2023 NFL Power Rankings: Playoffs

32. Carolina Panthers (2-15)

Week 18 result: Lost to Tampa Bay, 9-0
Up Next: Vacation
Previous Ranking: 32 ()

Carolina’s miserable season ended with yet another shutout-loss. The Panthers failed to score a point for the second week in a row and became the first team to do so in more than 15 years. The franchise has a lot of work to do in the offseason, including hiring a new head coach and general manager. Of course, it doesn’t help that the team’s No. 1 overall pick belongs to Chicago. Good luck, Carolina!

31. Washington Commanders (4-13)

Week 18 result: Lost to Dallas, 38-10
Up Next: Vacation
Previous Ranking: 31 ()

Like the Panthers, Washington enters the offseason with a ton of work to do. Ron Rivera was relieved of his duties as head coach shortly after the Commanders’ 13th loss of the year. Unlike Carolina, however, Washington owns its first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Slotted to pick No. 2 overall, the front office will have to determine whether quarterback Sam Howell showed enough potential to warrant the team not drafting one of the top collegiate passers. The odds are not in Howell’s favor.

30. Los Angeles Chargers (5-12)

Week 18 result: Lost to Kansas City, 13-12
Up Next: Vacation
Previous Ranking: 30 ()

A trendy pick to win the AFC West and potentially challenge for the Super Bowl, the Los Angeles Chargers ended the season with 12 losses and Justin Herbert on the sidelines. Los Angeles began the year 4-6 with five of its losses coming by three points or less. Then, the wheels fell off. Herbert played through injuries for most of the year before finally being shut down by the team. Brandon Staley was fired following an embarrassing 63-21 loss to the Raiders. Overall, the Chargers finished the year 1-8 over their last nine. Will a future Hall of Fame coach head West to revive the franchise?

29. New England Patriots (4-13)

Week 18 result: Lost to New York Jets, 17-3
Up Next: Vacation
Previous Ranking: 29 ()

The future Hall of Fame coach we mentioned at the end of our Chargers discussion is currently employed by the New England Patriots. Rumors have surrounded Bill Belichick and the franchise for the past few years. However, it is now feeling like Belichick has coached his last game with the Pats. The Patriots have talent on defense, but the offense remains an absolute mess. It isn’t hard to imagine Belichick enjoying an opportunity to coach a quarterback as talented as Justin Herbert. Stay tuned.

28. New York Jets (7-10)

Week 18 result: Defeated New England, 17-3
Up Next: Vacation
Previous Ranking: 28 ()

Year 1 of the Aaron Rodgers era in New York ended the same way as last year did — the Jets won seven games and missed the playoffs. Of course, Rodgers didn’t take the field for more than five snaps. It isn’t hard to see a few more wins on New York’s schedule with Rodgers on the field. Rodgers’ health will be the biggest storyline surrounding New York’s offseason, but the franchise must improve the team overall if it wants to breakthrough in 2024. The offensive line and receiving corps, in particular, should be addressed with urgency.

27. Arizona Cardinals (4-13)

Week 18 result: Lost to Seattle, 21-20
Up Next: Vacation
Previous Ranking: 25 (▼2)

The Cardinals only won four games this season, but they looked better than we expected them to. Kyler Murray returned late in the season and played decent football post-ACL injury. Arizona lost a handful of close games, and also knocked off three teams that are in the playoffs — Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia. The wins over Pittsburgh and Philadelphia were on the road, as well. Arizona owns the No. 4 pick in the upcoming draft. Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. would be a home run if he is available, but we won’t be shocked if the Cardinals trade down for a haul of picks.

26. New York Giants (6-11)

Week 18 result: Defeated Philadelphia, 27-10
Up Next: Vacation
Previous Ranking: 27 (▲1)

New York’s season didn’t pan out the way it expected, but a blowout win over the Eagles in the finale was a positive ending. Quarterback Daniel Jones tore his ACL in November, but the high-paid passer is expected to be ready to start the 2024 season. However, general manager Joe Schoen said recently that the franchise will add a quarterback in the offseason. Currently slated to pick No. 6 overall, the Giants could realistically target a QB in the draft. How much does the franchise trust Jones?

