NFL Power Rankings Week 12: Outlook for Every Team After Wild Week 11
It was another wild week around the NFL. The Houston Texans survived an upset bid from the Jacksonville Jaguars, which is enough to hold the top spot in the Week 12 power rankings. There was plenty of change beyond that spot, however.
If the first 11 weeks are any indication, teams should expect a mad dash to the finish. Few squads have been able to separate from the pack, leaving a lot of playoff spots up for grabs and that's going to keep a lot of fanbases interested down the stretch.
Let's take a look at an updated list of power rankings with a look at the direction of each team heading into Week 12. There's also a deeper dive in to some teams to watch moving forward.
1. Houston Texans (9-1)
Now that Matt Schaub has proven he can lead the Texans to victory with his arm if necessary, it's clear they are the most complete team in the league. It's tough to find any flaws.
2. Atlanta Falcons (9-1)
The fact Atlanta was able to overcome five interceptions from Matt Ryan to defeat the Cardinals is a good sign. Ryan will bounce back and the rest of the team proved their worth.
3. Baltimore Ravens (8-2)
Sunday night's victory over the Steelers was a perfect example of the Ravens. They don't win pretty, but they normally find a way to come out on top and that's likely to remain the story.
4. New England Patriots (7-3)
It's clear the Patriots wanted to make a statement against the Colts. They should be able to win the AFC East without a problem, so as long as Rob Gronkowski is healthy for the playoffs, they'll be ready to roll.
5. Denver Broncos (7-3)
Denver has racked up five straight wins after a rocky start. When you consider the Broncos' schedule from here on out, it's not unrealistic to think they will run the table and earn one of those coveted first-round byes in the AFC.
More importantly, the team is being rewarded handsomely for taking a chance on Peyton Manning. He's still one of the best quarterbacks in the league and is definitely an MVP candidate once again. Considering where he was at this time last year, that's an astonishing comeback.
As the team begins to prepare for the playoffs, continuing to make strides on defense will be the biggest key. The Broncos have already made some progress in that area since the season started, but they have to start closing games better. The unit let San Diego get back in it on Sunday.
6. Green Bay Packers (7-3)
The Packers have won five straight games to reassert themselves as one of the league's top teams. Improved play on defense also improves their outlook for the playoffs after last season's disappointment.
7. San Francisco 49ers (7-2-1)
San Francisco's hopes are dependent on its offense. The 49ers are going to play solid defense, but when you look at some of the high-powered offense they will have to face, that won't be enough by itself.
8. Chicago Bears (7-3)
After watching last season get derailed by a rash of injuries late in the season, the Bears are hoping that doesn't happen again. The team simply isn't the same without Jay Cutler under center.
What's your opinion of Tampa's hot streak?
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-4)
The Bucs have won five of their last six and have emerged as a sleeper team. Josh Freeman's heroics on Sunday were a sign his confidence level is back to where it was two years ago.
10. Indianapolis Colts (6-4)
Even though Indianapolis would have loved to get Andrew Luck a win in his first start against Tom Brady, the loss to New England will help the young Colts. A lot of teachable moments.
11. New York Giants (6-4)
The bye came at an ideal time for the Giants, who suddenly have competition in the NFC East. They must get on track before they get stuck in another race that goes down to the final day.
12. New Orleans Saints (5-5)
Drew Brees and Co. are back in business after three straight wins. The next three games will decide their playoff fate, however, as they go up against the 49ers, Falcons and Giants in a brutal stretch.
13. Seattle Seahawks (6-4)
Yet again the Seahawks are hanging around in the playoff race even though nobody is talking about them as a contender. A favorable schedule down the stretch puts them in line for 10 wins.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4)
Ben Roethlisberger is one of the league's toughest quarterbacks, but his current situation is nothing to mess around with. The Steelers need their defense to step up to hold onto a playoff spot.
15. Dallas Cowboys (5-5)
Two straight wins paired with a slide by the Giants and the Cowboys are suddenly right back in business. Beating the Browns in overtime is hardly an impressive win, but coming back from a 13-0 halftime deficit showed some mental toughness.
