NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Heading into Week 13?
This is the time of year when we're really entering NFL playoff football. While some teams are dominating, others are fighting desperately for their shots at the tournament, and still others are trying to figure out who and what they are.
In other words, most games over this final stretch are going to hold significance.
Every bounce of the ball matters. Every injury matters. They can affect your seeding in the postseason and, for many teams, whether they even get in.
We have quite the race for the wild-card spots in the AFC. There are six teams with either five or six wins and three more four-win clubs that can't be counted out yet. Things aren't quite as wide-open in the NFC, but the teams at the top are so close and competitive that it's going to be an exciting race all the way down to the wire.
Even teams that seem destined for the postseason feel the pressure this time of year. Even if you've been rolling, you have to start buttoning up issues if you hope to make a run at the Super Bowl. I experienced this feeling during my two playoff seasons, and teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars and New Orleans Saints—clubs that were previously rolling—are feeling it after losses in Week 12.
The NFL landscape is getting more intense now that we have just five weeks to go in the regular season. Here's how I view that landscape heading into Week 13. Last week's power rankings can be found here.
32. Cleveland Browns
Last Week's Ranking: 32
Listen, there's no way to sugarcoat it: The Cleveland Browns are not a good team.
Did DeShone Kizer do some positive things against the Cincinnati Bengals? Sure. Most importantly, he avoided turnovers. He also made some nice throws down the stretch to keep the game competitive.
Ultimately, though, this is a team that lacks playmakers on both sides of the ball. Aside from Myles Garrett and perhaps Corey Coleman, there isn't anyone opponents need to game-plan for. In addition, the offense isn't creative enough to make up for that lack of elite talent—and the Browns are still asking a rookie signal-caller to run it.
Maybe the return of Josh Gordon will help bring the Browns a spark. Regardless, Cleveland is the worst team in football.
31. New York Giants
Last Week's Ranking: 31
We're finally seeing the defense we expected all year long. New York has been pressuring the quarterback, has been stout against the run and has been forcing opponents to execute all the way down the field. The defense wasn't perfect against the Washington Redskins, but it was effective enough for the Giants to win.
No one told me, though, that New York would be bringing a North Jersey high school offense out against the Redskins. The lack of creativity on offense is the Giants' big issue. There's nothing to confuse opposing defenses. That's a problem because the run game isn't dominant, the line isn't strong and Eli Manning is an aging signal-caller.
Hell, the Giants put up 10 points against Washington, but seven (six) of them came from a Janoris Jenkins interception return.
The Giants offense isn't capable of making any big plays unless they're served up on a silver platter. It has never been a strength, though; Odell Beckham Jr. has carried the unit the last couple of years. With him out, we're seeing how bad this team really is.
30. San Francisco 49ers
Last Week's Ranking: 30
The San Francisco 49ers hung in against the Seattle Seahawks early on. However, they aren't talented enough to compete with a team like Seattle. The 49ers are in rebuilding mode, and they're not built to win many games this year.
However, San Francisco is making some plays on offense. Kyle Shanahan is showing fans at least a glimpse of what the future will look like on that side of the ball. I am interested to see if Jimmy Garoppolo starts under center next week and for the remainder of the season so the 49ers can figure out what they have.
The defense plays hard too, even though it lacks talent. That's encouraging for a team that is playing for its future and not for wins and losses. As we saw, though, the 49ers don't have the horsepower to contain a guy like Russell Wilson or the weapons he has in the pass game.
29. Denver Broncos
Last Week's Ranking: 28
The Denver Broncos played in typical Broncos fashion to start the game against the Oakland Raiders. They turned the ball over in the red area when Paxton Lynch threw an ugly interception. The game was never the same after that.
This is a team that cannot find the run game it had early in the year. Denver just changed offensive coordinators and is playing with an inexperienced quarterback. Offensive expectations should be minimal.
The Broncos are now in rebuilding mode and need to spend the final quarter of the season figuring out who they want back in 2018.
28. Chicago Bears
Last Week's Ranking: 25
Nothing has changed with the Chicago Bears, and their loss to the Philadelphia Eagles should have surprised no one. This was the worst matchup of the season for Chicago. Philadelphia is one of the few teams that can outplay the Bears in the trenches.
