NFL Power Rankings: 32-Team Finale to Close Out 2016 Season
The 2016 regular season has come to a close, and Niner Noise dishes out our NFL power rankings one more time before hitting offseason mode for the San Francisco 49ers. Where do the Niners stand amid the remaining 31 teams in the league?
Congratulations, NFL and San Francisco 49ers fans. We’ve made it to the end of another regular season.
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Week 17 has come to a close and we can direct our attention to the offseason and those teams making the playoff dance.
Last week’s action is a little tough to decipher for NFL power rankings. On one hand, a number of teams were resting starters in preparation for the postseason. Others, with little left for which to play, started inserting backups and depth players to give evaluatory looks to players in what looked more like a preseason game.
Still, we’ve got your post-Week 17 NFL power rankings for one last time before team rosters go through wholesale changes in free agency and the NFL Draft.
Ironically, the 49ers make a climb in this week’s rankings despite a loss at home to the Seattle Seahawks.
And yet we still find the same team wallowing at the very bottom.
Let’s start there.
Last week: 32
Oh, the Browns.
You nearly won Week 17 over a Pittsburgh Steelers B-team, only to fumble the ball in the red zone in the waning seconds of regulation.
And you nearly managed to score an overtime touchdown, had to settle for a field goal and let Pittsburgh take the OT victory on a game-winning touchdown.
The Browns are gonna Browns, and they did here.
At least you were rewarded with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Los Angeles Rams
Last week: 28
Well, it’s pretty obvious the Los Angeles Rams didn’t bother showing up at home in Week 17. A 44-6 loss to the Arizona Cardinals to close out the season is about the perfect way to sum up the Rams’ first year back in Southern California.
Tack this on with a forgettable loss to the 49ers last week, and it’s not hard to justify Los Angeles falling so hard.
At least the Rams will be a relatively attractive destination for a head-coaching candidate this offseason.
San Francisco 49ers
Last week: 31
The Niners manage to climb a spot even though they lost their season finale 25-23 to the visiting Seahawks.
Why? Well, the 49ers were notably playing hard in what was nothing more than a meaningless game for San Francisco. But it did mean something for Seattle, in terms of playoff seeding. And the 49ers were in a real position to come away with an upset, even leading 14-3 in the second quarter.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick had one of his best games against his NFC West rivals, and a makeshift Niners squad handled itself well enough to carry a small amount of momentum hitting the offseason.
They’ll need it. Both general manager Trent Baalke and head coach Chip Kelly are gone now.
And San Francisco’s offseason will likely be a turbulent one for the key decision makers in Santa Clara.
Last week: 29
The Chicago Bears coughed up a meaningless loss, falling 38-10 to the Minnesota Vikings, in Week 17.
Head coach John Fox appears to be safe this offseason, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. But Chicago still has plenty of questions to answer between now and next season. What’s the situation going to be at quarterback? Is the team going to bring back pending free-agent wide receiver Alshon Jeffery?
Things are a mess for the Bears right now and there’s no sight of the team heading in the right direction.
Last week: 27
The Jacksonville Jaguars might have won last offseason. But they were clearly big losers during the regular season.
Jacksonville’s 24-20 loss to the Indianapolis Colts doesn’t mean much, aside from NFL Draft order. Instead, this team’s focus will be entirely on the offseason, finding a new head coach and trying to upgrade its lowly offense.
At least it will be a relatively attractive head-coaching destination, considering a number of good players on the defensive side of the ball.
New York Jets
Last week: 30
At least the New York Jets pulled off a win in what has been a turbulent 2016 season at MetLife Stadium.
The 30-10 victory over the Buffalo Bills doesn’t mean much. But at least it looks as if head coach Todd Bowles will return next season, hopefully proving this year was more of an anomaly and not the norm moving forward.
New York still has no clear answer what to do at quarterback next season. And until the Jets figure this out, this franchise’s future is going to be in doubt.
San Diego Chargers
Last week: 26
It was a bit of an unfair matchup to be the final tune-up game for the Kansas City Chiefs, and the 37-27 loss pretty much reflects that.
At least putting up 27 points against a tough Chiefs defense says something.
Still, the San Diego Chargers are the lone team to lose to the Browns this season. And a second consecutive last-place finish in the AFC West was enough to ensure head coach Mike McCoy would lose his job.
Where are the Chargers going to be playing in the future anyway?
Last week: 24
A forgettable 2016 season winds to a close for the Carolina Panthers, after falling 17-16 to the upstart Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
What exactly happened in Carolina this season?
Well, quarterback Cam Newton was nowhere near his MVP self. The defense was more vulnerable, and one has to wonder how the Panthers bounce back from this Super Bowl-hangover season.
