There’s a lot of shuffling in the 2020 NFL Week 12 power rankings, and things should only pick up after Thanksgiving.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0) | Last week: 1
Pittsburgh is not looking past anyone, dominating two undermatched teams over the past two weeks to get to 10-0 ahead of a matchup with the Ravens—and players are seriously mad the game is being postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests for Baltimore, so they’ll probably come out fired up on Sunday. There are still six games to play with four above-.500 teams left on the schedule, but I don’t think there’s been enough talk about the Steelers having a realistic shot to go 16-0.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) | Last week: 2
After the thrilling win over the Raiders, Andy Reid expressed his confidence whenever his team is down with time left on the clock for Patrick Mahomes and the offense to go to work. Mahomes calmly led Kansas City down the field for the game-winning score to a wide-open Travis Kelce, and the former MVP might feel like he can’t miss when the game is on the line. Mahomes and company will face the player that’s proven to have more ice in his veins than anyone in history when the Chiefs play the Bucs this Sunday.
3. New Orleans Saints (8-2) | Last week: 3
Everyone was fascinated with what Taysom Hill would look like as a full-time quarterback for the Saints, and it’s difficult not to be impressed after one game. Hill was dynamic as usual as a runner, and he shined on accurate intermediate throws to Michael Thomas in particular. We’ll see if Hill can put it together for a second consecutive game this Sunday after the defense made things relatively easy on him by completely dominating the Falcons offensive line last week.
4. Buffalo Bills (7-3) | Last week: 5 (+1)
Coming off the bye, the Bills play the Chargers in the early slate of games on Sunday before a whopping four consecutive primetime games. It’s too bad there aren’t fans allowed in Buffalo for the critical home games, though.
5. Los Angeles Rams (7-3) | Last week: 8 (+3)
Sean McVay appears to be getting more credit again after a “down” year last season (a 9-7 record with an offensive line that really struggled for most of the year). He showed a willingness to adjust and go with what was working against a very tough Buccaneers defense, allowing Jared Goff to distribute the ball to Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and his weapons while not relying much on the run game. Goff deserves more recognition for his accuracy, as he puts the ball right on the chest of his receivers in stride, which allows them to pick up chunks on the yard-after-catch plays they’re known for.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-4) | Last week: 4 (-2)
Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all-time, but for whatever reason he and the Bucs cannot get going in primetime games this season. The Rams put pressure on Brady, which obviously affects his play as it would with any quarterback; but Brady himself will tell you he needs to play better. The “primetime” struggles hopefully won’t translate to the postseason, and a highly anticipated matchup with the Chiefs this week could help them get things right. When Chris Godwin is thrown the ball, good things seem to happen; I’d like to see him more consistently involved early in games for Tampa Bay.
7. Las Vegas Raiders (6-4) | Last week: 6 (-1)
The Raiders have four losses, but they’ve shown they can go toe-to-toe with the Chiefs, and they have the easiest remaining schedule in the AFC. I think the strong performance on national television helped people wake up to realize Las Vegas is legit and that Derek Carr is playing extremely well this season with a stacked supporting cast around him. It’s easy to see why the Raiders wanted safety Johnathan Abram in last year’s draft given his ability to set the tone with big hits on defense, but he’s continuously shown that he needs to rein it in a bit and become more disciplined to avoid hurting his team like on the game-winning score by Travis Kelce.
8. Seattle Seahawks (7-3) | Last week: 9 (+1)
The Seahawks did an excellent job of putting the heat on Kyler Murray last Thursday night, helping spark a needed win to get back on track and avoid getting swept while losing the tiebreaker to the Cardinals. Pete Carroll is obviously one of the top coaches in the league, and Seattle will be much more formidable if he and the coaching staff can get the defense to play even average after being historically bad in pass defense over the first half of the year. Russell Wilson and the Seahawks have had a lot of recent success versus their next opponent, the Eagles.
9. Indianapolis Colts (7-3) | Last week: 12 (+3)
The Colts rise into the top ten of the power rankings, and perhaps this is too low still for them. The defense had maybe its worst half of the season in the first 30 minutes versus Green Bay, but Darius Leonard and company turned things on in the second half and overtime, allowing just three points. Indy has a chance to take strong control in the AFC South when they face the Titans on Sunday; a win would essentially put them up two games with five to go given the possession of the tiebreaker.
10. Green Bay Packers (7-3) | Last week: 7 (-3)
Three spots might seem too big of a drop for a Packers team that barely lost on the road to the Colts, but Green Bay has struggled a bit against some of the better competition they’ve battled in 2020—and the same happened last year when you consider the two losses (including playoffs) to the Niners. Still, the Packers can go three games up in the division with a Sunday night win over the Bears this week.