When Chicago cannot run the ball, there aren't enough weapons around young Mitchell Trubisky for the Bears to even dream about winning a game like this. The team is built to control the trenches, dominate on the ground and make just a few plays through the air each week.
Chicago is still in rebuilding mode.
27. Indianapolis Colts
Last Week's Ranking: 29
The Indianapolis Colts continue to play hard and keep games close. Jacoby Brissett is still playing solid ball too. However, when T.Y. Hilton gets taken out of the game plan, like he was Sunday, the Colts don't have other weapons.
There's a lack of playmakers on defense as well. Indianapolis is going to play hard and physical on that side of the ball, but there isn't anyone the team can depend on to make a big play at a critical point in the game.
On Sunday, the Colts lost to a team that does have a couple of playmakers. The Tennessee Titans have Derrick Henry, Marcus Mariota and Delanie Walker. This is why they're in the hunt for a playoff spot and the Colts are on the outside looking in.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week's Ranking: 21
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have an average defense. The only person you're concerned with blocking up front is Gerald McCoy, and he's been banged up most of the year. Other than McCoy and linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander, there isn't much to worry about. We didn't expect the defense to be great this year, though, so that's not a surprise.
What's surprising is how lackluster the offense has been. Sure, Ryan Fitzpatrick is now under center, but the offense was a disappointment even when Jameis Winston was healthy. Fitzpatrick hasn't necessarily made the pass game worse, but he does miss some slam-dunk throws.
Tampa isn't capable of consistently dominating in the trenches or in the run game, either.
The Buccaneers are a below-average team that is missing pieces on both sides of the ball. Tampa Bay doesn't do any one thing well, and the passing game has been a letdown.
25. Miami Dolphins
Last Week's Ranking: 22
The Miami Dolphins played a sloppy game against the New England Patriots on Sunday. There's no other way to put it. The Dolphins had several chances to make the contest competitive but kept costing themselves with penalties, interceptions and fumbles.
Running back Kenyan Drake has to learn how to take care of the football. He had fumbling issues at Alabama, and they've followed him to the NFL. It's hard to win games when you're consistently giving the ball away.
I don't think the Dolphins are a playoff-caliber team this year. Last season, Miami had the hard running of Jay Ajayi to lean on, but he's out. I also think having the bye in Week 1 and having all these consecutive games is starting to wear on the players.
The Dolphins aren't healthy, they aren't playing well and they're not a playoff team. I do have faith in Adam Gase and the future of this team, but Miami is a year or two away and fooled us by getting to the postseason in 2016.
24. New York Jets
Last Week's Ranking: 23
The New York Jets are going to want to throw up when they watch the game film against the Carolina Panthers. The defense played well enough to win, as did Josh McCown. In Jets fashion, though, they found a way to lose.
The Jets have been finding creative ways to lose games all season—whether it's dropping touchdown passes or having fumbles returned for scores. New York has lost a few games because of special teams meltdowns too. These are the reasons why New York isn't a playoff team in 2017.
The Jets are still going to be a pain for opponents down the stretch. However, they're at the point where they'd have to run the table and hope for some help in the final quarter of the season to get into the postseason. I don't see that happening.
23. Arizona Cardinals
Last Week's Ranking: 27
This was the perfect matchup for the Arizona Cardinals to steal a win. When the Cardinals can run the ball with some consistency, they can be tough to stop. Bruce Arians is going to find creative ways to throw the ball downfield. The problem is they haven't been able to run consistently this season.
Fortunately, the Jaguars' biggest defensive weakness is against the run. This helped open the passing game up for Blaine Gabbert, who does have some arm talent and who can make some nice throws.
It also helped that the Jaguars have a one-dimensional offense. Arizona was able to sell out against the run and put Jacksonville in a lot of unfavorable situations.
Ultimately, Arizona is an average team that is going to struggle to maintain consistency down the stretch. That stretch is tough, and I don't see the Cardinals getting back in the playoff hunt this season.
