NFL Power Rankings: B/R's Expert Consensus Rank for Every Team Entering Week 13
Twelve weeks into the 2020 NFL season, the playoff picture is coming into focus.
The AFC West is a done deal. With the Kansas City Chiefs downing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Las Vegas Raiders surprisingly getting waxed in Atlanta, the defending Super Bowl champs are now up four games with five to play.
The NFC South is pretty much a done deal, too. Tampa's loss coupled with a win by the New Orleans Saints in Denver puts New Orleans up three in the loss column with a pair of head-to-head wins.
The Green Bay Packers put a fork in the NFC North by blowing out the Chicago Bears on Sunday night. And while the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers didn't play until Wednesday because of COVID-19 issues, it's going to be difficult for the Ravens to make up four games in six weeks, especially after star quarterback Lamar Jackson and starting tight end Mark Andrews both tested positive.
The league's pecking order is also becoming clearer, at least in some spots. But for every question answered, another arises. Can the Miami Dolphins catch the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East? Who is the best team in the NFC West? The AFC South?
As has been the case every week this season, Bleacher Report NFL analysts Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski have gathered in an effort to answer those questions by slotting the NFL's teams from the back end to the front.
Let's get started, with a No. 32 team that will surprise exactly no one.
32. New York Jets (0-11)
Last Week: 32
Week 12 Result: Lost vs. Miami 20-3
Over the last few weeks, the Jets had kept losing. But with Joe Flacco under center, they were occasionally competitive.
That ended with Sam Darnold's return Sunday. The Jets mustered only 260 yards of total offense, 10 first downs and three points in a blowout loss to the Miami Dolphins.
After yet another embarrassing defeat, head coach Adam Gase insisted to reporters that the Jets are making progress despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.
"It's frustrating because I feel like we're right there," said Gase. "We've got to make one or two plays, especially this last game. It's right there for us. There's been multiple games like that."
No, really. He said that. And without sarcasm.
"If there was any doubt about the future of this franchise (and there wasn't), it was settled at MetLife Stadium," Davenport said. "Adam Gase has to go. Sam Darnold has to go. The Jets have to be completely blown up. The coach is lost. The quarterback is either terrible or just shell-shocked from all the failures in New York. And the franchise is an epic disaster."
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10)
Last Week: 31
Week 12 Result: Lost vs. Cleveland 27-25
After falling at home to the Cleveland Browns for their 10th consecutive defeat, the Jacksonville Jaguars fired general manager Dave Caldwell.
Team owner Shad Khan explained the decision in a statement:
"I've met with Dave Caldwell to express my appreciation for his service to the Jacksonville Jaguars as our general manager. Dave was exceptionally committed and determined to bring a winner to Jacksonville, but unfortunately his efforts were not rewarded with the results our fans deserve and our organization expects. Our football operation needs new leadership, and we will have it with a new general manager in 2021."
Head coach Doug Marrone is reportedly safe for the rest of the season, according to Josh Edwards of CBS Sports, even though his decision to go for two after taking a 19-17 lead in the third quarter forced the team to do so again late in the game while down two.
Marrone made no apologies for the decision.
"If there's a penalty on a play and it goes to the 1-[yard line], then I'm always going to go for two unless it's something where it's going to become a two-score game," Marrone said, via John Oehser of the team's website.
If nothing else, at least Marrone's coaching ensured that Jacksonville stayed on pace for the second overall pick in the 2020 draft.
30. Cincinnati Bengals (2-8-1)
Last Week: 29
Week 12 Result: Lost vs. New York Giants 19-17
Sunday's matchup against the New York Giants marked the beginning of a depressing, hopefully short-lived era for the Cincinnati Bengals.
With rookie quarterback Joe Burrow out for the remainder of the 2020 season after suffering a devastating knee injury last week, Cincinnati was forced to turn to Brandon Allen under center. It went about as well as you would expect.
Allen finished 17-of-26 for 136 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The Giants also held the Bengals to a dismal 40 rushing yards on 15 carries.
All told, the Bengals managed only 155 total yards and turned the ball over three times. That line won't win many games, even against a Giants team that entered Sunday with a dismal 3-7 record.
Frankly, a hard-fought loss was likely the best-case scenario for the Bengals. As things stand now, the two-win Bengals would have the third pick in the 2021 draft.
That's some valuable capital with which to build around Burrow next year.
