1. New England Patriots (7-2) | Last week: 1
They weren’t stat-chasing, because that’s not what they care about, but the Patriots didn’t let their foot off the gas in their blowout win over the Broncos on Sunday night. Denver doesn’t look good at all, but New England is clicking on all cylinders right now on offense—and again, no one talks about the improvement of their defense after everyone talked about how bad they were to start the season. Even without Chris Hogan (shoulder), the offense led by Tom Brady as the trigger man is extremely deep, versatile, and tough to stop.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (8-1) | Last week: 2
It’s difficult to have a much better bye week than the Eagles did, as they sit at an NFL-best 8-1 and still gained ground in the division without playing a game, as all three NFC East teams lost. A win this Sunday night against the Cowboys would almost lock up the division, so you can expect they’ll be ready to play.
3. Minnesota Vikings (7-2) | Last week: 3
Teddy Bridgewater made his emotional and awesome-to-see return to being active on gamedays after his knee injury that sidelined him for 14 months, but Case Keenum tossed four touchdowns while leading Minnesota to a big victory over the Redskins. Keenum did toss a couple of really bad interceptions, though, and if he just reigns that in he’ll keep the starting job as long as the team is rolling. But if not, Bridgewater offers a lot of upside for a potential Vikings Super Bowl run.
4. New Orleans Saints (7-2) | Last week: 7 (+3)
I was tempted to put the Saints as high as number two in the power rankings. Over the last seven games, they’ve absolutely dominated everyone on their schedule, as they are outscoring opponents 299-100—an average of 32.7-14.3 per game. Because of the NFC South looking like the toughest division in the league right now, the Saints remain below the Eagles and Vikings—but that can change as soon as next week.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-2) | Last week: 4 (-1)
After destroying the Colts in their last three matchups, the Steelers had a lot of trouble with them in Week 10 as they barely got out of Indianapolis with a victory. It almost looked like they were trying to force the ball to disgruntled receiver Martavis Bryant in an effort to make him happy, and if that is the case, they should probably just worry about running the offense normally through Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Losing cornerback Joe Haden to a leg injury hurts a defense that’s been a lot better against the pass this year, but hopefully he’s able to return in a few weeks.
6. Kansas City Chiefs (6-3) | Last week: 5 (-1)
Andy Reid is 16-2 off the bye, and the Chiefs just had their bye week, so Week 11 against the 1-8 Giants is a good time to use them in your survivor pool if you haven’t already. The team was in a cold stretch before entering the bye, but Reid and the coaching staff probably made some changes and got things corrected so they come out like they did to start the season.
7. Tennessee Titans (6-3) | Last week: 6 (-1)
Marcus Mariota led his third fourth-quarter comeback of the season in Sunday’s win against the Bengals, and his team is at 6-3 despite the offense not playing up to its potential for much of the season. 80-year-old defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau faces his former team this Thursday night, as the Titans travel to Pittsburgh in a big AFC matchup. It wouldn’t be surprising to see LeBeau’s defense do an excellent job against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers.
8. Los Angeles Rams (7-2) | Last week: 8
Like the Saints, the Rams have an argument for being as high as number two in the power rankings. Over their last three games—though against the Cardinals, Giants, and Texans—they’ve outscored opponents 117-24 (an average of 39-8 per game). The job Sean McVay is doing with the offense cannot be understated, and it might be the most difficult to stop in the NFC. And Wade Phillips’ defense continues to play like a Wade Phillips defense. This Sunday against the Vikings might be the game of the week—and one that could have big implications for playoff seeding.
9. Carolina Panthers (7-3) | Last week: 10 (+1)
Two of Carolina’s three losses are to the Saints and the Eagles—and they arguably would’ve beaten the Eagles if Luke Kuechly didn’t get hurt during the game. With the running game starting to get going, the Panthers are a scary team for anyone to face if they’re on their game. Cam Newton himself is also using his legs a ton recently, and it makes the offense almost impossible to stop when he’s making accurate enough throws.
10. Atlanta Falcons (5-4) | Last week: 11 (+1)
The second half of the season for the Falcons started almost exactly the way they needed it, as they overwhelmed the Cowboys in their 27-7 victory. Adrian Clayborn had a mind-blowing six sacks, the offense looked great, and they probably gained some confidence after the sluggish 4-4 start to the season. The only bad part about Sunday as that running back Devonta Freeman suffered a concussion—his second of the season. Hopefully Freeman is feeling better soon, but teammate Tevin Coleman is more than capable of handling the load in the backfield if he remains out.
