NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Heading into Week 11?
The difference between the playoff teams and the next tier of teams in the NFL isn't as big as you might think—at least in terms of talent. I can tell you, though, that things feel differently in the locker room of a team that believes it is playoff-caliber.
Legitimate playoff contenders believe they can win tough games, and they're driven to do so.
I remember when I was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2005 and headed toward the postseason. We played two games in the second half of the season against the New Orleans Saints. We were fighting for a division title and possible first-round bye. The Saints were playing for pride. While having little to lose can make a team dangerous, the desire to better our postseason situation provided a will that was greater than desperation.
The Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills both came into Week 10 this year with 5-3 records. The Jaguars clawed their way to a hard-fought overtime win. The Bills were blown out by another potential playoff contender. The difference for the two teams may well have been that will to win.
Players who believe are more willing to work on their team's flaws. They know that bolstering a weakness or adding a new element can be the difference between getting to the postseason and making a deep playoff run. When an entire team is flawed, working hard to fix one or two issues feels a bit more pointless.
Keep this in mind when you see the Jaguars continuing to tweak their passing game or when you see the Cincinnati Bengals doing nothing at all to theirs.
It's still too early to know which teams are going to end up in the postseason, but in Week 10, we're beginning to see which believe they belong. Here's how I view all 32 teams heading into Week 11.
Last week's power rankings can be found here.
32. Cleveland Browns
Last Week's Ranking: 31
Nothing has changed for the Cleveland Browns. The defense is a solid unit, and the offense can come out and do positive things when Hue Jackson has the first 10 or 15 plays scripted. Once Jackson runs out of tricks, the offense runs out of steam.
Quarterback DeShone Kizer is still a rookie, and it shows. He played well and the Browns ran the ball better than they had been against the Detroit Lions. Ultimately, though, they didn't have the firepower to keep pace with Matthew Stafford and Co.
Clock-management issues also contributed to Cleveland's Week 10 loss. The Browns sacrificed points at the end of the first half after running an unsuccessful quarterback sneak with no timeouts.
The Cleveland defense can keep the Browns in games, but the offense isn't capable of winning in the fourth quarter. I respect the Browns because they keep playing hard and playing physically, but they're still one of the worst teams in the league.
31. New York Giants
Last Week's Ranking: 30
It doesn't get any lower for the New York Giants.
The most surprising thing about the Giants in Week 10 was the frequency with which the defense gave up long plays. The defense hasn't been what it was last season, but the game against the San Francisco 49ers was a low point.
New York ran the ball all right against the 49ers, and Eli Manning made some great throws. However, there isn't anything special about New York's offense, talent-wise or scheme-wise. Without Odell Beckham Jr., there aren't any impressive players, and we know the scheme isn't worth a damn.
The Giants stink, and if they decided to fire Ben McAdoo this week, it would be justified.
30. San Francisco 49ers
Last Week's Ranking: 32
My good buddy Kyle Shanahan got the proverbial monkey off his back with his first NFL win.
One thing we've seen all year from the 49ers is Shanahan's ability to dial up big plays and get guys open in the passing game. Against the Giants, all of his planning produced results on the field—both in the passing game and the running game.
The 49ers still create too many self-inflicted wounds at times, and they're not that talented overall. However, they keep fighting for their coach. There is some young talent to build around with players such as Solomon Thomas, Reuben Foster, George Kittle and Carlos Hyde.
29. Indianapolis Colts
Last Week's Ranking: 28
The Indianapolis Colts must have a ton of respect for head coach Chuck Pagano. They continue to play hard for him week in and week out, even though they know Andrew Luck isn't coming in to save the day this season.
I admire what Jacoby Brissett is doing. He came to the team at the start of the regular season and had to learn the offense on the fly. He's shown he's capable of making big plays and big throws. He got unlucky with his interception against Pittsburgh that his receiver should have had.
The Colts defense plays physically, but it doesn't have any difference-makers. The offense doesn't have anyone to consistently threaten defenses other than T.Y. Hilton.