29. Detroit Lions (4-7)
Last Week: 30
Week 12 Result: Lost vs. Houston 41-25
The Detroit Lions continued their long tradition of playing on Thanksgiving in Week 12. They also continued another long-held tradition: losing.
After the ugly loss to the Houston Texans, the seat under Lions head coach Matt Patricia reached about 475 degrees. But he told reporters that job security was the least of his concerns.
"Yeah, just focused on right now. Just got done with that locker room," Patricia said. "Love those guys. They played really hard. They are hurting and we know we got a lot of work to do. That's my focus now. On today."
It's a bigger concern now that Patricia no longer has a job.
The Lions fired both Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn on Saturday. ESPN's Dan Orlovsky, who played in Detroit in 2014 and 2015, believes the franchise needs to continue cleaning house.
"Real next impactful move is full start over and move on from (Matthew) Stafford," Orlovsky tweeted. "It's time from both the organization standpoint and the players position as well. It didn't work out."
It's shaping up to be a drama-filled offseason in the Motor City yet again.
28. Dallas Cowboys (3-8)
Last Week: 26
Week 12 Result: Lost vs. Washington 41-16
When the Dallas Cowboys beat a hot Minnesota Vikings team on the road in Week 11, it appeared for a moment that they might be able to make a late run in the dismal NFC East.
That lasted all of about four days.
After finally seeming to settle the offensive line a bit and get the ground game untracked, the Cowboys lost both starting tackles early in their blowout loss to the 3-7 Washington Football Team. Mind you, this was after already having to shift All-Pro guard Zack Martin to right tackle.
Both Martin (calf) and Cameron Erving (knee) are expected to miss multiple weeks, according to ESPN's Todd Archer. And given how the Dallas offense imploded after those linemen left the game, it's difficult to imagine this team beating the Ravens in Week 13.
That loss would ensure a losing season for the Cowboys. And while that's their last game against a team that currently has a winning record, a 10-plus-loss campaign looks to be a near-lock.
That is assuredly not what was expected in Mike McCarthy's first year as head coach.
27. Denver Broncos (4-7)
Last Week: 24
Week 12 Result: Lost vs. New Orleans 31-3
Thanks to a combination of carelessness and one positive COVID-19 test, all of the Denver Broncos' active quarterbacks were deemed ineligible to play against the New Orleans Saints in Week 12. The team was forced to turn to practice squad receiver Kendall Hinton under center, and you can guess how that went.
"No one should feel bad for the Broncos being forced to play a practice-squad wide receiver at quarterback because they didn't have any of their regular signal-callers available due to COVID-19 protocols," Sobleski wrote. "Adherence to the league's guidelines should be at the forefront of everything the players and teams do during a pandemic, which the Broncos quarterbacks reportedly didn't do. Head coach Vic Fangio said it best: 'I was disappointed on several levels, that our QBs put us in that position, that our QBs put the league in that position.'"
Starter Drew Lock tweeted an apology to fans and his teammates: "In a controlled and socially distanced area, we let our masking slip for a limited amount of time. An honest mistake, but one I will own. I sincerely apologize and I fully understand why these safety precautions are so important. Doing the right thing for a majority of the time is not good enough."
It wasn't a good look for Lock, Fangio or the Broncos organization. And their drubbing against the Saints was well deserved.
26. Philadelphia Eagles (3-7-1)
Last Week: 27
Week 12 Result: Lost vs. Seattle 23-17
The Philadelphia Eagles are a hot mess—and not just in the way that every team in the NFC is a hot mess.
The issues that have dogged the Eagles all season were on full display Monday in a game that looked closer on the scoreboard than it was on the field (that garbage-time Hail Mary was important to some folks).
Carson Wentz was sloppy and inaccurate—he was off on 20 of 45 throws, missed open receivers and threw an awful red-zone interception. Of course, part of Wentz's problem was that he spent the entire game under duress—after getting dropped six times against the Seahawks, Wentz increased his league-leading sack total to 46.
After another loss, there will no doubt be calls for Jalen Hurts to get a start at quarterback. But the rookie from Oklahoma isn't going to fare any better. The line can't block. The wide receivers can't get open.
This is just a bad football team.
And it's going to take more than a change behind center to fix that.
25. Los Angeles Chargers (3-8)
Last Week: 22
Week 12 Result: Lost at Buffalo 27-17
Los Angeles Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert has put up fantastic individual numbers since taking over under center in Week 2. But the only number that matters isn't flattering for the former Oregon standout.
