2021 B/R NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Entering Week 12?

NFL StaffContributor INovember 23, 2021

2021 B/R NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Entering Week 12?

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    Bleacher Report

    Some weeks, everything goes according to plan in the NFL. Contenders win. Pretenders lose. All is right with the universe.

    Week 11 was most assuredly not one of those weeks.

    Where to even begin? The No. 1 playoff seed in the AFC, the Tennessee Titans, was beaten soundly at home by a one-win Houston Texans team. The Buffalo Bills (who were considered by some the front-runner in the AFC) were blown out at home by the Indianapolis Colts. The NFC bracket wasn't immune, either; the top-seeded Green Bay Packers fell at Minnesota, and the Dallas Cowboys came up short in Kansas City.

    At least the Jaguars and Lions lost. That's what passed for order amidst the chaos.

    A weekend of surprises and upsets put these power rankings through a blender. But just as they do every week, Bleacher Report NFL analysts Gary Davenport, Brent Sobleski and Brad Gagnon have come together to sort through the pigskin puree and rank the NFL's teams from worst to first.

    First stop? Duval County.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8)

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    Matt Stamey/Associated Press

    Last Week: 30

    Week 11 Result: Lost vs. San Francisco 30-10 

    Sunday's blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers was the second week in a row the Jacksonville Jaguars have trailed 17-0 in the first half and the sixth defeat by 10 or more points. But despite being outclassed in every way imaginable, Jags head coach Urban Meyer insisted the team is making progress.

    "I love our quarterback [Trevor Lawrence], I love our owner [Shad Khan], and I love the fact that we have a good core group of players," Meyer said, via the team's website. "I was extremely disappointed with everything about today, but you keep going. You keep working. There are times we have played excellent football. Today wasn't one of those days."

    Meyer went on to say, "We have another chance to prove to our home crowd that we love them and care about them. We're going to play hard next week against the Falcons. That's the way I look at it. I'm not going to panic. That was a very poor display of football in so many areas but go back to work and try to go beat the Falcons next week."

    The first-year head coach can try to talk up his team all he wants. But the Jaguars rank 31st in the league in scoring offense and 25th in scoring defense. When you're scoring the second-fewest points per game and allowing the eighth-most, you aren't going to win much.

31. New York Jets (2-8)

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    Last Week: 29

    Week 11 Result: Lost vs. Miami 24-17

    It has been an ugly season in New York, in part because of a revolving door of poor quarterback play.

    There was a new contestant in that carousel in Week 11, but at game's end, the result was the same.

    To be fair, Joe Flacco actually didn't play badly. The 36-year-old threw for 291 yards and two scores without an interception. Rookie wide receiver Elijah Moore had a career day, hauling in eight catches for 141 yards and a score.

    But there were just too many mistakes, whether it was missed opportunities or the seven penalties that often came at the worst possible time. It was a microcosm of the entire season. For every good thing that happened, three bad things did.

    "That the likes of Mike White and Joe Flacco have had more success moving the New York offense than Zach Wilson did isn't a great look for the second overall pick in this year's draft," Davenport said. "But neither showed anything to indicate that once Wilson's knee is healthy he shouldn't get back out there. At least Moore looks like the real deal. It would be nice for beleaguered Jets fans to have some kind of bright spot to cling to."

30. Houston Texans (2-8)

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    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    Last Week: 32

    Week 11 Result: Won at Tennessee 22-13 

    Yes, you read that right. A Houston Texans team that entered Week 11 with all of one win knocked off the AFC's No. 1 seed heading into the week—and in their house, no less.

    An argument can be made that the Texans didn't win this game as much as the Titans lost it. Houston had just 190 yards of offense compared to Tennessee's 420. But when a team has five turnovers and its opponent has zero, the opponent usually wins.

    Regardless of how it happened, Houston linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill told reporters this was a huge win for the franchise.

    "It's just huge to get this thing rolling," Grugier-Hill said. "It's been tough. It's been super tough. To come out here and get a big win on the road against probably one of the best teams in the AFC, that's huge. So, we're excited."

    This win isn't going to save Houston's season. It also doesn't make the Texans a good football team.

    But it's enough to get the team out of the basement of these power rankings.

    And by golly, that matters.

29. Detroit Lions (0-9-1)

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Last Week: 31

    Week 11 Result: Lost at Cleveland 13-10

    Credit where it's due: The Lions keep finding new ways to lose close games in the ugliest imaginable ways.

    With Jared Goff out in Week 11, the Lions were forced to turn to Tim Boyle as the team's starter at quarterback. That went about like you would expect. Boyle passed for just 77 yards, threw a pair of interceptions and averaged a minuscule 3.3 yards per attempt.