Indianapolis isn't at the point it can expect Brissett to drop back 40 times and win games the way it might with Luck. The Colts are fighting, they're competitive, and they're a pain in the ass, but they're near the bottom of the NFL.
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week's Ranking: 29
This was a huge win for the Buccaneers. It was also big for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who beat his old team, the New York Jets.
Give the Buccaneers credit for sticking with the run game and not letting it become a Fitzpatrick-fest. This prevented the Jets from teeing off on the backup-turned-starter. One positive in the pass game, though, was that Fitzpatrick seemed to find the chemistry with DeSean Jackson that Jameis Winston has been unable to.
Mike Evans was suspended in Week 10, but the Bucs should hope they can keep Jackson a big part of the offense moving forward.
I don't expect a whole lot from the Buccaneers going forward. They're going to win a few games here and there—like they did against New York—but the offense isn't consistent enough and the defense is one of the weaker units in the league.
27. Houston Texans
Last Week's Ranking: 24
The Houston Texans have fallen apart since losing quarterback Deshaun Watson.
The defense has been disappointing and is giving up way too many big plays. The offense under Tom Savage is a shadow of what it was with Watson under center.
Houston was competitive for a while against the Los Angeles Rams. However, Savage threw a second-quarter interception in the red zone, and the Texans were never able to rebound.
The Texans are still a physical football team, but with Savage at quarterback and with the defense playing the way it is, they're going to lose more than they win.
26. Chicago Bears
Last Week's Ranking: 18
I'd be remiss if I didn't bring up the Chicago Bears' challenge that turned a near-touchdown into a turnover. John Fox thought his guy was in the end zone, but the review showed he fumbled into the end zone, giving the Green Bay Packers the ball.
This was a huge development in the game, but it wasn't the only reason the Bears lost. Chicago is a defensive football team with a special front seven. That front seven was overpowered by the Packers. That was shocking.
When the Bears cannot run the ball, they have a hard time moving the ball. There are no receivers on the team who will scare anyone.
On a bright note, fans have to be excited about what they saw from rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. He doesn't have much talent to throw to, and he was still impressive. We're seeing growing pains from the rookie, but we're also seeing the physical tools that made him the second overall pick.
The Bears continue to battle, but they're playing for the future.
25. Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week's Ranking: 25
There is still a lot of talent on the Bengals. However, no team over the past couple of years has done less with its talent than Cincinnati.
The problem is that while the Bengals have talent on both sides of the ball, they aren't playing well enough to win. The offense isn't creative, it isn't consistent, and the Bengals can't run the ball. If A.J. Green isn't making incredible, huge plays downfield, Cincinnati has a hard time moving the ball the length of the field.
Against the Tennessee Titans, Cincinnati was 1-of-10 on third down.
The Bengals are going to be competitive all season because the defense is strong and the talent is there. However, poor offensive execution is going to cost them games and is going to keep Cincinnati out of the playoff picture.
24. Denver Broncos
Last Week's Ranking: 23
Hey, shocker. I feel like I say this every week, but the Denver Broncos once again found a new way to not play through their defense. Denver finds ways to collapse each and every week, plain and simple.
The special teams unit was a big reason the Broncos fell behind early against the New England Patriots. Denver isn't a team that can afford to fall behind early, especially against New England. I used to think some of the Broncos' offensive and special teams issues were fixable, but they creep up weekly.
Until the Broncos clean up their miscues, they're not capable of winning. The defense is still an effective unit, but its confidence has to be shaken by what's happened the last couple of weeks. Even when the defense is playing with confidence, it hasn't been enough.
Football is a game of three phases, and the Broncos are below average in two of them.
23. Arizona Cardinals
Last Week's Ranking: 26
Week 10 brought more of what we've seen from the Arizona Cardinals all year. Arizona beats the teams it is better than, but against a team on the same level or better, the Cardinals don't have a chance.
