We typically have a good idea of where teams really stand several weeks into the season, but that arguably has not been the case during this topsy-turvy 2021. We’ll see if teams can begin separating themselves after Thanksgiving, but this is where I have all 32 stacking up in the Week 12 NFL power rankings.
1. Arizona Cardinals (9-2) | Last week: 5 (+4)
With all the shuffling and teams falling, the Cardinals are back in the top spot in the power rankings after handling the Seahawks. Arizona has been the most consistent team in the league this season as we hit Thanksgiving.
2. Tennessee Titans (8-3) | Last week: 2
The Titans have been pretty consistent too, and five turnovers (including four Ryan Tannehill interceptions) won’t happen often—it was probably just “one of those games” for the Titans in their stunning loss to the Texans. Keep an eye on the health of A.J. Brown ahead of this week versus the Patriots.
3. Green Bay Packers (8-3) | Last week: 1 (-2)
Aaron Rodgers was able to scramble around some despite his toe issue, but you could tell that he wasn’t quite himself in the Packers’ loss to the Vikings. It came down to the Green Bay defense having its worst performance since Week 1, giving up a bunch of big plays to the Vikings. They’ll look to get back on track when they return to Lambeau to face the Rams this Sunday.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3) | Last week: 4
It was good to see the Tampa Bay defense look more like itself in the win over the Giants on Monday night, and there’s still room for the Bucs offense to clean things up and really start exploding. Getting Antonio Brown (ankle) back soon would be another boost after Rob Gronkowski returned last week.
5. New England Patriots (7-4) | Last week: 7 (+2)
The Patriots could certainly be as high as No. 2 in the Week 11 power rankings. Bill Belichick has this team clicking right now, and the defense is on fire after shutting out the Falcons last Thursday night. The upcoming schedule is very tough, but I think it’s safe to say the Patriots are back.
6. Buffalo Bills (6-4) | Last week: 3 (-3)
The Bills will still have something to say about that, though. Again, as we’ve seen all throughout this season and as I mention often, it was just one of those types of games for Buffalo in their home loss to Indy last week. The offense was off again, but you’re going to have a tough time winning any game when the defense gets run all over and gives up five touchdowns to one player.
7. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) | Last week: 12 (+5)
Are the Chiefs “back”? The defense is, and it has been for a few weeks now, as the unit continues to be a very underappreciated group under defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. That’s the main reason for this big jump back into the top ten of the power rankings. However, Patrick Mahomes—while he isn’t playing like the MVP juggernaut he was—is doing a good job of taking care of the football. That said, I recently saw someone call him the MVP runner-up (behind Tom Brady) at this point in the year. It goes to show you that much of the media don’t actually watch the games.
8. Dallas Cowboys (7-3) | Last week: 6 (-2)
The offensive performance at Kansas City was ugly; but remember, Tyron Smith has missed the past few games with his ankle issue. Having him on the blindside is a huge boost for Dak Prescott and company. Smith might be back on Thanksgiving, but either way, Jerry Jones wants his team to run the ball more, and I agree with him. That would help Tony Pollard get more touches, too. The defense kept Dallas in the game last week, and there’s no reason to panic right now.
9. Baltimore Ravens (7-3) | Last week: 8 (-1)
It seems that Lamar Jackson has been sick quite a lot this year with cold-like (non-COVID-related) symptoms, and he was surprisingly forced to miss Week 11 because of that—hopefully it’s not anything too serious and he can get past it moving forward. Tyler Huntley filled in and was able to help Baltimore win a defensive battle against Chicago.
10. Los Angeles Rams (7-3) | Last week: 9 (-1)
I’m interested to see how the Rams fare coming out of their bye week. Lambeau Field is not an easy place to play, and Los Angeles lost on the road to Green Bay last postseason. Sean McVay had extra time to take a deeper look at his offense, and again, I think getting back to running the ball is key for the Rams.
