NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Heading into Week 12?
Week 11 of the NFL season did not disappoint. Surprises, upsets and suspenseful endings made it an eventful week for the 28 active teams.
With the dust settled, who moves up and who moves down this week's rankings? Power rankings aren't all about wins and losses; style points and longevity come into play, too. And as always, a win isn't guaranteed to push you up the rankings.
The NFL's elite went head-to-head in several big games, having a major impact on the rankings. So who comes in at the top?
32. Oakland Raiders (0-10)
Last Week: 30
This Week: 32
I had held off on putting the Oakland Raiders in the bottom spot of the league even when they were struggling weekly. And in Week 11, we saw them fight to a close loss against the San Diego Chargers (13-6). But 10 straight losses (and 16 total dating back to last year) mean you're at the bottom of the rankings, no matter how you get there.
Will the Raiders win a game this year? The schedule doesn't favor it, but you would think probability says they can get one win. The upcoming slate has them hosting Kansas City, traveling to St. Louis, hosting the 49ers, then back on the road to Kansas City before closing at home against Buffalo and on the road in Denver. Is there a win in there?
31. Tennessee Titans (2-8)
Last Week: 31
This Week: 31
The Tennessee Titans played well on Monday Night Football against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but an eighth loss keeps them down in this week's rankings.
The Titans are showing promise, but their young offense is still jelling and the defense is missing key personnel to run Ray Horton's defense. Until those guys join the roster, it's tough counting on the Titans to be a winning team instead of just a tough competitor on a weekly basis.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9)
Last Week: 29
This Week: 30
A bye week for the Jacksonville Jaguars would generally mean no movement in the rankings. That changes because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won, which affects the entire bottom five of the pecking order.
With just one win and the NFL's youngest offense, the Jaguars move down this week. They'll get a chance to rebound and move up if they can win in Indianapolis in Week 12.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8)
Last Week: 32
This Week: 29
After losing five straight games, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got their second win of the season over Washington and quarterback Robert Griffin III. That's enough to bump them up in the rankings this week.
The decision to go with quarterback Josh McCown down the stretch was met with criticism here, but it paid off big with Mike Evans having a career day (seven catches, 209 yards, two TD) and the Washington secondary having no answer for Tampa's passing attack.
With two wins, it's time for Tampa to move up from its old spot at the bottom of the heap.
28. Washington (3-7)
Last Week: 27
This Week: 28
A loss to the one-win Tampa Bay Buccaneers has Washington falling quickly in the updated power rankings. And it wasn't just a loss; it was a systematic beating by a team that had lost five straight games coming into Week 11.
Now sitting in last place in the NFC East, Jay Gruden's team is one loss away from ending 2014 without a winning record. The talent on the roster is good enough to make some noise in the coming weeks, but the Redskins haven't played consistent football and lost their best player (left tackle Trent Williams) to a knee injury Sunday. Those are all reasons to move down this week.
27. New York Jets (2-8)
Last Week: 26
This Week: 27
A Week 11 bye gives the New York Jets time to rest, rehab and scheme for the Week 12 trip to play the Buffalo Bills. With no game this week but plenty of activity around them, the Jets move down from No. 26. A win next week means a jump back up the rankings, though.
The Jets are still one of the NFL's bottom feeders given their two wins and eight losses.
26. Minnesota Vikings (4-6)
Last Week: 23
This Week: 26
Another bad week from the Minnesota Vikings came at the wrong time, as the Chicago Bears were looking to erase two straight embarrassing losses. The youth of the Vikings was on display throughout the loss Sunday and leaves them with clear holes as they head into a season that's all about evaluation of the depth chart.
Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater played like a rookie, but around him, the offensive line continues to allow far too many pressures and hits, while receivers aren't finishing routes or attacking the ball. Look no farther than the last play of the game for evidence of this.
The Vikings have to move down this week, but first-year head coach Mike Zimmer has them pointed in the right direction.
25. Carolina Panthers (3-7-1)
Last Week: 22
This Week: 25
The slow and steady decline of the Carolina Panthers continues after Week 11 thanks to a loss to the Atlanta Falcons. The previously ranked No. 22 team in the league crashes down the board.
The Panthers have Cam Newton, who is currently injured, and not much else. The defense is weak in the secondary and sorely misses defensive end Greg Hardy. Add in their lack of ability to replace retired left tackle Jordan Gross, and it's easy to see why the Panthers are falling fast.
24. New York Giants (3-7)
Last Week: 20
This Week: 24
Five Eli Manning interceptions and a complete meltdown on offense led to a loss at home in Week 11, but the New York Giants were one failed drive in the fourth quarter away from taking the lead from the San Francisco 49ers.
It was a close loss for the Giants even as Manning had a terrible day. Credit the defense for keeping the 49ers out of the end zone early in the game and the play of rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in fighting for the ball and making plays down the field.
