NFL Power Rankings: B/R's Consensus Rank for Every Team Entering Week 13
Week 12 in the NFL had something for everyone.
If you like statement wins, the San Francisco 49ers certainly provided one, burying the Green Bay Packers in Santa Clara in an impressive victory that established the Niners as the NFC's best team.
Then the Baltimore Ravens one-upped them, demolishing the Los Angeles Rams at the Coliseum in a game that featured yet another jaw-dropping performance from Lamar Jackson.
If squeakers are more your style, the New Orleans Saints had you covered. The Saints nearly fell at home to the Carolina Panthers, but thanks to a missed kick and some late-game heroics from Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara, New Orleans moved to 9-2 on the season.
If you're a fan of the upset special, then the New York Jets were the team to watch. It's not just that the Jets knocked off a surging Oakland Raiders team at MetLife Stadium—the Jets blasted the Raiders 34-3.
The Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans kept on winning. The Cincinnati Bengals and Detroit Lions kept right on losing. And Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson put a bow on the week by putting on another show in Los Angeles.
As has been the case every week during the 2019 season, Bleacher Report analysts Brad Gagnon, Brent Sobleski and Gary Davenport have gotten together to sift through the action in Week 12 and rank the NFL's teams from bottom to top.
There was some shake-up in the top 10, but we'll kick things off with a team that has locked down the No. 32 spot for the past several weeks.
It isn't losing that ranking anytime soon—because all it's done all season long is lose.
32. Cincinnati Bengals (0-11)
Last Week: 32
Week 12 Result: Lost vs. Pittsburgh 16-10
The Cincinnati Bengals need a hug.
By virtue of Sunday's six-point loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers JV team, the Bengals have set a new franchise record for futility. No Bengals team had ever started a season 0-11. No Bengals team had ever lost more than 10 consecutive games.
No Bengals team has ever been this bad—and given the franchise's history, that's saying something.
"It's just defeating to lose, period," head coach Zac Taylor told reporters. "I don't really care about the stats or the records. When you're competitive and you've put everything you've got into it, to lose is the worst feeling there is."
At this point, Taylor is probably missing his old job as the quarterbacks coach for the Los Angeles Rams, and fans of the Bengals are looking for any kind of silver lining.
The best we can offer is that Cincinnati now has a two-game lead in the race for the first pick in the 2020 draft.
"The best possible scenario is falling in place for the Bengals even though they've endured an 0-11 start," Sobleski wrote. "Sure, they probably should have won Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and every team deserves to win at least one game for all of the work they put into a season. But the Bengals now have a two-game edge for the No. 1 overall pick since the Washington Redskins won their second contest. Cincinnati might be able to squeeze out one victory at some point and not worry about losing either its future franchise QB (LSU's Joe Burrow) or an elite pass-rusher (Ohio State's Chase Young)."
31. New York Giants (2-9)
Last Week: 30
Week 12 Result: Lost at Chicago 19-14
At this point, there's one thing that can't be disputed regarding the New York Giants in 2019. It's something that fans of the storied franchise are no doubt horrified by but must now accept.
The Giants are worse than the Jets. Significantly worse.
The biggest bright spot from Sunday's loss to the Chicago Bears is that rookie quarterback Daniel Jones managed to avoid throwing any more interceptions—in a game where he threw for all of 150 yards and lost a fumble.
The Giants had just 243 yards of offense. Tailback Saquon Barkley averaged just 3.5 yards per carry. New York's awful defense nearly made Mitchell Trubisky of the Bears look like a competent quarterback.
As they are presently constructed, the Giants are an abjectly terrible football team—especially on defense. About the best thing that could happen to Big Blue is to somehow land the second overall pick and pray on bended knee that the Bengals take a quarterback at No. 1 so the Giants can nab Ohio State powerhouse Chase Young.
It won't—New York can't get that lucky.
30. Miami Dolphins (2-9)
Last Week: 29
Week 12 Result: Lost at Cleveland 41-24
To their credit, the Miami Dolphins had been playing better of late. The Dolphins even managed to peel off a couple of wins against the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts.
But Sunday's 17-point loss in Cleveland was a reminder that, effort level aside, the Dolphins are probably the most talent-deficient team in the NFL.
Of Miami's 92 rushing yards Sunday, almost half came from the legs of veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Dolphins defense was shredded to the tune of 41 points and 467 yards of total offense. Miami didn't do itself any favors either—the team committed two turnovers and piled up 94 yards' worth of penalties.
