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It’s a Christmas miracle in Week 17’s NFL power rankings

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Amazingly, the Chiefs’ loss to the Seahawks made little difference in the rankings.

Thanks to the Christmas holiday, we’re combining Week 17’s pundit power rankings (typically published on Tuesdays) with our Wednesday True Power Rankings.

It would have been perfectly reasonable to expect that the Chiefs — after losing to the Los Angeles Chargers in primetime a week ago Thursday and following that with a 38-31 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in front of another national audience on Sunday night — would have fallen dramatically in the eyes of the national writers.

But if watching Die Hard is one of your Christmas traditions, you’ve already been reminded: It’s Christmas, Theo. It’s the time of miracles.

And we seem to have a fully-formed Christmas miracle on our hands: the Chiefs have held steady with the pundits.

Pundit Power Rankings for Week 17

Chiefs AFC West Teams Other AFC Teams

Rank Team ESPN MMQB NFL SpNws Yahoo CBS USA
1
(1)
Saints
13-2
1
(1)
1
(1)
1
(1)
1
(1)
1
(1)
1
(1)
1
(1)
2
(5)
Rams
12-3
2
(4)
2
(7)
3
(5)
2
(5)
2
(4)
2
(3)
3
(4)
3
(3)
Chiefs
11-4
3
(3)
5
(3)
4
(3)
4
(3)
4
(2)
3
(4)
5
(5)
4
(4)
Bears
11-4
5
(5)
5
(5)
2
(4)
5
(4)
3
(5)
4
(5)
2
(3)
5
(7)
Patriots
10-5
6
(7)
3
(6)
7
(6)
6
(8)
6
(7)
5
(6)
8
(9)
6
(2)
Chargers
11-4
4
(2)
8
(2)
6
(2)
3
(2)
5
(3)
7
(2)
4
(2)
7
(10)
Ravens
9-6
8
(10)
4
(14)
5
(10)
8
(9)
9
(10)
6
(12)
6
(10)
8
(12)
Seahawks
9-6
9
(11)
7
(13)
9
(11)
10
(11)
10
(11)
10
(11)
9
(12)
Rank Team ESPN MMQB NFL SpNws Yahoo CBS USA
9
(6)
Texans
10-5
7
(6)
14
(8)
10
(7)
7
(6)
7
(6)
11
(7)
10
(7)
10
(9)
Colts
9-6
10
(9)
13
(9)
8
(8)
9
(10)
13
(13)
8
(9)
7
(6)
11
(11)
Cowboys
9-6
12
(12)
9
(9)
13
(14)
14
(13)
8
(9)
9
(10)
11
(13)
12
(8)
Steelers
8-6-1
11
(8)
10
(4)
11
(9)
12
(7)
11
(8)
15
(8)
15
(8)
13
(13)
Vikings
8-6-1
13
(13)
12
(11)
12
(12)
11
(14)
14
(14)
12
(13)
12
(14)
14
(14)
Titans
9-6
14
(14)
15
(15)
14
(13)
13
(12)
12
(12)
13
(14)
13
(11)
15
(15)
Eagles
8-7
15
(15)
11
(12)
15
(15)
15
(15)
15
(16)
14
(15)
14
(15)
16
(16)
Browns
7-7-1
16
(17)
16
(16)
16
(16)
16
(17)
16
(15)
16
(16)
16
(16)
Rank Team ESPN MMQB NFL SpNws Yahoo CBS USA
17
(19)
Packers
6-8-1
17
(19)
19
(18)
17
(18)
17
(22)
18
(22)
17
(22)
17
(19)
18
(17)
Dolphins
7-8
18
(18)
17
(19)
26
(20)
18
(16)
19
(17)
20
(17)
23
(17)
19
(22)
Falcons
6-9
21
(22)
18
(20)
19
(24)
20
(23)
21
(24)
19
(26)
18
(20)
20
(21)
Redskins
7-8
22
(21)
21
(21)
18
(19)
19
(18)
17
(20)
18
(23)
22
(25)
21
(18)
Panthers
6-9
19
(16)
20
(17)
27
(23)
21
(19)
22
(18)
23
(20)
30
(18)
22
(20)
Broncos
6-9
20
(20)
23
(22)
25
(17)
22
(20)
27
(21)
21
(18)
26
(24)
22
(23)
Giants
5-10
23
(23)
24
(27)
22
(25)
24
(25)
24
(26)
22
(19)
19
(21)
24
(25)
Bills
5-10
28
(27)
22
(24)
20
(21)
26
(24)
20
(19)
25
(24)
25
(28)
Rank Team ESPN MMQB NFL SpNws Yahoo CBS USA
25
(26)
Buccaneers
5-10
24
(24)
25
(25)
29
(28)
25
(26)
23
(23)
29
(28)
21
(22)
26
(24)
Bengals
i6-9
25
(25)
25
(23)
28
(27)
23
(21)
30
(28)
24
(21)
31
(26)
27
(27)
Lions
5-10
26
(26)
29
(26)
21
(22)
27
(27)
25
(25)
26
(25)
29
(29)
28
(28)
49ers
4-11
29
(29)
27
(28)
23
(26)
29
(28)
29
(29)
27
(27)
20
(23)
29
(30)
Jaguars
5-10
27
(28)
30
(30)
30
(31)
28
(30)
28
(30)
28
(30)
27
(31)
30
(29)
Jets
4-11
30
(30)
28
(29)
31
(30)
30
(29)
26
(27)
31
(31)
24
(27)
31
(31)
Raiders
4-11
31
(31)
31
(31)
24
(29)
31
(31)
31
(31)
30
(29)
28
(30)
32
(32)
Cardinals
3-12
32
(32)
32
(32)
32
(32)
32
(32)
32
(32)
32
(32)
32
(32)
Numbers in parentheses are the previous week's ranking.
The left-hand column is the aggregate of all rankings.
ESPN and MMQB rankings are weighted 2.5 times all others.
Other questions?
Read the True Power Rankings Methodology

