NFL power rankings, Week 18: Patriots rise, Vikings fall

New England Patriots safety Kyle Dugger. (Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports)
New England Patriots safety Kyle Dugger. (Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports) /

The NFL power rankings for Week 18 are here, and while the New England Patriots are rising, the Minnesota Vikings took a big hit.

2-13-1. Previous: . Houston Texans. 32. team. 10.

The Texans have to lose once more and they have the No. 1 pick in the 2023 Draft. However, the Colts loom…

. 3-13. Previous: . Chicago Bears. 31. team. 57

Chicago has hung tough in most of its games, but couldn’t against a motivated Lions team. One more game, and then a huge offseason.

. 4-12. Previous: . Denver Broncos. 30. team. 45

Denver put two scares into the Chiefs this season, but ultimately they’re sitting on a 15-game losing streak to Kansas City.

29. team. 32. . 4-12. Previous: . Arizona Cardinals

Nobody wants the season to end quicker than Arizona.

46. . 4-11-1. Previous: . Indianapolis Colts. 28. team

Jeff Saturday can’t be a serious candidate for the job moving forward.

51. . 5-11. Previous: . Los Angeles Rams. 27. team

After hammering the Broncos, the Rams found the going much tougher against the Chargers in a blowout loss.

44. . 6-10. Previous: . Atlanta Falcons. 26. team

Desmond Ridder looked good against the Cardinals. Now, is that because Ridder made progress, or because it’s the Cardinals?

. 6-10. Previous: . Las Vegas Raiders. 25. team. 28

Terrific effort and incredible showing from Jarrett Stidham, but not enough to beat the Niners.

24. team. 87. . 6-10. Previous: . Carolina Panthers

Carolina fought really hard the last few months under interim coach Steve Wilks, but losing out to Tampa Bay for the NFC South is probably good long-term.

. 7-9. Previous: . Cleveland Browns. 23. team. 53

Deshaun Watson has been underwhlming, but the Browns picked off Carson Wentz three times to win in Washington.

22. team. 15. . 7-9. Previous: . New Orleans Saints

The Saints had a very uneven year, and although they beat the Eagles in Philadelphia, they now look at a long winter.

. 7-9. Previous: . New York Jets. 21. team. 30

The Jets looked like a playoff team in early November. Now, with a week remaining and on a five-game losing streak, New York is eliminated.

team. 35. . 7-9. Previous: . Tennessee Titans. 20

Tennessee has lost six straight, and yet if it wins on Sunday, it doesn’t matter.

58. . 7-8-1. Previous: . Washington Commanders. 19. team

Starting Carson Wentz seemed like a terrible idea, and it proved even worse than imagined.

team. 55. . 8-8. Previous: . Pittsburgh Steelers. 18

The Steelers, incredibly, are in the playoff race.

team. 59. . 8-8. Previous: . Miami Dolphins. 17

Between injuries and a leaky roster, the Dolphins are on the brink of a complete meltdown. Still, a win over the Jets and a loss by New England puts it in the playoffs.

Previous: . New England Patriots. 16. team. 47. . 8-8

For a playoff spot, the Patriots have to win their final game, or the Dolphins must lose to the Jets.

. 8-8. Previous: . Seattle Seahawks. 15. team. 36

Give the Seahawks credit, they aren’t going away in a year everybody assumed would be lost from the start.

14. team. 48. . 8-8. Previous: . Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers scored 30 points for the second time all year, and now they will host the No. 5 seed in the NFC Wild Card round.

8-8. Previous: . Detroit Lions. 13. team. 50.

Detroit is alive going into Week 18. Who thought that would happen at 1-6?

8-8. Previous: . Green Bay Packers. 12. team. 49.

Incredibly, the Packers are a home win away from getting into the playoffs. What a wild ride.

11. team. 31. . 9-6-1. Previous: . New York Giants

Kudos to Brian Daboll and the Giants, who fought through a four-game winless streak to make the playoffs. A great story.

. 12-4. Previous: . Minnesota Vikings. 10. team. 60

Minnesota is 12-4, and not a single person on earth is confident it’ll make the Divisional round.

10-6. Previous: . Baltimore Ravens. 9. team. 26.

Baltimore is in desperate need of Lamar Jackson returning.

52. . 8-8. Previous: . Jacksonville Jaguars. 8. team

Jacksonville has won four straight and is a dangerous team if it gets into the playoffs. Talent all over the roster.

. 10-6. Previous: . Los Angeles Chargers. 7. team. 13

The Chargers are playing their best ball and getting healthy with the return of Joey Bosa. Los Angeles is a legitimate contender.

Previous: . Dallas Cowboys. 6. team. 123. . 12-4

Dallas needs Dak Prescott to stop turning the ball over, but the Cowboys have a killer defense and ample weapons.

Previous: . San Francisco 49ers. 5. team. 42. . 12-4

San Francisco allowed Jarrett Stidham to look like a Pro Bowler, but found a way to win.

11-4. Previous: . Cincinnati Bengals. 4. team. 56.

The only thing which matters is the health of Damar Hamlin.

Philadelphia Eagles. 3. team. 54. . 13-3. Previous:

The Eagles are getting really banged-up at the wrong time. Philadelphia now needs to win in Week 18, or it’s very likely going to be a wild card team.

Buffalo Bills. 2. team. 16. . 12-3. Previous:

Again, the only thing which matters is the health of Damar Hamlin.

. 13-3. Previous: . Kansas City Chiefs. 1. team. 124

The Chiefs let Denver hang around, but it took care of business. Very good season for Kansas City to this point.