At least a good deal of the pieces are in place for a hopeful 2017 rebound.
Last week: 25
The Cincinnati Bengals pulled off a meaningless 27-10 win over the Baltimore Ravens to ensure head coach Marvin Lewis didn’t finish with a 10-loss season to wrap up 2016.
Lewis shot down rumors of a pending retirement. So it looks as if there will be some continuity here entering next season.
Marvin Lewis shoots down retirement rumors.
— NFL (@NFL) December 30, 2016
On one hand, the Bengals still have a lot of pieces in place to be a playoff contender. On another, one has to wonder what the heck happened in this forgettable year.
Last week: 19
The post-Rex Ryan era didn’t exactly get off to a good start, with the Bills losing 30-10 to the hapless Jets to close out the year.
At least the next head coach of Buffalo will have running back LeSean McCoy on the roster. He’ll need him, especially if quarterback Tyrod Taylor takes off for greener pastures this offseason.
New Orleans Saints
Last week: 18
The New Orleans Saints still have a phenomenal offense, as long as quarterback Drew Brees is under center, and a putrid defense.
Falling 38-32 to the Atlanta Falcons is a perfect reflection of this.
Head coach Sean Payton looks to be in place next year. But the Saints are going to need a complete overhaul of the defense this offseason to stand a chance in the NFC South in 2017.
Last week: 23
The Philadelphia Eagles became only the second team to beat the Dallas Cowboys this season, albeit the Cowboys were rolling out their B-team, including quarterback Tony Romo for a while.
Quarterback Carson Wentz looked relaxed in the pocket, so Philly fans should feel pretty good about him entering his second season at the NFL level. And it’s always fun to watch running back Darren Sproles continuing to play hard despite the frustrating year.
Tight end Zach Ertz is also a great playmaker. He had 139 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles’ 27-13 victory.
Last week: 20
Yes, the Cardinals pulled off a 44-6 win over the Rams. But it’s hard to say if this is more of a credit to Arizona or simply Los Angeles giving up in a meaningless late-season game.
If it’s the former, the Cardinals looked like their vintage selves. Veteran quarterback Carson Palmer tossed for 255 yards and three touchdowns against an interception.
But Arizona also took a big hit, losing running back David Johnson to a knee injury.
Head coach Bruce Arians said it wasn’t anything serious, which is a good thing. The Cardinals will need Johnson next year.
Last week: 22
The Vikings looked like more of what they appeared early in the season, easily handling the Bears 38-10 to close out the year.
Quarterback Sam Bradford tossed three touchdowns versus one interception, although Minnesota’s offensive line still remains a very big problem moving forward.
Running back Adrian Peterson was unavailable for the game, and signs are pointing to him not returning next year.
What happens for this franchise moving forward? The Vikings sure have a number of questions to answer between now and the start of training camp.
Last week: 21
The Colts’ 2016 season can be summed up by three factors — quarterback Andrew Luck, his offense and an aging defense.
Not surprisingly, Indianapolis can hold onto a good offense moving forward. Even with aging veteran tailback Frank Gore.
But the defense needs to get younger. It will have to, especially now Robert Mathis is retiring.
At least the Colts can finish on a rise in our NFL power rankings.
Last week: 12
The Ravens were oh-so close to squeaking into the playoffs in Week 16, only to lose to the Steelers and drop out of the postseason race.
Week 17’s 27-10 loss to the Bengals was a lackluster effort for a John Harbaugh team not totally invested to the on-field effort.
It’s going to be sad to see wide receiver Steve Smith retire. And while the defense is still going to be good next year, one will hope Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome can work his magic this offseason.
Last week: 14
All the Washington Redskins needed was a mere victory in Week 17 to ensure they’d get into the playoff picture.
Instead, they lost an ugly 19-10 NFC East matchup to the red-hot New York Giants. And quarterback Kirk Cousins did not look like a top-tier free-agent target for this offseason.
Cousins’ two thrown interceptions proved to be the dagger in Washington’s chances. Now, the Redskins face a very uncertain offseason with questions at quarterback and a number of aging players on both sides of the ball.
What a fall in NFL power rankings.
Last week: 15
The Houston Texans are somehow a playoff team, but that’s primarily due to their great defense and the fact the AFC South is the league’s weakest division.
Houston doesn’t fall any further in our NFL power rankings this week, despite their 24-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans, sans quarterback Marcus Mariota.
The Texans will need every part of their defense to advance anywhere in the playoffs. Fortunately, they get to host the Oakland Raiders, who won’t have quarterback Derek Carr under center for the rest of the season.
So yes, Houston might actually advance beyond the Wild Card round.
Last week: 17
It’s weird to think backup quarterback Matt Cassel actually looked OK for a Titans team just outside the AFC playoff picture.