Frankly, it can be argued that the best-case scenario for the Dolphins is to lose every game the rest of the way. By virtue of all the team's wheeling and dealing this season, the Dolphins have three first-round picks this year—the highest of which will be their own.
The Cincinnati Bengals are on a collision course with the first overall pick, but with Washington's win in Week 12, the second overall pick is up for grabs.
That pick could be used on the quarterback (with all due respect to Fitzpatrick and his glorious beard) the team so desperately needs.
29. Washington Redskins (2-9)
Last Week: 31
Week 12 Result: Won vs. Detroit 19-16
With just one victory on the season entering Week 12, the Washington Redskins aren't used to winning. Rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins had never tasted victory as a starter.
Still, it was a little strange that veteran Case Keenum was pressed into action for the last play of Sunday's win over the Detroit Lions because Haskins was preoccupied with taking selfies with fans.
That wasn't a good look for Haskins. Neither were his stats for the day—the youngster from Ohio State completed fewer than half of his passes for 156 yards and an interception. His passer rating was a moribund 47.5.
The Redskins managed just 230 yards of total offense and gained 3.6 yards a carry. Were it not for four Lions turnovers, Washington likely would have fallen to 1-10.
The Redskins got a W—but this is still a terrible football team.
28. Denver Broncos (3-8)
Last Week: 26
Week 12 Result: Lost at Buffalo 20-3
The Denver Broncos weren't able to close out the Minnesota Vikings in Week 11 after building a 20-0 lead, but it looked like the offense had discovered a little something under young quarterback Brandon Allen.
Whatever the Broncos discovered, they forgot to take it to Buffalo.
Granted, the Bills defense is no joke, but the Broncos were miserable on offense in Week 12. The Broncos had 134 yards of total offense and nine first downs. By weight of comparison, the Bills had 424 and 22, respectively.
At 3-8, the Broncos are two defeats shy of dropping double-digit games for the third consecutive season—a feat the team hasn't accomplished since the AFL days of 1965-67. The Broncos are literally worse off than at any point since the team joined the NFL four decades ago.
"The final leg of the Broncos' schedule serves only one purpose," Sobleski said. "Can Vic Fangio do enough to save his job? At 3-8 after Vance Joseph provided 11 wins in two years before getting fired, Fangio is well on his way to becoming a one-and-done head coach. Denver's upcoming opponents—the Chargers, Texans, Chiefs, Lions and Raiders—don't stack up in Fangio's favor either."
John Elway is a franchise legend. He's the Denver Bronco.
From all indications, he's also a bad general manager—and if Denver wants to turn things around, the team needs to figure out a way to make a change while allowing Elway to save face.
27. Detroit Lions (3-7-1)
Last Week: 27
Week 12 Result: Lost at Washington 19-16
This is what rock bottom looks like.
In the majority of their games this year, the Detroit Lions have held a lead. But after falling in Washington to a one-win Redskins team, the Lions have now lost four in a row and seven of eight. Head coach Matt Patricia admitted all the losses are wearing on the team.
"I absolutely hate losing," Patricia told reporters. "I'm a super competitive person. I can't stand it. It gets [to] me. Like everybody, like all of us, you have to turn around and get ready for the next one. You can't really stay in that mode for too long. You just have to keep working harder, try to get better, try to fix it."
The problems is that the Lions aren't getting better. The team has a .333 winning percentage since Patricia took over as head coach.
With a quick turnaround ahead of a Thanksgiving meeting with the Bears, Gagnon thinks Patricia's tenure as coach may be coming to an end.
"I don't care who's hurt on offense," he said. "You can't lose to this edition of the Washington Redskins and call yourself a decent team. The Lions have held a lead in all but three games this season and have just three wins. We can already conclude that Matt Patricia was a bad hire."
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7)
Last Week: 24
Week 12 Result: Lost at Tennessee 42-20
The Jaguars are done. Finished. Through. Not only is Jacksonville not a contender, but based on the expectations entering the season, the Jags are also headed in the wrong direction.
Yes, Nick Foles spent the first half of the season nursing a broken collarbone. But Jacksonville's $22 million quarterback has been little more than OK since returning. Against the Titans, Foles attempted 48 passes—none of which found the end zone.
The calls have already started for rookie Gardner Minshew II to supplant Foles under center.
But at least Foles has been OK. The Jaguars' once-vaunted defense can't even claim that. The Jaguars were once again abused by Tennessee tailback Derrick Henry, who averaged over eight yards a carry and peeled off a 74-yard touchdown run. The Jacksonville secondary gave up 259 passing yards to Ryan Tannehill on just 18 attempts.
