NFL Power Rankings: Patriots finish No. 1 after sixth Super Bowl title as Bill Belichick works his magic again

When the 2018 NFL season began, way back in September, I made a bad decision. I didn't pick the New England Patriots to win it all.

For years, my Super Bowl pick in the AFC has been the Patriots. Why? Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Simple, really.

Yet back when the season started, I thought the Patriots were vulnerable. Age was creeping in and they didn't seem to have an over-abundance of talent. What I lost focus of in making the decision not to pick them was Belichick.

He proved with Sunday night's Super Bowl LIII win over the Los Angeles Rams that he is the best coach who ever did it. There is no argument anymore. He has six Super Bowl rings now with the Patriots, and he's won them in a variety of ways.

Yes, Brady's been around for them all, but Sunday night was different. It was Belichick's Mona Lisa, a coaching lesson that should be studied by all.

He took his normal tendencies on defense and threw them away in creating a plan to make a potent Rams offense look awful. We've seen this script before, when Belichick helped the New York Giants upset the Buffalo Bills and the K-Gun offense in Super Bowl XXV. We saw it again when this Pats dynasty started in 2002 with a Super Bowl victory over the Rams team with the Greatest Show on Turf offense.

And now comes this outstanding defensive performance, holding the Rams to three points and just two first downs in the first half. Credit should also go to defensive coordinator Brian Flores, now the new coach of the Miami Dolphins, but we all know Belichick's touch was all over the game plan.

The Patriots head to the offseason as an aging team with questions, but they will finish this season atop my Power Rankings. When the next batch of these rankings comes out in after free agency, we will see if they remain there.

I will give you a hint: It's likely. With Brady expected back and Belichick still coaching it up, there's no reason to move them. In my book, they're already my early Super Bowl pick for the AFC in 2019.

Biggest Movers
7 49ers
7 Redskins
Rk
Teams
 
Chg
Rcrd
1 Patriots Does Rob Gronkowski return? Who else leaves? How will they replace Brian Flores as defensive coordinator? 411-5-0
2 Rams They have some tough decisions in the offseason on players, but they still have a lot of young talent. Bouncing back from a Super Bowl loss is tough. --13-3-0
3 Chiefs They might very well be the team to beat next season. They do need to get better on defense. --12-4-0
4 Saints With Drew Brees expected back, the Saints will again be a Super contender. 313-3-0
5 Bears They have to continue to grow on offense, but losing Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator will hurt. 112-4-0
6 Chargers When can this group get over the hump? Time is running out for Philip Rivers. 112-4-0
7 Colts This young team with a franchise passer in Andrew Luck should be ready to push for a Super Bowl berth next season. 110-6-0
8 Cowboys They are making changes on offense, which is a good thing. They need to be better on that side of the ball. 110-6-0
9 Ravens This is Lamar Jackson's team now. He has to make strides as a passer. 310-6-0
10 Seahawks Pete Carroll had a great season of coaching in 2018. With Russell Wilson entering the final year of his deal, this could be an interesting year. --10-6-0
11 Eagles Carson Wentz should be back under center, but he will do so being labeled an injury-plagued player. He has to stay healthy. 19-7-0
12 Texans They have to get better on the offensive line if they are to take the next step. 111-5-0
13 Steelers Will Antonio Brown be back? What would dumping him on the trade market mean in the locker room and on the field? 19-6-1
14 Titans They will have a new offensive coordinator with Matt LaFleur on to the Packers as coach. They have to get better play from Marcus Mariota. 19-7-0
15 Vikings Mike Zimmer might be coaching for his job in 2019. They have to rebound after a disappointing 2018 season. --8-7-1
16 Browns I would be shocked if they don't push for the division title next year. This is a team to watch under coach Freddie Kitchens. --7-8-1
17 Falcons They made staff changes -- which says coach Dan Quinn knows 2019 is a big one for him. They have a lot of talent still. --7-9-0
18 Packers New coach Matt LaFleur takes over a team that certainly will be more creative on offense. Smart move keeping defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. --6-9-1
19 Panthers Cam Newton's shoulder surgery bears watching, but this team can get right back into the playoff mix if he's right. 47-9-0
20 49ers This team is trending in the right direction and there seems be nice news coming on Jimmy Garoppolo's rehab. 74-12-0
21 Jaguars What do they do at quarterback? Do they make the run at Nick Foles or do they draft one? 75-11-0
22 Bills In Josh Allen, they have the foundation. Now they need to build the offense around him. 26-10-0
23 Broncos Now that John Elway has hired Vic Fangio as coach, what does he do at quarterback? 16-10-0
24 Giants Is Eli Manning still the guy in 2019? It's starting to look that way. 15-11-0
25 Bengals Zac Taylor takes over as coach, coming from the Rams. They better hope the Super Bowl offensive showing isn't a precursor of what's to come. 16-10-0
26 Redskins The Alex Smith injury has this team facing a lot of uncertainty. Will he play? If so, when? 77-9-0
27 Lions Matt Patricia heads into 2019 likely coaching for his job. Can he turn this team around? 36-10-0
28 Dolphins New coach Brian Flores will hope to break a curse of bad runs for former Bill Belichick disciples. He has a lot of work to do. 77-9-0
29 Buccaneers Bruce Arians should help shake up this team. He will certainly be good for Jameis Winston. --5-11-0
30 Raiders Jon Gruden has a lot of draft capital, and with his roster he needs it. The defense needs big-time help. --4-12-0
31 Jets Adam Gase will be good for Sam Darnold. And they have a lot of money to spend in free agency. They could be a lot higher next time these rankings come out. --4-12-0
32 Cardinals They have a new coach in Kliff Kingsbury, but he faces a stiff challenge getting this team competitive. It starts with Josh Rosen. --3-13-0
CBS Sports Senior Writer

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories