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Week 18 NFL power rankings: Chiefs rise to second place

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The Raiders might not be a very good team, but the Chiefs’ lopsided victory caught the attention of the national scribes

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

With their 35-3 win over the Oakland Raiders, the Kansas City Chiefs secured the AFC West and the number one AFC seed in the postseason — plus a little bit of respect from the national writers. In the final week of our aggregated pundit power rankings, the Chiefs move up into second place.

With the end of the season, some writers — notably Vinnie Iyer from Sporting News — did not publish a year-end list. So we have dropped Sporting News from this week’s pundit rankings model, but below you will find Iyer’s comment from his evaluation of the chance each of the 12 playoff teams has to win the Super Bowl.

In case you haven’t noticed, SBNation has been out of the pundit model since Week 14, when Rebecca Toback’s traditional power ranking list gave way to a weekly ranking of teams based on which was the most entertaining to watch, which team was the best in comeback situations... well, we just decided to stop paying attention before they got to which quarterback was the handsomest.

So here’s how the pundits see the NFL after the end of the regular season.

Pundit Power Rankings for Week 18

Chiefs AFC West Teams Other AFC Teams

Rank Team ESPN MMQB NFL Yahoo CBS USA
1
(1)
Saints (1)
13-3
1
(1)
1
(1)
1
(1)
1
(1)
1
(1)
1
(1)
2
(3)
Chiefs (1)
12-4
2
(3)
2
(5)
4
(4)
4
(4)
3
(3)
4
(5)
3
(4)
Bears (3)
12-4
4
(5)
3
(5)
2
(2)
3
(3)
4
(4)
2
(2)
4
(2)
Rams (2)
13-3
3
(2)
5
(2)
3
(3)
2
(2)
2
(2)
3
(3)
5
(5)
Patriots (2)
11-5
6
(6)
4
(3)
5
(7)
5
(6)
5
(5)
7
(8)
6
(6)
Chargers (5)
12-4
5
(4)
8
(8)
7
(6)
6
(5)
7
(7)
6
(4)
7
(7)
Ravens (4)
10-6
8
(8)
6
(4)
6
(5)
9
(9)
6
(6)
5
(6)
8
(10)
Colts (6)
10-6
10
(10)
7
(13)
8
(8)
11
(13)
8
(8)
8
(7)
Rank Team ESPN MMQB NFL Yahoo CBS USA
9
(9)
Texans (3)
11-5
7
(7)
13
(14)
9
(10)
7
(7)
11
(11)
10
(10)
10
(8)
Seahawks (5)
10-6
9
(9)
11
(7)
10
(9)
10
(10)
10
(10)
9
(9)
11
(11)
Cowboys (4)
10-6
11
(12)
10
(9)
11
(13)
8
(8)
9
(9)
11
(11)
12
(15)
Eagles (6)
9-7
12
(15)
9
(11)
12
(15)
12
(15)
12
(14)
12
(14)
13
(12)
Steelers
9-6-1
13
(11)
12
(10)
13
(11)
13
(11)
14
(15)
13
(15)
14
(14)
Titans
9-7
15
(14)
14
(15)
15
(14)
14
(12)
13
(13)
17
(13)
15
(13)
Vikings
-7-1
14
(13)
16
(12)
14
(12)
16
(14)
15
(12)
15
(12)
16
(16)
Browns
7-8-1
16
(16)
15
(16)
16
(16)
15
(16)
16
(16)
14
(16)
Rank Team ESPN MMQB NFL Yahoo CBS USA
17
(19)
Falcons
7-9
20
(21)
17
(18)
17
(19)
17
(21)
17
(19)
16
(18)
18
(17)
Packers
6-9-1
18
(17)
17
(19)
21
(17)
20
(18)
18
(17)
18
(17)
19
(21)
Panthers
7-9
17
(19)
19
(20)
23
(27)
19
(22)
23
(23)
20
(30)
20
(22)
Giants
5-11
23
(23)
21
(24)
20
(22)
25
(24)
25
(22)
19
(19)
21
(18)
Dolphins
7-9
19
(18)
20
(17)
29
(26)
22
(19)
21
(20)
32
(23)
22
(24)
Bills
6-10
27
(28)
22
(22)
18
(20)
21
(20)
20
(25)
22
(25)
23
(27)
Lions
6-10
24
(26)
24
(29)
19
(21)
24
(25)
24
(26)
28
(29)
24
(22)
Broncos
6-10
21
(20)
25
(23)
28
(25)
27
(27)
22
(21)
26
(26)
Rank Team ESPN MMQB NFL Yahoo CBS USA
25
(20)
Redskins
7-9
22
(22)
30
(21)
22
(18)
18
(17)
19
(18)
31
(22)
26
(25)
Buccaneers
5-11
25
(24)
23
(25)
27
(29)
23
(23)
29
(29)
29
(21)
27
(26)
Bengals
6-10
26
(25)
27
(25)
26
(28)
28
(30)
26
(24)
25
(31)
28
(28)
49ers
4-12
29
(29)
28
(27)
24
(23)
30
(29)
27
(27)
21
(20)
29
(30)
Jets
4-12
30
(30)
26
(28)
31
(31)
26
(26)
31
(31)
24
(24)
30
(29)
Jaguars
5-11
28
(27)
29
(30)
30
(30)
29
(28)
28
(28)
27
(27)
31
(31)
Raiders
4-12
31
(31)
31
(31)
25
(24)
31
(31)
30
(30)
23
(28)
32
(32)
Cardinals
3-13
32
(32)
32
(32)
32
(32)
32
(32)
32
(32)
30
(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 have had to say about the Chiefs so far this week:

ESPN (2nd from 3rd)

New Year's resolution: End a postseason losing streak at Arrowhead Stadium that now is at six games over 25 years. The Chiefs have lost one of those games by one point, one by two points, one by three points and one by four points. They averaged 13.5 points in those four losses. They'll do better in quarterback Patrick Mahomes' first postseason game, but will they be able to outscore what their feeble defense gives up?

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

The Chiefs weren't challenged much on Sunday. I dare you to score 45 on us by the third quarter!!! -- Raiders. OK, maybe that's going a little far. But Kansas City found an easy path to home-field advantage. Because your friendly writer's dad was a lifelong Chiefs fan (they were founded as the Dallas Texans in 1960), this space would have rather seen Andy Reid's group challenged a wee bit more in classic Oakland-K.C. fashion. You know, as prep for the franchise's most important postseason appearance in 49 years. That said, tip your cap to Patrick Mahomes, who reached 5,000 yards passing and 50 touchdowns in only his second season in the bigs. Bill Kenney never did that.

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

Not that the Raiders’ offense is great, but the Chiefs defense looked very good in a 35-3 Week 17 win. It’ll be a lot tougher facing the Ravens, Chargers or Colts in the divisional round, but if the Chiefs get anywhere near that level of performance by the defense in the playoffs, they’ll be just fine.

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

Patrick Mahomes should be the MVP and has his team as the top seed in the AFC. Even the defense was making plays against the Raiders.

USA Today (Nate Davis - 4th from 5th)

Finally completed quest for AFC's top seed. But what do they do with it given they've lost six consecutive playoff games at Arrowhead?

Other power rankings we noticed this week

Sporting News (Vinnie Iyer — 2nd best chance to win Super Bowl) The Chiefs haven’t won multiple games in a single playoff run since 1993. They are 1-9 since, including consecutive one-and-dones at home against the Titans and Steelers the past two years. But none of those teams had a quarterback as great as likely NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes, their best QB since Joe Montana. The explosive tuneup against Oakland with big-time defense, too, was a good sign that Andy Reid’s team is finally in for a deep run with home-field advantage. They are not invincible at Arrowhead Stadium, but their edge isn’t far from what the Saints will enjoy in the NFC.

Bleeding Green Nation (Brandon Lee Gowton — 9th from 9th) This might be too low for the Chiefs but you can’t help but wonder if Andy Reid is going to fail to get over the hump once again.

Houston Chronicle (John McClain — 4th from 4th) The Chiefs’ victory over the Raiders gave them the AFC West title, a first-round bye and home-field advantage through the playoffs.

NBCSports.com (Scott Bair — 4th from 4th) Chiefs own the AFC West, and won their third straight division title Sunday by beating the Raiders. There’s a lot more where that came from with presumptive MVP Pat Mahomes’ career just getting started. 50 and 5,000 in his first year as a start? Goodness Gracious.

Omnisport (Kirstie Chiappelli — 2nd from 4th) Patrick Mahomes is eager to put the cherry on top of his historic campaign by leading his high-octane offense to the championship game for the first time since 1970.


For the last few weeks, the national pundits — and Chiefs fans — have found the Chiefs puzzling. Are they a team on the verge of a deep playoff run, or do the losses to the Los Angeles Chargers and Seattle Seahawks — not to mention the narrow win against the Baltimore Ravens — show that the team is deeply flawed? Despite the win against the Oakland Raiders to close the season, the pundits remain confused.

None of those in our model ranked the Chiefs obviously low — as a couple of them did last week — but some of those outside the model continue to view the Chiefs with skepticism. An interesting illustration: each week, the MMQB Power Poll shows the highest and lowest ranking given for each team among the Sports Illustrated writers contributing to the poll. Following the loss to the Seahawks, the highest ranking for the Chiefs was second, and the lowest was ninth. But following the victory against the Raiders, both the highest and lowest ranking was second; all of the writers put the Chiefs in second place.

Elsewhere, the playoff-bound Indianapolis Colts move into the upper tier for the first time this season, while the Seahawks fall out. But as a group, the pundits have all of the playoff-bound teams neatly in the top 12; there’s just disagreement as a group with how the teams should be seeded. It seems clear that the pundits — if they can get past their jitters about the Chiefs — see the Seahawks, Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles as the most likely teams to make an early exit.

Snark of the week

I know many readers haven’t been crazy about USA Today’s Nate Davis this season. He tends towards wild swings in his rankings, but his comments are often funny — and sometimes spot-on. This week — although they weren’t particularly snarky — four of them caught my eye:

Steelers

Numbers suggest Ben Roethlisberger had a career year with 5,129 passing yards and 34 TDs, but will he really want to remember this season?

Raiders

Latest roll of dice — so Vegas — is turning over all those draft picks to new GM Mike Mayock, who knows college talent but has never worked in an NFL front office.

Broncos

John Elway still insists this is a plum job, but next coach will be well aware he might end up paying for GM’s personnel mistakes.

Dolphins

Who’s the coach going to be? Who’s the quarterback going to be? Will their best player be a 36-year-old running back? Happy New Year!!


Happy New Year, indeed!

We thank you for joining us each week of the 2018 season as we took a new approach to pundit power rankings. This week, we’d like to ask you how we did. What did you like about this approach? What did you dislike? What could we do better? Are there other pundits who should included in our model — or others we should take out? Please let us know!