25. Atlanta Falcons (7-10)

Week 18 result: Lost to New Orleans, 48-17
Up Next: Vacation
Previous Ranking: 24 (▼1)

Goodbye, Arthur Smith. Atlanta dismissed Smith following Sunday’s blowout loss to the Saints — and now the lasting image of Smith’s tenure will be him cussing out New Orleans head coach Dennis Allen at midfield following the final whistle. The Falcons aren’t a bad team, but they didn’t show enough improvement under Smith to warrant giving him another opportunity. Aside from finding a new coach, Atlanta’s top priority should be finding a new quarterback. Desmond Ridder is not the answer.

24. Tennessee Titans (6-11)

Week 18 result: Defeated Jacksonville, 28-20
Up Next: Vacation
Previous Ranking: 26 (▲2)

A lot of change could be on the way for the Titans. Star running back Derrick Henry is certainly moving on in free agency. Former starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill will suit up for a new team in 2024, as well. Following a ton of rumors surrounding the future of head coach Mike Vrabel’s time with the franchise, the Titans fired Vrabel on January 9. Tennessee isn’t too far away from competing for the AFC South crown, but replacing Henry and Vrabel will be a tall task.

23. Minnesota Vikings (7-10)

Week 18 result: Lost to Detroit, 30-20
Up Next: Vacation
Previous Ranking: 22 (▼1)

A year after winning 13 games in the regular season, Minnesota finished at the bottom of the NFC North (tied with Chicago). Some regression was expected after the Vikings won 11 games by one possession last year. Naysayers were feeling great about themselves when the team began the year 1-4, but the Vikes turned things around in a hurry. Minnesota won five games in a row and put itself in position to reach the playoffs. Unfortunately, quarterback Kirk Cousins tore his Achilles and stifled any true chance the team had. Joshua Dobbs — who won two games after replacing Cousins — was benched in favor of Nick Mullens. Mullens threw for a ton of yards…but Minnesota lost four-straight to end the year. Minnesota will likely turn to a new QB in 2024.

22. Chicago Bears (7-10)

Week 18 result: Lost to Green Bay, 17-9
Up Next: Vacation
Previous Ranking: 22 ()

The Bears are the NFL’s most intriguing team entering the 2024 offseason. As a result of last year’s trade with the Carolina Panthers that landed the No. 1 overall pick, Bryce Young, in Carolina, the Bears own Carolina’s first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft — the No. 1 pick. Additionally, Chicago finished with the No. 9 overall pick. The franchise must decide whether it wants to stick with Justin Fields or take a shot on either Caleb Williams (USC) or Drake Maye (North Carolina). Bears fans are also hoping that Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh returns to the NFL to coach his former team. Chicago played better football down the stretch, but it should go all-in on Harbaugh and one of the top QBs in the draft.

21. Denver Broncos (8-9)

Week 18 result: Lost to Las Vegas, 27-14
Up Next: Vacation
Previous Ranking: 19 (▼2)

Sean Payton’s first year as Denver’s head coach was wild. The Broncos began the season 0-3 — with their third loss being a historic 70-20 thrashing in Miami. However, the team rallied to go 7-3 over its next 10 games. That stretch included wins over a handful of playoff teams (Green Bay, Kansas City, Buffalo, Cleveland). Russell Wilson was better than he was last year (26 TD, 8 INT), but it quickly became clear that Payton wasn’t enjoying Wilson’s play. Late in the year, the Broncos benched Wilson and things got ugly in a hurry. The future Hall of Famer will not be a Bronco in 2024. So, it is once again time for Denver to find a franchise QB. Sound familiar?

20. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8)

Week 18 result: Lost to Tennessee, 28-20
Up Next: Vacation
Previous Ranking: 12 (▼8)

What a brutal ending for the Jaguars. Last year, Jacksonville mounted a furious comeback in the second half of the season to steal the AFC South title from Tennessee. Then, the Jags knocked off the Chargers in the playoffs and held their own against the Chiefs in the Divisional Round. Jacksonville entered 2023 as the clear favorite to win the South and it looked the part through the first two-thirds of the season. Through 12 weeks, the Jags were 8-3 and had won 7-of-8 following a 1-2 start. Then, everything fell apart. An overtime loss to Cincinnati was followed by a four-point loss to Cleveland. Baltimore and Tampa Bay, respectively, thumped the Jags to drop their record to 8-7. A 26-0 win over Carolina in Week 17 ended the skid. A win over Tennessee last week would have clinched a playoff spot. Instead, the Jags crumbled. From 8-3 to 9-8 — a disaster.

