2021 B/R NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Entering Week 11?

NFL StaffContributor INovember 16, 2021

2021 B/R NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Entering Week 11?

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    Bleacher Report

    Well, that was a week.

    Frankly, we probably should have known Week 10 was headed sideways when a Miami team that had dropped seven straight games beat the Baltimore Ravens by double digits.

    The rest of the slate didn't disappoint.

    Sure, some of the league's best teams kept rolling. The Packers shut out the floundering Seahawks at Lambeau Field. The Cowboys blasted the overmatched Falcons in Dallas. Ditto for the Bills on the road against the Jets.

    But there were surprises galore as well. The Eagles rolled into Denver and dominated the Broncos. Washington stunned the defending Super Bowl champions at FedEx Field. The Carolina Panthers blew out the one-loss Cardinals. And for the first time this season, the Detroit Lions didn't lose.

    They also didn't win. But hey, it's progress!

    All the upsets and wacky endings shook up the NFL considerably. As they have every week this season, Bleacher Report NFL analysts Brent Sobleski, Gary Davenport and Brad Gagnon have come together to sort through the week that was and seed the NFL's teams from No. 32 to No. 1.

    We've got newcomers at both ends—and some dissent at the top.

32. Houston Texans (1-8)

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    Darryl Webb/Associated Press

    Last Week: 31

    Week 10 Result: Bye week

    Week 10 was the best week for the Houston Texans since they defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars in the season opener.

    Of course, it was also Houston's bye week, which tells you everything you need to know about the 2021 Texans.

    As the losses have mounted in Houston, first-year head coach David Culley has attempted to maintain a positive attitude. He also has consistently defended his players, telling Kristie Rieken of the Associated Press that the team's poor play has less to do with the team itself than the people coaching it.

    "I'm frustrated that this team doesn't play as consistent as we need them to play to have success and win football games," he said. "That's on us as coaches. We haven't done as good a job as we need to do to do that."

    The cold reality is that the Texans need better players. On both sides of the ball. Especially at quarterback. Houston is all but certainly going to have a top-five pick in 2022. Trading Deshaun Watson will land the franchise that many more draft picks.

    If general manager Nick Caserio makes good use of those picks, the future in Houston could be bright.

    But the present is a mess.

31. Detroit Lions (0-8-1)

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    Last Week: 32

    Week 10 Result: Tied at Pittsburgh 16-16 (OT)

    The Lions didn't lose!

    The Lions didn't lose!

    OK, to be fair, the Detroit Lions also didn't win. But in tying the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, the Lions at least insured they will not be the first team in league history to post a 0-17 record.

    Given how the 2021 season has gone in Motown, that's what passes for good news.

    In fairness, there were actual positives in this game. Running back D'Andre Swift continued his solid season, amassing 130 yards on a whopping 33 carries. The Detroit defense gave up 387 yards, but it also forced three turnovers and allowed just a single touchdown.

    Of course, this is also a game in which a banged-up Jared Goff threw for all of 114 yards. And a game in which Detroit missed one field goal late and squandered another chance at a game-winning kick after forcing a turnover late in overtime. The tie itself likely says more about how poorly the Steelers played than how well the Lions did.

    "We usually leave the Lions alone because they're winless and really not worthy of discussion," Sobleski said. "But who didn't chuckle to themselves when kicker Ryan Santoso missed the game-winning field-goal attempt in overtime? The kick never even had a chance, and the moment encapsulated the entire team's ineptitude. The Lions should have won in Pittsburgh. They didn't. We can't be certain this team stumbles into a victory this season."

30.. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-7)

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Last Week: 30

    Week 10 Result: Lost at Indianapolis 23-17

    Last week, the Jacksonville Jaguars stunned the Buffalo Bills in what had to be the high point of the season for the team.

    It was back to low points one week later.

    It's been a long first season for Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, and Week 10 was no different. The first overall pick in the 2021 draft completed less than half of his pass attempts for 162 yards with a passer rating of 59.5. Per Stephen Holder of The Athletic, Lawrence freely admitted that he didn't play well.

    "It's looking in the mirror," Lawrence said. "I have to be consistently more accurate. If I'm putting the ball where it's supposed to be more consistently, there's not going to be as many drops. Yeah, there's a few where they can catch it, but I'm not throwing the best balls. So, there's a lot out there. I'm frustrated because I'm not throwing the ball as well as I think I can."

    "Lawrence deserves some criticism for Jacksonville's poor play," Davenport wrote, "but it's not like he's being put in a position to succeed. Whether it's play-calling, his receivers or the offensive line in front of him, the team just doesn't seem able to put together a well-rounded effort. And when one of those facets falter, Lawrence starts pressing, and the results aren't pretty."

