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Ravens Insider: NFL power rankings, Week 17: Ravens vault to No. 1 with win over 49ers


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Each week of the NFL season, The Baltimore Sun will rank all 32 NFL teams. The rankings will take into account not just weekly performance, injuries and roster depth, but how well each team measures up as a Super Bowl contender.

Here are the rankings heading into Week 17:

1. Ravens (12-3, No. 2)

Last week: Win vs. 49ers, 33-19

Up next: vs. Dolphins

There are plenty of storylines from Monday night’s win, but the most important is that the Ravens are the best team in football with the playoffs just a few weeks away. They had plenty of bounces go their way and were the beneficiary of several costly penalties, but they outmuscled the NFC’s top team on their way to a statement win. That matters this time of year, especially for a team missing its top two running backs and top pass catcher. The defense is championship caliber, and the offense remains as dangerous as ever with Lamar Jackson on pace for his second NFL Most Valuable Player Award. Jackson wants a Super Bowl trophy to cement his legacy, and this is by far his best chance to capture that elusive title.

  • Baltimore Ravens' Lamar Jackson (8) eludes a sack attempt by...

    Baltimore Ravens' Lamar Jackson (8) eludes a sack attempt by San Francisco 49ers' Ji'Ayir Brown (27) during an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Dec. 25, 2023. (Scott Strazzante/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)

  • Marcus Williams #32 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates with teammates...

    Marcus Williams #32 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates with teammates after his interception during the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on Dec. 25, 2023 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • Baltimore Ravens safety Marcus Williams (32) is congratulated by teammates...

    Baltimore Ravens safety Marcus Williams (32) is congratulated by teammates after intercepting a pass against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Dec. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

  • Baltimore Ravens safety Marcus Williams, top, tackles San Francisco 49ers...

    Baltimore Ravens safety Marcus Williams, top, tackles San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Dec. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

  • Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) avoids the grasp of...

    Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) avoids the grasp of San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) as offensive tackle Morgan Moses (78) blocks during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Dec. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

  • Patrick Queen #6 of the Baltimore Ravens hits George Kittle...

    Patrick Queen #6 of the Baltimore Ravens hits George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers after Queen's interception during the third quarter at Levi's Stadium on Dec. 25, 2023 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey, middle, is tackled...

    San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey, middle, is tackled by Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, left, and linebacker Roquan Smith (0) during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Dec. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

  • Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) celebrates with wide receiver...

    Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) celebrates with wide receiver Nelson Agholor (15) after connecting on a touchdown pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Dec. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

  • Nelson Agholor #15 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrate after catching...

    Nelson Agholor #15 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrate after catching a touchdown during the third quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on Dec. 25, 2023 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Loren Elliott/Getty Images)

  • Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Rashod Bateman (7) runs against San...

    Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Rashod Bateman (7) runs against San Francisco 49ers cornerback Ambry Thomas during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Dec. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

  • Baltimore Ravens place kicker Justin Tucker (9) celebrates after kicking...

    Baltimore Ravens place kicker Justin Tucker (9) celebrates after kicking a field goal during the first half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Dec. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

  • Justin Madubuike #92 of the Baltimore Ravens tackles Christian McCaffrey...

    Justin Madubuike #92 of the Baltimore Ravens tackles Christian McCaffrey #23 of the San Francisco 49ers during the first quarter at Levi's Stadium on Dec. 25, 2023 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Loren Elliott/Getty Images)

  • Kyle Hamilton #14 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates with teammates...

    Kyle Hamilton #14 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates with teammates after his interception during the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on Dec. 25, 2023 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Loren Elliott/Getty Images)

  • San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy, right, is tackled by...

    San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy, right, is tackled by Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Dec. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

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2. San Francisco 49ers (11-4, No. 1)

Last week: Loss vs. Ravens, 33-19

Up next: at Commanders

Brock Purdy’s four interceptions will dominate the headlines and the debate shows, but it was not a terrible performance for the offense. The 49ers still averaged 6.3 yards per play, and four of San Francisco’s first five drives ended in Ravens territory before a disastrous start to the second half put the game out of reach. If the turnover luck swung in the other direction, it could have been the 49ers celebrating a big win. While the defense struggled to contain Jackson, it won’t have to face a quarterback with his rare elusiveness and improvisational skills again this season – unless these teams meet again in the Super Bowl.

