NFL Power Rankings: B/R's Expert Consensus Rank for Every Team Entering Week 12
It's do or die time in the NFL.
For a number if teams, Week 11 was a turning point. Hovering at or just under .500, the edict was clear for these teams—win or else.
Some squads answered the call. The Dallas Cowboys pulled out a nail-biter late. The first start for Lamar Jackson ended with a win for the Baltimore Ravens.
However, for others things didn't go so well. Those wins by the Cowboys and Ravens meant losses for the Atlanta Falcons and Cincinnati Bengals. The Green Bay Packers are in deep trouble. The defending champion Eagles even more so after a jaw-dropping beatdown in New Orleans.
Just as they have every week this season, Bleacher Report NFL analysts Brad Gagnon, Brent Sobleski and Gary Davenport have gathered as the dust settles around Week 11 to rank the league's teams from bottom to top. From No. 32 to No. 1.
The top dog hasn't changed. But there was a shake-up among the bottom-feeders.
32. Arizona Cardinals (2-8)
Last Week: 27
Week 11 Result: Lost 23-21 vs. Oakland Raiders
Just when you think the Arizona Cardinals might finally be building something. Just when you think rookie quarterback Josh Rosen might be getting a head of steam. Just when you think that maybe the Cardinals aren't as bad as their record.
The team goes and loses at home to the Oakland Raiders.
This game was a stark reminder that outside of receiver Larry Fitzgerald and running back David Johnson, the Arizona offense is putrid. Rosen had an awful game Sunday against a bad defense, completing just 45 percent of his passes with a pair of interceptions. Arizona was outplayed in just about every statistical category and again came up short of 300 total yards.
Fans in the Valley of the Sun are going to need to be patient by letting Rosen make some mistakes as he learns on the job.
But when a game that looks winnable ends in more disappointment, that patience gets sorely tested.
31. Oakland Raiders (2-8)
Last Week: 32
Week 11 Result: Won 23-21 at Arizona Cardinals
At this point in the 2018 season, head coach Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders are searching for any positives they can cling to while the season falls apart around them.
To be fair, there were a few from Sunday's win over the Arizona Cardinals—the biggest of which was that Oakland, you know, won.
Quarterback Derek Carr had his best game in a while, throwing two touchdown passes and posting a passer rating of over 100.
The Raiders were able to run the ball, piling up 152 yards on the ground and averaging 4.6 yards a carry.
Oakland actually outgained its opponent for once. Had a better conversion rate on third down. Won the turnover battle. And had fewer penalties.
Granted, that all came against an Arizona team that's just as lousy as the Raiders this season.
But hey, at this point, Chucky will take what he can get.
30. New York Jets (3-7)
Last Week: 29
Week 11 Result: Bye week
New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles needs a hug.
Fresh off a blowout loss to the Buffalo Bills at home, the Jets limped into their bye week at 3-7, losers of four in a row. The loss to Buffalo was an embarrassment; the Jets were dominated in every facet of the game by a bad team in a contest where New York's effort level was nonexistent.
Given the team's struggles of late, it's no surprise Bowles' seat is getting pretty toasty. Per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, Bowles faces an "uphill battle" to keep his job come season's end.
If Gang Green keeps playing like it did against the Bills, Bowles may not even make it to Black Monday. The 55-year-old is well-liked by players and well-regarded in league circles, but in Week 10, the Jets looked like a team that had quit.
Unfortunately, that uphill battle's going to be all the steeper when the Jets get back after it next week.
New York hosts a New England Patriots team seething after it got rolled by the Titans in Week 10.
29. San Francisco 49ers (2-8)
Last Week: 31
Week 11 Result: Bye week
Do you remember back in the summer when some folks were highlighting the San Francisco 49ers as a dark-horse playoff team?
That poor, dead horse.
It's not exactly the Niners' fault that the season fell apart. The team has been devastated by injuries, including ACL tears that ended the seasons of tailback Jerick McKinnon and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
There have also been more close losses than you can count. OK—you can count them. Five of San Francisco's losses are by single digits, and four were by four or fewer points.
The 2018 season has been an exercise in Murphy's Law: Everything that could go wrong, has.
Actually, at this point, the best thing that could happen to the Niners is six more losses to close things out. If you're going to be bad, you might as well be terrible.