Here's what the pundits we're tracking said about the Chiefs this week:

ESPN (3rd from 3rd)

Non-QB MVP: WR Tyreek Hill. He would be next in line behind QB Patrick Mahomes for Chiefs MVP. He's Kansas City's playmaker, with 27 scrimmage plays of 20 yards or more plus a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown.

NFL.com (Elliot Harrison - 4th from 3rd)

Even coming off two losses in a row, the Chiefs don't fall too much here, nor have they ceased to inspire confidence as a Super Bowl contender. The Chargers' loss to the Ravens means that a Chiefs win next week (against the Raiders) will still earn Kansas City home-field advantage through the playoffs. Secondly, many talented teams have gone to Seattle and flown home with an L, like Kansas City did Sunday. Patrick Mahomes did nothing to diminish the high esteem in which fans/opponents hold him, becoming the fastest player to 5,000 yards passing in NFL history (by three games) while making more of those weird-angle throws that make you wonder if he is the long-lost lovechild of Nolan Ryan and Gumby. (Of course, Mahomes' dad actually was a pro baseball player.) The defense remains a question mark and can ill-afford to have Dee Ford limping around.

Sporting News (Vinnie Iyer - 4th from 3rd)

The Chiefs have hit a snag with their defense falling flat. They are still headed to being a dangerous top AFC seed with Patrick Mahomes, but the concerns about their defense have returned.

Yahoo! Sports (Frank Schwab - 4th from 2nd)

Losing Kareem Hunt isn’t the biggest reason for the Chiefs’ recent struggles. The defense is a much bigger problem than what K.C. is getting out of its running backs. But the fact is, since cutting Hunt, the Chiefs have played four games and haven’t looked great in any of them. And Hunt was a heck of a player. There has to be at least a little bit of a correlation.

CBS Sports (Pete Prisco - 3rd from 4th)

They have lost two straight, but need just a victory over the Raiders to lock up the top seed in the AFC.

USA Today (Nate Davis - 5th from 5th)

Death by paper cut a good approach to beating this "Madden" offense. Kansas City has allowed 26.6 first downs per game, worst in league.