29. New York Jets (2-7)

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Last Week: 28

    Week 10 Result: Lost vs. Buffalo 45-17

    A couple of weeks ago, New York Jets quarterback Mike White was the belle of the ball after throwing for 405 yards and three scores in an upset win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

    There was no Cinderella showing against the rival Bills. As a matter of fact, White rather turned into a pumpkin.

    His stat line against the Bills was a mess: 44 attempts, 24 completions, 251 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions before getting hurt late and giving way to veteran Joe Flacco.

    There had been some speculation that the Jets might consider sticking with White once second overall pick Zach Wilson returns from injury. But Sunday's disaster likely put an end to that, and White himself allowed to reporters after the game that his days as the starter may be numbered.

    "I'll support him, just like I did in the first couple of games of the season," White said. "He's a good kid. I want him to do well. Whatever my job is, I'm going to do it to the best of my ability, 100 percent."

    "OK, so the Mike White thing was fun until it wasn't," Davenport said. "But as soon as Wilson's knee will allow, the Jets need to get the presumptive future of the franchise out there. He also needs to know he won't be pulled if he struggles a little, because a revolving door under center in New York isn't going to help anyone."

28. Miami Dolphins (3-7)

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Last Week: 27

    Week 10 Result: Won vs. Baltimore 22-10

    Last year, the Miami Dolphins were one of the NFL's more surprising teams, coming from nowhere to win 10 games and narrowly miss the playoffs. In 2021, it has been a much different story; entering Week 10, the Dolphins had been one of the league's bigger disappointments with just two wins in their first nine contests.

    So of course those languishing Dolphins put it on a two-loss Baltimore Ravens team that came into Week 10 as arguably the conference's best team.


    The game was all the stranger given that the Dolphins made a quarterback change, switching out Jacoby Brissett for Tua Tagovailoa.

    Tagovailoa admitted to reporters afterwards that it wasn't easy to enter a contest like this mid-game.

    "I think it's tough coming into a game, second half," Tagovailoa said. "You've got to warm up, you've got to get your head back into the mindset of going in and playing, but that's the NFL. You've got to be ready at any time."

    Winning two straight after seven consecutive losses isn't going to save Miami's season, but at least the Dolphins have built a little positive momentum heading into the back half of the schedule.

    "Did the Dolphins find the right mix or was their win against the Baltimore Ravens another regular-season aberration? It's interesting because Miami deserves credit for an impressive week," Sobleski said. "But the lack of consistency seen throughout the season keeps most skeptical of Thursday's outcome. Aggressive defense and more efficient play from Tagovailoa (through a fractured finger) give the team an excellent chance to stack a few wins with an upcoming schedule against the Jets (twice), Carolina Panthers and New York Giants."

27. Chicago Bears (3-6)

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Last Week: 26

    Week 10 Result: Bye week 

    It has become pretty obvious that the Chicago Bears will not be headed back to the postseason in 2021. The remainder of this season is more about building for the future than winning in the present.

    The biggest part of building for the future in the Windy City is getting reps for rookie quarterback Justin Fields. The former Ohio State standout still has a lot of improving to do, but while addressing reporters after last week's loss to the Steelers, head coach Matt Nagy lauded the progress that Fields has made.

    "We feel better as to the types of plays we're putting in that fit him, that fit our offense," Nagy said. "Trying to find that match and that balance. The last two weeks, his decision-making and timing has been really, really good, and then he's taking shots downfield, which is great. We're not hitting on all of them, but when you still take those downfield [shots], they can't sit on you all the time."

    With each passing week, it looks more and more like Fields was the right choice for Bears at quarterback. Now the question is whether the team trusts Nagy to continue leading the franchise should they finish .500 or worse for a third straight season.

26. Atlanta Falcons (4-5)

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    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Last Week: 21

    Week 10 Result: Lost at Dallas 43-3

    In Week 9, the Atlanta Falcons notched their most impressive win of the 2021 season, taking down the Saints in New Orleans to get back to .500 for the year.

    After watching the team get flattened by the Dallas Cowboys in Week 10, that victory seems like it was a million years ago.

    The Falcons were dominated in just about every way a team can be Sunday. Offensively, Atlanta managed just 214 yards, while allowing over twice that (431) to the Cowboys. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan had an absolutely miserable day throwing the ball, completing just nine of 21 passes for 117 yards with a pair of interceptions.

    It was a woeful performance all the way around, and a sobering reminder of Atlanta's limitations.

    "The Falcons are stuck in the spot no team wants to be in. Atlanta isn't good enough to be any kind of a threat in the playoffs, but it also isn't bad enough (probably) to land a top-five (or even top-10) pick in the 2022 draft," Davenport said. "The Falcons are mired in mediocrity, and once a team gets stuck there, it can be hard to dig out."

25. Seattle Seahawks (3-6)

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    Last Week: 19

    Week 10 Result: Lost at Green Bay 17-0

    Over the span of a 10-year career that will likely end with induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has started 150 games. In 149 of those games, the Seahawks scored points.