The No. 1 overall pick in next year's draft could net the Niners a windfall from a QB-needy team, or maybe an exciting prospect like Nick Bosa.
28. Buffalo Bills (3-7)
Last Week: 28
Week 11 Result: Bye week
The Buffalo Bills are not having a good season. One year after making the playoffs, the Bills have fielded one of the worst offenses in football in 2018. Entering Week 11, Buffalo's 13.7 points per game ranked dead last in the NFL.
However, a pretty compelling argument can be made that head coach Sean McDermott has actually done a good job this season, all things considered.
The quarterback position has been a nightmare, with the Bills starting a handful of signal-callers in 2018. That the best of the lot (Matt Barkley) had been with the team less than two weeks when he made his first start says all that needs said about the level of play for the Bills at the NFL's most important position.
And yet somehow the Bills have managed to win three games. Part of the credit there goes to a sneaky-good defense that allowed the fewest yards in the NFL entering Sunday.
But McDermott deserves some credit, too, for keeping a team that's short on offensive talent more competitive than they ought to be.
27. New York Giants (3-7)
Last Week: 30
Week 11 Result: Won 38-35 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Break up the Giants!
After dispatching yet another hapless foe, the unstoppable juggernaut that is New York has now peeled off two wins in a row.
To be fair, there were some real positives in this game for the Giants. Eli Manning has an excellent game, missing on just one of 18 pass attempts. Saquon Barkley had another huge outing, topping 150 total yards and scoring three touchdowns. The Giants were also plus-four in the turnover department.
However, this is also a game the Giants led 31-14 in the fourth quarter, only to almost allow the Buccaneers to come all the way back. New York surrendered over 500 yards of total offense.
Still, Gagnon offered some props to Big Blue.
"The competition has been weak," he said, "but terrible teams don't usually win back-to-back games with a combined 65 points. Eli Manning had just one incomplete pass against the Buccaneers, and Saquon Barkley truly has put together a magnificent rookie season. With Barkley and Beckham rolling, this team could do some spoiling down the stretch."
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-7)
Last Week: 26
Week 11 Result: Lost 38-35 at New York Giants
In Week 10, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers piled up over 500 yards of total offense but managed just three points, largely due to turnovers.
In Week 11, the Buccaneers again piled up over 500 yards of total offense. Again, though, they lost, despite scoring 35 points.
And again, it was because of turnovers.
Embattled Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter saw enough of said turnovers from Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 11, pulling the veteran in favor of Jameis Winston. It was Winston who led Tampa's frenetic comeback attempt, but he had a pick of own in the process.
"The Buccaneers are a mess," Davenport said, stating the obvious. "And Koetter's twitchiness at quarterback hasn't helped matters one bit. Given that Fitzpatrick clearly isn't the long-term answer under center, it makes sense to let Winston play the rest of the way. But Koetter appears more interested in desperately trying to save his job than he is in making sense. Let it go, Dirk. You're done."
25. Miami Dolphins (5-5)
Last Week: 25
Week 11 Result: Bye week
In last week's power rankings, the Dolphins were ranked behind no fewer than 10 teams that had a worse record than Miami's 5-5 mark.
There's good reason for that: The Dolphins just aren't very good.
Of Miami's five wins, just one could really be considered a "quality" win—a Week 6 overtime stunner over the NFC North-leading Bears.
No offense, Tennessee.
Every other time the Dolphins have played a good team, they've gotten drilled. Miami was hammered by the New England Patriots. Lost by 19 to the Houston Texans. And fell by the same amount to the Green Bay Packers last time out.
That loss was Miami's third in four games after a 4-2 start, and the next month isn't an easy one. After a Week 12 trip to Indy, the Dolphins host the Patriots and have to travel to Minnesota in Week 15.
If Miami's still in the wild-card hunt at that point, it will be surprising.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7)
Last Week: 21
Week 11 Result: Lost 20-16 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Jacksonville Jaguars have reached terminal velocity.
It's not just that the Jaguars dropped their sixth straight game in Week 11. Not just that a season that began with dreams of a trip to Atlanta has now officially fallen completely apart.
No, that's not good enough for this Jaguars team. When they implode, they by-golly go all the way.
