There’s a lot of change in the Week 12 NFL power rankings after a crazy week, but some of the top teams are beginning to separate themselves from the rest of the league.
1. New Orleans Saints (9-1) | Last week: 1
With everyone talking about last night’s game in Los Angeles being a potential Super Bowl preview, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Saints use that as motivation moving forward as they look to keep the top seed in NFC and make the playoffs run through New Orleans. As stated last week, the offense is simply unstoppable right now, as Drew Brees gets rid of the ball and puts it right on the money to his many weapons. And the defense shutting down the Eagles in a game many people thought might be a shootout is a positive sign. This looks like the most complete team in the league, and they have a good vibe around them.
2. Los Angeles Rams (10-1) | Last week: 3 (+1)
Most people serious about the NFL know Jared Goff is a beast, but everyone got a chance to see an awesome performance where he basically carried the offense with Todd Gurley not having much room to run against the Chiefs. Gurley’s presence and threat to a defense certainly makes things easier on a quarterback, but Goff puts his passes right on point nearly every time—including on last night’s game-winner on a dime to tight end Gerald Everett, which on a personal note, helped extend my fantasy football winning streak to nine games (luck is certainly a big part of it, but subscribe to Fantasy Consigliere for help there).
3. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2) | Last week: 2 (-1)
I was slightly tempted to keep the Chiefs in the No. 2 spot in the power rankings. A lot of it they did it to themselves, but despite five turnovers and 135 yards in penalties (though the officiating was questionable at times), they barely lost on the road—granted, Los Angeles isn’t much of a homefield advantage—to a very-talented one-loss team. With Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, Kansas City is never out of the game because they can score in an instant with all those weapons. Last night showed that the young gunslinger needs to get rid of the ball when nothing is there sometimes, especially when going up against a defensive front like the Rams’. Also, keep in mind the Chiefs only had Sammy Watkins for just a few snaps to start the game—something many casual observers might not have realized because the ESPN crew inexplicably didn’t say one word about it—as he was clearly not at 100% while dealing with his foot injury.
4. New England Patriots (7-3) | Last week: 4
Coming off the bye, the hope is that All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski is at least close to 100% after missing the last two games with ankle/back injuries. The Chiefs’ loss helps create an opening for the Patriots to potentially grab the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs, and I expect Tom Brady and the group will be laser-focused as usual after getting blown out by the Titans the last time they played. We’ll see what happens when they get on the field and start winning games again, but New England is probably flying under the radar heading into Week 12.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-2-1) | Last week: 6 (+1)
Ben Roethlisberger did not have a good half-plus against the Jaguars, as it looked like it was going to be another potential five-interception performance like he had versus Jacksonville last regular season. However, Roethlisberger led his team to 20 unanswered points to improve to 7-2-1 this season (now the second-best record in the AFC) and essentially knock the Jags out of the playoff race, and it’s the type of game that could give the team a second wind of sorts as they look to keep building on their six-game winning streak.
6. Los Angeles Chargers (7-3) | Last week: 5 (-1)
The Chargers’ winning streak has come to an end, as they let the Broncos hang around and lost on a last-second field goal. The good news is Joey Bosa was able to get on the field for the first time this season, as his playing time should ramp up until he gets back to being a game-wrecking force at defensive end. They cannot look ahead to a huge Week 13 matchup with the Steelers, but LA should be able to take care of business against rookie quarterback Josh Rosen and the Cardinals this Sunday.
7. Chicago Bears (7-3) | Last week: 8 (+1)
The Bears have won four straight games after their close home loss to the Patriots a month ago, and they’re in command of the NFC North as we hit Thanksgiving. Mitchell Trubisky can cause headaches for opposing defenses, and the Bears will be a scary team for a potential postseason run if the second-year quarterback makes progress these next few weeks and gets more consistent into January. Chicago’s defense talented defense ranks highly in rushing yards allowed per game (1st), yards per carry allowed (1st), passing yards allowed per game (11th), sacks (5th), and interceptions (1st).
8. Houston Texans (7-3) | Last week: 9 (+1)
A quick start on offense and a great defensive effort helped Houston win its seventh straight game, making them the second team in NFL history (1925 Giants) to win seven straight games after starting the season 0-3. Deshaun Watson isn’t on the scorching pace he was on last season, and he’s turning the ball over too much, but he’s one of those guys that wins games. The Texans’ schedule hasn’t been imposing, but if the defense continues to play well while Watson leads the offense, they are a tough team to beat.
