Who saw that one coming?
Really, the Bengals weren’t even supposed to be the best team in Ohio when the season began. But the Cleveland Browns’ collapse is a different story.
Joe Burrow has 971 passing yards, eight touchdowns and zero interceptions in the last two games, vaulting to the top of any conversation about the best young quarterbacks in the game. The Bengals are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2015 and could rest Burrow’s injured leg next week with home-field advantage for the Wild Card round already secure.
Here are The Post’s power rankings for Week 18:
1. Green Bay Packers, 13-3 (2)
The NFC’s road to Super Bowl LVI will go through chilly Lambeau Field after the Packers avenged one of their three losses by beating the Vikings and clinching the No. 1 seed, a bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Rodgers completed 20 of his first 25 passes with two touchdowns to build a 20-3 halftime lead.
2. Los Angeles Rams, 12-4 (3)
Bad Matthew Stafford: Committed three turnovers that helped put the Rams in a nine-point hole after three quarters. Good Matthew Stafford: Led two fourth-quarter touchdown drives, converting a fourth down to Odell Beckham Jr. before the two connected again on the winning score in the final minute. The Rams clinch the NFC West with a win Sunday.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 12-4 (5)
“Addition by subtraction” is an overused phrase in sports, but it might be the truth in the case of parting ways with Antonio Brown, whose latest me-before-team action got him kicked off the Buccaneers and left off the team plane home from New Jersey. The Bucs turned a fourth-down red-zone stand into a 93-yard game-winning touchdown drive to edge the Jets.
4. Kansas City Chiefs, 11-5 (1)
The Chiefs’ eight-game winning streak was snapped by the Bengals, and they fell out of the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The defense, which righted the ship after a terrible start to the season, couldn’t hold leads of 14-0, 21-7 and 28-14, but nearly had a goal-line stand to keep the score tied until offsetting penalties allowed a fourth-down do-over.
5. Arizona Cardinals, 11-5 (7)
Beneficiaries of a controversial no-fumble call just before the two-minute warning, the Cardinals snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the Cowboys. Kyler Murray improved to 8-0 in his lifetime as a starting quarterback at Dallas’ AT&T Stadium (2-0 in the NFL) with a pair of touchdown passes to Antoine Wesley.
6. Tennessee Titans, 11-5 (8)
Ryan Tannehill threw two touchdowns against his former team as the Titans trounced the surging Dolphins to win the AFC South for the second straight year, a franchise-first since leaving Houston. Even without Derrick Henry, the Titans remain a ground-and-pound style, with 132 yards and a touchdown from D’Onta Foreman. They can clinch the No. 1 seed with a win Sunday.
7. Cincinnati Bengals, 10-6 (9)
Picked to finish last in the NFC North before the season, the Bengals are division champions. Zac Taylor should be the Coach of the Year for decisions like not kicking a field goal from the one-yard line in a tie game against the explosive Chiefs. JaMarr Chase set the rookie record for receiving yards (1,429) in a season and scored three touchdowns.
8. Dallas Cowboys, 11-5 (6)
Only one team in the NFL is undefeated within its division. So, are the Cowboys really a Super Bowl contender? Or are they inflated by a 5-0 mark against the once-again lowly NFC East? Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard were bottled up for 25 yards on 12 carries in a loss to the Cardinals.
9. Indianapolis Colts, 9-7 (4)
An 8-2 stretch put the Colts in a favorable position to reach the playoffs. And they still will be in with a win next week against the hapless Jaguars. But they were cooled off by the Raiders, who kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired. Jonathan Taylor upped his NFL-leading total to 1,734 rushing yards.
10. Buffalo Bills, 10-6 (10)
How about this for a stunner? The overly pass-reliant Bills rode their rushing attack to a playoff berth, as Devin Singletary ran for 110 yards and two touchdowns to overcome Josh Allen’s three interceptions against the Falcons. If the Bills beat the Jets, they win the AFC East and host a playoff game.
11. New England Patriots, 10-6 (11)
12. San Francisco 49ers, 9-7 (12)
13. Las Vegas Raiders, 9-7 (16)
14. Los Angeles Chargers, 9-7 (14)
15. Philadelphia Eagles, 9-7 (15)
16. Miami Dolphins, 8-8 (13)
17. New Orleans Saints, 8-8 (20)
18. Pittsburgh Steelers 8-7-1 (18)
19. Baltimore Ravens, 8-8 (17)
20. Cleveland Browns, 7-9 (19)
21. Minnesota Vikings, 7-9 (21)
22. Atlanta Falcons, 7-9 (22)
23. Denver Broncos, 7-9 (23)
24. Chicago Bears, 6-10 (24)
25. Seattle Seahawks, 6-10 (26)
26. Washington Football Team, 6-10 (25)
27. Carolina Panthers, 5-10 (27)
28. New York Jets, 4-12 (28)
The Jets are improving at the end of coach Robert Saleh’s first season. Most importantly, rookie quarterback Zach Wilson played his best game against a tough Buccaneers defense and was not scared by going head-to-head with Tom Brady. Of course, Brady got the last laugh, improving to 30-7 in his career against the Jets.
29. Houston Texans, 4-12 (29)
30. New York Giants, 4-12 (30)
The Giants finished with negative-10 net passing yards (24 gained, 34 lost on sacks) against the not-very-good Bears. It was the worst performance in the NFL since the 1998 Chargers. Mike Glennon had as many completions as turnovers (four of each). Even the special teams –coach Joe Judge’s forte – is making silly mistakes.
31. Detroit Lions, 2-13-1 (31)
32. Jacksonville Jaguars, 2-14 (32)
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