NFL Power Rankings: Predicting Post-Week 12 Standings

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NFL Power Rankings: Predicting Post-Week 12 Standings
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You want power rankings? Yeah, I've got that. You want predictions for this week's games? Yeah, that's covered too. You want storylines, key stats and projections for NFL teams?

Well, you're going to enjoy this article, my friends. 

Below, I've ranked every team based on my predictions for this week's games and taken a closer look at where every franchise stands heading into Week 12. And I managed to do the entire thing without talking about any controversial penalties, because I figured you need a break from that.

To the rankings!

 

32. Jacksonville Jaguars

Current Record: 1-9

Opponent: at Houston Texans

Record Next Week: 1-10

Analysis: The Jaguars are a mess. Maurice Jones-Drew has lost more than a step, Cecil Shorts is angry at the coaches, and the loss of Justin Blackmon to suspension for the year was a major blow for an offense that already stank. Next year's draft can't come soon enough.

 

31. Minnesota Vikings

Current Record: 2-8

Opponent: at Green Bay Packers

Record Next Week: 2-9

Analysis: Even with Scott Tolzien rather than Aaron Rodgers under center and the Green Bay Packers mired in a three-game losing streak, it's hard to like the Vikings at Lambeau Field. Minnesota still hasn't found a quarterback it can trust, and Adrian Peterson said after Week 11's game that his groin "was bothering me a lot."

The Vikings are a poor team with Peterson running at 100 percent. If he's running on fumes, they don't stand a chance. 

 

30. Atlanta Falcons

Current Record: 2-8

Opponent: New Orleans Saints

Record Next Week: 2-9

Analysis: No, there hasn't been a more disappointing team than Atlanta. Yes, the Julio Jones injury was killer—as were injuries to Roddy White and Steven Jackson throughout the season—but Atlanta went from being one of the NFL's best teams to one of its worst alarmingly quickly. 

Even the presence of White and Gonzalez on Thursday night couldn't prevent the Falcons from falling to the NFC South rival New Orleans Saints 17-13 at the Georgia Dome.

The problem for the Falcons is they are getting crushed in the trenches. They entered Week 12 ranked 31st in rushing yards—so much for the balanced offense that has been the team's calling card for the past several years—and 30th in rushing yards allowed. 

Matt Ryan can't do it all himself, and he hasn't done much at all in recent weeks. After throwing 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions in Atlanta's first six games, he has regressed and thrown five touchdowns and nine interceptions in the past four contests. It has all fallen apart, folks.

Ryan didn't turn it over in Atlanta's loss on Thursday, but he didn't throw a touchdown either. That speaks to the lack of playmakers—healthy ones, at least—at his disposal.

 

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Current Record: 2-8

Opponent: at Detroit Lions

Record Next Week: 2-9

Analysis: It remains to be seen if Greg Schiano will keep his job after a disastrous start to this season, but the fact that the Bucs have won two games after losing the top two running backs on the depth chart and are transitioning into a new franchise quarterback might buy him another year. 

Still, there is too much talent for this team to be 2-8. And it's hard to see them winning a third game in a row against a talented Detroit team coming off a bad loss to Pittsburgh. There is hope once more in Tampa, but it will wane this week.

 

28. Houston Texans

Current Record: 2-8

Opponent: Jacksonville Jaguars

Record Next Week: 3-8

Analysis: So let me get this straight: The Texans started Case Keenum four weeks ago, decided to stick with him seemingly to give him an audition for the starting gig last week, pulled him in the second half against the Oakland Raiders and have named him their starter again for Week 12?

Good grief.

With Arian Foster out for the year and a surprisingly poor run defense (23rd in the NFL), the Texans are a lost cause this season. At least Andre Johnson is properly utilized when Keenum is in the game...

 

27. Washington

Current Record: 3-7

Opponent: San Francisco 49ers

Record Next Week: 3-8

Analysis: The defense is awful. Robert Griffin III hasn't exactly regressed, but he's not the dynamic playmaker he was a year ago, either. Washington struggles to win the close games, with a 2-4 record in games decided by eight points or less. 

There is nothing to suggest this team will beat a 49ers squad motivated by two straight losses. Oh, and Washington won't even have a first-round pick to make this year easier to swallow, as that selection belongs to the St. Louis Rams. 

 

26. Oakland Raiders

Current Record: 4-6

Opponent: Tennessee Titans

Record Next Week: 4-7

Analysis: Ladies and gentlemen, Matt McGloin is 1-0 as a starter. Who saw that one coming?

Now, the Raiders have one of the most bizarre quarterback controversies in recent memory, as Terrelle Pryor is coming off a knee sprain and has just one touchdown pass and eight interceptions in his past four games, with just one win in those contests. 

But hey, at least Rashad Jennings has provided a spark, rushing for 340 rushing yards and two touchdowns the past three weeks. That won't be enough to get a win against Tennessee, however.

 

25. Cleveland Browns

Current Record: 4-6

Opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers

Record Next Week: 4-7

Analysis: Joe Haden is quietly having an excellent season for the Browns, while Josh Gordon is emerging as one of the NFL's most dangerous weapons at wide receiver. There are plenty of bright spots on this team.

The Browns still have a long way to go offensively, but the defense is giving up just 306.5 yards per game, fifth in the NFL. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers will get the better of them this week, but once Cleveland adds a quarterback, it should be on the right track.

 

24. St. Louis Rams

Current Record: 4-6

Opponent: Chicago Bears

Record Next Week: 4-7

Analysis: The Rams have a solid secondary, a wicked pass rush, a running back (Zac Stacy) and wide receiver (Tavon Austin) of the future, and two first-round picks in this year's draft. The future is bright for this team.

Unfortunately, the present is taking place with Kellen Clemens, not Sam Bradford, under center, so the Rams don't rank too highly. But this team has the potential to make the playoffs as early as next year. 

 

23. Buffalo Bills

Current Record: 4-7

Opponent: On bye

Record Next Week: 4-7

Analysis: Sometimes the Bills seem worse than their record, and sometimes they seem much, much better, like in Sunday's blowout of the New York Jets. Injuries have plagued the offense this year, and the defense hasn't been very good, but there is talent on this team. 

The Bills have four very winnable games in a row coming out of the bye, so it isn't impossible for them to get back in the wild-card hunt.

 

22. San Diego Chargers

Current Record: 4-6

Opponent: at Kansas City Chiefs

Record Next Week: 4-7

Analysis: Perhaps the Chargers had us all fooled early in the season. The team has lost three straight games and now has to travel to Kansas City for a game it'll be expected to lose. Philip Rivers and the offense have been solid all season long, but until this defense improves, the Chargers will continue to lose. 

 

21. New York Giants

Current Record: 4-6

Opponent: Dallas Cowboys

Record Next Week: 4-7

Analysis: After dropping six games to start the season, the Giants have recovered with a bang, winning their next four. Amazingly, if they beat a flawed Cowboys team, the Giants will be just one game behind the Philadelphia Eagles in the mediocre NFC East. 

The key to the turnaround is the defense, which has allowed just 47 points in the past four weeks. With a healthy Andre Brown running the ball and Eli Manning throwing just two picks in the four wins (compared to 15 in the six losses), it's not crazy to think this Giants team could compete for an NFC East title. 

I think they'll lose to the Cowboys this week in a close contest, but I wouldn't bet against them, either. 

 

20. New York Jets

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Current Record: 5-5

Opponent: at Baltimore Ravens

Record Next Week: 5-6

Analysis: If you follow the trends, then you believe the Jets will win this week, as they've alternated wins and losses this season, a remarkable display of inconsistency. 

But a trip to Baltimore is a tough task, especially against a Ravens team that is better than its record indicates. Of Baltimore's six losses, five of them have come by six points or less. Say what you will about Baltimore, but the Ravens are competitive in every game they play. 

The Jets can play defense with the best of them, but Geno Smith and the offense aren't scaring anyone. In a game that should be a defensive struggle, bet on Joe Flacco, not the rookie. 

 

19. Miami Dolphins

Current Record: 5-5

Opponent: Carolina Panthers

Record Next Week

Analysis: Despite a slew of distractions and three starting offensive linemen currently out of commission, the Dolphins remain competitive and are sticking around the wild-card chase. They don't excel at any one aspect of the game, but that hasn't kept them from winning two of their last three.

They won't beat Carolina, however, a team that comes into this game with six straight wins and consecutive defeats of the 49ers and New England Patriots. 

 

18. Tennessee Titans 

Current Record: 4-6

Opponent: at Oakland Raiders

Record Next Week: 5-6

Analysis: Yes, the Titans have lost two games in a row, but they were by a combined five points and came as Jake Locker was lost for the season. The Titans are competitive in most games and have the look of a team that is rarely overmatched but doesn't quite know how to consistently win, but there is talent in place. 

With an excellent pass defense (seventh in the NFL) and Chris Johnson looking far better than he did previously, the Titans have enough to get past a mediocre Oakland team. 

 

17. Pittsburgh Steelers

Current Record: 4-6

Opponent: at Cleveland Browns

Record Next Week: 5-6

Analysis: Really, the main difference between the Steelers and Browns in this matchup is that it's far easier to trust Big Ben leading his team to a win than Jason Campbell. Beyond that, this Steelers season has been worrisome. 

The issue for the Steelers remains in the trenches, as they are 30th in rushing yards per game and 26th in rushing yards allowed. Big Ben is going to have to keep on slinging it for the Steelers to win, but he should be able to will the team to victory, even in Cleveland. 

 

16. Baltimore Ravens

Current Record: 4-6

Opponent: New York Jets

Record Next Week: 5-6

Analysis: Welcome back, Ray Rice.

After a pretty dismal start to the season, Rice tore up the Bears on Sunday for 131 rushing yards on 25 carries. He probably won't have that type of success against the league's top rush defense, but the fact that the Ravens should have some balance again will take a bit of pressure off of Flacco. 

Besides, the defense should be able to force turnovers against Smith on the other side of the ball, and the Ravens should get a key win that returns them to the postseason discussion. 

 

15. Green Bay Packers

Current Record: 5-5

Opponent: Minnesota Vikings

Record Next Week: 6-5

Analysis: Even with three straight losses, Scott Tolzien at quarterback and a matchup against All Day, the Packers are going to beat the Vikings at Lambeau Field. This team has enough weapons to expose a dreadful Minny defense, and the pass rush should be able to get to whomever is unlucky enough to start at quarterback. 

Green Bay is no longer in the driver's seat in the NFC North, but a win on Sunday will keep it in the chase as Rodgers returns to health.

 

14. Arizona Cardinals

Current Record: 6-4

Opponent: Indianapolis Colts

Record Next Week: 6-5

Analysis: Is there a quieter team with a winning record than the Arizona Cardinals right now? 

The Cardinals have won three in a row, have dangerous offensive weapons in Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Ellington, and are ninth in total yards allowed per game (324.9) and eighth in points allowed (21.2). The Cardinals have used an excellent defense to quietly keep themselves in the playoff hunt.

That said, Andrew Luck has been excellent this season, and he should outduel Carson Palmer in this contest. The Cardinals are good, but they'll need to run the ball well and slow down Luck in the passing game to win. Both are pretty big asks.

 

13. Dallas Cowboys

Current Record: 5-5

Opponent: at New York Giants

Record Next Week: 6-5

Analysis: There isn't a more frustrating team in the NFL than the Cowboys. They have a ton of potential but never quite live up to it. They have an elite receiver in Dez Bryant, who is underutilized. They have an exciting running back in DeMarco Murray, who can't stay healthy. They are generally close in games but often struggle to finish the job. 