11. Seattle Seahawks (6-3) | Last week: 12 (-1)
The loss of Richard Sherman (torn Achilles) is an enormous blow to the Seahawks, and it wouldn’t be surprising if it was a big enough loss to knock them out of the playoffs for the first time since 2011. But as long as they have Russell Wilson at quarterback, I expect the Seahawks to be competitive in the NFC. Also, the addition of underrated cornerback and former Legion of Boom member Byron Maxwell, who was cut by the Dolphins because they wanted to go with their younger corners, should help alleviate the loss of Sherman.
12. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-3) | Last week: 13 (+1)
A huge overtime win against the Chargers has the Jaguars looking to be in a very strong position in the AFC playoff picture. It would be unwise for them to look ahead on the schedule, but they should be heavy favorites in five of their last seven games, as they play the Browns, Cardinals, Colts, Texans, and 49ers. Jacksonville just needs to take care of business each week—starting this Sunday against the winless Browns—and they’ll have a chance to make some noise in January.
13. Dallas Cowboys (5-4) | Last week: 9 (-4)
Many people will immediately point to Ezekiel Elliott being suspended as the reason the Cowboys weren’t very competitive with the Falcons, but left tackle Tyron Smith was clearly the bigger loss—the six sacks by Adrian Clayborn would not have happened with Smith in the lineup. There’s a chance Smith won’t be back on Sunday night against the Eagles, which would be difficult to overcome. And linebacker Sean Lee, who looks like he’ll miss at least a couple weeks with a hamstring injury, is just as big of a loss on the defensive side of the ball. However, he’ll need to be protected, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Dak Prescott leads the Cowboys to a win over Philadelphia.
14. Detroit Lions (5-4) | Last week: 14
For a while there, it looked like the Lions were going to ensure they remain the only 0-16 team in NFL history, but they eventually pulled away against the Browns. Now at 5-4, the Lions are keeping pace in the NFC wild card race, and they remain two games behind the Vikings in the NFC North. A win over the Bears this weekend paired with a Vikings loss to the Rams would be huge, as it’d set up a Week 12 game with first place on the line in the NFC North.
15. Baltimore Ravens (4-5) | Last week: 19 (+4)
Despite the bye week, the Ravens jumped four spots in the rankings because the AFC wild card picture looks very winnable. The 5-4 Bills currently hold the second spot but are on a two-game losing skid and just made a quarterback change, and the Ravens just feel like the team that will get into the playoffs. We’ll see how they play, particularly on offense, after the week off.
16. Washington Redskins (4-5) | Last week: 16
The defense gave up four touchdowns to Case Keenum and the team was down by three possessions, but the Redskins kept battling in their Week 10 loss to the Vikings. Considering the many injuries the team has battled through—along with the unexperienced supporting cast on offense—head coach Jay Gruden has done a good job keeping this team competitive. A win this week against the red-hot Saints would be huge.
17. Buffalo Bills (5-4) | Last week: 15 (-2)
Tyrod Taylor was playing pretty well this season while considering, like with Kirk Cousins in Washington, he was working with basically a whole new group of receivers after losing his top two receivers from last season. However, he’s been benched in favor of rookie Nathan Peterman, who the Bills must see as a better fit for the offense. Buffalo currently holds the second wild card spot in the AFC, so Peterman has a chance to help lead his team to the playoffs during his first season. The Bills have looked surprisingly bad on defense over the last two weeks, though, so I’m more confident in a team like the Ravens getting into the playoffs.
18. Oakland Raiders (4-5) | Last week: 18
Last season, the Raiders got a big win over the Texans in Mexico on Monday Night Football. This season, they’ll face the Patriots south of the border on Sunday. Luckily, they had the bye week for prepare for what might be the best team they’ll face all season, but a loss would drop them to 4-6 with some more difficult games coming up on the schedule.
19. Green Bay Packers (4-5) | Last week: 24 (+5)
Brett Hundley appears to be getting more and more comfortable as he gets more time under center for the Packers. His throw on the run to Davante Adams on a back-shoulder type of throw almost looked like something Aaron Rodgers would do, and it might energize the team as they continue to deal with not having their best player on the field. Hundley and the Packers have a tough task this weekend, as they face a Ravens team that’s coming off their bye. The good news is the game is in Lambeau.
20. Los Angeles Chargers (3-6) | Last week: 17 (-3)
The Chargers found another way to lose in Week 10, as they partially blocked a kick in overtime and still watched it go through the uprights. LA was in control of the game—for almost the entire afternoon, really—against the now-6-3 Jaguars, but they still lost after two interceptions by safety Tre Boston in the final two minutes of regulation. Even at 3-6, the Chargers have a chance to get within one game of a wild card spot when they face the 5-4 Bills in Week 11.