Arizona's offensive line still has issues, and Drew Stanton isn't getting it done at quarterback. The game against the Seattle Seahawks was there for the taking, but Stanton couldn't consistently make what should have been slam-dunk throws downfield.
The defense is still capable of making plays, especially against some of the lesser teams the Cardinals go up against. Ultimately, though, the Cardinals are an average team at best. Russell Wilson's wild backyard scramble and throw to Doug Baldwin on 2nd-and-22 was a microcosm of the Cardinals' season. That play won the game at a time when Arizona had all the momentum.
At times, the Cardinals look like playoff contenders, but they aren't. They're more dangerous right now than teams such as Cincinnati, Denver and Chicago, though.
22. New York Jets
Last Week's Ranking: 17
Week 10 brought such a Jets-type loss. Tampa Bay was a team New York should have beaten, but the Jets beat themselves.
It was surprising to see New York have so little offensive success. Coordinator John Morton has been able to draw up big plays all year long, but he couldn't find them against a subpar Buccaneers defense. The Jets were physically dominated up front. They couldn't get the run game going, and the pass game was nothing to brag about, either. Sustaining drives on third downs was a constant struggle.
These are the types of losses that are going to keep the Jets out of the postseason. They were the better team but allowed Tampa to steal a win.
New York is going to be a pain in the butt for opponents all season long, but the Jets are likely going to end up on the outside looking in come playoff time.
21. Miami Dolphins
Last Week's Ranking: 22
This is a good opportunity to remind everyone why people have been frustrated with Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler throughout his career.
Miami was down just 10-7 to the Carolina Panthers with less than a minute to go before halftime. Then, Cutler threw an interception. The Panthers scored on each side of the half, and it was 24-7 the next time the Dolphins had the ball for more than a kneel-down. That was a game-changer and an example of the type of situational carelessness Cutler is known for.
I don't believe Miami is out of the running for the No. 6 seed in the AFC, but turnovers are killing the team. It was Kenyan Drake last week and Cutler on Monday night.
The Dolphins were not the better team against the Panthers, and it would have taken a level of play I'm not sure Miami is capable of for it to win. There aren't many teams that could have won that game, so the loss didn't sour me on the Dolphins as much as it did some. If Miami is going to get back into the postseason hunt, though, the turnovers have to stop.
20. Green Bay Packers
Last Week's Ranking: 27
This was an impressive win by the Packers. I didn't believe they'd be able to come into Chicago and win with Brett Hundley under center, but they proved me wrong.
Green Bay ran the ball well, which was surprising against a stout Chicago front seven. The Packers have to continue transforming into a running football team—and it wouldn't hurt to utilize Hundley in the run game as well. The Packers also need to get him opportunities with the bootleg and with play-action.
The Packers cannot expect to have success with the same shotgun, drop-back offense without Aaron Rodgers.
The defense held its own against a physical Bears run game too. I still have questions about whether the Packers can consistently win with defense and with the ground game without Rodgers, but Green Bay has taken a step in the right direction.
This was something to build on.
19. Los Angeles Chargers
Last Week's Ranking: 19
The Los Angeles Chargers have been kings of the heartbreaking loss over the last couple years. However, "heartbreaking" doesn't even describe their loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
I admire the Chargers for fighting, though. Their defense has gotten better as the year has gone on. L.A. was able to stop the run against one of the best rushing teams in Jacksonville. Leonard Fournette, T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory were non-factors.
The Chargers are going to be sick when they go back and watch the game film from Jacksonville. They had the game won, but a fumble by Austin Ekeler prevented the Chargers from putting it away.
L.A. is going to be a pain in the ass for teams down the stretch, but the six losses the team already has will be too much to overcome. The Chargers have let too many games slip away to make the postseason.
18. Oakland Raiders
Last Week's Ranking: 21
The Oakland Raiders have been playing better football, but there's no denying the offense is going to have to carry this team.
If the Raiders want to make a charge at the playoffs, they need to get the run game going. That's the one element that's missing from the team that we saw last season.