3. Miami Dolphins (11-4, No. 3)

Last week: Win vs. Cowboys, 22-20

Up next: at Ravens

In a battle of unproven contenders, the Dolphins showed some toughness in rallying to win on a last-second 29-yard field goal by Jason Sanders. It’s fitting that Miami’s first victory over a team with a winning record this season solidified a playoff berth, especially with Tua Tagovailoa helping lead the game-winning drive in the final few minutes. A trip to Baltimore on New Year’s Eve with the top seed in the AFC on the line will show exactly what this team is made of.

4. Detroit Lions (11-4, No. 4)

Last week: Win vs. Vikings, 30-24

Up next: at Cowboys

Detroit’s first division title since 1993 is worth celebrating, even if the team has bigger plans this season. Sunday’s win was an encouraging step not only for the direction of the franchise, but also for a team that has a legitimate chance to make a deep postseason run led by a star-studded roster that seems to be jelling at the right time. A tough win over a division rival in late December is not something to be taken for granted, especially in Detroit.

5. Philadelphia Eagles (11-4, No. 6)

Last week: Win vs. Giants, 33-25

Up next: vs. Cardinals

The Eagles continued their dominance over the Giants, beating them for the 17th time in the past 20 games, but it’s worrisome that Philadelphia was not able to put the hammer down after taking a 20-3 lead at halftime. “We have 11 wins but we’re not playing good football right now,” wide receiver DeVonta Smith said. Acknowledging that fact is important, but it’s foolish to expect the Eagles to magically flip a switch and stop making costly mistakes heading into the postseason. Real change starts with committing fewer turnovers.

6. Buffalo Bills (9-6, No. 7)

Last week: Win vs. Chargers, 24-22

Up next: vs. Patriots

The Bills’ late-season surge was nearly derailed Saturday night before a game-winning 29-yard field goal by Tyler Bass in the final seconds. An uneven performance against a team down to its backup quarterback and interim coach is not inspiring, but all that matters is Buffalo emerged with the victory. Josh Allen remains a game-breaking force who can swing a playoff game in either direction, and that’s a scary thought for the top teams in the AFC.

7. Kansas City Chiefs (9-6, No. 5)

Last week: Loss vs. Raiders, 20-14

Up next: vs. Bengals

The Chiefs have lost three of their past four games after a stunning defeat on Christmas Day that included two defensive touchdowns by the Raiders in a span of seven seconds. Just how bad was it? The Raiders became the first NFL team since 2000 to win without completing a pass after the first quarter. The silver lining to this disappointing season has been the defense, but it’s hard to find reasons for optimism besides believing in Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid to work their usual magic in the postseason.

8. Cleveland Browns (10-5, No. 9)

Last week: Win vs. Texans, 36-22

Up next: vs. Jets

Who saw Joe Flacco to Amari Cooper becoming the most dangerous quarterback-receiver duo in the league? Cooper had 11 catches for a franchise-record 265 yards and two touchdowns Sunday, and Flacco finished with 368 yards as Cleveland won its third straight to all but assure a playoff berth. With his big arm, the 38-year-old Flacco makes the Browns offense potent enough to put a scare into some of the best teams in the conference.

9. Dallas Cowboys (10-5, No. 8)

Last week: Loss vs. Dolphins, 22-20

Up next: vs. Lions

With Dallas all but guaranteed to play on the road this postseason, it’s hard to take the Cowboys seriously. They fell to 2-5 on the road after a loss in Miami and have not shown the necessary toughness to compete with the league’s best teams. Dak Prescott is playing quarterback better than most this season, but that hasn’t been enough.

Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua runs with the ball past Saints cornerback Isaac Yiadom (27) last Thursday in Inglewood, California (Kyusung Gong/AP)
Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua runs with the ball past Saints cornerback Isaac Yiadom (27) last Thursday in Inglewood, California. (Kyusung Gong/AP)

10. Los Angeles Rams (8-7, No. 11)

Last week: Win vs. Saints, 30-22

Up next: at Giants

The Rams have won five of their past six, and even the one loss was impressive on the road in overtime against the NFL-leading Ravens. With Matthew Stafford playing at a high level and wide receivers Puka Nacua and Demarcus Robinson stepping up, the offense looks good enough to not only push the team into the playoffs but perhaps win a game or two once it gets there.

11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-7, No. 15)

Last week: Win vs. Jaguars, 30-12

Up next: vs. Saints

Four straight wins have put the Bucs into the driver’s seat for the NFC South title, and it’s starting to feel like they are more than just the benefactors of playing in the weakest division in the league. Baker Mayfield has been exceptional of late, following up his perfect passer rating in Green Bay with 283 yards and two touchdowns in a dominant win over the Jaguars.