    Sunday in Green Bay, for the first time in Wilson's career, the Seahawks did not.

    The game was Wilson's first since breaking a finger on his throwing hand against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 5. But while speaking to reporters after the defeat, head coach Pete Carroll said he didn't believe the injury played a role in Seattle's offensive struggles.

    "There was a couple high throws that got out," Carroll said. "Pretty cold night and all that. Maybe that had something to do with it as you're looking at it. I don't think so. I'm not thinking that and Russ isn't either."

    Whatever the reason, the Seahawks have dropped four of their last five and sit well off the pace in the NFC West. And unless there's a sudden and complete turnaround, Seattle is headed for missing the postseason for just the second time in Wilson's decade as the starting quarterback.

24. New York Giants (3-6)

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    Tyler Kaufman/Associated Press

    Last Week: 20

    Week 10 Result: Bye week

    When last we saw the New York Giants on the playing field, the G-Men were earning arguably their biggest win of the season: a seven-point victory over the Las Vegas Raiders that gave the Giants two wins over the last three games.

    That result gave the Giants some momentum heading into the bye. And head coach Joe Judge indicated the team hopes to have even more coming out of the week off in the form of the return of running back Saquon Barkley and left tackle Andrew Thomas.

    "They're going to have the remainder of this week to work with us," Judge said, per the team's website, "Early next week and the way the schedule will flow, we'll have time to kind of build these guys up and then rest them. We're optimistic about it. We'll see how it comes out of the bye."

    Now, getting those players back won't necessarily fix all that ails the Giants. But at least part of the team's struggles have resulted from an offense that has been riddled with injuries. Finally getting a (relatively) full complement of weapons on the field can only help quarterback Daniel Jones.

    And he's going to need all the help he can get. New York's first post-bye contest is a Monday nighter in Tampa against the defending Super Bowl champions.

23. Denver Broncos (5-5)

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Last Week: 18

    Week 10 Result: Lost vs. Philadelphia 30-13

    Since Vic Fangio took over as the head coach of the Denver Broncos, the team has trailed at halftime 21 times.

    Denver has come back to win just one of those games. 

    The Broncos had their opportunities, but they couldn't consistently generate offense. And when the team did move the ball, it was done in by miscues, whether it was a Melvin Gordon fumble that was returned for a touchdown or a blocked field goal.

    It was an ugly loss that left the Broncos a .500 team heading into their bye and frustrated veteran safety Justin Simmons.

    "It [stinks], man," Simmons told reporters after the game. "We set ourselves up in prime position to hit this bye on a high streak. Go into the bye with a win and then close out our season pretty much with just divisional games with the exception of maybe two [against Detroit and Cincinnati]. We got to fix it. By no means is the season over."

    Denver remains just a game back of Kansas City in a crowded AFC West. But after falling flat at home, last week's big win over Dallas looks more like an aberration than an indicator of how good these Broncos are.

22. Washington Football Team (3-6)

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Last Week: 29

    Week 10 Result: Won vs. Tampa Bay 29-19

    Not a lot has gone right for the Washington Football Team in 2021. The team's defense has been a massive disappointment, and entering Sunday's action, Washington had dropped four in a row and five of the last six.

    One victory isn't going to magically fix all that ails it. But taking down the defending Super Bowl champions on Sunday is still easily the high point of its season. It was a game in which Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke outplayed Tom Brady, throwing for 256 yards with a passer rating of 110.4. Washington's beleaguered defense allowed just 273 yards and forced a pair of turnovers.

    However, Washington's win may have come at a steep price. Reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young left the game with a knee injury and did not return, and head coach Ron Rivera admitted to reporters afterward that the fear is Young tore his ACL.

    "There's some concern," Rivera said. "We'll have him evaluated tomorrow. Potentially an ACL, but we're not sure yet."

    Sure enough, it was confirmed Monday afternoon that Young's season is over.

    That's the kind of season it has been in the nation's capital.

    Even when Washington wins, it loses.

21. Philadelphia Eagles (4-6)

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Last Week: 25

    Week 10 Result: Won at Denver 30-13

    The Philadelphia Eagles appear to have found a winning formula.

    In recent weeks, the Eagles have dedicated themselves to running the football. Against the Broncos in Denver on Sunday, Philly peeled off 40 carries for 214 yards for an average of 5.4 yards per tote. Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts told reporters after the game that it felt good for his squad to be the one dictating tempo on a weekly basis.

    "It seems like we're finding that groove. We're making that progress that we want to make as a football team and as an offense," Hurts said. "We want to go out there and be consistent in whatever way we decide to attack the defense. Whether it be running it 40 times, whatever it is, we want to be efficient as a football team and as an offense."

