By Bill Seals - Fred Altieri
Sports Reporters - PFWA Members 

2021 NFL Power Rankings – Week 17

Rams Steady, Chargers Unsteady


December 30, 2021

Mike Nowak - LA Chargers

Chargers running back Justin Jackson - 64 yards rushing, two touchdowns vs Texans last Sunday

1. Green Bay Packers (12-3): The Packers, with a home game against the Vikings and a road game against the Lions, do not have much standing in the way of their clinching homefield throughout the playoffs. The road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will lead through Green Bay, again. Next: -7 vs Minnesota Vikings - Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 46.5 (ATS: 11-4 – O/U: 6-9)

2. Los Angeles Rams (11-4): Running back Cam Akers has been activated by the Rams, five and a half months after he tore his Achilles tendon and was presumed to be out for the season. The miraculous return from an injury that usually takes at least nine months to recover from has given the Rams a huge boost to their backfield going into the playoffs. Next: -4.5 at Baltimore Ravens - Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 46.5 (ATS: 8-7 – O/U: 8-6-1)

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4): Former USC running back Ronald Jones got the start on Sunday, and rushed for 65 yards and one touchdown, adding two receptions for 16 yards in helping the Bucs defeat the Panthers, 32-6. Running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn added a 55-yard touchdown run in the rout. Next: -13 at New York Jets - Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 45.5 (ATS: 8-7 – O/U: 7-8)

4. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4): The Chiefs crushed the Steelers with star tight end Travis Kelce at home with Covid. The Chiefs have now won nine consecutive games, and somehow, after a 2-4 start, are the favorites to win the AFC, again. Next: -5 at Cincinnati - Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 51 (ATS: 8-7 – O/U: 8-7)

5. Dallas Cowboys (11-4): The Cowboys crushed the Washington Football Team, 56-14, on Sunday Night. So how good are the Cowboys? They are 5-0 against the NFC East, with the average margin of victory by 21 points. They are 6-4 against the rest of the NFL. We think they may be slightly overrated. Next: -6 vs Arizona Cardinals - Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 51 (ATS: 12-3 – O/U: 7-8)

6. Tennessee Titans (10-5): The Titans pulled out a close win over the 49ers on Thursday Night at home, and just need a victory this weekend to clinch the AFC South Division title. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill can clinch the division with a victory, and at the same time, possibly knock his old team out of the playoffs. He should be pumped for this game. Next: -3.5 vs Miami Dolphins - Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 39.5 (ATS: 9-6 – O/U: 7-8)

7. Buffalo Bills (9-6): The Bills are back in first place in the AFC East by virtue of a better division record than the Patriots. The Bills just need to beat the Falcons and the Jets, both home games, to clinch their second consecutive AFC East division title. Next: -14.5 vs Atlanta Falcons - Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 44.5 (ATS: 8-6-1 – O/U: 8-7)

8. Cincinnati Bengals (9-6): Quarterback Joe Burrow was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week with his 525-yard, four touchdown performance against the defensively challenged Ravens. Burrow's performance was also well-received in fantasy football, at least by his owners. Next: +5 vs Kansas City Chiefs - Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 51 (ATS: 8-7 – O/U: 7-8)

9. Indianapolis Colts (9-6): The Colts, due to their two early season losses to the Titans, are unlikely to win the AFC South division. The Colts could be with starting quarterback Carson Wentz, who was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list after testing positive. If Wentz cannot start, the Colts will go with rookie Sam Ehlinger against the Raiders on Sunday. Next: +6.5 vs Las Vegas Raiders – Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 44.5 (ATS: 10-5 – O/U: 8-7)

10. Arizona Cardinals (10-5): Despite losing three in a row and five of their last eight games, the Cardinals have qualified for the NFL playoffs. They are now one game behind the Rams for the division lead and have a tough matchup this weekend. But they made the playoffs. Next: +6 at Dallas Cowboys - Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 51 (ATS: 9-6 – O/U: 7-8)

11. New England Patriots (9-6): The Patriots loss to the Bills at home on Sunday has thrown them into the wild-card slot for the playoffs and they will stay there unless the Bills are upset. The Pats have lost two in a row and it appears that the smoke-and-mirrors approach has run its course for the Pats and head coach Bill Belichick. Next: -15.5 vs Jacksonville Jaguars – Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 41.5 (ATS: 9-6 – O/U: 7-8)

