on Saturday night. Dallas finishes the season 6-0 against their NFC East rivals, but just 6-5 against all other opponents. The Cowboys should at least be able to make it out of the first round, but do they have what it takes to make a deep playoff run?
- Cincinnati Bengals (10-7) [Last Week: 6]
- The Cincinnati Bengals rested Joe Burrow and some other starters in a Week 18 loss to the Browns, but had previously won three big games over the Broncos, Ravens, and Chiefs (all with playoff implications on the line) to clinch the AFC North. As a division winner, it’s hard to call the Bengals a “sleeper” in the playoffs, but I think they may make a deeper run than most non-Bengals fans expect.
- Tennessee Titans (12-5) [Last Week: 10]
- Despite some midseason struggles (a 1-3 stretch that included a loss to the Texans,) the Tennessee Titans still completed one of my boldest preseason predictions: earning the #1 seed in the AFC. Tennessee enters the playoffs needing just two home wins to advance to Super Bowl 56, but most importantly, running back Derrick Henry should be able to go for the Titans next game in two weeks.
- New England Patriots (10-7) [Last Week: 9]
- I would have preferred to drop the New England Patriots a spot or two after losing 33-24 to the Dolphins in Week 18, but with losses by Arizona, Indianapolis, and the Chargers, Mac Jones and the Patriots remain a Top 10 team at the end of the regular season. Still, New England dropped three of their final four games following a seven-game win streak, but there is a silver lining to entering the playoffs as a wildcard team: New England was 6-2 on the road this season.
- Arizona Cardinals (11-6) [Last Week: 11]
- Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals blew a chance to reclaim the NFC West title, falling 38-30 at home to the Seahawks in Week 18. Arizona backs in to the playoffs with a 1-4 record in their final five games, but if they can recreate last week’s 25-22 win over the Cowboys in the postseason, they should be able to beat opponents that aren’t Green Bay or Tampa Bay.
- San Francisco 49ers (10-7) [Last Week: 13]
- Down 17-3 at halftime, it appeared the San Francisco 49ers season was coming to a close. But Jimmy Garoppolo helped lead a 21-point second half, and the 49ers downed the Rams 27-24 to clinch the final wildcard spot in the NFC. The second half of the season treated San Francisco very well, with a 7-2 mark after a 3-5 start. The 49ers will enter a classic duel with the Cowboys in the Wildcard round of the playoffs.
- Los Angeles Chargers (9-8) [Last Week: 12]
- Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers fell in the final seconds of overtime after a controversial timeout call to end their season at 9-8 with a 35-32 loss to the Raiders. I still think the Chargers are ever-so-slightly better than Las Vegas, but man, Los Angeles really blew their chnce to make the postseason with some close losses littered throughout the year.
- Las Vegas Raiders (10-7) [Last Week: 15]
- The Las Vegas Raiders booted a game-winning 41-yard field goal on the final game of the season, in overtime, to both clinch a playoff spot and eliminate their rival Chargers from postseason contention. The Raiders final two wins of the season effectively blocked the Colts and Chargers from making the playoffs, but before that, the Raiders barely beat Drew Lock’s Broncos and a COVID-ravaged Browns team, and before THAT, the Raiders endured a 1-5 stretch. Las Vegas earned their playoff spot, but at the same time, the Raiders are far from the most trustworthy team in the postseason.
- Indianapolis Colts (9-8) [Last Week: 8]
- A few weeks ago, the Indianapolis Colts controlled their own playoff destiny, and looked like a shoo-in for one of the AFC’s seven postseason positions. But back-to-back losses to end the season doomed Carson Wentz and the Colts, and also removed running back Jonathan Taylor from serious MVP consideration. Losing to the Jaguars 26-11 in Week 18 was an absolutely embarrassing way for the Colts to end their season.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1) [Last Week: 16]
- The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t had the best season, but the franchise still found a way to the postseason at 9-7-1 after the Raiders win on Sunday Night Football, extending Ben Roethlisberger’s career. As the seventh seed, traveling to Kansas City on wildcard weekend, the Steelers may not make a deep playoff run, but after their up-and-down season, Steelers fans should be happy just to be here.
- Miami Dolphins (9-8) [Last Week: 18]
- The Miami Dolphins defeated the Patriots 33-24 to end their season on an insane 8-1 stretch after a 1-7 start. But it just makes last week’s loss to the Titans even more excruciating, as Miami could have qualified for the playoffs if they had won that game.
- Baltimore Ravens (8-9) [Last Week: 17]
- The Baltimore Ravens collapsed from 8-3, tied for the best record in the AFC, to 8-9 with six straight losses to end the season. Even with Lamar Jackson out, Tyler Huntley played pretty good football, but Baltimore fell by three points or less in five of their final six games. If just one of those results had been flipped, Baltimore’s season could have had a different story, but instead, the end result is a lost year for the Ravens.
- Minnesota Vikings (8-9) [Last Week: 19]
- While the Minnesota Vikings never played quite as well as Baltimore, they’re in a similar boat: Minnesota finished 8-9, just one game behind a potential playoff spot, with eight one-score losses, six of them coming against playoff teams. By most measures, Kirk Cousins and the Vikings weren’t a bad team, but they came up just short one too many times this season.
- Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) [Last Week: 14]
- Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles enter the playoffs with a winning record and a 6-2 mark in their final eight games, but shouldn’t count on a deep postseason run: as the Eagles finished just 1-7 against teams that posted a winning record this season, and that one win was against the Jameis Winston-less Saints. Philadelphia gets Brady and the Buccaneers in the Wildcard round, and the Eagles did give Tampa Bay a decent fight earlier in the season, losing 28-22.
- New Orleans Saints (9-8) [Last Week: 21]
- The New Orleans Saints held up their end of the bargain, beating the Falcons 30-20 for their fourth win in five games, but fell just short of the postseason after the 49ers defeated the Rams.
- Cleveland Browns (8-9) [Last Week: 20]
- Case Keenum led the Cleveland Browns to a meaningless win over Brandon Allen and the Bengals in Week 18, but Cleveland’s previous three-game losing streak and 3-5 mark over their final eight games ultimately kept them out of the playoffs after a promising start to the season.
- Denver Broncos (7-10) [Last Week: 23]
- The Denver Broncos closed the season with four straight losses after starting 7-6 this season. Denver can blame the late collapse on losing Teddy Bridgewater, but at the end of the day, Drew Lock had the Broncos within a score in three of the final four losses.
- Washington Football Team (7-10) [Last Week: 24]
- Taylor Heinicke, Antonio Gibson, and Washington Football Team ended their season with a 22-7 win over the Giants at MetLife Stadium to finish 7-10, basically in the same position they were last year, but without an NFC East title to go along with it.
- Seattle Seahawks (7-10) [Last Week: 26]
- Russell Wilson, Rashaad Penny, and the Seattle Seahawks spoiled the Cardinals chance to win the NFC West in Week 18, with a 38-30 upset in Arizona, and closed their season with a respectable 4-2 stretch.
- Atlanta Falcons (7-10) [Last Week: 22]
- In all honesty, the Atlanta Falcons didn’t feel like a 7-10 team this season, with a 26th-ranked scoring offense and the third-worst defense in the league, but Matt Ryan and company feasted on inferior competition to squeak their way to seven wins, even with back-to-back losses to end the season.
- Chicago Bears (6-11) [Last Week: 25]
- The Chicago Bears had won back-to-back games prior to Week 18’s 31-17 loss to the Vikings to make their record look a little more respectable, but their season is best summed up by a 1-8 slump that spanned the majority of the seasons second half.
- Detroit Lions (3-13-1) [Last Week: 29]
- The Detroit Lions finished with just three wins after beating the Packers 37-30 in Week 18, but played hard all season. Detroit suffered six one-score losses, lost on a record 66-yard field goal to the Ravens in Week 3, and finished 1-6 against the spread this season. Jared Goff and the Lions finished with the second-worst record in the NFL, but were not the second-worst team in the NFL this season.
- New York Jets (4-13) [Last Week: 27]
- Zach Wilson and the New York Jets didn’t put up much of a fight in a 27-10 loss to the Bills in their season finale, but with two wins over playoff teams (the Titans and Bengals) as well as a hard-fought game against Brady and the Buccaneers last week, the Jets are at least not the worst team to call MetLife Stadium home.
- Houston Texans (4-13) [Last Week: 28]
- Davis Mills threw for 301 yards and three touchdowns as the Houston Texans nearly spoiled the Titans’ chance to earn the #1 seed in the AFC. Houston went 2-2 in their final four games after starting the season 2-11.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (3-14) [Last Week: 32]
- Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars upset the Colts 26-11 to keep them out of the playoffs, and Jacksonville finally rises out of the #32 spot just in time for the season’s conclusion. The Jaguars did still finish with the worst record in the league, and will have the top pick in the NFL Draft for the second consecutive year.
- Carolina Panthers (5-12) [Last Week: 30]
- The Carolina Panthers absolutely collapsed after a promising 3-0 start this season. Even at 3-3, the Panthers had just suffered one-score losses to the Cowboys, Eagles, and Vikings, but since then, Carolina has gone 2-9 with just three of those losses coming by a score or less. The Panthers end their season on a seven-game losing streak, with a 29th-ranked offense that scored just 17.9 points per game.
- New York Giants (4-13) [Last Week: 31]
- It took 18 weeks, but the New York Giants are officially the worst team in the NFL. Of the Giants 13 losses, just three have come by one score or less, but none since a Week 8 loss to the Chiefs. The Giants finished the season on a 2-7 stretch, with six of the seven losses coming by 15 points or more. New York’s season went from bad to worse as they lost starting quarterback Daniel Jones, losing their final six games with Mike Glennon and Jake Fromm passing the baton back and forth at quarterback. The Giants finished 31st in scoring, with just 15.2 points per game, as well as 31st in passing yards, with 188.0 per game.
SEE ALSO, PREVIOUS 2021-22 NFL Power Rankings: Post-Week 1, Post-Week 2, Post-Week 3, Post-Week 4, Post-Week 5, Post-Week 6, Post-Week 7, Post-Week 8, Post-Week 9, Post-Week 10, Post-Week 11, Post-Week 12, Post-Week 13, Post-Week 14, Post-Week 15, Post-Week 16, Post-Week 17
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- Carson Wentz, Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts Are In Prime Playoff Position
- Rodgers, Packers Hand Murray, Cardinals First Loss of Season After 7-0 Start
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- 2021-22 NFL Predictions: NFC South
- 2021-22 NFL Predictions: NFC North
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