The Giants' record makes them a bottom-10 team, but they still have the talent to make noise down the stretch. They move down this week, but not to the level of other 3-7 teams.
23. Chicago Bears (4-6)
Last Week: 28
This Week: 23
The Chicago Bears took a big step back last week following embarrassing losses to the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers in which both opponents topped 50 points. They rebounded well in Week 11 with a win over their divisional rivals in Minnesota.
The key to the game was the protection of quarterback Jay Cutler and the Bears' ability to pressure rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The Vikings aren't a premier team, so this isn't a huge, quality win, but the Bears do improve to four wins and are still alive in the playoff race. For that, they move up.
22. St. Louis Rams (4-6)
Last Week: 25
This Week: 22
The St. Louis Rams were one of the NFL's most impressive teams with a Week 11 win over the Denver Broncos. And that's reason enough for a comfortable move up the board this week.
When Jeff Fisher went back to quarterback Shaun Hill after Week 10, it was met with surprise given the Rams' status in the NFC West. Playing to win with the veteran instead of developing the youngster was confusing, but it paid off as Hill and wide receiver Kenny Britt had a nice connection going all day.
The Rams may not catch the rest of the division, but Fisher may be coaching to keep his job. Beating Denver will help with that.
21. Atlanta Falcons (4-6)
Last Week: 24
This Week: 21
The Atlanta Falcons entered Sunday needing a win in the division. They got that with a close one against the Carolina Panthers that propelled them to the No. 1 seed in the NFC South.
Even with a losing record (4-6), the Falcons move to the top spot of the South and own an undefeated record against their division opponents. Matt Ryan and Co. haven't been great, but they've been good enough. Big plays from Desmond Trufant and Roddy White gave the Falcons the victory on a day when the run game was completely absent.
The Falcons move up and are trending in the right direction as the end of the season nears.
20. Buffalo Bills (5-5)
Last Week: 19
This Week: 20
A Thursday Night Football loss to the Miami Dolphins moves the Buffalo Bills down one spot this week. It also makes their chances of a wild-card berth very slim barring a six-game winning streak.
The Bills have proved their talent level is good enough to win, but as the season progresses, they have more trouble producing on offense. Whether it's Kyle Orton or EJ Manuel under center, the offense has struggled. Orton isn't good in the red zone and will hesitate to push the ball downfield, and that plagued the offense against Miami.
A 5-5 record is still very good for Buffalo, but the loss does mean a small slide down.
19. New Orleans Saints (4-6)
Last Week: 16
This Week: 19
The New Orleans Saints see a three-spot move down the rankings this week as they lose their sixth game, lose their hold on the NFC South and drop a home game to the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Saints have no identity on offense currently, and even with Drew Brees at quarterback, they have become a team that cannot win without a strong running game. They have shown flashes defensively, but lack consistent pressure and coverage.
The playoffs are still in reach thanks to the NFC South being terrible, but the Saints are no longer the top-tier team we've all come to expect.
18. Cleveland Browns (6-4)
Last Week: 12
This Week: 18
The Cleveland Browns fall six spots in the rankings after a loss to the Houston Texans. They also went from No. 1 in the AFC North to dead last.
Have the Browns hit a wall? Is this team a playoff contender? Adam Lefkoe, Chris Simms and I discuss in the video above.
17. Houston Texans (5-5)
Last Week: 21
This Week: 17
Someone forgot to tell the Houston Texans that their season was supposed to be over. A win in Week 11 moves them to 5-5 after winning just two games in 2013. With Ryan Mallett starting his first game at quarterback and running back Arian Foster injured, the Texans were able to ground-and-pound their way to a win.
Going to Cleveland and beating the Browns on their home turf isn't easy, and the Texans did it by making the Browns defense look bad for four quarters. Mallett, running back Alfred Blue and the receiving skills of J.J. Watt were all difference-makers as the Texans controlled the game by forcing the Browns to throw the ball 50 times in defeat.
16. San Diego Chargers (6-4)
Last Week: 17
This Week: 16
The San Diego Chargers get a small rise in the rankings for winning in Week 11, but a 13-6 triumph over the winless Oakland Raiders does little to inspire confidence in this team long-term.
I've said countless times in this series that great teams know how to win ugly, and maybe that's what Week 11 was for San Diego, but this looks like a team that cannot run the ball and struggles in coverage without Jason Verrett. And it'll be tested by the Rams, Ravens, Patriots, Broncos, 49ers and Chiefs down the stretch in both areas.
Winning enough games against that remaining schedule to be playoff-eligible will take a performance much better than the one seen Sunday.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4)
Last Week: 15
This Week: 15
The Pittsburgh Steelers have learned how to win ugly after several weeks of blowing out the competition. An ugly win in Week 11 against the Titans keeps them alive in a messy, crowded AFC North. The five weeks following an upcoming bye will say a lot about just how good this team is.
