NFL Power Rankings: Separating Contenders and Pretenders

Victor Araiza (Flickr: IMG_6704)[]

After debating who the top four teams in the NFL were in Monday’s round-up, the rankings have already been shaken up by Kansas City’s enormous win on Thursday night. So it seemed time to revisit not only the top of the rankings, but where every NFL team stacks up as the final quarter of the season ticks down. There have been a few big movers since the last rankings, with Tampa and Baltimore shooting up and the Eagles tumbling hard. But don’t let me spoil everything in the intro. Scroll! See where your team is now!

NFL Power Rankings

1. Dallas Cowboys (11-1)

2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-3)

Now 4-0 against the toughest division in the league, the Chiefs have made a convincing case that they’re the ones to fear in the AFC. The only team with a top-12 offense, defense, and special teams according to DVOA, Kansas City is the complete package. Alex Smith had one of those outings that reminds you he can do more than manage a game, and the raucous crowds Arrowhead is known for was on full display last night. This is not a place anybody wants to play in January.

3. New England Patriots (10-2)

As I said on Monday, the Pats don’t have any impressive wins. Take out Baltimore and Denver in back to back weeks, and I’ll return your crown as AFC kings.

4. Oakland Raiders (10-3)

Derek Carr and the Raiders really froze on the big stage. Get it? No, but seriously; as notable an absence from the lineup as Kelechi Osemele was, the Raiders’ ineffective passing game was why they lost. Dropped balls, misfires, whatever the hell this was: it was clear that Oakland did not enjoy the cold weather in Missouri. That could prove problematic come playoff time, because it’s not like Miami will be hosting the AFC title game. If the Raiders can’t regain homefield, they may suffer the same fate as William Henry Harrison: done in by the weather.

5. Seattle Seahawks (8-3-1)

The expectation all year has been that the Seahawks would find their form and head into the playoffs on a high note. While their dominant win over Carolina fits into that plan, the loss of Earl Thomas certainly doesn’t. The Seahawks have looked mortal this season when Thomas and Kam Chancellor aren’t both patrolling the back end, and the offense hasn’t played consistently enough to carry this team the whole way.

6. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5)

Am I guilty of overrating the Steelers here? Maybe. Their three-game win streak has come against offenses led by Josh McCown, Scott Tolzien, and Eli Manning (a real peas-in-a-pod situation if ever there was one). But this is also the time of year Pittsburgh normally goes on a run. Winners of 12 of their last 14 regular season games in December/January, the Steelers are built for this time of year.

7. Denver Broncos (8-4)

Before this season, who would have thought the health of Trevor Siemian would decide the Broncos’ playoff fate? It seems pretty crucial now.

8. Baltimore Ravens (7-5)

The Ravens are playing great football, but selfishly, this is the team I least want to see make the playoffs; they are so frustrating to watch on offense. Joe Flacco ranks second in the league in pass attempts per game, despite facing the severe limitations that come with being Joe Flacco. Baltimore’s defense is truly wreaking havoc right now, but the offense is not making life easy on them.

9. Detroit Lions (8-4)

“Can only win close games?” scoffed the Lions, “we’ll show you!” And lo, they ventured out of the Lions’ den and into another, metaphorical lions’ den. Against the vaunted Saints of New Orleans, Detroit was the superior ballers of foot and emerged from the hallowed Superdome, victors by 15.

The Lions’ four-game win-streak is deserving of a poorly-constructed old English folk tale. Though they rank 31st in defensive DVOA, they’ve held five of their last six opponents to fewer than 20 points. Detroit continues to surprise, and nothing was more shocking than picking off Drew Brees three times last weekend.

10. New York Giants (8-4)

The Giants I know only have two courses of action down the stretch: collapse or sneak in the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. The way this offense has looked, the former seems this year’s destiny. But maybe Eli just needs another game against the Cowboys to wake up?

11. Atlanta Falcons (7-5)

Matt Ryan deserves to have his name in the MVP conversation; but if he were really the most valuable, he’d already have the race sewn up by now. In each of the Falcons’ five losses, Ryan and the offense have had a drive late in the fourth quarter to either take the lead, tie the game, or put it on ice by winding the clock. Back-breaking interceptions cost them wins against the Chargers, Seahawks, and Chiefs, while drives against the Eagles and Buccaneers just stalled out.

Ryan’s numbers may be excellent, but he hasn’t lived up to the “Matty Ice” moniker this season. The NFC South shouldn’t even be a race right now.

