1. New England Patriots (9-2) | Last week: #1
Tom Brady got his 200th career win and his 50th game winning drive in the Patriots 22-17 win over the Jets. Rob Gronkowski left the game with a back injury, but the hope is that it isn’t too serious. With or without Gronk this week, the Patriots will look to put up some points against a Rams team that just gave up 49 points to the Saints.
2. Dallas Cowboys (10-1) | Last week: #2
Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and the Cowboys improved to 10-1 with their Thanksgiving win against the Redskins. It’s a challenge for any defense to stop the Cowboys balanced offense. We’ll see if the struggling Vikings are up to the challenge in Minnesota this Thursday night.
3. Oakland Raiders (9-2) | Last week: #3
The Raiders must have been nervous when Derek Carr left the game with a dislocated pinky on his throwing hand. The Panthers got right back in the game when Carr left, but when Carr returned with a glove on his right throwing hand he helped lead the Raiders to victory in a true MVP-type moment against last year’s MVP, Cam Newton.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (8-3) | Last week: #5 (up 1)
What a game to cap off a great Saturday and Sunday of football. Alex Smith came up clutch for the Chiefs on their final three drives of the game to send it to overtime, tie it in overtime, and win it in overtime. Justin Houston had three sacks in the game against the Broncos, showing that he’s not the only elite outside linebacker in the AFC West. Remember, Houston had 22.0 sacks in a season just a couple of years ago. Watch out for the Chiefs.
5. Atlanta Falcons (7-4) | Last week: #6 (up 1)
The 5’8” wide receiver Taylor Gabriel came up big for the Falcons against the Cardinals in Week 12. He had two touchdowns—both on screen passes—to ignite the offense. Gabriel has at least 50 receiving yards in the last four games. He also has four touchdowns in that span. The Falcons multiple offense will have their hands full with the Chiefs this week in a must-watch game.
6. Seattle Seahawks (7-3-1) | Last week: #4 (down 2)
The Seahawks got beat up by the Buccaneers on Sunday. Russell Wilson was sacked six times and threw two interceptions in his worst game in a while. Seattle needs to do a better job of getting their running game going. It seemed they just dropped back to pass almost every down, and their lack of efficiency kept them behind the sticks. The Seahawks will face Cam Newton and the Panthers this Sunday night—always a fun matchup.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) | Last week: #11 (up 4)
That’s more like it. The Steelers put on a show on Thanksgiving night. Antonio Brown scored three touchdowns for the first time in his career, and two of them came against shutdown corner Vontae Davis (who was banged up coming into the game). They have the 8-3 Giants coming to town and must try to limit Odell Beckham Jr. and make someone else beat them for the Giants.
8. Washington Redskins (6-4-1) | Last week: #9 (up 1)
Jordan Reed showed determination in the Redskins’ Thanksgiving loss, as he hurt his shoulder and had a sling on it only to return to the game and score two touchdowns. It might have been a different game if Reed was healthy for a full 60 minutes. Regardless, the Redskins are playing extremely well right now, despite the loss to the 10-1 Cowboys.
9. Minnesota Vikings (6-5) | Last week #7 (down 2)
Sam Bradford made one of his few mistakes this season at a crucial time, as Darius Slay made a great play to pick off Bradford and set up the Lions for a game-winning field goal with under a minute to go. Bradford and the Vikings defense need to step up this Thursday night against the Cowboys. The game is in Minnesota, so the fans will likely be amped up for this primetime game.
10. Denver Broncos (7-4) | Last week: #8 (down 2)
Trevor Siemian played lights out for the Broncos in a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Chiefs. Brandon McManus missed a 62-yard field goal at the end of the game, and coach Gary Kubiak drew some criticism for attempting the long field goal. I like going for the win. His defense still could have gotten a stop; it wasn’t like the game was just handed to the Chiefs.
11. New York Giants (8-3) | Last week: #10 (down 1)
Despite the 8-3 record, I’m still just not feeling it with the Giants. However, if they can go into Heinz Field and get a win over the Steelers this week, they’ll probably shoot up the power rankings.
12. Detroit Lions (7-4) | Last week: #16 (up 4)
Darius Slay is one of the most underrated players in the NFL and made a huge play to win the game for the Lions when he jumped a curl route. The Lions now own the tiebreaker over the Vikings, meaning the Vikings are essentially two games behind in the division, but the Lions do have some tough upcoming games to end their season, including this week in New Orleans.
13. Baltimore Ravens (6-5) | Last week: #13
The Ravens took care of business against the stumbling Bengals on Sunday, and will now face the surging Dolphins, who have won six straight games. Baltimore will try to stifle Jay Ajayi and the Dolphins’ O to improve to 7-5 in a game that could also have Wild Card implications.
14. Miami Dolphins (7-4) | Last week: #17 (up 3)
Kiko Alonso played a huge role in the Dolphins victory over the Niners, including crushing Colin Kaepernick on the Niners’ final play. Alonso and corner Byron Maxwell have been great additions to the Dolphins defense and are a big reason they are 7-4 after starting the year 2-7.
15. Indianapolis Colts (5-6) | Last week: #12 (down 3)
Despite the loss on Thanskgiving, the Colts are in a good position to take the AFC South. The Texans dropped a game to the Chargers, and the Colts should get Andrew Luck (concussion) back for Monday Night Football against the struggling Jets. Having cornerback Vontae Davis (groin) back after he left the Colts’ Thanksgiving game would be huge.
