The NFL power rankings Week 18 edition arrives as the NFL Playoff picture has been determined with a dozen teams looking towards the Super Bowl in Houston, Texas. The two favorites, the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys, closed out their seasons in different fashions, but each will remain top seed heading into their postseasons. In addition, the Redskins played themselves out of a playoff spot, while Green Bay and Detroit battled it out for the NFC North division title. So who finished the regular season atop the NFL power rankings for Week 18?
On Sunday, NFL.com reported that New England captured home-field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs thanks to their convincing win over Miami. Tom Brady and company won the game 35-14 in a game that was never out of their control. Brady also helped continue his quest for an MVP award win this season and completed the best touchdown to interception ratio in a season with his 28 touchdowns to two interceptions stat. The 39-year-old Patriots quarterback finished the day with 276 yards and three touchdowns on 25-for-33 passing. It also gave them a win over a 10-6 Miami team that is headed for the playoffs.
All of that said, it will give New England the top spot in the power rankings to close the regular season out. They took over the spot from the Dallas Cowboys several weeks ago, but these two teams are the favorites to meet in the Super Bowl in a little over a month from now. Unfortunately for Dallas, they were on the losing end of their game on Sunday which saw the return of veteran Tony Romo to the field as rookie quarterback Dak Prescott rested after playing just two series in the game.
As ESPN reported, Dallas lost 27-13 to the Philadelphia Eagles in Romo’s first action in several months. The Cowboys are still top seed in the NFC with home field advantage throughout the playoffs, and will end the regular season as No. 2 in the power rankings. Their biggest concern heading into the postseason isn’t their quarterback decision but hoping they avoid the New York Giants. Eli Manning and the Giants have given the Cowboys two of their three losses this season. Beyond that, Dallas never played the Seattle Seahawks or Atlanta Falcons this season which could pose some interesting matchups with experienced personnel.
In terms of teams that could give the Patriots some trouble, it could be either the No. 3 or No. 4 team in the power rankings. The Kansas City Chiefs won 12 games for their season and put together a nice campaign. One team they never had on their schedule this past year was New England, so if the two teams meet in the playoffs it could get interesting. The Steelers have been on an absolute tear, winning seven straight games to close out their season, giving them the No. 3 spot in the latest rankings.
NFL Power Rankings Week 18
1. New England Patriots 14-2 (No. 1)
2. Dallas Cowboys 13-3 (No. 2)
3. Pittsburgh Steelers 11-5 (No. 6)
4. Kansas City Chiefs 12-4 (No. 3)
5. Green Bay Packers 10-6 (No. 9)
6. Oakland Raiders 12-4 (No. 4)
7. Atlanta Falcons 11-5 (No. 8)
8. New York Giants 11-5 (No. 7)
9. Seattle Seahawks 10-5-1 (No. 5)
10. Detroit Lions 10-6 (N/A)
During the early action on Sunday, the Washington Redskins blew their chances at a playoff spot by losing 19-10 to the New York Giants. That meant that both the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers punched their tickets to the postseason ahead of their Sunday Night Football showdown. The game took place at Ford Field in Detroit, with a close contest going on down the stretch. Matthew Stafford tossed a touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin late in the fourth quarter to cut the Packers’ lead to a touchdown.
Unfortunately for the Lions their onside kick attempt with 13 seconds left was recovered by Green Bay, giving them the win and the division title. Rodgers and the Packers have been hot to close out the season, winning their last six games, pushing them into the top five of the rankings.
While Detroit has dropped their last few to finish the season on a disappointing note, they find themselves reclaiming a spot in the Top 10. As of this report, Miami has issues in terms of the quarterback position which could make them an easy out for the Pittsburgh Steelers when the playoffs get going. Miami and Houston are two playoff teams below the top 10 as of this report based on recent weeks of play.
The playoffs get going this coming weekend for many teams. Sunday’s win by the Packers means that Green Bay will take on New York in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, while Detroit has to face a tough Seattle team. Meanwhile, the Cowboys and Falcons will have a bye to start things off. On the AFC side, the byes go to the Patriots and Chiefs, as the Raiders vs. Texans and Dolphins vs. Steelers will all compete in the Wild Card round during the upcoming weekend.
It’s been an interesting season to say the least, with several major contenders emerging, and some of the usual suspects looking to challenge them. Veteran quarterbacks have guided their teams to the playoffs with Rodgers, Manning, Brady, Roethlisberger, and Wilson all among those who have captured at least one Super Bowl trophy before. Will one of these teams win it, or will someone new such as the rookie-led Cowboys win it all?
[Featured Image by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images]