    Despite winning two of three, the Eagles are still two games under .500 and well off the pace in the NFC East. But with five of their last seven games coming against teams that currently have a losing record, if the Eagles keep playing well, Philly might be able to get back into the wild-card conversation in the NFC.

20. San Francisco 49ers (4-5)

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press

    Last Week: 24  

    Week 10 Result: Won vs. Los Angeles Rams 31-10

    Good luck figuring out the San Francisco 49ers.

    One week ago, in a listless loss to a shorthanded Arizona Cardinals team, the 49ers looked to be miles away from being a legitimate contender in the NFC West.

    Fast forward one week, and it's a much different story.

    The 49ers didn't just take down the Rams on Monday night—they dominated the game in just about every way a game can be dominated. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo missed on just four pass attempts, tossed two touchdown passes and posted a passer rating of over 140. The 49ers piled up 156 yards on the ground and put the clamps on L.A.'s high-octane offense, limiting the Rams to just 278 yards and a single touchdown.

    It was a win the 49ers desperately needed, and with three straight games coming up against teams that presently sport a losing record, if San Fran can keep that level of play up and peel off a few wins in a row, those postseason aspirations may not be so outlandish after all.

19. Carolina Panthers (5-5)

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    Ralph Freso/Associated Press

    Last Week: 23

    Week 10 Result: Won at Arizona 34-10

    The Carolina Panthers are quite the ping-pong ball in 2021.

    There was a three-game winning streak to open the season. A four-game skid that followed. An injury that felled quarterback Sam Darnold. And now, in a plot twist befitting a Hollywood movie, quarterback Cam Newton's return to Charlotte.

    Newton didn't play much of a role in Carolina's blowout win over a banged-up Arizona Cardinals team: He ran the ball three times and attempted four passes. But two of those resulted in touchdowns, and he told reporters afterward that it felt great to stand under center again for the team he led to Super Bowl 50.

    "I'm just floating at an all-time high frequency," Newton said. "It's almost scary."

    There's no guarantee the Newton signing will pan out, and the Panthers aren't without flaws. But Gagnon cautions not to count them out in the NFC playoffs.

    "Anything is an upgrade over Darnold," Gagnon wrote, "And it helps that Christian McCaffrey is healthy and has shaken off the rust. The rest of the NFC South looks vulnerable, and at least a wild-card spot should be the goal for a solid Carolina team that has bounced back from an ugly stretch."

18. Las Vegas Raiders (5-4)

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Last Week: 15

    Week 10 Result: Lost vs. Kansas City 41-14

    Sunday night was a major opportunity for the Las Vegas Raiders. A chance to not only wash off the stink from last week's loss to the New York Giants but also an opportunity to take over first place in the AFC West with a win over the rival Chiefs.

    That did not happen. Not even close.

    The Raiders were absolutely blasted at home by Kansas City, surrendering 516 yards of offense and five Patrick Mahomes touchdown passes. The Raiders, on the other hand, amassed just 82 yards in the first half. While speaking to reporters, quarterback Derek Carr admitted that early hole was just too much to climb out of.

    "We got in a hole and against this team that's hard," Carr said. "They just play soft coverage. They get a big lead, play soft coverage, blitz here and there and make you throw in front. It's a hard way to do it."

    The Raiders are up against it now; in addition to falling behind the Chiefs in the division, Sunday night's setback was the first in a wicked three-game stretch that includes a home date with the Cincinnati Bengals and a road trip to Big D to face the Cowboys.

17. Minnesota Vikings (4-5)

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Last Week: 22

    Week 10 Result: Won at Los Angeles Chargers 27-20

    For the Minnesota Vikings, the theme of the 2021 season had been close but no cigar. Over the first nine weeks of the year, Minnesota played seven games that were decided by one score. The Vikings were 2-5 in those games.

    Sunday's trip to Los Angeles was another close one. Only this time, Minnesota was able to seal the deal.

    Thanks to 294 passing yards and two scores from quarterback Kirk Cousins and 118 total yards from running back Dalvin Cook, the Vikings earned a seven-point victory that got Minnesota to within a game of .500 for the season.

    After the game, head coach Mike Zimmer talked up the resiliency of a squad that has gone down to the wire just about every week this season.

    "I told the team it takes a lot of courage to fight through adversity when everybody's shooting arrows at you," Zimmer said. "They came here to work and they fought like crazy all week, like they always have, and it finally paid off."

    The win keeps the Vikings in the hunt for a wild-card spot in the NFC, but there's no time for rest or attaboys. On Sunday, the Vikes play host to the NFC North-leading Packers.

16. Cleveland Browns (5-5)

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Last Week: 13

    Week 10 Result: Lost at New England 45-7

    Last week, the Cleveland Browns notched perhaps their most impressive win of the season in blowing out the Bengals in Cincinnati.

