NFL Power Rankings: B/R's Expert Consensus Standings Heading into Week 12

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystNovember 25, 2015

NFL Power Rankings: B/R's Expert Consensus Standings Heading into Week 12

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    It's Cam Newton's world, and everyone is just living in it. 

    Newton and his Carolina Panthers are now 10-0 and clearly the NFC's best team. Meanwhile, their AFC counterpart, the New England Patriots, also captured their 10th win in 10 tries. It's the fourth time in the league's history two teams have held matching 10-0 records, per's Gil Brandt

    These particular teams are drastically different in their approach, but they're both dominating the league.

    Every other franchise has lost at least two games, and only nine organizations currently claim a winning record.  

    With 12 available playoff spots, there will be a few teams that rise out of mediocrity to play in the postseason. Which ones will they be? 

    To make sense of it all, eight Bleacher Report NFL writers—Gary Davenport, Mike Freeman, Brad Gagnon, Matt Miller, Ty Schalter, Mike Tanier, Sean Tomlinson and yours truly—ranked the teams.

    In order to build a consensus for these power rankings, each squad's ranking from each writer was added to the others. The lowest totals indicated the best teams, while the highest totals marked the other end of the spectrum. If there was a tie, the club with the single highest vote got the nod as the better squad.

    On the flip side of the equation, four different teams received votes as the league's worst. The Cleveland Browns received the most last-place votes, but they weren't counted among the bottom three teams in this week's rankings. 

    Click through the slideshow to find out where all the teams landed in Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Standings.

32. San Francisco 49ers

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Current Record: 3-7

    Highest Ranking: 27 (Miller)

    Lowest Ranking: 32 (Freeman, Schalter)

    What's Good?: Blaine Gabbert isn't the same quarterback everyone saw with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The former 10th overall pick might not be franchise material, but he's played relatively well for the San Francisco 49ers over the last two weeks. In his two starts, Gabbert completed 62.7 percent of his passes for 449 yards, three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. His performance Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks rallied his teammates around him. 

    "Blaine's the guy," left tackle Joe Staley said, per's Matt Maiocco. "I thought he did a good [job] today of moving the offense. This is a hard place to pass the ball, and I thought he did a great job of moving the chains and making plays when he had to. Blaine's our guy. And that's it."

    What's Bad?: The other side of the story revolves around Colin Kaepernick's fall from grace. After being benched for Gabbert, his time in San Francisco appears to be over. The organization placed the 28-year-old on injured reserve Saturday, and he'll likely draw interest from other teams.

    "San Francisco will explore trade options again this offseason, and it sounds like Kaepernick would welcome a fresh start, as well," NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported.

    Kaepernick is due $11.9 million in base salary next season with a $16.765 million cap hit, according to, which becomes fully guaranteed on April 1. This could make the fifth-year quarterback difficult to move. 

    What's Next?: On Sept. 27, the Arizona Cardinals absolutely blitzed the 49ers and won their first meeting of the season by 40 points. It was San Francisco's worst performance of the season. Clearly, the 49ers aren't in playoff contention, but Sunday's rematch is an opportunity to see how much they've actually improved from that initial meeting. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 32

31. Tennessee Titans

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Current Record: 2-8

    Highest Ranking: 28 (4 voters)

    Lowest Ranking: 31 (Davenport, Miller)

    What's Good?: While tight end Delanie Walker remains Marcus Mariota's favorite target, fellow rookie Dorial Green-Beckham continues to grow alongside the team's first-year quarterback. In the last three games, Mariota targeted DGB 18 times. During the Tennessee Titans' previous seven contests, 13 passes were thrown Green-Beckham's way. The two rookies might not always been on the same page, and they're still working on building a strong rapport. But it's clear this year's second-round pick is quickly becoming a much bigger part of the offense. 

    What's Bad?: The Titans offensive line has been in constant flux. Prior to the start of the regular season, the organization waived veteran guard Andy Levitre. Right tackle became a rotating door. Since Mike Mularkey took over as interim head coach, he's dabbled with a few offensive line combinations, and this week shouldn't be any different. This time, Joe Looney returns to center, while undrafted free agent Quinton Spain might get his first opportunity to start at left guard. 

    "We may do a little bit more of that Wednesday when we put the pads on; that'll be another indicator for us if we need to do some things differently," Mularkey said, per's Paul Kuharsky.

    Titans quarterbacks have been sacked 33 times this season, which ranks fourth-worst in the league.

    What's Next?: The race for the No. 1 overall pick is alive and well in Tennessee. The Titans are counted among three teams with a 2-8 record. It's difficult to project wins for a team that struggled as much as Tennessee has through the first 10 weeks. This week, Mariota and his team host an Oakland Raiders squad prepared to bounce back after three tough losses. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 30

30. San Diego Chargers

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    Denis Poroy/Associated Press

    Current Record: 2-8

    Highest Ranking: 22 (Freeman)

    Lowest Ranking: 32 (Davenport, Gagnon)

    What's Good?: Jeremiah Attaochu might not have developed into the explosive pass-rusher the San Diego Chargers envisioned when the team selected him with a second-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft, but he's proved himself as an effective edge player. Against the Kansas City Chiefs, Attaochu played arguably the best game of his career. The outside linebacker manufactured five quarterback hurries and five defensive stops, according to Pro Football Focus. Attaochu is currently tied for the team lead with five sacks and second with 20 quarterback hurries despite limited playing time. 

    What's Bad?: There have been points this season when quarterback Philip Rivers single-handedly kept the Chargers competitive in games despite being clearly outmatched. Sunday's game wasn't one of those instances. Rivers played his worst game of the season against an aggressive Chiefs defense. The veteran signal-caller only threw for 178 yards and also mistakenly found Kansas City outside linebacker Justin Houston wide-open for a Chiefs touchdown. After six straight losses, it's clear Rivers can't carry this roster as it's currently comprised, and the team doesn't have a chance if its quarterback isn't playing well.

    What's Next?In the proverbial "if the NFL draft were held today" scenario, the San Diego Chargers hold the No. 1 overall pick. The last time this happened, the infamous Eli Manning trade occurred. The upcoming schedule is rather difficult too. The surging Jacksonville Jaguars are next, and the Chargers still have to travel to Kansas City and Oakland. Also, the Denver Broncos are on the docket twice. The No. 1 overall pick just might be gift-wrapped and heading to San Diego (or Los Angeles). 

