Derrick Henry and the Titans are rising in this week’s NFL power rankings, while two NFC East contenders drop after their latest losses.
1. New England Patriots (10-1) | Last week: 1
All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore was on another level in the Patriots’ shutdown effort of the league’s No. 1 pass defense, holding Cowboys star receiver Amari Cooper to no catches in New England’s 13-9 win in rainy Foxboro. The rushing attack got in a bit of a lull for a stretch of the Week 12 victory, but Sony Michel started off hot behind an offensive line that looked a lot better with left tackle Isaiah Wynn back in the lineup. Playing elite defense and running the ball well—with Tom Brady protecting the ball at quarterback as he looks to get clicking with his receiving corps—will be tough for any team to beat in December and January.
2. Baltimore Ravens (9-2) | Last week: 2
MVP frontrunner Lamar Jackson is getting a ton of hype—almost a little too much after 11 games this season—but it’s great to see that the second-year quarterback is remaining extremely humble and grounded at this point. Success can go to a lot of people’s heads, but hopefully Jackson ignores the noise and remains the likable, electric athlete he is right now, which I think he will. As previously stated, the Ravens are basically blowing teams out like they are a powerhouse college program facing inferior teams most weeks. That said, this Sunday against the 10-1 49ers will be interesting.
3. Seattle Seahawks (9-2) | Last week: 3
Despite no Jadeveon Clowney, the Seahawks were able to limit the Eagles to nine points in their victory at Lincoln Financial Field. Along with the stellar defensive performance, Seattle’s two huge touchdown plays—a trick play deep ball to Malik Turner and a long slashing run by Rashaad Penny—were enough to get the tough road win. As you’d expect from someone that’s overcome the odds like he has, Shaquem Griffin has been playing with a ton of energy during his increase in playing time over the course of this season, which has been awesome to see.
4. New Orleans Saints (9-2) | Last week: 5 (+1)
It’s hard to believe, but New Orleans hasn’t played a primetime game since September, keeping them out of view for a lot of the country recently. However, the Drew Brees-led offense looks really scary right now, with a number of weapons including tight end Jared Cook finding a groove—but I think Latavius Murray needs more carries with the way he’s been running the ball. America will see the Saints in the Thanksgiving nightcap, and we’ll see how the team responds after getting routed by Atlanta at home a couple of weeks ago.
5. San Francisco 49ers (10-1) | Last week: 6 (+1)
The 49ers obviously have a case for being a spot or two higher in this week’s power rankings following their dominant performance against the Packers last Sunday night—and they would likely move up to No. 2 if they can get a win at Baltimore this week. George Kittle getting back in the lineup after missing the last two games gave San Francisco’s offense a huge boost, and Jimmy Garoppolo continues to play very well as of late.
6. Green Bay Packers (8-3) | Last week: 4 (-2)
The Packers have not enjoyed a couple of trips to the West Coast this season, as they were not particularly competitive in losses to the Chargers and 49ers. Last week’s loss was especially disappointing because it was coming off the bye week. However, on paper, Green Bay has a stretch where they can get rolling in December, as they’ll go on the road to face the Giants before hosting the Redskins in Week 14. Expect Matt LaFleur to look to get running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams going to better set up play-action passes to Davante Adams and company.
7. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) | Last week: 7
There are still five games left in the regular season and some difficult matchups for the Chiefs, but they have a chance to put themselves in a great spot in the AFC West as they face the Raiders this week. If Kansas City can get to two games up with four games to play, they’ll be in good shape for a home playoff game. In the regular season, Andy Reid is 17-3 in his career coming off the bye.
8. Buffalo Bills (8-3) | Last week: 9 (+1)
The Bills playing in a Thanksgiving game everyone will be watching could alert casual fans about second-year quarterback Josh Allen’s ability, and maybe Buffalo will start getting the respect they’ve earned after an 8-3 start to the year. On defense, star cornerback Tre’Davious White is one of the league’s most underrated players, and he’s coming off a game where he erased Broncos No. 1 receiver Courtland Sutton while Sean McDermott’s defense held Denver to three points. This is a tough stretch coming up for the Bills (@ Dallas, vs. Baltimore, @ Pittsburgh, and @ New England), so Thursday will be critical.
9. Minnesota Vikings (8-3) | Last week: 8 (-1)
Kirk Cousins had been on fire entering the bye week, so hopefully he can keep it going as the Vikings emerge to face the Seahawks in a primetime Monday Night Football matchup. Cousins will get more help, as Adam Thielen is expected to return from his hamstring injury. Minnesota and Seattle have given us some entertaining games over the last few years.
10. Houston Texans (7-4) | Last week: 13 (+3)
Deshaun Watson made exceptional throws down the field in last Thursday’s win over the Colts to help the Texans bounce back from their embarrassing loss to the Ravens and take back control of the AFC South. And while T.Y. Hilton was clearly at less than 100% and did not play a full slate of snaps, Houston’s defense did a nice job of not getting beat by the dynamic receiver that’s killed them over the years. Bill Belichick’s defense will be a difficult battle for Deshaun Watson on Sunday night.
11. Tennessee Titans (6-5) | Last week: 17 (+6)
The Titans have a big rise in this week’s power rankings after their convincing victory against the Jaguars, as Ryan Tannehill continues to play well at quarterback, and Derrick Henry took over the game yet again. The former Heisman Trophy winning running back is an elite player that doesn’t get talked about among the league’s best (probably because so many clueless know-it-alls insisted Henry is some lumbering, unathletic runner). If Mike Vrabel’s defense plays consistently, Tennessee is a threat for both the AFC South and a wild-card spot.
12. Oakland Raiders (6-5) | Last week: 10 (-2)
The most disappointing performance of Week 12 was probably from the Raiders, as their trip to the East Coast to face the Jets was not a pleasant one for Jon Gruden and company. Oakland’s defense gave up too many big plays, while the offense made mistakes and could not get much going. Now, rookie receiver Hunter Renfrow is dealing with a serious rib injury that puts the rest of his season in jeopardy, and the Raiders have to face a Chiefs team coming off the bye. I expect Gruden will get his team to bounce back, but they might be undermanned against Kansas City at this point.
13. Los Angeles Rams (6-5) | Last week: 11 (-2)
If the Raiders didn’t have Week 12’s most disappointing performance, then it came from the Rams on Monday night. Despite playing at home in Los Angeles (not that LA is a spectacular homefield advantage), the Rams were completely demolished by the Ravens, who pretty much moved the ball at will both on the ground and through the air. Sean McVay’s team is still in the mix for a wild-card spot in the NFC, but it will be intriguing to see how this team responds to the adversity after just going to the Super Bowl last season.
14. Indianapolis Colts (6-5) | Last week: 12 (-2)
They were not able to get the win last Thursday night, but the Colts have a recipe for success late in the season, as Frank Reich actually means it when he says his offense is going to run the ball a ton. Ideally, Marlon Mack (already ruled out for Week 13) will return to the field soon, but the powerful offensive line is opening rushing lanes for Jonathan Williams, who has 100 yards in two consecutive games. Indianapolis does have some beef for the way their loss to the Texans ended, as it looked like Deshaun Watson certainly fumbled on the game-icing drive. Darius Leonard and the Colts defense had some time to think about the loss, and I expect they’ll come out fired up this week.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) | Last week: 16 (+1)
The Steelers just bounced back from a Thursday night loss with another stellar defensive effort, and the offense made a timely play with James Washington’s long touchdown reception from Devlin Hodges, who was inserted into the game for Mason Rudolph to help give the offense a spark. You can bet Mike Tomlin will get his guys to come out fired up after losing to Cleveland just a couple of weeks ago—and after a couple of Pittsburgh receivers were knocked out of the game and the ugliness at that game’s conclusion.
16. Dallas Cowboys (6-5) | Last week: 14 (-2)
Jerry Jones’ honest postgame comments create an interesting situation for the Cowboys, as they have a short week to get things turned around for their annual Thanksgiving matchup. Jason Garrett typically gets his team to play well when they’re being questioned (likely part of why he’s been able to remain the head coach for so long), but facing a stingy Bills team will not be easy. Dallas’ defense tightened up against the run after a slow start there against the Patriots, but the Bills are likely to keep going at them with Devin Singletary and Frank Gore, with Josh Allen’s legs mixing in.
17. Philadelphia Eagles (5-6) | Last week: 15 (-2)
It seems the discussion over Carson Wentz’s play is broken into two factions: he cannot be playing worse, or nothing is his fault and the receivers around him make it impossible to have success. The bottom line is there are plays to be made (i.e. open receivers are being missed) and Wentz is not playing well at all right now. If you glance at the numbers, Wentz isn’t playing that poorly—but the numbers are do not tell the story in this case. Overall, the Eagles are not producing as an offense and could easily lose to the Dolphins this week; but on paper, they’re squarely in the mix and are arguably the favorite in the NFC East considering the play of their defense and the Cowboys’ more difficult schedule.
18. Cleveland Browns (5-6) | Last week: 19 (+1)
The Browns are playing with a lot of confidence right now, and they’re starting to go a little over the top with their celebrations (like Jarvis Landry acting like a dog or zombie or whatever he was doing against his former team last week). If Cleveland is able to top the Steelers for the second time in three weeks, you can be their swagger will reach extreme levels at 6-6 with four games to play in a wide-open AFC wild-card race. The offense will get a boost with tight end David Njoku expected back in the lineup for the first time since September 16.
19. Carolina Panthers (5-6) | Last week: 18 (-1)
After he struggled against the Falcons in Week 11, Kyle Allen bounced back with perhaps the best performance of his young career in the Panthers’ tough loss to the Saints. Allen led his team to a clutch fourth-quarter touchdown drive and then led them to position for a go-ahead field goal, but the kick was missed, and Carolina could not finish the job. It’s clearly going to be tougher for the Panthers to make the postseason now, but they return home for a game they should win against the Redskins as they look to get back to .500.
20. Chicago Bears (5-6) | Last week: 21 (+1)
The Bears haven’t scored more than 20 points in any of the past five games (2-3 record), but the defense has held the opposition to 16.6 points per game, which is giving them a chance every week. Chicago faced Detroit in that stretch, but perhaps tomorrow will be an opportunity for Mitchell Trubisky and the offense to break out against a defense they’ve performed well against the past two seasons.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7) | Last week: 20 (-1)
Nick Foles’ return to the lineup hasn’t translated to wins for Jacksonville, but these last couple of games have been mostly on the defense, as they’re getting gashed on the ground. The Jags have been way too inconsistent this season, but they’re still alive in the AFC playoff picture (just two games back of a spot) with an opportunity to play a couple of teams ahead of them in the standings. This week, the Jags will look to get going against a Bucs team Foles has had success against in the past.
22. Los Angeles Chargers (4-7) | Last week: 23 (+1)
The Chargers also remain in the playoff mix in the AFC despite a 4-7 record, and they’ll get a major boost as they emerge from the bye, with All-Pro safety Derwin James returning from injured reserve for his 2019 debut. LA might look a lot more like many people expected them to look like before the season with James back in the lineup on defense.
23. New York Jets (4-7) | Last week: 29 (+6)
The Jets are tied for the biggest rise in this week’s power rankings, and they are another team that actually has a shot to get into the AFC playoff picture. New York faces Cincinnati and Miami the next two weeks, so they’ll be favored to get to 6-7, and both sides of the ball are getting in a groove. Gregg Williams’ defense plays with energy and is the top run defense in the NFL through Week 12.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7) | Last week: 25 (+1)
Already with two receivers past the 1,000-yard mark, the Buccaneers have had an explosive offense in their first season under Bruce Arians—but Jameis Winston’s turnovers have been a big reason they are out of the NFC playoff race. Winston had two more interceptions against the Falcons, but the Bucs were able to win thanks in large part to Chris Godwin’s performance (184 yards and two touchdowns, including a one-handed snag that saved a bad throw by Winston at the goal line).
25. Atlanta Falcons (3-8) | Last week: 22 (-3)
The resurgence of the Falcons lasted just a couple of games, as dropping to 3-8 ends their outside shot at the postseason. Atlanta is still mathematically alive, but too much outside of their control needs to happen for them to have a chance. I was really looking forward to the Thanksgiving Night matchup against the Saints before the season, and it’s unfortunate that the game isn’t between two contending teams; but this should still be an entertaining divisional game after the Falcons dominated in New Orleans earlier this month.
26. Arizona Cardinals (3-7-1) | Last week: 26
On paper, the Cardinals have one of the most challenging remaining schedules in the league, but it will be a great learning experience for first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury and rookie quarterback Kyler Murray. The bye week gave Arizona extra time to prepare for a talented Rams defense that should be angry after they were just destroyed at home.
27. Detroit Lions (3-7-1) | Last week: 24 (-3)
The Lions have dealt with a number of key injuries this season, but a loss to the Redskins might be hard for Matt Patricia to recover from. Especially after the back injury to Matthew Stafford, I think Patricia should undoubtedly get more time to build a program, but the public perception in Detroit has clearly shifted against him after the latest loss. Hopefully Patricia’s team responds for tomorrow’s traditional Thanksgiving game.
28. Denver Broncos (3-8) | Last week: 27 (-1)
The Bills were a team that Broncos figured to have a chance to beat if they could keep it close in a defensive battle, but Denver was no match for a contending Buffalo squad. After an early 27-yard reception by Courtland Sutton, the Broncos could not get anything going through the air, throwing for just 82 yards. It’s possible second-round rookie quarterback Drew Lock plays this Sunday against the Chargers as the team looks to see what they have in the Mizzou product.
29. Miami Dolphins (2-9) | Last week: 28 (-1)
After back-to-back wins, the Dolphins have lost a couple of games by 17 points, as the defense has taken a step back while giving up point totals of 37 and 41 to the Bills and Browns. Ryan Fitzpatrick is performing with a depleted offense, but Miami would do well to get in a defensive battle with the Eagles with an opportunity to win it at the end this Sunday.
30. New York Giants (2-9) | Last week: 30
Rookie quarterback Daniel Jones did a good job taking care of the football and getting the Giants to within one score at Soldier Field, while the New York defense played a tough game and showed their upside against the run. But the Giants have not won a game since September—though that’s not something that’s uncommon for rookie quarterbacks on subpar teams, and Jones has the mindset to grow from this situation. Saquon Barkley surprisingly had a key drop that would’ve been a huge gain (and potential touchdown) in the Week 12 loss, and the second-year running back might be pressing in a down year for his team.
31. Washington Redskins (2-9) | Last week: 31
It’s not the end of the world and he was clearly excited for his first NFL win, but it was not a good look for Dwayne Haskins to be taking a selfie with fans instead of getting on the field for a victory formation snap against the Lions—hopefully it was just a brief mental lapse and not a lack of awareness that might be an issue moving forward. Anyway, Haskins gave his receivers opportunities to make plays in the win, and rookies Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon are among the young group of players the Redskins can be excited about moving forward.
32. Cincinnati Bengals (0-11) | Last week: 32
The Bengals made the right move going back to veteran quarterback Andy Dalton as they look to avoid a winless season, and hopefully star receiver A.J. Green is able to make his 2019 debut soon to give the offense a significant boost. Cincinnati has been on the cusp the last two games, and a break should go their way at some point. They’re currently two games up for the first overall pick in the draft, but they would certainly rather get a win than get the top draft pick.