11. Tennessee Titans (7-3) | Last week: 13 (+2)
You can only contain Derrick Henry for so long, and the Titans are tough for any team to beat if the game is close and Tennessee has the opportunity to let Henry go to work on a worn-down defense. The star power—mainly Henry and A.J. Brown (who had a sensational tackle-breaking touchdown) on offense—showed up for the Titans in their huge win at Baltimore. Also, I found this pretty cool and funny:
Derrick Henry literally handed the Ravens an L pic.twitter.com/r7Sjrv7Yx7
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) November 22, 2020
12. Baltimore Ravens (6-4) | Last week: 10 (-2)
The Ravens are reeling, and an AFC preseason favorite (including for me) are in serious danger of missing out on the postseason entirely. They aren’t in a must-win situation yet, obviously, but a loss to the division rival Steelers on Sunday could be very dejecting to a team that Lamar Jackson oddly has been claiming hasn’t wanted it as bad as their opponents.
13. Miami Dolphins (6-4) | Last week: 11 (-2)
I don’t think it’s a big deal that Tua Tagovailoa was benched for performance reasons—he knows better than most how it goes if you aren’t playing well and the team might need a spark, which Ryan Fitzpatrick can certainly provide. The overall performance from Miami was one of the most disappointing from Week 11, but this is a team that’s still growing and learning to be more consistent. They should bounce back versus the Jets this weekend.
14. Arizona Cardinals (6-4) | Last week: 14
It would be a major surprise if he misses time, but the health of Kyler Murray’s shoulder will be something to watch closely this week and beyond for the Cardinals. Murray does have some errant throws, but he seemed more off than usual last week against the Seahawks after the injury, including a major underthrow on a deep ball to Christian Kirk. Defensively, Isaiah Simmons has been all over the field since getting more playing time, and he’s quickly showing that it was crazy for people to call him a “bust” after just several games of a COVID-impacted rookie year.
15. Cleveland Browns (7-3) | Last week: 15
He doesn’t get the publicity he should because he might not say more than one word on gamedays, but Nick Chubb is basically an unstoppable machine that churns out positive yardage like it’s all he’s programmed to do. The Browns are much better with him on the field. Look for Chubb and the defense to continue dominating this Sunday against the Jaguars before the schedule toughens up.
16. New England Patriots (4-6) | Last week: 16
In a crowded AFC playoff race, the Patriots almost had to have a win over the Texans, so their margin of error is probably zero moving forward as they attempt to avoid missing the postseason for the first time since 2008 (when they had an 11-5 record). I’d think New England will use Damien Harris more on the ground—perhaps with Sony Michel also mixed into the power attack with Rex Burkhead (knee) unfortunately done for the season.
17. Minnesota Vikings (4-6) | Last week: 17
The Vikings were not able to keep the momentum going and ride the winning streak to four games, with their playoff chances taking a considerable hit after the loss to Dallas. Now, star receiver Adam Thielen is dealing with a positive COVID-19 test, which the team will hope is a false-positive. Minnesota will be favored the next two weeks versus Carolina and Jacksonville, so they’ll try to get to 6-6 and go from there.
18. Chicago Bears (5-5) | Last week: 18
Chicago’s quarterback situation is up in the air coming off the bye, with Nick Foles (hip) and Mitchell Trubisky (shoulder) both banged up. I think Foles is the better quarterback, but Trubisky might ultimately be a better fit at this point because the offensive line has played so poorly and Trubisky can at least run around a little bit to get out of trouble—though ideally the Bears were able to sort out the offensive line issues during the bye.
19. San Francisco 49ers (4-6) | Last week: 22 (+3)
We’ll see what happens with Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman, but the Niners took the bye to get healthier, with Deebo Samuel (hamstring) at least set to return on offense. The bye came at a good time, as Kyle Shanahan had extra time to prepare for a must-win game at the Rams.
20. New York Giants (3-7) | Last week: 23 (+3)
Unless several reporters were totally lied to, it sounds like fake news was the biggest story surrounding the Giants while they were off last week, as it was apparently falsely reported that Joe Judge and fired offensive line coach Marc Colombo came to blows over the situation. New York can put the situation behind them with a solid performance from the offensive line and a win this Sunday against the Bengals.
21. Denver Broncos (4-6) | Last week: 25 (+4)
Consistency has been an issue for the Broncos, who have some impressive wins on their schedule (at Foxboro and vs. Miami) while looking like a totally different team other weeks. The next two games will be big tests as Denver looks to show they can play with the best teams in the league and make a playoff push.