9. Seattle Seahawks (5-5) | Last week: 19 (+10)
This is where the rankings can get crazy, as the next eight or so teams could all be in the mix for the top ten. I’m giving the nod to the Seahawks for the next spot behind a pretty-solid top-eight. They have Russell Wilson leading an offense that is truly committing to the run while most of the league is not, and the young and hungry defense has made key stops to give the offense chances to win games. The end of the season is probably going to be insane, but the Seahawks have control of things—a win this weekend against the Panthers gives them positioning for a wild-card spot in the NFC.
10. Indianapolis Colts (5-5) | Last week: 18 (+8)
Frank Reich continues to do an outstanding job in his first season as the Colts head coach, and he might have the strongest case for Coach of the Year through 11 weeks. The offense is scoring 29.8 points per game (fifth in the NFL), as Reich is utilizing his players and putting them in the best position to help the team have success. Andrew Luck has always been extraordinary while basically carrying a team, but it’s almost not fair for defenses when his offensive line protects him like this (zero sacks allowed the last five games). In the five-game span without allowing a sack, the Colts are averaging 36 points per game, which is behind only the scoring paces of New Orleans (37.8) and Kansas City (36.7) this season.
11. Dallas Cowboys (5-5) | Last week: 16 (+5)
After two straight tough wins on the road at Philadelphia and at Atlanta, the Cowboys now have a chance to play for first-place in the NFC East when they face the Redskins on Thanksgiving. It looked like they were done a couple weeks ago, but they stepped up and should probably be considered the favorites in the division after Alex Smith’s season-ending leg injury. However, they still have a tough upcoming schedule after Thanksgiving, as they face the Saints next Thursday before hosting the Eagles and then facing the Colts on the road.
12. Minnesota Vikings (5-4-1) | Last week: 7 (-5)
The Vikings have a ton of talent all over the field, but two of their top guys—Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook—did not play well in a primetime game with first-place in the NFC North on the line. The game wasn’t really as close as the 25-20 score indicates after a pick-six by Cousins in the fourth quarter; and while they were playing from behind and had trouble moving the ball on the ground against Chicago’s No. 1 run defense, Mike Zimmer probably wouldn’t mind handing the ball to Cook and Latavius Murray more moving forward. Minnesota can deliver a big blow to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers with a win this Sunday night.
13. Tennessee Titans (5-5) | Last week: 11 (-2)
Teams that beat New England typically tend to struggle the next week for whatever reason, whether it’s because they exerted too much energy the week before and have a letdown or because they get too confident after beating the best. (The three teams with wins against the Patriots this season are 0-3 the next week.) The bigger concern than the loss is the status of Marcus Mariota, who seems to be dealing with another nerve issue in his right throwing arm. If Mariota isn’t at 100%, Tennessee is likely to struggle in their playoff push. They can get within one game of the division with a sweep of the Texans this Monday night, though.
14. Carolina Panthers (6-4) | Last week: 12 (-2)
Conventional wisdom is that after getting destroyed on Thursday night in Week 10, the Panthers would bounce back with a huge game (and a win) the next week. It didn’t happen, as Carolina drops to 6-4 with their formerly-strong wild-card standing slipping away. Now the Panthers face the Seahawks in one of the league’s better non-divisional rivalries of recent years, though the two teams haven’t matched up since December 2016, when Seattle routed Carolina. Control of a playoff spot in the NFC is on the line, so Ron Rivera’s squad needs to put this losing skid behind them to prevent things from snowballing.
15. Baltimore Ravens (5-5) | Last week: 15
Lamar Jackson’s first NFL start ended in a win for the Ravens, as the former Heisman Trophy winner paired with undrafted rookie Gus Edwards (17 carries, 115 yards, touchdown) to lead an electric rushing attack. Jackson’s 27 carries (for 117 yards) isn’t something you want to see every week from your quarterback, but it helped Baltimore pick up a needed victory in the AFC. The dynamic rookie probably isn’t going to pick apart defenses through the air yet, but he’ll use his top-tier speed to make plays and keep the offense moving. I’d like to see some shots down the field from Jackson, but a run-heavy approach paired with a strong defense will keep the Ravens in games.
