NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Rank Heading into Week 11?
The NFL is often praised for its parity and the level playing field it offers for any team to win each week. But it's important not to mistake parity for simultaneous awfulness, or a group of once-dominant teams regressing back to the pack.
Take, for example, the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers. Both teams were perfect not long ago, and now the Packers have dropped three straight, while the Broncos have lost two in a row as their quarterback crumbles.
Quickly the Packers and Broncos are finding themselves in the New England Patriots' rear view, getting closer to a pile of other mediocre teams. As Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski was exchanging handshakes and/or hugs (shugs?) for his game-winning field goal Sunday, the teams occupying the vast middle grew.
There are now 11 teams that have four wins. Ten of them are two games behind the Packers and Atlanta Falcons, two teams that started with a 5-0 record. Some call that parity, while others call it regression.
Let's try to sort through the various ups and downs in our weekly power rankings.
These rankings aren't the standings, and instead what follows is an analysis of how each team stacks up based on performance, regardless of what its record says. It's subjective, sure, but agreeing on everything (or anything) isn't fun, right?
And remember, I probably hate your favorite team.
32. Cleveland Browns (2-8)
Last Week: 25
This Week: 32
The Cleveland Browns are the thing in your fridge that smells really bad. But you can't quite find where it is because you tucked a now-rotten food item away in a corner, and now it's stinking up your entire kitchen.
In that sense, the Browns are worse than awful. They're awful, and coming close to being forgotten, too. They've lost five straight games now, and are one loss away from securing their eighth consecutive losing season.
Head coach Mike Pettine's dismissal on Black Monday (or sooner) is feeling inevitable, though that will be more of a mercy firing than anything. Pettine will move on to be a fine defensive coordinator somewhere, while the same inept offense will remain in Cleveland.
The Browns have lost their last two games by a combined score of 61-19. Quarterback Johnny Manziel is the only source of hope after his career-best game statistically during a Week 10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers (372 passing yards at 8.3 per attempt). But he'll be benched once journeyman Josh McCown is healthy because the Browns seek to kill all signs of progress.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-6)
Last Week: 32
This Week: 31
The Jacksonville Jaguars won their third game this season, and they did it in dramatic fashion when kicker Jason Myers connected on a 53-yard field goal as time expired.
Of course, Myers only had a chance to beat the Baltimore Ravens at even that long distance due to maybe the most Jaguars way to win against another basement-dwelling team. After quarterback Blake Bortles stumbled to the ground following a snap with one second remaining, Ravens defensive end Elvis Dumervil tackled him and was flagged for a 15-yard facemask penalty.
It was a gift for a team that seeks to win the league's clown-car division. And now the Jaguars are only one game back of the AFC South-leading Indianapolis Colts, who will be going forward without quarterback Andrew Luck.
The Jaguars have a real shot at playoff football. Head to your bunkers.
30. San Francisco 49ers (3-6)
Last Week: 30
This Week: N/A
San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula made a predictable quarterback decision right away after his team's upset win over the Atlanta Falcons. Blaine Gabbert will be the 49ers' starter coming out of a Week 10 bye.
The thing about Gabbert is that, much like Colin Kaepernick, he's mistake-prone and highly limited as a passer. The spiraling Falcons made Gabbert seem semi-competent, but the Seattle Seahawks will have no problem teeing off on him in Week 11.
29. Dallas Cowboys (2-7)
Last Week: 26
This Week: 29
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will triumphantly return in Week 11, and he'll be greeted with the ashes of what was once a promising season.
The Cowboys have now dropped seven straight games. They haven't won without Romo, though Sunday the cackling football powers above had their hand in Dallas' continued train derailment.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston lost control of the ball as he attempted to leap over the goal line. The Cowboys recovered, but the fumble was erased by a defensive holding penalty. Then Winston scored the game's only touchdown when he pretty much walked in on a play-action bootleg.
At least the Cowboys found a new and unique way to lose this time. That's something, right?
