For the first time in what feels like forever, there is a bit of stability at the top of the NFL hierarchy. The top five teams in my power rankings all stay the same. After that, it is the typical chaos we’ve become accustomed to this season. Losses by the Rams and Cowboys shakeup the top 10 while wins by the 49ers, Raiders and Broncos completely change the middle of the pack.
We are now through 12 weeks of action and the playoff picture is starting to crystalize. The push for the playoffs starts now with December football set to begin. Here is how the league stacks up at this point.
1. Arizona Cardinals: 9-2 (Last Week: 1)
For the first time in a while, there is no change atop the power rankings. Arizona had the week off and used it to get Kyler Murray healthy. The Cardinals QB let everyone know he was ready to return with a quick Marvel-themed tweet on Sunday. There is a lot of speculation as to what the tweet meant given that it was on the heels of his former college coach heading to USC and rumors that his current coach could be his replacement in Norman. Either way, Murray should be back in Week 13 for a matchup with the Bears.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 8-3 (Last Week: 2)
Won 38-31 at Indianapolis
It is tough to know which side of this game to focus on. On one hand, Leonard Fournette offered a preview of Playoff Lenny much earlier than expected with four touchdowns and Rob Gronkowski looked fantastic in his return to the lineup. However, Tampa also gave up 31 points and needed a late drive from the offense to win the game. Even with those defensive struggles, the Buccaneers racked up five takeaways, which was the difference in the game.
3. Green Bay Packers: 9-3 (Last Week: 3)
Won 36-28 vs. Los Angeles
The Packers continue to impress despite significant injury issues on both sides of the ball. Yosh Nijman took over at left tackle with Elgton Jenkins lost for the season. Rasul Butler continues to make huge plays for a secondary missing Jaire Alexander. It certainly helps to have Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams and A.J. Dillon to power the offense while Rashan Gary, Darnell Savage and Eric Stokes continue to improve on defense. Green Bay is incredibly talented and should only get better as key players get healthy down the stretch.
4. New England Patriots: 8-4 (Last Week: 4)
Won 36-13 vs. Tennessee
Remember the good old days when the Patriots were 2-4? That feels like a lifetime ago now as New England has ripped off six straight wins since then. Mac Jones is playing very well and the run game is delivering consistently. Tennessee looked lost on offense for the majority of this game, which is a testament to how well the Pats defense has fared during this stretch. Even though the Titans rumbled for 270 yards on 6.9 yards per carry, Bill Belichick’s side forced four turnovers to make the majority of that yardage all for naught. A massive meeting with the Bills on Monday Night Football awaits.
5. Kansas City Chiefs: 7-4 (Last Week: 5)
It was a good week for the Chiefs. Getting a chance to rest up is always nice. The Chargers losing to the Broncos to ensure KC stays atop the AFC West is a nice bonus. While it certainly feels like this team is back on track, it has been the defense doing most of the heavy lifting. Kansas City has scored more than 20 points just once since Week 6. Patrick Mahomes has settled down a bit, but has yet to reclaim his MVP form. Maybe Clyde Edwards-Helaire will provide a jolt after getting the bye week to fully recover from his injury.
6. Baltimore Ravens: 8-3 (Last Week: 10)
Won 16-10 vs. Cleveland
It is a miracle Baltimore won this game. Lamar Jackson threw four interceptions and the Ravens managed just 3.1 yards per carry. The offense was clearly not at its best. Thankfully, the Browns offense wasn’t either. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 36 yards on the ground while Baker Mayfield continued to hobble around the field. Baltimore’s defense made his life miserable all night long, holding Cleveland to just 262 yards of offense. It would be reassuring to see the Ravens find their offensive spark again, but it is important to win even ugly sometimes, too.
7. Cincinnati Bengals: 7-4 (Last Week: 14)
Won 41-10 vs. Pittsburgh
For the second time this season, Cincinnati dispatched Pittsburgh with relative ease. Joe Mixon quite literally ran all over the Steelers to the tune of 165 yards and a pair of scores. It was a showcase game for Tee Higgins as well. Forcing three Ben Roethlisberger turnovers and holding the team to just 54 yards rushing also helps. The Bengals remain one game back of the Ravens for the top spot in the AFC North.