12. San Francisco 49ers (8-7): The 49ers are still very much in the playoff hunt and welcome the Texans this weekend to Santa Clara. The 49ers will not need to watch the tape of the Chargers-Texans debacle this past weekend. The just need to respect their opponent, play hard, play like there is a playoff berth on the line. They should be fine. Next: -12.5 vs Houston Texans – Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 44 (ATS: 7-8 – O/U: 7-8)

13. Miami Dolphins (8-7): The Dolphins now have a seven-game winning streak to match their earlier seven game losing streak. They will be tested this weekend in a matchup with the Titans in Nashville and their quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who spent his first seven seasons with the Dolphins. Next: +3.5 at Tennessee Titans - Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 39.5 (ATS: 8-6-1 – O/U:6-9)

14. Los Angeles Chargers (8-7): The Chargers were embarrassed on Sunday in a game they should have won easily, losing to the lowly Texans 41-29. If the Chargers are going to make the playoffs, they need to beat the Broncos and Raiders in their final two games, plus they need a loss from both the Dolphins and the Ravens. This scenario was avoidable if they had been ready to play against the Texans. Next: -6.5 vs Denver Broncos, Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 45.5 (ATS: 7-8 – O/U: 8-7)

15. Las Vegas Raiders (8-7): The Raiders have won two straight games late in the season, which has not been typical of the Raiders in the recent past. The team is running the ball well, playing tough defense and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow is becoming an NFL star. Renfrow has 92 receptions for 949 yards, with 45 of the receptions going for a first down. He should go over 100 receptions and 1,000 yards for the season. Next: +6.5 at Indianapolis Colts - Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 44.5 (ATS: 6-9 – O/U: 7-8)

16. Baltimore Ravens (8-7): Former 49er quarterback Steve Young threw for over 300 yards and rushed for over 50 yards nine times, an NFL record. Bills quarterback Josh Allen has done it six times in four seasons. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, a tremendous athlete, has accomplished that feat one time in his four seasons. Jackson needs to become a better passer. Next: -4.5 vs Los Angeles Rams – Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 46.5 (ATS: 7-8 – O/U: 8-7)

17. Philadelphia Eagles (8-7): Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni, who was with the Chargers from 2013 through 2017, has a good shot at a winning season and a playoff berth in his first season as an NFL head coach. Sirianni was a quality control coach, a quarterback coach, and a wide receiver coach with the Chargers. Next: -3.5 at Washington Football Team – Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 44.5 (ATS: 8-6-1 – O/U: 9-6)

18. Cleveland Browns (7-8): Quarterback Baker Mayfield threw four interceptions in a close 24-22 loss to the Packers at home. The Browns still have a shot at the playoffs. If the Ravens and Bengals lose on Sunday, the Browns would just need to win their final two games, Monday Night at Pittsburgh and next week against the Bengals at home, to clinch the division. Next: -3.5 at Pittsburgh Steelers – Mon, Jan. 3 – O/U 41 (ATS: 7-8 – O/U: 7-8)

19. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7-1): The Steelers have lost four straight games on the road, with their defense in the four games giving up an average of 38.5 points per game in the four losses. The Steelers have a lot of work to do in the off-season. Next: +3.5 vs Cleveland Browns – Mon, Jan. 3 – O/U 41 (ATS: 6-9 – O/U: 6-8-1)

20. Denver Broncos (7-8): The Broncos got swept by the Raiders in 2021, giving the Broncos a 1-3 record within the division. They are done for the season if they lose to the Chargers this Sunday at SoFi Stadium. It will be interesting to see if the new ownership in Denver decides to let head coach Vic Fangio go. Fangio is a well-respected defensive coach in the NFL who would not be unemployed long. Next: +6.5 at Los Angeles Chargers - Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 45.5 (ATS: 7-8 – O/U: 3-12)

21. Minnesota Vikings (7-8): For the first time this season, the Vikings trailed from start to finish in their 30-23 loss to the Rams. In their previous fourteen games, the Vikings had led by at least six points in every game. Next: +7 at Green Bay Packers – Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 46.5 (ATS: 8-7 – O/U: 9-6)

22. New Orleans Saints (7-8): The Saints have scored twelve points in the past two games, both nationally televised games. We have a request to the TV networks: Please do not televise anymore Saints games this season on national television. Thank you. Next: -6.5 vs Carolina Panthers – Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 38 (ATS: 7-8 – O/U: 6-9)

23. Atlanta Falcons (7-8): The Falcons won their seventh game of the season, beating the Lions 20-16. Amazingly, the Falcons can still end up with a winning record and still have a shot at a playoff berth. Next: +14.5 at Buffalo Bills – Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 44.5 (ATS: 6-9 – O/U: 6-9)

24. Washington Football Team (6-9): The Dallas Cowboys put the Washington Football team out of their misery Sunday Night, with a 56-14 thrashing of the WFT. The WFT has done well in close games where they are able to control the football. When they fall to far behind, they can end up in an absolute blowout. Next: +3.5 vs Philadelphia Eagles – Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 44.5 (ATS: 5-9-1 – O/U: 7-8)

25. Chicago Bears (5-10): Led by former Super Bowl MVP quarterback Nick Foles, the Bears upset the Seahawks in Seattle, 25-24. Foles got the start for injured quarterback Justin Fields and Andy Dalton, who was out with Covid. Foles led the Bears on an 80-yard drive in the closing minutes, capping the drive with a touchdown pass and a two-point conversion to win the game. Next: -6 vs New York Giants - Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 37 (ATS: 5-10 – O/U: 6-9)

26. Carolina Panthers (5-10): Head coach Matt Ruhle was a brilliant head coach at Temple and at Baylor, but he has become a village idiot this season, at least in the eyes of most Carolina fans. Rotating quarterbacks in on offense has not gone well and has just made the Panthers look hapless. Next: +6.5 at New Orleans Saints - Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 38 (ATS: 5-10 – O/U: 7-8)

27. Seattle Seahawks (5-10): Running back Rashaad Penny rushed for 135 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries in the Seahawks loss to the Bears. Penny who played his high school football at Norwalk high school and his college football at San Diego State, will be a free agent in 2022 and might make a nice addition on the Rams or Chargers, at the right price. Next: -7 vs Detroit Lions – Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 42.5 (ATS: 7-8 – O/U: 4-10-1)

28. New York Giants (4-11): The Giants visit Chicago this week to play the Bears in a game that is a re-match of the 1963 NFL Championship game, which was played at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The Giants lost that game. The Bears won that game 14-10. Expect the same results this Sunday. Next: +6 at Chicago Bears – Sun, Jan. 2 - O/U 37 (ATS: 6-8 – O/U: 5-9-1)

29. New York Jets (4-11): Braxton Berrios was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance against the Jags. Barrios gave the Jets a lead they never relinquished with a 102-yard kickoff return. Berrios also caught five passes for 37 yards in the Jets win over the Jags. Next: +13 vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 45.5 (ATS: 5-10 – O/U: 9-6)

30. Houston Texans (4-11): The Texans, playing without ten starters due to Covid, easily defeated the Chargers in Houston, 41-29. Rex Burkhead ran like John Riggins, rushing for 149 yards and two touchdowns, and quarterback Davis Mills did his imitation of Joe Montana, completing 21 of 27 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns. Next: +12.5 at San Francisco 49ers – Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 44 (ATS: 7-8 – O/U: 7-8)

Brevin Townsell - LA Rams

Rams running back Sony Michel - 131 yards rushing, one touchdown vs Vikings last Sunday

31. Detroit Lions (2-11-1): Not much has gone right for the Lions this season, but they do have an excellent punter in Jack Fox. A 2019 undrafted free agent out of Rice university, Fox made the Pro Bowl in 2020 and this season, has completed 2 of 2 pass attempts for 38 yards, both on fake punts. Next: +7 at Seattle Seahawks – Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 42.5 (ATS: 10-5 – O/U: 5-10)

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13): The Jaguars have set-up interviews with former head coach Doug Pederson, who led the Eagles to a victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII, and Jim Caldwell, who led the Colts to an AFC Championship and a Super Bowl after the 2009 season. Maybe the Jags are finally taking this head coaching thing seriously. Next: +15.5 at New England Patriots - Sun, Jan. 2 – O/U 41.5 (ATS: 4-11 – O/U: 4-11)


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