11. Indianapolis Colts (6-5) | Last week: 16 (+5)
The Colts are playing as well as anyone right now, so No. 11 might be too low in the power rankings. After Jonathan Taylor exploded for 204 total yards and five total touchdowns on 35 touches against the NFL’s top defense, I think we can perhaps finally feel confident Indianapolis will give the absolute superstar of a player the touches he should get every week. It really is unbelievable how badly the NFL and the media missed on Taylor, who should have been a clear top-ten pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
12. Los Angeles Chargers (6-4) | Last week: 11 (-1)
The concern for the Chargers is that the defense has struggled mightily for parts of this season, but the good news is Justin Herbert and the offense are finding ways to win shootouts. Herbert and Mike Williams have connected for five go-ahead touchdowns this season, which is already a single-season record.
13. Minnesota Vikings (5-5) | Last week: 17 (+4)
After two consecutive wins over the Chargers and the Packers, the Vikings have emerged as frontrunners for one of the three NFC wild-card spots (the Rams being another frontrunner). Kirk Cousins was again clutch at the end of the victory over Green Bay, and Minnesota should benefit by playing in so many close games this season if they get into January. Mike Zimmer’s bunch is battle tested.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4-1) | Last week: 10 (-4)
They were unable to get the win, but you have to admire the fight the shorthanded Steelers showed on the road in the Sunday night loss to the Chargers. Ben Roethlisberger gave yet another example of the media burying him far too early. Pittsburgh has a bunch of divisional games coming up, including this week against the Bengals.
15. Cleveland Browns (6-5) | Last week: 14 (-1)
While he’s been dealing with multiple injuries all season, Baker Mayfield knows he must play better for the Browns to get to where they want. Mayfield’s play helped allow the Lions to stay in the game with them last week, but at least Cleveland was able to get Nick Chubb back in the lineup after he missed a game due to COVID protocols. The Browns might also get Kareem Hunt (calf) back this week after he missed several games.
16. Cincinnati Bengals (6-4) | Last week: 15 (-1)
Joe Mixon and the rushing attack powered the Bengals to a win against the Raiders in which they separated late; but Joe Burrow and the passing attack remained just off following their bye. We’ll see if the Bengals can connect on more big plays this week when they take on the Steelers.
17. Philadelphia Eagles (5-6) | Last week: 21 (+4)
Jalen Hurts continues to get better every week and show extreme upside as a dual threat for the Eagles. Hurts has supreme confidence in himself and his teammates, and it’s paying off behind an offensive line that is among the best in the league when healthy. This was the hope for Philadelphia entering the season (Hurts being able to play behind a great offensive line), but don’t discount the loss of Jordan Howard (knee) for likely this week, as his emergence has made a huge difference since the Eagles went to a run-heavy approach.
18. San Francisco 49ers (5-5) | Last week: 20 (+2)
Deebo Samuel did most of his damage on the ground in Week 11, and the third-year receiver has broken out as one of the NFL’s top weapons in 2021. The Niners are another team benefitting from strong offensive line play, and the ground game paired with Jimmy Garoppolo’s quick release and accuracy while spreading the ball to a deep group of weapons makes San Francisco a dangerous team.
19. Washington Football Team (4-6) | Last week: 25 (+6)
Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson had major praise for Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke after the Football Team spoiled Cam Newton’s return home:
Oh man. One thing about Taylor Heinicke, man, is you can always count on him to be a fighter. Be a competitor. And just be a guy who plays to win. It don’t matter if he has to hand it off 100 times or throw it 100 times. He is just a guy who plays to win it. He really competed today and it was nice. I was very impressed.
Heinicke has been very good in third-down situations and is helping keep drives going for Washington.
20. Carolina Panthers (5-6) | Last week: 18 (-2)
An issue for the Panthers defense this season has been consistency. There have been flashes of dominance, but they haven’t been able to just totally carry the team—which is not surprising considering it’s a young defense. Offensively, Cam Newton is doing a nice job after being out of football all season until a couple of weeks ago, and he should get better as he gets more playing time.