The Jaguars are a mess. And Doug Marrone's tenure as head coach is more than likely winding down.
25. Atlanta Falcons (3-8)
Last Week: 22
Week 12 Result: Lost vs. Tampa Bay 35-22
After trashing the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers on the road the past two weeks, it looked like the Atlanta Falcons had figured something out. That perhaps a late rebound was in the offing.
Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the issues that plagued Atlanta over its 1-7 start were back in evidence. The offense was inconsistent and error-prone, turning the ball over twice and going just 4-of-16 on third down. A defense that had played much better over that mini-winning streak faltered badly, allowing 446 yards and failing to record a sack.
The loss guarantees the Falcons won't have a winning season. And in one analyst's opinion, it also sealed Dan Quinn's fate as head coach.
"The Falcons have too much talent on both sides of the ball to play this poorly," Davenport said. "And it's hardly the first time this season it has happened. The Falcons have been in a steady decline ever since blowing that big lead against the Patriots in the Super Bowl, and it's time for a reset at the top."
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7)
Last Week: 25
Week 12 Result: Won at Atlanta 35-22
Tampa Bay's 13-point win over the Atlanta Falcons perfectly encapsulated the career of Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston—for better or worse.
On one hand, Winston played well for the most part. The fifth-year veteran passed for 313 yards and three touchdowns, outplaying Matt Ryan while combining with wide receiver Chris Godwin for a seven-reception, 184-yard, two-score explosion.
On the other hand, Winston threw two more interceptions against the Falcons, bumping his league-leading total to 20 through 11 games. At this rate, Winston will throw 29 interceptions in 2019, a number that would tie Brett Favre (2005) for the most thrown in the NFL the past three decades.
"As great as Winston can be throwing the football in spurts," Davenport said, "the Buccaneers would be foolish to extend the first overall pick in the 2015 draft in the offseason. You cannot win with any consistency in today's NFL when your quarterback turns the ball over multiple times every game. This isn't to say some team won't convince itself it can 'fix' Winston. But it can't—he's a turnover machine…period."
23. Arizona Cardinals (3-7-1)
Last Week: 23
Week 12 Result: Bye Week
There's an old adage in the NFL that you're exactly as good as your record. By that measure, it hasn't been a good season for the Arizona Cardinals.
However, look a little deeper, and there are reasons for optimism with the Cardinals—at least where the future is concerned.
Rookie quarterback Kyler Murray has been solid, completing almost 65 percent of his passes for over 2,700 yards with a plus-nine touchdown-to-interception ratio and a passer rating of over 90. Edge-rusher Chandler Jones continues to be arguably the most underrated player at his position in the league, pacing the NFL with 12.5 sacks entering Week 12. Young players like safety Budda Baker and wide receiver Christian Kirk have stepped into prominent roles.
This Redbirds team twice gave the San Francisco 49ers all they could handle. While Arizona couldn't seal the deal in those games, with another offseason to improve, it could make a legitimate run at a playoff spot in 2020.
22. Los Angeles Chargers (4-7)
Last Week: 20
Week 12 Result: Bye Week
We may be nearing the end of an era for the Chargers.
The Bolts entered the 2019 season with lofty expectations after going 12-4 and winning a playoff game last year. The team hasn't come close to fulfilling those expectations, losing seven games in just about every soul-crushing way imaginable. All seven losses have been in one-score games.
One of the biggest reasons for all those close losses is the inescapable and depressing reality that in the last year of his contract, quarterback Philip Rivers hasn't played very well.
Rivers has already thrown more interceptions in 11 games (14) than in either of the last two seasons. His passer rating of 85.5 is his lowest in well over a decade. As Rivers comes off a four-interception effort against the Kansas City Chiefs in Mexico City, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports there's a real chance his 16th season with the Chargers will be his last:
"There have been no inroads toward a contract extension, sources said, and none planned. Rivers is a potential future Hall of Famer, and one of the most impactful players in franchise history, but his relationship with some in the organization has frayed a bit in recent years. It is far from a foregone conclusion that he is back in 2020, and ownership may be inclined to go in a different direction, the sources said."
That's the kind of year it's been for the Chargers.
21. New York Jets (4-7)
Last Week: 28
Week 12 Result: Won vs. Oakland 34-3
Sometimes, things happen in the NFL that leave you scratching your head. One of those things most assuredly happened Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
It's not just that the New York Jets downed the Oakland Raiders. While the Raiders had peeled off three wins in a row to get to 6-4, the Jets had quietly put together a two-game winning streak of their own.
