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NFL Power Rankings: Falcons up, Jags down entering playoffs

So, just when you thought Week 17 wouldn't carry too much drama, and there was but a smidge left in the year ...

... along came a fourth-and-a-mile in Baltimore. The written-off Bengals -- and their quarterback, who produced little outside of national indifference this season -- had one last chance to beat their division rivals in front of the Ravens' (cold) home crowd and send the perennially doomed Bills to the postseason. Fourth-and-12 from around midfield. Tyler Boyd was in the slot. Dan Fouts, doing color for CBS, pointed out he was in single coverage. Guess Andy Dalton saw it, too. Moments later, Boyd was sitting alone, 25 yards downfield, when Dalton's toss hit him square between the 8 and the 3. Throw in a terrifically bad overrun by the safety, and Boyd was galloping through the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.

Oh, and this was happening:

You might have seen that video of the Bills jumping around like sixth graders who won the Gopher Bowl. Don't care. You're watching it again.

In Seattle, around the same time, Blair Walsh was lining up to attempt a would-be game-winning kick. The Seahawks had officially been eliminated from playoff contention a couple minutes before -- with the Falcons nabbing the final NFC playoff spot by beating the Panthers -- but Walsh could at least secure a sixth straight season of 10-plus wins for Seattle. Oh, and his 48-yard attempt could also send Seahawks nemesis Bruce Arians off into the sunset under the cloud of a late loss.

Walsh pushed it. Arians won his final game -- and final press conference.

The league will miss BA. He made the Cardinals relevant again in a post Ken Whisenhunt/Derek Anderson/Max Hall world. Oh, and he provided the franchise's most success since the late 1940s.

How about Jameis Winston's deep ball to down the Saints with nine ticks left? That preceded a stranger brand of on-field drama: Sean Payton's Tom-Cruise-alpha-male-in-the-room power pat to Dirk Koetter. As for the rest of the league ...

You bet, Ryan. All 32 teams, more than 4,300 words and maybe a few bad takes.

Also of note: The rankings below reflect how all the teams stack up if they were playing this week -- thus, the Aaron Rodgerses and Deshaun Watsons of the world don't factor in. Next week, I will only address those franchises that made the playoffs. Following the Super Bowl, though, the entire hierarchy will be reset, including players who were shut down this year. As for this week, send your take: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Let the dissension commence!

PROGRAMMING NOTE: For more in-depth analysis on the updated league pecking order, tune in to NFL Network every Tuesday night at 6 p.m. ET for the "NFL Power Rankings" show. Want to add YOUR voice? Provide your thoughts at the bottom of this page or tweet @HarrisonNFL, and your comments could be featured on air.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The lineup below reflects changes from our Week 17 Power Rankings.

The Patriots held down the fort for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs while also finishing the regular season in the same spot where they started: at the top. Bill Belichick stuck with the organizational M.O., playing starters -- notably Tom Brady -- all the way through versus the Jets in Week 17. Was there a risk of injury, especially when Brady was sacked in the fourth quarter? Sure. That's football. Rather go into the postseason with a head full of steam -- or, at the very least, having tried out a few things or straightened out a couple wrinkles. Witness the emergence of Dion Lewis, workhorse.

The league's second-best team continued as such, handling its business in Week 17 and not letting up on the gas pedal, as so many teams do. In other news, I find it impossible to not root for quarterback Case Keenum. While realizing he won't even get half an MVP vote, his importance to this football team can't be overstated. Side note No. 2: While Minnesota fans surely weren't watching Jets-Patriots, I heard Tony Romo saying on that broadcast that teams like the Eagles and Vikings (and their front sevens) could give New England trouble. Well, I agree with one of his two choices.

The Steelers managed to earn a win despite playing Landry Jones, Stevan Ridley and a batch of dudes you don't see on the field that much. At one point, I expected Jason Gildon, Walter Abercrombie and Weegie Thompson to trot out there. While we're at it, why not sign Casey Hampton, Keith Willis and Yancey Thigpen to one-day contracts? Nice to get the W, even in an ultimately meaningless situation. Now comes more down time and (hopefully) a nice, healthy calf on a certain wide receiver. Back to Weegie: Once saw him catch a key touchdown in a tough loss to a really good Dan Marino-led Dolphins team in Miami.

