Week 16 was a bad one for budding AFC quarterbacks. The Raiders and Titans lost the hearts of their offenses when both Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota had their seasons cut short by broken legs. For Tennessee, the loss was a devastating blow that ended its postseason hopes.
Oakland still has a chance to earn a first-round bye, but will have plenty to prove in its first meaningful January game since 2003.
The Raiders offense rests in the hands of backup Matt McGloin, a player with starting experience but an uninspiring history. The former Penn State standout went 1-5 in a six-game audition for the team’s primary spot back in 2013, prompting management to make a franchise-altering selection the following spring by drafting Carr. His career passer rating of 76.1 puts him on par with 2016 Case Keenum — the since deposed starter for the 4-11 Rams.
Of course, Oakland has something Los Angeles does not: the league’s most terrifying defensive player. Khalil Mack has emerged as a force of nature in his third season with the club, becoming the favorite to take home NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. The question now becomes whether or not his dynamic defense will be enough to fend off challenges from AFC powers like New England and Kansas City through the playoffs.
Oakland’s big problem also means we may have to wait another week to see if the Dolphins are for real. Miami overcame a 1-4 start to rally to the playoffs and a 10-5 record. It will face off with the Patriots in Week 17, but might not get the full New England experience. Bill Belichick has never been shy about resting his starters, and if the crusty coach thinks the Raiders are due for a loss against the Broncos, he may defer to Jimmy Garoppolo over Tom Brady to end the season.
The Dolphins have emerged as a top 10 team despite a dearth of quality wins. Miami has only one victory over a team with a winning record, and that came in a game where Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was hobbled by a knee injury. Adam Gase won’t rest his starters for the final game of the season, but the result may not tell us much about the team’s actual playoff chances.
While the AFC’s playoff picture has fallen into focus, Four teams are still competing for a pair of season-extending bids in the last week of the regular season. The Packers have risen from a spot among the league’s undesirables in a recent five-game winning streak that has Aaron Rodgers on the brink of his fifth NFC North title. A win in Detroit would also prevent the Lions from their first division crown since 1993.
Washington and Tampa Bay, each working toward nine-win seasons, are also trying to rise from mediocrity to extend promising seasons with rising young quarterbacks. Kirk Cousins and Jameis Winston will each have to overcome final-week challenges — and hope for some help — to break into the league’s upper tier. Even if they get lucky, they’ll still be looking up to the Cowboys, who have run away with the conference and might just be the league’s top team.
SB Nation was more impressed with the Browns finally getting a win than their NFL media counterparts. The Browns jumped a bit in SB Nation’s rankings, but remained at No. 32 elsewhere. Here are the rest of the power rankings from around the internet.
Week 17 Power Rankings
|1||New England Patriots||Dallas Cowboys||New England Patriots||Dallas Cowboys||New England Patriots|
|2||Dallas Cowboys||New England Patriots||Dallas Cowboys||New England Patriots||Dallas Cowboys|
|3||Atlanta Falcons||Kansas City Chiefs||Pittsburgh Steelers||Kansas City Chiefs||Atlanta Falcons|
|4||Kansas City Chiefs||Atlanta Falcons||Kansas City Chiefs||Oakland Raiders||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|5||Pittsburgh Steelers||Pittsburgh Steelers||Atlanta Falcons||Pittsburgh Steelers||Kansas City Chiefs|
|6||Oakland Raiders||Green Bay Packers||Green Bay Packers||Seattle Seahawks||Oakland Raiders|
|7||New York Giants||Seattle Seahawks||Oakland Raiders||Atlanta Falcons||Seattle Seahawks|
|8||Seattle Seahawks||New York Giants||Seattle Seahawks||Green Bay Packers||Green Bay Packers|
|9||Green Bay Packers||Miami Dolphins||New York Giants||New York Giants||New York Giants|
|10||Miami Dolphins||Oakland Raiders||Miami Dolphins||Detroit Lions||Miami Dolphins|
|11||Baltimore Ravens||Baltimore Ravens||Detroit Lions||Miami Dolphins||Detroit Lions|
|12||Washington||Detroit Lions||Washington||Baltimore Ravens||Denver Broncos|
|13||Detroit Lions||Denver Broncos||Baltimore Ravens||Washington||Baltimore Ravens|
|14||Houston Texans||Washington||Houston Texans||Denver Broncos||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|15||New Orleans Saints||Houston Texans||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Houston Texans||Houston Texans|
|16||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||New Orleans Saints||Denver Broncos||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Tennessee Titans|
|17||Buffalo Bills||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Indianapolis Colts||Tennessee Titans||Washington|
|18||Indianapolis Colts||Buffalo Bills||Tennessee Titans||Arizona Cardinals||Indianapolis Colts|
|19||Arizona Cardinals||Indianapolis Colts||Buffalo Bills||New Orleans Saints||Minnesota Vikings|
|20||Philadelphia Eagles||Carolina Panthers||Minnesota Vikings||Minnesota Vikings||Buffalo Bills|
|21||Denver Broncos||Arizona Cardinals||New Orleans Saints||Cincinnati Bengals||New Orleans Saints|
|22||Tennessee Titans||Tennessee Titans||Arizona Cardinals||Indianapolis Colts||Arizona Cardinals|
|23||Carolina Panthers||Minnesota Vikings||Philadelphia Eagles||Philadelphia Eagles||Carolina Panthers|
|24||Cincinnati Bengals||Philadelphia Eagles||Carolina Panthers||Buffalo Bills||Cincinnati Bengals|
|25||Minnesota Vikings||Cincinnati Bengals||Cincinnati Bengals||Carolina Panthers||San Diego Chargers|
|26||Jacksonville Jaguars||San Diego Chargers||San Diego Chargers||San Diego Chargers||Philadelphia Eagles|
|27||San Diego Chargers||Chicago Bears||Jacksonville Jaguars||Chicago Bears||New York Jets|
|28||Chicago Bears||Jacksonville Jaguars||Chicago Bears||Jacksonville Jaguars||Los Angeles Rams|
|29||San Francisco 49ers||Los Angeles Rams||New York Jets||New York Jets||Chicago Bears|
|30||Cleveland Browns||New York Jets||San Francisco 49ers||San Francisco 49ers||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|31||Los Angeles Rams||San Francisco 49ers||Los Angeles Rams||Los Angeles Rams||San Francisco 49ers|
|32||New York Jets||Cleveland Browns||Cleveland Browns||Cleveland Browns||Cleveland Browns|