Still, with a bye week to prepare for the New York Giants, you have to like this team's chances. A win would put the Cowboys atop the NFC East, while a loss would tie them with the Giants. This is a huge game for Dallas. 

 

12. Philadelphia Eagles

Current Record: 6-5

Opponent: On bye

Record Next Week: 6-5

Analysis: Yes, I know the Cowboys beat the Eagles earlier in the year, but there arguably isn't a hotter unit in football than this Eagles offense under Nick Foles, who has 16 touchdowns to no interceptions and is 4-1 in five starts. 

LeSean McCoy leads the NFL in rushing with 1,009 yards, DeSean Jackson is being perfectly utilized in Chip Kelly's uptempo offense, and the defense has given up just 29 points total in the past two weeks. 

I predicted the Eagles would win six games this season in a rebuilding effort. I never expected they would reach that mark heading into a Week 12 bye. 

 

11. Chicago Bears

Current Record: 6-4

Opponent: at St. Louis Rams

Record Next Week: 7-4

Analysis: Josh McCown is about as steady as backup quarterbacks get, and it certainly helps that he has weapons like Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett to lean on. This defense is no longer very good, but the offense is one of the best in the NFC, and McCown is now 2-0 as the team's starter.

The Rams defense will provide a test, but Forte should have a big game against the league's 18th-ranked run defense, and the Bears should be able to force a few turnovers against the Kellen Clemens-led St. Louis offense.

 

10. Detroit Lions

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Current Record: 6-4

Opponent: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Record Next Week: 7-4

Analysis: Losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers after scoring 27 points in the second quarter was a disappointment, but Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson continue to form the most dangerous passing partnership in the NFL. Johnson now has 59 receptions for 1,083 yards and 11 touchdowns, and it's hard to imagine even Darrelle Revis slowing him down. 

The Lions are third in passing offense and fifth in rushing defense, essentially ensuring that every game they play becomes a mini-shootout that comes down to the wire. They're certainly fun to watch in that regard, and it's hard to imagine the Bucs keeping up with Stafford, Megatron and Reggie Bush this week. 

 

9. Cincinnati Bengals

Current Record: 7-4

Opponent: On bye

Record Next Week: 7-4

Analysis: Despite losing Leon Hall and Geno Atkins for the season, the Bengals keep finding ways to win, snapping a two-game losing streak against the Browns in Week 11. They have dynamic playmakers in A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard, and enough depth on defense to keep opposing offenses in check. 

The Bengals don't seem likely to reach the Super Bowl ahead of teams like Denver, New England, Kansas City or Indianapolis, but the AFC North is theirs to lose.

 

8. San Francisco 49ers

Current Record: 6-4

Opponent: at Washington

Record Next Week: 7-4

Analysis: The San Francisco 49ers have lost their past two games by a combined four points against the Panthers and Saints. The sky isn't falling, folks.

Yes, Colin Kaepernick's regression is concerning, but as long as the Niners run the ball well and continue to play elite defense, they'll remain one of the NFC's top contenders. With just two games remaining against teams currently with winning records, the Niners should comfortably reach the playoffs, though an NFC West title seems out of the question. 

 

7. Indianapolis Colts

Current Record: 7-3

Opponent: at Arizona Cardinals

Record Next Week: 8-3

Analysis: There may not be a more battle-tested team heading into the playoffs than the Colts. They've played the Dolphins, Niners, Seahawks and Broncos (3-1 in those games), and still have the Cardinals, Bengals and Chiefs on tap. 

The defense has regressed, but Andrew Luck continues to look like an elite NFL quarterback in just his second year. It would be nice if Trent Richardson could perform, but Donald Brown has certainly played well in recent weeks. 

Add T.Y. Hilton stepping up in a big way, and the Colts are not to be taken lightly.