This was a game that Jacksonville dominated into the third quarter. A game they led 16-6 at the start of the fourth. But after scoring their lone touchdown of the afternoon in the third quarter, the Jaguars tallied all of zero first downs.
On Jacksonville's last five drives of the game, the team generated minus-three yards.
Jacksonville's collapse this season is as surprising as it is complete. But Davenport thinks he has it figured out.
"There's only one logical explanation for what happened to the Jaguars," he said. "After the Jaguars blasted the Patriots, the entire team was abducted by alien pod people who replaced them with simulacrums that look like the players but can't play football because they don't have the sport on the pod people planet."
OK—so maybe he doesn't have it figured out after all.
23. Cleveland Browns (3-6-1)
Last Week: 22
Week 11 Result: Bye week
We're in uncharted territory with these Cleveland Browns.
It's been a long time since fans in Northeast Ohio actually looked forward to Browns games. The bye week was usually a welcome respite for Cleveland fans, a chance to lick their proverbial wounds.
This year, after watching the Browns throttle the Atlanta Falcons in Week 10, fans are actually eager to see the team get back after it next week in Cincinnati.
That contest with the floundering Bengals appears a winnable game. After that, though, things get pretty hairy: a trip to face the white-hot Texans and a home date with a Panthers squad that may well be fighting for their playoff lives.
However, with the offense improving by the week and the defense playing well, it's not inconceivable that the Browns could steal one of those games. Cleveland's no longer looked at as an automatic W by opponents.
When the coaching search gets underway in the offseason, people are actually going to want the job.
Like we said…uncharted territory.
22. Detroit Lions (4-6)
Last Week: 24
Week 11 Result: Won 20-19 vs. Carolina Panthers
The Detroit Lions are one of the harder teams in the NFL to get a bead on this season.
The Lions have certainly had their moments, particularly at Ford Field. Detroit whacked the Patriots at home in Week 3. Downed the Green Bay Packers in Motown in Week 5. And, in true odd-week-success fashion, stunned the Carolina Panthers on Sunday to halt a three-game losing streak.
The problem is that Sunday's win was a surprise because during that three game skid, the Lions offered very little evidence that the team was capable of beating the Panthers in Week 11. The defense has struggled of late, and over the last three games, the offense has averaged just 15 points per contest.
Sadly, it's rather unlikely that this will be more than a one-off win—a temporary respite before Detroit's disappearing year rolls on. On Thanksgiving Day, the Lions host the Chicago Bears, who beat Detroit by double digits in Week 10. Then comes a home date with the Los Angeles Rams.
And Detroit may have to play those games without rookie tailback Kerryon Johnson. Johnson left Sunday's win with a knee injury, and per Kyle Meinke of MLive, there are fears that the talented young runner tore his ACL.
21. Atlanta Falcons (4-6)
Last Week: 20
Week 11 Result: Lost 22-19 vs. Dallas Cowboys
The Atlanta Falcons were one of a number of preseason playoff contenders who came into Week 11 in "must-win" mode. After losing in Cleveland last week to fall back below .500, the Falcons were fresh out of margin for error.
Now, the team is probably fresh out of realistic chances of making the postseason.
The culprit in Sunday's heartbreaker was the same as in many of Atlanta's losses this season: the defense, or lack thereof.
The Falcons had no answer for Ezekiel Elliott, who rolled for 201 total yards and a score on 30 touches. Dallas converted seven of 13 third downs. The Atlanta defense managed just two sacks and zero takeaways.
Atlanta also allowed Dak Prescott to drive the Cowboys 51 yards into field-goal range at game's end—a field goal that all but smashed Atlanta's playoff hopes, according to Sobleski.
"A shimmer of hope existed for the Falcons during a three-game win streak, but that's all gone after being handled by the Browns last week ago and the Cowboys squeaking past them Sunday with a last-second field goal," he said. "Injuries all over the roster have depleted the Falcons to such a degree they're limited in what they can accomplish. Things aren't going to get any better with the New Orleans Saints next on the schedule."
20. Cincinnati Bengals (5-5)
Last Week: 16
Week 11 Result: Lost 24-21 at Baltimore Ravens
The good news for the Cincinnati Bengals is that the team didn't allow 500 total yards of offense in Week 11 after three straight games surrendering that gaudy amount.