 **Trivia:** Who threw that ball in 1985? (HINT: It wasn't a trick play. Still, no cheating.) 

The Rams rested everybody on Sunday, or at least it felt that way when watching Tavon Austin drop a ball thrown right in his hands. Oh, wait -- he plays regularly. Sorry. Anyway, Sean Mannion got the call from Sean McVay. The kid owns a live arm, as well as live inaccuracy. Which is of no matter now, as the Rams prepare to host their first NFL postseason game in Southern California since the 1985 Divisional Round. Remember that game well ... as a childhood Cowboys fan, I thought Dallas could go into Anaheim Stadium and steal a road win from John Robinson's team. Yep, so the Rams won 20-nothing while Eric Dickerson busted Tom Landry's defense for 248 yards on the ground. TWO HUNDRED FORTY-EIGHT. L.A. quarterback Dieter Brock went 6 of 22 for 50 yards, and the Rams still won by three scores. Unbelievable. Jared Goff will fare better. Much, much better. Think 148 will be enough for current running back Todd Gurley, much less 248.

Not a wonderful look Sunday for the Saints, who were very much trying to win that game down in Tampa. Although it's far from panic time for New Orleans. Division road losses happen, and as far as the Saints were concerned, the loss only affected seeding in the NFC. Time to move on and beat the Panthers for the third time this season. New Orleans' defense was the star of the first meeting, in Carolina. In the teams' last meeting, Alvin Kamara couldn't be stopped -- kind of like all season. Kamara compiled 126 yards on just 14 touches while scoring two important touchdowns. What a ridiculously successful rookie campaign it's been for No. 41, who has compiled more than 1,550 scrimmage yards with 14 total touchdowns while averaging over 6 yards per rush. Random question: If you were a GM and had the choice between Ezekiel Elliott and Kamara, who would you choose? (@HarrisonNFL)

The Chiefs look a lot better than much of the postseason field, and they played a bunch of their second- and third-stringers on Sunday. How about Kareem Hunt's afternoon? The guy got one carry, and called it a day. With Alex Smith, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce all having cooled their jets on the bench, this Kansas City offense will be more than ready for the Titans this weekend. Of course, the buzz from Denver stemmed from rookie QB Patrick Mahomes, who impressed with a few of the throws he was able to make against an elite secondary. The numbers might not grab you, but they weren't bad for a first go-around, especially on the road.

Eagles fans are not going to enjoy seeing their team plummet further, but even this ranking might be too high. Nick Foles didn't play much Sunday, but when he did, he didn't exactly remind fans of Carson Wentz, or even A.J. Feeley. The good news here is that Philly's front seven is better than that of either the Panthers or Falcons, and that group received much-needed rest. As did Jay Ajayi. Perhaps Philadelphia can ride coordinator Jim Schwartz's defense and the running game in the Divisional Round. Got to make your kicks to win like that, though.

This team is almost as inconsistent as the team below it. Cam Newton's play is confounding. Every time the media says, Look out, the Panthers are letting Cam be Cam and they're going to make a run! ... Carolina lays an egg. Newton was erratic on Sunday, continuing a chain of on-again, off-again performances. Look no further than his in-game passer ratings over the seven games prior to the matchup with the Falcons: 71.0, 120.4, 59.8, 107.5, 64.9, 128.0 and 65.4. I mean, if you're in Charlotte, his play is like Fury 325 at Carowinds. So I guess that means Newton dominates this week, right?

Despite the constant narrative about the new offensive coordinator, the midseason lull (that included three losses to AFC East teams) and 2017 being a far cry from Matt Ryan's MVP season of '16, the Falcons found their way into the playoffs. Give credit where it's due. Atlanta played a heckuva ballgame against the Panthers, with corner Robert Alford being especially destructive to Carolina's chances. Come this Saturday, it will be the run defense that is challenged most. Stop Todd Gurley, and the Falcons have a legitimate shot to defeat the Rams.

Who knows what to make of these Jaguars? Doug Marrone, as anticipated, played his starters in Week 17, presumably not wanting Jacksonville to stumble into the postseason with two straight losses (including a defeat in San Francisco the week prior). Welp. Maybe the Jags were experimenting with the strategy of half-heartedly trying to win. Cool, but the performance in Nashville was more than experimentally disheartening. That's because the reality is, even after a three-week glimmer of hope, this team has a quarterback problem.

I can read your thoughts right now: How can the Chargers be 11th when they didn't even make the playoffs?! But these are Power Rankings, not Power Standings. Don't know about you, but I'd much rather see my favorite team play the Titans than this group. That starts with the quarterback position, where Philip Rivers was dialing up long balls just like when you would Duct tape the barrel of your plastic bat and knock Wiffle balls to kingdom come. Rivers still has it -- and the pass rush is legit. The Bolts need to go back to the well and draft more offensive linemen. Though, don't forget: Second-round pick Forrest Lamp missed the whole year.