    It wasn't all dismal. Running back D'Andre Swift continued to be a bright spot in a dark season, piling up 136 rushing yards and a touchdown. But Detroit is now 10 games into the 2201 campaign and still looking for its first win of the year.

    Last week's tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers will ensure that the Lions cannot become the first 0-17 team in league history. But looking at Detroit's remaining schedule, a Week 16 trip to Atlanta to play the Falcons on December 26 may be its best chance at avoiding a winless season.

    Still, at least one analyst here at B/R gives the Lions credit for putting up a fight more weeks than not.

    "I know they still haven't won yet this season, but the Lions have so much more spirit than teams of similar ilk such as the Bears, Falcons, Texans, Jets and Jaguars," Gagnon said. "That counts for something in the realm of power rankings, especially with so much draft capital in their back pocket. This might be the worst team in football on paper, but it isn't the worst-performing team in the league."

28. Chicago Bears (3-7)

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Last Week: 27

    Week 11 Result: Lost vs. Baltimore 16-13

    Week 11 was a golden opportunity for the Chicago Bears. A chance to steal a win from a Baltimore Ravens team that was short quarterback Lamar Jackson.

    The problem was that the Bears were short players too and wound up without the services of rookie quarterback Justin Fields thanks to a rib injury. And while Andy Dalton tried to lead the Bears to an upset win, when the final gun sounded, the Bears were in the same place they have been so often: on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

    "Chicago endured two significant blows Sunday," Sobleski said. "First, the team lost to the Ravens and extended its losing streak to five games. Fields also suffered bruised ribs during the contest. The rest of the season will be about evaluating the roster. Fields needs to play, but the Bears can't rush him back into the lineup. So, Chicago is stuck in limbo for now."

    It's likely we'll see Dalton under center in a few days when the Bears and the winless Lions kick off the Thanksgiving Day slate. And with Bears fans chanting "Fire Nagy" as the game ended, it's equally likely that Chicago's embattled head coach is on the thinnest of ice.

27. Atlanta Falcons (4-6)

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Last Week: 26

    Week 11 Result: Lost vs. New England 25-0

    The Atlanta Falcons stink.

    The Falcons don't have the worst record in the NFL. Or even the NFC. But make no mistake, this is a bad football team.

    After getting shut out at home for the first time since 1988 by the Patriots, the Falcons have now been outscored 68-3 over the past two weeks. Over that span, they have tallied 379 total yards of offense while surrendering 739.

    The Atlanta offense is as bereft of weaponry as any in the league, and it was also without receiver Cordarrelle Patterson against the Pats. The run game is nonexistent. The wide receivers weren't great when Calvin Ridley was with the team and are terrible without him.

    The defense isn't helping either. Only one team in the entire NFL has allowed more points per game than the Falcons this season.

    The hope in Atlanta before the 2021 season was that this was a team that could contend with the addition of a few pieces.

    It has become abundantly clear that is not the case.

26. Seattle Seahawks (3-7)

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Last Week: 25

    Week 11 Result: Lost vs. Arizona 23-13

    The Seattle Seahawks are in unfamiliar territory.

    Simply put, we have never seen a Russell Wilson-led Seahawks team struggle like this. After another miserable offensive effort against the Cardinals, the Seahawks are 3-7 and all alone in the NFC West basement. Since Wilson's return from a broken finger in Week 10, the Seahawks have scored a whopping one touchdown.

    Wilson told reporters after the loss that he remains hopeful the team can turn things around despite losing three straight starts for the first time in his career.

    "I'm going to look internally to see what can I do better, and then also, too, what can we do better collectively?" Wilson said. "So the reality, though, is that I've been through tough times before, and I think about some of the tough moments I've gone through. There's always something better on the other end of it. That's what I really believe, and so the thought process of it, man, it can feel like it's your worst day just as a team, as a group, and it can feel heavy and all that, but I do think that you have to have perspective and know that there's still opportunity, and we have to decide and we have to execute on it, and we have to go do it."

    Still, at this point, the playoffs are a pipe dream. And an offseason of uncomfortable questions and tough decisions is getting closer by the week.

    "Two pretty ugly losses coming back from injury? That's really shocking from Wilson, who was frustrated last offseason and now is looking a spoiled campaign right in the eye," Gagnon said. "The Seahawks are likely toast for 2021, and now it's hard not to wonder if we're looking at the end of an era. There's at least a small chance they blow it up this offseason, especially if Wilson becomes even more disenchanted."

25. New York Giants (3-7)

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    Last Week: 24

    Week 11 Result: Lost at Tampa Bay 30-10

    There was optimism for the New York Giants headed into Monday night's tilt with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The return of players like running back Saquon Barkley and wide receiver Kenny Golladay offered the Giants their best compliment of offensive firepower in weeks.

    You would never have known it to see Daniel Jones play against the Bucs.

    The Giants quarterback was mostly awful against a Tampa defense that has been exploited in recent weeks by the likes of Trevor Siemian and Taylor Heinicke. Jones threw for just 167 yards with two picks and a passer rating of 57.7, while Barkley couldn't get anything going on the ground, gaining 25 yards on six carries.

    It was a miserable effort all the way for around for a team that appears to be headed nowhere fast. However, there is at least individual who played a substantial role in Monday's debacle who could be headed somewhere.

    Given how the 2021 season is proceeding, here's hoping that head coach Joe Judge is renting.

24. Denver Broncos (5-5)

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Last Week: 23

    Week 11 Result: Bye week

    The Denver Broncos hit their bye week as something of an enigma.

    Facing a trio of tomato cans to open the season, the Broncos opened 2021 at 3-0. Then, as their competition stiffened, Denver wilted, dropping four straight. That was followed by two more victories, including an impressive win over the Cowboys in Dallas. However, any momentum the Broncos built in Dallas faded last week in a lopsided loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

    That loss against Philly came with what some have called a "business decision" by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater on a non-tackle of cornerback Darius Slay on a fumble return that resulted in a Philly touchdown. After that debacle, there have been calls for Drew Lock to replace Bridgewater, but head coach Vic Fangio shot that notion down earlier this week while speaking to reporters.

    "No, Teddy’s our quarterback moving forward," Fangio said.

    With Denver ranking 20th in total offense and 23rd in scoring offense, a late push for the playoffs appears unlikely. But given that Lock comes with a livelier arm but much bigger penchant for turnovers, the odds that a change under center would make a big difference for this team aren't especially good.

23. Miami Dolphins (4-7)

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Last Week: 28

    Week 11 Result: Won at New York Jets 24-17 

    Regardless of the outcome of Sunday's battle of AFC East tomato cans, the Miami Dolphins aren't doing a lot in 2021. The team would have to win out to match last year's win total.

    The rest of this season is as much about 2022 as anything. And where next year is concerned, the Dolphins have a potentially franchise-defining decision to make.

    Is Tua Tagovailoa "the guy" at quarterback?

    Miami has been linked to Deshaun Watson approximately all the times ever. There have already been reports that the team was willing to offer three first-round picks and two seconds for the embattled signal-caller, but Miami wouldn't do it without resolution of the 22 civil lawsuits tied to allegations of sexual assault and misconduct.

    For his part, Tagovailoa is making that massive investment look that much riskier. Against the Jets, he had just six incompletions and a passer rating of 108.7. In guiding Miami to consecutive wins, Tagovailoa has demonstrated that he can be a viable NFL starter.

    He has six more games to make the case that he should remain one in South Florida.

22. Carolina Panthers (5-6)

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    Jacob Kupferman/Associated Press

    Last Week: 19

    Week 11 Result: Lost vs. Washington 27-21

    Life is a circle.

    Last year, new Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule made the decision to move on from longtime quarterback Cam Newton. After a year with Teddy Bridgewater under center, the decision was made to replace Bridgewater with Sam Darnold. Then, when Darnold got hurt, the Panthers filled that hole by signing….Cam Newton.

    You can't make this stuff up.

    Sunday's meeting with Washington was the first start of the second Newton era. And while the Panthers lost 27-21 to fall a game below .500 for the third time this season, Newton actually played fairly well: 189 passing yards, two scores and a passer rating of 120.5.

    Still, the Panthers were outgained by a fair margin (369 yards to 297) in this game, and Carolina's vaunted pass defense allowed three touchdown passes from Washington's Taylor Heinicke.

    The game was a reminder that while the Panthers aren't a bad team, they also aren't an especially good one. But with a beatable Miami Dolphins squad up next, there's a good chance the new Newton Panthers will hit the bye at 6-6.

21. Washington Football Team (4-6)

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    Rusty Jones/Associated Press

    Last Week: 22

    Week 11 Result: Won at Carolina 27-21

    By most measurements, it has been a disappointing season in the nation's capital. But after winning just two of eight games before the bye, Washington peeled off its most impressive win of the season in Week 10 in upsetting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Sunday in Charlotte, Washington built on that victory by doing something it hadn't done all season long: winning back-to-back games.

    It was a homecoming of sorts for Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who started the first game of his NFL career for the Panthers back in 2018. After throwing three touchdown passes and outplaying Cam Newton on Sunday, former teammate Donte Jackson lauded Heinicke's improvement.

    "You can always count on him to be a fighter, a competitor," Jackson told reporters. "He just plays to win. It doesn't matter if he has to hand it off 100 times or throw it 100 times. He really competed for those guys today."

    This mini-win streak is unlikely to get Washington back in the postseason hunt. The team is just too far off the pace in the NFC East and has too many teams ahead of it in the wild-card race.