12. Seattle Seahawks (8-7, No. 16)

Last week: Win vs. Titans, 20-17

Up next: vs. Steelers

A week after Drew Lock threw a late touchdown pass to give Seattle the win, Geno Smith did the same with a 5-yard strike with 57 seconds left in Sunday’s victory over the Titans. There are lingering questions about whether Seattle should commit to Smith long-term after an up-and-down season for the veteran quarterback, but for now, the Seahawks seem to be rounding into shape at the perfect time.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7, No. 21)

Last week: Win vs. Bengals, 34-11

Up next: at Seahawks

With Kenny Pickett hurt and Mitch Trubisky benched, Mason Rudolph became the third starting quarterback for the Steelers this season and delivered in a season-saving rout of the division-rival Bengals on Saturday. The big play has been missing from the Pittsburgh offense for a long time, and Rudolph helped deliver it with 290 yards and two touchdowns, including a pair of deep connections with George Pickens. If Rudolph can stay hot, a season that once seemed lost could end with a playoff berth.

14. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-7, No. 12)

Last week: Loss vs. Buccaneers, 30-12

Up next: vs. Panthers

A once-promising season has gone from bad to worse at every possible turn. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence injured his shoulder in Sunday’s loss, the team’s fourth straight, after turning the ball over three times. Jacksonville still has the best odds to win the AFC South, but it’s starting to feel like this team will be one-and-done in the postseason unless there’s some significant progress over the next two weeks.

15. Houston Texans (8-7, No. 13)

Last week: Loss vs. Browns, 36-22

Up next: vs. Titans

Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud might be back this week, and that makes Houston a factor in the playoff race. Injuries have prevented this team from reaching its potential, but there’s still a lot to play for down the stretch to at the very least end DeMeco Ryans’ first season as head coach on a high note.

16. Cincinnati Bengals (8-7, No. 10)

Last week: Loss vs. Steelers, 34-11

Up next: at Chiefs

Perhaps it was foolish to count on the Bengals to stay hot with a backup quarterback, but a complete no-show against a division rival with a playoff berth hanging in the balance is hard to accept. Injuries are one thing, but going 0-5 against AFC North opponents is not encouraging for next season when the margins to win with Joe Burrow’s huge contract extension are even slimmer.

17. Indianapolis Colts (8-7, No. 14)

Last week: Loss vs. Falcons, 29-10

Up next: vs. Raiders

The Colts’ loss in Atlanta was one of the most disappointing results of the weekend, especially after such an uplifting win over the Steelers. A postseason berth is still well within reach – a 55% chance, according to The New York Times’ simulator – but Indianapolis needs to be more consistent to have any hope of cracking the field.

18. Las Vegas Raiders (7-8, No. 22)

Last week: Win vs. Chiefs, 20-14

Up next: at Colts

The idea of seeing the Raiders in the postseason seemed impossible as recently as three weeks ago when the team lost its third straight, 3-0. A 63-point outing and a victory over the defending Super Bowl champs later, and Las Vegas has reason to believe this season isn’t over yet. It will be fascinating to see whether interim coach Antonio Pierce has done enough to earn the full-time job.

Packers quarterback Jordan Love sets up to pass against the Panthers Sunday in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Jacob Kupferman/AP)
Packers quarterback Jordan Love sets up to pass against the Panthers Sunday in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Jacob Kupferman/AP)

19. Green Bay Packers (7-8, No. 20)

Last week: Win vs. Panthers, 33-30

Up next: at Vikings

It’s been hard to get a read all season on the Packers, who seem capable of beating or losing to any team in the league. Case in point, a closer-than-expected win over the cellar-dwelling Panthers in which Jordan Love posted a 90.1 QBR and Aaron Jones rushed for 127 yards in his return while the defense allowed Bryce Young to throw for a career-high 312 yards and the Panthers to average 6.3 yards per play a week after failing to score an offensive touchdown.

20. Atlanta Falcons (7-8, No. 24)

Last week: Win vs. Colts, 29-10

Up next: at Bears

The Falcons have been just as confounding as Green Bay, especially after putting together their best performance of the season Sunday. The yo-yoing between quarterbacks Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke worked out this time as Heinicke enjoyed an efficient day through the air as the offense piled up 406 total yards, but it’s been frustrating to see this young, exciting team so often fail to live up to its potential the way it did against the Colts.

21. New Orleans Saints (7-8, No. 17)

Last week: Loss vs. Rams, 30-22

Up next: at Buccaneers

The Saints have been loath to make major changes and completely start over with a young quarterback, but that might be the best path after another failed season with a bloated salary cap and another short-term fix at the most important position. Dennis Allen might be coaching for his job over the final two weeks.