Herbert fell to 2-8 as a starter after the Chargers were unable to complete a second-half comeback in Buffalo despite three Bills turnovers after halftime. The Chargers have had their struggles defensively this year, but Herbert told reporters after the loss that the offense that let the team down Sunday.
"The defense got the stops when they needed to—got the turnovers," Herbert said. "We had our opportunities. We just didn't execute."
Herbert has earned a mulligan or two throughout his rookie season. He routinely tops 300 passing yards and multiple touchdowns, only to see the Chargers blow a lead late or come up short time after time.
But Sunday was a reminder that while the Bolts appear to have found their quarterback of the future, they still have a lot of work to do around him before they'll be a contender again.
Gagnon thinks part of that work is getting a new coach.
"Anthony Lynn is getting a lot out of Herbert, but his game management has become hugely problematic," he said. "He just isn't a good head coach and would be better off in an assistant role. At this point, I expect a change there within a matter of weeks."
24. Washington Football Team (4-7)
Last Week: 25
Week 12 Result: Won at Dallas 41-16
The Washington Football Team may be the Miami Dolphins of 2020.
Washington entered the 2020 season with low expectations after a 3-13 campaign in 2019. Those expectations only went down after the team decided to bench second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
But after pounding the Cowboys in Dallas on Thanksgiving, Washington is in first place in the NFC East. It has already exceeded last year's win total and has a puncher's chance of hosting a playoff game.
That won't be easy, as Washington plays the unbeaten Steelers next week and faces the Seattle Seahawks in Week 15. But with two straight wins and some young core players like running back Antonio Gibson, wide receiver Terry McLaurin and edge-rusher Chase Young on the roster, Washington looks to be farther along in its rebuild than many expected, much like the 2019 Dolphins.
Now it just needs to find a long-term quarterback.
23. Atlanta Falcons (4-7)
Last Week: 28
Week 12 Result: Won vs. Las Vegas 43-6
The Atlanta Falcons have been kidnapped and replaced by alien doppelgangers. That's the only rational explanation for how a Falcons team that has vacillated between mediocre and terrible for most of the season could drop a piano on an allegedly playoff-caliber Raiders team in Week 12.
Sunday's blowout in Atlanta was the most surprising game of the week. The Falcons didn't just beat the Raiders; they pummeled them into goo. To say it was Atlanta's best game of 2020 is like saying that a three-day-old bowl of liver and onions would be unpleasant.
The win moves the Falcons to 4-2 since Raheem Morris was named interim head coach, and if Todd Gurley knew how to fall down, they would be 5-1 over that span.
The question is whether that hot streak means anything moving forward, or if just like last season, it is filled with sound and fury, signifying nothing.
22. New York Giants (4-7)
Last Week: 20
Week 12 Result: Won at Cincinnati 19-17
Thanks to big games from running back Wayne Gallman and tight end Evan Engram, the New York Giants squeaked by the Cincinnati Bengals to move to 4-7 and take over first place in the NFC (L)East.
However, they may have lost their starting quarterback for the time being.
Second-year signal-caller Daniel Jones left the game early with a hamstring injury that is "likely to force him to miss some time," per ESPN's Jordan Raanan. "The Giants should be able to know more later in the week when they get him moving around," he added.
After the win, head coach Joe Judge tried to put a positive spin on news that was anything but.
"Yeah, I would say I'm optimistic [about next week] at this point right now. Now I don't want to go ahead and say 'yay' or 'nay' because I don't have the medical information at this time," Judge told reporters. "So, again, once he talks to the doctors and we get the information, I'm sure he's going to try everything he can."
"Judge can be as optimistic as he wants, and the Giants may well be the least terrible team in a dismal division," Davenport said. "But the odds of the Giants beating the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals the next two weeks weren't good with Jones out there. With Colt McCoy at quarterback, they are zero."
21. Chicago Bears (5-6)
Last Week: 16
Week 12 Result: Lost 41-25 at Green Bay
Remember when the Chicago Bears were 5-1?
At this point, neither do they.
After falling to the Green Bay Packers in a game that wasn't as close as the final score might suggest, the Bears have dropped five in a row to fall below .500. And while the offense has disappointed for most of the year, the defense is what faltered in Week 12. The Packers punted only twice while piling up 393 total yards and 41 points.
