It seems that nothing gets settled in the NFL and both conferences just continue to trade places. Depending on the week, the top four teams in the conference flip flop between dominant and highly beatable, often times landing in between. While the Cowboys are nursing their first losing streak since 2021, the Philadelphia Eagles broke their three-game skid. The Detroit Lions won again, but the hottest team in the world, the San Francisco 49ers, got ransacked in their own house. Which brings the conversation to the AFC, where the Baltimore Ravens are settling in as the top dog. What they did to the perceived best team in the league on Monday night was eye-opening, even with how well they had played all year. Meanwhile, Miami and Buffalo are taking advantage of a weird free-fall by the defending world champs, the Kansas City Chiefs. All together, it’s a wild Week 17 Power Rankings.
1. Baltimore RavensThe Ravens passed their test with flying colors, turning over the 49ers’ seemingly unstoppable offense and cruising to an easy win. What a performance by both Lamar Jackson and the defense. I doubted the Ravens because I was concerned about their tackle and cornerback play, but they dominated San Francisco. They get another test this week at home against the Dolphins. If they win that game, they will lock up the No. 1 seed before their season finale against the Steelers in Week 18.2. San Francisco 49ersInjuries were the primary talking point about the 49ers’ three-game losing streak earlier in the season, but turnovers were the real story of those three losses. I’d be concerned about BrockPurdy’s performance against the Ravens if we hadn’t already seen him crush the Cowboys and Eagles. The issue popped up again Christmas night, with Brock Purdy throwing four interceptions before he left and Sam Darnold adding another to end the game. The possibility of one of those turnover meltdowns is the real concern as this team heads into the postseason. I’m confident Purdy will rebound and lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl.3. Miami DolphinsMiami finally got their signature win, but it was not easy. After allowing the Cowboys to come back and take a one-point lead, Tua Tagovailoa led a game-winning drive that ended with a field goal as time expired. Tua Tagovailoa didn’t play his best against the Cowboys, yet the Dolphins found a way to win. This just shows how much Miami’s defense has improved since some ugly showings at the beginning of the season. The road does not get any easier with a trip to Baltimore up next and the Bills in the season finale, but the Dolphins needed a win like this.4. Buffalo BillsThe Bills had such an obvious trap game that I thought it was too obvious so that it wouldn’t be a trap game, yet it still was a trap game. The Bills were able to overcome the trap game, however, and beat the Chargers with a final drive to really help themselves in the AFC playoff race. It was far from a convincing win, but Josh Allen led a game-winning field goal drive in the closing seconds to knock off the Chargers and move the Bills to 9-6 on the season. That win is important both because it put them in a great position in the Wild Card race and kept open the possibility of an AFC East showdown with the Dolphins in Week 18. For that to happen, the Bills need to take care of business against the Patriots and have Miami lose to the Ravens.5. Dallas CowboysIt has been a tough trip through the AFC East the last two weeks for the Cowboys. After getting demolished in Buffalo, Dallas came up just short in Miami despite taking the lead late. Now they head home to face a Lions team that just clinched their first playoff appearance since 2016. The Cowboys lost, but they didn’t have Tyron Smith. Zack Martin was also banged up. We know how important it is for Dak Prescott to have everything perfect around him to succeed, so Dallas will need those two blockers to get healthy ahead of the playoffs. They need a win here at home to keep their division dreams alive.
6. Detroit LionsCongratulations to Detroit for winning the NFC North for the first time ever. The Lions received great news that Chauncey Gardner-Johnson has been cleared to practice. He may not return until the playoffs, but his presence will be a huge, much-needed boost. Despite a lackluster run that saw them lose to the Packers and Bears, the Lions suddenly find themselves tied with the Eagles and 49ers atop the NFC after dispatching the Vikings on Sunday. The defense did force turnovers in that game and stopped Minnesota’s rushing attack, but Nick Mullens averaged 11.4 yards per attempt and had the Vikings in position to score a game-winning touchdown before throwing his fourth interception. Detroit’s defense remains their Achilles heel, and that is a concern with a trip to Dallas next up on the schedule.7. Cleveland BrownsThe Cleveland Browns are officially a problem for the division leaders in the AFC. The Browns are somehow nearly 4-0 with Joe Flacco at quarterback. Though it seems odd, remember that Flacco could be deemed the best quarterback the Browns have had in a long time. I have to imagine all the young players on the team really look up to him because of his experience and leadership. Joe Flacco threw another three touchdowns, Amari Cooper set a franchise record with 265 yards, and the offense put it on the Texans in a win that was more comprehensive than the final score indicates. Flacco still has some rough throws and has turned the ball over too much, but just having a functional offense attached to this defense makes the Browns a dangerous team.8. Philadelphia EaglesPhilly’s offense had some impressive drives in the fourth quarter to seal the win, but it is a concern a 20-3 halftime lead was cut to just two points late in the third quarter against one of the worst teams in the league, a team that might have beaten them if Tyrod Taylor played the entire game. Oh, and the Eagles weren’t remotely competitive against the 49ers and Cowboys (second meeting). Things should have gotten easier against Seattle, but the Eagles lost to them, too. They won by eight versus the Giants, but the Giants suck. Philadelphia’s secondary is a disaster. Like a lot of the “top” teams in the league, they head into the final couple of weeks with serious questions. Of course, they get to face the Cardinals and then the Giants again to close things out, and they are currently tied for the No. 1 seed with the 49ers.9. Kansas City ChiefsAfter losing to the Raiders on Christmas Day, the Chiefs are now 3-5 over their last eight games, and some of the wins during that stretch have not been impressive. Why couldn’t the Chiefs play like they did on Christmas versus the Raiders in their first meeting? I couldn’t bet on Aidan O’Connell after seeing that performance, and it turns out I was right about fading O’Connell. Yet, the Raiders still won despite not completing a pass in the final three quarters! They went down early to these same Raiders back in Week 12, and it was a struggle for them to beat the Patriots in Week 15. We are beyond trusting Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes to flip the switch and get this offense moving. Something is broken, and they are running out of time to get it fixed.10. Tampa Bay BuccaneersThere’s no doubt there are other teams deserving this final top 10 spot. They’re in because they are leading the NFC-South. The Bucs have been impressive the last two weeks, beating the Packers in Lambeau and then dominating the Jaguars at home. A defense that had been struggling stood strong against Trevor Lawrence on Sunday, and the passing game continues to be effective. The Buccaneers were very lucky in games earlier in the season, and that continued to be the case recently. They had no business beating the Falcons because they were outgained by 150 net yards and two yards per play. The Falcons couldn’t get the job done because they constantly shot themselves in the foot. However, Baker Mayfield was on fire against the Packers and Jaguars. Tampa Bay will have a chance to win in January if Mayfield can keep playing this way. They have a chance to clinch the division this week against the Saints.