19. Las Vegas Raiders (8-9)

Week 18 result: Defeated Denver, 27-14
Up Next: Vacation
Previous Ranking: 23 (▲4)

Did Antonio Pierce show enough during his time as interim head coach to convince the Raiders to make him the permanent HC? With Pierce in charge, the Raiders finished the year 5-4. It is evident that the players love Pierce, and the former player certainly appears to have a future in the league. With that being said, would owner Mark Davis choose Pierce over Jim Harbaugh if he opts to leave Michigan? Harbaugh is an elite, proven coach. In addition to figuring out the HC, the Raiders must decide what they want to do at quarterback. Aidan O’Connell did a fine job as a rookie QB — but is he the answer?

18. Indianapolis Colts (9-8)

Week 18 result: Lost to Houston, 23-19
Up Next: Vacation
Previous Ranking: 13 (▼5)

Not many people expected Indianapolis to push for a playoff spot in 2023. Rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson was viewed as having a ton of potential, but he was unquestionably raw coming out of Florida and would likely need a year or two to develop. Unfortunately, the rookie injured his shoulder in Week 4 and underwent season-ending surgery. In his place, Gardner Minshew led the Colts into Week 18 with an opportunity to reach the playoffs. With a win over Houston (at home), the Colts would move on. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Jonathan Taylor was spectacular (188 yards, one TD), but Minshew didn’t play well and Indianapolis ultimately saw its season come to an end after a brutal drop with 1:06 to play.

17. New Orleans Saints (9-8)

Week 18 result: Defeated Atlanta, 48-17
Up Next: Vacation
Previous Ranking: 20 (▲3)

Derek Carr’s first year in New Orleans was rather frustrating. Through 12 games, the former Raider had a mere 11 touchdown passes and his team sported a 5-7 record. Carr and the receiving corps didn’t appear to be on the same page more often than not, and the team struggled as a result. Over the final five weeks, however, Carr and Co. found a groove. En route to a 4-1 finish, the veteran threw 14 TD passes and completed 74.5-percent of his attempts. Unfortunately, New Orleans’ late surge wasn’t enough to reach the postseason — as it lost the tiebreak to Tampa Bay in the division, and fell short of earning a Wild Card spot as Green Bay (and Seattle) owned the tiebreak, as well.

16. Cincinnati Bengals (9-8)

Week 18 result: Defeated Cleveland, 31-14
Up Next: Vacation
Previous Ranking: 18 (▲2)

The Bengals finished the year with nine wins and the worst record in the AFC North. For a team that entered the year with Super Bowl aspirations, 2023 was a failure. Considering the team lost Joe Burrow in Week 11, however, nine wins is quite impressive. The Bengals played well with backup quarterback Jake Browning leading the offense. To end the year, Browning led Cincinnati to a 4-3 record. The franchise must decide whether to pay wideout Tee Higgins in the offseason, but it should be one of the AFC’s top teams in 2024 regardless of the decision.

15. Seattle Seahawks (9-8)

Week 18 result: Defeated Arizona, 21-20
Up Next: Vacation
Previous Ranking: 17 (▲2)

Seattle fell just short of reaching the postseason. After starting the year 6-3, a mid-season swoon ultimately prevented the Seahawks from earning a Wild Card spot. Pete Carroll’s group lost four games in a row to some of the league’s best teams (49ers x2, Rams, Cowboys). While the team rebounded to win three-of-four to end the year, the lone loss was critical. Playing host to the Steelers in Week 17, Seattle lost by one score (30-23). Coupled with last week’s win over Arizona, a victory over Pittsburgh would have been enough to clinch a Wild Card spot.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-8)

Week 18 result: Defeated Carolina, 9-0
Up Next: vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Previous Ranking: 16 (▲2)

It wasn’t pretty, but the Buccaneers did just enough in their Week 18 win over Carolina to clinch the NFC South. The Bucs overcame a 4-7 start to the season by winning five-of-six down the stretch. Baker Mayfield didn’t play well against Carolina, but his performance throughout the season will likely earn the veteran a new contract with the franchise. This weekend, Tampa will host Philadelphia for the second time this season. The first meeting came way back in Week 3 — a 25-11 Eagles win — and a lot has changed since then. The Bucs won’t be scared of the Eagles, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see them knock off the defending NFC champs.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-7)

