NFL Power Rankings 2018: Week 13 Super Bowl Odds, Standings, Playoff Projections

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistNovember 28, 2018

Andrew Luck has led the Indianapolis Colts to a five-game winning streak.
Andrew Luck has led the Indianapolis Colts to a five-game winning streak.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

For festive folks eager to embrace the holidays, Thanksgiving serves as a socially accepted benchmark to put a tree inside the house and decorate the outside with lights. NFL fans instead can view late November as the time to start dissecting playoff scenarios.

With apologies to Jim Mora, it's time to talk about the playoffs. Five weeks remain to a season no longer bothered by byes, which makes it easier to gauge every team's place in the league's pecking order. 

This is usually the time to marvel over the game's resounding parity, but a clear top tier has developed. There are also at least a dozen teams clearly ill-equipped to handle a postseason pursuit, so the wild-card chase may prove less chaotic than usual.

After the Seattle Seahawks survived the Carolina Panthers and the Minnesota Vikings bested the Green Bay Packers, Week 12 could go a long way toward determining which NFC teams are still standing in early January. The AFC features six teams at 6-5 or 5-6, but a pair of streaking squads pose the biggest threats to the Baltimore Ravens.

Let's break down a few wild-card candidates after presenting the pre-Week 13 power rankings with playoff predictions and Super Bowl odds.


NFL Power Rankings

1. New Orleans Saints (10-1)

2. Los Angeles Rams (10-1)

3. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2)

4. Chicago Bears (8-3)

5. Los Angeles Chargers (8-3)

6. New England Patriots (8-3)

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3-1)

8. Houston Texans (8-3)

9. Minnesota Vikings (6-4-1)

10. Baltimore Ravens (6-5)

11. Indianapolis Colts (6-5)

12. Seattle Seahawks (6-5)

13. Dallas Cowboys (6-5)

14. Denver Broncos (5-6)

15. Carolina Panthers (6-5)

16. Washington (6-5)

17. Green Bay Packers (4-6-1)

18. Philadelphia Eagles (5-6)

19. Tennessee Titans (5-6)

20. Cleveland Browns (4-6-1)

21. Atlanta Falcons (4-7)

22. Miami Dolphins (5-6)

23. Cincinnati Bengals (5-6)

24. Detroit Lions (4-7)

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7)

26. Buffalo Bills (4-7)

27. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-8)

28. New York Giants (3-8) 

29. New York Jets (3-8)

30. San Francisco 49ers (2-9)

31. Oakland Raiders (2-9)

32. Arizona Cardinals (2-9)


Playoff Projections (and Odds to Win Super Bowl LIII)


1. Kansas City Chiefs (6-1)

2. New England Patriots (6-1)

3. Houston Texans (20-1)

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-1)

5. Los Angeles Chargers (14-1)

6. Indianapolis Colts (33-1)



1. New Orleans Saints (3-1)

2. Los Angeles Rams (16-5)

3. Chicago Bears (14-1)

4. Dallas Cowboys (33-1)

5. Seattle Seahawks (40-1)

6. Minnesota Vikings (20-1)


Note: Super Bowl odds, updated as of Tuesday night, are courtesy of OddsShark.


Wild-Card Contenders

Minnesota Vikings

Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings claimed control of the NFC's first wild-card spot after Sunday night's win over the Green Bay Packers.
Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings claimed control of the NFC's first wild-card spot after Sunday night's win over the Green Bay Packers.Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

The Vikings have already lost more games than last season (three). Yet Sunday night's win over the Packers gave them control of the NFC's first wild-card spot. 

According to ESPN's Courtney Cronin, their odds of reaching the playoffs jumped from 51 to 71 percent on ESPN's Football Power Index. They can't, however, celebrate too hard.

After staving off Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady's New England Patriots are next. They will then stay on the road to face the Seahawks, who could potentially jump them in the standings. Both represent mighty challenges for a team yet to beat anyone with a winning record all season.

A defense derailed by injuries finally looked recovered with Everson Griffen, Anthony Barr and Linval Joseph all back in the lineup. That was until Xavier Rhodes left Week 12's contest with a hamstring injury. 

Per Cronin, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said the star cornerback avoided a significant injury:

Courtney Cronin @CourtneyRCronin

Mike Zimmer says Xavier Rhodes' hamstring injury is "very, very mild" contrary to some reports out there that predicted otherwise.

Yet even a short-term absence will hurt the fifth-ranked passing defense heading into a matchup against Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowki. If Week 14's showdown at Seattle only alters seeding, there's still a big difference between facing the Chicago Bears and the NFC East champion in the Wild Card Round.