22. Washington Football Team (3-7) | Last week: 28 (+6)
The 20s in the power rankings were the toughest to rank this week, but a couple of NFC East teams move up several spots for picking up wins and getting to within half a game of first place in the division. Washington has a case for being the favorites, as they have the most experienced quarterback in Alex Smith, with a defensive-minded head coach that’s made deep playoff runs in the past. A team could win the division a few games below .500, but tomorrow’s Thanksgiving game against the Cowboys could determine the paths of the two rivals.
23. Dallas Cowboys (3-7) | Last week: 29 (+6)
The Cowboys not only got a win over the Vikings, but they appear to have the best schedule on paper moving forward, and the players look to be buying into head coach Mike McCarthy after anonymous players voiced concerns early in the season (if the news was to be believed, anyway). The story of McCarthy smashing watermelons the night before the Minnesota game to hype his team was funny, and it’s disappointing and honestly quite perplexing that people somehow thought it was “racist”. There are actual racist things and people out there, so to call smashing watermelons racist is a tad bit extreme in my opinion.
24. Philadelphia Eagles (3-6-1) | Last week: 19 (-5)
The Eagles need some type of spark to get going this season, and it’s amazing they are in first place in the NFC East at 3-6-1. But it’s difficult to be optimistic about their playoff chances with the upcoming schedule starting this Monday against the Seahawks. With Carson Wentz and the passing offense struggling, Philadelphia probably needs to ride the run game to success.
25. Carolina Panthers (4-7) | Last week: 24 (-1)
Good for former XFL MVP frontrunner P.J. Walker for taking advantage of his opportunity to get a win in his first NFL start for the Panthers. Walker, who was a four-year starter at Temple and showed promise and poise as a freshman, has plenty of experience at the position (despite it not coming in the NFL) and has shown he can at the very least be one of the best backups in the league for a while. The bye is looming, but it would be great if the Panthers can get Christian McCaffrey (shoulder) back in the lineup this Sunday.
26. Detroit Lions (4-6) | Last week: 20 (-6)
The Lions were shorthanded including at running back with D’Andre Swift out because of a mid-week concussion, but the offense cannot get shut out by a sub-.500 team—even one that plays above their talent level like the Panthers. Now, a Thanksgiving matchup with the Texans could be the final stand for Matt Patricia as he looks to compete for a playoff spot in a known make-or-break year.
27. Atlanta Falcons (3-7) | Last week: 21 (-6)
The defense played hard and the entire team had a solid first half, but the Falcons will be the first to say that was a pretty atrocious performance by the offensive line in particular against the Saints. It undoubtedly hurt when Julio Jones was in and out of the game because of a hamstring issue, but Atlanta still shouldn’t have been dominated like they were. The Falcons will look to play some spoiler in the other conference when they face a contending Raiders squad this week.
28. Los Angeles Chargers (3-7) | Last week: 26 (-2)
The haircut did not affect his play, as Justin Herbert lit it up against the Jets and has been truly spectacular this season; he’s likely going to be a problem for opposing defenses for the next decade-plus. It helps that Herbert has a dynamic weapon like Keenan Allen on the outside—along with the monstrous Mike Williams as a premier secondary option. Los Angeles now might get Austin Ekeler back from his hamstring injury soon. The Chargers might cause major issues for teams down the stretch, and they only drop two spots in the power rankings because of NFC East teams with realistic playoff chances rising.
29. Houston Texans (3-7) | Last week: 30 (+1)
Deshaun Watson is a guy that can cause issues for opposing defenses with his dual threat ability, and he and Houston spoiled the hopes of a Patriots team that was surging a bit as of late. The Texans play the Lions to kick off the Thanksgiving action, and they should at least be an entertaining watch tomorrow and down the stretch.
30. Cincinnati Bengals (2-7-1) | Last week: 27 (-3)
It’s tough to see Joe Burrow’s rookie season get cut short due to a serious knee injury that will likely put the start of 2021 (and potentially a sizable chunk of it) in jeopardy, but the No. 1 overall pick has already earned a lot of respect around the league for his play. I don’t agree with the thought that Burrow should sit out all of next year as the team builds and adds to the roster—when he’s legitimately 100% with zero limitations or concerns, he should be back on the field.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9) | Last week: 31
The Jaguars are switching quarterbacks again, now turning to veteran Mike Glennon. It might not do much good for Jacksonville, which lost defensive end Josh Allen to a multi-week knee injury, as they look to pick up some victories, though.
32. New York Jets (0-10) | Last week: 32
I actually considered moving the Jets to No. 31 in the power rankings, but they need to get on the board with a win first. Joe Flacco and an underrated, explosive receiving corps have been playing pretty well lately, so there’ll be pressure on Sam Darnold to keep it going when he returns from his shoulder injury. I feel for Frank Gore, who says he doesn’t want his career to potentially end with an 0-16 record.