16. Green Bay Packers (5-6) | Last week: #19 (up 3)
Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams put on a show in Philadelphia. The Eagles were giving up 9.5 points per game at home, but the Packers came right in and made it look easy, starting on the opening drive. The defense held up as well, giving up only 13 points after getting gashed the past few weeks. Aaron Rodgers and company will try to keep it going when they return to Lambeau to face the Texans.
17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) | Last week #23 (up 6)
The Bucs are hot right now. They just beat the Chiefs (in Arrowhead) and the Seahawks in back to back weeks—the number four and number six teams in the power rankings. Now Winston and the Buccaneers will face Philip Rivers and the Chargers in a potential shootout. The Bucs are right in the mix and this game will be a huge test against a Chargers team that needs to keep winning as well.
18. Houston Texans (6-5) | Last week: #14 (down 4)
Brock Owseiler and the Texans couldn’t get it done at home against San Diego. Two straight home losses is less than ideal, and the Texans will be put to the test again, this week against the Packers in Lambeau. Brock Osweiler may not even finish the year as the Texans' quarterback if things get any worse. Tom Savage is likely ready to get his number called, despite Bill O’Brien saying that he will not bench Osweiler.
19. Tennessee Titans (6-6) | Last week: #18 (down 1)
The Titans held on to get a big win over the Bears and get back to .500 and right in the thick of the AFC South race. Marcus Mariota went another week without an interception, and is looking exactly how I thought he would when he entered the league. A 25:8 TD/INT ratio, and he’s only going to get better. The league needs to watch out for Mariota.
20. New Orleans Saints (5-6) | Last week: #21 (up 1)
Sean Payton and the Saints were having some fun in a blowout win over the Rams on Sunday. Wide receiver Willie Snead threw a 50-yard touchdown in the 49-21 route of the Rams. Drew Brees should be in another shooutout in the dome this Sunday against Matthew Stafford and the Lions.
21. Arizona Cardinals (4-6-1) | Last week: #15 (down 6)
Things seem to be getting worse for the Cardinals. They weren’t really competitive against the Falcons and things just don’t seem to be clicking this year for Arizona. They’re 2 GB of the Redskins for a Wild Card spot, so there is hope—they play Washington this week in a huge game.
22. San Diego Chargers (5-6) | Last week: #24 (up 2)
The Chargers got right after the bye with a win in Houston over the Texans. Tyrell Williams, a 2015 undrafted free agent, caught a touchdown for the third straight game and is on pace to easily surpass 1,000 yards. Take a look at when Philip Rivers’ receivers were drafted (undrafted)—it’s pretty amazing.
23. Buffalo Bills (6-5) | Last week: #25 (up 2)
Star wide receiver Sammy Watkins returned from his eight-game absence because of a foot injury to catch three passes for 80 yards against the Jaguars. They’ll need Watkins (and LeSean McCoy) to stay healthy to have a shot at the playoffs.
24. Philadelphia Eagles (5-6) | Last week: #20 (down 4)
The Eagles gave up an over-eight-minute drive to the Packers in the fourth quarter, which iced the game. Could you imagine if Chip Kelly was still the head coach and that happened?
25. Carolina Panthers (4-7) | Last week: #22 (down 3)
There appeared to be an opening for the Panthers to turn their season around when Derek Carr left the game with a dislocated pinky, but the comeback effort was for naught, as Carr led the Raiders to a late field goal drive and Newton couldn’t drive the field for a potential game-tying field goal. The Panthers need to win in Seattle to have a chance at a winning season, just one year after winning the NFC.
26. Los Angeles Rams (4-7) | Last week: #26
Jared Goff threw three first half touchdowns, including a dime to Tavon Austin for his first touchdown, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with Drew Brees and the Saints. Things won’t get easier against Tom Brady and the Patriots this week.
27. Cincinnati Bengals (3-7-1) | Last week #27
The Bengals aren’t going to make the playoffs, and this potentially could be the end of Marvin Lewis’ tenure with the Bengals. Even if he returns next year, hopefully his players continue to fight for him these last few games.
28. New York Jets (3-8) | Last week: #28
As they have recently, the Jets made things hard for the Patriots. They still couldn’t pull out a win, however. Ryan Fitzpatrick is back in the saddle and apparently will remain there. I’m curious what exactly the Jets quarterback plan is.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) | Last week: #30 (up 1)
Gus Bradley will be lucky to make it to next season as the Jaguars head coach, but some of these losses have been close losses. Allen Robinson averaging only 11.2 yards per catch is one of the big surprises of 2016…and there have been a lot of surprises in 2016.
30. San Francisco 49ers (1-10) | Last week: #31 (up 1)
Coach Kelly will tell you that losing close games and being 1-10 is not close to good enough and they aren’t patting themselves on the back over close games, but as a big fan of Kelly’s coaching ability these close losses are making me feel better about thinking so highly of him. This team has very little talent. I would love to see Deshaun Watson with Kelly and the 49ers.
31. Chicago Bears (2-9) | Last week #29 (down 2)
Matt Barkley threw three touchdowns (and two interceptions) in a Bears comeback attempt against the Titans. The Bears, like the 49ers, don’t have much talent right now, especially because of injury and suspension (Alshon Jeffery).
32. Cleveland Browns (0-12) | Last week: #32
I have a good feeling about the Browns not losing this week…