The bad news is that the Bengals still allowed over 400 total yards to a rookie quarterback making his first start and gave up a staggering 265 rushing yards in a three-point loss to the Ravens that dropped the Bengals to .500.
There wasn't a whole lot that went well for the Bengals here. The absence of wide receiver A.J. Green has clearly and significantly impacted the offense. The defense allowed Lamar Jackson to pick up first downs with his legs seemingly at will.
After a 4-1 start, the Bengals have now dropped four of five to fall well off the pace in the AFC North.
It will now take at least four wins over the next six games for this team to make the postseason—possibly five.
Given the last month-plus, that ain't happening.
In fact, with Hue Jackson now in Cincy, the team may not win another game.
We aren't saying Hue is a hex. We also aren't saying he isn't.
19. Denver Broncos (4-6)
Last Week: 23
Week 11 Result: Won 23-22 at Los Angeles Chargers
The Denver Broncos have turned losing close games into something of an art form in 2018. Four of Denver's six losses this season have been by a touchdown or less. For a time Sunday, it looked like it would be five of seven.
But this time, quarterback Case Keenum got the Broncos in field-goal range. This time, Brandon McManus didn't miss the game-winning field goal, and Denver was able to halt a mega-skid of six losses in seven games.
It was a win that featured some of Denver's youth on offense. Tailback Phillip Lindsay had another big game, topping 100 total yards and scoring twice. Rookie wideout Courtland Sutton piled up 78 yards and had a big catch on the final drive.
This win isn't going to save Denver's season. It probably won't save head coach Vance Joseph's job. But any day that a team can knock off a division rival is a good day, and the Broncos reminded us in Week 11 that while they may not be good, they aren't terrible either.
18. Philadelphia Eagles (4-6)
Last Week: 14
Week 11 Result: Lost 48-7 at New Orleans Saints
Per the telecast of Sunday's game featuring the Eagles and Saints, there have been eight instances in NFL history when the reigning Super Bowl champion has had a losing record at this point in the season. None of those teams went on to make the playoffs.
The Eagles are on their way to making it nine for nine.
That Philadelphia lost in New Orleans to fall to 4-6 is alarming. That it was annihilated by 41 points is that much more so. But the most alarming thing about these Eagles is the fact that there's no easy fix to get this team back on track.
The injury-ravaged secondary is horrendous at this point in the season. Even if the Eagles could run the ball effectively, they can't stick with it because said secondary is giving up chunk plays left and right.
The cold, hard truth is that the 2018 Eagles are all but done. There won't be any title defense.
17. Tennessee Titans (5-5)
Last Week: 13
Week 11 Result: Lost 38-10 at Indianapolis Colts
The last two weeks are the perfect microcosm of the 2018 Tennessee Titans.
When the Titans are good, they are really good. That was the case in Week 10, when Tennessee opened a 24-point can on the defending AFC champions in Nashville. It was arguably the most surprisingly impressive effort from an NFL team this season.
The problem is that when the Titans are bad, they are terrible. The Tennessee team that lost to Buffalo and got blown out in Baltimore made the trip to Indianapolis on Sunday, where the result was a game that was over at halftime—and not just because Marcus Mariota got hurt again.
"The Titans fooled me," Gagnon wrote. "I should have seen it coming. Mariota can't stay healthy? Shocking! Tennessee can't sustain hot streaks? No way! This is the same team that, after a 3-1 start, was embarrassed by the Bills and Ravens in early October. They're the third-best team in the AFC South, and that's only because the Jaguars have imploded."
Mariota sat out the second half of Sunday's shellacking with an injury to the same elbow that cost him time earlier in the season. That elbow is suddenly a very big deal for the Titans, because a week from Monday, Tennessee plays the South-leading Texans.
Yes, the Titans beat those same Texans in Week 2 with Blaine Gabbert under center. But that was in Nashville against a Texans team that wasn't playing anywhere near as well as it has during its seven-game win streak.
Plus, you know…Blaine Gabbert.
16. Green Bay Packers (4-5-1)
Last Week: 11
Week 11 Result: Lost 27-24 at Seattle Seahawks
The Green Bay Packers are in trouble.