Week 18 result: Defeated Baltimore, 17-10
Up Next: @ Buffalo Bills
Previous Ranking: 15 (▲2)

Another year, another above-.500 record for Mike Tomlin’s Steelers. Since taking over as head coach in 2006, Tomlin has not finished with below-.500 record. It is truly remarkable that this team is in the playoffs. The offense was rather horrible for much of the season, and starting quarterback Kenny Pickett has been out with an injury since Week 12. Pittsburgh won three in a row to end the year behind a resurgent Najee Harris. The much-maligned running back rushed for 100+ yards in Pittsburgh’s last two victories — his previous season-high was 99 yards. All-Pro linebacker T.J. Watt will miss the Wild Card game against Buffalo, but we can’t count Pittsburgh out just yet. A win is unlikely, but not impossible.

12. Green Bay Packers (9-8)

Week 18 result: Defeated Chicago, 17-9
Up Next: @ Dallas Cowboys
Previous Ranking: 14 (▲2)

In Year 1 post-Rodgers, the Packers return to the playoffs. Quarterback Jordan Love struggled at times in his first year as the starter, but he has turned it on as of late. In leading Green Bay to a 6-2 record down the stretch, Love threw 18 touchdowns and one interception. The inexperienced passer is growing in confidence weekly and his teammates are rising to the moment, as well. The Packers face a tall task this week against the Cowboys, but a win is certainly in play. If Love can take care of the ball and Green Bay’s defense limits explosive plays, the Pack can shock the league.

11. Houston Texans (10-7)

Week 18 result: Defeated Indianapolis, 23-19
Up Next: vs. Cleveland Browns
Previous Ranking: 11 ()

The Texans are AFC South champs for the first time since 2019. The past three seasons have been miserable for the franchise. Houston won four games in both 2020 and 2021, and finished 3-14 in 2022. The additions of quarterback C.J. Stroud and head coach DeMeco Ryans have turned the tide sooner than anyone could have expected. Stroud is playing like a top-10 quarterback, and Ryans has the look of a coach that will be successful for many years to come. It won’t be easy to beat Cleveland, but it certainly helps that the game will be played at home. Can Stroud figure out one of the league’s best defenses? If so, look out moving forward.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (11-6)

Week 18 result: Lost to New York Giants, 27-10
Up Next: @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Previous Ranking: 11 (▼1)

What is happening in Philadelphia? After nearly winning the Super Bowl in 2022, the Eagles looked like they were on a mission to return to the big game this year. Entering their Week 13 showdown with the 49ers, the Eagles were 10-1 and had just won back-to-back games over Kansas City and Buffalo, respectively. They were promptly demolished by San Francisco, 42-19, and have spiraled ever since. The Eagles finished the regular season 1-5 (33-25 win over the Giants) and suffered two humiliating defeats (Cardinals, Giants) to wrap things up. Jalen Hurts doesn’t look right. A.J. Brown suffered an injury last week. A loss to Tampa Bay wouldn’t be surprising at all.

9. Los Angeles Rams (10-7)

Week 18 result: Defeated San Francisco, 21-20
Up Next: @ Detroit Lions
Previous Ranking: 10 (▲1)

Everyone owes the Rams an apology. Before the year began, the Rams were largely projected to be one of the worst teams in football — and some experts, including New Arena‘s own, viewed the Rams as a bottom-3 team. Instead, here we are. The Rams enter the postseason as the league’s hottest team. Sean McVay’s group went 7-1 down the stretch with its lone loss coming in overtime (on the road) against Baltimore. Matthew Stafford is slinging the ball. Kyren Williams has been a force on the ground. Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua are a lethal duo in the passing game. Aaron Donald remains a one-man wrecking crew and the rest of the defense has turned it up a notch. This is a team that nobody wants to play right now. However, they will have to win on the road to advance. Will Stafford eliminate his former team?

8. Cleveland Browns (11-6)

Week 18 result: Lost to Cincinnati, 31-14
Up Next: @ Houston Texans
Previous Ranking: 8 ()

Joe Flacco and the Browns are looking for a storybook ending to an unbelievable year. After toiling away with the Jets for the previous three seasons, Flacco’s career looked like it was coming to a close. Instead, the former Super Bowl MVP has surged in Cleveland — going 4-1 as a starter and putting up some impressive performances. With a confident, experienced QB at the helm and an elite defense on the other side, the Browns will be a tough out for anybody. Especially a Houston team sporting a first-year head coach and a rookie QB.

