NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Heading into Week 11?
The 2014 NFL season is now 10 weeks gone, and the result has been more unpredictable than anyone could have prepared for.
The Cleveland Browns are in first place in the AFC North, the NFC South doesn't have a team with a winning record, Aaron Rodgers is R-E-L-A-Xing his way into the record books, and the Detroit Lions are arguably the hottest team in the game. Parity and year-to-year turnover are expected in this era of the NFL, but 2014 is the oddest year in recent memory.
What did we learn in Week 10? As teams begin to separate themselves from the competition, big moves are made in this week's Power Rankings.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8)
Last Week: 32
This Week: 32
Without any hesitation, I would pick the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to lose against any other team in the NFL on a neutral field. And that's shocking given the apparent talent the team has on paper.
Head coach Lovie Smith and Co. are struggling through an adjustment period during his first season running the team, but there's no excuse for the ineffectiveness of Doug Martin, Anthony Collins, Alterraun Verner and other high-caliber players failing to live up to expectations in Tampa. As a reminder, I actually picked the Bucs to win 10 games and make the playoffs this year given the strong base of talent Smith inherited and the free-agency moves made by new general manager Jason Licht.
That the Buccaneers are so bad might be the surprise of the season through 10 weeks.
31. Tennessee Titans (2-7)
Last Week: 31
This Week: 31
The Tennessee Titans showed signs of life in Week 10, but it's too little, too late thanks to the Baltimore Ravens pass rush and front seven. The Titans put just seven points on the board on a day in which quarterback Zach Mettenberger was consistently hit, pressured and sacked.
With a 2-7 record the Titans are looking at a losing season with one more bad week. Given that the schedule has them playing the Steelers, Eagles and Texans in the next three weeks, they could very quickly be 2-10.
It's rare for a team to move on from a first-year head coach, but you have to wonder if Ken Whisenhunt will keep his job after this embarrassing start.
30. Oakland Raiders (0-9)
Last Week: 28
This Week: 30
It's important this week to talk about Derek Carr, as many on Twitter have filled my mentions with conjecture that he's not a franchise quarterback. I disagree.
Let's look at what Carr has to work with. The run game—fueled by big names Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew—was ranked dead last in the NFL coming into Week 11. A logical argument would be that the Raiders fall behind so early in games that the run isn't able to get going, and while that is true, early in games, the defense doesn't respect the Oakland run game. Our friends at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) rank their run game second worst and their run-blocking as the worst in the NFL.
Carr is making rookie mistakes, obviously, but he's working with a patchwork offense, a historically conservative play-caller (Greg Olson) and a schedule that features three playoff teams from last season in the division.
Compare Carr to the other rookie quarterbacks in the NFL right now and it's clear that his production and potential are franchise-quarterback worthy to anyone watching.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9)
Last Week: 29
This Week: 29
The Jacksonville Jaguars dropped their third straight game in Week 10, are one loss away from their fourth straight 10-loss season and have already wrapped up their seventh straight losing season. But like I've said here all season, this is a young team building for the future. Immediate results are not required.
The silver lining with this team is the way it plays each week. There's no one giving up late in games. Every week, they fight and claw for yards and come out prepared to win. Even if the wins are few and far between, the Jaguars are a tough out no matter the opponent.
Give Gus Bradley and Dave Caldwell another year to build this team and the Jaguars will be competitive.
28. Chicago Bears (3-6)
Last Week: 25
This Week: 28
The Chicago Bears are too talented to be this bad.
A 42-0 deficit at halftime may be the best way to articulate just how bad the Bears were in Week 10. The fact that they let this happen against their hated, historical rivals from Green Bay is even more disheartening. If you can't find the motivation to fight against the Packers, who will this team get up for?
The Bears look softer every week, and with what looks like a lack of leadership on the field, they continue to fall apart when faced with any adversity. Marc Trestman looked like a genius in his 2013 rookie season as head coach, but the team's current struggles (especially on offense) should put his job in jeopardy.
27. Washington (3-6)
Last Week: 27
This Week: 27
A bye week means no change in the rankings for Washington. The change fans are looking for will come in Week 11 when Robert Griffin III and Co. play the No. 32-ranked Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Washington. A win there will move them to 4-6 and give Washington a fighting chance to climb back into the playoff race.
Following up Week 11's winnable game is a trip to San Francisco to take on the 49ers in what could be a must-win situation for both clubs.
26. New York Jets (2-8)
Last Week: 30
This Week: 26
Right when everyone wrote off the New York Jets, they pulled off an improbable upset of the red-hot Pittsburgh Steelers. Week 10 saw the Jets finally play up to their potential as the offense and defense got on the same page.
The Jets aren't quite eliminated from playoff contention, but with games against the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins next on the schedule, they could be quickly. A 2-10 record would be enough to knock them out of the AFC playoff race, and realistically, one more loss would do the trick in the AFC East.
Rex Ryan's job may depend on these next six games. He's put all his faith in Michael Vick, and in Week 10, that paid off.
25. St. Louis Rams (3-6)
Last Week: 23
This Week: 25
The St. Louis Rams were able to beat the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks this year, but in Week 10, they ran right into the buzz saw that is the Arizona Cardinals and were embarrassed, 31-14.
The Rams had no answer for the Bruce Arians downfield passing attack, as John Brown and the wide receivers were able to get loose deep. On offense, the Rams couldn't get into a rhythm after an early Jared Cook touchdown and saw the game turn on two Patrick Peterson interceptions and an Antonio Cromartie fumble recovery returned for a touchdown.
In last place heading into Week 11, head coach Jeff Fisher has to be worried about his job security.
24. Atlanta Falcons (3-6)
Last Week: 26
This Week: 24
A win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 10 might not seem like a season-saving victory, but the Atlanta Falcons are now just one game back in a weak NFC South with their 3-6 record. For that, they get a bump up in the rankings headed into Week 11.
The bad news for the Falcons is that the schedule is not easy from here on out. Week 11 is a winnable game in Carolina, but this is still a division rival and cannot be discounted. From there, they face the Browns, Cardinals, Packers, Steelers and then close out the season with division games against New Orleans and Carolina. It's very possible the Falcons win only another game or two unless they can turn things around quickly.
23. Minnesota Vikings (4-5)
Last Week: 24
This Week: 23
The Minnesota Vikings entered the bye week coming off two straight wins and now face the possibility of getting running back Adrian Peterson back from suspension. That's enough to bump them up in the rankings if it holds true.
The Vikings have promise, but they also have a very tough divisional schedule ahead of them. Head coach Mike Zimmer has been a difference maker in his rookie season at the helm, which gives them a puncher's chance down the stretch as the team around him develops chemistry.
22. Carolina Panthers (3-6-1)
Last Week: 22
This Week: 22
The Carolina Panthers lost in impressive fashion on Monday Night Football, but I'm not moving them down in the rankings this week. Here's why: I would still pick the Panthers to beat every team ranked below them. And as crazy as this sounds, they are still alive in the NFC South playoff race.
The beating at the hands of the Mark Sanchez-led Philadelphia Eagles was a lot worse than the 45-21 final score showed, thanks to two more garbage-time touchdowns from rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, but this is still a team capable of being a dangerous opponent if Cam Newton has time to make plays. Lately he has not, and the team could look to shuffle the offensive line if it wants to have a chance at a playoff surge.
One year after being the No. 2 seed in the NFC, the Panthers are dangerously close to being laughed out of the playoff race.
21. Houston Texans (4-5)
Last Week: 21
This Week: 21
The late-season bye week allows the Houston Texans to break in new quarterback Ryan Mallett before facing the stout defense of the Cleveland Browns in Week 11. Given Mallett's ties to head coach Bill O'Brien—they were in New England together—it could be the boost the offense needs.
The Texans have the defensive front seven to frustrate the Browns but must get production on offense from the passing game. That wasn't happening with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, or at least not at a high rate, so in comes the big-armed Mallett to try to open things up with Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins.
20. New York Giants (3-6)
Last Week: 19
This Week: 20
The New York Giants were thoroughly destroyed by the rushing attack of the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday afternoon. Allowing over 300 yards on the ground is a rarity in the modern-era NFL, but the Giants made it happen. By the fourth quarter, it looked like no one on defense wanted to tackle Marshawn Lynch or Christine Michael when they got loose.
With a 3-6 record and consistent problems on offense and defense, it's time to start thinking about whether Tom Coughlin is on the hot seat. There's no doubt that defensive coordinator Perry Fewell is, but Coughlin's decision to bring in offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo hasn't yielded results yet, and the team is losing games with poor effort. Coughlin has two Super Bowl rings and is loved by many in New York, but ownership won't accept losses no matter what the coach has done in the past.
19. Buffalo Bills (5-4)
Last Week: 16
This Week: 19
A conservative offensive game plan finally caught up with the Buffalo Bills as the Kansas City Chiefs pulled off the comeback win in Week 10. Now the Bills face a 5-4 record and are two games back in the AFC East. The playoffs are still within reach, but the team must get a win against the 5-4 Miami Dolphins in Week 11 to keep its wild-card hopes alive.
The Buffalo defense was electric, especially early, and consistently hit and hurried quarterback Alex Smith throughout the game. It even bottled up Jamaal Charles, who finished with under 100 yards rushing. But as the game wore on, the Bills couldn't stop the Chiefs late and saw their lead disappear. Quarterback Kyle Orton couldn't deliver as the Bills were forced to play from behind, and the Chiefs celebrated their sixth win on the Bills' home field.
18. Miami Dolphins (5-4)
Last Week: 15
This Week: 18
A close-game loss is heartbreaking in Week 10—especially with a chance to gain a spot on the Buffalo Bills and get within one game of the New England Patriots in the division. Falling to 5-4 on the season hurts, but losing left tackle Branden Albert for the remainder of the season hurts more.
The loss of Albert will push rookie Ja'Wuan James to the left side after starting the year at right tackle. James has been impressive, but he's a career right tackle dating back to his days at Tennessee. Expecting a seamless transition against the pass-rushers from Buffalo and New England isn't fair to a player with nine starts.
The Dolphins have the defense and run game to hold their ground in the AFC playoff race, but they need Ryan Tannehill and the offensive line to step up to minimize this setback.
17. San Diego Chargers (5-4)
Last Week: 17
This Week: 17
The bye week means the San Diego Chargers don't move up or down the rankings. Entering Week 11, the hope is that the team can rediscover the rhythm that led to its hot start and erase the three-game losing streak it's currently on.
Games against the Raiders and Rams will allow the Chargers time to get back in the right frame of mind and end the losing streak coming off the bye. To have a chance at a wild-card berth in the AFC, though, they'll need to make noise over the last five weeks of the season against Baltimore, New England, Denver, San Francisco and Kansas City.
16. New Orleans Saints (4-5)
Last Week: 14
This Week: 16
The New Orleans Saints were 3-0 at home and riding a two-game winning streak when the unpredictable San Francisco 49ers came to town in Week 10. And it was the fight everyone expected it to be for 60 minutes and more.
The Saints' loss in Week 10 doesn't mean much for their playoff hopes—believe it or not, they are in first place in the NFC South—although the ideal scenario isn't to back into the playoffs but rather to build momentum heading toward the postseason. And with a tough, but winnable, schedule over the next seven games, any win is a good one.
To finish the season, the Saints take on the AFC North trio of Cincinnati, Baltimore and Pittsburgh, then see Carolina, Chicago, Atlanta and Tampa Bay. If they can survive the next three weeks, the playoffs do look realistic for New Orleans.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4)
Last Week: 10
This Week: 15
The past two weeks, it looked like no one could slow down Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Entering Week 10, there was no way the pitiful New York Jets secondary could hold its own against the record-breaking passing attack of Pittsburgh.
Only, it did. The Jets held Roethlisberger to just one touchdown after he threw 12 in the previous two games and did a great job limiting the Pittsburgh offense and keeping it out of the end zone. Roethlisberger's 343 yards passing generated just seven points, and a powerful run game was completely shut down early on.
The Steelers needed this win in a super competitive AFC North and now enter Week 11 tied for last place, even with a winning record.
14. Cincinnati Bengals (5-3-1)
Last Week: 9
This Week: 14
It doesn't get much uglier than the Cincinnati Bengals' loss to the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football. Now, Marvin Lewis' team must quickly forget it and move on to a three-game road trip that features stops in New Orleans, Houston and Tampa Bay.
Currently second in the AFC North and the AFC's sixth seed if the playoffs started today, the Bengals are fortunate to have swept the Baltimore Ravens this year. To climb back into the driver's seat in the North, they need to get busy winning and circle their Week 14-17 schedule as must-win games—they face the Steelers, Browns, Broncos and Steelers in that stretch. No four games will be more crucial to the season.
13. San Francisco 49ers (5-4)
Last Week: 20
This Week: 13
Season-saving win? It just might be.
The San Francisco 49ers entered Week 10 with a 4-4 record, a disjointed offense and a defense plagued with injuries and suspensions. The New Orleans Saints, a team nearly unbeatable at home, would prove whether the 49ers could stand up against top-tier competition.