28. San Diego Chargers (2-7)
Last Week: 28
This Week: N/A
The holiday season is fast approaching, and the San Diego Chargers wishlist has only one item: A healthy wide receiver.
Keenan Allen's season ended due to a lacerated spleen, and now Malcom Floyd spent the team's Week 10 bye trying desperately to mend his torn labrum. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Floyd will try to play through the injury, even though lifting his arms above his head could become excruciating.
Also filed under excruciating: Watching the Chargers, because now a two-win team will be trotting out either Dontrelle Inman or Javontee Herndon at wide receiver opposite Stevie Johnson. Inman and Herndon have combined for 36 career receptions.
27. Detroit Lions (2-7)
Last Week: 31
This Week: 27
The Detroit Lions hadn't won at Lambeau Field since 1991, which is four Jurassic Park movies ago, and in that time two versions of President Bush have come and gone.
The decades-long streak ended Sunday, mostly because of the Green Bay Packers' continued offensive bumbling. The Lions' moments of offensive competence were also fleeting—especially when they attempted to remember that running the football is permitted. A 32nd-ranked rushing offense kept sputtering and finished with an average of only 1.7 yards per carry.
26. Baltimore Ravens (2-7)
Last Week: 23
This Week: 26
We can look the other way when a Baltimore Ravens team gutted by injuries is pummeled by the NFL's elite. But there's still a solid core of talent that should be able to prevail over bottom-feeding teams. Or, if you prefer, the league's equivalent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
But of the Ravens' seven losses, three of them have now come against the Jaguars, 49ers and Browns. Those three teams have a combined record of 8-20.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5)
Last Week: 27
This Week: 25
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston hasn't thrown a touchdown pass since Week 8. Generally, going 75 straight pass attempts without one ending in a touchdown isn't exactly a winning formula.
But against the Dallas Cowboys, sustained offense isn't really needed. Neither team could accomplish that lofty goal Sunday, which made for an exhilarating game with only 16 total points scored.
The Bucs have now won three of their last five games, and are one of the seven NFC teams with four wins. Seven!
24. Tennessee Titans (2-7)
Last Week: 24
This Week: 24
The Tennessee Titans had an honest chance to beat the Carolina Panthers, something no team has done yet this season. At halftime they trailed by only four points.
But then they performed like a team that has an interim head coach and a rookie quarterback. They were held scoreless in the second half, which followed a first half when all Titans wide receivers totaled one catch for six yards.
Tennessee is still fielding the league's 30th-ranked offense, averaging only 321.6 yards per game.
23. Houston Texans (4-5)
Last Week: 29
This Week: 23
"The Houston Texans' chances of beating the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football are about on par with this French Bulldog getting his beloved tennis ball."
I know a guy who wrote those words about 24 hours ago (me). And that story has a happy ending, with dog and ball united at last.
The Texans did more than beat Cincinnati, handing an undefeated team its first loss. They knocked off the Bengals with T.J. Yates as their quarterback during the fourth quarter. You know, the same fourth quarter when he lofted a ball in DeAndre Hopkins' direction, and despite nearly perfect coverage the wide receiver made a spectacular one-handed catch.
Hopkins secured both a 22-yard touchdown, and eventually the win with his acrobatics. Offense was the looming question mark for Houston heading into Monday night, as it has been all season. Generating enough of it, or any at all, has become quite the battle with running back Arian foster done for the year, and a carousel of mediocre quarterback play.
But 10 points was all the Texans needed while pushing the Bengals off their perfect perch. Relentless pressure on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton held his offense to only six points, even after Cincinnati had averaged 28.6 points per game prior to Week 10.
And with that we have a 4-5 team tied for the lead in its division.
22. Oakland Raiders (4-5)
Last Week: 19
This Week: 22
The Oakland Raiders are brimming with youthful promise in key areas.