If they had the luxury of playing in, let’s say, the AFC South, the Titans would easily be playoff bound.
And that’s reflected in our NFL power rankings.
Tennessee’s turnaround this season has been something to watch. The Titans are going to be a team trending in the right direction next season, so it’s good they can hit the offseason with a lot of confidence in 2017.
Last week: 16
The Denver Broncos defense looked like its vintage self, although they didn’t have to worry about Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (leg) under center.
And backup QB Matt McGloin was also sidelined with an injury for an Oakland squad putting up a mere six points in the 24-6 loss in Denver.
The Broncos are out of the playoff picture. But they at least put a thorn in their AFC West rivals’ seeding chances and set an ominous tone about what Oakland is going to have to deal with in the postseason.
Oh, and cornerback Aqib Talib certainly doesn’t like Raiders wideout Michael Crabtree. That was mildly humorous.
And, of course, we’ll wish the best for retiring head coach Gary Kubiak too.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last week: 13
The Falcons might be kings of the NFC South, but the Buccaneers aren’t too far behind.
Yes, they didn’t have to worry too much about handling the Panthers in Week 17, coming away with a 17-16 victory at home.
But they still climb in our NFL power rankings because they’re a team trending in the right direction and making the necessary improvements in the right areas.
Quarterback Jameis Winston and wide receiver Mike Evans should be a duo to watch for the next few years.
Last week: 11
The Detroit Lions had to square off against the red-hot Green Bay Packers to close out the regular season, didn’t they.
Detroit lost this Sunday Night Football contest 31-24 but still managed to squeak in as the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoff picture.
The Lions stay put in our NFL power rankings but have a tough road bout on the schedule, visiting the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field in the Wild Card round.
Can quarterback Matthew Stafford and Co. bounce back after struggling to get into the postseason dance?
Last week: 10
Raiders fans saw what likely might be on the table for their Oakland team minus quarterback Derek Carr (leg) in the playoffs.
The Broncos easily thwarted Raiders backup QBs Matt McGloin and Connor Cook in a 24-6 rout, that plummeted the once-mighty black and silver out of the top in the AFC West and to the No. 5 seed.
Oakland now has to travel to take on a good Texans defense. And it’s hard to see them pulling off a win without Carr under center.
At least the rest of the Raiders’ offensive playmakers keep the team at this spot in our NFL power rankings.
Last week: 9
The Seahawks sure don’t seem like the team that dominated the NFC in recent years. And a number of key injuries to players like safety Earl Thomas and wide receiver Tyler Lockett create doubts.
Those doubts led to nearly losing to the hapless 49ers in Week 17, although Seattle managed to squeak by with a 25-23 victory over its NFC West rival.
The Seahawks don’t shift spots in our NFL power rankings. And they’ll enjoy a home contest against the Lions in the first round of the playoffs.
Beyond that though, it’s hard to see this Seahawks team going all the way. They’re vulnerable right now.
Last week: 5
At least the Miami Dolphins are in the playoffs, despite losing 35-14 in a seemingly lopsided home contest against the New England Patriots to close out the season.
Backup quarterback Matt Moore might be enough to ensure the Dolphins get past the Steelers’ weak defense in the Wild Card round. But he’s going to have to get help from running back Jay Ajayi, who wasn’t much of a factor at home versus New England.
Additionally, Miami’s defense will have to be on point if the Dolphins want their season to continue.
Awaiting them will be Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell, wide receiver Antonio Brown and Co.
Last week: 7
The Steelers’ B-team is enough to beat the best the lowly Browns have to offer, and that’s exactly what happened in Week 17.
Although it was close.
Thus, there aren’t any changes for Pittsburgh in our post-Week 17 NFL power rankings. The Steelers stay put and await a visiting Dolphins team in the first round of the playoffs.
As long as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown are playing at a high level, and running back Le’Veon Bell does his thing, the Steelers will be dangerous.
But their defense raises questions.
New York Giants
Last week: 8
One team not having to worry about its defense is the Giants, who managed to hold the playoff-desperate Redskins to a mere 10 points in New York’s 19-10 Week 17 victory.
Thus, the G-men see a nice increase in our NFL power rankings this week.
The Giants forced two interceptions off the hand of Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins. And while New York quarterback Eli Manning wasn’t particularly impressive, the Giants much-improved defense rose to the occasion.
New York now has to take that defense to try and hold off the red-hot Packers on the road for the Wild Card round.
Last week: 4
The Falcons fall a spot in our NFL power rankings this week, but not to any fault of their own.
Quarterback Matt Ryan is easily a candidate for MVP this season, and he was masterful in Atlanta’s 38-32 win over the Saints.