But the Jets laid waste to a Raiders team that had worked its way into playoff contention. They outgained Oakland by almost 200 yards, forced a pair of turnovers, shut down rookie tailback Josh Jacobs and so embarrassed the Raiders that the team raised the white flag and pulled quarterback Derek Carr in the third quarter.
The Jets won't be going to the playoffs in 2019. And the team still has issues. But in addition to now winning three straight, they now have a pair of victories over teams with winning records this season.
The Jets might not be good yet.
But they appear to be better than we thought.
20. Oakland Raiders (6-5)
Last Week: 13
Week 12 Result: Lost at New York Jets 34-3
Coming off three straight wins, the bandwagon for the Oakland Raiders was picking up steam heading into Week 12. The "P" word was being thrown around in regard to a team from which not much was expected this season.
At MetLife Stadium, that bandwagon veered off the road, careened into a ditch, flipped 37 times and burst into flames. And after the Raiders were destroyed 34-3 by a three-win Jets team, the only "P" word being bandied about was pathetic.
Or maybe putrid. Pitiful works too.
The Raiders were dominated in every way Sunday. Oakland barely cleared 200 yards of total offense and managed just 3.1 yards per carry. On defense, the Raiders were gashed for 401 yards, allowed over 300 yards through the air and couldn't generate any pass rush against one of the most porous offensive lines in the NFL.
This game was supposed to be a tune-up of sorts ahead of a huge Week 13 showdown with the Chiefs at Arrowhead. Instead, the Raiders got tuned up and look a lot more like an also-ran than a legit contender.
"Oakland has now surrendered 56 more points than it has scored," Gagnon wrote. "The only teams worse off in that category are the Dolphins, Bengals, Redskins, Giants, Cardinals and Jets. We were probably overrating the Raiders to begin with. This team has far too many flaws to be considered a contender."
19. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)
Last Week: 18
Week 12 Result: Won at Cincinnati 16-10
There's good news and bad news for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The good news is that Sunday's win in Cincinnati, coupled with the Raiders' blowout loss to the New York Jets, vaults the Steelers into the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC.
The bad news is that even if the Steelers somehow make the playoffs, their stay will likely be brief.
Pittsburgh's injury issues on offense have become almost laughable. The latest starter to go down was quarterback Mason Rudolph, who sprained his pride when he was benched after a second straight awful outing against the Bengals.
For the second time this season, duck caller extraordinaire Devlin Hodges led the Steelers to a win. And Gagnon thinks leaving him out there the rest of the way is the right course of action.
"I'm not about to crown the Steelers for a six-point win over the horrendous Bengals," he said, "but they get extra credit for realizing the offense runs better with the seemingly more disciplined Devlin Hodges at quarterback. When your defense is that talented, the key is to avoid screwing it up on offense. Hodges is better at that, and he and the Steelers could have a chance to sneak into the playoffs under this arrangement."
18. Carolina Panthers (5-6)
Last Week: 17
Week 12 Result: Lost at New Orleans 34-31
After getting wrecked by the Atlanta Falcons last week for their third loss in four games, the Panthers desperately needed a win. The team was on the cusp of getting one, too—it was a 28-yard chip shot from stunning the Saints in New Orleans.
But young kicker Joey Slye missed, Wil Lutz of the Saints did not and now the Panthers are a 5-6 football team and effectively toast where the postseason is concerned.
That begs the question of what changes could be coming in 2020. Quarterback Cam Newton is hurt. The young signal-caller who replaced him (Kyle Allen) played well in Week 12 but has struggled of late. Carolina's defense has been carved up with ease in recent weeks. And the Panthers are headed for missing the playoffs for the second year in a row and third time in four seasons since losing Super Bowl 50.
Before Sunday's game, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported that Panthers ownership would evaluate head coach Ron Rivera after the 2019 season.
It's shaping up to be his last in Charlotte.
17. Chicago Bears (5-6)
Last Week: 19
Week 12 Result: Won vs. New York Giants 19-14
If anyone figures out how this Chicago Bears team won 12 games and the NFC North last year, let us know—because after seeing the mess these Bears have become, that is a genuine mystery.
To their credit, the Chicago defense played well against the Giants, surrendering just 243 yards of total offense. But the Bears were the same mess offensively that they've been most of the season. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky threw for 278 yards, but he also tossed a pair of interceptions, and the Bears averaged all of 2.5 yards a carry.