After the game, head coach Matt Nagy told reporters that the Bears aren't about to panic:
"Obviously, the last five weeks have been extremely difficult. It's not fun. We all want to win. But the one reason why I'm here is to fight and to lead, and that's what I think is most important during these times. When you go through these times, how do you respond? I think that's the test of true character.”
If there's a bright side, the Bears don't play another team with a winning record until the season finale against the Packers. But given how they've played the over past month-plus, a late dash for the playoffs appears exceedingly unlikely.
"The Bears' season is spiraling out of control," Sobleski said. "All hopes of challenging the Packers for the NFC North have gone out the window. Chicago doesn't have a competent option at quarterback. One could argue the franchise is actually trending in the right direction, and that's toward a much higher draft pick to address the game's most important decision with a top-end prospect."
20. San Francisco 49ers (5-6)
Last Week: 21
Week 12 Result: Won at Los Angeles Rams 23-20
For much of the 2020 season, the San Francisco 49ers have been an injury-marred mess.
The Niners are currently without their starting quarterback. And their best defensive player. And their superstar tight end. Their top running back and wideout have missed significant time, too.
The 49ers got the latter two back for Sunday's matchup with the Los Angeles Rams, and Raheem Mostert and Deebo Samuel both played a significant role in helping San Fran notch an upset.
Mostert led the Niners with 16 carries and found the end zone. Samuel caught 11 passes for 130 receiving yards. And after downing the Rams, the 49ers find themselves only one game below .500 and one back of the Arizona Cardinals for the seventh playoff spot in the NFC.
However, as the 49ers try to make a late push for the playoffs, they will have to overcome even more adversity. Thanks to Santa Clara County's new COVID-19 restrictions, the Niners can't practice or play at Levi's Stadium for at least three weeks.
Instead, they'll host the Buffalo Bills and Washington Football Team at State Farm Stadium in Arizona.
19. Houston Texans (4-7)
Last Week: 23
Week 12 Result: Won at Detroit 41-25
It took the Houston Texans nine weeks to win two games this season, and both of those wins came against the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars.
But after beating the New England Patriots in Week 11 and the Lions in Detroit four days later, the Texans kept their slim hopes of making it back to the playoffs alive.
The Texans will likely need to win out to have a shot of earning a postseason berth. But there are now seven playoff spots in each conference, and an eighth could be added if the COVID-19 pandemic causes regular-season games to get canceled, per ESPN's Chris Mortensen.
In Week 12, the Texans looked like the team that won the AFC South a year ago. Deshaun Watson was outstanding, throwing four touchdown passes. Defensive end J.J. Watt scored on a pick-six.
It was a complete effort. And if the Texans can string a few more of those together, they can at least make things interesting down the stretch.
"It's a shame they started as slowly as they did, because the Texans are a very tough out," Gagnon said. "Watson is one of the top players in the league, and Houston's only loss since Week 8 came in a weird, weather-impacted game in Cleveland. It's probably too late for the 2020 Texans, but look for them to play spoiler down the stretch."
However, the momentum the Texans have built of late took a hit this week when it was announced that No. 1 receiver Will Fuller V and cornerback Bradley Roby will be suspended for the remainder of the regular season for violating the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy.
18. Carolina Panthers (4-8)
Last Week: 17
Week 12 Result: Lost at Minnesota 28-27
The Carolina Panthers will finally get their bye week in Week 13.
They will spend it wondering how things got away from them Sunday in Minnesota.
After scoring two defensive touchdowns in the span of 10 seconds early in the second half, the Panthers appeared to be cruising against the Vikings. Minnesota came charging back, but a muffed punt led to a field goal that put Carolina up six with less than two minutes to play.
However, the Vikings roared down the field and scored, and Joey Slye's late field-goal attempt sailed wide as time expired. It was a contest filled with squandered opportunities for the Panthers, which largely sums up their disappointing first season under head coach Matt Rhule.
With the postseason now looking like a pipe dream, there's little reason for the Panthers to bring injured running back Christian McCaffrey back this season. At this point, victories will only cost them draft position in 2021.
17. New England Patriots (5-6)
Last Week: 18
Week 12 Result: Won vs. Arizona 20-17
When the New England Patriots fell in Houston last week, it appeared as though their dynasty was officially dead. Their long run of consecutive trips to the playoffs seemed to be over.
But after upsetting the Arizona Cardinals in Week 12, New England's wild-card hopes are still alive.
