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2020 NFL Power Rankings: Week Seventeen

One week left!

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to final week of the regular season!

With week sixteen now open and shut and a playoff picture that will go through an identity crisis at least eight more times before finalizing, the end is now in sight. The power rankings have been more chaotic than I could have ever expected entering the last two games of the season, which I’ll happily accept since it means more meaningful football. The Texans, despite a train wreck of a season, will be able to take part in the season finale of the playoff carousel spectacular by hosting the Titans, who are in must-win position. One final chance to redeem that week six loss and play spoiler to team that feels like it should be better than their record indicates. For as good as Derrick Henry, Ryan Tannehill, and the rest of that Tennessee offense has been, they need to win their last game in order to sneak into the postseason.

Why not end the season with a bang? Let Watson pilot the offense and do absolutely whatever he wants for the entire game, it’s only fair with what he’s had to deal with this year alone. A last few touchdowns to put an exclamation point on his fantastic season despite it all. Maybe line David Johnson up at wide receiver the entire game and just see what happens, you know? Put Kahale Warring and Isaiah Coulter in for the entire game, lets get crazy!

After O’Brien was fired, I thought it should be a high priority for the interim staff to give rookies and young players plenty of playing time to both display their own coaching prowess and increase the attractiveness of the Texans’ coaching and managing positions that will need to be filled during the offseason. Instead, the Texans are ranked near the bottom of the league in rookie snap-percentage, giving whatever incoming staff little to no information on what their youngest players have. I guess I shouldn’t expect much good will to an organization that is going to be showing them the door at the end of the year, but they’re certainly not making the next person’s job any easier. Tennessee is the last chance to flush all those mistakes away in a warm wave of Tennessee flavored vitriol, scented with the uniquely disgusting odor of Mike Vrabel’s mustache sweat and shattered dreams at the one yard line.

Where were we last year? Winning the AFC South with a strong showing against Tampa Bay. Jamies Winston, still seeking the illustrious 30 TDs 30 INTs season, gave our defense plenty of opportunities to pad their stats. This victory would give O’Brien and Watson their second AFC South title in a row and their second double-digit win season, meaning they could rest their starters against the season finale vs. Tennessee. Here’s what Dan Hanzus of had to say about us after that game:

7. Houston Texans (10-5)

Previous Rank: 9

The Texans are AFC South champions for the fourth time in five years after Saturday’s 23-20 win over the Buccaneers. It wasn’t a pretty day for a Houston offense that struggled to move the ball on the ground against Tampa Bay’s stout run D and saw a host of uncharacteristic misses from Deshaun Watson in the passing game. The quarterback was seen reaching for his right ankle repeatedly during the game, which makes you wonder how much playing time (if any) Watson will see in the regular-season finale. On Monday, Texans coach Bill O’Brien said ”we are playing to win” and that the starters won’t rest. We’ll see. We won’t see Will Fuller until the playoffs after the injury-prone wideout suffered another soft tissue injury. “He is a great guy and I love coaching him, but it is hard for him to stay healthy — that’s the bottom line,” O’Brien said in a blunt postgame assessment. The Texans aren’t the same with Fuller on the sidelines.

We had our fun, we paid dearly for our sins, and now it’s time to play spoiler against one of the most dangerous offenses in the league. Here’s what the analysts of the media world think about the Texans after losing to the BENGALS:


29. Houston Texans (4-11)

Week 16 ranking: 30

New Year’s resolution: Find the right general manager and head coach for Deshaun Watson

This should be the singular goal for the Texans as they interview general managers and head coaches now and in the new year. Watson took a step forward in 2020, putting up the best numbers of his career despite losing DeAndre Hopkins in a trade during the offseason, then losing Will Fuller V to a six-game suspension during the season. The Texans’ 4-11 record doesn’t reflect how well Watson has played, and the new hires Houston makes need to reflect what is best, not only to help continue Watson’s growth but also to build the right team around him. — Sarah Barshop


28. Houston Texans (4-11)

Previous rank: No. 28

J.J. Watt has had enough. “If you can’t come in and put work in in the building, go out to the practice field and work hard, do your lifts and do what you’re supposed to do, you should not be here.” That was just part of the impassioned rant by the future Hall of Famer after another ugly Texans loss in a season Watt said has been the most difficult of his 10-year career. Watt’s frustration speaks to a culture issue inside the Houston facility, and it will be on the next head coach and general manager to correct it. Will Watt be part of that future in Houston? He’s a today player on a tomorrow team, but removing his leadership from the building could set the Texans back even further.