The Steelers have the winning recipe to turn this 7-4 record into a long playoff season. With an opportunistic defense, a strong-armed, experienced quarterback and a Le'Veon Bell-led running game, this is one of the more balanced teams in the AFC.
The Steelers have to run the ball to win, and Bell may be the team's best player now, but they have a tough stretch to close the season, including two games against the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals.
14. Miami Dolphins (6-4)
Last Week: 18
This Week: 14
The Miami Dolphins benefit from their own win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 11 but also from losses by the New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns. Both teams losing helps push Miami up more than a win over a .500 team normally might.
The Dolphins have to believe the playoffs are possible as a wild-card team. Their biggest competition will be the Kansas City Chiefs or Denver Broncos out of the AFC West and the cluster of teams in the AFC North fighting for positioning. The North teams may beat each other out of contention, allowing Miami to slide in as a No. 6 seed.
Keep winning and that will take care of itself. And this week, the Dolphins did that and see a nice bump up the rankings.
13. Cincinnati Bengals (6-3-1)
Last Week: 14
This Week: 13
The Cincinnati Bengals traveled to New Orleans and beat the Saints in a stadium that has previously been an amazing home-field advantage for Sean Payton's team. Not only did the Bengals win, but thanks to the Cleveland Browns' loss, they're in the AFC North's top spot.
The Bengals still have two games against the Pittsburgh Steelers—games that will determine the winner of the division, most likely—and they must rely on the run game in those contests as heavily as they did against New Orleans. Running back Jeremy Hill has proved to be the workhorse back the team needed, and he's taking enough pressure off of Andy Dalton to balance out the offense.
The Bengals only move up one spot, but are back trending in the right direction.
12. San Francisco 49ers (6-4)
Last Week: 13
This Week: 12
The San Francisco 49ers offense did all it could to help the New York Giants win in Week 11, but the defense thankfully clamped down and forced five Eli Manning interceptions. Give the game ball to the defense in this one, as the offense did very little.
Colin Kaepernick was once again erratic, but made big throws when the offense needed them. He also got yards after the catch from Michael Crabtree and hard running from Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde. But with a halftime lead, the 49ers struggled to control the ball and too often let the Giants back into the game. That's something the team must fix if it hopes to turn its 6-4 record into a playoff berth.
The 49ers move up one spot this week, but it's hard to have confidence in them.
11. Seattle Seahawks (6-4)
Last Week: 9
This Week: 11
The Seattle Seahawks continue to struggle on the road, and the Week 11 loss cost them precious room in the playoff standings. It also exposed what may be a blueprint for beating them—tough running at the defensive line and a conservative quarterback beat this defense.
The Seahawks have a legitimate shot at the playoffs and another Super Bowl given their talent and coaching, but they can ask Russell Wilson to carry them only so far. Facing a Kansas City defense that has yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season proved that as Marshawn Lynch was held out of the end zone, and Kansas City got to Wilson with its front seven and kept Seattle in check all day.
It's a two-spot move down for Seattle, a team that desperately needs to find a rhythm with a tough schedule down the stretch.
10. Baltimore Ravens (6-4)
Last Week: 10
This Week: 10
The Baltimore Ravens don't move up or down this week due to a bye, but they're one loss away from falling behind the Cincinnati Bengals if their division rivals continue to win.
The Ravens come out of the bye and travel to New Orleans to face the same team the Bengals just beat at home. If they can run the ball with Justin Forsett like Cincinnati did with Jeremy Hill, you have to feel like this will be a win for Baltimore.
The key to the rest of the season is the play of the defensive backs. If they do their job, the Ravens can be a playoff team.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (7-3)
Last Week: 8
This Week: 9
Many articles will be published this week talking about Mark Sanchez being a bust and the Eagles suffering through some form of quarterback purgatory. That may well be true, but don't let Week 11 lead you to that conclusion.
The Eagles' loss to the Green Bay Packers wasn't about Sanchez being bad; it was about the Packers taking the Eagles off their game plan with a quick 17-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. From there, the Eagles were forced to throw to win, and that's not Chip Kelly's game. Uptempo, heavy running and short quick-hitters in the passing game are the design, and that's tough to do down three scores.
The Eagles move down this week, but it's just one spot. They're still talented enough and have the head coach to correct issues and make noise in the next six weeks.
8. Kansas City Chiefs (7-3)
Last Week: 11
This Week: 8
The Kansas City Chiefs come in at No. 8 this week, but there was temptation to put them much higher. That's what happens when you beat the Seattle Seahawks and win five straight games.
No team in the NFL outside of New England is as hot as the Chiefs are heading into the final month and a half of the season. Who cares that the wide receivers are glorified decoys in this offense? Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles don't care. Neither does the Kansas City defense.
Andy Reid has long been known as one of the NFL's best head coaches. He's proving that in 2014 during a season in which the Chiefs were expected to take a step back.
7. Dallas Cowboys (7-3)
Last Week: 7
This Week: 7
The Week 11 bye means the Dallas Cowboys don't move up in these rankings. With Dallas off and Philadelphia losing to the Packers, the Cowboys are now tied at 7-3 with the NFC East leaders. The two teams get a chance to face off in Weeks 13 and 15 in contests that will decide the division and finally settle the score in the comments section to determine which team deserves to be ranked higher.
6. Indianapolis Colts (6-4)
Last Week: 6
This Week: 6
The Indianapolis Colts lost their fourth game of the season in Week 11, but a loss to the No. 1-ranked team from Week 10 doesn't move them down in the rankings.
The Colts are helped by No. 7 Dallas being on a bye and No. 8 Philadelphia losing in Week 11; otherwise, there may have been movement in this spot. Falling behind the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 8 wasn't an option, either, so the Colts stay It's easy to look at the score and think they need to drop, but they met an unmovable force in the Patriots.
Week 12 brings the Jaguars and then Week 13's schedule features Washington. Those are two very winnable games to get the Colts back on track for the final stretch of the year.
5. Detroit Lions (7-3)
Last Week: 5
This Week: 5
The Detroit Lions traveled to Arizona looking to unseat the Cardinals and their NFL-best record. That didn't happen. Instead, we saw another week of the Lions offense struggling while the defense was unable to stop a Drew Stanton-led passing attack early in the game.
The Lions did adjust well and were able to slow down the Arizona offense, but couldn't get their own offense going. With physical defensive backs across the field, the Lions receivers weren't able to win one-on-one matchups. With the passing game slowed, the run game was nonexistent and led to a surprisingly low-scoring 14-6 win for Arizona.
The Lions are still in place for the No. 2 seed in the NFC, but the Packers are closing in on them quickly and have been the more impressive team in recent weeks.
4. Denver Broncos (7-3)
Last Week: 3
This Week: 4
The Denver Broncos are beatable. That's what Week 11 taught us.
Playing in the dome on a road trip to St. Louis, the Broncos were abused, and Peyton Manning was constantly pressured and frustrated as the Rams followed the blueprint laid by the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots for how to best the reigning AFC champions.
Physical defensive backs, a front four good enough to get pressure on Manning and linebackers athletic enough to hang in coverage are the common denominator among the three losses on the Broncos schedule. And with those losses, the Kansas City Chiefs are now tied with Denver and have a chance to win the AFC West if they beat the Broncos in Week 13.
3. Green Bay Packers (7-3)
Last Week: 4
This Week: 3
The Green Bay Packers have posted back-to-back 50-point games and look to be unstoppable on offense. In Week 11, the defense also got involved, plastering Mark Sanchez and the Philadelphia Eagles to the turf. With this balance and aggressiveness, it's easy to see Green Bay being a top-tier contender again.
The decision to shift Clay Matthews to inside linebacker worked out brilliantly against Chicago and Philadelphia, as it allows the Packers to put more athletes on the field. With Nick Perry and Julius Peppers pressing off the edge, the entire defense has come alive.
The Packers still rank below the Detroit Lions in the division thanks to their one head-to-head matchup, but right now, no one in the NFC North is playing as well as Green Bay.
2. Arizona Cardinals (9-1)
Last Week: 2
This Week: 2
The Arizona Cardinals have won an NFC-best six straight games. They are undefeated at home. They've beaten the San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers. It's time for everyone to start recognizing that this team and coaching staff are for real.
The move to Drew Stanton at quarterback due to Carson Palmer's injury was both good and bad in Week 11. Stanton threw two big touchdowns early but was also picked off twice in a one-score affair. Ultimately, those interceptions didn't cost the Cardinals the game, but he'll have to be more efficient should this team find itself in a trailing situation.
The schedule isn't kind to Arizona over the next six weeks—it has Seattle twice, Kansas City and San Francisco left—but if the Cardinals continue to thrive under pressure like they have for the last 10 games, you have to like their chances.
1. New England Patriots (8-2)
Last Week: 1
This Week: 1
September, and the Patriots' 2-2 record, was a long time ago. Now, the boys from New England look like the NFL's best, and no one is stopping them.
The underrated greatness of the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady tandem is that there is always a "play the hot hand" element to the offense. This week it was Jonas Gray, next week it might be Brandon LaFell and a lot of weeks it's Rob Gronkowski. Whomever the opposing defense schemes to stop, Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels are great at figuring it out and then riding someone else to victory.
No team in the NFL attacks weaknesses as well as the Patriots do. That's why they're 8-2, the best team in the AFC and, right now, the best team in the NFL.