22. Green Bay Packers
Last Week's Ranking: 24
This was a heartbreaking loss for the Green Bay Packers. They did a lot of things well against the Pittsburgh Steelers and nearly pulled off a major upset—one they desperately needed to get back into the playoff race.
Brett Hundley made some great throws against Pittsburgh, and I was impressed by some timely play-calling from Mike McCarthy. It was the right decision to stay patient with the run game.
Green Bay's defense was also impressive against the Steelers. It let up some big plays but also caused some huge turnovers and had the Packers in position to win at the end. This would have been a huge win, as it would have put Green Bay at 6-5 with two winnable games on the horizon.
Ultimately, Hundley is still learning on the job, and the offense is inconsistent overall. The defense is creative but doesn't have enough difference-makers. I have a hard time believing the Packers can make the playoffs now.
21. Houston Texans
Last Week's Ranking: 19
I have a lot of respect for the coaching staff of the Houston Texans. This team is always tough, physical and has a detailed plan of attack.
The Texans have hung on by a thread after some of the league's biggest injuries this season. Tom Savage hasn't been consistent enough at quarterback and has been careless with the ball. The time of Houston hanging on is over.
Bad quarterback play, bad injuries and consistently losing the turnover battle have meant too many losses. The Texans are not going to be able to mount a playoff run this year. There's too much to overcome. Watch out for them next year, though.
20. Dallas Cowboys
Last Week's Ranking: 13
Maybe now people finally realize just how many flaws Ezekiel Elliott has been hiding for the Dallas Cowboys. This team is built around the run game and the offensive line. Their elite play helped out the pass game and helped keep the defense fresh.
We're seeing an offense that cannot stay on the field and cannot move the ball. The defense is spending too much time on the field, and it isn't a unit that can hold down games on its own. Dallas was embarrassed on both sides of the ball on Thanksgiving.
The Cowboys are reeling. The pass game is not that creative, the bootlegs and play-action passes are less effective without Elliott, and Dak Prescott is not playing great football. With all those factors considered, the Cowboys are in trouble as a whole.
19. Oakland Raiders
Last Week's Ranking: 20
The Raiders are not out of the playoff race yet. They have enough offensive talent still that if they can get things clicking on that side of the ball, they can be dangerous. The big offensive plays have been too few and far between so far this season, though.
I did like Oakland's dedication to the run game against Denver. If the Raiders hope to make a playoff push, they have to find some semblance of a ground attack to help out Derek Carr. Amari Cooper got hurt and Michael Crabtree got ejected in the Broncos game, but having a little bit of a rushing attack allowed Carr to still play well.
There are questions remaining about the Raiders defense. This game didn't make me feel any better about that. However, we did see some glimpses that suggest we could see some of last year's special offense down the stretch. That's enough to believe Oakland can still make a run.
18. Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week's Ranking: 14
It's time for the Kansas City Chiefs to start having the Patrick Mahomes conversation. There's no way to deny that. When the trick plays, screens and sweeps aren't working, Alex Smith has had trouble moving the ball as a pure drop-back passer.
The drop-back game isn't creative enough, and Smith doesn't have the arm talent to make some of the tougher throws down the field. This was a big issue against a technically sound Buffalo Bills defense.
The defense is concerning too; we know that. It's far too easy to move the ball on Kansas City, so when the turnovers and big sacks don't come, the Chiefs struggle.
Kansas City is no slam dunk to win any of the remaining games down the stretch. It's a coin flip the rest of the way. That's amazing considering how hot this team was at the start of the season. Now, though, the offense isn't good enough, and the defense just plain stinks.
Don't be shocked if the Chiefs miss the postseason.
17. Buffalo Bills
Last Week's Ranking: 26
In my picks this week, I selected the Chiefs to win a close one over the Bills, so the Buffalo win wasn't shocking.
When the Bills take care of the football, play sound defense and run the ball, they can be a challenge for even the best teams. Buffalo forced some turnovers against the Chiefs, and even though they didn't run well, the Bills stuck with the run and avoided becoming one-dimensional.
This was the kind of game we saw from Buffalo early in the year. The Bills ran, played well on defense and got a few big plays from Tyrod Taylor. This was a key win for them and a game that gets the Bills back on track.