27. Houston Texans (4-11)

The defense is awful right now. They can’t even slow down a backup quarterback in Brandon Allen. On to next season.


28. Texans (No. 27; 4-11): J.J. Watt‘s stirring message will resonate well in the locker room … of the new team he joins in 2021.


31. Houston Texans (4-11)


30. Houston Texans (4–11)

Last week: Loss vs. Cincinnati 37–31

Next week: vs. Tennessee

How can a team with Deshaun Watson on one side of the ball and J.J. Watt on the other end up this embarrassingly ba—oh, that’s how. Well, the good news is that TV keeps showing shots of the owner watching the games—or at least appearing to watch the games—so he knows what’s going on. Probably.


30. Houston Texans (4-11)

High: 28

Low: 31

Last Week: 28

Week 16 Result: Lost 37-31 vs. Cincinnati

J.J. Watt has had it.

After the Texans gave up a staggering 540 yards of offense to a bad Cincinnati Bengals team, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year went off, criticizing the effort level of his teammates and offering an apology to the Houston fanbase:

“There are people every week that still tweet you, that still come up to you and say, ‘Hey, we’re still rooting for you; we’re still behind you.’ They have no reason whatsoever to. We stink. But they care and they still want to win and they still want you to be great. That’s why. Those people aren’t getting paid. We’re getting paid handsomely. That’s why. And that’s ... that’s who I feel the most bad for, is our fans and the people who care so deeply and the city and the people who love it and who truly want it to be great. And it’s not. And that sucks as a player to know that we’re not giving them what they deserve.”

He’s not wrong. The Houston defense has been hot garbage most of this season. But it was still jarring to see a player who has been a face of the franchise for as long as Watt has just unload on his own team—especially since there’s a real chance next week’s meaningless finale will be his last game with Houston.


29. Houston Texans (4-11, LW: 25)

David Johnson had 128 rushing yards and two total touchdowns on Sunday. It’s unfortunate that he’ll be known as a player who had one unbelievable year and then was the guy Houston got for DeAndre Hopkins. He still has talent and maybe if he can stay healthy he can have another nice season, whether it’s in Houston or elsewhere.

With that loss, we have SUNK. Some have ranked even the Jets above us! We’re almost there, almost hit the very bottom of the pit! Just need to throw up a stinker against the Titans and have the Jaguars upset the Colts again and we’ll be sniffing the rancid floor of this season! But honestly, this is how I want things to shake out: We get Revenge (capital “R”) on the Titans and keep them out of the playoffs and finish 5-11. Miami uses our sixth overall pick (or whatever it would be) to select quarterback Zach Wilson from BYU, signaling their distrust in Tua. They trade Tua shortly afterwards to Indianapolis, who we have to face twice a year. The AFC South quarterback room is now: Deshaun Watson, Ryan Tannehill, Trevor Lawrence, and Tua Tagovailoa. Welcome to hell! It’s just the perfect formula to cause as much chaos as possible, especially for the Texans who now have themselves to blame for giving Indy a new quarterback they can work their magic on. It absolutely won’t happen, but it almost feels like it should just to make life harder. What’s more likely is Miami spends that pick on a lineman and give Tua a full year before making any decisions, and the Colts either resign Rivers, start Jacob Eason, or use an early pick on Mac Jones/Trey Lance/Kyle Trask. Pick your position, honestly. I’m losing my mind. Here’s my power rankings entering the final week of the final season:

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (Last Week: 1)
  2. Buffalo Bills (Last Week: 2)
  3. Green Bay Packers (Last Week: 3)
  4. New Orleans Saints (Last Week: 4)
  5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Last Week: 5)
  6. Pittsburgh Steelers (Last Week: 6)
  7. Miami Dolphins (Last Week: 7)
  8. Seattle Seahawks (Last Week: 12)
  9. Cleveland Browns (Last Week: 8)
  10. Los Angeles Rams (Last Week: 9)
  11. Baltimore Ravens (Last Week: 13)
  12. Tennessee Titans (Last Week: 11)
  13. Indianapolis Colts (Last Week: 10)
  14. Chicago Bears (Last Week: 15)
  15. Arizona Cardinals (Last Week: 14)
  16. Las Vegas Raiders (Last Week: 16)
  17. Los Angeles Chargers (Last Week: 20)
  18. Minnesota Vikings (Last Week: 17)
  19. Washington Football Team (Last Week: 18)
  20. Dallas Cowboys (Last Week: 24)
  21. Atlanta Falcons (Last Week: 23)
  22. New England Patriots (Last Week: 19)
  23. Philadelphia Eagles (Last Week: 21)
  24. New York Giants (Last Week: 22)
  25. San Francisco 49ers (Last Week: 28)
  26. Carolina Panthers (Last Week: 27)
  27. Cincinnati Bengals (Last Week: 29)
  28. Denver Broncos (Last Week: 26)
  29. Houston Texans (Last Week: 25)
  30. New York Jets (Last Week: 31)
  31. Detroit Lions (Last Week: 30)
  32. Jacksonville Jaguars (Last Week: 32)

You lose to the Bengals, you go down. You lose to the Bengals playing their backup quarterback? You’re going to the bottom, buster! I saved the Steelers from that fate last week because I was convinced they’d eventually come out of their funk on offense, which they did (a contributing factor may have also been my fandom of the Steelers, who I’ve grown up supporting). The Texans, however, have not earned the same privileges since they have sucked all year, so they get the stomping. Couldn’t justify putting them below the Jets, though.

Mitchell Trubisky continues his comeback story and has the Bears in position for a playoff birth. They likely still can’t beat the Packers unless they rest their starters, so Chicago will be hoping the Rams can pull a victory out of their hats without Jared Goff, who is now officially out for the season finale. I’ve mentioned before my strange affinity to Trubisky, and would be genuinely excited to see him make the playoffs after being written off in the middle of the year. Dwayne Haskins played so poorly in a game where redemption was on the line that he got benched for Taylor Heinicke and released the next day. Another very odd storyline for a former first round pick that many scouts believed was a guaranteed starter in the NFL. Jalen Hurts had his first odd showing of his young career, where he made plenty of good throws and plenty of bad ones, which closed the door on the Eagles reviving a season cursed by Wentz. As the season comes to its final week, there’s still plenty of potential energy, waiting to be expunged from the NFC.

On the other side of the league, the AFC playoff picture continues to get more confusing by the week. At week fourteen, it appeared things were going to begin to round into shape, but things have seriously only gotten stranger, and will only grow more so in the finale. If it weren’t for the season ending, it feels like this extremely weird and entertaining playoff marry-go-round would never end. We got the Raiders collapsing in the second half of the season, showing up against the surprise contender Dolphins and taking the lead in the final moments by not falling into the end zone and burning time, seeing Fitzmagic make the play of his life and saving the Dolphins’ season, watched the Browns lose to the Jets (without ANY of their receivers), the Steelers comeback against the Colts to push them outside of the playoff picture, and watched the Patriots and Titans get the snot beaten out of them on national television which’ll give both the Dolphins and the Bears a better chance at winning next week. I haven’t been watching football this much for very long, but I can’t remember the last time the last week of football was so important to so many teams. Literally half of the entire NFL playoffs will be decided this Sunday, so buckle up for a wild ride. I like the chances of the Titans, Dolphins, Ravens, and Browns getting in over Indy on the AFC side (I think Houston will make it interesting against Tennessee, but Henry will literally run us over into the playoffs if need be), and think Washington, Los Angeles, and Arizona will find their way in over Chicago (Washington win, Arizona win, Chicago loss). I believe Chicago absolutely deserves to get in over Arizona, but they won’t be able to beat Green Bay’s starters who will be in to keep their #1 spot over Seattle, and L.A. won’t be able to keep up with Arizona with John Wolford or Bryce Perkins at quarterback. I think it will be a good game since the Rams defense will be able to stop Arizona from doing much at all, but the Rams running game will have to ball out if they want to win that game.

Who knows, though? There’s been plenty of surprises this season already, and I don’t expect week seventeen to be any different. This has been a year of reflection and inner turmoil for the entire world, and it only makes sense that the NFL is a mirror for us to gaze into. The end of the year means a time to embrace ourselves and learn from our mistakes next year, a time to reset and move forward, and for many teams (including ours), that moment can’t come soon enough. Life goes on. I’ll see you all next year for the final power rankings of the regular season. Let us know what you think is gonna happen to cap off this crazy year!

Follow me on Twitter: @FizzyJoe