Derek Carr has all the tools a franchise quarterback could ever need, and he'll enjoy throwing to wide receiver Amari Cooper for many, many years. Then there's defensive end Khalil Mack, who brings imposing speed as a pass-rusher off the edge, and running back Latavius Murray with his breakaway acceleration in the open field.
That's all swell, and it's led to a rare thing in Oakland: hope.
But as that hope blossoms into a beautiful winning flower, there will still be stumbling along the way. And lately, the Raiders' undoing has been a horrendously leaky run defense.
They were gashed Sunday by Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, giving up 203 rushing yards to him. Now over the past two weeks Oakland has been thumped to the tune of 458 rushing yards allowed.
21. Miami Dolphins (4-5)
Last Week: 21
This Week: 21
The Miami Dolphins erased a 16-3 deficit, coming back to beat the Philadelphia Eagles 20-19. But while the win still counts, a tendency to fall into early holes is troubling.
It was the third straight game in which the Dolphins allowed a safety. That safety streak should be held in higher regard than Joe DiMaggio's hit streak.
20. St. Louis Rams (4-5)
Last Week: 16
This Week: 20
Another week, and another tale of sadness for the St. Louis Rams' passing offense. Quarterback Nick Foles averaged a tiny 5.5 yards per pass attempt, and all Rams wide receivers combined to average 11 yards per reception.
Having a bruising running back like Todd Gurley is great until you're behind and need to claw back into a game. The Rams don't have the quarterback or receivers to make that work.
19. New Orleans Saints (4-6)
Last Week: 14
This Week: 19
New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has cool hair and he thoroughly enjoys St. Patrick's Day. But the whole coordinating-a-defense thing seems to elude him. And on Monday, the Saints fired Ryan, according to Fox Sports NFL reporter Alex Marvez (h/t USA Today's A.J. Perez).
The Saints have allowed 28 passing touchdowns after giving up four more during a loss to the Washington Redskins. That's seven more than any other team, and it puts them on pace to set an all-time single-season record.
They've allowed four-plus touchdowns in three straight games without recording a single interception.
18. Kansas City Chiefs (4-5)
Last Week: 20
This Week: 18
The Kansas City Chiefs made Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning look worse than, well, the worst quarterback you've seen in your whole life. And yes, your pet gerbil counts.
But we sort of expected that might happen, because a glacially slow quarterback doesn't exactly match up well against two pocket-collapsing pass-rushers like Chiefs outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. What continues to be surprising about the Chiefs, however, is the rise of running back Charcandrick West.
West finished Sunday with 161 yards from scrimmage, 80 of which came on one catch and run for a touchdown. He's now averaged 137.3 total yards per week during Kansas City's three-game win streak, all while pushing his team back into the playoff conversation.
17. Atlanta Falcons (6-3)
Last Week: 17
This Week: N/A
The Atlanta Falcons have gone through a slow, but deep burn over their last four games. Three of them have been losses, one of which came to a rookie quarterback (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Jameis Winston) and another to the 49ers and Gabbert. The lone win came over the Tennessee Titans, who started Zach Mettenberger.
Maybe a Week 10 bye to regroup is just the tonic Atlanta needs to halt a death spin. That's the hope, at least, because otherwise a team that started 5-0 will laughably become the worst September pretenders in recent memory.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (4-5)
Last Week: 15
This Week: 16
The Philadelphia Eagles lost a game in spectacular second-half choke-job fashion Sunday, and they likely also lost quarterback Sam Bradford for a few weeks.
Bradford was getting whacked all afternoon by the Miami Dolphins. He finally had to leave due to both a concussion and reportedly a Grade 2 AC joint sprain, according to Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News.
Mark Sanchez will replace him for the foreseeable future. He started his latest time under center for the Eagles with a red-zone interception late in the fourth quarter Sunday. That eliminated the opportunity to even kick a field goal in a game eventually decided by one point.
But Sanchez is only partly to blame, as the real culprit during another Eagles letdown was their rushing offense. Or the complete lack of one. Drives couldn't be sustained with an average of 2.3 yards per carry.