12. Washington (6-5-1)

A lot of NFC teams are thankful that Tampa overtook Washington for the second Wild Card. I don’t know a scarier offense that could come to town in round one.

Keith Allison (Flickr: Kirk Cousins)[]
Keith Allison (Flickr: Kirk Cousins)[]

13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5)

I’m still allowed to not buy into the Bucs, right? Their defense is playing out of their skulls right now, winning the takeaway battle in each of their last four games. But it’s masking the fact that their offense still has a lot of issues, and their kicker has permanent poo pants.

14. Miami Dolphins (7-5)

The Dolphins proved skeptics right last week by getting their – and I hate to steal your favorite phrase Todd Bowles – asses handed to them by Baltimore. Joining Tampa as the only other team with a winning record but a negative point differential, the Dolphins look to be setting fans up for yet another December swoon under Ryan Tannehill.

15. Buffalo Bills (6-6)

The best of pure mediocrity, the Bills somehow feature a “big-play offense,” despite calling the second-most run plays in the league. Tied for the league-lead with 55 runs over 10 yards, LeSean McCoy and Tyrod Taylor have made Buffalo football sexy again. Too bad the Ryan brothers have made defense difficult again.

16. Green Bay Packers (6-6)

The Packers may have waited too long to find themselves. Now, they’ll need to gain at least one game on the Lions before their Week 17 tilt, meaning they pretty much have to go perfect down the stretch.

17. Tennessee Titans (6-6)

They’re the “best team” in that FCS conference they call the AFC South, but the way Andrew Luck is heating up, having a better team may not matter.

18. Indianapolis Colts (6-6)

It’s almost worse for the Colts if they make the playoffs, because then there’s no reason to get rid of GM Ryan Grigson.

19. Minnesota Vikings (6-6)

Remember when there were questions about whether Teddy Bridgewater would get his starting job back next year? Are we still worried that Teddy Two Gloves couldn’t throw 50 checkdowns a game as well as Bradford?

20. Arizona Cardinals (5-6-1)

What an ideal time for Carson Palmer to remove his head from his ass. No, it’s still too late for a playoff push; but he can definitely convince another sucker team to take a chance on him this offseason after the Cards cut ties.

21. Houston Texans (6-6)

The pressure of playing for a home Super Bowl date must be the reason the Texans are struggling. What other explanation could there be?

Karen (Flickr Album: Texans Vs. Lions 30 Oct 16)[Https://Creativecommons.Org/Licenses/By-Nc-Nd/2.0/]
… I can’t think of a single one.

22. New Orleans Saints (5-7)

If you’re not gonna score a crazy number of points every week, what good are you, Saints?

23. San Diego Chargers (5-7)

I’m done feeling sorry for Philip Rivers, after he gave away another game with a late meltdown. Wah, the Chargers have so many injuries? Rivers also has the third-most fourth-quarter interceptions in the league (more than Blake Bortles!).

24. Cincinnati Bengals (4-7-1)

Cincinnati has one last obstacle to overcome, not losing to Cleveland. After that, this group can coast into another offseason where we’ll wonder if Marvin Lewis will get fired, before remembering this is the Bengals we’re talking about.

25. Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)

This year has changed how we view rookie QBs so much that Carson Wentz’s recent struggles have actually come as a surprise. It shouldn’t have, considering the talent he’s throwing too. What is a surprise is how much Jim Schwartz’s defense has fallen off.

26. Carolina Panthers (4-8)

The Panthers will join the Chiefs as the only franchises to follow up their two Super Bowl appearances by missing the playoffs the following season. But at least those ’60s Chiefs had the excuse of a smaller playoff field. Carolina’s excuse is that they cut their best cornerback to save money yet failed to upgrade the offensive line with the extra coin.

27. Chicago Bears (3-9)

As miserable a year as it’s been for Chicago, they appear to have a nice foundation should they want to get back to “Bear football.” Jordan Howard looks great, their offensive line is strong, and the pass rush is coming along nicely behind rookie Leonard Floyd. Now watch them whiff hard on their next QB, because that’s also a crucial part of “Bear football.”

28. Los Angeles Rams (4-8)

Not even L.A. deserves this.

29. New York Jets (3-9)

How is it the Bears – who are starting a Matt Barkley they picked up off the scrap heap – still have a more enviable QB situation than the Jets?

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10)

At least the Jags didn’t give Gus Bradley a two-year extension … yet.

31. San Francisco 49ers (1-11)

I’ve plum run out of 49ers jokes at this point. You win, Chip! You out-lasted my sense of humor.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-12)

RGIII is back!

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Henry Mardukas

The author Henry Mardukas