I still have questions about how consistent Buffalo can be, but the Bills are capable of snagging the AFC's sixth seed.
16. Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week's Ranking: 18
The Bengals are still in this thing. If you look at them, they have a lot of admirable qualities. Cincinnati has a quarterback who has played in the postseason, a run game that had some success against a solid Cleveland front seven and a stout defense.
The Bengals are a dangerous team because of some of the elite players on the team, such as A.J. Green. However, offensive creativity is going to remain a question mark going down the stretch. Cincinnati cannot rely on just one or two big plays a game in the final quarter of the season and hope to slip into the playoffs.
I wonder if Cincinnati can consistently sustain drives against some of the elite defenses in the NFL. Right now, I don't think the Bengals can. If they miss the postseason, that will be why.
15. Baltimore Ravens
Last Week's Ranking: 17
The Baltimore Ravens always have a tough, big and physical defense. They also have one of the best and most creative defensive coordinators in Dean Pees. This unit might not be as dominant as it has been in some previous years, but it is capable of creating big plays and getting stout when it needs to.
However, there is only so much the Ravens defense can do on its own. While this is a team no quarterback will want to see in the postseason, the offense is a problem. Baltimore struggles to consistently create yards in the passing game.
Baltimore can run the ball now, but this isn't a Ravens team that can win with just defense and the run game like in past years. Too many quality players—like Brent Urban and Marshal Yanda—have been lost for the season for Baltimore to win that way.
The Ravens are tough, fearless and will be a pain if they get into the postseason. Until they show signs of a dangerous passing game, however, I can't see them making a postseason run.
14. Washington Redskins
Last Week's Ranking: 16
I have great respect for the physicality Washington has brought to the field each week, even though the team has been beat up with injuries.
The Redskins keep finding ways to overcome. I didn't think they'd be able to run the ball against the Giants with so many running back injuries, but Samaje Perine had a 100-yard game. Beating the Giants wasn't easy because the New York defense is playing well. However, Kirk Cousins and Jamison Crowder found ways to create some big plays.
The Redskins are not going to be pushovers down the stretch. I don't know if they can get into the postseason because of their injuries, a tough remaining schedule and because of some of the games they've already dropped, but they're going to stay in the picture.
Washington probably has to win out to get into the NFC postseason. However, the offense has firepower and the defense has some playmaking talent, so counting the Redskins out would be foolish.
13. Los Angeles Chargers
Last Week's Ranking: 15
The Chargers are one of the hottest teams in football and are finally finding their way. The players, though, are going to want to kick themselves in their butts when they go back and look at early blown games or even recent blown games against the Patriots and Jaguars. L.A. could already be leading the AFC West if not for those.
The big thing with the Chargers is they can protect Philip Rivers, they run well enough that you have to respect the ground game and they have weapons in the pass game. With guys such as Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin and Hunter Henry on the roster, it's hard for defenses to match up with the L.A. passing attack.
The Chargers defense, meanwhile, has hit its stride. The cornerback play, the safety play and the play of the defensive line are all outstanding. Plus, everyone seems to now be comfortable with Gus Bradley's Seattle-style scheme.
The Chargers have a shot at earning the AFC's sixth seed. I also look at L.A. as a team that can be dangerous if it gets into the tournament because the Chargers match up well with anyone in the conference.
12. Tennessee Titans
Last Week's Ranking: 12
I'm going to stick by my view that the Titans don't have any glaring weaknesses but also don't have any glaring strengths. This is a bland football team with just enough high-end talent on each side of the ball to be dangerous.
The big question for Tennessee remains Marcus Mariota's ability to win games with his arm when the run game isn't rolling. He did enough late to beat the Colts, but two weeks ago, his arm created disaster when the Titans were forced to air it out a bit.
The Tennessee defense is solid and doesn't often beat itself. However, there isn't an elite area there, either. Against the top offenses in the NFL, it can struggle.
Look, the Titans are on top of the AFC South, and they may be capable of winning a playoff game. However, I believe they're a year and a few players away from being a threat to go on a deep postseason run.
11. Detroit Lions
Last Week's Ranking: 10
It's the same old story with the Detroit Lions. The team is way too dependent on Matthew Stafford to make all the plays. On Thanksgiving, Stafford wasn't on his top game and missed some throws we aren't used to seeing him miss.