Clutch win for the Bills -- and party your face off time for the Bills Mafia. Think about this: Some 23-year-old who waits tables at Duff's Famous Wings was a 5-year-old who watched "Blue's Clues" when Buffalo last made the postseason, in 1999. That's when Wade Phillips went with Rob Johnson and his headband over Doug Flutie, and Buffalo fell victim to the Music City Miracle. Now the Bills take on the Jaguars, who ironically owned the best record in football in 1999. By the way, Duff McKagan sported the headband far better than Johnson. Flutie played far better, too.

The 49ers' ascension over the last month and change has been phenomenal. Sure, those guys in yellow tights they were playing against Sunday only looked like the 11-5 Rams. (What a glorious uni matchup!) But how can anyone knock a 34-13 win? Jimmy Garoppolo wasn't even his legendary self, making two poor decisions in the first half that resulted in Rams interceptions. Still, San Francisco's running game piled up 171 yards, while the defense let Rams backup QB Sean Mannion know it didn't care if this was his audition for potential future work. That group worked over the former Oregon State star, giving this team its sixth win in seven games. Look out, 2018.

Blair Walsh giveth; Blair Walsh taketh away. The Seahawks ended the 2017 campaign on a down note following Walsh's push on the game-winning field-goal attempt. There was this feeling that Seattle could survive the losses of Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, as well as general uneven play, to still make a run for the postseason, much like they've survived in the postseason in years past. (Thanks to Walsh, again, back when he was with the Vikings.) It just wasn't in the cards for Pete Carroll's bunch, partially because of the Falcons (who won in Seattle earlier this year and took care of business Sunday), and partially because of the actual Cards. What an interesting offseason it will be in this NFL city. Does Carroll stay to keep running around the sidelines like a starved hyena with silver tips? Appears that way.

The Lions parted ways with Jim Caldwell, as you surely know by now. What you may not know is that Caldwell is the first Detroit head coach to depart with a winning record since Joe Schmidt, way back in 1972. In fact, when Schmidt resigned, the Lions had posted four winning seasons in a row. Back then, only four teams qualified for the playoffs (three division winners and one wild-card team). That's relevant, because owners, GMs and fan bases are not nearly as forgiving of postseason-less campaigns in the expanded format the league carries now.

Meanwhile, another stellar Matthew Stafford outing sent the Lions into the offseason with some semblance of momentum. The cynical fans of this team, far too weary after the Wayne Fontes playoff disappointments and Matt Millen's stewardship, will ask, Where was this franchise-quarterback-caliber play in Cincinnati, when Detroit needed it? Fair. Yet, an obvious focal point of the offseason to come is Detroit's search for a running game to support its top-10 quarterback. Were the issues all attributable to Ameer Abdullah or a banged-up offensive line? Stafford can't carry the Lions by himself, even if he so often ( too often) does.

How can the Titans be headed to the postseason yet be ranked 16th here? Harsh, yet appropriate. Let's dispense with the accounting first: Tennessee moves up four spots on the strength of beating a playoff opponent in a must-win game. That said, the Jags didn't need the win, and it was speculated that they were experimenting on offense early. Moreover, the Titans lost three games in a row prior to their Week 17 contest vs. Jacksonville. They haven't put up more than 24 points in a game in two and a half months. And the bread and butter of their offense -- the ground "attack" -- was only present when Marcus Mariota took off on a scamper. Derrick Henry rushed 28 times -- 28 times -- for 51 yards. Still, nice rebound from Dick LeBeau's defense when Tennessee had to have it.

Hands down the most disappointing performance of Week 17 came courtesy of the Ravens. Were they blown out? No, not even close. Losing to the Bengals, a team going nowhere, in front of a home crowd smelling playoffs, was awful. More puzzling was the fact that the weather conditions were conducive to a defense-centric group like Baltimore. Most puzzling was the safety play on the Tyler Boyd touchdown. Not only was it fourth-and-12, but the overrunning after the catch was just ... just ... next year.

Cowboys up in the win column, down big here. If you didn't catch the game, or highlights, of Dallas at Philadelphia, here's what you missed: Facing predominantly backups on the Eagles' offense and defense, the Cowboys managed all of six points. Going against Jim Schwartz's reserves, Dak Prescott completed 17 of 30 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown. That's not even 6 yards per attempt. I spoke with Rick Gosselin and one of the best Twitter follows of this franchise, @MarcusMosher, to see if the performance was as awful as I thought. Their answer? Worse. Before you start blaming Dez Bryant first, as has been the case lately ... see this. Oh, and Ezekiel Elliott eclipsed 100 yards rushing. Read into that what you will.