15. Chicago Bears (4-5)
Last Week: 22
This Week: 15
It seems the Chicago Bears may have unearthed a fine fourth-round gem in Jeremy Langford. The rookie running back has received an increased workload since Matt Forte went down with a knee injury. And with Forte scheduled to become a free agent this offseason, Langford certainly looks like a long-term solution.
Over the two weeks since Forte's injury, Langford has totaled 324 yards from scrimmage. What's especially impressive is how much of that yardage the 23-year-old has earned as a receiver (179 yards), showing his dynamic skill set.
Langford has recorded two 30-plus-yard catches and 210 receiving yards overall despite limited playing time prior to Forte's knee issue.
14. Washington Redskins (4-5)
Last Week: 19
This Week: 15
I don't mean to take anything away from the Washington Redskins here. They absolutely clobbered the New Orleans Saints, and the life shown by Washington's backfield was encouraging. Over their previous two games the Redskins had rushed for all of 87 yards. Against the Saints they more than doubled that, finished with 213 rushing yards.
But let's face it: The Saints defense offers the resistance of soggy cereal. Much of the throttling we saw Sunday was the result of defenders completely whiffing on open-field tackle attempts and a secondary that's getting scorched by everyone.
The Redskins are rising, and they've become a contender in the scrap-metal bin otherwise known as the NFC East. But a true test will come next week when they visit the Carolina Panthers.
13. New York Jets (5-4)
Last Week: 9
This Week: 13
The New York Jets played a very Jets-like game Thursday night. They held the Buffalo Bills offense to only 147 yards in the second half and sacked quarterback Tyrod Taylor four times. And a week after Bills wideout Sammy Watkins went off for 168 receiving yards, he was nearly erased while limited to a meager 14 yards.
Yet in another Jets-like turn of events, that defensive effort was wasted by an offense that made critical errors and couldn't capitalize on quality field position. The Jets committed four turnovers and turned a botched Bills punt that gave them possession on the opposing 13-yard line into zero points.
They're still very much in the AFC playoff hunt. But suddenly the Jets have lost three of their last four games, and a group of four-win teams are closing in fast.
12. Indianapolis Colts (4-5)
Last Week: 12
This Week: N/A
The Indianapolis Colts were beginning to look like a team that's finished with an 11-5 record two straight years. They handed the Denver Broncos their first loss and before that nearly knocked off an also-undefeated Carolina Panthers team.
But because nice things aren't permitted in Indianapolis this season, the Colts will now be without quarterback Andrew Luck for at least the next month. There was initially optimism for a quick return after Luck suffered a lacerated kidney, but that was quickly killed by a report from ESPN's Ed Werder.
A Week 10 bye was well-timed, but now the Colts will struggle to make the playoffs, even in the AFC South dumpster.
11. Seattle Seahawks (4-5)
Last Week: 8
This Week: 11
The Seattle Seahawks defense did its part Sunday night against the Arizona Cardinals, mostly through thrashing, whacking and ball-swarming. Two strip sacks in the fourth quarter led directly to touchdowns, giving Seattle a brief lead and hope during an otherwise lost evening.
And it was lost because both before and after that quick flurry of pressure that found its way to Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, the Legion of Boom was exposed.
It used to require a Herculean effort to have one receiver eclipse the 100-yard mark against the Seahawks. Both Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd did it Sunday, with the two Cardinals receivers on the other end of 66.9 percent of Palmer's 363 passing yards.
Most of the same core pieces of a pass defense that allowed only 185.6 yards per game in 2014 are still roaming the Seahawks' secondary. Suddenly, however, throwing deep doesn't feel impossible.
10. New York Giants (5-5)
Last Week: 10
This Week: 10
As the New York Giants collectively go for the full Tobias Funke shower cry experience following what should have been a win over the New England Patriots, they can look back at several key moments.