The offense isn't creative enough under coordinator Todd Downing to win games with 300- and 400-yard games from Derek Carr. If Oakland cannot find some balance, the offense won't be able to carry the team.
The Raiders are dangerous and desperate. However, they also have the Patriots lurking in Week 11 and cannot afford many more losses.
17. Baltimore Ravens
Last Week's Ranking: 20
The Baltimore Ravens have a stout defense, a battle-tested quarterback in Joe Flacco and a run game that is getting going. However, they also have a ton of injuries and a lot of inconsistencies on offense. If the defense isn't dominating, it's hard for the Ravens to pull out a win.
At 4-5, the Ravens are still technically in the playoff picture, but a couple more losses will push them out.
Baltimore is a team that is going to be a challenge for most opponents down the stretch, but they're not good enough to crack the AFC playoff picture.
16. Buffalo Bills
Last Week's Ranking: 12
I've been saying all year the strength of the Bills is they don't beat themselves. They force opposing offenses to earn every yard, and they play safe but consistent offense. Well, when you start playing better football teams late in the year, that strategy has to go out the window a bit.
At some point, you have to stop playing not to lose. That's how the Bills played against the New Orleans Saints, and the game got out of hand fast. Buffalo was outmatched. Playing conservatively was never going to be enough.
However, the Bills aren't built to make explosive plays or match up with elite offenses. The offense in Buffalo is average when the ground game isn't clicking. The defense usually doesn't give up a lot of big plays, but it doesn't make a lot of impact plays, either. It's a bend-but-don't-break unit that bent and broke against the Saints.
15. Dallas Cowboys
Last Week's Ranking: 7
Going into the weekend, I believed the Dallas Cowboys might be able to weather the storm without Ezekiel Elliott. After watching the Cowboys get dominated by the Atlanta Falcons, though, I'm forced to change my tune a bit.
We've all underestimated how big of an impact Elliott has on the offense. The loss of left tackle Tyron Smith was nearly as impactful. With him out, Falcons pass-rusher Adrian Clayborn (six sacks) looked like freaking Lawrence Taylor.
The Cowboys' pass game isn't explosive enough for the team to rely on it alone. Dak Prescott is talented, and Dallas has some capable receivers, but the offense is built to play off the run. It isn't built to win shootouts.
This is important because the back end of Dallas' defense is suspect. The strength of the Dallas defense is up front. When the defensive line cannot get pressure, the secondary can be picked apart. That secondary is going to be on the field a lot if the Cowboys are unable to grind out drives.
14. Washington Redskins
Last Week's Ranking: 11
The Washington Redskins are a dangerous team. They are getting healthy, and when they're healthy, the Redskins are one of the better teams in the game. However, time is running out for Washington to get back into the NFC East race. The Redskins may be chasing a wild-card spot from here on out.
Kirk Cousins is capable of making big plays; however, he will make questionable decisions. One of the biggest plays against Minnesota was an interception he threw right before the half that led to a Vikings touchdown. It gave Minnesota a 28-17 lead and changed the dynamic of the game.
As the offensive line gets healthier, we should see improvement in the run game. That should help take pressure off Cousins. The defense is solid, if unspectacular, and is capable of making plays. Washington is still a dangerous team but is going to have to go on a run soon.
At 4-5, two more losses could keep the Redskins out of the postseason.
13. Seattle Seahawks
Last Week's Ranking: 14
The Seahawks deserve credit for continuing to fight and play a physical brand of football. I just cannot buy into them as a title contender.
Seattle's offense is ugly. It's all Russell Wilson, and when he isn't able to make magic, the Seahawks have no way to boost him. The defense is still effective, but it isn't a shutdown unit. If the Seahawks had played any quarterback other than Drew Stanton in Week 10, they would have lost. There were several times receivers were running open in the Seattle secondary and Stanton couldn't make the easy throw.
Playoff-caliber quarterbacks will be able to expose the Seahawks defense down the stretch, especially now that Richard Sherman is done for the year.
Yes, the Seahawks are 6-3, but among the 6-3 teams in the NFL, they're the worst.