Monday was a sad day in pro football. Watching Bruce Arians' press conference, you couldn't help but feel for the person (especially when speaking of missing 40 years of his son's life) while also feeling for all of us. Arians' style, Kangol hat and strategy will be sorely missed. In this era of mind-numbing-boring-as-@#$%-I-don't-want-to-lose-the-game-bubble-screen-offenses, Arians wanted to be aggressive. Unfortunately, he couldn't keep his quarterback healthy. Or David Johnson. Bet you 1,600 Kangol hats that DJ would have topped Kareem Hunt's league-high 1,327 rush yards.

Hand it to those spunky Bengals. Right when you thought they were D.O.A., D.D.B.S. (dead down the back stretch) and that Marvin Lewis had lost the handle on his roster, Cincy knocks off not one but two postseason-aspiring teams in consecutive weeks. Andy Dalton wasn't perfect on Sunday, barely completing half his passes, but you can't beat those three touchdowns with no interceptions. He'll be back. Others? Well, beginning with the head coach, no one is sure how the 2018 Bengals will differ from this 7-9 outfit. Start with the offensive line, which the scouting department should bolster in the draft.

 ***(UPDATE:** The Bengals announced Tuesday that Lewis has been signed to a two-year contract that will carry him through the 2019 season.)* 

Ugly way to ride into the offseason, with Kirk Cousins suffering through three interceptions and losing to a Giants team (franchise?) in disarray. Thought Sunday's outcome at the Big Snoopy was Week 17's most surprising, given the uptick in Washington's play over the last month. Now all questions divert to Cousins' future. Approaching a spring full of questions after his worst showing of the year, when he posted a 31.1 passer rating (Cousins came into the game with a number in the high 90s), won't ruin the franchise QB-to-be, but it might hurt his bargaining power with his current employer. While many point to the Broncos as a potential suitor, the Cardinals make much sense. Of course, it would make more sense if Washington were to retain Cousins after three solid seasons in a row. Who knows?

The yin and yang of coaching musical chairs this time of year is always riveting for the news cycle. While Bruce Arians leaving the profession sucks, the potential of Jon Gruden re-entering is exciting. Surely there is more to play out with Gruden's potential return to the Raiders, including possible objections over the organization's handling of the Rooney Rule. Couple of thoughts here: Oakland has done more for minority advancement than almost any member club, from hiring the first modern-day black head coach in Art Shell to currently employing Reggie McKenzie as general manager. Not saying any of this absolves the team of ignoring the rule (if it did ignore the rule), just trying to provide additional context. The other talking point will be Gruden changing the "culture." That is precisely what he did as a young man two decades ago. The Raiders were disappointing in 1994, '95 and '96, while being a downright ugly football team in 1997. Gruden led them to the AFC Championship Game in his third season. Can't wait to see him work with Derek Carr, which should make for a good marriage.

Difficult team to evaluate, knowing they can compete with anyone with a healthy Aaron Rodgers. The Packers shut him down, and their finish was what it was -- three straight losses, barely competitive over the last two. And now they are in search of a new defensive coordinator. Now fired, Dom Capers has absorbed much criticism over the last few years. Never mind the growing process of a young secondary or the lack of consistent production from Nick Perry. While fans are quick to kick him out of town, I hope they realize that there is no way this team would have won Super Bowl XLV without his work. The Packers were second in points allowed that season, and the turning point of that Super Sunday game came from a turnover forced by the side of the ball that doesn't involve Rodgers.

Another tough team to evaluate. Jay Cutler is likely gone. Same goes for several veterans. Even Matt Moore is due to hit free agency. Two players who should be huge for the Dolphins going forward were headed backward Sunday, ejected in a fight with the Bills. Which, of course, made it far more difficult for David Fales and the Miami offense to complete the improbable comeback from 22-3 down. Seemed like a microcosm of the entire season. Dolphins pick 11th come April. Guard? Pass rusher? Other?

Gutty performance from a Bucs squad determined to not let 2017 go down with another disappointing L in a close game (SEE: vs. Patriots, at Bills, at Panthers). After much speculation regarding Dirk Koetter's future, he will be leading the charge again in 2018. He also plans to retain play-calling duties, although those things are often fluid over the course of the offseason and summer. He must find a way to develop a stronger run game. Jameis Winston has to make it a priority to protect the football in the pocket and rein in the emotions. For defensive coordinator Mike Smith, the breakdowns could certainly be helped with an infusion of talent on the back end, but there is probably a solid 500 hours of film work to be done. Or basically the time it took to find everything in "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City." Uh, wrong town. OK, but you get the point.