The Bears now have a quick turnaround before facing a bad Lions team on Thanksgiving. If the Bears win that game, they'll get back to .500 and stay marginally alive for the playoffs. But Davenport is ready to stick in a fork in this team.
"All a win Sunday against the Giants and another on Thursday against the Lions will do is prolong the inevitable," he said. "The Bears aren't good—because the offense is terrible. The question is going to be what the Bears are willing to do to try to fix that offense in the offseason. In order to truly do so, Chicago needs to seriously consider making a change under center. Trubisky is just not the guy."
"Instead of telling everyone how the Bears are still technically in the playoff hunt but they have a lot to rectify, Mitchell Trubisky can do it for us," Sobleski added. "'We've got to be better in the red zone, we've got to be better on third down, we've got to be better on offense.' Yep, that pretty much sums up the Bears' current situation."
16. Cleveland Browns (5-6)
Last Week: 21
Week 12 Result: Won vs. Miami 41-24
The Cleveland Browns are starting to look like the team so many people expected to see in 2019.
Against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, the Browns were a buzz saw offensively. Quarterback Baker Mayfield topped 300 yards through the air and tossed three scoring strikes. Tailback Nick Chubb went over 100 yards on the ground with a touchdown. Wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry combined for 16 catches for 232 yards and three scores.
It was a window into what the Cleveland offense could be capable of. The defense wasn't as impressive, but that's understandable given the injuries and suspensions that left them short-handed.
After a miserable 2-6 start, the Browns have now peeled off three wins in a row to move within a game of .500 and the sixth seed in the AFC. Cleveland will have a chance to move even closer next Sunday when they travel to Pittsburgh to face the 6-5 Steelers.
Given all the happenings against Pittsburgh in Week 11, that game won't be short on subplots…or emotion.
"The Browns still have trouble getting out of their own way," Davenport said, "but if they can down the Steelers next week, the schedule is manageable down the stretch. Not that long ago you'd have been laughed at for suggesting this team could challenge for a playoff spot, but that's not out of the question now."
15. Philadelphia Eagles (5-6)
Last Week: 15
Week 12 Result: Lost vs. Seattle 17-9
At some point, enough is enough.
The Philadelphia Eagles have been blasted by injuries of late on offense. They went into Sunday's matchup with the Seattle Seahawks short their top three wide receivers. And two starters on the offensive line. And the team's leading rusher.
Other than that, they're fine.
The game went about as you'd expect. Philadelphia couldn't move the ball consistently, and in those instances where the team could, it turned the ball over.
Five times, to be precise.
As bad as things have gotten for the Eagles, the team's playoff chances aren't dead. Since the Cowboys fell later Sunday at Gillette Stadium, they remain one game out of first place despite a sub-.500 record. The Cowboys are the only team Philly faces the rest of the way that has a winning record. The Eagles have two games with the miserable Giants, one with the Redskins and a Week 13 date in Miami.
But they haven't been able to generate any continued momentum all season long.
Even with that slate of cupcakes, they are at best a one-and-done division "champion."
14. Los Angeles Rams (6-5)
Next Week: 12
Week 12 Result: Lost vs. Baltimore 45-6
The Los Angeles Rams are done. Cooked. Toast.
In an NFC where the No. 6 seed already has eight wins, the Rams weren't necessarily in "must-win" mode Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens. But they had to show something to indicate this team could make a second-half run.
Instead, Los Angeles got its doors blown off.
Defensively, the Rams had no answer whatsoever for Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who threw five touchdown passes. A run defense that entered Week 12 ranked inside the top five was shredded for a jaw-dropping 285 yards.
Offensively, the Rams continue to look nothing at all like the juggernaut we saw just one year ago. Jared Goff threw for just 212 yards and was intercepted twice. Los Angeles didn't pass 200 yards of total offense until fourth-quarter garbage time.
The Rams aren't going to make the postseason in 2019. And given all the money the team has wrapped up in a running back and quarterback who have both experienced massive regressions this year, it's fair to wonder if 2020 will be any better.
13. Tennessee Titans (6-5)
Last Week: 16
Week 12 Result: Won vs. Jacksonville Jaguars 42-20
Don't look now, but here come the Tennessee Titans.
After blasting the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, the Titans are 6-5 and tied with the Indianapolis Colts for second place in the AFC South, one back of the Houston Texans.
The Titans are getting hot at the perfect time. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill continued his torrid play of late, throwing for two scores, running for two more and posting a nearly-perfect passer rating of 155.8. Tailback Derrick Henry once again embarrassed the Jaguars, rumbling for 159 yards and two scores on just 19 carries.