Other power rankings we noticed this week:

Bleeding Green Nation (Brandon Lee Gowton — 9th from 3rd) Andy Reid’s team is just 2-3 in their last five games. One of those wins was a narrow overtime victory over Baltimore. Another was just a seven-point difference over Oakland. Missing Kareem Hunt hurts. And the defense is a problem.

Mile High Report (Pete Baron — 8th from 5th) Oh, how the once mighty have fallen. I just don’t get it, KC. I thought this was the year you didn’t pull the usual tank job in December and then January. Sure, January has yet to happen, but damn! You do realize that in order to stop getting the history thrown in your face like a drink after using a lame pick up line, you gotta actually do something to change it, right?

Washington Post (Mark Maske — 8th from 5th) Nothing was really lost, at least not yet, with the defeat Sunday night in Seattle. The Chiefs still can wrap up the AFC’s top seed with a win Sunday at home over the Raiders. But it doesn’t appear that this team is peaking as the postseason nears. The Chiefs will enter the AFC playoffs appearing vulnerable, even if they win Sunday.

NBC Sports Pro Football Talk (Mike Florio — 5th from 3rd) Even with the MVP on the roster, this team seems to be too flawed to get to the Super Bowl.

Houston Chronicle (John McClain — 5th from 3rd) Even though the Chiefs lost at Seattle, a victory over Oakland at Arrowhead Stadium will give them home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.


It’s not that the pundits are blind to the faults the Chiefs have exposed in recent weeks — based on their comments, they see these clearly — but as we have seen several times this season, they think the faults of other teams (particularly the Chargers and Texans) are worse.

After ranking them ahead of the Chiefs for the first time since Week 1, the pundits savaged the Chargers, dropping them to sixth place after their 22-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night.

I’ll be honest: that wouldn’t have been my take. I watched the Chargers-Ravens game in its entirety, and the Chargers’ 12-point loss was deceptive.

With just under three minutes to go, it was clear the Chargers were about to do exactly what the Chiefs had done to the Ravens two weeks ago: hand them a narrow loss in a relatively low-scoring game. But then Antonio Gates fumbled, the Ravens returned it for a touchdown, and suddenly the game was over.

Was the Chargers’ loss to the Ravens worse than the Chiefs’ loss to the Seahawks? In my mind, it wasn’t. The Chargers lost their game on a single play, while the Chiefs lost their game on multiple plays.

This week, it’s almost as if some kind of bizarre selective recency bias is taking place with the pundits: they’ve already forgotten that the Chargers beat the Chiefs just a week ago, and used the way the two teams played the Ravens to justify ranking the Chiefs above the Chargers.

This kind of thinking would seem to violate every argument we’ve ever seen pundits use to justify their rankings.

Or... maybe the pundits are simply feeling so guilty about ignoring the Seahawks — and the very fine season Russell Wilson has had in 2018 — that they couldn’t bring themselves to downgrade the Chiefs for their loss. The fact that the Seahawks made the top tier of teams for the first time all season might lend some credence to that theory.

Or... maybe the pundits simply saw the amazing throws Patrick Mahomes continues to make and were reminded how they consider quarterback play to be among the most important facets of the game.

But as you’ll see, the number-crunchers had no such crises of conscience.