8. Dallas Cowboys: 7-4 (Last Week: 6)
Lost 36-33 vs. Las Vegas
Dallas is officially in trouble. Losing three of four is a worrying sign for a team that cannot seem to string together complete performances. It wasn’t the offense that struggled despite missing Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. Instead, the defense surrendered over 500 yards of offense. Prescott didn’t get a ton of help from the run game either, which averaged 3.2 yards per carry. The Cowboys have gone from thinking about earning a first-round bye to ensuring they can win the NFC East.
9. Los Angeles Rams: 7-4 (Last Week: 7)
Lost 36-28 at Green Bay
Turns out the week off did not accomplish much. Los Angeles still looked disjointed on offense and overwhelmed on defense. Matt Stafford once again looked outmatched against a quality opponent. I’ve been questioning Stafford since 2015. All of the same issues I had with him as a player then continue to show up now. It is starting to become clear that the Rams cannot rely on him to carry them in big moments. Sean McVay is going to need to find a way to take some pressure off his big offseason acquisition.
10. Indianapolis Colts: 6-6 (Last Week: 9)
Lost 38-31 vs. Tampa Bay
There was a lot to like about how the Colts played against the Buccaneers. The offense moved the ball down the field with ease, both on the ground and through the air. Tom Brady had a fairly quiet day, at least by his standards. The defense even forced two turnovers. Unfortunately, Indianapolis coughed it up five times, gave up four touchdowns to Leonard Fournette and struggled to protect Carson Wentz. This team is closer to truly competing for a title than it has been in a few years, but there are still some major holes left to patch.
11. Buffalo Bills: 7-4 (Last Week: 12)
Won 31-6 at New Orleans
Buffalo picked up an important win to get things back on track. Granted, it was against a Saints team that is headed in the wrong direction, but you have to win the games on your schedule. Plus, the Bills did it convincingly. Unfortunately, it came at a high cost. Tre’Davious White tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. One of the best cover corners in the league, Buffalo’s defense looks significantly worse heading into Week 13 than it did Week 12.
12. Los Angeles Chargers: 6-5 (Last Week: 11)
Lost 28-13 at Denver
Los Angeles keeps taking one step forward only to take one step back. This team is stuck in neutral following another lackluster showing in a winnable game. Perhaps it is the byproduct of having a young team with a rookie head coach. A big step to getting back on track will be rediscovering the run game. Austin Ekeler only had 31 rushing yards on 12 carries. That is not a recipe for success in the NFL.
13. Tennessee Titans: 8-4 (Last Week: 8)
Lost 36-13 at New England
The tailspin in Nashville continues. Tennessee is simply too banged up to compete with the league’s elite teams right now. Ryan Tannehill looked pedestrian at best in a rocky performance. That might actually be underselling how bad Tannehill’s numbers were in this one, as he finished with 93 passing yards and 11 of his 21 passes completed. He got a huge boost from the ground game, which racked up 270 yards. Unfortunately, four turnovers and poor tackling on defense made any hopes of halting the Patriots obsolete. A much-need bye week is up next.
14. San Francisco 49ers: 6-5 (Last Week: 19)
Won 34-26 vs. Minnesota
This was a litmus test for the 49ers. After an impressive upset of the Rams, it was hard to feel like the 49ers did much to prove themselves in a lopsided win over the Jaguars. Handling the Vikings, who were fresh off a win over the Packers, inspires a lot more confidence. With four wins in its past five games led by a resurgent ground attack, San Francisco deserves to be in the playoff conversation.
15. Las Vegas Raiders: 6-5 (Last Week: 20)
Won 36-33 at Dallas
This changes things considerably. Following an underwhelming loss to the Bengals coming off a bye week, the Raiders seemed poised for another second-half fade. Instead, Las Vegas rebounds in spectacular fashion with a road win in Dallas on Thanksgiving. Derek Carr played very well and Josh Jacobs picked up some important yards, including a touchdown. Suddenly the Raiders are back in the mix for a wildcard spot and the AFC West title.