As Gagnon wrote, it's become something of an annual thing with the Titans: The team spends most of the year around .500 before flirting with the postseason thanks to a late surge.
"I wouldn't say I believe in the Titans, but they always find a way to finish in contention with a winning record, and it looks as though that'll be the case again this year," he said. "Back-to-back impressive wins have them in the thick of things in the shallow AFC. They have the talent to win in January if everything clicks."
If Tennessee can make it three in a row and five out of six Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, things could get really interesting in the AFC South.
12. Dallas Cowboys (6-5)
Last Week: 9
Week 12 Result: Lost at New England 13-9
The Dallas Cowboys are paper tigers.
For the fourth time this season, the Cowboys faced a team with a winning record Sunday in New England. And for the fourth time this season, Dallas lost.
After falling yet again to a good team, team owner Jerry Jones didn't hide his displeasure with how the Cowboys performed when speaking to reporters:
"Make no mistake about it, this was a bigger game [for the Cowboys] than it was for the Patriots on the win column. We had an opportunity to establish something. There is no gratification getting down to the last drive with it determining the outcome of the game. That is not the point. You can't be satisfied with how we got out there."
Yes, the weather was awful. But this was a game where top wide receiver Amari Cooper was targeted just twice and didn't catch a pass. Where the Cowboys bizarrely kicked a field goal down seven late in the fourth quarter of a game where they struggled to move the ball.
The Cowboys had a golden opportunity to both put some distance between themselves and the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East and send a message that Dallas is a legit contender in the NFC.
Just as they have every time they've faced a good team this year, the Cowboys blew it.
11. Buffalo Bills (8-3)
Last Week: 14
Week 12 Result: Won vs. Denver 20-3
In many respects, the fact that Frank Gore passed Barry Sanders for No. 3 on the NFL's all-time rushing list while playing for the Buffalo Bills is apt.
Like Gore has been for most of a career that will probably land him in Canton one day, the Bills have been very good in 2019. Buffalo's decisive win over the Broncos on Sunday gives the team a two-game lead over the sixth-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers with five to play. Barring a total collapse, the Bills are going to make the playoffs as the AFC's top wild card.
"Buffalo continues to take advantage of a weak schedule," Sobleski said. "As a result, the Bills own the AFC's third-best record and inside track to the top wild-card playoff spot. Yes, Buffalo has concern areas and struggled against the better teams it faced, yet the team deserves credit for winning the games it should win. Sure, the Bills might be one-and-done in the playoffs, but that's something to worry about for another time."
That's the thing. Like Gore has been for much of his career, the Bills are widely considered good—but not great. You'd be hard-pressed to find a pundit who thinks this team can hang with the Patriots, Ravens and Chiefs in the postseason.
We're about to find out just how good the Bills are, though. Thursday's Turkey Day trip to Dallas kicks off a nasty four-game stretch that features a home date with the Ravens and trips to face the Cowboys, Steelers and Patriots before wrapping up the regular season at home against the Jets.
If the Bills want respect, here comes an opportunity to earn it.
10. Indianapolis Colts (6-5)
Last Week: 10
Week 12 Result: Lost at Houston 20-17
Indy's trip to Houston in Week 12 presented the Colts with a golden opportunity. Down the Texans for the second time in 2019, and the Colts would essentially have a two-game lead in the division with just five games remaining in the season.
That didn't happen—largely because the Colts put forth a flat performance offensively. The team managed fewer than 300 total yards of offense and just 121 passing yards against a leaky Texans secondary despite the return of wideout T.Y. Hilton.
The Colts had success running the ball even without Marlon Mack, but they all but abandoned the passing game from the get-go. They attempted just 25 passes in the game against 39 carries—and most were of the "dink and dunk" variety (4.7 yards per attempt).
It was a disappointing performance in arguably the team's biggest game of the year. While the Colts are by no means out of it in the AFC South, they have precious little margin for error.
9. Houston Texans (7-4)
Last Week: 11
Week 12 Result: Won vs. Indianapolis 20-17
After the Houston Texans got drilled in Baltimore in Week 11, Thursday's tilt with the rival Colts was something of a must-win. After Indy won the first meeting between the teams, the Texans would have effectively have been two back in the AFC South with a loss.
Thanks to some deep-ball heroics from star quarterback Deshaun Watson and big games from wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller V, the Texans got the victory they so badly needed. At 7-4, the Texans are in the driver's seat in the division with five to play.
However, Davenport has his doubts about how long the Texans will stay there.