21. New Orleans Saints (5-5) | Last week: 13 (-8)
The Saints are super beat up right now, and they might be without both starting offensive tackles, Alvin Kamara, and Mark Ingram, in addition to Adam Trautman and Michael Thomas both being out on offense. Still, the defensive performance last week was very concerning after they were run all over by the Eagles. It was also another slow start offensively for New Orleans in the Week 11 loss.
22. Seattle Seahawks (3-7) | Last week: 19 (-3)
There are still several weeks to go, but the Seahawks really have their backs against the wall now. The offense simply is not working, and this might be the end of the line for the Russell Wilson era if they can’t get things turned around starting this Monday night against Washington.
23. Denver Broncos (5-5) | Last week: 23
Following the bye, the Broncos are at .500 and right in the middle of the AFC playoff picture, but I just don’t feel good about them making a push. Denver surprisingly signed receivers Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick to extensions over the past couple of weeks despite also having Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler in the mix.
24. Miami Dolphins (4-7) | Last week: 26 (+2)
The Dolphins were able to keep it going with a victory over the Jets last week, and the upcoming schedule (at home against the Panthers, at home against the Giants, on the road against the Jets) is a potential path to 7-7. Brian Flores is a good coach and—while it definitely wasn’t looking good—his team should not be counted out yet.
25. Las Vegas Raiders (5-5) | Last week: 22 (-7)
These guys are all professionals, and they might surprise, but the Raiders are a team I am close to counting out to be completely honest. There’s just been so much to deal with this season. The offense has not been the same the past few weeks.
26. Atlanta Falcons (4-6) | Last week: 24 (-2)
Same goes for the Atlanta offense, as they have been without Calvin Ridley (personal) for a while now, and not having Cordarrelle Patterson last Thursday night made things even more difficult. I feel for Matt Ryan, who can still play at a high level but is stuck in a tough situation for now.
27. New York Giants (3-7) | Last week: 27
The Giants fired offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, as things are getting pretty desperate for Joe Judge’s team. Daniel Jones didn’t play well on Monday night, but he was under a lot of pressure. I don’t think it’s fair that Jones gets criticized by people that just watch the interception highlights and call him “terrible” and the like. Peyton and Eli Manning clearly like Jones’ ability, and I think he just needs more help around him.
28. Chicago Bears (3-7) | Last week: 28
Justin Fields (ribs) will unfortunately miss the Thanksgiving game against the Lions, which I’d think he was looking forward to as a rookie. Darnell Mooney starred in the close loss to the Ravens last week, and the second-year receiver is quietly starting to breakout as Chicago was hoping. There’s a rumor swirling that tomorrow will be Matt Nagy’s last game as the Bears head coach, but we’ll see if that’s fake news or not after Nagy denied that it was true.
29. Houston Texans (2-8) | Last week: 31 (+2)
Tyrod Taylor did damage with his legs and the Houston defense forced five turnovers to finally get back into the win column for the first time since Week 1. The Texans will now look to keep it going when they play the Jets this week.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8) | Last week: 29 (-1)
Deebo Samuel was able to get loose against them, but overall, the Jaguars played strong run defense last week in the loss to the 49ers, who aren’t an easy team to stop the run against. To me, this is another indication that the Jaguars are at least playing hard under Urban Meyer. The loss of explosive returner/receiver Jamal Agnew (hip) is a tough one, especially after he worked his way into a consistent role on offense.
31. New York Jets (2-8) | Last week: 30 (-1)
Joe Flacco started and played well last week against the Dolphins, but now he and Mike White are on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Zach Wilson (knee) might have been ready to return to the lineup anyway, and he will indeed start after missing the past five games. The No. 2 overall pick was inconsistent early in his rookie season, and I’d like to see if he benefited by watching from the sideline for a little bit.
32. Detroit Lions (0-9-1) | Last week: 32
The Lions again played a tight game and had a chance last week in a close loss to the Browns, and Thanksgiving against the Lions should be a shot to finally get in the win column. Hopefully quarterback Jared Goff (oblique) is able to play after missing last Sunday.
Donte Jackson on Heinicke wow.
Packers > Cardinals