 

6. New England Patriots

Current Record: 7-3

Opponent: Denver Broncos

Record Next Week: 7-4

Analysis: A matchup between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady is so tough to call. On one hand, it's hard to imagine a banged-up Patriots offense slowing down the league's best offense. On the other hand, Bill Belichick has given Manning problems in the past, and Denver may be without Wes Welker

With Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen healthy, Brady is going to put up points. But the sneaky part of this Denver team is that the defense has been playing much better football in recent games and should be the difference in this contest.

Even at home and with the Denver offense potentially missing Welker, expect the Patriots to fall to the Broncos. 

 

5. Kansas City Chiefs

Current Record: 9-1

Opponent: San Diego Chargers

Record Next Week: 10-1

Analysis: Were the Chiefs "exposed" last week, or were they reminded that playing man-to-man coverage against Peyton Manning is a mistake? 

It's probably more of the latter. This defense remains one of the league's best, while Jamaal Charles and a possession-based offense that doesn't turn the ball over will continue to keep the Chiefs in games. The Chiefs may not be on the level of the Broncos, but there isn't a team in the NFL they can't compete with. 

 

4. Carolina Panthers

Current Record: 7-3

Opponent: at Miami Dolphins

Record Next Week

Analysis: Six straight wins. Consecutive victories over the Niners and Patriots. One of the league's best defenses. A young quarterback in Cam Newton who has learned how to lead his team to victory without trying to do everything himself. An offensive system that perfectly plays to Newton's strengths. 

What's not to like about this Carolina team?

The Panthers are no fluke. Any team with a defense this good (third in yards allowed per game, first in points allowed per game, third in the NFC in turnover differential) is a legit Super Bowl contender. We may not have seen it coming, but we can't ignore the emergence of Carolina any longer.

 

3. New Orleans Saints

Current Record: 8-2

Opponent: at Atlanta Falcons

Record Next Week: 9-2

Analysis: You can't stop Drew Brees; you can only hope to contain him. But while the league's second-ranked passing game is no surprise, the league's third-ranked pass defense is. 

Credit new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan or rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro. Look at a defensive line that has helped the Saints sack the quarterback 32 times, tied for sixth in the NFL. Credit whomever you like, but do not sleep on a defense that perfectly complements one of the league's most explosive offenses.

That defense sacked the Falcons' Ryan a league-high five times in Thursday's victory, as this predicted record entering Week 13 rang true, too.

A Monday Night Football showdown with the Seattle Seahawks awaits, where Brees is sure to be tested by the loaded Seattle secondary and a hostile environment at CenturyLink Field.

 

2. Denver Broncos 

Current Record: 9-1

Opponent: at New England Patriots

Record Next Week: 10-1

Analysis: Even if the Broncos lose this week, I'll still have them at No. 2 in the rankings. It's pretty simple, really—when Manning and his receivers are clicking, there is just no way to slow them down. Even in their lone loss to the Colts, they still scored 33 points. 

But the fourth-ranked run defense is often overlooked because people assume teams abandon the run once the Broncos jump out to an early lead. That may be true, but it implies teams have any success running the ball on this team in the first place. 

The only way to beat the Broncos is to run the ball successfully, limit their opportunities on offense and hope you can force a few Manning turnovers. Thus far, it's a formula that has eluded NFL teams. We'll see if Brady and Belichick can crack the code this week. 

 

1. Seattle Seahawks

Current Record: 10-1

Opponent: On bye

Record Next Week: 10-1

Analysis: The Seahawks are third in rushing offense and second in passing defense. Russell Wilson is an MVP candidate, and the team will have Percy Harvin at full strength after the bye. They have the best home-field advantage in the NFL and arguably the league's top defense. 

Look closely—it's hard to find many weaknesses in Seattle. For now, the team's balance makes it the clear favorite in the NFC and, arguably, the favorite to win the Super Bowl. 

 

Hit me up on Twitter—I'll answer your fantasy lineup questions, tweet random fantasy musings and lament Ray Rice producing the week I finally benched him. 

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