After squandering a double-digit lead Thursday in Seattle, the Packers are below .500 at the 10-game mark. At this point, the Pack will probably need a repeat of 2016's six-game winning streak to avoid a repeat of last year's missing the playoffs.
This was a game filled with questionable play-calling and decisions by Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy. After a huge outing against the Miami Dolphins, tailback Aaron Jones carried the ball just 11 times. With just over four minutes left in the game, McCarthy chose to punt rather than go for it on 4th-and-2 at the Packers 33.
Green Bay never got the ball back.
"For years," Davenport said, "Aaron Rodgers has been able to overcome Green Bay's flaws. To compensate for the defensive lapses and McCarthy's lack of creativity offensively. That's not working this year, and it looks like yet another season of Rodgers' prime is headed down the tubes."
Gagnon agrees that the Packers look finished.
"I'm beyond the point where I refuse to count the Packers out merely because of their quarterback's track record," he wrote. "Said quarterback just hasn't been good enough, thanks at least partly to his bad knee. But also, this is a poorly coached team that lacks depth and has clearly fallen behind not one, but two teams in its division. Green Bay's season is almost over, as is McCarthy's tenure there."
15. Baltimore Ravens (5-5)
Last Week: 17
Week 11 Result: Won 24-21 vs. Cincinnati Bengals
For some time now, fans of the Baltimore Ravens have been clamoring to see more of rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson.
On Sunday, they got their wish. And given how Jackson played in a three-point win over the Cincinnati Bengals, it's a safe bet there's now a good old-fashioned quarterback controversy in Baltimore.
Jackson wasn't perfect. His passing numbers were OK but nothing more: 13 completions on 19 attempts for 150 yards with an interception. But just as he did at Louisville, Jackson killed the Bengals with his legs, totaling 117 yards on 27 carries.
Add in the 115 yards on 17 totes that Gus Edwards picked up, and it was the first time since 2014 that a quarterback and tailback for the same team both topped 100 yards in a game.
Most importantly, the win got Baltimore back to .500, ended the Ravens' three-game skid and vaulted the team past Cincinnati and into second place in the AFC North.
14. Dallas Cowboys (5-5)
Last Week: 18
Week 11 Result: Won 22-19 at Atlanta Falcons
Had you said three weeks ago that the Dallas Cowboys would be in the driver's seat in the NFC East by Thanksgiving, we would have suggested you lay off the goofy juice a bit.
And yet here we are. After defeating the Atlanta Falcons with a walk-off field goal in Week 11, the Cowboys are 5-5 and just a game back of the division-leading Redskins.
The same Redskins who play in Dallas on Thursday.
The same Redskins who just lost quarterback Alex Smith for the season.
"With six games to go, my money's on Dallas to win the NFC East," Davenport said. "The Eagles are reeling. After losing Smith, the Redskins are done. Dallas has a top-notch defense, the team's riding Zeke Elliott to the tune of over 200 total yards in Week 11, and Amari Cooper has given the passing game the boost it so badly needed. They'll win on Thanksgiving, lose the following week to New Orleans, and then run the table to finish 10-6."
13. Washington Redskins (6-4)
Last Week: 12
Week 11 Result: Lost 23-21 vs. Houston Texans
The Washington Redskins are finished. Done. Through. There isn't going to be any NFC East championship in 2018. The team will be lucky to be able to hold on to a wild-card spot.
It's not that Washington came up short against the Houston Texans on Sunday. That's unfortunate, sure. But the Redskins are still in first place.
In the third quarter of the game though, Redskins quarterback Alex Smith went down with what quickly became apparent was a serious injury. Sure enough, per NFL.com, Smith fractured the tibia and fibula in his leg and will require season-ending surgery.
To call it a devastating injury is an understatement. The Redskins weren't winning with offensive fireworks this season, but the drop-off from Smith to backup Colt McCoy is precipitous.
As if that news weren't bad enough, now McCoy and the Redskins have to get ready to play the second-place Cowboys on a short week.
It's shaping up to be a miserable Thanksgiving for the team.
12. Indianapolis Colts (5-5)
Last Week: 19
Week 11 Result: Won 38-10 vs. Tennessee Titans
It's happened quietly. Many haven't even noticed that the Indianapolis Colts have shaken off the funk of a 1-5 start to get back on the fringes of playoff contention.
