NFL Power Rankings: Breaking Down Most Surprising Aspect of Every Team

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistDecember 12, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 10: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots smiles with teammate Donte' Stallworth #19 from the sideline in the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium on December 10, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The NFL season is full of surprises, upsets, poor predictions and missed opportunities. Just when you think you know a team, it will go and totally surprise you with an upset victory or a horrible loss.

You can blame it on parity if you like, the unpredictability of the sport in general or a thinly-veiled conspiracy to make sports writers like me look foolish on a weekly basis (as if I need the help).

Whatever the case may be, trying to compile weekly power rankings can be a tricky proposition. Every team is one performance away from completely changing your perception of them.

That's why, in this edition of the power rankings, I've decided to list the biggest surprises from each team's season. I can't predict the future, I can only marvel or scratch my head at the NFL's past, while giving you my opinion of which teams rank where this week.

It's power rankings! It's perplexing developments! It's poorly-crafted jokes and an abundance of rhetorical questions!

And it all begins...right now!

1. New England Patriots, 10-3

Honestly, can you believe the Patriots actually lost to the Arizona Cardinals this season? How in the hell did that happen? On Monday night, the Patriots dismantled the Houston Texans with such ease, it suddenly seemed surprising they had lost at all this year.

2. San Francisco 49ers, 9-3-1

The 49ers have pretty much been the team we all figured they would be, even with all of the Colin Kaepernick controversy that isn't really a controversy since he's played well and honestly gives them more dimensions on offense than Alex Smith.

Nope, the only surprising thing about the 49ers is that they lost and tied the St. Louis Rams in two overtime games this season. Who saw that coming?

3. Houston Texans, 11-2

The Texans are a really, really good football team. Well, at least when they aren't playing elite quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, when they suddenly forget how to play football. How they beat Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos is the strange outlier here.

4. Atlanta Falcons, 11-1

Honestly, the most surprising thing about Atlanta is that they are 11-1. I know they are a good team, they just don't have the look of a great team. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they've only played three teams with winning records. Yeah, that could be it.

5. Denver Broncos, 10-3

Be honest: Even if you thought the Broncos would be good this year, did you really think they would be this good?

Be honest again: Did you ever think, in a million years, that Knowshon Moreno would not only end up as the team's starting running back, but would be totally thriving in that role?

Be honest one last time: Do you really like being bombarded with rhetorical questions, or do you think it's a common and annoying crutch employed by writers?

Don't answer that last one, please.

6. Green Bay Packers, 9-4

Hilariously, the terrible call that cost the Green Bay Packers a game against the Seattle Seahawks could cost the Packers a bye and ultimately lead to a rematch with the Seahawks in the playoffs.

If that happens, will there be anyone outside of Seattle rooting for anything less than a 45-0 win for the Packers?

7. New York Giants, 8-5

Honestly, the most surprising thing is that the Giants are 8-5 and have drubbed the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers. I didn't think the Giants were supposed to get good until, like, the last two games of the season and in the playoffs.

8. Baltimore Ravens, 9-4

Sure, it was surprising that Cam Cameron was fired at this point in the season, but it was totally justified.

It would be surprising that the Ravens continue to under-utilize Ray Rice, except it's an old theme in Baltimore. It would be surprising that people once tried to insist Joe Flacco was elite, but nobody cares enough about the whole thing to be surprised any longer.

Heck, even the defense would be a major disappointment if we didn't see the decline of this unit coming, especially after the injuries to Lardarius Webb and Ray Lewis. 

Nope, I think the most surprising thing about the Ravens is that they are exactly what we expected from them: a very talented football team that has very real flaws, but is still one of the best teams in football when clicking on all cylinders. 

9. Seattle Seahawks, 8-5

I honestly didn't think a solid defense, good running game and rookie quarterback would be enough to get Seattle into the playoffs this year. I was wrong.

10. Chicago Bears, 8-5

What's more surprising, that the Bears actually started 7-1 or that they've lost four of five since?

11. Indianapolis Colts, 9-4

Everything about this team is surprising. Even Andrew Luck has far surpassed expectations. I don't know how the Colts continue to win given a number of holes on the roster, but I do know that a franchise quarterback like Luck can mask a lot of other deficiencies on a team.

12. Pittsburgh Steelers, 7-6

Wait, Ben Roethlisberger came back and they lost? To the San Diego Chargers? How did that happen?