Based on the box score, the Patriots should have lost. They mustered only 179 total yards of offense, and their ground game managed a meager 3.7 yards per carry. They had only 16 first downs and lost the turnover battle, too.
But New England found a way to gut out the win. And while a postseason berth remains a long shot, Sunday's win was a reminder that counting out a Bill Belichick-led team can easily backfire.
16. Minnesota Vikings (5-6)
Last Week: 19
Week 12 Result: Won vs. Carolina 28-27
The Minnesota Vikings are clinging to faint playoff hopes in the NFC. However, a flawed performance against the Carolina Panthers at home after losing to a bad Dallas Cowboys team in Week 11 doesn't inspire a ton of confidence that their mad scramble to sneak into the bottom of the NFC bracket will pay off.
But after allowing defensive touchdowns on back-to-back series to open the second half Sunday, the Vikings rallied, eking out a one-point win that got them back to a within a game of .500.
It hasn't been pretty, but after a miserable 1-5 start, the Vikings have rallied to win four of their last five games. However, the Vikings are only 1-4 against teams with winning records, and they have two games remaining against such teams (trips to New Orleans and Tampa).
If they lose those games, the Vikings' ceiling is an 8-8 record. That likely won't be enough for a postseason berth, even if each conference gets eight playoff teams instead of seven.
15. Las Vegas Raiders (6-5)
Last Week: 13
Week 12 Result: Lost at Atlanta 43-6
Last year, the 6-4 Las Vegas Raiders made a Week 12 road trip to face a bad New York Jets team and got blasted 34-3. The Raiders proceeded to win only one more game and missed the postseason at 7-9.
This year, the 6-4 Raiders traveled to Atlanta to face a bad Falcons team and got beaten even worse.
Sunday's blowout at Mercedes-Benz Stadium was a disaster on every level. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr threw for 215 yards and turned the ball over four times, including a pick-six. Running back Josh Jacobs posted only 27 rushing yards and lost a fumble. The Raiders allowed a depleted Falcons offense to convert nine of 19 third downs and racked up 11 penalties for 141 yards.
The loss left at least one of our analysts skeptical of the Raiders' ability to make noise in the playoffs, if they even get there.
"Sunday's face-plant dropped the Raiders to ninth in the AFC," Davenport wrote. "While Vegas should be able to get past the winless Jets in Week 13, they follow that up with a three-game homestand that includes visits from the Dolphins and Colts. The Raiders probably need to win four of five to make the playoffs at this point, and the team we watched in Atlanta ain't doing that."
"Few would listen when I was calling the Raiders overrated, but now anyone who trusted Jon Gruden's team are learning a valuable lesson," Gagnon added. "These guys just make too many mistakes, they remain too vulnerable on defense and they don't pull off enough splash plays on offense. Sure, they played the Chiefs tough this year, but that isn't enough on its own."
14. Arizona Cardinals (6-5)
Last Week: 22
Week 12 Result: Lost at New England 20-17
Not long ago, the Arizona Cardinals were one of the hottest teams in the NFC. The Redbirds hit their bye week with a 5-2 record and were coming off a huge overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks.
One month later, the Cardinals are 6-5 and are sitting in third place in their division after a third loss in four games Sunday at New England.
Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray has been slumping along with his team. He's nursing a shoulder injury, and his rushing production has plummeted in recent weeks.
Murray said the Patriots were determined to take that aspect of his game away.
"Yeah, I mean, they were just, obviously those zone-read opportunities, they were just playing me," he told reporters after the loss. "(They) made me hand it off. I mean, it is what it is. My read is to hand it off if they play me, and that’s what I had to do."
Whatever ails the Cardinals, they need to fix it in a hurry. They still have three games left in the division, including a pair of contests against the 7-4 Los Angeles Rams.
Unless the Cardinals can snap out of this funk, dreams of a division title may wind up turning into a nightmare of missing the postseason altogether.
13. Indianapolis Colts (7-4)
Last Week: 7
Week 12 Result: Lost vs. Tennessee 45-26
The Indianapolis Colts came into Week 12 as one of the hotter teams in the league.
Two weeks ago, the Colts doubled up the rival Titans in Nashville. Last week, they squeaked past the Green Bay Packers in overtime. They appeared to be firing on all cylinders ahead of Sunday's rematch with Tennessee.
That is, until the Titans waxed them to take over first place in the AFC South.