Cruncher Power Rankings for Week 17

Chiefs AFC West Teams Other AFC Teams

Rank Team Elo DVOA SRS PE
1
(1)
Saints
13-2
1
(1)
3
(3)
1
(1)
1
(1)
2
(2)
Chiefs
11-4
2
(2)
1
(1)
3
(2)
5
(5)
3
(4)
Rams
12-3
4
(5)
4
(4)
2
(3)
4
(6)
4
(6)
Ravens
9-6
5
(9)
5
(6)
4
(4)
3
(3)
5
(5)
Bears
11-4
6
(7)
6
(5)
6
(6)
2
(2)
6
(3)
Chargers
11-4
7
(3)
2
(2)
7
(5)
6
(4)
7
(8)
Patriots
10-5
3
(4)
7
(9)
9
(9)
8
(11)
8
(9)
Seahawks
9-6
8
(10)
10
(11)
7
(8)
7
(8)
Rank Team Elo DVOA SRS PE
9
(7)
Steelers
8-6-1
10
(6)
8
(8)
5
(7)
11
(10)
10
(10)
Colts
9-6
14
(15)
9
(10)
11
(11)
9
(9)
11
(12)
Vikings
8-6-1
11
(11)
11
(12)
12
(15)
12
(13)
12
(10)
Texans
10-5
15
(14)
13
(14)
10
(10)
10
(7)
13
(15)
Eagles
8-7
8
(8)
18
(17)
15
(16)
16
(17)
14
(14)
Titans
9-6
13
(13)
20
(19)
13
(13)
13
(12)
15
(16)
Cowboys
9-6
12
(12)
22
(20)
14
(14)
14
(14)
16
(18)
Packers
6-8-1
17
(20)
14
(13)
18
(18)
15
(16)
Rank Team Elo DVOA SRS PE
17
(13)
Broncos
6-9
20
(18)
12
(7)
16
(12)
17
(15)
18
(19)
Falcons
6-9
16
(17)
17
(21)
17
(20)
18
(19)
19
(17)
Panthers
6-9
18
(16)
16
(15)
20
(17)
19
(18)
20
(21)
Browns
7-7-1
22
(25)
19
(22)
19
(19)
20
(20)
21
(20)
Giants
5-10
25
(24)
15
(16)
21
(22)
21
(21)
22
(25)
Jaguars
5-10
19
(26)
21
(18)
23
(25)
25
(29)
23
(22)
Buccaneers
5-10
24
(22)
26
(25)
22
(21)
22
(23)
24
(23)
Redskins
7-8
23
(21)
27
(27)
23
(23)
23
(22)
Rank Team Elo DVOA SRS PE
25
(26)
Bengals
i6-9
27
(27)
23
(23)
25
(24)
27
(25)
26
(24)
Lions
5-10
21
(19)
30
(29)
26
(25)
26
(24)
27
(28)
Jets
4-11
31
(30)
24
(26)
28
(28)
24
(26)
28
(27)
Dolphins
7-8
26
(23)
25
(24)
29
(29)
29
(28)
29
(29)
49ers
4-11
29
(29)
29
(28)
27
(27)
28
(27)
30
(31)
Raiders
4-11
30
(32)
28
(30)
31
(31)
30
(31)
31
(30)
Bills
5-10
28
(28)
31
(31)
30
(30)
31
(30)
32
(32)
Cardinals
3-12
32
(31)
32
(32)
32
(32)
32
(32)
Numbers in parentheses are the previous week's ranking.
The left-hand column is the average of all rankings.
Other questions?
Read the True Power Rankings Methodology

The Chiefs held steady in all the data-based models except SRS, and remain in second place with the number-crunchers.

Hmmm. Well, maybe the pundits had some idea what they were talking about after all.

As we see here, the data-based models (except DVOA) gave the Chargers a similar hit for their loss this week. We even see that Elo has now caught up with the rest of the models, and counts the Ravens among the league’s best teams — just as the pundits did.

Which brings us — as always — to this week’s True Power Rankings.