16. Green Bay Packers (4-5-1) | Last week: 13 (-3)
The Packers got off to a very good start with 21 first-half points in Seattle last Thursday night, but they didn’t score again until a fourth-quarter field goal of their 27-24 loss. They could probably lose this weekend and then rattle off five straight wins to get to 9-6-1 with a shot at the playoffs, but Green Bay badly needs to win at Minnesota on Sunday night—it’d pull them even with their NFC North rivals with a potentially-critical tie-breaker after the two teams tied earlier this season. The defense was lit up with 22 fourth-quarter points by the Vikings in the Week 2 tie, but Mike Pettine’s unit has been solid the past few weeks.
17. Washington Redskins (6-4) | Last week: 10 (-7)
Alex Smith’s injury is very unfortunate, as Smith is one of the best guys in the league and was again leading a first-place team late in the season. I wish Smith the best as he looks to make a full recovery and get back on the field for 2019 and beyond. Losing a starting quarterback that has shown he knows how to win games is tough, but the formula probably doesn’t change much for the Redskins with Colt McCoy under-center. McCoy has experience in Jay Gruden’s offense, and he’s shown he can play well when given opportunities—Washington has been comfortable with him as their backup for a reason. I think the Cowboys are the NFC East favorites now, but I don’t think the Redskins should be counted out despite this drop in the power rankings.
18. Atlanta Falcons (4-6) | Last week: 14 (-4)
These last two weeks have been extremely disappointing for the team I picked to go to the Super Bowl from the NFC. Cleveland and Dallas are two strong defenses, but it’s difficult to pinpoint why Atlanta’s offense has put up just 35 points the last two weeks. It does seem pretty clear they should be running the ball with Tevin Coleman (7.2 yards per carry on eight attempts against the Cowboys) more, which would help already-good play-action passes be even more devastating. Mostly everyone probably expects the Saints to beat the Falcons on Thanksgiving night, so a win could give Atlanta a major jolt down the stretch. Getting linebacker Deion Jones back in the lineup to help contain Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram would certainly help.
19. Philadelphia Eagles (4-6) | Last week: 17 (-2)
After they rode a red-hot offense and exceptional team chemistry to their first Super Bowl in franchise history last season, the Eagles offense has dropped to 20.5 points per game this season. They have less points than the 49ers (without Jimmy Garoppolo and Jerick McKinnon), the Broncos, the Browns, the Giants, and the Jets, which is mind-blowing. Alex Smith’s unfortunate injury helps keep the NFC East race open, but Philadelphia needs to get on track themselves before they worry about that.
20. Miami Dolphins (5-5) | Last week: 21 (+1)
Ryan Tannehill’s status remains up in the air after the bye, but there seems to be a chance he’s able to return from his shoulder injury this Sunday against the Colts. The Dolphins are in the mix in the AFC wild-card race, and the most important thing down the stretch is probably improving the run defense. If they can’t stop the run, they’ll have trouble winning games. A matchup against Indianapolis’ excellent offensive line will immediately be a big test to show where Miami is defensively.
21. Detroit Lions (4-6) | Last week: 24 (+3)
The Lions ended their three-game losing streak, but losing rookie running back Kerryon Johnson (knee) for at least Thanksgiving is a big loss for an offense that was doing a good job of utilizing the rookie while LeGarrette Blount struggled with his carries. However, it’ll be interesting to see if Blount can do some damage with a heavy workload, as he’s not fun for defenders to tackle 15-20+ times per game. Cornerback Darius Slay, who returned to the lineup and made a touchdown-saving tackle in Sunday’s one-point win against the Panthers, could be a difference-maker this week after the Lions gave up 355 passing yards and three passing touchdowns to Mitchell Trubisky a couple of weeks ago.
22. Cincinnati Bengals (5-5) | Last week: 20 (-2)
Marvin Lewis’ Bengals had a solid bounce back after getting destroyed by the Saints in Week 10, but they were unable to stop Lamar Jackson and the running game of Baltimore. While he’s probably right, I’m not sure Lewis should’ve said that running quarterbacks get hurt, as it sounded like a bit of a sore-loser type of statement after his team dropped to .500. Cincinnati has a couple of home games as they look to get to 7-5 ahead of the final quarter of the season.
23. Denver Broncos (4-6) | Last week: 25 (+2)
The Broncos have played well the last five weeks, and they’re a missed field goal away from a 3-2 record in that stretch. It was good to see Brandon McManus bounce-back from the Week 9 miss with a game-winner against the Chargers, and Case Keenum and the offense did a great job of getting into field-goal range with just enough time left to pick up a win. Again, the progress from last season, when the Broncos looked like the worst defense in the NFL, is obvious, which is a good sign for head coach Vance Joseph.
