The Football Gods repaid their debts in full.
Both No. 1 seeds were shown the door, including a Packers team that sat atop the NFL Power Rankings for the past two months. Thanks for making me look smart, guys.
Meanwhile, it feels brutally unfair to bury the Bills after Josh Allen's heroic performance at Arrowhead, but we have a rule around these parts: The possession of power in our rankings is reserved for the teams with a path to the Lombardi Trophy. Sadly for the denizens of Western New York, the Bills have been moved off the Super Bowl Freeway until September.
We're getting close to the end of a wild ride. Buckle up.
Watch the NFL Power Rankings show with Dan and Matt "Money" Smith every Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET on NFL Network.
NOTE: Up/down arrows reflect movement from last week's NFL Power Rankings.
Previous rank: No. 3
Sometimes you need a miracle. And when you do, it's nice to have a Mahomes. The Chiefs trailed by three points deep in their own territory with 13 seconds to play against the relentless Bills, but Patrick Mahomes' ability to make the impossible possible saved the day in an unforgettable 42-36 win. Mahomes teed up Harrison Butker's game-tying field goal with two massive completions, then marched Kansas City to victory with a touchdown drive on the only possession of overtime. Andy Reid's defense was thrashed in the fourth quarter by Josh Allen -- another quarterback in the upper reaches of The Superstar Club -- but Mahomes has that special DNA trait that only the legends possess. There are days when he simply will not allow his team to lose, no matter the odds. The Chiefs' reward for a classic victory is the right to host the AFC Championship Game for the fourth consecutive year. The Bengals are another worthy challenger to the conference throne.
Previous rank: No. 7
These 49ers are a deeply resilient bunch. On Saturday night at Lambeau Field, San Francisco's special teams saved the day with two season-saving blocks -- one on a short field-goal attempt at the end of the first half, another on a fourth-quarter punt that produced the game-tying touchdown and sent the home fans at Lambeau Field into a zombie state. The Fred Warner-led Niners defense deserves credit for icing Aaron Rodgers in freezing temperatures, while Robbie Gould continues to prove himself as a playoff X-factor (20-for-20 all time in the postseason). The only thing standing in the way of a Super Bowl return is the Rams, whom the Niners have beaten six straight times. "Hopefully I can see them again," George Kittle said with a smile after San Francisco won at SoFi Stadium in Week 18 to punch a playoff ticket. "Because that was a fun body-bag game." The big tight end has his wish.
Previous rank: No. 8
For a moment there, it appeared Cam Akers and the rest of the Rams were destined to go down in playoff infamy. Thanks to a series of self-inflicted errors, the 27-3 third-quarter lead had twisted into a grotesque 27-27 tie with under a minute to play. Sean McVay was watching a slow-motion car crash from the sideline … but he still had his Cabo buddy. Last January, the coach and Matthew Stafford ran into each other at a Mexican vacation resort, a chance(?) meeting that kick-started the chain of events that would lead to the veteran quarterback finding his way out of Detroit. Now, with the walls falling in, Stafford delivered the clutch deep strike to Cooper Kupp that helped put the Rams back in the NFC Championship Game. Stafford has already delivered on the promise to unlock another level to McVay's offense -- can the QB lead his team all the way to the Super Bowl? The dreaded 49ers await.
Previous rank: No. 6
The Bengals went 31 years without winning a playoff game. Now they've won two in seven days. The 19-16 victory over the top-seeded Titans showed how Cincinnati can find a way even when the opposition dominates the trenches and turns the franchise quarterback into a rag doll. Joe Burrow was sacked nine times on Saturday, a scenario that typically leads to lopsided defeat. But Cincy's defense was equally game, and when money time arrived after Lou Anarumo's group intercepted Ryan Tannehill for a third time late in regulation -- Burrow found old friend Ja'Marr Chase for the clutch completion that set up another successful and game-winning field goal by Evan McPherson, Cincinnati's other rookie sensation. The protection of Burrow needs to be far more sound if the Bengals hope to keep up with the Chiefs on Sunday, but can you really count them out? They are the feel-good story of this NFL season.
Previous rank: No. 2
The Bills gave everything they had. They weren't intimidated by the moment, and they received perhaps the best performance by a quarterback in franchise history. Somehow, it still wasn't enough. Sunday's 42-36 overtime loss to the Chiefs was the type of defeat that can stick to the ribs of an organization for years ... decades, even. This was the season when Buffalo was supposed to get over the hump and make its long-awaited return to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, the rise of the Bills as an AFC superpower has coincided with a sustained run of greatness by a Chiefs team led by one of the best quarterbacks the game has ever seen. Will Sunday's heartbreaker at Arrowhead eventually be remembered as the last agonizing roadblock before finally reaching glory? Or was this the current group's last best chance? Allen will keep the Bills relevant for years to come, but championship windows are unpredictable and don't bend at the knee of logic. Next September, the Bills will once again be seen as a top contender -- but the journey back toward the summit will be a grind in ways both physical and mental.
Previous rank: No. 1
This Packers team was supposed to be different than the ones that failed before it in January. So why did the bitter sting of playoff disappointment arrive right on schedule? In past years, you could hang a playoff loss on Dom Capers' overmatched defense, or the Football Gods and their infatuation with Eli Manning. These Packers have a neat scapegoat in their poor special teams unit that melted down at two key junctures against the 49ers. But let's not let Aaron Rodgers off the hook. The likely NFL MVP could have put the team on his back the way we saw Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen do it at Arrowhead Stadium. Instead, the Green Bay offense seemed to tighten up with each successive possession at freezing Lambeau. The blocked punt for touchdown was the biggest gaffe of the night -- but let's not forget that Rodgers piloted the offense to a pair of three-and-outs around that catastrophic special teams error. Rodgers is a legendary player, but you can no longer look past his playoff résumé when discussing where he fits in the conversation of greatest quarterbacks ever.
Previous rank: No. 4
The Bucs nearly pulled it off. Tampa Bay had improbably and successfully dug itself out of a 27-3 hole and now only needed a defensive stop in the final 42 seconds to force overtime and give Tom Brady a chance to do his thing. But a miscommunication on an all-out blitz call had catastrophic ramifications in a 30-27 loss to the Rams. The title defense is over, and an offseason of drama begins. Earlier Sunday, reports surfaced that Brady might finally be mulling retirement. It's hard to imagine an all-time competitor like Brady going out on that loss while still remaining an MVP-level talent, but it's a reminder of how fragile the whole enterprise is in Tampa with a 44-year-old quarterback serving as the franchise lynchpin. "It's hard," Bruce Arians said after the loss. "The finality of this league's a b----." Indeed. Now the Bucs hold their breath while Brady ruminates. Stay tuned.
Previous rank: No. 5
The Titans had Derrick Henry back on the field and the passing game had both A.J. Brown and Julio Jones rested and ready for a deep playoff run. Ryan Tannehill had been the one constant on the offense through all the ups and downs of the 2021 season -- but he disappeared when it mattered most. Tannehill threw three interceptions on Saturday, the difference in a painful 19-16 loss to the Bengals. Tennessee is one-and-done as the AFC's top seed for the third time this millennium. "I don't think Ryan or myself or anybody did enough to win the game," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said after the loss. "Obviously, the guy pulling the trigger is going to get blamed. I mean, that's just what happens." Saturday's struggles aside, Tannehill remains a very capable quarterback who has enjoyed great moments in Tennessee. But is he the guy to get the Titans over the hump? Is this team good enough as presently constituted? Was Saturday a bad day, or proof the Titans are simply a level below the NFL's true Super Bowl contenders?