16. Minnesota Vikings: 5-6 (Last Week: 13)
Lost 34-26 at San Francisco
Not quite how you want to follow up a statement win. Kirk Cousins did not play well and the running game struggled before Dalvin Cook exited with what seems to be a serious injury. Minnesota’s defense also had no answer for Elijah Mitchell or Deebo Samuel. The Vikings missed a golden opportunity to make up some ground in the wildcard race. Instead, Minnesota now finds itself in a log jam and with one of its best players, Patrick Peterson, on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
17. Denver Broncos: 6-5 (Last Week: 22)
Won 28-13 vs. Los Angeles
The AFC West just got very interesting. A win by the Broncos creates a three-way tie for second, as the Raiders and Chargers are also one game back of the Chiefs for the division lead. Denver has a two-headed monster in the backfield with Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams combining for 199 yards in this one. Pat Surtain II helped seal things with a pick-six of Justin Herbert. Something to watch though will be the health of Teddy Bridgewater. He battled through a shin injury in Week 12. If he can’t suit up in Week 13, the Broncos could be in a lot of trouble.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers: 5-5-1 (Last Week: 15)
Lost 41-10 at Cincinnati
For the second straight week, the Steelers allowed 41 points. That is already a problem. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh also scored 27 fewer points in this loss. Ben Roethlisberger was under pressure too often and compounded that issue with three turnovers, including a pick-six. What the Steelers desperately need to do is run the football. Unfortunately, they won’t commit to running the ball consistently, and even when they do, it is not effective. Najee Harris finished with 2.9 yards per carry in Cincinnati. The playoffs are not out of reach, but it is hard to imagine this team making it there without a serious turnaround in play.
19. Cleveland Browns 6-6 (Last Week: 16)
Lost 16-10 at Baltimore
Some serious questions need to be asked of Kevin Stefanski. The Browns forced four turnovers, yet failed to generate basically anything positive on offense and lost the time of possession battle by a wide margin. That is almost an unfathomable combination. Stefanski abandoned the run game too soon, as Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for just 15 carries. The fact that Cleveland could not find a way to win this game despite such a strong defensive performance is a huge indictment of this offense.
20. Miami Dolphins: 5-7 (Last Week: 23)
Won 33-10 vs. Carolina
Miami has quietly won four straight and Tua Tagovailoa seems to be rounding into form. He was outrageously efficient against the Panthers, completing 27-of-31 passes 236 yards and a touchdown. Phillip Lindsay also provided an instant boost to the ground game in tandem with Myles Gaskin. Following a seven-game losing streak, the Dolphins are squarely back in the wildcard conversation. Their next four games are against the Giants, Jets, Saints and Titans. Miami’s hot streak may yet continue.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: 5-7 (Last Week: 17)
Lost 13-7 at New York
This was a game the Eagles really needed to win. A win would get them back to .500 and would have put them into the final wildcard spot at the moment given the other results of Week 12. Instead, Jalen Hurts threw the game away, literally. Three interceptions and a completion percentage south of 50 is tough to overcome, even when you run for over 200 yards as a team. Also, if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 1,000 times: the Eagles should have drafted Justin Jefferson over Jalen Reagor.
22. New Orleans Saints: 5-6 (Last Week: 18)
Lost 31-6 vs. Buffalo
The Saints offense has ground to a halt. No Michael Thomas. No Alvin Kamara. No Jameis Winston. This unit is about as underwhelming as could be at this point. Taysom Hill is apparently still not healthy enough to play quarterback despite being on the active roster for the past few games. Sean Payton has been able to make it work over the previous two seasons when Drew Brees went down for stretches. He is going to need to conjure some magic down the stretch to get the Saints into the postseason.
23. Washington: 5-6 (Last Week: 24)
Won 17-15 vs. Seattle
The list of teams heating up after a poor start is beginning to grow. Washington has now won three in a row. This was far from the most convincing victory of all time, but Taylor Heinicke and company toughed it out in a gritty performance. A heavy dose of the run game while shutting down Seattle’s offense for the majority of the game is a repeatable formula with the talent Ron Rivera’s side has. Things will get very interesting with five of their final six games coming against NFC East opponents.
