NFL Power Rankings heading into 2018’s fourth quarter
I usually like to do my power rankings after the first four weeks, where I feel like I have a beat on who these teams are, and then with about four games left, because I can already look ahead to potential playoff implications and how I think these squads could perform down the stretch. At this point of the season the records of all these teams are pretty indicative of where they stack up against each other, but that makes it even more crucial to compare teams with the same records, because not all schedules are built the same and not all teams are as good or bad as they seem like on paper.
For the purpose of this edition I wanted to focus on the teams in the actual playoff race, so the criteria for me to analyze them more exclusively was to have at least five wins on the record, because I think you have to be at least 9-7 in both conferences to earn a Wild Card spot. With that being said, here are my power rankings heading into a crucial week 14:
#1 Los Angeles Rams (11-1)
The Rams are back at the one spot! When I did my power rankings after the first quarter of the season they were an easy choice as one of the only two 4-0 teams and now I have to put them at the top once again as the only one-loss team in the league. They are not blowing teams out the way they were earlier this year, but they have scored 29 or more in six straight games and they have won big matchups against the Seahawks and Chiefs before winning in Detroit last Sunday. Todd Gurley is heating back up after they underutilized him against New Orleans and Kansas City and they need to keep him as the focal point of that offense.
However, I also think Jared Goff has really grown in his second season under Sean McVay, making big-time throws down the field and going tit-for-tat with guys like Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson. The loss of Cooper Kupp was huge for them, because he was the volume pass-catcher for them and a security blanket out of the slot, but they have made their 11 personnel work with Josh Reynolds in the lineup and they have gotten their tight-ends a little more involved in the passing attack. I have talked about it a lot, but McVay’s ability to give a defense one look and run so many different plays off it that all look similar is incredible. That’s why his offense is so hard to defend and doesn’t just die out like some of those gimmicky groups.
To be honest, the defense has not nearly been as good as many expected them to be with all those additions in the offseason, but they clearly have the best defensive and probably overall player in football on that unit. Aaron Donald has been absolutely ridiculous after a rather slow start through the first three weeks. He has recorded at least two sacks in six different games and he comes up with them, plus often times strips the ball loose, in the biggest moments.
The Rams also got Aquib Talib back, who could make them look more like they did at the start of the year because he makes things easier for all the other cover-guys on that unit. I trust this offense, the defense should get better under Wade Phillips’ guidance and their special teams are among the best in the league. With that being said, I want them to get that number one seed because otherwise, they will probably have to travel to my number two team’s place, where they lost their only game.