Quietly, Tony Romo has strung together some really strong games. It's another example of how he rarely gets credit for the team's success, but at the first sign of things going wrong the fingers get pointed at him. All part of playing in Dallas, I suppose.
DeMarco Murray needs to get back on the field for them to keep their playoff charge alive. The injured running back's replacements haven't been able to emulate his game-changing ability, which will come back to haunt the Cowboys if he doesn't return soon.
16. Cincinnati Bengals (5-5)
Just when people start to write off the Bengals as a one-year wonder they win two straight games and are back in the mix. Andy Dalton continues to impress despite getting overshadowed by other young QBs.
17. Minnesota Vikings (6-4)
While the Vikings have made some tremendous progress since last season, an extremely difficult schedule over the final six weeks makes it hard to find a path to the playoffs for them.
18. Washington Redskins (4-6)
Robert Griffin III is amazing to watch. Some of the situations he gets himself out of are astonishing. Now that some of the team's other players are helping him out, the Redskins are making a move.
19. Tennessee Titans (4-6)
It's impossible to get a good read on the Titans. One week after getting blown out by the Bears, they look unstoppable against the Dolphins. Maybe with the bye week will come some consistency.
20. San Diego Chargers (4-6)
The Chargers really needed to find a way to knock off the Broncos on Sunday and couldn't do it. Now they are stuck in the AFC mess at 4-6, making it hard to find a silver lining.
21. Detroit Lions (4-6)
Detroit's outlook has remained the same pretty much all season. The Lions can score points, sometimes at an eye-popping rate, but there are too many holes on defense to have faith in them right now.
Which category does Buffalo belong in?
22. Buffalo Bills (4-6)
The Bills are a team to watch. They have a crucial game with the Colts next weekend. A win there leaves them with a very favorable schedule and momentum as they look to end an extended playoff drought.
23. New York Jets (4-6)
Somehow the Jets have reached a point that there's more questions than answers even when they win games. The opportunity is there to make a late run, but it's easy to be skeptical given their weak offense.
24. Miami Dolphins (4-6)
Rounding out a stretch of three straight middling AFC East teams, the Dolphins have reason to have optimism about the future. A tough stretch of games will likely doom their playoff hopes, though.
25. St. Louis Rams (3-6-1)
Although the Rams have several young players that should help lead a resurgence in the coming years, they still don't have enough depth quite yet. They will be a team to watch heading into next season.
26. Arizona Cardinals (4-6)
The Cardinals looked playoff bound less than two months ago. Now it's a mystery if they will even win another game this season after losing six straight. They looked better against the Falcons, but it wasn't enough to get back on track.
It would be nice for the Arizona coaching staff if it could point to one area as the reason for the struggles, but it's not that simple. The Cardinals have had letdowns in just about every facet of the game, causing frustrations to mount.
They beat the New England Patriots earlier in the season, so there's clearly enough talent on the roster to at least be competitive. It's just a case of things starting to snowball after a couple losses and the issues trickling down throughout the roster. Not an easy fix.
27. Cleveland Browns (2-8)
Another close loss from the Browns in Week 11. They could easily have five or six wins if they were a better fourth-quarter team, but it's all a part of the rebuilding process in Cleveland.
28. Oakland Raiders (3-7)
A three-game losing streak has knocked Oakland out of contention. Improving the defense must be the main focus of the offseason. Any resources the front office has should be used on that side of the ball.
29. Philadelphia Eagles (3-7)
So much for that bounce-back season a lot of people were expecting. The Eagles need to get better play in the trenches on both sides of the ball. It's been a poor showing by both lines all season.
30. Carolina Panthers (2-8)
Cam Newton seems to have emerged from his sophomore-season malaise with a couple strong starts in recent weeks. The team around him still isn't good enough to complete in a tough division, though.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9)
Give credit to the Jaguars for putting up a fight against the Texans, but their inability to maintain a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter shows they are still one of the league's worst teams.
32. Kansas City Chiefs (1-9)
Change should be the operative word in Kansas City after the season. The plans currently in place aren't working. And for a team that had playoff hopes when the season began, it's been a rude awakening.
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