After the Colts blasted the Tennessee Titans on Sunday though, more folks will no doubt notice the Colts.
The Colts dominated this game from beginning to end. Whether it was Andrew Luck and the offense piling up 397 total yards or Darius Leonard and the defense holding the Titans to 87 rushing yards and one garbage-time touchdown, it was Indy's most impressive performance in a good long while.
Mind you, this was the same Titans team that just blew out the New England Patriots a week ago. This was the one thing missing from the Colts' recent win streak: a victory over a good (or at least decent) team.
Before the season, the presumption was that the AFC South was Jacksonville's to lose. Eleven weeks in, the Jaguars are the only team in the division that isn't in the race.
And the Colts' Week 14 trip to Houston now looms as a potential game-changer, especially given that the Colts have a pair of winnable contests between now and then.
"I can't believe I'm saying this," Gagnon said, "but the Colts might be a top-10 team. The extremely well-protected Andrew Luck is playing some of the best football of his career, and they have enough talent on defense to give Luck at least a small margin for error. I wouldn't be surprised at all if they were to overtake the Houston Texans and win the AFC South."
11. Seattle Seahawks (5-5)
Last Week: 15
Week 11 Result: Won 27-24 vs. Green Bay Packers
The Seattle Seahawks are by no means a lock to make the playoffs. And there's just about zero chance the team will win the NFC West.
But after a comeback win over the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night, the Seahawks are back to .500 after 10 games and at least have a pulse.
Seattle's new run-heavy identity is paying dividends for the team. After gashing the Rams for a jaw-dropping 273 yards in Week 10, the Seahawks piled up another 173 rushing yards against the Packers, averaging 4.9 yards a tote. It was that ability to run the ball and control the tempo that allowed the Seahawks to grind out the last four minutes of Thursday's game, denying Aaron Rodgers the opportunity to engineer a comeback.
Can the Seahawks pound their way into a wild-card berth? We don't know.
What we do know is that this is a team no one wants to face down the stretch. Not with its ability to dictate the flow of the game.
10. Carolina Panthers (6-4)
Last Week: 9
Week 11 Result: Lost 20-19 at Detroit Lions
Not that long ago, the Carolina Panthers looked like one of the best teams in the NFC.
After back-to-back losses to first the Steelers and now the Lions, the Panthers now appear to be just another team that has next to no chance of seriously challenging the Saints or Rams in the NFC.
The Panthers are capable of playing at an elite level in spurts. For a drive or quarter here and there. Occasionally Carolina puts a whole game together. But the robotic consistency week in and week out that defines New Orleans and L.A. seems to elude the Panthers.
If it didn't, they wouldn't have come out flat against a bad Lions team Sunday.
"I was a believer in the Panthers a few weeks ago," Davenport said. "But I'm not anymore. First Carolina got pasted by the Steelers. Then this dog of a showing against the Lions despite extra time to prepare. Heck, even Ron Rivera doesn't fully believe in his team. If he did, he'd have kicked the extra point at the end of Sunday's game and played for OT rather than going for two (and losing the game in the process)."
9. Minnesota Vikings (5-4-1)
Last Week: 7
Week 11 Result: Lost 25-20 at Chicago Bears
Before the season, the Minnesota Vikings were a trendy pick to win the NFC North. The Vikings were also the highest-ranked team in the division in the Week 1 set of these power rankings—a ranking they've maintained most of the season.
That's no longer the case, because it's looking less and less like Minnesota is going to win this division.
By virtue of Minnesota's five-point loss in Chicago, the Vikings now sit 1.5 games back of the Bears with a head-to-head loss. Minnesota was simply outplayed on both sides of the ball at Soldier Field.
Offensively, the Minnesota ground game was nonexistent, managing only 22 yards on 14 carries. The pass protection wasn't that much better. Kirk Cousins was sacked twice and threw an equal number of interceptions, including a back-breaking pick-six in the second half. Defensively, Minnesota's vaunted third-down defense allowed the Bears to convert an even 50 percent of the time.
The Vikings are a good team. But the one-dimensional nature of the offense has showed in a big way against the NFL's elite. The Vikings have now faced all of the NFC's leading contenders in the Bears, Saints and Rams.
Minnesota lost all three games.