12. Atlanta Falcons
Last Week's Ranking: 16
Against Dallas, the Falcons were the team we've been waiting all season long to see. There were big plays in the pass game, Atlanta was ripping off key runs, and the defense finally got back to doing what it does best. That's flying around the field and using its speed to disrupt the passing game.
The Falcons have a lot of talent, but there are concerns. Atlanta doesn't do a lot on defense scheme-wise. When opponents can utilize power to counter Atlanta's speed, the defense can struggle. While the Falcons offense was solid against the Cowboys, I question whether Atlanta can consistently rack up the yardage the way it did last season.
This was the right matchup for the Falcons offense, and it was the right day for the Falcons defense—meaning it didn't have to spend the day trying to tackle Ezekiel Elliott.
Atlanta looked more like last year's incarnation in Week 10, but the Falcons are a long way from being a title contender.
11. Tennessee Titans
Last Week's Ranking: 13
I've had the same concerns about the Titans all year long. There is no glaring weakness on the team, but there are no glaring strengths, either. Tennessee isn't running the ball with the same dominance it did last season, and I'm still not sure Marcus Mariota can consistently win games with his arm.
Mariota can also be a hindrance because he regularly produces boneheaded turnovers.
The defense is good, if not great, and is capable of creating pressure thanks to Dick LeBeau's blitz schemes. It isn't going to win games on its own, though.
The big thing, however, is the Titans are 6-3. They have a shot at the AFC South title and a chance to make the postseason, though they aren't a legit Super Bowl contender. Tennessee doesn't have enough elite qualities and isn't explosive enough in the pass game to challenge the top teams in the AFC.
10. Detroit Lions
Last Week's Ranking: 15
Matthew Stafford, Golden Tate and Marvin Jones have been hot as of late. Getting Kenny Golladay back is a positive development because it gives Stafford a solid third option. This offensive core is allowing the Lions to hang in the NFC North race.
Ultimately, Detroit is an average team elevated by one of the best quarterbacks in football. The run game is inconsistent, and the defense is good but nothing special. Stafford is special, though, and he makes Detroit a playoff contender.
As was the case against the Browns, the Lions only need to keep things close until the fourth quarter. Stafford is one of the few signal-callers who can consistently make magic at the end of games and pull out wins he probably shouldn't.
The Lions have been up and down this season, but they have a better shot at catching the lead in their division than teams such as the Cowboys, Redskins, Falcons and Seahawks do in theirs. Beating Minnesota in Week 12 will be the key. The rest of Detroit's schedule over the next six weeks is favorable.
9. Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week's Ranking: 10
The Kansas City Chiefs are as talented as they come on offense. There are weapons galore. The question is whether Alex Smith can drop back and win games when the trick plays, reverses and speed-sweeps aren't working.
Defensively, the Chiefs stink. There's no other way to put it. It's too easy for teams to move the ball on Kansas City. The Chiefs need to get back to doing what they did last year on defense, which is creating turnovers and getting sacks.
They are a strong team, but there are questions about them going forward.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week's Ranking: 9
This was a big win for the Jaguars, especially because they won with a formula they haven't relied on this year. The defense wasn't dominant, and Jacksonville couldn't run the ball. However, Blake Bortles made enough big throws to keep the Jaguars in the game.
Plain and simple, Jacksonville is one of the most talented teams in the NFL. The defense is special and is capable of playing on the level of the 2000 Ravens or the 2015 Broncos. It's a defense that can get into the postseason and win games by itself.
I do still have questions about Bortles and the passing game. Can the Jaguars beat the elite teams in the AFC when the run game isn't there? I have my doubts, but at least Jacksonville is taking steps to get Bortles some easier looks—and he's showing progress.
Jacksonville is dangerous now and is going to be dangerous in January.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week's Ranking: 4
The Steelers weren't impressive in their win over the Colts. It's almost like they sleepwalked through the game.