The Colts have fielded one of the NFL's best defenses this season. Heading into Week 12, Indianapolis ranked first in the AFC in both total defense and run defense and fifth in the NFL in scoring defense.
That defense got roasted Sunday. Down three starters, the Colts allowed 229 yards on the ground and surrendered 14 more points in the first half than they usually allow in an entire game.
The stunning loss could have major implications for Indianapolis down the stretch.
"Absences in the trenches are killing the Colts, who already would prefer not to rely on their historically unreliable quarterback to do all of the heavy lifting," Gagnon wrote. "This team is extremely talented, but that doesn't make it trustworthy. I have very limited confidence in Philip Rivers and Co."
12. Baltimore Ravens (6-5)
Last Week: 12
Week 12 Result: Lost at Pittsburgh 19-14
The Ravens have problems.
Granted, given everything that has happened over the past week-plus, it's admirable that the Ravens lost by only five points on the road against the undefeated Steelers. A COVID-19 outbreak within the franchise sidelined a fistful of starters for this game—including reigning MVP Lamar Jackson.
But a loss is a loss—and the Ravens have now dropped four of five since their bye week. Baltimore has lost twice as many games since November 1 as it did in all of 2019—and if the season ended today, the Ravens would watch the playoffs from home.
Jackson has regressed substantially. And with the offense out of sync, the defense has been under tremendous pressure to essentially be perfect.
All hope is not lost, though. Baltimore's schedule softens up substantially from here. The Ravens have just one more game against a team with a winning record, and that's against the Cleveland Browns, whom they blasted in Week 1.
Still, there's not much margin for error. And avenging last year's postseason disappointment is anything but a sure bet.
11. Los Angeles Rams (7-4)
Last Week: 6
Week 12 Result: Lost vs. San Francisco 23-20
Last week, the Los Angeles Rams rode an impressive win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to first place in the NFC West and their highest spot of the season in these power rankings.
Naturally, they followed that up with a listless performance in a home loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
The game marked the third time since Week 8 that the Rams have committed multiple turnovers. After the game, head coach Sean McVay didn't mince words about the team's recent bout of sloppy play.
"We're not taking good enough care of the football, and that's something that's got to change. Otherwise, I'm going to continue to sit up here and say this week in and week out," McVay told reporters. "It just can't continue to happen."
If the season ended today, the Rams would be the NFC's No. 5 seed. If there's a silver lining to that drop, it's that it would mean a Wild Card Weekend trip to face the NFC (L)East "champion."
10. Cleveland Browns (8-3)
Last Week: 15
Week 12 Result: Won at Jacksonville 27-25
The Cleveland Browns aren't racking up style points. Those don't get awarded for a two-point victory over a one-win Jaguars team.
However, the Browns are racking up wins.
Sunday's victory over the Jags was Cleveland's third straight and four in its last five contests. At 8-3, the Browns are guaranteed a non-losing season for the first time since 2007. If the season ended today, they would be in the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
However, there could also be trouble brewing. Three of Cleveland's last five games are against teams with a winning record, including next week at Tennessee and Week 14 at home against a Ravens team that spanked Cleveland 38-6 in the season opener.
So far this season, the Browns have played four games against teams that currently have winning records. They're 1-3 in those matchups.
"The Browns are 8-3, but they don't really feel like one of the NFL's heavyweights, nor should they," Sobleski said. "They've beaten only one team with a winning record, and their opponent's winning percentage so far is the league's second-lowest. Upcoming meetings with the Titans and rival Ravens will show whether the Browns are ready to stake their claim as a legit playoff contender."
9. Miami Dolphins (7-4)
Last Week: 14
Week 12 Result: Won at New York Jets 20-3
Fitzmagic is back, baby!
With rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa nursing a thumb injury, veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick was back under center for the Miami Dolphins in Sunday's trouncing of the hapless Jets. He finished 24-of-39 for 257 passing yards, two scores and a passer rating of 97.9.
However, head coach Brian Flores made it clear to reporters after the game that once Tagovailoa is healthy, he'll be back under center.
"If he's healthy, he's the guy. I don't know how many different ways we have to continue to say that. You keep asking; I'll keep answering the same way," Flores told reporters. "We'll take it day-to-day. He's a tough kid. He wants to be out there. Thankfully, we have other guys who stepped up."
No one questions that Tagovailoa is the future under center in Miami. And to his credit, the rookie is 3-1 as starter.