    Every bit of momentum the Browns may have built up in that game is gone now, because in Week 10, it was Cleveland's turn to get blown out.

    This was one of those games where the best thing the Browns can do with the game tape is burn it. Cleveland drove the length of the field for a touchdown on their first drive and then allowed 45 unanswered points. Cleveland was outgained 452 yards to 217 and converted one third down the entire game.

    It gets worse. Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield was already nursing a bad shoulder, but now you can add a knee injury to his list of ailments. However, while Mayfield didn't return to Sunday's mauling, head coach Kevin Stefanski told reporters after the game that he could have come back were the score not so lopsided.

    "Baker's a competitor," Stefanski said. "[I] just didn't feel it was the right thing to put him back out there."

    It was an ugly afternoon all the way around, one that makes it difficult to take these Browns seriously as a contender in the AFC.

15. New Orleans Saints (5-4)

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    John Amis/Associated Press

    Last Week: 16

    Week 10 Result: Lost at Tennessee 23-21

    The anxiety level is going up in New Orleans.

    Back on Halloween, the Saints logged their biggest win of the season, upsetting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Superdome. But that win came at a cost: Quarterback Jameis Winston was lost for the season in that game, and New Orleans hasn't won since.

    Winston wasn't the only key player out Sunday against the Titans. Running back Alvin Kamara also missed the game with a knee injury. And while Mark Ingram piled up 108 total yards and Trevor Siemian threw for 298 yards and two scores, for the second week in a row, the Saints came up two points short in the end.

    It could be worse. Thanks to Tampa's upset loss in Washington, the Saints didn't fall any farther off the pace in the NFC South.

    But as head coach Sean Payton told reporters after the game, the Saints have to do a better job of pulling these close games out moving forward.

    "Disappointing loss," Payton said. "I thought we came in with a good plan. We fought hard. That's what makes it difficult. Just in the end, too many little things."

14. Indianapolis Colts (5-5)

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    Last Week: 17

    Week 10 Result: Won vs. Jacksonville 23-17

    The Indianapolis Colts are at it again.

    For the second time in four seasons, the Colts came out of the gate slowly, losing four of their first five games.

    And just like in 2018, the Colts have rallied, winning four of five to get back to .500 at the 10-game mark.

    For much of their recent hot streak, the Colts have depended on running back Jonathan Taylor, and Sunday was no different. Taylor carried the ball 21 times for 116 yards and a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars, pulling into a tie for the league's rushing lead with Derrick Henry. The team also got another turnover-free game from quarterback Carson Wentz, although he admitted to reporters afterward that the win wasn't an especially stylish one.

    "It seems like we've been climbing out of this hole for a while now," Wentz said. "It wasn't our best game, but a win's a win."

    Indy is still three games back of the Titans in the AFC South, but the Colts are in the thick of the wild-card race. Staying there won't be easy, though. Next week, the Colts travel to Buffalo, followed by a home date with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    "The Colts go as Taylor goes," Sobleski said. "The second-year ball-carrier ran for at least 100 yards in each of Indianapolis' wins this season. He didn't in any of the team's losses. Obviously, correlation doesn't automatically equate to causation, but the Colts' effectiveness by winning in the trenches behind one of the game's better offensive fronts is a key to their success. With a strong running game and play from the front five, the team can hide some of the inconsistencies found at quarterback."

13. Cincinnati Bengals (5-4)

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    Aaron Doster/Associated Press

    Last Week: 14

    Week 10 Result: Bye week

    For most NFL teams, a Week 10 bye is just about perfect. Nine games have been played, and eight more remain after the off week.

    For the Cincinnati Bengals, there is an additional task for the team in addition to getting some rest: shaking off the stink.

    After jumping out to a 5-2 start that included an impressive win in Baltimore to put the Bengals in first place in the AFC North, Cincinnati has dropped two straight, with the latest setback a blowout loss at home to the rival Browns.

    A big part of the skid has been turnovers. Quarterback Joe Burrow entered Week 10 tied for the league lead with 11 interceptions. But as Geoff Hobson reported for the team's website, head coach Zac Taylor said he isn't concerned about Burrow's decision-making.

    "They would if he was making bad decisions. He's really not. You put them into different categories. Is it a poor decision? Is it an inaccurate or late throw? Was someone on offense supposed to be in better positon to do their job? Because a lot of it is trust in these systems," Taylor said. "And then sometimes the defender just makes a great play. There's been several times they've fallen into that category. Defenders make good plays and sometimes the ball's tipped in there and we've had a couple of tipped ball picks on plays that the quarterback has to own. But at the end of the day those are the ones he's going to quickly brush off and move on from because he knows he doesn't have much control over them."

    We'll see if Taylor remains so nonchalant about giveaways if they continue in a post-bye slate that starts with three straight games against teams with winning records.

12. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3-1)

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    Last Week: 10

    Week 10 Result: Tied vs. Detroit 16-16 (OT)

    When the Baltimore Ravens were stunned by the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night, it presented the Pittsburgh Steelers with a (black and) golden opportunity to move into a tie for first place in the AFC North. All that was required was a victory over the winless Detroit Lions.

    Um, about that…

    Granted, the Steelers were forced to play Sunday's game without their starting quarterback after Ben Roethlisberger landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. But it was still dispiriting to see Pittsburgh play a sloppy, mistake-filled game that included three turnovers and seven penalties.

    After the game, Mike Tomlin admitted to reporters that Pittsburgh just didn't play well enough to win.

    "I just met with the team," Tomlin said. "Acknowledged the fight. Didn't congratulate them for it. … Just too sloppy to win."

    "Good luck figuring out the AFC North," Davenport said, "The Ravens lost to a bad Miami Dolphins team, the Browns got their doors blown off by the Patriots, and the Steelers tried their level best to lose to Detroit. There isn't a bad team in the division. But I don't know that there's a legit Super Bowl contender either."

11. Los Angeles Chargers (5-4)

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Last Week: 9

    Week 10 Result: Lost vs. Minnesota 27-20

    The Los Angeles Chargers are slipping.

    After a 4-1 start that saw the Bolts beat the Kansas City Chiefs, Las Vegas Raiders and Cleveland Browns in successive weeks to claim first place in the AFC West, the Chargers have dropped three of four games, culminating in a seven-point loss to the Vikings at SoFi Stadium.

    It was a sloppy game on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Justin Herbert threw for just 195 yards with a passer rating of 72.5, Defensively, the Chargers gave up 381 yards of offense and 24 first downs.

    It's a slide that has Gagnon more than a little concerned about the Chargers' viability as a postseason contender.

    "So much for those high preseason expectations for the Chargers, who haven't played a really strong all-around game since beating the Raiders 28-14 in Week 4," he said. "The offense has cooled down considerably, and the defense is very flawed. It's pretty disappointing considering the talent on that roster."

10. New England Patriots (6-4)

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Last Week: 11

    Week 10 Result: Won vs. Cleveland 45-7

    Mac Jones wasn't the first quarterback selected in the 2021 NFL draft. Or the second. Or the third.

    But 10 weeks into the regular season, there's little question that the former Alabama standout has had the most success of any first-year quarterback so far.

    Jones wasn't the only reason the New England Patriots blasted the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. Or even the biggest reason. But in completing 19 of 23 passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, Jones played the same sort of solid, efficient game that he has more weeks than not this season.

    After a slow start to the season, Jones and the Patriots have peeled off four straight victories (and five wins in six games) to thrust themselves into the AFC wild-card conversation. In fact, with both matchups against the AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills still to be played, the Pats could still threaten for a division title.

    As it turns out, apparently Bill Belichick is pretty good at the whole "coaching football" thing.

    "They've got the coaching, the talent on both sides of the ball and now the momentum with a four-game winning streak," Gagnon said. "They've also been in every game since losing to the Saints in Week 3 and could easily be a lot better than 6-4."

    "One can point to the Patriots' dismantling of the Cleveland Browns and say the entire team is playing well—which it is," Sobleski added. "The Patriots are back in regard to operating at a highly competitive level with a return to the playoffs squarely within reach. At the same time, Jones is turning into something special. He is the league's best rookie quarterback by a mile, and how he performed against Cleveland was truly special. He looked fearless in the pocket, layered his throws, showed great touch and anticipation and picked apart a soft defense."

9. Baltimore Ravens (6-3)

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Last Week: 5

    Week 10 Result: Lost at Miami 22-10

    Good luck figuring out the AFC this season—especially the AFC North.

    Just when it appeared that the Baltimore Ravens had established themselves as the best team in the division and maybe the conference, they laid a big fat egg in Miami against the Dolphins.

    After the stunning loss, head coach John Harbaugh put the blame for the clunker squarely on himself.

    "Hats off to the Dolphins," Harbaugh told reporters. "They played a very good football game. Outcoached us, outplayed us, and won the football game. So bottom line is this falls squarely on me as the head coach. We were not prepared the way we need to be prepared. Our schemes weren't up to snuff. And we weren't prepared to execute the way we needed to. So that's it. Not on one player. Our players played their hearts out. They worked hard all week. They did everything we could to be prepared, and just weren't ready. That's on me."

    The stunner tightened up the division quite a bit, and with three of the Ravens' next four games against the Browns and Steelers, Baltimore will need to get this stink washed off quickly.

8. Kansas City Chiefs (6-4)

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    Last Week: 12

    Week 10 Result: Won at Las Vegas 41-14

    Now these are the Kansas City Chiefs we expected to see.