Early on, it looked like the 49ers were rolling to a win, but as has been the habit this season, they struggled to put the Saints away in the second half. But in overtime the team got big plays from the defense, and Ahmad Brooks strip-sacked Drew Brees, and rookie linebacker Chris Borland jumped on the loose ball. Game over.
The 49ers aren't out of the woods yet, but they showed some spark in returning to the run game. The return of Aldon Smith from suspension in Week 11 will give them another boost as they look to push for a wild-card berth in the NFC.
12. Cleveland Browns (6-3)
Last Week: 18
This Week: 12
Here's something no one expected: After 10 weeks, the Cleveland Browns are in first place in the AFC North. And it's not like the North is a dumpster fire this year, as every team is at least two games over .500. The Browns are legitimate playoff contenders, and it's time to take notice.
With no superstar on offense, but a damn good offensive line, the Browns are winning dirty most weeks, but the record doesn't show any bias toward how wins are generated. With a tough defense, a deep rotation at running back and the NFL's best left tackle (Joe Thomas), the Browns have a winning recipe that will work even better as the weather gets cold.
Oh, and the Browns get Josh Gordon back in Week 12. If they can get past the Houston Texans without him, the Browns will have their best offensive playmaker back for the stretch run.
11. Kansas City Chiefs (6-3)
Last Week: 11
This Week: 11
The Kansas City Chiefs were supposed to take a step back in 2014 after a surprise turnaround in 2013 led to a playoff berth. Someone forgot to tell Andy Reid.
The Chiefs aren't explosive on offense or overly creative on either side of the ball, but they execute and play smart football without making mistakes. That leads to boring wins, but they're winning games many (myself included) didn't expect them to.
The Chiefs may not be serious Super Bowl contenders (not without a true threat at wide receiver and with an unsteady offensive line), but they are a playoff contender and could be a thorn in the side of Denver or Indianapolis there. With a tough running back, a smart head coach and one of the game's best pass rushes, the Chiefs are doing very well in what was supposed to be a reloading season.
10. Baltimore Ravens (6-4)
Last Week: 13
This Week: 10
The Baltimore Ravens' win in Week 10 keeps their playoff hopes alive as they fight with the Cleveland Browns (not a typo) for the AFC North lead. As of the end of Week 10, the Ravens are on the outside looking in at the playoffs with both Cleveland (the division leader) and the Cincinnati Bengals in position to make the postseason thanks to the Bengals' season sweep.
For the Ravens to make the playoffs, they need to keep winning as the schedule heats up. Weeks 12-14 mean facing playoff contenders New Orleans, San Diego and Miami before getting into winnable games against Jacksonville and Houston, which precede a Week 17 showdown with Cleveland.
With a stout pass rush and an explosive offense, the Ravens are definitely a contender, but concerns about the secondary make them tough to bet on over the long haul.
9. Seattle Seahawks (6-3)
Last Week: 12
This Week: 9
The Seattle Seahawks won in Week 10 to keep their playoff hopes alive, but are they back to being competitors in the NFC? Stephen Nelson and I talk about the Seahawks' chances in the video above.
8. Philadelphia Eagles (7-2)
Last Week: 8
This Week: 8
The Philadelphia Eagles won handily on Monday Night Football, prompting what many would expect to be a move up in this week's rankings. And I'm tempted, but here's why the Eagles aren't moving up this week.
1. The Indianapolis Colts (ranked No. 6) are on a bye and won't move down a spot.
2. The Dallas Cowboys won in Week 10, so they won't move down from the No. 7 spot.
3. The Eagles did post 45 points in their win, but Mark Sanchez and Co. were playing what could easily be the NFL's worst secondary and worst offensive line. I need more proof that Sanchez can lead this team against a competent defense before they jump the Cowboys in these rankings.
7. Dallas Cowboys (7-3)
Last Week: 7
This Week: 7
A trip across the Atlantic Ocean to London did nothing to slow down the Dallas Cowboys—and neither did the Jacksonville Jaguars. Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant were all exceptional as the Cowboys got back on track following a two-game skid heading into Week 10.
Now the Cowboys get a week off to get healthy and rest before the final six-game run that will determine the NFC East champion. A home playoff game, and maybe home-field advantage, are on the line when Dallas meets Philadelphia on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas and then two weeks later in Philadelphia.
No two games mean more to Dallas this season. Win those two and they're taking home the NFC East and looking at at least one home playoff game.