The defense gave up some big plays in the passing game, and that's what scares me about this team in general. The defensive front can create chaos, but the Steelers play too much zone defense. Quarterbacks who can attack downfield have found ways to expose that coverage. It won't help that Joe Haden suffered a broken fibula.
The Steelers offense is still top-notch, both running and passing. It didn't jump off the screen against Indianapolis, but it got the job done in a game that easily could have been a trap.
It was a down week for Pittsburgh, but the Steelers moved to 7-2 and remain one of the NFL's top teams.
6. Los Angeles Rams
Last Week's Ranking: 5
Sean McVay is the hottest play-caller in the NFL. Because of him, the Rams have to be in the discussion for having the most surgical offense in the sport—along with New England.
I'm amazed every week when I watch game film and see the creativity of the L.A. offense. On top of that, Jared Goff is making the throws he should. He's also making some big-time downfield throws. There are so many weapons for him to utilize that the Rams offense is nearly unstoppable.
Defensively, the Rams aren't always great, but they have great players. The L.A. defense can create chaos up front, and it can create turnovers. This fits right in with what the Rams want to do as a team. Do you want to get into a track meet with the Rams and try matching them point for point? I don't think anyone does.
We'll see just how good this Rams team is in the coming weeks. They'll play the Saints, Eagles and Vikings within the next month.
5. Minnesota Vikings
Last Week's Ranking: 6
Can we recognize the Vikings as a legit title contender now? More importantly, can we stop talking about replacing Case Keenum with Teddy Bridgewater?
Keenum is having a better year than Bridgewater ever did. Minnesota has the ninth-ranked offense in football (363.8 yards per game) largely because of him.
Minnesota is for real. The defense didn't play great against the Redskins, but it's one of the five best in the NFL. Latavius Murray is running the ball well. With Keenum, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen adding punch to the passing attack, the Vikings are dangerous and a legit Super Bowl contender.
4. Carolina Panthers
Last Week's Ranking: 8
As I've been saying for the past few weeks, the Panthers are one of the best teams in football. They have great size and strength on both sides of the ball and some speed at key positions.
Speaking of key positions, how about Cam Newton? He and the Panthers offense are almost unstoppable when Carolina finds creative ways to design run plays around him. It puts immense stress on opposing defenses and opens other things up in both the running and passing games.
The Panthers are a top-five team. They have some quality wins and even some quality losses on their resume. Two of their three losses came against two of the top three teams in my power rankings, and they beat the third team up there, the Patriots.
Carolina is a legit Super Bowl contender.
3. New Orleans Saints
Last Week's Ranking: 3
If anyone still isn't believing in the Saints, I don't know what they've been watching the last seven weeks.
The old Saints—who needed Drew Brees to throw for 300-plus yards every week—are gone. This is one of the best running teams in football. Brees is still surgical with the ball, but he hasn't been taking a lot of chances or creating bad turnovers. This makes for a balanced and dangerous offense.
The big difference with this new incarnation of New Orleans is the defense. The front seven is tremendous, and the front four can do it all. There are some athletic and talented young guys in the secondary too. This makes for a capable defense, even if it isn't a shutdown unit.
There's no denying the Saints are one of the best teams in the NFL.
2. New England Patriots
Last Week's Ranking: 2
The Patriots have things rolling. The defensive issues have been fixed, and the offense is unstoppable.
Tom Brady is unreal. Bill Belichick is amazing. They're helping to provide us with the football equivalent of the 1920s and '30s New York Yankees. New England is a dynasty and is one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL.
There isn't much more to say here. The Patriots are the team to beat in the AFC.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week's Ranking: 1
The Eagles are the best team in football at this point. I'm not saying that will be the case in January, but it is right now, and it isn't even close.
The Eagles have the best offensive player in the NFL in Carson Wentz. They have the best defensive player in Fletcher Cox. They have one of the best offensive lines and one of the top defensive lines in the game. Philadelphia can win by wreaking havoc with the pass rush and with big plays in the passing game.
When the Eagles also get LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi and the run game going, they're unstoppable.