There were several unexpectedly bad performances in Week 10 … [clears throat] the Saints … but the more we watch the NFL the more we know that nothing should ever be assumed. In other words: We should expect unexpected things to happen regularly. However, one bad game does not necessarily make a team bad. So with that in mind, we try to sort through the nonsense in Week 11’s edition of the NFL Power Rankings.
NFL Power Rankings, Tier 1: Right where they want to be
1 New England Patriots (8-1; +172 point differential)
2 San Francisco 49ers (8-1; +130)
There’s a lot said about how easy San Francisco’s schedule has been up until Monday night’s loss to Seattle. But here’s the thing: New England’s schedule hasn’t been all that much tougher. The Patriots’ best win still remains against the Bills, even though that doesn’t seem as quality a win as it once did. All things considered, these two seem to be the consensus top two teams in the league, weak schedules and all. New England gets the top spot because at this point they’re slightly more trustworthy – based on coaching and reputation if nothing else. Being in a weaker conference and perhaps the NFL’s worst division depth-wise doesn’t hurt their case, either. Keep an eye on the Pats, though, their schedule really heats up these next few weeks.
3 Baltimore Ravens (7-2; +111)
The Ravens are sort of where we thought the Chiefs would be: a dynamic offense that can score from anywhere and the primary AFC rival to the Patriots this season. Regardless, Baltimore is clearly playing like one of the two best teams in their conference and is likewise a serious Super Bowl contender.
With the 49ers losing last night, the Ravens own the NFL’s longest current win streak:
Baltimore is the last team to beat Pittsburgh and Seattle.
— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) November 12, 2019
4 Seattle Seahawks (8-2; +21)
road wins to hand the 49ers their first loss of the season was a great win for Seattle, to be sure. But Seattle still trails San Francisco in the NFC West and their point differential is rather pedestrian for a team with such a good record. That’s not meant to mean they’re not title contenders – they most certainly are – but just that those are big enough concerns to this point that combined, they still slot Seattle a couple of spots behind the team they just beat.
5 New Orleans Saints (7-2; +22)
6 Green Bay Packers (8-2; +45)
The Saints played a stinker this week. Green Bay had its stinker last week. Both of these teams have played really well this season but have also looked pretty bad at times. The Packers are probably a bit luckier to only have two losses, especially considering they’ve played one more game. Both remain ranked pretty high because both have shown upsides that are among the league’s best.
NFL Power Rankings, Tier 2: Almost where they want to be
7 Kansas City Chiefs (6-4; +45)
Kansas City is in a tenuous spot. They still appear to have control of the AFC West and the Chiefs control their own destiny. But, K.C. can’t afford to be on cruise control for much longer. They have games against the Chargers, Raiders, and Patriots coming up. The Chiefs are one of the most talented teams in the league, but their injury situation and upcoming schedule could really make this go sideways.
8 Houston Texans (6-3; +47)
This team (and more specifically, Deshaun Watson) is capable of beating any team on any given week. But their weak spots (offensive line, pass rush post-Watt injury, among others) are capable of losing to any team. With the Ravens on the road followed by Colts and Patriots at home coming up, the Texans have to be very careful.
9 Minnesota Vikings (7-3; +80)
After some questions earlier on, the Vikings have solidified themselves as an NFC playoff team. The win against Dallas was impressive, but prior to that, they caught the Chiefs at exactly the right time. Going back further, they’ve played a relatively easy schedule, though that’s not their fault. Still, it feels like this team either has its best football ahead of it or their ceiling is lower than we think.
Kirk Cousins in his last 6 games:
133-186 (71.5% completion rate)
1,702 passing yards (283.7/game)
15 TD passes
122.8 passer rating
— Seth Kaplan (@Seth_Kaplan) November 11, 2019
10 Dallas Cowboys (5-4; +81)
The last time the Cowboys came off a loss, they followed it up with two more. That shouldn’t be the case this time around but with a game against the Patriots staring them in the face after the Lions this week, Dallas shouldn’t be taking their lead in the NFC East for granted.
11 Buffalo Bills (6-3; +24)
Even though the Bills might not have the ceiling it looked they had earlier in the season, they have the Dolphins this week and one more against the Jets to end the season. Those two games should put them at eight wins. That would mean they’d only need one or two wins in those remaining five games to all but guarantee a spot in the playoffs. However, those five games are against Broncos, Cowboys, Ravens, Steelers, and Patriots. Nothing is guaranteed here, which seemed unthinkable when this team sat at 5-1.
The @BuffaloBills are the only New York team geographically located in New York AND the only one with a winning record.
The Bills are 6-2 this season while the Jets & Giants are a combined 3-14.
The Bills have more wins (21) than the Jets & Giants combined (20) since 2017.
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) November 8, 2019
12 Philadelphia Eagles (5-4; +11)
The Eagles are in the top-12 for now. But, like seemingly every other team around this ranking, have a tough slate ahead. This team can’t afford to lose any more ground, but with the Patriots and Seahawks up next, that’s exactly what might happen to Philly.