Detroit dug itself in too big of an early hole against the Minnesota Vikings. It left too much to overcome against a legitimate title contender.
The Lions can stay in the playoff hunt down the stretch. However, without a dominant defense or a strong run game, it makes it hard to believe the Lions will be able to do anything more than just get to a Wild Card Game.
10. Seattle Seahawks
Last Week's Ranking: 11
The Seahawks are capable of getting into the postseason, but I'm not sure how much damage they can do once they get there.
The defense was chaotic against the 49ers, but this isn't the same dominant defense of years past. It's time for people to let that idea go. It also doesn't help that the defense is banged up.
Too much of the offense is based on Russell Wilson. The line and run game both struggle.
Seattle at least stayed patient with the ground attack against San Francisco in order to alleviate the pass rush, but this is the Wilson show. When he cannot find the room to run around and make backyard magic, Seattle's offense stinks even more than the defense.
If the Seahawks want to have any chance of making a playoff run, they need to find more of a running game to complement Wilson. The days of relying on the defense and a few plays from Wilson are over.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week's Ranking: 7
I've been saying this all year: When the defense cannot win the game and the run game isn't dominant, the Jaguars are going to struggle.
I like Blake Bortles the person. Blake Bortles the quarterback is a detriment to this team. He doesn't deserve to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. It was amazing Jacksonville was even able to stay in the game against Arizona with him playing as poorly as he did.
Jacksonville is one of the three best teams in football, but the Jaguars may have the league's 70th-best quarterback running their offense. This is going to continue carrying question marks throughout the remainder of the season because Bortles isn't suddenly going to become solid.
Jacksonville's offense only scored 17 points against an Arizona team that has been wildly inconsistent this season. That's a concern. The Jaguars are still dangerous because of that defense and run game, but they are beatable.
8. Atlanta Falcons
Last Week's Ranking: 9
Watch out for the Atlanta Falcons. They're starting to find their groove, and the offense is playing with confidence. This is finally looking like the team we saw get to the Super Bowl in 2016.
The Falcons were on fire against the Buccaneers. They were 11-of-14 on third down and produced more than 500 yards of offense. Hell, Julio Jones had 253 yards of offense on his own. That's phenomenal.
When the Falcons can run the ball with consistency, the offense almost becomes indefensible. It opens up the play-action game and allows guys such as Jones to run down the field and hurt you deep.
Is Atlanta the perfect team or even as good as last year? No. However, the Falcons are dangerous. They have playmakers on both sides of the ball, and they're hitting their stride at the right point in the season.
7. New Orleans Saints
Last Week's Ranking: 3
The Saints' winning streak had to end eventually. New Orleans barely hung on last week, and these kinds of streaks tend to take a toll on teams and on players. The fact the Saints lost to the Los Angeles Rams doesn't bother me.
What does bother me is the fact the Saints, for the second week in a row, gave up some big plays in the pass game. The defense has been a big surprise this year, but it still has to prove it can make the big stops against playoff-caliber teams when it matters.
It didn't help, of course, that New Orleans was missing both starting corners.
It was also concerning to see the offense struggle against the Rams defense. Receivers struggled to get open, and the ground game wasn't nearly as effective as it has been for the majority of the season. If the Saints cannot lean on their offense, the defense isn't enough of a shut-down unit to carry games on its own.
I still think New Orleans is dangerous and is capable of winning a Super Bowl. The Saints didn't play their best football against L.A., though, and they're not great enough to beat a team like the Rams when they don't.
6. Carolina Panthers
Last Week's Ranking: 5
The Panthers sort of sleepwalked through the game against the Jets. The big thing, though, is the defense made some big plays when it had to, and Carolina found a way to win when Cam Newton wasn't playing his best.
Newton was off against New York. However, that may have been a product of the bye week, and I don't expect it to be a trend.
This was one of the poorer games the Panthers have played this season, but they found a way to come out on top. They deserve credit for that. Carolina got enough big plays from each side of the ball, plus a special teams touchdown.