But with the Dolphins on course for a playoff spot, it's fair to question which quarterback gives them a better chance to win in December and January.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5)
Last Week: 9
Week 12 Result: Lost vs. Kansas City 27-24
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Tom Brady in March, it appeared as though they might become the first team to play a Super Bowl in their own stadium.
That notion has taken on some water as of late.
After getting carved to pieces by Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and the Kansas City Chiefs, the Buccaneers head into their bye week 7-5 and losers of three of the last four. They have three more losses than the New Orleans Saints with five games to play, all but ending the NFC South race.
And after tossing two more picks against the Chiefs, Brady has 11 for the season and his highest interception percentage since 2009.
"After yet another loss, the Buccaneers are the NFC's sixth seed at the moment, which would send them on the road to play the NFC West champion in the Wild Card Round," Davenport said, "With the way Tampa has played over the last month, that's more likely to mean a quick one-and-done exit than 'hosting' Super Bowl LV."
"The story today remains the same before the season began: A team doesn't automatically jell on the field because it looks good on paper," Sobleski added. "No one should be surprised that Brady is struggling to acclimate himself in Bruce Arians' offensive scheme, because the 43-year-old brings a contrasting skill set to the table. Still, the Buccaneers are one of the NFL's toughest opponents because of their offensive talent and hard-nosed defense."
7. Tennessee Titans (8-3)
Last Week: 8
Week 12 Result: Won at Indianapolis 45-26
Depending on the outcome of Sunday's matchup with the rival Colts, the Tennessee Titans were either leaving Sunday all alone atop the AFC South or effectively two games back of Indianapolis. Two weeks ago, the Colts doubled up the Titans in Nashville.
The Titans got payback Sunday.
Playing against a Colts defense that entered Week 12 leading the AFC in run defense, Derrick Henry piled up 178 yards on the ground and scored three touchdowns. Against a Colts defense that entered Week 12 allowing fewer than 21 points per game, the Titans put 35 on the board before intermission.
At 8-3, the Titans are just one win short of last year's total with five to play and sit all alone in first place in the division. But there's little time for celebration. Next week, the Titans have another tough one on tap against the 8-3 Cleveland Browns.
Between Henry and Cleveland's Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, expect plenty of rushing yards in that game.
"The Titans remain annoyingly inconsistent, but that's the case with everybody in the NFL except the Steelers and Chiefs," Gagnon said. "At this point, I think I'm at least ready to declare that, with Henry rolling, the Titans are the third-best team in the AFC. Henry is off the charts, and there isn't much that Tennessee does badly. In this weird year, that might be enough to sneak back into the AFC Championship Game."
6. Seattle Seahawks (8-3)
Last Week: 10
Week 12 Result: Won at Philadelphia 23-17
DK Metcalf is a bad man.
On a chilly evening in Philadelphia, where the Seattle Seahawks didn't play their best game of the season, Metcalf carried the offense. The NFL's leader in receiving yards after 12 weeks lit up Darius Slay and the Eagles for 177 yards on 10 catches.
However, the bigger story Monday night was the Seattle defense. For most of the first half of the season, the unit was historically awful. But since the arrival of edge-rusher Carlos Dunlap, it has been light-years better. Against a floundering offense, the Seahawks allowed just 250 yards and sacked Carson Wentz six times.
Add in the return of starting running back Chris Carson, and—while the score didn't show it—the Seahawks appear to be getting healthy and rounding into form just in time for the stretch run.
"There's still a long way to go," Davenport said, "and a lot of NFC West games to be played. But with the Seattle defense playing the way it has, the Seahawks are once again looking the part of the team to beat in that division."
5. Buffalo Bills (8-3)
Last Week: 5
Week 12 Result: Won vs. Los Angeles Chargers 27-17
The Buffalo Bills came out of their bye week comfortably in first place in the AFC East and in the top five in these power rankings. But beneath that veneer was the unpleasant truth that they were only a .500 team over their last six games.
However, the Bills strengthened their case as one of the best teams in the AFC with their victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. They put together one of their most complete halves of the last month-plus, building a 24-6 lead over the Chargers before staving off a late rally.
Quarterback Josh Allen admitted to reporters afterward that the score shouldn't have been as close as it was:
"Our defense played outstanding. Obviously, on the offensive side of the football, we can do a lot more to help us out—27 points and three consecutive turnovers in the third and fourth quarter or whatever it was, we left a lot out there. We know that, we've got to be better, and I've got to be better in taking care of the football."