6. Indianapolis Colts (6-3)
Last Week: 6
This Week: 6
The Week 10 bye for the Indianapolis Colts—a team all but guaranteed to win its division—allows Chuck Pagano to rest his team and get people healthy for a second half of the season that they hope will feature a long run through the playoffs.
The Colts have lost just one game since Week 2 and currently have the NFL's best offense in terms of points per game. They also have four very winnable games—Jacksonville, Washington, Houston and Tennessee—on the schedule with games against New England and Cleveland that will go a long way toward determining the AFC playoff picture.
A 10-5 record seems like the worst-case scenario for Indianapolis, with 13-3 a good possibility if Luck and Co. can take care of business against New England at home in Lucas Oil Stadium and on the road in Cleveland for what should be a cold-weather matchup.
5. Detroit Lions (7-2)
Last Week: 5
This Week: 5
The Detroit Lions don't get mentioned with the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers as a Super Bowl contender, but maybe it's time to start.
With a 7-2 record, an offense as good as any in the NFL in terms of playmakers and the ability to score from behind, they have the look of a team that can compete no matter the matchup. But this team isn't all offense, as Jim Caldwell's club is playing stout defense and getting after the quarterback from the interior and edge.
How good are the Lions? We're about to find out. Games in Arizona and New England in Weeks 11 and 12, respectively, will reveal if the Lions are contenders or pretenders in the NFL's top tier.
4. Green Bay Packers (6-3)
Last Week: 4
This Week: 4
The Green Bay Packers jumped out to a 42-0 lead over the Chicago Bears at halftime, cementing their status as an elite team and proving that since Week 3 they have been one of the NFL's most explosive teams.
The Packers' Week 3 loss to the Detroit Lions is one that fans will point to as reason for the Lions to rank ahead of Green Bay, but that game was a long time ago, and these Packers are not those Packers. Aaron Rodgers and the offense are rolling now, and the defense has found a better rhythm up front and in the secondary.
If the rematch were played today, I would pick the Packers to win. And that's why they come in ranked above a team that beat them seven weeks ago. The good news is that we'll find out in Week 17 who truly belongs higher in the rankings.
3. Denver Broncos (7-2)
Last Week: 3
This Week: 3
Another week, another win for the Denver Broncos. Moving to 7-2 means the Broncos hold on to the No. 2 seed in the AFC, and beating the Oakland Raiders extends their lead in the AFC West.
With seven games to go, the most important thing for the Broncos is staying healthy. The division is winnable if they can maintain their level of play, but the schedule is tough going forward. The Broncos travel to St. Louis to face a gutsy Rams team in a game that they should win but will be a difficult test. From there, they are on to a stretch featuring Miami, Kansas City, Buffalo, San Diego and Cincinnati (all playoff contenders) before ending with the Raiders.
The Chiefs are not far behind in the division, making every win crucial for the Broncos as they prepare for the playoffs.
2. Arizona Cardinals (8-1)
Last Week: 2
This Week: 2
The loss of Carson Palmer is huge for the Arizona Cardinals, even if Drew Stanton has performed well in relief so far this year. With five games still left in the division (two against Seattle, one in San Francisco and one in St. Louis), the Cardinals need offensive production to stay atop the NFC West.
The brilliance of the Cardinals so far this season is that the quarterbacks have thrown just three interceptions combined. Stanton has made his mark as a gunslinger, and he'll be asked to push the ball vertically in Bruce Arians' offense. Can he avoid the turnovers that haven't cost this team yet? Time will tell.
The Cardinals have an exciting offensive scheme and an opportunistic defense that makes teams pay for their mistakes, but winning without Palmer will thoroughly test the team and its coaches. If they can win with Stanton, it will be the surprise of the season.
1. New England Patriots (7-2)
Last Week: 1
This Week: 1
The New England Patriots had a much-needed bye after wearing themselves out beating up the Denver Broncos. With a week off to rest and rehab, they're in good shape for the stretch run of the season as they look to protect their lead in the AFC and secure home-field advantage for the playoffs.
It won't be easy, as the Patriots play six of their final seven games against teams in playoff contention. The hated New York Jets are the only team with a losing record remaining on the schedule. Traveling to Indianapolis, Green Bay, San Diego and New York won't be easy, either.
The Patriots look like a Super Bowl-caliber team at the break, but they must keep their foot on the pedal to guarantee a postseason at home.