The first was wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.'s catch that wasn't a catch. Had Beckham been able to hold onto the ball throughout the process of making his end-zone catch, the Patriots wouldn't be undefeated anymore.
Or even that play wouldn't have mattered had the Patriots been stopped on 4th-and-10 during what eventually became a game-winning drive after kicker Stephen Gostkowski nailed his 54-yard field goal.
Nearly flawless play is required to beat perfection, and the Patriots pounce on every opportunity they're given.
9. Green Bay Packers (6-3)
Last Week: 7
This Week: 9
The Green Bay Packers have lost three straight games for the first time since 2008, a sudden slide that can be connected to something completely foreign when your quarterback is Aaron Rodgers. The Packers look lost offensively, and too often they lack any shred of consistency.
Consider the first half Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Rodgers averaged only five yards per pass attempt, and the Packers went three-and-out three times over two quarters.
They finally began to look like, well, the Packers in the fourth quarter, with touchdown drives of 73 and 78 yards. But a comeback fell short, largely because a certain punch is lacking, and key elements of a once-intimidating offense have gone almost silent.
Chief among them is wide receiver Randall Cobb, who had 10 receiving touchdowns in 2014 after nine games. He's stuck on five right now.
8. Buffalo Bills (5-4)
Last Week: 13
This Week: 9
Typically a team won't win many games when its offense has four straight three-and-outs in the second half. But in an odd way Thursday night, an offensive face plant showed the Buffalo Bills are capable of winning any sort of game that emerges.
Against the New York Jets, a defensive slugfest took shape, and the Bills responded by stopping New York twice on fourth down and securing a five-point win with an interception by safety Bacarri Rambo.
They'll keep battling the Jets for an AFC wild-card spot, with a gaggle of four-win teams (the Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins) not far behind.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4)
Last Week: 11
This Week: 7
I wrote many words about Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger earlier. If I had to go with only one word to sum up his Week 10 performance, it would be a tough choice between "wow," "whaaaat" and "kablammo!"
Roethlisberger shouldn't have even set foot on the field Sunday in any meaningful capacity. Even after he made impressive progress while recovering from a foot injury, the Steelers were wisely hoping to get past the lowly Cleveland Browns using backup quarterback Landry Jones. Then after a Week 11 bye Roethlisberger would have two full weeks of rest.
Which was a fine plan until Jones went down with an injury of his own. So in hobbled a presumably still-limited Roethlisberger. Surely he would struggle, right? And surely he was a re-injury risk at less than full health, right?
Nah, because all he did was throw for 379 yards, an NFL record for a quarterback who came in off the bench, per ESPN Stats & Info. He's not normal, and his bones were probably made on Neptune.
6. Denver Broncos (7-2)
Last Week: 4
This Week: 6
I don't know if one day we'll look back on Week 10 of the 2015 season and say, "Yes, that's the game when it all ended for Peyton Manning." You don't know yet, either, unless of course you've visited the future. If you have, is it acceptable again for grown adults to eat Pop-Tarts for breakfast? I digress.
This season has felt like one long search for that moment when it ends for Manning. Although his performance during a loss Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs was certainly a rocky bottom and the lowest point so far with his four interceptions and only five completions, there still may not be a true end point.
Manning's once-sterling standard of excellence has been lowered to that of a game manager. I hate that term, but it's appropriate here because he's being relied on to make a handful of key throws while minimizing mistakes.
When he does that effectively you get what we saw in, say, Week 8 during a win over the Packers: 340 passing yards and 11.7 per attempt, with a completion percentage of 72.4. Then on the extreme other end is Sunday's result, and his 35 passing yards.
He was fighting through a rib issue, and was eventually given a mercy benching. And on Monday, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Manning has a partially torn plantar fascia. The problem, of course, is that a 39-year-old Manning won't be healthy often, and winning even as a game manager will grow increasingly difficult.
5. Cincinnati Bengals (8-1)
Last Week: 2
This Week: 5
The Cincinnati Bengals should have beaten the Houston Texans Monday night. That much is obvious when a previously undefeated team hosts a struggling opponent still under .500 even after an upset win.