True Power Rankings for Week 17

Chiefs AFC West Teams Other AFC Teams

Rank Team Pundits Crunchers
1
(1)
Saints
13-2
1
(1)
1
(1)
2
(4)
Rams
12-3
2
(5)
3
(4)
3
(3)
Chiefs
11-4
3
(3)
2
(2)
4
(5)
Bears
11-4
4
(4)
5
(5)
5
(8)
Ravens
9-6
7
(10)
4
(6)
6
(2)
Chargers
11-4
6
(2)
6
(3)
7
(7)
Patriots
10-5
5
(7)
7
(8)
8
(11)
Seahawks
9-6
8
(12)
8
(9)
Rank Team Pundits Crunchers
9
(6)
Steelers
8-6-1
12
(8)
9
(7)
10
(10)
Colts
9-6
10
(9)
10
(10)
11
(9)
Texans
10-5
9
(6)
12
(10)
12
(12)
Vikings
8-6-1
13
(13)
11
(12)
13
(13)
Cowboys
9-6
11
(11)
15
(16)
14
(15)
Eagles
8-7
15
(15)
13
(15)
15
(14)
Titans
9-6
14
(14)
14
(14)
16
(18)
Packers
6-8-1
17
(19)
16
(18)
Rank Team Pundits Crunchers
17
(19)
Browns
7-7-1
16
(16)
20
(21)
18
(20)
Falcons
6-9
19
(22)
18
(19)
19
(16)
Broncos
6-9
22
(20)
17
(13)
20
(17)
Panthers
6-9
21
(18)
19
(17)
21
(23)
Giants
5-10
22
(23)
21
(20)
22
(22)
Redskins
7-8
20
(21)
24
(23)
23
(21)
Dolphins
7-8
18
(17)
28
(27)
24
(24)
Buccaneers
5-10
25
(26)
23
(22)
Rank Team Pundits Crunchers
25
(28)
Jaguars
5-10
29
(30)
22
(25)
26
(25)
Bengals
i6-9
26
(24)
25
(26)
27
(26)
Lions
5-10
27
(27)
26
(24)
28
(27)
Bills
5-10
24
(25)
31
(30)
29
(29)
49ers
4-11
28
(28)
29
(29)
30
(30)
Jets
4-11
30
(29)
27
(28)
31
(31)
Raiders
4-11
31
(31)
30
(31)
32
(32)
Cardinals
3-12
32
(32)
32
(32)
Numbers in parentheses are the previous week's ranking.
The left-hand column is the average of all rankings.
Other questions?
Read the True Power Rankings Methodology

Since the Chiefs held steady with both the pundits and the crunchers, it’s therefore no surprise that they remain in third place in this week’s combined rankings.

There aren’t a lot of big movers in the combined rankings. The biggest difference between the pundits and the crunchers is the Miami Dolphins, a team that is ranked 10 spots higher by the pundits. But this is hardly new. As we see here, when compared to the crunchers, the pundits have been overvaluing the Dolphins since about halfway through the season.

The big spike with the pundits (of course) followed the Dolphins’ last-second victory over the New England Patriots in Week 14. It’s hard to blame the pundits for being excited about that, but the following week’s beatdown by the Minnesota Vikings — and this week’s loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars — brought most of the pundits back to Planet Earth.

Interestingly, though, both of the poll-based pundit rankings — ESPN and MMQB — still see the Dolphins are an average team.

And now, here’s your weekly reality check.