8. Los Angeles Chargers (7-3)
Last Week: 6
Week 11 Result: Lost 23-22 vs. Denver Broncos
Despite winning six consecutive games and having a record of 7-2 entering Week 11, the Los Angeles Chargers hadn't gotten a lot of run as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Performances like Sunday's home loss to Denver aren't going to help change the perception that the Bolts are a tier below the Chiefs, Patriots and Steelers in the AFC.
It was classic Chargers, in that it was equal parts confusing and maddening. It was a flat showing against an inferior team on paper in which the Chargers outgained Denver by more than 150 yards and led by double-digits in the second half.
"It finally happened," Gagnon said. "The Chargers Chargered against the Broncos, playing down to weaker competition at home. Hard to trust them now, because this is their modus operandi. They don't have much of a home-field advantage at that weird little stadium, and I just don't believe they can go toe-to-toe with AFC heavyweights Kansas City, New England and Pittsburgh. They're probably a one-and-done playoff team with a divisional-round ceiling, but they remain in the top 10 because they're one of many untrustworthy second-tier teams right now."
7. Houston Texans (7-3)
Last Week: 11
Week 11 Result: Won 23-21 at Washington Redskins
The Houston Texans are one of the hottest teams in the entire National Football League.
Had you typed that sentence back at the beginning of October, you would have been mocked. Ridiculed. Mockiculed, even.
But after opening the season 0-3, the Texans have now reeled off seven consecutive victories. The latest was a win on the road against a first-place Washington team.
It wasn't a flawless effort. The Texans committed three turnovers and were just 4-of-11 on third downs.
But just as they've done for almost two months running, Houston found a way to get the W. The ground game averaged 4.5 yards a carry against a solid Washington defense, and Houston's defense put the clamps on the Redskins, allowing just 278 yards of offense for the afternoon.
At 7-3, the Texans are now two full games clear of the Titans and Colts, with a head-to-head loss to Tennessee and win over Indy.
"It's easy to point out where Houston struggles," Sobleski wrote. "The Texans' offensive line is among the league's worst, and the defense is downright awful in the red zone. Yet, this same team has won seven straight games after a 0-3 start. They've survived games against the Broncos and Washington over the last two weeks, though. Bill O'Brien's squad is good enough to find ways to win, but the Texans are still a step below the AFC's elite."
6. Chicago Bears (7-3)
Last Week: 8
Week 11 Result: Won 25-20 vs. Minnesota Vikings
It's officially time to say it. In fact, this is probably overdue.
The Chicago Bears are legit. As in, a legitimate contender to win not just the NFC North but also to represent the conference in Super Bowl LIII.
Sunday's win over the Minnesota Vikings really wasn't as close as the final score indicates. For well over three quarters, Khalil Mack and the Bears defense harassed Kirk Cousins and held the Vikes out of the end zone.
The Bears offense did its part as well, outgaining the Vikings and splitting nearly down the middle on the run-to-pass ratio. Granted, Chicago isn't as potent offensively as Los Angeles or New Orleans, but the Bears also have a much better defense than those teams.
Sunday's prime-time win may have opened some eyes where the Bears are concerned, but Chicago will have more opportunities to earn some PR points in the weeks to come.
Two of the Bears' next three games will be nationally televised, including a Thanksgiving tilt in Detroit and a Week 14 matchup at Soldier Field with the Rams.
5. New England Patriots (7-3)
Last Week: 5
Week 11 Result: Bye week
If you know what happened to the New England Patriots in Week 10, let us know.
Actually, we know what happened: The Pats got waxed in Nashville by the Tennessee Titans. What we don't know is why.
It's not like the Titans have played great football this year; they just got boat-raced by the Colts. New England had been, though. After a 1-2 start, the Patriots peeled off six straight wins before suffering their worst November loss in years.
It's hardly panic time. This is, after all, the Patriots—no team in the NFL is better at shaking off a bad loss and getting back on track. But there were causes for concern in the loss to the Titans, chief among them that the Pats were badly outplayed in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
By virtue of Pittsburgh's wild Week 11 win over the reeling Jaguars, the Patriots now find themselves the No. 3 seed in the AFC. As things stand today, they would do something the Pats rarely do: play on Wild Card Weekend.