"The Texans have a ton of offensive firepower," he said. "And Watson is as good as any young quarterback in the NFL. But the same problems that got the Texans rolled by the Ravens are still there—namely a suspect offensive line and secondary. Houston has the Patriots coming up in Week 13 and two meetings with the Tennessee Titans over the season's final month. This feels like another '10-6, bounced in the first round of the playoffs' season in Houston. Given the expectations this team had and the 'win now' mentality exhibited by all its wheeling and dealing in 2019, that's a disappointing conclusion to the season."
8. Green Bay Packers (8-3)
Last Week: 6
Week 12 Result: Lost vs. San Francisco 37-8
The Green Bay Packers traveled to San Francisco in Week 12 with an opportunity to establish themselves as the team to beat in the NFC.
They left trying to remember the license plate of the truck that splattered them all over the turf at Levi's Stadium.
Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur didn't sugarcoat things after the Packers were destroyed in a game where they didn't have 200 yards of total offense.
"We got outcoached and we got outplayed, and we've got to man up," LaFleur told reporters. "We've got to look at ourselves critically and get a lot of stuff corrected, and we've got to be honest with ourselves. It wasn't nearly good enough."
For Davenport, this was more than a matter of one bad game—the blowout loss exposed an even bigger problem for the Packers.
"The installation of Matt LaFleur at head coach was supposed to provide a jolt to an offense that had become stale and predictable under Mike McCarthy," he said. "But time after time Sunday night, the 49ers appeared to know what was coming before the Packers even ran the play. The man conducting the band may be different in 2019, but the song remains the same old bland tune. And that could mean big trouble for Green Bay down the stretch and into the postseason."
7. Minnesota Vikings (8-3)
Last Week: 8
Week 12 Result: Bye Week
In most seasons, the 8-3 Minnesota Vikings would be considered among the leading Super Bowl contenders in the conference. But in a year where the NFC is positively stacked with good teams, the Vikings entered Week 12 as the No. 6 seed if the playoffs began today.
There are reasons for a measure of concern with the Vikes. Minnesota had to stage a furious rally last week to defeat a flawed Denver Broncos team, and the Vikings have struggled away from U.S. Bank Stadium—all three losses came outdoors.
However, they also have the makings of a formidable squad. Quarterback Kirk Cousins is playing well. The cadre of skill-position talent at his disposal is deep and talented. The defense has talent at all three levels.
Minnesota has little margin for error given its road struggles. It's much easier to imagine this team makes a deep playoff run if it can catch the Packers in the NFC North than if it has to travel on Wild Card Weekend.
6. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
Last Week: 7
Week 12 Result: Bye Week
There's a familiar refrain developing with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019.
There's no doubt the Chiefs have one of the NFL's most explosive offenses. The Chiefs sport the reigning NFL MVP in Patrick Mahomes and a receiving corps so loaded with field-stretching game-breakers that the unit has given itself a moniker—the Legion of Zoom.
We won't get into the whole giving yourself a nickname thing.
But just as it was last year, the defense in Kansas City has been an issue. That defense is better, but given how bad it was in 2018, that's not necessarily saying a lot. Entering Sunday's action, the Chiefs were 26th in the NFL in total defense, 30th against the run and 24th in scoring defense. It's put Mahomes in a position both familiar and unpleasant—forced to post big stat lines week in and week out.
It's not going to stop the Chiefs from making the playoffs. A win next week against the suddenly reeling Raiders would give the team a stranglehold on the AFC West.
But we've already seen what happens when a deeply flawed Chiefs defense runs into a good team in the postseason.
It doesn't end well.
5. New Orleans Saints (9-2)
Last Week: 4
Week 12 Result: Won vs. Carolina 34-31
For a little while Sunday, it looked like the New Orleans Saints were about to fall at home to an inferior (in terms of record) division opponent for the second time in three games.
But a missed kick, some late heroics from Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara, and the sure-footedness of kicker Wil Lutz snuck the Saints past the Carolina Panthers in Week 12—and in doing so all but handed the NFC South to New Orleans again.
The Saints haven't racked up style points the past few weeks. They looked awful in a loss to Atlanta in Week 10 and didn't play their best football against Tampa last week or the Panthers on Sunday.
But there are a couple of mitigating factors. Quarterback Drew Brees is still working his way back from hand surgery. The Saints have been without top cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who has a hamstring injury. And the last two weeks at least, they found a way to win.