13 Indianapolis Colts (5-4; +1)
Indianapolis is a playoff team when healthy. Thing is, they’re far from healthy and seem to be this year’s good team that suffered from some tough injury luck. Somewhere in the neighborhood of a 10-6 record is certainly in the picture for the Colts, but they need to get right in order for that to happen.
NFL Power Rankings, Tier 3: On the wrong side of where they want to be
14 Los Angeles Chargers (4-6; +13)
Here’s a team that looked to be trending toward becoming a playoff contender. One loss to the Raiders later, not so much. It doesn’t get any easier for L.A., either, with a Monday nighter against Kansas City up next.
15 Los Angeles Rams 5-4; +35)
This organization went from the presumptive favorite to be the next great NFL dynasty to having a good deal of trainwreck potential in the blink of an eye.
Rams trades since 2016
Sammy Watkins, 15 games
Marcus Peters, 22 g
Aqib Talib, 13 g
Dante Fowler Jr.
— Steven Ruiz (@theStevenRuiz) November 12, 2019
16 Carolina Panthers (5-4; -3)
Either Cam Newton’s future with the Panthers is in question or the team management has already made up their mind, which would probably mean Newton won’t play another NFL game in a Carolina uniform. Regardless, this is a team at a bit of an identity crossroads. Having Christian McCaffrey certainly makes it easier, but rebuilding a team is always a tall task.
17 Oakland Raiders (5-4; -32)
It’s definitely a surprise Oakland is above .500 at this point, but a team that’s 2-2 over its last four and a mildly significant negative point differential can only be ranked so high.
18 Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4; +12)
Over the next three weeks, the Steelers play the Bengals in the middle of a Browns sandwich. If Pittsburgh wins all three – and they have every reason to think they can – they would not only take a front seat in the wild-card race but effectively end Cleveland’s season.
19 Tennessee Titans (5-5; +6)
Turns out Ryan Tannehill was a pretty decent upgrade over Marcus Mariota, which was a bit of an upset. Still, this looks like a team headed for 8-8.
NFL Power Rankings, Tier 4: They don’t know where they want to be
20 Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5; -13)
If you’re at all still optimistic about the Jaguars season, consider that their four wins have come against the Titans, Broncos, Bengals, Jets. Four teams that currently have a combined ten wins.
21 Cleveland Browns (3-6; -50)
This team would need an epic run to close the season to make the playoffs. Their schedule is quite a bit easier over the backstretch, but there’s still nothing this team has done that suggests they’re capable of going on such a streak.
22 Chicago Bears (4-5; +5)
Their defense and (slightly) positive point differential would suggest they’re a good team for having a losing record. But even coming off a win, sustainability and consistency on offense – specifically at quarterback – remain in question.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 16, 2018
NFL Power Rankings, Tier 5: Tanking the long way to where they want to be
23 Arizona Cardinals (3-6-1; -59)
Not all that long ago, suggesting the Cardinals could be capable of finishing 2019 higher in the NFC West than the conference’s last Super Bowl representative would have been one of the wilder notions in the NFL. But it’s a distinct possibility, especially with L.A. trending down in such a dramatic fashion and the fact that Arizona plays them twice yet this season.
24 Denver Broncos (3-6; -21)
Denver was frisky for a minute this season. But it’s just not happening here this year. How they go about remaking this roster going forward will be interesting, but what the franchise does with its front office (i.e.: John Elway) will be equally – if not more – fascinating. And one has a lot to do with the other.
25 Detroit Lions (3-5-1; -20)
The team did the right thing by sitting Matthew Stafford, albeit creating a bit of controversy in the process. But doing so cost them a game they sorely needed.
26 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6; -19)
If Tampa Bay can beat New Orleans this week (and after last week’s performance by the Saints, why couldn’t it happen?) the Bucs could potentially put the Saints in a spot where they’d have to ask some tough questions. The Buccaneers have little else to play for, so accomplishing that would be a pretty sweet participation award.
NFL Power Rankings, Tier 6: Totally lost in the woods
27 Atlanta Falcons (2-7; -68)
Sure, they saved a little face this season by getting a really impressive win over New Orleans last weekend. But that may have been as much about the Saints just having a negative outlier of a game.
28 New York Giants (2-8; -86)
It seems at least a little relevant to remind everyone that this team went undefeated in the preseason and was .500 at one point this season.
29 Miami Dolphins (2-7; -149)
Franchises tank. This franchise is tanking. But players don’t tank, they have all sorts of reasons to play to win – contracts, personal pride, status, etc. – so despite this team’s front office putting a subpar on the field, the players still play hard and that makes this team capable of beating some teams around the NFL, as they’ve shown the last two weeks.
30 Washington Redskins (1-8; -111)
31 New York Jets (2-7; -108)
These two teams are impressively bad. And they play each other this week. Even if you happen to be a huge fan of either of these teams, do yourself a favor: find something better to do.
32 Cincinnati Bengals (0-8; -122)
Even though they remain the league’s only winless team, they seem to have stumbled across losing to this degree in a more organic way than a few teams ranked higher here. Some people may think that’s good for something.