Nobody likes tying, but avoiding a Week 2 loss to Green Bay could save a playoff berth for Minnesota. The 6-5 Panthers must face the sizzling New Orleans Saints twice, and 6-5 Washington is likely to lose at least twice more without Alex Smith and Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff. 

If the Vikings can just go 3-2 down the stretch, 9-6-1 should do the trick. So don't count them out even if they lose their next two; they then get the Miami Dolphins, Detroit Lions and a Bears team that might not have anything on the line in Week 17.


Indianapolis Colts

Rookie guard Quenton Nelson has bolstered the Colts offensive line.
Rookie guard Quenton Nelson has bolstered the Colts offensive line.Rob Carr/Getty Images

Appearing down for the count at 1-5, the Colts have turned their season around during a five-game winning streak. The strength of schedule, however, places their legitimacy into question.

Their five victims (Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills and Dolphins) are a combined 19-36 with an average point differential of minus-77. While they handily took care of business in three blowouts, they also squeaked out three-point triumphs against the sinking Jaguars and Dolphins.

Opponents aside, Andrew Luck's recent play inspires confidence. He has posted a quarterback rating above 109.0 in each of the last five games with a 75.8 completion percentage and 8.9 yards per pass attempt. 


Andrew Luck is playing out of his mind right now. 😲 https://t.co/YMZklhwViH

He's not single-handedly carrying a subpar squad either. A formerly maligned offensive line has permitted only one sack during the winning streak. While first-round pick Quenton Nelson has shielded his passer at left guard, second-round pick Darius Leonard has anchored their defense with an NFL-high 114 tackles. Nobody else has reached triple digits.

Luck and Co. are not exactly about to run into a gauntlet of juggernauts in December. This Sunday, they get a crack at the Jaguars, who have not won since Week 4 and will start Cody Kessler in place of Blake Bortles. They close the season with winnable games against the Giants and Titans, whom they beat by 28 in Week 11.

The two matchups in between will likely determine the status of their playoff application. The Houston Texans commenced their eight-game winning streak with a 37-34 overtime win at Indianapolis. Although not the strongest of possible division champions, the Dallas Cowboys have won three straight with Amari Cooper igniting their offense.

The Ravens, meanwhile, face road games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers before the season concludes. Although the Colts wouldn't make much playoff noise, they have a solid shot of taking the AFC's final spot.


Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos have stormed back into the playoff race with wins over the Los Angeles Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Denver Broncos have stormed back into the playoff race with wins over the Los Angeles Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers.Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

While the Colts have capitalized on a cupcake schedule, the Denver Broncos fell to a tough-luck 3-6 with four defeats of seven points of fewer at the hands of division leaders (Los Angeles Rams, Texans and two to the Chiefs). They held the Rams to their lowest point tally (23) of the season while limiting the Chiefs—who are averaging 36.7 points per game—to 57 combined points in both encounters.

Two more tough matchups against the likely playoff-bound Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers figured to put them out of their misery. Their fortune instead swung in another pair of close calls.

In a game where Chargers kicker Michael Badgley missed an extra point, Denver secured a 23-22 triumph with a last-second field goal from Brandon McManus. They then withstood Ben Roethlisberger's 462 passing yards to cement a monumental 24-17 win.

Just like that, the Broncos must be taken seriously as a potential playoff challenger.

According to Football Outsiders, the AFC West club climbed to No. 6 in Defensive-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) prior to Week 12's win over the Steelers, who fell to No. 7. The Chargers place No. 4 after trouncing the Arizona Cardinals. 

Per Ryan O'Halloran of the Denver Post, Broncos head coach Vance Joseph lamented some earlier near misses that forced them into early survival mode.

"We understand where we've been," Joseph said. "The guys are still (ticked) off we're not better. That's the way I feel when we win these games. I look at the Houston game and say, 'OK, this is nice, but what happened against Houston?' We have to make better happen. (A) 5-6 (record) is not satisfying for them and not for me, especially. Let's get to 6-6 and see how that feels."

After already playing eight games against postseason contenders, the schedule gets much easier. While the Cincinnati Bengals are also 5-6, they have lost five of their last six games and must play without Andy Dalton, who went on the injured reserve with a thumb injury.

The Broncos then get the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns and Raiders before closing out the season against the Chargers, who could potentially have clinched the No. 5 seed by Week 17. Yet before assuming the Broncos will take care of business, consider they were also pummeled by the New York Jets (34-16) and needed a late rally to fend off Oakland in Week 2.

One more loss may be enough to require help along the way. The improving Browns are particularly a threat to spoil their comeback.