This was the type of sloppy win that can motivate a team to tighten things up. I still view Carolina as a legit title contender.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week's Ranking: 6
This was a good win for the Steelers, but for the second week in a row, it's a win that doesn't make me feel better about the team. Pittsburgh cannot seem to put it all together in the same game. The defense carried Pittsburgh earlier in the year. Now the defense is struggling and the offense has gotten going.
Don't get me wrong, the Steelers have loads of talent. However, they need to clean up self-inflicted mistakes. I still worry about the secondary being able to hold up against elite passing attacks in the postseason. Hell, Brett Hundley carved it up Sunday night.
I do believe Pittsburgh will be able to put everything together by the end of the season because I have faith in the coaching staff. If the Steelers do, they'll be no denying they're one of the best teams in football. The defense can create havoc, Ben Roethlisberger is playing well, and Le'Veon Bell is special. Let me tell you, watching on TV doesn't do Bell justice.
Right now, the Steelers are finding ways to win when the team isn't playing its best, and that makes them dangerous. If they get everything clicking, they can compete for a championship.
4. Los Angeles Rams
Last Week's Ranking: 8
The Rams offense is incredible. It's as dangerous as can be with guys such as Jared Goff, Cooper Kupp, Sammy Watkins and Todd Gurley. No Robert Woods? So what? There were enough weapons without him to beat a tremendous New Orleans team.
Plain and simple, you're not going to shut down the Rams offense. I don't care how good you are; Sean McVay will find ways for his team to move the ball.
If I'm a Rams fan, I'm encouraged by what we saw from the run defense against the Saints. This has been an area of concern for much of the season, but it held up against a great Saints rushing attack. The defensive front also gave the Saints line—which might be the best in football—all it could handle. The defense made Drew Brees and the passing attack look ordinary.
Brees had to hold the ball a lot because there was no one open downfield. If the Rams can consistently do that to other elite passers in the conference down the stretch, we could see them in the Super Bowl.
3. Minnesota Vikings
Last Week's Ranking: 4
We've known this Vikings defense is for real for a while. That isn't some urban myth.
The thing that is surprising is how well the offense and Case Keenum are playing. Mike Zimmer needs to start showing Keenum more support and more respect in press conferences. The way he has handled Keenum and the potential return of Teddy Bridgewater is disrespectful.
Right now, the Vikings are hands down one of the best teams in football. They showed that against Detroit, despite some questionable calls going against them. Minnesota continues to answer every question that comes its way down the stretch.
The Vikings possess unreal defensive talent, have Latavius Murray going in the run game and have three playmaking pass-catchers in Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Opponents cannot just game-plan to stop one guy or one area of the team and hope to win.
The Vikings are capable of winning a Super Bowl this year.
2. Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week's Ranking: 2
I view the Patriots as the top team in football, but I don't think it would be unfair for them to share the No. 1 spot with the Eagles.
Carson Wentz finds new ways to use different players each week. It's getting to the point where the Philadelphia offense is nearly as hard to defend as New England's because you don't know who to try to stop.
Now, I still think too much of the offense is on Wentz's shoulders because this isn't a scheme that just gets guys open. It's more Wentz throwing into tight windows or escaping pressure and making plays on the run. Still, it's hard to argue with the results.
When Philadelphia gets a lead, the Eagles are almost impossible to beat. It gives them the chance to lean on a physical run game. It also allows the defense to unleash the pass rush, which is one of the best in football.
The Eagles are Super Bowl contenders.
1. New England Patriots
Last Week's Ranking: 1
The game against Miami wasn't the sharpest I've seen the Patriots play this year. At the same time, though, it's worth noting that New England can beat you in so many different ways—even with sheer determination in sloppy contests.
We know the Patriots offense is special and has a plethora of weapons. It's practically indefensible in the pass game, and New England can find a run game when the matchup presents itself. There is an assortment of backs the Patriots can use to attack opponents in a variety of ways.
The big thing now is how well the defense is playing. It was a disaster early in the season, but New England adjusted to a bend-but-don't-break style of play that worked well. Now, the defense is rarely even bending. It continues to play better each week and is beginning to shut down offenses altogether.
I still view New England as the best team in football, and I'm not backing off that assessment.