Sloppy second half aside, the Bills did what they had to do to stay ahead of the surprising Dolphins in the AFC East. But it won't be easy to maintain that lead. Of Buffalo's last five contests, four come against clubs that are 5-6 or better.
4. New Orleans Saints (9-2)
Last Week: 3
Week 12 Result: Won at Denver 31-3
It feels odd to express concern over a two-loss Saints team that just routed the Denver Broncos on the road to stay atop the NFC.
But all is not necessarily well for the New Orleans Saints.
The Saints blasted the Broncos on the ground, racking up 229 yards and over five yards per carry on 44 totes. The defense allowed only 112 total yards, although that's largely because the Broncos started a practice-squad wide receiver at quarterback.
But the idea of Taysom Hill as a viable NFL quarterback took a sizable hit in Week 12. Hill finished 9-of-16 for 78 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 43.2.
Against a short-handed Broncos team, that didn't matter. It might not on the road in Atlanta and Philly over the next two weeks, either. But in Week 15, the Saints host Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in a game that they aren't going to win with less than 100 passing yards.
And with the Green Bay Packers lurking just behind the Saints in the NFC, there isn't much margin for error if New Orleans wants the playoffs to run through the Superdome.
3. Green Bay Packers (8-3)
Last Week: 4
Week 12 Result: Won 41-25 vs. Chicago
After demolishing the Chicago Bears on Sunday night, the Green Bay Packers have a stranglehold on first place in the NFC North. They sit only one game back of the New Orleans Saints for the top record in the NFC. And Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is playing as well as he ever has.
After his four touchdown passes against the Bears, Rodgers now has a league-high 33 scoring strikes. He has thrown only four picks all season long and leads the NFL with his passer rating of 117.6.
Head coach Matt LaFleur expressed his admiration for Rodgers after Sunday's throttling of the Bears:
"This is as good as I've ever seen anybody play. Just his ability to go out there and get us in the right looks and, shoot, even when I make a bad call, he definitely makes us look good. So that's a credit to him. In my eyes, he's an MVP player. No doubt about it. And I wouldn't want any other quarterback on our football team."
"The Packers are the best team in the NFC right now," Davenport said. "The Saints might have a better defense, but they currently don't have Drew Brees. Green Bay is light-years better than Seattle on defense. And the Rams and Buccaneers can't seem to decide if they are good or not."
"The Packers have emerged as the NFC's team to beat for three reasons," Sobleski agreed. "First, Rodgers' stellar play places him squarely in the MVP conversation. Second, the Saints don't know exactly when Bress will return and, no, Taysom Hill isn't the answer behind center. Finally, the Seahawks defense can't be trusted."
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-0)
Last Week: 2
Week 12 Result: Won vs. Baltimore 19-14
Given how weird a week it was, it's not all that surprising the Steelers didn't play their best game of the season against the rival Ravens in Week 12.
This game was postponed three times. The Steelers played without running back James Conner and defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt after the duo landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
But the Steelers did what they needed. And in securing their 11th straight win, they continued the best start in franchise history and moved one step closer to sewing up the AFC North title.
Young running back Benny Snell Jr. played well in Conner's stead, tallying 93 yards on 19 touches. Outside linebacker T.J. Watt had another big game, racking up seven tackles, two sacks and three tackles for loss.
It might have been short on style points, but the win inched Pittsburgh one week closer to securing the AFC's No. 1 seed—and the playoff bye that goes with it.
And that's what really matters.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (10-1)
Last Week: 1
Week 12 Result: Won at Tampa Bay 27-24
The Kansas City Chiefs sent a message in Week 12, and Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill delivered it.
Playing against one of the better defenses in the league, Mahomes and Hill laid waste to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Mahomes threw for 462 yards and three touchdowns, all of which went to Hill. The fifth-year wide receiver erupted for a career-high 13 receptions, 269 yards and those three touchdowns.
Most of those catches came against Bucs corner Carlton Davis, although Mahomes said after the game that they weren't targeting Davis in particular.
"I don't think it was necessarily [about] a matchup,'' Mahomes told reporters. "It was man coverage with no one over the top. We don't get that a lot, especially with [Hill] and his ability, and whenever we do, we try to take advantage of it.''
It isn't as if the rest of the NFL had forgotten that the Chiefs were the defending Super Bowl champions and arguably the league's best team. But Mahomes and Hill went ahead and reminded them anyway.