24. Cleveland Browns (3-6-1) | Last week: 22 (-2)
I’ve been intrigued by Gregg Williams getting a crack as the interim head coach for the Browns, and this weekend things will get more interesting as Hue Jackson—as Special Assistant to the Head Coach for the Bengals—coaches against the team he was just the head coach of a few weeks ago. Cleveland is looking to build on their strong all-around showing against the Falcons from two Sundays ago, and offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens might have taken the bye week to insert some new things into the offense for rookies Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7) | Last week: 23 (-2)
The Jaguars appeared to have their swagger back with three interceptions of Ben Roethlisberger, including two by Jalen Ramsey, but the crushing loss probably ended their realistic playoff chances for 2018. After an ESPN report asserted Jacksonville would likely consider trading Ramsey this offseason (which was flatly denied by the Jaguars organization), Ramsey appeared to be playing with more of an edge—and the fact that he wore a ski mask in warm weather felt like some kind of weird statement to me, but maybe not. As stated earlier this year, the Jags seem to have had their Super Bowl when they beat the Patriots earlier this season.
26. Buffalo Bills (3-7) | Last week: 26
Matt Barkley filled in admirably in Week 10, but Josh Allen is set to return to the lineup after missing four games with a right elbow injury. The rookie quarterback maturely has brushed off the Jalen Ramsey criticism, but I’m looking forward to him going up against the trash-talking cornerback this Sunday. The Bills don’t have top-tier talent around Allen, but Brian Daboll’s offense looked good ahead of the bye week.
27. New York Giants (3-7) | Last week: 29 (+2)
The Giants want to win eight straight games to get to 9-7 with a solid chance at winning the NFC East, which I don’t see happening. But a win over the Eagles this Sunday would certainly help their chances to potentially win the division at 8-8 or even 7-9 if no one else steps up. There’s reason to be cautious about getting too excited with a couple of good offensive showings against the struggling Niners and Bucs, but Pat Shurmur’s offense is playing well. They might jump up several spots in next week’s power rankings with a Week 12 win.
28. New York Jets (3-7) | Last week: 28
The Bills have their rookie franchise quarterback coming back after the bye, but the status of fellow AFC East franchise quarterback Sam Darnold is uncertain. The Jets obviously don’t want to rush the 21-year-old back in the lineup with the playoffs looking unlikely, but playing experience is important—especially as he tries to figure out a Bill Belichick defense. We’ll see if second-year running back Elijah McGuire gets more involved on offense when the Jets return to the field.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-7) | Last week: 27 (-2)
The quarterback flip-flopping continues for Tampa Bay, as both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston have always suffered with turnovers, which is making it tough for either one of them to keep the starting job. It’ll probably be Winston from here on out, though, as Dirk Koetter and the coaching staff will attempt to show they can win with the former No. 1 overall pick with jobs unfortunately on the line. The Bucs simply aren’t very good.
30. Oakland Raiders (2-8) | Last week: 32 (+2)
I thought most of the Raiders players had already given up on Jon Gruden (which would be on themselves as competitors, not the head coach), but it was great to see almost everyone jovial and cheerful after picking up their second win of the season. As Gruden himself has said, these tough times are when the foundation of the Raiders is laid. This decimated and complicated roster needs to figure out how to win games, but Gruden appears to have the right mindset to get this thing fixed.
"Keep it rolling! Let's go!"
— Oakland Raiders (@Raiders) November 19, 2018
31. Arizona Cardinals (2-8) | Last week: 30 (-1)
That was the best chance for the Cardinals to pick up a win against someone other than the Niners this season, but they couldn’t edge out the Raiders. A major positive was David Johnson remaining heavily-involved in the offense, which is going to help keep Arizona in games. Perhaps his emotions got the better of him for a moment, but I did not like Josh Rosen showing up Larry Fitzgerald a bit by demonstratively questioning the future Hall of Famer’s route after an inaccurate throw—teammates notice that type of stuff.
32. San Francisco 49ers (2-8) | Last week: 31 (-1)
The final three teams in the power rankings are tough, as the Niners blew out the Raiders, but Oakland is still two spots ahead of them. However, because that came in a Thursday night game (when crazy things happen), and the Niners lost both games to the Cardinals this season, they’re down to the last spot in the power rankings. Nick Mullens will look to improve to 2-1 as the team returns from the bye, though.