22. Minnesota Vikings (7-8, No. 19)

Last week: Loss vs. Lions, 30-24

Up next: vs. Packers

Another close loss, this time to the division-leading Lions, was emblematic of a season beset by injuries and bad luck. Now tight end T.J. Hockenson is out with a torn ACL and MCL in his knee, the latest in a series of setbacks that includes losing quarterback Kirk Cousins and wide receiver Justin Jefferson for most of the season. It would have been fun to see what this team could have done fully healthy with Cousins and defensive coordinator Brian Flores leading the way.

23. Denver Broncos (7-8, No. 18)

Last week: Loss vs. Patriots, 26-23

Up next: vs. Chargers

The Broncos nearly saved their season with an improbable late rally before falling on a last-second 56-yard field goal by Patriots rookie Chad Ryland on Christmas Eve. It was too little, too late Sunday night, and that’s fitting for a season that has been much of the same for first-year coach Sean Payton.

24. Chicago Bears (6-9, No. 23)

Last week: Win vs. Cardinals, 27-16

Up next: vs. Falcons

A win should feel good for embattled coach Matt Eberflus and quarterback Justin Fields, but poor execution at the end of the half and the fourth quarter might leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth heading into the final stretch. It was still nice to see Fields once again show off his dual-threat ability as he rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown.

25. New York Jets (6-9, No. 26)

Last week: Win vs. Commanders, 30-28

Up next: at Browns

One would think cooler heads would have prevailed if the Jets had lost after blowing a 20-point halftime lead against one of the league’s worst teams, but maybe that would have led to a shake-up in leadership. Coach Robert Saleh is under tremendous pressure to win next season when Aaron Rodgers returns, making for an uncomfortable situation.

26. Tennessee Titans (5-10, No. 25)

Last week: Loss vs. Seahawks, 20-17

Up next: at Texans

The Titans seem to be in an awkward dance of trying to rebuild while still competing at a high level. That’s what you get with coach Mike Vrabel, but it’s fair to wonder whether he wants to be part of building around a young quarterback and a largely new roster next season.

27. New York Giants (5-10, No. 27)

Last week: Loss vs. Eagles, 33-25

Up next: vs. Rams

The game never felt in doubt on Christmas Day, even if the Giants refused to go away. New York has lost 11 straight road games in Philadelphia and has beaten the Eagles just six times since 2008. Even the Tommy DeVito story took a turn for the worse after he was benched for Tyrod Taylor, who helped lead the comeback attempt before throwing an interception in the end zone to end the game.

28. New England Patriots (4-11, No. 31)

Last week: Win vs. Broncos, 26-23

Up next: at Bills

If the Patriots are looking to draft a quarterback, they’re no longer in prime position to do so after slipping to the No. 4 spot. Bill Belichick might care more about winning in his quest to pass Don Shula on the all-time list, but New England could be ruining a golden opportunity to secure a franchise quarterback without having to pay a premium to move up on draft night.

29. Los Angeles Chargers (5-10, No. 28)

Last week: Loss vs. Bills, 24-22

Up next: at Broncos

The Chargers showed some pride in bouncing back under interim coach Giff Smith and nearly taking down the red-hot Bills, but there are so many questions for this team to address this offseason. One of the biggest involves Derwin James, a three-time Pro Bowl safety who lined up more as the nickel cornerback Saturday night after struggling most of this season.

30. Washington Commanders (4-11, No. 30)

Last week: Loss vs. Jets, 30-28

Up next: vs. 49ers

In the long run, that last-second loss to the Jets on Sunday might have been the best thing for the future of this franchise. With Sam Howell taking a significant step backward after a promising start and a likely top-three pick in the draft coming, Washington can completely reboot at coach and quarterback heading into a new era under owner Josh Harris.

31. Arizona Cardinals (3-12, No. 29)

Last week: Loss vs. Bears, 27-16

Up next: at Eagles

These last few weeks have been extremely valuable for quarterback Kyler Murray, who is still working his way back from a torn ACL suffered last December. It’s been rough at times, including 85 passing yards in the first half of Sunday’s loss, but it would be foolish to write off Murray based on his struggles following major surgery.

32. Carolina Panthers (2-13, No. 32)

Last week: Loss vs. Packers, 33-30

Up next: at Jaguars

The Packers’ defense has a habit of making quarterbacks look unstoppable, but the Panthers should still be encouraged by what they saw out of Young on Sunday. He’ll need to be much better next season to justify the trade that will give Chicago the No. 1 overall pick in 2024, but perhaps he has a chance to reach the potential the franchise saw in him.

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