    After two months of turnover-prone offense and non-existent defense, the Chiefs finally looked on Sunday night like the two-time defending AFC champions.

    Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City offense was rolling against the Raiders—he passed for 406 yards and five touchdowns without an interception. Tight end Travis Kelce and running back Darrel Williams both eclipsed 100 receiving yards, while wide receiver Tyreek Hill chipped in two touchdowns. All told, the Chiefs gashed the Raiders for 516 total yards.

    Defensively, the Chiefs allowed just 299 total yards and 14 points while forcing two turnovers and sacking Derek Carr twice.

    It was easily the Chiefs' most impressive game of the season, and it moved them into first place in the AFC West.

    "In a week where the rest of the division struggled, the Chiefs dropped a piano on the Raiders to reclaim their usual spot atop the AFC West," Davenport said. "The question is whether this was a one-off or a performance that shows Mahomes and the Chiefs are back. It won't take long to answer that question. Next week brings a possible Super Bowl preview when the Chiefs host the surging Dallas Cowboys."

    "You had to think it was just a matter of time," Gagnon said. "The Chiefs have so many flaws on paper, but we're still talking about Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. They'll be in the mix well into the new year."

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3)

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    Mark Tenally/Associated Press

    Last Week: 2

    Week 10 Result: Lost at Washington 29-19

    Unease is growing in Tampa Bay.

    It's not just that the Buccaneers have dropped two straight games. It's the way the Buccaneers lost in Week 10. Tampa was flat-out outplayed on both sides of the ball by a mediocre (at best) Washington team. The offense managed just 273 yards and turned the ball over twice. The defense allowed Washington to pile up almost a 2-to-1 edge in time of possession and convert 11 of 19 third downs.

    While speaking to reporters after the game, Tom Brady said what anyone who watched the game already knew—the Bucs just didn't play well.

    "Not a great day of football for us," Brady said. "We just never really played on our terms. We played from behind the whole game, and they played a good game."

    Head coach Bruce Arians was that much more blunt.

    "The stupidity has to go away if we're going to go anywhere," Arians said. "We're a very dumb football team, and that's a reflection on the coaches."

    It's hardly panic time in Tampa. But the Buccaneers are no juggernaut. And another deep postseason run is hardly a sure thing.

6. Buffalo Bills (6-3)

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Last Week: 6

    Week 10 Result: Won at New York Jets 45-17

    There wasn't a more surprising result across the NFL in Week 9 than Buffalo's 9-6 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    Buffalo had another date in Week 10 with one of the NFL's tomato cans, and there would be no repeat of last week's faceplant.

    An angry Bills team shellacked the Jets on Sunday. Offensively, the Bills racked up 489 yards and drove the field at will—the team had just seven third downs over the entire game. Defensively, the Bills forced five Jets turnovers and didn't allow New York to find the end zone until the game was totally out of hand.

    It was the sort of performance we expected from the Bills against Jacksonville, and it sends the team into the most daunting part of their schedule with some positive momentum. Josh Allen and Co. will need it. Buffalo's next six opponents are all .500 or better—including a pair of matchups with a New England Patriots team that is just a half-game off the pace in the AFC East.

5. Los Angeles Rams (7-3)

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Last Week: 3

    Week 10 Result: Lost at San Francisco 31-10

    It has been a rough week or so for the Los Angeles Rams.

    It started Sunday night in Week 9, when the Rams were stunned at home by a Tennessee Titans team short Derrick Henry. Then the celebration surrounding the acquisition of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was dampened by Robert Woods' ACL tear on the practice field.

    Now the Rams have suffered a second consecutive lopsided defeat—this time, at the hands of the rival San Francisco 49ers.

    It was a moribund effort all around. For the second consecutive game, Matthew Stafford threw multiple interceptions, with one getting returned for a touchdown. The Rams barely made an effort to run the ball and could do little to slow down the Niners on the ground.

    "It's hardly time to panic, as the Rams are still 7-3 and just a game behind Arizona," Davenport said. "But getting outscored 59-26 in back-to-back prime-time games is not a good look for an alleged Super Bowl contender. Sean McVay has work to do over the bye, especially with trips to Green Bay and Arizona coming up in the next few weeks."

4. Dallas Cowboys (7-2)

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    Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

    Last Week: 8

    Week 10 Result: Won vs. Atlanta 43-3

    Last week, the Dallas Cowboys were stunned at home by the Denver Broncos.

    Dallas did all the stunning in Week 10.

    Sunday's blowout of the visiting Falcons was a dominant performance from start to finish. But while we have come to expect Dak Prescott and the high-powered Cowboys offense to chew up yardage and rack up points, it's the Dallas defense that might be the most impressive part of the team's 6-2 start.