Of course, there's still the matter of a Week 15 date in Pittsburgh with those Steelers.
The key now is to win the games ahead of that showdown.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-2-1)
Last Week: 4
Week 11 Result: Won 20-16 at Jacksonville Jaguars
Sunday's game in Jacksonville was a tale of two halves—halves that were polar opposites.
If you want to get technical, Jacksonville's dominance of the game continued into the third quarter. When Leonard Fournette scored to make it 16-0, it appeared the rout was on. Jacksonville's defense had been dominant, shutting out the Steelers and intercepting Ben Roethlisberger three times.
If NFL games were 40 minutes long, that would have been that...but they are not.
That the Steelers played so poorly for so long in this game is reason for a measure of concern. But the fact that the Steelers fired off 20 unanswered points to stun the Jags cements the team's status as one of the AFC's leading Super Bowl contenders.
"Just when everyone is ready to bury the Steelers after playing horrific football for three quarters against Jacksonville," Sobleski said, "the Jaguars remembered who they are and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with another significant fourth-quarter collapse. A win is a win. Pittsburgh is vulnerable, but it's also 7-2-1 with no competition among the other AFC North squads."
3. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2)
Last Week: 3
Week 11 Result: Lost 54-51 at Los Angeles Rams
The Kansas City Chiefs are an amazing offensive football team. In Monday's thriller vs. the Los Angeles Rams, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes passed for approximately all the yards ever with six touchdown tosses as well.
And yet, just as was the case in Kansas City's shootout loss to the New England Patriots earlier this season, the Chiefs came up short. Became the first team in the history of the NFL to score more than 50 points and lose.
Partly, it was a matter of the turnovers. The Chiefs had five, all by Mahomes. He fumbled twice and was intercepted three times.
But the big problem—the elephant in the room for these Chiefs—is a defense that allowed 54 points, 455 total yards and offered no resistance on L.A.'s game-winning drive.
"The Chiefs are a very good team," Davenport said. "One of the best in the NFL. But I just can't see them winning a Super Bowl with a defense this atrocious. In fact, given the franchise's history of postseason disappointment, I don't think as things stand today that KC will even get there."
However, Gagnon thinks the Chiefs could have a chance at revenge down the road.
"The Chiefs went toe-to-toe with the Rams on the road," he said. "I think it's a tossup between the two, but I still think KC has a minuscule edge at a neutral site."
2. Los Angeles Rams (10-1)
Last Week: 2
Week 11 Result: Won 54-51 vs. Kansas City
In the history of Monday Night Football—well over 700 games—two teams had never combined for 100 points.
In the history of the NFL, no team had ever scored 50-plus points and lost.
Both happened in Los Angeles in Week 11.
It sounds strange to laud a defense that allowed 51 points and surrendered a staggering 546 yards, but this was just that kind of game. You knew going in that the Chiefs and Rams would score—a lot. Winning this game depended on the defense making a play or two here and there that would decide things.
That was the Rams, who forced five turnovers and returned two for scores.
If that game was a Super Bowl preview, then Atlanta can't get here soon enough. It was without question one of the most wildly entertaining games we've ever seen—and we watch a lot of football.
The most important takeaway from that back-and-forth brouhaha isn't that the Rams have an explosive offense. We knew that.
It's that an LA defense that's been under siege a bit of late can make plays when it counts.
1. New Orleans Saints (9-1)
Last Week: 1
Week 11 Result: Won 48-7 vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Since losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1, the New Orleans Saints have been on a rampage that would make Godzilla proud. That the Saints have now won eight in a row is impressive. That the last five have all come against teams that had a winning record at the time is even more so—especially given it included a road win in Minnesota and a victory over the previously undefeated Rams.
But apparently that was just a lead-up to their masterpiece, a 48-7 beatdown of the defending Super Bowl champions. It marked the single worst loss that any such champion has ever suffered, according to the Fox broadcast team.
It's hard to say what was more frightening: how thoroughly the Saints destroyed the Eagles, or how easy it was to do it. It's bad enough that the New Orleans offense moves up and down the field at will. But when the defense plays at the level it did in Week 11, this team is all but unbeatable.
Through 11 weeks, the Saints are the no-doubt kings of the NFL.
Who dat, indeed,