7. Kansas City Chiefs (11-6)

Week 18 result: Defeated Los Angeles Chargers, 13-12
Up Next: vs. Miami Dolphins
Previous Ranking: 6 (▼1)

The Chiefs are not in the same position we’ve typically seen them in heading into the playoffs. Since Patrick Mahomes has been Kansas City’s quarterback, the Chiefs have always been looked at as one of the favorites to come out of the AFC. That isn’t the case this year after a rocky season. Still, we would be wary betting against Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Andy Reid. We’ve seen this group put it all together in January time and time again. Miami’s high-powered offense will be a tough test, but this team won’t back down from any opponent.

6. Detroit Lions (12-5)

Week 18 result: Defeated Minnesota, 30-20
Up Next: vs. Los Angeles Rams
Previous Ranking: 7 (▲1)

Detroit is back in the postseason, and it will be greeted by an old friend in its opening matchup. The Lions will play host to the Los Angeles Rams in a highly-anticipated matchup. Of course, these two teams swapped quarterbacks back in ’21, which led to former Lions QB Matthew Stafford leading the Rams to a Super Bowl victory. Jared Goff was the other QB in that deal, and he will surely be looking to stick it to his former club. Detroit’s offense can hang with anybody, but will its defense provide enough resistance for the Rams’ high-powered attack?

5. Miami Dolphins (11-6)

Week 18 result: Lost to Buffalo, 21-14
Up Next: @ Kansas City Chiefs
Previous Ranking: 5 ()

Heading into Week 14, the Dolphins had a three-game lead on the Bills in the division with only five games remaining. Miami went 2-2 over its next four, while Buffalo won all four of its games. In the finale, the Bills narrowly edged out a win over a depleted Dolphins team to complete the season sweep and capture the AFC East for the fourth-straight year. The Dolphins are enduring a lull at the worst possible time. And now they have to face the defending champs in one of the most difficult stadiums in the league for visitors.

4. Buffalo Bills (11-6)

Week 18 result: Defeated Miami, 21-14
Up Next: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Previous Ranking: 4 ()

The Bills did it. Buffalo was 6-6 and looked to be on the path to missing the postseason for the first time since 2018. Facing a daunting schedule, the Bills rattled off five wins in a row and captured their fourth-straight AFC East title. Josh Allen has not avoided mistakes, but he’s coming off a game in which he contributed 426 total yards. The defense has improved dramatically over the second-half of the season, as well. The Steelers won’t be a pushover, but the Bills are looking like a team that could make a serious run in the AFC.

3. Dallas Cowboys (12-5)

Week 18 result: Defeated Washington, 38-10
Up Next: vs. Green Bay Packers
Previous Ranking: 3 ()

Dallas took care of business on Sunday, securing the NFC East title over the Eagles. Dak Prescott has played at an MVP level all year, but he’ll need to put together four more strong performances to silence critics forever. Their opening matchup will be against a Packers team brimming with confidence. Dallas’ defense has fed off turnovers, but first-year starter Jordan Love has been excellent at avoiding mistakes. On offense, the Cowboys will need to continue to do what has worked all season — feed CeeDee Lamb.

2. San Francisco 49ers (12-5)

Week 18 result: Lost to Los Angeles Rams, 21-20
Up Next: 1st Round Bye
Previous Ranking: 2 ()

The 49ers have been the best team in the NFC all season, and some still believe they are the best all-around team in the league. Brock Purdy and company have lit up scoreboards all year, and the San Francisco defense led by Fred Warner and Nick Bosa is a menacing group. We’ve seen the 49ers make deep playoff runs before, but can Kyle Shanahan and company finally get over the hump?

1. Baltimore Ravens (13-4)

Week 18 result: Lost to Pittsburgh, 17-10
Up Next: 1st Round Bye
Previous Ranking: 1 ()

With the No. 1 seed already locked up, the Ravens rested their starters in a Week 18 matchup versus the Steelers — ultimately allowing their division rival to sneak into the postseason. We’ll see how two weeks off treats a Baltimore squad that has dealt with injuries all year. Lamar Jackson will likely add a second MVP trophy to his list of accolades in short order, but he’s still looking to achieve ultimate playoff success.