    Last Week's Ranking: 26

29. Cleveland Browns

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Current Record: 2-8

    Highest Ranking: 20 (Freeman)

    Lowest Ranking: 32 (3 voters)

    What's Good?: When the Cleveland Browns entered this season, every expectation pointed toward a run-dominant offense and a strong defense. Neither materialized. Yet, the team's much-criticized skill positions already performed well above expectations. Both wide receiver Travis Benjamin and tight end Gary Barnidge are currently on pace to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards. Rookie running back Duke Johnson is third among all rookies with 39 receptions. This offense was supposed to struggle moving the ball through the air. Instead, the Browns rank 12th overall in pass offense. 

    What's Bad?: The offensive line and secondary were supposed to be the strengths of Cleveland's team. Neither unit has played anywhere near expectations so far. 

    "The two groups we thought were going to be anchors for us were the offensive line and the secondary, and both have underperformed for a variety of reasons up to this point," head coach Mike Pettine admitted, per's Pat McManamon.

    The secondary in particular has been plagued by injuries. Donte Whitner, Joe Haden and Tashaun Gipson, all former Pro Bowlers, already combined to miss 10 games. Haden's season has been particularly disappointing when he was on the field after surrendering multiple touchdowns.

    What's Next?: With a week to catch its proverbial breath, the team is entering a crucial game against the Baltimore Ravens. This is a rival whom (a) the Browns already beat earlier in the season and (b) just lost its starting quarterback (Joe Flacco) and running back (Justin Forsett) to season-ending injuries. A loss, especially an embarrassing loss, on Monday Night Football at home after an extra week of preparation will likely signal major change. This is a game the Browns could and should win. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 31

28. Baltimore Ravens

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Current Record: 3-7

    Highest Ranking: 24 (Tanier)

    Lowest Ranking: 31 (Sobleski)

    What's Good?: Due to the lack of depth among the Baltimore Ravens' skill positions, Crockett Gillmore's emergence at tight end shouldn't simply be seen as a positive. It's vital to the team's success. As the season progressed, a growing confidence in the second-year tight end became obvious. As a result, the Colorado State product set a new career high Sunday with 101 receiving yards. Since the rest of the team's skill positions consist of names such as Kamar Aiken, Chris Givens and rookie running back Buck Allen, Gillmore's reliability at tight end becomes even more important. 

    What's Bad?: The Ravens are the embodiment of Murphy's Law this year: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. For example, when does a victory actually turn out to be a major loss? The Ravens found out Sunday when the team defeated the St. Louis Rams but lost both its starting quarterback and running back to season-ending injuries. Joe Flacco tore both his ACL and MCL despite finishing the contest. Justin Forsett, meanwhile, broke his forearm earlier in the game. With both out of the lineup, the Ravens will now rely on veteran quarterback Matt Schaub and Allen in the backfield. 

    What's Next?: Despite all of the team's injury issues this season, the Ravens still aren't located in the AFC North's basement. That could change Monday night if the team can't handle the Cleveland Browns during prime time. Both teams continue to struggle, but the Browns already defeated Baltimore in overtime earlier this year. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 28

27. Detroit Lions

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Current Record: 3-7

    Highest Ranking: 19 (Schalter)

    Lowest Ranking: 31 (Freeman)

    What's Good?: Sweeping change during the regular season rarely results in long-term success. The Detroit Lions, though, received the message after head coach Jim Caldwell fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, and owner Martha Ford dismissed team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew. Since the team's bye in Week 9, the Lions have won two straight games and continue to play at a much higher level. Darius Slay in particular played very well in the past three weeks. "Big Play" Slay continues to develop into one of the league's best cover corners. He mirrored the Oakland Raiders' rookie sensation, Amari Cooper, and basically shut down the first-year wide receiver. 

    What's Bad?: As last year's 10th overall pick with a tremendous physical skill set, far more should be expected from tight end Eric Ebron. Instead, the second-year target is fourth on the team with 27 catches, and he's tied for the league lead among tight ends with six drops, according to Pro Football Focus. Ebron has the ability to be a dominant weapon in the Lions offense. He simply hasn't shown any type of consistency to make him worthy of a bigger role in the team's scheme.

    What's Next?: While the Lions are currently on a two-game winning streak, this weekend's opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles, falls on the other side of the spectrum after losing two straight games. The Eagles will attempt to rebound quickly for a Thanksgiving Day affair in Detroit after surrendering 45 points to rookie quarterback Jameis Winston and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After such a pitiful performance, the Lions are in an ideal position to win a third straight game. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 29

26. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 4-6

    Highest Ranking: 20 (Davenport)

    Lowest Ranking: 30 (Miller)

    What's Good?: Slow and steady doesn't win the race in the NFL, and very little positive came out of the Philadelphia Eagles' 45-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. However, Brent Celek's reliability as a blocker this season coupled with his receiving production over the last two weeks make him one of the few bright spots on the roster right now. After a 134-yard performance in Week 10, Celek caught a season-high seven passes from quarterback Mark Sanchez for 79 yards. 

    What's Bad?: The Eagles played so poorly against the Buccaneers that it's hard to put a finger on just one thing that went wrong. Thus, the blame will fall squarely on the shoulders of head coach Chip Kelly. When nothing is going right, the coaching staff needs to look inward to see what it might be doing wrong. Defensively, the team surrendered 521 total yards, including 235 rushing yards to running back Doug Martin and five touchdown passes to rookie quarterback Jameis Winston. Turnovers became a problem on offense with Sanchez throwing three interceptions. Almost everything went wrong for the Eagles this past Sunday. 

    What's Next?: Kelly and his staff should have quickly burned Sunday's tape and simply moved on to this week's opponent, the Detroit Lions. The Eagles only have three days to prepare for the Thanksgiving game and can't dwell on those things they did wrong against the Buccaneers. A quick turnaround might be exactly what Philadelphia needs. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 19

25. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Current Record: 4-6

    Highest Ranking: 17 (Freeman)

    Lowest Ranking: 32 (Tanier)

    What's Good?: Each and every week, the Jacksonville Jaguars' talented wide receiver duo featuring Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns could be highlighted under this section. They already have been a couple of times. But Robinson's performance last Thursday against the Tennessee Titans deserves some praise. The former second-round pick caught five passes for 113 yards. It's his third 100-yard receiving game this season and the second in three weeks. In fact, Robinson averaged 95 yards per game through the month of November. He's turning into one of the league's best wide receivers and currently ranks sixth overall with 871 receiving yards, which puts him on pace for nearly 1,400 yards this season. Also, Robinson leads all receivers with 40 or more receptions with an average of 17.4 yards per catch.

    What's Bad?: Despite a key victory against the rival Tennessee Titans, the Jaguars didn't actually gain any ground in the AFC South. Both the Indianapolis Colts and the Houston Texans won and stayed a game ahead of them. Jacksonville's goal at the moment should be to achieve a .500 record. The Jags should then be in position to strike within the division based on how the previously mentioned teams continue to play this season. 

    What's Next?: Jacksonville can get one game closer to the .500 mark this weekend when it hosts the deflated San Diego Chargers. The Chargers are currently tied for the league's worst record, and they're vying for the 2016 No. 1 overall draft pick. If Jacksonville's defense can hold quarterback Philip Rivers in check, the Jaguars will continue to be a factor in the AFC South. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 25

24. New Orleans Saints

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    Current Record: 4-6

    Highest Ranking: 17 (Tanier)

    Lowest Ranking: 31 (Gagnon)

    What's Good?: Due to the New Orleans Saints' defensive woes, Cameron Jordan's performance this year is being completely overlooked. The talented defensive end leads the team with six sacks. He's also the game's highest-rated 4-3 defensive end, according to Pro Football Focus. His 38 quarterback hurries are the most from any defensive lineman this season. Jordan has been as disruptive as J.J. Watt or Justin Houston, and it doesn't matter which defensive front the Saints are using. Unfortunately, he hasn't been recognized for his stellar performance due to the poor play of others around him. 

    What's Bad?: Make no mistake: The Saints defense is awful. Jordan is a rare exception in what is the league's worst unit. This finally cost defensive coordinator Rob Ryan his job during the bye week. Dennis Allen steps in to oversee the porous unit. Any type of improvement, whether marginal or significant, will be a welcome change. Currently, the Saints rank dead last in total defense and surrender 424.3 yards per game. From a yardage perspective, it's not quite as bad as the 2012 season, when the Saints became the worst defense in NFL history by giving up 440.1 yards per game, but it's not much better. 

    What's Next?: The Saints desperately needed the bye week to reassess their situation and recharge for a potential late-season push. Head coach Sean Payton always has his team well-prepared after the bye week, and it'll need to be against the surging Houston Texans, who have won three straight contests. The Texans aren't considered one of the league's best offenses, but the Saints must find a way to slow wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins since he already surpassed the 1,000-yard mark. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 23

23. Miami Dolphins

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Current Record: 4-6

    Highest Ranking: 16 (Freeman)

    Lowest Ranking: 27 (Gagnon)

    What's Good?: When playing the Dallas Cowboys, their talented offensive line always becomes the focal point. Usually, the big boys with the stars on their helmets dominate the trenches. However, one Miami Dolphins defensive lineman was up for the task. Olivier Vernon gave All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith fits throughout the contest. Smith was called for a pair of holding calls and surrendered a sack to Vernon. The Dolphins defensive end registered two tackles for loss and three more quarterback hits. The teams may have made multiple mistakes throughout Sunday's contest, but Vernon was on top of his game. 

    What's Bad?: The fact this year's first-round pick, DeVante Parker, can't get on the field should be a massive concern at this point in the year. Once the Dolphins made a coaching change in the middle of the season, it was an opportunity for the rookie to make a positive impression from that point forward. Instead, the wide receiver has barely seen the field. He played a total of 31 snaps since Dan Campbell took over as interim head coach, according to Pro Football Focus, and hasn't been targeted once by quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Parker is now healthy after dealing with a foot injury earlier in the season and should be working into the rotation. Campbell even said Parker shows "flashes" during practice, per the's Andrew Abramson, but the team is more comfortable with its veteran receivers. The Dolphins made Parker a first-round pick for a reason, and eventually, the team will need to see what he brings to the offense. 

    What's Next?: The Dolphins missed an opportunity to gain ground in the playoff race with the loss to the Cowboys. They're now one of three AFC teams with a 4-6 record behind a logjam of 5-5 squads. This weekend's opponent, the New York Jets, is one of those teams. When these two originally met in London, Miami's loss prompted head coach Joe Philbin's dismissal. Another loss could prove to be just as devastating. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 22

22. Dallas Cowboys

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    Rob Foldy/Getty Images

    Current Record: 3-7

    Highest Ranking: 13 (Miller)

    Lowest Ranking: 30 (Tanier)

    What's Good?: Times have changed. Instead of blaming Tony Romo for all of the Dallas Cowboys' problems, the quarterback now serves as the answer to all of them. With Romo out of the lineup because of a broken collarbone, the Cowboys lost seven straight contests. The team is 3-0 with Romo at the helm. With his return Sunday, Dallas edged the Miami Dolphins, and the quarterback completed 18 of 28 passes for 227 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Romo also tossed a pair of interceptions. 

    "He is the savior of our season," defensive end Jeremy Mincey said after the game, per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Charean Williams. 

    What's Bad?: It's not often one can say left tackle Tyron Smith had a bad game, but he did Sunday against the Dolphins. Smith was called for a pair of holding penalties, and Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon registered a sack against the All-Pro offensive lineman. 

    "It was just one of the times my technique wasn't on point," Smith said, per's Jon Machota. "I just got to make sure I clean it up."

    Smith is one of the game's premier blindside protectors, and this past week's effort should be considered an aberration. But it shows even the league's best can have a down week. 

    What's Next?: This year's annual Thanksgiving game will be a difficult task for the Dallas Cowboys. Jerry Jones' team hosts the undefeated Carolina Panthers. Romo might be back, but he'll need to play at a very high level against a stingy Panthers defense to match Cam Newton.

    Last Week's Ranking: 27

21. Washington Redskins

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    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    Current Record: 4-6

    Highest Ranking: 17 (Schalter)

    Lowest Ranking: 26 (Tomlinson)

    What's Good?: The Carolina Panthers throttled the Washington Redskins. The game was over by the intermission after quarterback Cam Newton threw four first-half touchdown passes. Very few positive notes can be taken from the 44-16 loss. However, it was good to see DeSean Jackson once again providing a deep threat for his quarterback. Jackson's 56-yard touchdown reception actually tied the game early only to see the Panthers take over in the second quarter. Jackson now has catches of 40 or more yards in consecutive games, which is an indication he's fully healthy and ready to take the top off of opposing defenses over the next six weeks.

    What's Bad?: Chris Culliver had a rough day Sunday. First, he had a pick-six called back because of an ill-advised unnecessary roughness penalty. He was then exploited throughout the afternoon by the Panthers' wide receivers and eventually gave up a touchdown to rookie Devin Funchess. The cornerback ultimately surrendered 85 receiving yards, and no cornerback received a worse grade for his play in Week 11 than Culliver, according to Pro Football Focus

    What's Next?: Sunday's embarrassing loss needs to be quickly forgotten, because the Redskins are still in the NFC East race even with a 4-6 record. This weekend's contest against the rival New York Giants will define Washington's season. With a victory, the two teams will own the same record atop the division, and they'll have split their two games this season. A win, and Washington is in the playoff race. A loss, and the season is basically over for all intents and purposes. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 18

20. Houston Texans

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    Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 5-5

    Highest Ranking: 15 (Davenport)

    Lowest Ranking: 25 (Freeman)

    What's Good?: Sometimes, everyone can forget how great J.J. Watt truly is. If he isn't completely dominating week in and week out, he isn't mentioned quite as often, and people start to wonder if something is wrong. He then goes out and dominates like he did Sunday against the New York Jets and reminds everyone he's the NFL's best defender. The defensive end led the team with eight total tackles. Five of those tackles were for a loss. Watt also registered a pair of sacks and five quarterback hits. The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year registered 7.5 sacks in the Texans' last four games. 

    What's Bad?: The Houston Texans' running game has been stuck in neutral most of the season, but head coach Bill O'Brien was able to jump-start the ground attack by utilizing Wildcat formations. While this worked against the Jets, it's not likely to be a large part of the scheme moving forward. Since the Texans ran for more than 100 yards for the second time this season, one would assume the entire offensive line played well, but it didn't. The interior struggled to block the Jets' massive nose tackle, Damon Harrison (6'4", 350 lbs). The nose tackle actually led his team in tackles. Center Ben Jones in particular needs to be more stout at the point of attack. 

    What's Next?: After winning three straight games, the Texans are officially rolling and ready to take over the AFC South. Houston is getting hot at the right time with Andrew Luck injured for the Indianapolis Colts. The Texans still need to handle their business with a difficult contest Sunday against the New Orleans Saints in Houston. New Orleans' defense is atrocious, but the team's offense can compete with anyone. If the Texans defense continues to play at an elite level and shuts down the Saints, the team could be over .500 for the first time this season. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 24

19. St. Louis Rams

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Current Record: 4-6

    Highest Ranking: 17 (Miller)

    Lowest Ranking: 27 (Davenport)

    What's Good?: Aaron Donald deserves to be mentioned as the league's best defensive player. Of course, the Houston Texans' J.J. Watt has something to say about that, but Donald is playing well enough this season to potentially lay a legitimate claim to the title. Plaudits aside, the Rams defensive tackle can't be stopped. The last statement isn't hyperbole. He led the team with 10 total tackles against the Baltimore Ravens and added two tackles for loss, a sack and one quarterback hit. More importantly, Donald isn't the only defensive lineman playing well, and it's not the usual suspects. William Hayes continues to provide pressure off the edge, and Matt Longacre, an undrafted rookie out of Northwest Missouri State, admirably filled in during the absence of injured defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn. 

    What's Bad?: Quarterback play and the Rams' offensive line held back the team all season. It didn't prove to be any different Sunday with a new quarterback behind center and a rebuilt right side of the offensive line. Case Keenum didn't play well before suffering a concussion, which wasn't originally treated. Also, rookies Andrew Donnal and Cody Wichmann both struggled in the absence of fellow first-year blockers Jamon Brown and Rob Havenstein. Head coach Jeff Fisher needs to come up with a few answers, or he's going to waste a fantastic rookie season from running back Todd Gurley and a consistently strong defensive effort. 

    What's Next?: The Rams lost their last three games, and it's unlikely they'll snap their current streak with a trip to Cincinnati to face the 8-2 Bengals. The Bengals haven't been as sharp over the last two weeks, but they're a far more complete team than the Rams. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 20

18. Chicago Bears

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Current Record: 4-6

    Highest Ranking: 14 (Freeman)

    Lowest Ranking: 24 (Gagnon)

    What's Good?: This year's first-round pick, wide receiver Kevin White, might actually see the field this season. The Chicago Bears placed the West Virginia product on the physically unable to perform list in the preseason when he required surgery for a stress fracture in his left shin. The organization opened the 21-day practice window Wednesday for White, according to the Chicago Tribune's Rich Campbell. Whether White actually returns this season is entirely up to his progress over the next three weeks. The team might not want to rush him back from the injury, or White could respond well enough for the team to get a sneak peek late in the season. After all, the organization used the seventh overall pick on the 6'3", 215-pound target for a reason. He's a potentially dynamic addition to the offense once he's up to full speed and ready to go, whether it's this season or next. 

    What's Bad?: John Fox's poor decision-making against his old team Sunday essentially cost the Bears a victory. Of course, no one exactly knows how everything would play out after a different course of action is taken, but Fox's decision not to kick a field goal from the 4-yard line when the team was down by eight points early in the fourth quarter could have changed the entire complexion of the game. The Bears eventually scored a late touchdown but failed to convert the two-point try. Fox and company chased points and came up short as a result. 

    What's Next?: The Bears will follow a tough loss with a tough matchup on a short week. Fox's squad travels to Green Bay to face the Packers on Thanksgiving. It's the first time in this long and storied rivalry that these two teams will play during the holiday. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 15

17. New York Jets

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Current Record: 5-5

    Highest Ranking: 13 (Schalter)

    Lowest Ranking: 28 (Freeman)

    What's Good?: A nose tackle leading his team in total tackles rarely occurs. A nose tackle registering more than 10 total tackles in a game happens even less. Yet, Damon "Snacks" Harrison did both Sunday against the Houston Texans. Harrison accumulated 12 total tackles, and nine of them were solo. The Jets nose tackle was already one of the league's premier run-stuffers, but Sunday's performance finally put a spotlight on the big man. He's often overshadowed playing in a defense that also features Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, David Harris, Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis. Harrison, though, sets the tone up front on a weekly basis. 

    What's Bad?: Revis isn't what he used to be. Sometimes a reputation continues unabated even when an individual's level of play starts to drop off from his previous standards. The Houston Texans' DeAndre Hopkins didn't have any trouble getting open on Revis Island before the 30-year-old cornerback was forced to leave the game due to a concussion. Revis is still playing well overall this season, but he's simply not the same dominant player seen during previous seasons. 

    What's Next?: The Jets are at a crossroads. The team is 5-5 overall, but it lost four of its previous five games. The playoffs are still a possibility, but New York must fend off the rival Miami Dolphins this weekend to stay in the postseason conversation. Another loss at this point in the season might be too much for the Jets to overcome, since four other teams with .500 records are still vying for two playoff spots. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 13

16. Indianapolis Colts

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Current Record: 5-5

    Highest Ranking: 11 (Tomlinson)

    Lowest Ranking: 27 (Tanier)

    What's Good?: With Andrew Luck out of the lineup, veteran backup Matt Hasselbeck played well. More importantly, the Indianapolis Colts actually stepped up against the Atlanta Falcons and forced multiple turnovers. None were bigger than D'Qwell Jackson's interception. The middle linebacker snagged a short pass over the middle and returned it six yards for a touchdown. Without this play, the game would have never been extended to overtime before the Colts could secure the victory. Jackson, meanwhile, continues to play very well. The 10th-year linebacker currently leads the NFL with 100 tackles, but he made his biggest play of the year when his team needed him the most. 

    "Around this time, teams get hot," Jackson said, per the Indianapolis Star's David Purdum. "And right now, we're finding a way to win. That's the beauty of this team right now. We don't win in one particular way. We find ways to win."

    What's Bad?: The Colts' ability to protect their quarterbacks was already a major question mark before the offense suffered another major injury Sunday. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo sprained an MCL late in the Falcons contest. He's currently listed as "week-to-week," according to the team's official website. At the very least, the Colts should be prepared to play without Castonzo this weekend. It will be the first game the Boston College product has missed since being selected in the first round of the 2011 draft. He could potentially miss more, but an iron man like Castonzo will likely get back into the lineup sooner rather than later. 

    What's Next?: With the Colts trying to remain on top of the AFC South, Indianapolis will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this weekend. Lovie Smith's squad is playing very well since the calendar turned to November. The Buccaneers won three of their last four games, and they are coming off their best game of the season. Rookie quarterback Jameis Winston continues to improve each week as well, and he just threw five touchdown passes against the Philadelphia Eagles. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 16

15. Oakland Raiders

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 4-6

    Highest Ranking: 11 (Freeman)

    Lowest Ranking: 22 (Tomlinson)

    What's Good?: Slowly but surely, rookie defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. is developing into one of the Oakland Raiders' best defenders. This may not necessarily reflect in the rookies' statistics, but he's been particularly strong at the point of attack and applying pressure. In the past three weeks, the Florida State product pressured opposing quarterbacks 11 times, according to Pro Football Focus. He only had three tackles against the Detroit Lions compared to 11 total tackles the week before, but his play didn't drop off at all. With Khalil Mack and Edwards' improved play, the Raiders now have two dynamic edge defenders. 

    What's Bad?: As good as Amari Cooper has been at points this season, his play dropped off in the past month. The year's fourth overall pick hasn't had more than 88 yards receiving in a game since the start of November. He's also dropped six passes in those four games, according to's Scott Bair. Sunday's effort against the Detroit Lions and cornerback Darius Slay was his worst of the season. Cooper caught one pass for four yards. Slay completely shut him down. While his upside is tremendous, his recent performances are a little worrisome. 

    What's Next?: Three weeks ago, the Raiders were 4-3 overall and the apple of everyone's eye. They were a young, rising team on the cusp of bigger and better things. Oakland subsequently lost its next three games. The team can still compete for a potential playoff berth, but a win this weekend in Tennessee against the 2-8 Titans is absolutely crucial. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 14

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 5-5

    Highest Ranking: 12 (Gagnon)

    Lowest Ranking: 21 (Miller)

    What's Good?: "The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have for several years been better than their record. Now, with Jameis Winston as hot as any quarterback in the NFL (and getting better), there's little reason to think that a well-balanced, well-coached Bucs team can't make a run." — Brad Gagnon

    What's Bad?: Linebacker Kwon Alexander might be playing as well as any first-year defender in the league, but his status for the rest of the season remains uncertain. According to the Tampa Bay Times' Rick Stroud, "Alexander tested positive on two samples for a PED and faces a four-game suspension from NFL." The rookie plans to appeal the suspension, but his loss would be a big blow to an improving Buccaneers defense. Alexander is currently second on the team with 73 total tackles—only one tackle behind team leader Lavonte David. He's also contributed seven deflected passes and a pair of interceptions. 

    What's Next?: As head coach Lovie Smith proudly proclaimed, per sportswriter Andy Jasner (via, the Buccaneers are "relevant" again. At 5-5, the team is one game behind the Atlanta Falcons for the final playoff spot with six games to play. Tampa Bay is also coming off a dominant effort against the Philadelphia Eagles. This week, however, the team travels to Indianapolis to face the Colts, who have played well even without Andrew Luck in the lineup.

    Last Week's Ranking: 21

13. Atlanta Falcons

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    Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 6-4

    Highest Ranking: 9 (Tanier)

    Lowest Ranking: 22 (Gagnon)

    What's Good?: After losing three straight games, there aren't too many players who deserved to be highlighted based on recent play. Although, Patrick DiMarco is the game's best fullback even if it's considered a dying position. Traditional fullbacks aren't used in most offenses, but Kyle Shanahan's run-first zone scheme relies heavily on the position. DiMarco also provides versatility as Sunday's performance proved. Atlanta scored three touchdowns against the Indianapolis Colts. None of them came from Julio Jones or Devonta Freeman. Instead, DiMarco scored twice. The fullback isn't just a premium blocker, he's also a reliable outlet receiver. 

    What's Bad?: When quarterback Matt Ryan dropped back for a short pass in the fourth quarter, he never saw linebacker D'Qwell Jackson dropping back into his assigned spot. Jackson might have bit on the play-action fake, but he was able to get back, snag Ryan's intended pass and return it for the game-tying touchdown. Ryan threw three interceptions Sunday, and the Colts eventually won the game in overtime. His teammates aren't worried about Ryan's recent performance, though. 

    "I think he's going to be there," Julio Jones said, per's Vaughn McClure. "He's not the type of guy to get in the tank. Everybody has bad games."

    What's Next?: The Falcons' schedule is extremely difficult over the next three weeks. The 7-3 Minnesota Vikings are followed by the surging Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the currently undefeated Carolina Panthers. Dan Quinn needs his team to play like it did at the start of the season, or the Falcons' playoff hopes could quickly fade. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 11

12. Buffalo Bills

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Current Record: 5-5

    Highest Ranking: 9 (Gagnon, Schalter)

    Lowest Ranking: 20 (Tanier)

    What's Good?: The Buffalo Bills defense got after New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during Monday Night Football. According to ESPN Stats & Info (via, the Bills hit, sacked or pressured Brady on 20 of his 40 dropbacks. Jerry Hughes, in particular, proved to be a thorn in Brady's side with numerous hurries and one quarterback hit. As a result, Brady wasn't nearly as efficient as he has been most of the season. 

    What's Bad?: Tyrod Taylor's status for Sunday's contest against the Kansas City Chiefs remains up in the air. The quarterback has been banged-up most of the season, but he's currently dealing with a shoulder injury. Obviously, this is a major concern since the team's offense takes a giant step back when Taylor isn't in the lineup. Head coach Rex Ryan doesn't seem too concerned, though. 

    "We all know it's a right shoulder thing," Ryan told WGR 550 in Buffalo (via's Mike Rodak). "I don't know the particulars of what they call things or whatever. If we had the technical terms on it, you guys wouldn't know it either. We'll see how the week progresses, how everything goes, but I think he'll be ready to roll."

    What's Next?: At 5-5, the Bills are one of five AFC teams with a .500 record. They'll face another one of those teams this weekend in the Kansas City Chiefs. The difference, though, is the Chiefs have won four straight games and have rapidly improved over the last month. If Taylor can't play, the Bills offense might not have much of a chance against the Chiefs' top-10 defense. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 10

11. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Current Record: 5-5

    Highest Ranking: 8 (Sobleski, Tanier)

    Lowest Ranking: 21 (Freeman)

    What's Good?: Anytime a 346-pound man is seen flying through the air and scoring a touchdown, it's a good day. This is exactly what happened Sunday when Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith handed the ball to defensive tackle-turned-fullback Dontari Poe for a goal-line carry. In doing so, Poe became the heaviest player to ever score a touchdown. What is even more encouraging about the play is the creativity seen in the team's offensive play-calling. With Jamaal Charles out of the lineup, Smith remains very efficient, and the coaching staff is trying to find ways to get the ball in the hands of the team's athletes, whether it's a 176-pound De'Anthony Thomas or Poe. 

    What's Bad?: At this point, no one is sure whether veteran guard Ben Grubbs will actually return this season. Grubbs is currently dealing with a neck injury. This is a potential problem for the Chiefs since right tackle Jah Reid struggled once he was placed in the starting lineup. Against the San Diego Chargers, Reid gave up four quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus

    "Well, we don't (know if he will return) but he is making progress, and that's a good thing as far as soreness or any of that," Reid said, per the team, via's Joel Thorman. "It's headed in that positive direction, but inevitably it will come back down to an MRI and that type of thing to make sure everything is OK."

    What's Next?: The Chiefs are on fire after a 1-5 start. They've continually climbed the power rankings in recent weeks, and they're now favored as a potential playoff team. This weekend, Kansas City will host the Buffalo Bills, who are coming off a difficult loss to the rival New England Patriots. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 17

10. New York Giants

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Current Record: 5-5

    Highest Ranking: 9 (Freeman)

    Lowest Ranking: 11 (five voters)

    What's Good?: The interior of the New York Giants offensive line is one of the league's best. Weston Richburg is already considered one of the league's best centers even in his second season. But Justin Pugh's transition from right tackle to guard might be even more impressive. The former first-round pick looks like a natural at guard and excelled from day one. After serving as a collegiate left tackle, his pass blocking shouldn't be a surprise, but he's actually been a very stout run-blocker. Pugh is currently the top-rated player on the Giants offense, according to Pro Football Focus

    What's Bad?: The Giants traded up to the top of the second round to select safety Landon Collins. Collins was the first safety drafted, and he was expected to be the answer to the team's problems at the position. Instead, he's looked like the player he was at Alabama. Collins is a strong run defender who struggles in coverage. In recent weeks, his play came into question (especially after dropping the game-winning interception against the New England Patriots), and the rookie could be pulled if his problems continue. 

    "Still, Collins is also on a short leash," NJ Advance Media's Jordan Ranaan wrote. "If any of the safeties are struggling, don't be surprised to see the Giants make a change." 

    What's Next?: At 5-5, the Giants are still in first place in the NFC East, but this weekend's contest is absolutely vital to the team's playoff aspirations. A loss to the Washington Redskins will give both teams the same record and a series split. Someone needs to emerge in the division, and Sunday's winner will likely be that team.

    Last Week's Ranking: 9

9. Seattle Seahawks

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    John Froschauer/Associated Press

    Current Record: 5-5

    Highest Ranking: 8 (Miller)

    Lowest Ranking: 13 (Tanier)

    What's Good?: Marshawn Lynch can take his time coming back this season (if he is even able to do so, according to a recent report, per's Gregg Rosenthal). Rookie running back Thomas Rawls has him covered. The Central Michigan product rumbled to 209 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. The running back also caught three passes for 46 yards and a receiving touchdown. In his four starts this season, Rawls has accumulated 530 rushing yards. Not bad for a running back the team wasn't sure it was going to keep in preseason due to the previous depth on the roster. 

    What's Bad?: There are many reasons why the Seattle Seahawks offense hasn't played as well as expected this season. Much of the blame is placed on an underachieving offensive line. More of the blame is tossed around to play-calling. Some even falls on the team's lack of a true No. 1 wide receiver. But some of that blame is finally falling on quarterback Russell Wilson. According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen (via Rotoworld's Evan Silva), the organization is concerned Wilson "changed his approach" this year, and he's becoming more of a "celebrity quarterback." To the quarterback's credit, Wilson played his best game of the season after the report came out questioning his dedication. Still, the Seahawks quarterback usually doesn't receive much blame for the team's struggles. Maybe, he should. 

    What's Next?: The Seahawks are getting better at the right time. After a 2-4 start, the team won three of its last four games. Sunday's contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers and their explosive offense will be a difficult matchup. Seattle's vaunted defense needs to get after a hobbled Ben Roethlisberger to disrupt Pittsburgh's talented passing attack. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 12

8. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    Current Record: 6-4

    Highest Ranking: 5 (Schalter)

    Lowest Ranking: 12 (Miller)

    What's Good?: Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward quietly developed into one of the league's premier defensive linemen. The 3-4 defense is usually built around the talents of an athletic edge-rusher at outside linebacker. After all, this has been the Steelers' template for years with Kevin Greene, Greg Lloyd, Jason Gildon, Chad Brown, Joey Porter and James Harrison. The strength of this year's defense, however, lies along the defensive front. Heyward, in particular, leads the team with 11 tackles for loss, according to The Ohio State product is explosive off the snap and powerful at the point of attack. Just ask Cleveland Browns rookie offensive lineman Cameron Erving

    What's Bad?: Of course, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is expected to play this week after performing at a high level with a sprained foot against the Cleveland Browns. The concern at this point is how effective the veteran signal-caller will be against better defenses over the next six weeks. During the next four games, the Steelers will play three defenses ranked in the league's top half, including the first- and second-ranked units. Thus, Roethlisberger's health is of utmost concern. 

    "The foot is getting better; the knee feels good," Roethlisberger said, per Sportsradio The Fan 93.7's The Cook and Poni Showvia CBS Pittsburgh. "It will take an offseason to get 100 percent, but I feel well enough to play some good football."

    What's Next?: Will two weeks of preparation be enough for the Steelers to cope with the CenturyLink Field environment? The Seattle Seahawks haven't been as good this season as the past two years, but it's still an intimidating venue. How Roethlisberger avoids pressure (if he does) and exploits potential mismatches in the passing game will likely dictate the outcome.

    Last Week's Ranking: 7

7. Minnesota Vikings

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    Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

    Current Record: 7-3

    Highest Ranking: 5 (Gagnon)

    Lowest Ranking: 9 (Sobleski)

    What's Good?: In a Minnesota Vikings offense looking for consistency from the skill positions (outside of Adrian Peterson), Kyle Rudolph served as Teddy Bridgewater's top target against the Green Bay Packers. The former Pro Bowl tight end caught six passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. If Rudolph can continue to be a reliable option in the middle of the field, he'll help open up the rest of the field for the team's athletic wide receivers. Right now, no one has stepped up on a consistent basis. Rudolph has the potential to be Bridgewater's security blanket, though. 

    What's Bad?: Bridgewater has been under constant duress all season. The quarterback has already been sacked 30 times this season, and he faces more pressure than any other quarterback on a down-by-down basis, according to Pro Football Focus. In fact, the Packers sacked the former first-round pick six times Sunday.

    "I know we didn't block them very good up front. We had too much pressure on the quarterback," head coach Mike Zimmer said, per's Ben Goessling. "I thought Bridgewater played well, got us out of a lot of trouble. Everybody has been wanting him to throw for 250-70 yards; now he did. Yay."

    What's Next?: If the season ended today, the Vikings and the Atlanta Falcons would own the NFC's two wild-card playoff spots. The two teams meet Sunday in Atlanta with the loser falling back to the pack among those teams still trying to make a postseason push. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 5

6. Denver Broncos

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Current Record: 8-2

    Highest Ranking: 4 (Tomlinson)

    Lowest Ranking: 8 (Freeman, Gagnon)

    What's Good?: Brock Osweiler isn't Peyton Manning, but he doesn't need to be. He simply needs to operate within Gary Kubiak's scheme, and that's exactly what he did during his first NFL start. Osweiler played within himself and didn't make any major mistakes against the Chicago Bears. Instead, the former second-round pick played efficient football. He completed 20 of 27 passes for 250 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It was the first time all season a Broncos quarterback didn't throw an interception. 

    "His team played [well] for him," head coach Gary Kubiak said, per's Andrew Mason. "That's the most important thing."

    What's Bad?: Safety T.J. Ward has played very well for the Broncos this season. He's a legitimate difference-maker in the team's secondary. However, his penchant for penalties has made him a marked man this season. He actually made multiple plays throughout the contest. Even so, the one head-to-head hit he made against Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will be the primary discussion point regarding his performance. Ward has now drawn multiple penalties this year for plays some might deem dirty. The NFL already fined him numerous times. Ward needs to continue playing hard but not put himself in a position where officials are likely to make calls against him. 

    What's Next?: A showdown with the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football is upcoming. Osweiler can't match Tom Brady, but if he continues to play mistake-free football, the Broncos have a chance to dethrone the undefeated Patriots. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 6

5. Green Bay Packers

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    Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 7-3

    Highest Ranking: 4 (Davenport)

    Lowest Ranking: 7 (3 voters)

    What's Good?: When the Green Bay Packers defense is discussed, Clay Matthews is deservedly at the conversation's forefront. Julius Peppers will surely be mentioned. Maybe someone would like to discuss B.J. Raji's dancing ability on commercials. Even as a former first-round pick, Datone Jones likely wouldn't be mentioned. If he continues to play like he did Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, though, he'll garner much more attention in the coming weeks. Jones terrorized Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The defensive end registered a pair of sacks and applied pressure throughout the contest.

    What's Bad?: The Packers offensive line isn't healthy. While the team finally got back on track this past weekend, the big boys up front haven't played particularly well as a unit in recent weeks. All five of them are currently on the injury report. The biggest concern lies at center where Corey Linsley suffered an ankle injury and didn't practice early in the week. JC Tretter will start in Linsley's stead if the Ohio State product can't play because of the short week. 

    "Obviously JC's a bright guy," Raji said, per's Rob Demovsky. "A Cornell graduate, so you don't anticipate a lot of M.A.s [missed assignments] from him, but he's also a very good player, a good athlete and he did some good things [against the Vikings]."

    What's Next?: The Packers are set to play the rival Chicago Bears for the very first time on Thanksgiving. When the two teams met opening weekend, the Packers pulled away in the second half, but the Bears have played better in recent weeks. A win will help maintain Green Bay's edge in the NFC North. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 8

4. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Current Record: 8-2

    Highest Ranking: 3 (Tanier)

    Lowest Ranking: 5 (Davenport, Tomlinson)

    What's Good?: This entire Cincinnati Bengals season has been built around Andy Dalton and whether he can develop into a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback. The Bengals are no longer content just to win division titles and make the playoffs. Their aspirations now fall in line with the league's most successful franchises. But Dalton's previous failures in big situations held back the entire organization. Thus, his performance Sunday night against the Arizona Cardinals actually proved to be promising. Yes, the Bengals lost their second straight game, but it wasn't due to Dalton's shortcomings. The fifth-year signal-caller completed 22 of 39 passes for 315 yards and a pair of touchdowns. There are issues with the Bengals right now, but they are not with the quarterback.  

    What's Bad?: Two of the primary strengths within the Bengals roster let the team down Sunday night. The secondary and the offensive line both came up small against the Cardinals. Dalton was sacked or hit 10 different times behind one of the league's better pass-blocking units. The secondary allowed Carson Palmer to throw for 317 yards and four touchdowns. They did pick two passes, but rookie J.J. Nelson more than doubled his career receiving yards Sunday with 142 yards. Injuries definitely played a role, and they'll continue to do so. Last year's first-round pick, Darqueze Dennard, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, according to's Adam Schefter.

    What's Next?: The schedule starts to lighten up slightly over the next two weeks, with the St. Louis Rams and the Cleveland Browns next on the docket. The Rams are still tough, but their quarterback situation remains in flux, and the Browns' quarterback situation is a complete disaster. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 3

3. Arizona Cardinals

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Current Record: 8-2

    Highest Ranking: 3 (seven voters)

    Lowest Ranking: 4 (Tanier)

    What's Good?: When the Arizona Cardinals drafted wide receiver J.J. Nelson with a fifth-round pick in this year's NFL draft, expectations for the 160-pound speedster fell on his ability as a return man and potential contributions on special teams. The UAB product only returned three punts so far. Instead, he's turning into a legitimate weapon in the Cardinals offense. Nelson has legit 4.28-second 40-yard-dash speed, and Bruce Arians is using it to the team's advantage. If Michael Floyd or John Brown are injured, Arians will find ways to use Nelson. The rookie exposed the lack of speed in the Cincinnati Bengals secondary Sunday with four catches for 142 yards and a touchdown. Three weeks earlier, Nelson caught three passes for 70 yards against the Cleveland Browns. Just because Nelson is slight of stature and stuck behind a fine group of wide receivers doesn't mean the team can't find ways for him to contribute. 

    What's Bad?: If there is a weak spot among the Cardinals' "No Fly Zone" secondary, Jerraud Powers would be identified. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton targeted Powers and eventually found wide receiver A.J. Green for a 42-yard reception. After the big play, Patrick Peterson started to follow Green. Powers received the worst coverage grade of any cornerback from Pro Football Focus this past weekend. The Auburn product played relatively well through the early portions of the month, but the Bengals decided he was the player they wanted to exploit Sunday night. 

    What's Next?: Over the next two weeks, Arizona can essentially claim a division title with a pair of victories over the San Francisco 49ers and the St. Louis Rams. The Cards would then be 10-2 overall and 4-1 in the division with only four games to play, including a final meeting with the Seahawks. The Cardinals already hold a three-game lead in the division. A major collapse would be needed for Seattle to make any type of move. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 4

2. Carolina Panthers

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Current Record: 10-0

    Highest Ranking: 1 (Freeman)

    Lowest Ranking: 2 (seven voters)

    What's Good?: The Carolina Panthers are getting more dangerous by the week. The two biggest concerns regarding this team revolved around a lack of talent at wide receiver and if the offensive line could keep Cam Newton upright and healthy. Newton has only been sacked 20 times, which places him in the middle of the league. On top of the team's solid protection, rookie wide receiver Devin Funchess is starting to emerge as a legitimate presence at wide receiver. In his last three games, the Michigan product has made nine receptions for 176 yards and two touchdowns. At 6'4" and 225 pounds, Funchess adds a completely different dynamic in the passing game as long as he remains a consistent option for Newton. 

    "The young man is progressing very nicely," head coach Ron Rivera said, per's David Newton

    What's Bad?: As mentioned earlier, the offensive line has held up this season. Injuries, however, are starting to affect the team's depth. Amini Silatolu filled in at left guard for Andrew Norwell, who was dealing with a hamstring injury. Norwell is expected to return this week, but Silatolu is now out for the season after tearing an ACL Sunday. With Silatolu placed on injured reserve, the Panthers don't have much starting experience beyond the team's first five. Chris Scott started eight games in 2013, and Daryl Williams is a rookie. Both can fill in, but the Panthers hope everyone remains healthy for the rest of the season. 

    What's Next?: While most are enjoying their Thanksgiving dinner, the 10-0 Panthers will be on national television playing the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys are vastly improved with quarterback Tony Romo's return to the lineup, but even his presence might not be enough to muster a competitive game against a Panthers squad that has already scored 137 points this month. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 2

1. New England Patriots

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Current Record: 10-0

    Highest Ranking: 1 (seven voters)

    Lowest Ranking: 2 (Freeman)

    What's Good?: When Julian Edelman left the field against the New York Giants and it was revealed he suffered a broken foot, the first question raised was, "Who will replace him?" After all, Edelman led the team in receptions and produced seven touchdowns. The answer was simple: Danny Amendola would simply slide into Edelman's role as Tom Brady's security blanket. In the past two games, Brady has targeted Amendola 23 times, which was more than Edelman during any two-game stretch after Week 3. Amendola caught nine passes for 117 yards against the Buffalo Bills Monday night to lead the Patriots in both categories. New England can't simply replace Edelman, but Amendola already showed he can rise to the occasion when needed. 

    What's Bad?: While Amendola's performance certainly fell in the positive category, his status for New England's upcoming game could fall on the other side of the ledger. The wide receiver required an MRI on Tuesday, as CBSSports' Sean Wagner-McGough noted. The potential injury remains unknown, but his absence would be a big blow to the Patriots if he missed any time during the final six games. However, the Patriots don't seem to be too worried about their new No. 1 wide receiver. 

    "When I saw him, it looked like he was in good spirits," Brandon LaFell told's Mike Reiss. "I hope it's nothing major. Going to need him."

    What's Next?: After taking on the rival Bills on Monday Night Football, the Patriots will once again be playing in prime time this weekend for Sunday Night Football. Bill Belichick's squad travels to Denver to face the Brock Osweiler-led Broncos. While this would have originally been featured as another Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning matchup, Osweiler is the wild card in Gary Kubiak's offensive scheme. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 1


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