Cruncher Grades for Week 17

Chiefs AFC West Teams Other AFC Teams

Team AvgGrade Elo DVOA SRS PE
Saints
13-2
B+
(B+)
A-
(A-)
B
(B)
A-
(A-)
B+
(B+)
Chiefs
11-4
B
(B)
B
(B)
B+
(A-)
B
(B)
B-
(B-)
Rams
12-3
B
(B-)
B-
(B-)
B
(B)
B
(B)
B-
(B-)
Ravens
9-6
B-
(B-)
B-
(C+)
B-
(B-)
B-
(B-)
B-
(B-)
Bears
11-4
B-
(B-)
C+
(C+)
B-
(B-)
C+
(B-)
B
(B)
Chargers
11-4
B-
(B-)
C+
(B-)
B
(B)
C+
(B-)
C+
(B-)
Patriots
10-5
C+
(C+)
B-
(B-)
C+
(C+)
C+
(C+)
C+
(C+)
Steelers
8-6-1
C+
(C+)
C+
(B-)
C+
(C+)
B-
(C+)
C+
(C+)
Team AvgGrade Elo DVOA SRS PE
Seahawks
9-6
C+
(C+)
C+
(C+)
C+
(C+)
C+
(C+)
C+
(C+)
Colts
9-6
C+
(C+)
C+
(C)
C+
(C+)
C+
(C+)
C+
(C+)
Texans
10-5
C+
(C+)
C
(C+)
C
(C)
C+
(C+)
C+
(C+)
Vikings
8-6-1
C+
(C)
C+
(C+)
C+
(C+)
C
(C)
C+
(C)
Titans
9-6
C
(C)
C+
(C+)
C
(C)
C
(C)
C+
(C)
Eagles
8-7
C
(C)
C+
(C+)
C
(C)
C
(C)
C
(C)
Cowboys
9-6
C
(C)
C+
(C+)
C-
(C)
C
(C)
C
(C)
Packers
6-8-1
C
(C)
C
(C-)
C
(C+)
C
(C)
C
(C)
Team AvgGrade Elo DVOA SRS PE
Falcons
6-9
C
(C)
C
(C)
C
(C)
C
(C)
C
(C)
Broncos
6-9
C
(C)
C-
(C)
C+
(C+)
C
(C)
C
(C)
Panthers
6-9
C
(C)
C-
(C)
C
(C)
C
(C)
C
(C)
Browns
7-7-1
C
(C-)
C-
(C-)
C
(C-)
C
(C)
C-
(C-)
Giants
5-10
C-
(C-)
C-
(C-)
C
(C)
C-
(C-)
C-
(C-)
Jaguars
5-10
C-
(C-)
C-
(C-)
C
(C)
C-
(C-)
C-
(C-)
Buccaneers
5-10
C-
(C-)
C-
(C-)
C-
(C-)
C-
(C-)
C-
(C-)
Redskins
7-8
C-
(C-)
C-
(C-)
C-
(C-)
C-
(C-)
C-
(C-)
Team AvgGrade Elo DVOA SRS PE
Bengals
i6-9
C-
(C-)
D+
(C-)
C-
(C-)
C-
(C-)
C-
(C-)
Lions
5-10
C-
(C-)
C-
(C-)
D+
(D+)
C-
(C-)
C-
(C-)
Dolphins
7-8
D+
(C-)
D+
(C-)
C-
(C-)
D+
(D+)
D+
(C-)
49ers
4-11
D+
(C-)
D+
(D+)
D+
(D+)
C-
(D+)
C-
(C-)
Jets
4-11
D+
(D+)
D
(D)
C-
(C-)
D+
(D+)
C-
(C-)
Raiders
4-11
D
(D)
D+
(D-)
D+
(D+)
D
(D-)
D
(D-)
Bills
5-10
D
(D)
D+
(D+)
D
(D)
D
(D)
D-
(D)
Cardinals
3-12
F+
(F+)
D-
(D)
F
(F)
F+
(F+)
F+
(F+)
Grades in parentheses are the previous week's grade.
Other questions?
Read the True Power Rankings Methodology

As we have seen for a number of weeks now, five or six teams (including the Chiefs) remained grouped at the top, a handful of teams are clustered at the bottom, and there’s a whole-lotta-mediocre going on in between.

Put any of these top teams against each other on a neutral field, and it would be very hard to reliably pick a winner. The playoffs promise to be interesting.

Snark of the week

Didn’t see a lot of first-quality clever snark from the pundits this week, so we’ll close with a trio of comments about the Denver Broncos — just because we can. Mile High Report’s Pete Baron surely didn’t think we’d let the Broncos off the hook easily after his comments this week about the Chiefs!

Nate Davis, USA Today

A few weeks ago, they looked primed for a playoff push. Now Vance Joseph is officially lording over Denver’s first consecutive losing campaigns since 1972.

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News

The Broncos won’t be able to save Vance Joseph’s job, especially after that loss to the Raiders on Monday night. But it would be nice for once if John Elway realized the groceries in Denver are not favorable for any coach to make a gourmet meal.

Mark Maske, Washington Post

If anyone in a Broncos uniform was particularly interested Monday night in trying to save Coach Vance Joseph’s job, it wasn’t evident.

Just one week to go. Let’s enjoy the Week 17 games, and on Tuesday, we’ll start the New Year with our final round of calculations.