    Against the Falcons, Dallas surrendered just 214 total yards and three points. Rookie linebacker Micah Parsons continued to be a revelation, pacing the team with six solos and adding his sixth sack of 2021. Cornerback Trevon Diggs bolstered his candidacy for Defensive Player of the Year by notching his league-leading eighth interception.

    At 7-2, the Cowboys are four games up in the loss column in the NFC East. But given how well the team has played, its sights are set a fair bit higher than a division crown.

    And after watching the Cowboys flatten the Falcons, it's hard to dispute their legitimacy as a Super Bowl contender in the NFC.

3. Arizona Cardinals (8-2)

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    Darryl Webb/Associated Press

    Last Week: 1

    Week 10 Result: Lost vs. Carolina 34-10

    On some level, the Arizona Cardinals deserve a mulligan for Sunday's blowout loss to the Carolina Panthers. The Redbirds were without the services of quarterback Kyler Murray and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for a second consecutive game.

    But a loss is a loss, and the Cardinals didn't just falter Sunday at home—they faceplanted.

    The game got out of hand quickly, with Arizona turning it over on the first two drives (once on downs) and Carolina converting both miscues into touchdowns. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury made no excuses while speaking to reporters after the defeat.

    "I thought we had a good week, so I was surprised with how we played," Kingsbury said. "We’ve got to get some stuff cleaned up, no doubt. Start the game with a turnover, turnover on downs, bad call by me there."

    Now, if the Cardinals get Murray and Hopkins back and get back on track next week against Seattle, this game could just be a temporary setback—a bump in the road.

    But with two division matchups over the next three games (including a pivotal rematch with the Rams), the Cardinals need to tighten things up in a hurry.

2. Green Bay Packers (8-2)

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    Aaron Gash/Associated Press

    Last Week: 7

    Week 10 Result: Won vs. Seattle 17-0

    It has been a tumultuous couple of weeks for the Green Bay Packers. There was Aaron Rodgers' COVID-19 vaccine status. A listless loss against the Kansas City Chiefs with Jordan Love under center.

    Well, the Packers got No. 12 back for Sunday's showdown with Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks. And the team got right back to winning.

    Rodgers didn't exactly light the world on fire, throwing for 292 yards with an interception. The Pack also were hit by a significant injury when star running back Aaron Jones suffered a sprained MCL.

    However, AJ Dillon stepped up with 66 yards on 21 carries with two scores, and the Packers did something defensively that no team ever had—shut out a Russell Wilson-led Seahawks team.

    "Sunday's win was short on style points," Davenport said, "but after watching the Green Bay defense put the clamps on Seattle in Week 10, an argument can be made that Green Bay is as good as or better than any team in the NFC. The question now is if Dillon can keep the ground game on track and help Green Bay stay in the hunt for the NFC's top seed."

    "At this point, the Packers could roll through the rest of the season as long as Rodgers remains in the lineup," Sobleski added. "Last weekend's performance aside, Green Bay has won eight straight games with Rodgers behind center. Jones' sprained MCL could hamper the offense slightly, but Dillon stepped in and assumed the role of ball-carrier and receiver out of the backfield. Plus, Green Bay's defense is getting after it as the league's third-ranked scoring unit."

1. Tennessee Titans (8-2)

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Last Week: 4

    Week 10 Result: Won vs. New Orleans 23-21

    The Tennessee Titans aren't exactly racking up style points. But the team continues racking up wins.

    After squeaking past the Saints in Nashville, the Titans have peeled off six consecutive wins and presently own the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

    Make no mistake—it was indeed a squeaker. They managed just 264 yards of total offense, and in their second game without star running back Derrick Henry, the Titans managed just 66 rushing yards on 29 carries.

    While speaking to reporters after the game, quarterback Ryan Tannehill lauded his team's determination while allowing that the Titans need to improve in some areas.

    "Obviously we got to clean some stuff up, but I'm never going to apologize for a win," Tannehill said.

    Still, while the Titans are 8-2, Davenport remains skeptical of their Super Bowl potential.

    "At the end of the day wins are all that matters," Davenport said, "and Tennessee has gutted out two against teams with winning records since Henry went down. But it's fair to wonder how long the Titans can sustain success with the lack of offense the team has had the past couple of games. It probably won't matter next week against Houston, but this team isn't getting to the Super Bowl if it struggles to break 250 yards of offense."

    However, two of our analysts believe that Tennessee's resume has earned the Titans the No. 1 spot.

    "With all due respect to the Titans, I don't think I've ever had a team listed in the top spot with more of a 'by default' feel than this," Gagnon said. "I can't possibly give the No. 1 position to the slumping Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the streaking Titans have defeated both the Los Angeles Rams and Buffalo Bills. The Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys deserve consideration, but they've experienced problems of late too. With the Baltimore Ravens losing to a bad Miami team as well, the Titans occupy a top spot that I'd frankly prefer to leave empty. What a weird year it's been."