Another site of coaching change. Bears players cared about John Fox. Fans? Not so much. Or at least it seems that way. After 6-10, 3-13 and 5-11 seasons, team brass had seen enough. In fairness to Fox, he inherited a bit of a mess in the wake of the Marc Trestman tenure. Quarterback was among them, although the organization might have solved that issue with the drafting of Mitch Trubisky. The low expectations, rich tradition of this franchise and a promising young quarterback on the roster makes this a desirable opportunity. Chicago needs a few pieces, starting at wide receiver ... then wide receiver ... and maybe wide receiver again.

Somewhat lost in a busy news day on Monday: The Broncos retaining Vance Joseph. The reviews weren't favorable for the rookie head coach, but that's the whole point, isn't it? Coaches should receive more than one year. Not so much to put their plan in place, so to speak -- though that's clearly important. How about getting their feet wet as organizational front men? Remember, Joseph only spent one season as a defensive coordinator before this opportunity came along. John Elway's primary task is not figuring out what to do with the head coach, but rather, figuring out what to do at quarterback. Would Denver dare spend another first-round pick on QB, thus swiftly bailing on Paxton Lynch? Tough call. That's why free agency comes first on the NFL calendar, folks. Sort of.

Of all the coaching moves and non-moves of the last couple of weeks, applaud what the Jets did with Todd Bowles. Maybe he's not the answer, but giving him more time to prove or disprove that makes sense. Plainly speaking: This locker room played its arse off for this head coach. People questioned whether that would happen after a hugely disappointing 2016 campaign. But it appears the 2016 meltdown -- featuring such hits as the Saturday night massacre vs. Miami -- was more of an indictment on the cancers in that locker room than on the head coach. Fans and media will continue to question Bowles' in-game decisions. In that area, he might improve. Bear in mind he can't play quarterback. While you're at it, also keep in mind it was Gang Green that was supposed to go 0-16, not the Browns.

With Chuck Pagano -- the ultimate "lame duck" head coach -- relieved of his duties Sunday after the game, the offseason truly started New Year's Eve. Everyone will focus on the Andrew Luck situation. Luck himself said he regrets being a distraction to the team while he tried to get his shoulder right. But let's not overlook the glaring holes the Colts have on defense. Indy needs a pass rusher, help at linebacker and another corner. So there are severe needs on, like, all three levels. That's it.

Not much to see here. The Giants only lost their premier player for the season, benched the quarterback who won two Super Bowls, fired their head coach with multiple games to go, reinstated that quarterback to the starting lineup, heard their star safety call out a teammate for being a cancer (oh, the Eli "Crapple" headline), then, when nobody expected it (or watched), upended the Redskins in the season finale. Even with that Odyssey-length run-on sentence, we didn't get to Janoris Jenkins, Brandon Marshall, injuries galore, Ereck Flowers, Steve Spagnuolo's future or the head-coaching search. Hey, how about an Orleans Darkwa highlight for the road? Thought you could use that, and a beer or six.

The newly finished season was wild for the Texans, who uncovered the most exciting player to enter the NFL in years, while also enduring multiple key injuries en route to a dismal 4-12 season. The offseason, despite being two days old, has already been as noteworthy. Bill O'Brien made waves in reportedly letting it be known to ownership that he can't work with the GM. Then Rick Smith, who has been Houston's general manager since 2006, announced he would be taking a leave of absence to tend to his wife, who is battling cancer. Again, this is all in the last couple of days. We wish the Smiths the best. And, as my colleague Michael Silver put it (paraphrasing), O'Brien and Smith are two talented people who are good at their jobs, but don't necessarily work well together. Underneath all the happenings, humming in the background, is the treadmill -- with members of the Texans' nucleus getting healthier every day. This group, when healthy, will fly up the rankings faster than any other team, including the one 200 miles up Interstate 45.

Depending on your view of life, the Browns today are encapsulated by the image of Corey Coleman's drop ... or DeShone Kizer consoling Coleman moments after said drop. What capsized Cleveland was not solely talent (as the players will tell you), or apparently Hue Jackson ( as Jimmy Haslam will tell you), but rather a gnarly concoction of events. None of which matter now. What the Browns do with their picks is the only thing that matters. Going winless in the modern era stinks. It warps the perception of an organization, its legacy and outlook. All of which, at the end of the day, can be absolved with a few smart picks. Consider the 1976 Bucs, who went 0-14, but drafted Ricky Bell and Doug Williams the next two years and then reached the 1979 NFC Championship Game. The 2008 Lions took their first overall pick in 2009, and turned it into Matthew Stafford. How many wins would a guy like Stafford be worth to Cleveland? Go Browns.

*Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL. And be sure to tune in to the "NFL Power Rankings" show on NFL Network every Tuesday night at 6 p.m. ET. *

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