24. New York Giants: 4-7 (Last Week: 25)
Won 13-7 vs. Philadelphia
Firing Jason Garrett led to a win, although there was not much of an improvement on the offensive side of the ball. New York stumbled for a paltry 2.6 yards per carry while Daniel Jones barely eclipsed. However, the Giants did hang onto the ball while Jalen Hurts imploded with three interceptions. It would have been good to see Jones and company put the game away instead of relying on a Jalen Reagor drop. The red-hot Dolphins are next.
25. Atlanta Falcons: 5-6 (Last Week: 26)
Won 21-14 at Jacksonville
How on Earth do the Falcons have five wins? Atlanta has a point differential of -103. Only the Jets, Texans and Jaguars are worse. Yet, the Falcons sit tied with Washington for the final wildcard spot in the NFC. That is simply ridiculous. Cordarelle Patterson put the team on his back to hold off Jacksonville and the defense played well enough against one of the worst offenses in the league. Things will get significantly tougher with a visit from the Buccaneers up next.
26. Carolina Panthers: 5-7 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 33-10 at Miami
So, the Panthers offense has collapsed. Cam Newton played one of the worst games by a quarterback in NFL history while Carolina lost Christian McCaffrey for the season once again. Newton completed five of his 21 passes and posted a passer rating of 5.8. He was benched for P.J. Walker. On the flip side, Tua Tagovailoa picked apart the Panthers defense and this game was never even close. Things need to turn around quickly to save playoff hopes for the season.
27. Chicago Bears: 4-7 (Last Week: 28)
Won 16-14 at Detroit
It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was really ugly most of the way. Andy Dalton was average at best. The run game managed a paltry 2.3 yards per carry. The under hit comfortably. In short, it was an early afternoon snooze fest. It would have been much better if this had been the second game so everyone could have gone into their food comas during this game instead. Still, it was a win, which likely saved Matt Nagy’s job for at least another week.
28. Seattle Seahawks: 3-8 (Last Week: 27)
Lost 17-15 at Washington
It might be time to blow up this Seahawks team. It is hard to believe Seattle was in the postseason a year ago, winning 12 games and the NFC West. Right now, this team is getting dragged by some of the league’s basement dwellers. Russell Wilson looks nothing like the perennial Pro Bowler we are accustomed to watching. The Seahawks cannot run the ball either. Pete Carroll’s seat has to be getting very warm.
29. New York Jets: 3-8 (Last Week: 31)
Won 21-14 at Houston
Picking up a road win is nice, but as a Jets fan, I would rather see this team lose while Zach Wilson impresses. New York’s rookie quarterback has been nothing short of horrible this season. Sure, his protection has not been great and his weapons are average at best, but his numbers are concerning. He is worst in the league in EPA per play, completion percentage over expected and success rate, which measure what percentage of plays finish with an EPA above zero. Results do not matter at this point for New York. Getting Wilson up to speed in the NFL and helping him grow over these final six games is what this year is all about.
30. Houston Texans: 2-9 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 21-14 vs. New York
I cannot believe I’m about to write this, but I think the Texans defense played well enough to win this game. They sacked Zach Wilson four times and forced an interception. On the flip side though, Houston barely eclipsed 200 yards of offense, allowing five sacks of their own. It was an ugly game and one that the Texans likely could have won. Let’s be honest though. You didn’t miss anything. This game was terrible.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars: 2-9 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 21-14 vs. Atlanta
Jacksonville’s defense seems to be steadily improving. The Jags made Matt Ryan look subpar. Then again, he does that all on his own pretty frequently these days. However, the offense continues to be underwhelming at best. Trevor Lawrence is struggling week in and week out. The Jaguars have also yet to score more than 23 points this season. Urban Meyer might need to consider some offensive staffing changes if he wants to get the best out of his young quarterback.
32. Detroit Lions: 0-10-1 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 16-14 vs. Chicago
Kayvon Thibodeaux is going to look great in a Lions jersey. Detroit moves one step closer to securing his services with another heartbreaking loss. This team is not good, but there is no way that the Lions deserve to be 0-10-1. They could easily be 3-7-1 with a couple of breaks in their favor.
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