13. Cincinnati Bengals, 7-6

All the Bengals have to do to guarantee a playoff spot is beat the Philadelphia Eagles, Steelers and Ravens. Seeing as they are 0-6 against the Steelers and Ravens, I'll be shocked if they pull it off.

14. Washington Redskins, 7-6

The fact that the Redskins are 7-6 is surprising enough. But it was downright shocking that Robert Griffin III went down at the end of the game against the Baltimore Ravens and Kirk Cousins still managed to pull off the upset. Strange things are brewing in Washington, and I don't mean the fiscal cliff.

15. Dallas Cowboys, 7-6

The surprising: that the Cowboys have won two straight to keep their playoff hopes alive and have done so on the back of Dez Bryant, who is suddenly playing like one of the top receivers in the league.

The unsurprising: that just before a vital three-game stretch with the NFC East with a wild-card spot on the line, Bryant fractured his left index finger and could do permanent damage to his finger if he plays with the injury.

16. Minnesota Vikings, 7-6

Just 10 months before the season, Adrian Peterson tore his ACL. In 13 games, he's rushed for 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns. That's not just surprising, it's a minor medical miracle.

17. St. Louis Rams, 6-6-1

Wait, the Rams are a .500 football team? They actually have an outside shot at a wild-card berth? Hmm, well how about that...

18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 6-7

It was surprising when the Bucs won four in a row to salvage their season and go 6-4 on the year. It wasn't shocking when the team then lost games to the Broncos and Falcons.

But it was completely unexpected when the Bucs lost a third straight against a Philadelphia Eagles team without Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and half of the coaching staff it started the season with.

Bye bye, playoffs.

19. New Orleans Saints, 5-8

Did you ever think you would see a Drew Brees-led team that had a four-game and three-game losing streak in a season? Because I didn't expect this, even with all of the offseason drama.

20. New York Jets, 6-7

Wait, the Jets still have a shot to make the playoffs? Is that a joke? C'mon, that's gotta be a joke.

Oh my goodness, it's not a joke...

21. San Diego Chargers, 5-8

Shockingly, the Chargers are underachieving, and both Norv Turner and A.J. Smith are on the hot seat. Wait, that's not surprising at all.

What is surprising is the steady regression of Philip Rivers at quarterback. He looked pretty good against the Steelers, at least.

22. Buffalo Bills, 5-8

It is shocking to me that the Bills haven't yet figured out they need to build the offense around C.J. Spiller. Absolutely shocking.

23. Cleveland Browns, 5-8

Since starting the season 0-5, the Browns are 5-3. Don't look, but this is a team on the rise. Seriously. I'm not kidding about this, you guys, this is a young team with potential.

I tried.

24. Carolina Panthers, 4-9

Oh, now you start killing it, Cam Newton. You wait until your team starts 2-8 before you bring out your "A" game, I get it.

25. Detroit Lions, 4-9

If the Lions had a lick of discipline, they would be a playoff team. Eight of the Lions' nine losses have been by eight points or less. This is a talented team that lacks composure and consistency, and because of that, it'll have a top-10 pick in April.

26. Miami Dolphins, 5-8

Ryan Tannehill isn't the worst quarterback in the AFC East. When you really think about that, it's pretty shocking. 

27. Philadelphia Eagles, 4-9

That the Eagles have totally imploded isn't all that surprising. It happened last year, after all. Nope, that Nick Foles managed to lead them to a win over a Tampa Bay team fighting for its playoff life is the real shocker.

28. Tennessee Titans, 4-9

Honestly, I'm just surprised Chris Johnson has re-solidified himself as an RB1 in fantasy football after rushing for a combined 45 yards in the first three weeks of the season.

29. Oakland Raiders, 3-10

There is absolutely nothing surprising about the Raiders. They are simply a very bad football team.

30. Arizona Cardinals, 4-9

After losing to the Seahawks 58-0, it seems utterly incomprehensible that this team started 4-0. Who the hell would have ever thought Kevin Kolb would be so valuable?

31. Kansas City Chiefs, 2-11

Things I predicted this offseason: The Chiefs will win the AFC West!

Things I should have predicted this offseason: I will dramatically screw up at least one prediction to embarrassing lengths, and it will probably involve the Chiefs!

32. Jacksonville Jaguars, 2-11

Montell Owens scored 16.2 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues last week. No, I don't know who that is either.

Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets have been in the top five all season long.

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