Ryan threw for 331 yards and four touchdowns en route to the victory. And the Falcons offense is a legitimate force entering the postseason.
The one concern, of course, is going to be Atlanta’s defense. Can the team’s offense cover up the defensive shortcomings on that side of the ball when it counts the most?
Green Bay Packers
Last week: 6
Well, the Packers won out. They actually did it.
And Green Bay can be thankful for a No. 4 seed and a home game versus the Giants in the Wild Card round.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 300 yards and four touchdowns in the Packers’ impressive 31-24 win over the Lions to close out the regular season. As long as Rodgers is playing at a high level, the Packers are the team to beat in the NFC.
And they’ve enjoyed quite a climb in our NFL power rankings.
Kansas City Chiefs
Last week: 3
The Chiefs’ 37-27 win over the Chargers might be a little too close for comfort. But a win is a win, and Kansas City rewarded itself with a first-round bye and the No. 2 overall seed in the AFC entering the postseason.
Quarterback Alex Smith was solid, going 21-of-28 for 264 yards and two touchdowns against one interception. He, tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill will be forces to watch in January.
But the biggest force will be Kansas City’s defense. This unit is the reason the Chiefs have stayed towards the top in NFL power rankings and will be a prime group to watch in the playoffs.
Can Kansas City upend a team like the Patriots if it comes down to that matchup?
Last week: 2
The Cowboys wrapped up everything they could entering Week 17, so there was little reason to play the majority of their starters over four quarters.
As such, Dallas doesn’t change in NFL power rankings this week in spite of the 27-13 loss to the Eagles.
Cowboys fans got to witness quarterback Tony Romo under center, who went 3-of-4 for 29 yards and a touchdown, in what looked like nothing more than a preseason effort.
With starting QB Dak Prescott largely rested, and running back Ezekiel Elliott on the bench in preparation for the playoff push, Dallas has nothing to be concerned about until after its first-round bye in the postseason.
New England Patriots
Last week: 1
There’s no mistaking it, the Patriots are the clear-cut No. 1 seed in our NFL power rankings.
Quarterback Tom Brady, en route to an amazing 28-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio, led his team to an impressive 35-14 road victory over the Dolphins in Week 17.
And the Dolphins are pretty good.
New England is the No. 1 seed in the playoffs as well, and the Patriots will enjoy the first-round bye before awaiting the victor of the Wild Card matchup.
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At this point, it’s impossible to count the Patriots out until, well, they’re out.
And if someone wanted to make a bet on who walks away with the Super Bowl title this year, betting on the Pats wouldn’t be a bad idea.
This concludes our regular-season NFL power rankings for the year, and we hope you enjoyed them. Rankings will still be posted at various points this offseason, so stay tuned!
- Aaron Rodgers
- Adrian Peterson
- Alex Collins
- Alshon Jeffery
- Andrew Luck
- Antonio Brown
- Aqib Talib
- Arizona Cardinals
- Atlanta Falcons
- Baltimore Ravens
- Ben Roethlisberger
- Blake Bortles
- Brandon Tate
- Buffalo Bills
- Cam Newton
- Carolina Panthers
- Carson Palmer
- Carson Wentz
- Chicago Bears
- Christian Kirksey
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Cleveland Browns
- Colin Kaepernick
- Connor Barwin
- Connor Cook
- Corey Peters
- D.J. Swearinger
- Dak Prescott
- Dallas Cowboys
- Darren Sproles
- Denver Broncos
- Derek Carr
- Detroit Lions
- Drew Brees
- Earl Thomas III
- Eli Manning
- Eli Rogers
- Ezekiel Elliott
- Frank Gore
- Green Bay Packers
- Houston Texans
- Indianapolis Colts
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Jameis Winston
- Jared Goff
- Jay Ajayi
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Kirk Cousins
- LeSean McCoy
- Los Angeles Chargers
- Los Angeles Rams
- Marcus Mariota
- Matt Cassel
- Matt Moore
- Matt Ryan
- Matthew McGloin
- Matthew Stafford
- Miami Dolphins
- Michael Crabtree
- Mike Evans
- Minnesota Vikings
- New England Patriots
- New Orleans Saints
- New York Giants
- New York Jets
- Oakland Raiders
- Philadelphia Eagles
- Phillip Supernaw
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Robert Griffin III
- Robert Mathis
- Russell Wilson
- Sam Bradford
- San Francisco 49ers
- Seattle Seahawks
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Tennessee Titans
- Terrell Watson
- Tom Brady
- Tony Romo
- Travis Kelce
- Trey Flowers
- Tyler Lockett
- Tyreek Hill
- Tyrod Taylor
- Vinny Curry
- Washington Redskins
- Zach Ertz