But what's frustrating is that now the door is open for the late-season choking Bengals to return because there were numerous squandered opportunities.
Yes, quarterback Andy Dalton's season of redemption screeched to a halt for at least one evening. He was shut down while rarely experiencing the luxury of a clean pocket. A disastrous night ended with an average of only 5.2 yards per pass attempt, drastically below his overall season average of 8.2. Even worse, the Bengals offense gained just 84 yards throughout the entire second half.
But Dalton didn't get help at critical moments. Usually sure-handed tight end Tyler Eifert had two key drops deep down the middle, and wide receiver A.J. Green's fumble erased whatever hope remained for game-winning heroics in the final seconds.
And there was plenty of it, too, as the Bengals had driven down to Houston's 33-yard line with 50 seconds left. On 4th-and-6 Green secured first-down yardage, and then left the ball exposed for Texans safety Quintin Demps to rip loose.
The thing about staying perfect is that mistakes have to kept to a minimum. The Bengals made far too many of them Monday, and now there's a number in their loss column.
4. Arizona Cardinals (7-2)
Last Week: 6
This Week: 4
For the third straight game Arizoina Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer averaged at least 9.4 yards per pass attempt. This time he did it against the Seattle Seahawks in a game when his Cardinals posted 39 points. It was the first time the Seahawks allowed 39-plus points since 2010, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
The Cardinals are rolling after three straight wins, and they now hold a cozy three-game lead atop the NFC West. That comfy cushion has largely been provided by Palmer, who recorded his fourth game with three-plus touchdown passes Sunday night. He's thrown 23 TD in total, with only seven interceptions.
3. Minnesota Vikings (7-2)
Last Week: 5
This Week: 3
Adrian Peterson is starting to look like 2012 Adrian Peterson, which is a pretty scary thing for anyone with "tackle large, fast running backs" in their general job description.
Sunday the Minnesota Vikings running back made history with his 203 rushing yards during a win over the Oakland Raiders—their fifth straight. It was his sixth career 200-plus-yard rushing game, which ties O.J. Simpson's all-time record.
Peterson has now logged 468 yards from scrimmage over the past three weeks and has driven his team's surge to the top of the NFC North. Yes, the same NFC North the Packers also call home. They now trail Minnesota by one game, and the two teams meet in Week 11.
2. Carolina Panthers (9-0)
Last Week: 3
This Week: 2
The Cam Newton MVP train just keeps on chugging. The Carolina Panthers quarterback completed his first 10 passes during a win over the Tennessee Titans for 115 yards and a touchdown. Overall he completed 80.8 percent of his throws and also ran for a touchdown.
He's now scored six touchdowns on the ground this season and 39 throughout his career. Halfway through his fifth season Newton is already inching toward history, as he's now third all time among quarterbacks in rushing touchdowns.
Reminder: We're talking about a 26-year-old who's still going to be playing for, well, a long time.
1. New England Patriots (9-0)
Last Week: 1
This Week: 1
The New England Patriots stayed undefeated, remaining on top of both these power-based rankings and the actual NFL rankings, also known as the standings. But a win over the New York Giants that required a last-second 54-yard field goal came at a significant cost. And I'm talking about more than just lost fingernails.
Wide receiver Julian Edelman fractured a bone in his foot, according to a report from Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports. The Patriots quite famously lean on widespread ball distribution and can seemingly make anyone a hero. But Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski are the two offensive pieces who represent a damaging blow if lost for a prolonged period.
Edelman's regular season is likely over, according to Garafolo, as his injury is similar to the break that kept Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant out for six weeks. That means the Patriots will move forward without a tenacious and physical receiver who ranked fifth among all wideouts prior to Week 10 with 294 yards after the catch, according to Pro Football Focus.
He'll likely return for the playoffs, giving New England extra incentive to push for a first-round bye.