NFL Power Rankings: Rams end season as unanimous No. 1. Other teams weren’t so easy to slot

Inglewood, CA - February 13:  Cooper Kupp, left, and Matthew Stafford of the Los Angeles Rams celebrate after the Rams defeat the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 in the NFL Super Bowl LVI football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, on Sunday, February 13, 2022. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)
By Lindsay Jones Feb 16, 2022 117
It wasn’t hard to decide who belonged at No. 1 in The Athletic’s final NFL Power Rankings for the 2021 season. Spoiler alert: Congrats to the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams for their unanimous selection.

Other decisions weren’t quite so easy for our voting panel of NFL writers and editors. Nine teams hired new head coaches in the past month. Tom Brady retired, and Sean Payton decided to take at least a one-year break from coaching. Neither the Packers nor the Titans, both No. 1 seeds, won a playoff game. Two No. 4 seeds, the Rams and the Bengals, made the Super Bowl.

All of these developments impact how we view the season, and what comes next.

Before we get into our final rankings, a few notable takeaways from our staff vote:

• The Bengals are second, but not unanimously. Two voters even ranked the Bengals at No. 4. Still, they climbed six spots since our last vote, tied with — who else? — the Rams, for the biggest jump.

• The three teams with the biggest falls shouldn’t be a surprise. The Packers and Cowboys each dropped four spots after losing to the 49ers in the postseason, and the Titans fell three places after losing to the Bengals in the divisional round.

• For the second consecutive year, the Jaguars end the season in the bottom spot. But they get a fresh start in 2022 with new coach Doug Pederson and they own the No. 1 pick. We hope, for their sake, we’re not talking about them completing a three-peat after next season.