"The Saints have a tenuous grasp of a top spot based on their recent play," Sobleski said. "New Orleans' loss to the Atlanta Falcons two weeks ago can be excused. Even the best teams falter once or twice throughout a long regular season. But New Orleans should have lost to Carolina too. A missed 28-yard field Joey Slye field goal is the only reason why the Saints haven't lost two of their last three games. But Drew Brees and Co. found a way to win late—which is a positive and keeps them among the top five overall."
Next up is a rematch with the Falcons in Atlanta, followed by a huge date at the Superdome with the one-loss San Francisco 49ers that could mean home field throughout the NFC playoffs for the victor.
4. Seattle Seahawks (9-2)
Last Week: 5
Week 12 Result: Won at Philadelphia 17-9
We know the Seattle Seahawks are a good team. A very good team.
It's time to start considering whether the Seahawks might be the best team in the NFC—if not all of the NFL.
Fresh off handing the San Francisco 49ers their first loss of the season, the Seahawks traveled east and took care of the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 12 to move to 9-2. It wasn't a decisive victory, but any time a West Coast team takes care of business against a quality opponent in a 1 p.m. ET start, that's an impressive win.
Yes, the Seahawks have losses at home to two NFL powers in the New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens. But Seattle has gone undefeated on the road, and Gagnon could imagine the team takes the show on the road to Miami in February.
"They're now 6-0 on the road this season, with wins in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, San Francisco and Philadelphia," he said. "This team has been here, done this. It is mentally strong and has few glaring weak spots. Wouldn't be surprised at all to see them in the Super Bowl."
3. New England Patriots (10-1)
Last Week: 3
Week 12 Result: Won vs. Dallas 13-9
The New England Patriots scored just 13 points Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys—and won.
The New England Patriots managed just 282 yards of total offense in Week 12—and won.
In weather conditions that can best be described as icky, Tom Brady completed less than half his passes for just 190 yards—and the Patriots won.
There's been no shortage of hand-wringing regarding New England's scuffling offense, but the Pats were still the first team in the AFC to reach the 10-win mark, and Davenport remains unworried about the Patriots' ability to hang with the league's best teams once the playoffs roll around.
"Tom Brady is old," he said. "The receivers are a mess. The offense is 13 packets of weak sauce. Blah blah blah. New England's defense is as good as any in the NFL, and last I checked, the Patriots have a quarterback and head coach who have lofted the Lombardi Trophy half a dozen times. Never mind that as things stand today, the Pats would have home field in the AFC playoffs, and beating the Patriots at Gillette is next to impossible. Are the Patriots playing the best football in the AFC? No. But they remain the team to beat in that conference until someone beats them in the postseason."
2. San Francisco 49ers (10-1)
Last Week: 2
Week 12 Result: Won vs. Green Bay 37-8
The San Francisco 49ers sent one heck of a message Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers.
It's not just that the 49ers beat the Packers. The Niners positively demolished an 8-2 Packers team. There wasn't a facet of the game where the 49ers didn't destroy the Pack. Offensively, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was nearly perfect, and the team averaged over five yards a carry. Defensively, San Francisco sacked Aaron Rodgers five times and limited him to 104 passing yards. Green Bay had fewer than 200 total yards of offense.
The performance led Davenport to move the 49ers back into the No. 1 spot in his power rankings...almost.
"The Niners and Ravens are essentially No. 1 and No. 1A at this point," he said. "The two clubs have set themselves head and shoulders above the rest of the NFL. After watching the 49ers dismantle a very good Packers team, I had to bump them up. But then the Ravens obliterated the Rams on Monday night, so I changed my mind. It will be settled on the field soon enough at any rate."
1. Baltimore Ravens (9-2)
Last Week: 1
Week 12 Result: Won at Los Angeles Rams 45-6
This is getting ridiculous.
The Baltimore Ravens began the 2019 season by destroying a hapless Miami Dolphins team 59-10. In the last game of Week 12, they made the defending NFC champions look every bit as hapless.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson continued his march toward an MVP award, throwing five touchdown passes and rushing for almost 100 yards. The Ravens defense completely shut down the Rams, surrendering well below 200 total yards through three-plus quarters.
It was an effort so ruthlessly dominant that it was frightening. And as we mentioned, it spurred Davenport to re-insert the Ravens as the league's top team in his power rankings.
"I'm at a loss for how to slow this team down, much less stop it," he said. "Lamar Jackson has become the NFL's most indefensible player. Mark Ingram II is the proverbial bull loose in a china shop. The defense is playing with discipline and great physicality. To say that the Ravens are surging doesn't do them justice, and if you love the game of football at all, next week's home date with the 49ers is must-see TV."