Which teams experienced the highest leaps and largest drops this season?
Written by: Greg Lehr | @greglehr3
Power Rankings by: The Blitz Team | @Blitzalytics
While it is always a bit sad to see the regular season come to an end, we can at least enjoy the luxury of six(!!) playoff matchups on Wild Card weekend. Sure, not every fanbase will enjoy it as much as the next. The 10-6 Dolphins have to be sick about missing the playoffs when they look into the NFC and see the Washington Football team hosting a first-round playoff game as the fourth seed. Speaking of the NFC East, everyone knows the Giants are up in arms over the Eagles’ questionable (to put it mildly) decision to make a late-game switch at quarterback, removing Jalen Hurts from the game. Even the Philadelphia sideline showed angst at the lack of effort and the apparent will to win, but that has nothing to do with the fact that Joe Judge’s team only won six regular-season games.
Anyway, it is time to dive into our final regular-season power rankings. To no surprise, the playoff teams made up 14 of the top 15 slots, with the Miami Dolphins ranking ahead of both the Football Team and Chicago Bears. The Dolphins climbed all the way up to the 13th spot after beginning the season ranked 28th, which led me to find the rest of the biggest movers from Week 1 to Week 17. (full Week 1 power rankings can be found here)
Season Risers (highest leap compared to Week 1 rankings):
Washington Football Team
Say what you will about the division being terrible or that a team with a losing record (7-9) will host a playoff game, but this Washington team truly deserves more credit than meets the eye. This franchise played the season without a name or mascot, their head coach battled cancer during his first year at the helm, and the starting quarterback returned to the field after a two-year recovery from a leg injury so horrific he almost lost his life. On the field, their defense deserves praise. Led by their young and talented defensive front, this unit finished the regular season ranked second in yards per game (304.6) and fourth in points per game (20.6).
After putting up an admirable fight in Brian Flores’ first season in 2019, Miami took a huge step forward this season en route to a 10-6 record and just narrowly missed a playoff appearance in the loaded AFC. It was the Dolphins’ first double-digit win season since 2016, and only the team’s second in the last decade. Tua Tagovailoa experienced the good, bad, and ugly in his first season of NFL action, but with the #3 overall pick in the upcoming draft (via Houston), this franchise is in a prime position to add talent around their young quarterback.
Green Bay Packers
Coming off a beatdown in the playoffs a year ago, many saw the Packers’ previous season as fraudulent, full of wins against weaker opponents but unable to play with the more physical, elite teams. So how do they respond? By going 13-3 for a second consecutive year and locking up the top seed in the NFC. Aaron Rodgers led the league’s top-scoring offense with an MVP-worthy campaign, including a ridiculous 48 TD:5 INT ratio. Rodgers and Co. will be on a mission to avenge last year’s playoff collapse.
Season Fallers (largest drop compared to Week 1 rankings):
San Francisco 49ers
It was tough sledding for a 49ers team trying to make it back to the Super Bowl. The injury bug hit early and often for a plethora of offensive playmakers, most notably Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Raheem Mostert. That does not even include Jimmy Garoppolo, who played just six games and looked relatively mediocre in his limited action this year, raising many questions about his future in San Francisco.
Injuries are a popular theme when it comes to the most disappointing teams of the year, and Dallas is no different. In addition to Dak’s gruesome ankle injury in Week 5, only one starting offensive linemen (Connor Williams) didn’t miss a game, while starting tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins missed the entire season. However, these offensive injuries have nothing to do with the season-long defensive struggles under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. This unit finished in the bottom third in nearly every defensive metric, including fifth-worst in points given up and second-worst against the run.
The Week 17 loss to Washington truly encapsulated much of Philadelphia’s season, and it feels as if the frustration has permeated throughout the locker room, particularly among several veterans. Carson Wentz’ inactive status for the game was a fitting end to a head-scratching year and there are a lot of discussions to be had in terms of how the Eagles want to handle the quarterback situation moving forward. It will undoubtedly be one of the team’s most-followed offseason storylines.
Full Power Rankings:
1. Kansas City Chiefs* (14-2) 2. Buffalo Bills* (13-3) 3. Green Bay Packers* (13-3) 4. New Orleans Saints* (12-4) 5. Seattle Seahawks* (12-4) 6. Pittsburgh Steelers* (12-4) 7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers* (11-5) 8. Baltimore Ravens* (11-5) 9. Tennessee Titans* (11-5) 10. Indianapolis Colts* (11-5) 11. Cleveland Browns* (11-5) 12. Los Angeles Rams* (10-6) 13. Miami Dolphins (10-6) 14. Chicago Bears* (8-8) 15. Washington Football Team* (7-9) 16. Arizona Cardinals (8-8) 17. Las Vegas Raiders (8-8) 18. Los Angeles Chargers (7-9) 19. Minnesota Vikings (7-9) 20. New England Patriots (7-9) 21. New York Giants (6-10) 22. San Francisco 49ers (6-10) 23. Dallas Cowboys (6-10) 24. Denver Broncos (5-11) 25. Carolina Panthers (5-11) 26. Houston Texans (4-12) 27. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1) 28. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1) 29. Detroit Lions (5-11) 30.Atlanta Falcons (4-12) 31. New York Jets (2-14) 32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15)