21. Miami Dolphins (4-5) | Last week: 20 (-1)
Miami’s defense did not look good at all in their 45-21 Monday night loss to the Panthers, as Cam Newton threw for four touchdowns while Carolina rushed for another two on the ground. This week against the Buccaneers—in the game that was originally scheduled for Week 1 but was postponed because of Hurricane Irma—could be the one to get the Dolphins back on track, but things could really go south if not.
22. Arizona Cardinals (4-5) | Last week: 22
Despite the running game getting shut down, the Cardinals fought and played the Seahawks incredibly tough last Thursday night. Blaine Gabbert might have to step in at quarterback for the injured Drew Stanton, but I’m looking forward to see what Gabbert can do after he looked very comfortable in the offense during the preseason. Frankly, this is a chance for Gabbert to showcase for a potential starting opportunity in 2018 if Carson Palmer retires.
23. Chicago Bears (3-6) | Last week: 21 (-2)
John Fox’s teams are remaining in games, but they don’t seem to have quite enough firepower to finish with victories. Former Chargers receiver Dontrelle Inman played his first game with the Bears, though, catching six passes for 88 yards in the loss to Green Bay—and his presence helped Mitchell Trubisky throw for over 200 yards for the first time (297, to be exact).
24. New York Jets (4-6) | Last week: 23 (-1)
After looking very good in their Week 9 Thursday night win over Buffalo, the Jets suffered an ugly 15-10 loss to the Buccaneers. The defense kept them in the game, but Josh McCown and the offense couldn’t get much going versus Tampa. They’ll have the bye week to regroup and attempt a wild card push late over the final six games.
25. Denver Broncos (3-6) | Last week: 25
The last two losses for the Broncos were against the top two teams in the power rankings, but they got completely blown out in both games and haven’t been competitive during their five-game losing streak. This is the first time John Elway’s Broncos have gone through five straight losses, and it’s safe to say something will change after the season if Denver doesn’t turn it around.
26. Indianapolis Colts (3-7) | Last week: 28 (+2)
The Colts appeared poised to upset the Steelers with a huge win heading into their bye week, but 11 fourth-quarter points dropped Indy to 3-7. Jacoby Brissett continues to play well and get valuable playing experience, and the Colts’ trade for him before the season is a big reason they’re competitive right now.
27. Houston Texans (3-6) | Last week: 26 (-1)
Jared Goff and the Rams are running through a lot of teams, but the Texans’ 33-7 loss was still one that makes it look like the Texans might be headed for a bottom-five record this season—and unfortunately for them, their pick belongs to Cleveland after the trade for Deshaun Watson (though I don’t think they’ll mind that much, considering they have a franchise quarterback in Watson).
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6) | Last week: 29 (+1)
It wasn’t pretty, but the Buccaneers won a close one against the Jets and got their first win since Week 4. They’ll now travel down the state to face the Dolphins in Miami in a Florida battle that happens once every four years. Mike Evans will be back from his one-game suspension, but Jameis Winston is fully expected to remain out while he tries to get his shoulder back to 100%.
29. Cincinnati Bengals (3-6) | Last week: 27 (-2)
They almost pulled out a big victory over the Titans, but Marcus Mariota and DeMarco Murray (three touchdowns) put a dagger into them with 36 seconds remaining. They aren’t totally out of it yet, but the Bengals need to start stringing together some wins to get back into the AFC wild card race.
30. San Francisco 49ers (1-9) | Last week: 31 (+1)
Kyle Shanahan picked up his first win as a head coach with the 49ers’ 31-21 win over the Giants, and it means they are not the last winless team this season. Rookie C.J. Beathard played his best game in the win, and he continues to impress. But it looks like Jimmy Garoppolo might get his first start with the team after their Week 11 bye. However, it looks like the Niners do have one of the best backups in the league in Beathard.
31. New York Giants (1-8) | Last week: 30 (-1)
Owners John Mara and Steve Tisch came out with a statement in support of head coach Ben McAdoo for the rest of this season, but the Giants are going to need to make some major improvements over the final seven weeks if McAdoo is going to have any chance whatsoever of keeping his job. It almost looks like some of the players aren’t even trying—like jogging on defense and just not playing hard.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-9) | Last week: 32
The Browns were close for a bit, but the Lions still separated with a 14-point win to drop Cleveland to 0-9—and the last winless team remaining. This weekend against the Jaguars in a potentially snowy Cleveland might be a real struggle on the field.