Over the past few weeks, the list of legit Super Bowl contenders has been reduced to a list of four — five if you believe the miracle of Brock Purdy can continue for the 49ers in the highest-stakes games — but it’s been clear that the Bills, Eagles, Bengals and Chiefs are the title contenders with the least-concerning issues and/or fewest flaws.
However, the injury to Jalen Hurts and Philadelphia’s ensuing loss to Dallas prompted the NFL Power Rankings to go back to where it started in September — with Buffalo as the No. 1 team. Josh Allen’s penchant to throw interceptions re-emerged in the Bills’ comfortable 35-13 victory over Chicago on Christmas Eve, but the Buffalo defense continues to provide ample margin for error during the team’s six-game win streak.
Another top-three team from the season’s first Power Rankings is back in the top 10 — the Chargers. Hampered by injuries and subsequent offensive-line struggles, Brandon Staley’s troops still managed to punch their playoff ticket Monday night with a 20-3 win at Indianapolis behind a defense that’s given up only 34 points during a three-game win streak.
The Jaguars, Packers and Buccaneers also moved up among the muddled middle of sub-.500 teams. Let’s take a closer look at this week’s rankings.
NFL Power Rankings
1. Buffalo Bills (12-3, Last week: 2): They’ve won six straight and look like the most complete Super Bowl contender right now.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (13-2, LW: 1): The loss in Dallas without Jalen Hurts should earn the QB more MVP votes, not fewer.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (11-4, LW: 3): They’ve clinched a playoff spot but must beat Buffalo on Monday night to keep their first-round bye hopes alive.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (12-3, LW: 4): “Cheeseburgers in paradise” sums up this title-hungry team perfectly.
5. San Francisco 49ers (11-4, LW: 5): Their top-ranked defense has suffocated opponents during an eight-game win streak, making the 44-25 schooling by Kansas City in Week 7 all the more amazing.
6. Dallas Cowboys (11-4, LW: 6): Dak Prescott has every right to feel “very confident” about an Eagles playoff rematch after the ‘Boys dropped 40 points on the Philly defense.
7. Minnesota Vikings (12-3, LW: 7): Quite simply, they’ll find a way to win. Greg Joseph’s 61-yard, walk-off field goal improved their one-possession games record to a remarkable 11-0.
8. Baltimore Ravens (10-5, LW: 9): They’re postseason-bound, so it might be best if they give Lamar Jackson two more weeks to recover from a knee injury.
9. Los Angeles Chargers (9-6, LW: 11): They clinched a spot in the playoffs, where they’ll be dangerous if Justin Herbert has time to throw and the defense can keep making plays.
10. Miami Dolphins (8-7, LW: 8): The path to the postseason isn’t getting easier with four straight losses and Tua Tagovailoa in concussion protocol again.
11. Detroit Lions (7-8, LW: 10): Aaron Glenn’s defense has been generous all season, but it was especially accommodating in allowing Carolina to set franchise records with 570 yards of offense and 320 yards on the ground.
12. New York Giants (8-6-1, LW: 12): They’re 1-4-1 in their last five games but can still back their way into the playoffs.
13. Washington Commanders (7-7-1, LW: 13): Despite back-to-back losses, they’re clinging to the NFC’s last wild-card spot.
14. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-8, LW: 17): They now lead the AFC South and can win the division with victories at Houston and at home against Tennessee.
15. Green Bay Packers (7-8, LW: 19): A three-game win streak has boosted their playoff chances to 36.3%, which means they’ll need help even if they win out.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-8, LW: 20): Despite their ongoing offensive struggles, they can clinch the NFC South title with a win over Carolina at home this Sunday.
17. New England Patriots (7-8, LW: 14): How many costly turnovers will Rhamondre Stevenson be allowed to make in a Patriots uniform?
18. New York Jets (7-8, LW: 15): The Zach Wilson era reached a new low with Jets fans’ chants of “We want Flacco!”
19. Seattle Seahawks (7-8, LW: 16): They were the story of the NFL. Now their season resembles cars sliding in the snow on Queen Anne Hill.
20. Tennessee Titans (7-8, LW: 18): It’s looking hopeless with five straight losses and a short week against Dallas on Thursday Night Football.
21. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-9, LW: 23): Rookie QB Kenny Pickett engineering a fourth-quarter comeback against Las Vegas is the type of growth Mike Tomlin wants to see.
22. Carolina Panthers (6-9, LW: 25): Whether they make the playoffs or not, interim head coach Steve Wilks saved the season and deserves the full-time job.
23. New Orleans Saints (6-9, LW: 26): To keep their slim postseason hopes alive, they must beat the Eagles in Philly this Sunday.
24. Los Angeles Rams (5-10, LW: 24): Baker Mayfield’s sudden impact and Cam Akers’ late-season surge give the front office something to think about this offseason.
25. Las Vegas Raiders (6-9, LW: 21): It’s no longer a question of whether they’ll blow a second-half lead. It’s merely a matter of how they will unravel.
26. Cleveland Browns (6-9, LW: 22): The early return on their $230 investment in Deshaun Watson? A disappointing 2-2 record and an abrupt elimination from the playoff race.
27. Atlanta Falcons (5-10, LW: 27): Their 17-9 loss at Baltimore was their fourth straight and eighth by eight points or fewer.
28. Indianapolis Colts (4-10-1, LW: 28): What a surprise — Nick Foles wasn’t the answer at QB, either.
29. Denver Broncos (4-11, LW: 29): Broncos fans got a belated Christmas gift with the firing of coach Nathaniel Hackett on Monday.
30. Arizona Cardinals (4-11, LW: 30): An “unsustainable” situation between QB and coach surely suggests that the end is near for Kliff Kingsbury in Arizona.
31. Chicago Bears (3-12, LW: 31): They’ll secure the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft with two more losses and one more Houston victory.
32. Houston Texans (2-12-1, LW: 32): Chicago already has its franchise QB in Justin Fields, so even if the Texans drop to No. 2 in the draft, Bryce Young should still be available (that is, if the Bears don’t trade the top selection).