    But at least Washington is showing some fight in the second half.

    "The bye week proved to be a godsend for the Washington Football Team," Sobleski said. "After a 2-6 start, the nameless ones won their last two games against the Buccaneers and Panthers. They've done so with improved quarterback play and a much-improved defense. Heinicke has been efficient with a 77.8 completion percentage and four-to-zero touchdown-to-interception ratio in the last two games. Meanwhile, the much-maligned defense allowed fewer than 300 yards in both contests despite Chase Young's season-ending injury."

20. Las Vegas Raiders (5-5)

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    Last Week: 18

    Week 11 Result: Lost vs. Cincinnati 32-13

    When the Raiders hit their bye week, Las Vegas was a 5-2 team that appeared to be in position to contend for an AFC West title despite all the controversies the team had faced.

    Not much has gone right since that bye week though. After getting waxed by the Cincinnati Bengals at home on Sunday, the Raiders have dropped three in a row to drop back to .500 for the season and fall into a tie with the Denver Broncos at the bottom of the division.

    It was a game in which the Raiders managed just 278 yards of offense and 13 first downs. The Raiders were also plagued by mistakes, whether it was two turnovers or penalties that extended Cincinnati drives.

    Raiders quarterback Derek Carr admitted to reporters after the game that the team needs to get some things figured out quickly.

    "The men in our room, the way we work, the way we go after things, it shouldn't always end like this," Carr said. "We have another one in a few days against a really good football team. If we don't want to stand up here and have to do this again, we better get it right."

    That game in a few days is against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Trips to Kansas City and Cleveland also loom in the next few weeks.

    For Vegas to stay in the postseason conversation, the team has to figure out a way to halt its skid and win a couple of those matchups.

19. New Orleans Saints (5-5)

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Last Week: 15

    Week 11 Result: Lost at Philadelphia 40-29

    Despite not having wide receiver Michael Thomas, the New Orleans Saints were able to keep winning.

    In spite of quarterback Jameis Winston suffering a season-ending injury, the Saints were able to keep winning.

    Despite running back Alvin Kamara being on the shelf the last two games, the Saints have….

    Yeah, they aren't winning much of late.

    Sunday's lopsided loss to the Philadelphia Eagles was team's third straight setback. And it wasn't pretty. Offensively, a sloppy Saints offense turned the ball over three times. Defensively, New Orleans' top-ranked run defense was gouged for a jaw-dropping 242 yards on the ground and let the Eagles convert 12 of 21 third downs.

    If the season ended today, the Saints would be the seventh and final playoff team in the NFC. But given how the team is playing, hanging on to that spot may be a tall ask. On Thanksgiving night, the Saints host a Buffalo Bills team likely seething about getting blown out by the Colts before a second straight Thursday nighter against a similarly angry Dallas Cowboys team.

    It's hard to imagine the Saints we watched in Philadelphia on Sunday winning either of those games.

18. Philadelphia Eagles (5-6)

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Last Week: 21

    Week 11 Result: Won vs. New Orleans 40-29 

    Nick Sirianni's Philadelphia Eagles have figured something out.

    After a 2-5 start to the season, the Eagles have now peeled off three wins in four contests to get back to within a game of .500. The recipe for that success has been simple.

    Run the ball. Run the ball some more. And then run the ball.

    Facing the No. 1 defense in rushing yards allowed per game in the New Orleans Saints, the Eagles were absolutely dominant on the ground: 242 yards on a staggering 50 rushes. Given all that banging away on the ground, it should come as no surprise that Philly dominated the tempo of Sunday's game—the Eagles possessed the ball for just over 37 minutes.

    While speaking to reporters after the game, running back Miles Sanders (who tallied 94 yards in his first game back from injury) said that dual-threat quarterback Jalen Hurts and a stout offensive line have both contributed to the Eagles' success on the ground.

    "It's a big impact," Sanders said. "It opens up big holes for all of us. Having Jalen makes it 10 times easier, but you have to give credit to the offensive line."

    "It's not that often that you see NFL teams in the 21st century run the ball 50 times," Davenport said. "But there's no denying that Philly's recent dedication to the run is paying dividends. The Eagles' next two games are away from home, but matchups with the Giants and Jets also present a real opportunity to hit the bye in Week 14 at 7-6 and in the wild-card conversation."

    "The Eagles are one positive play against the Chargers short of a four-game winning streak," Gagnon wrote. "The team still has some obvious flaws, but Hurts has improved greatly, and they might have enough to make a run in a bad division."

17. San Francisco 49ers (5-5)

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Last Week: 20

    Week 11 Result: Won at Jacksonville 30-10

    The San Francisco 49ers are back in it.

    Last week, the 49ers got their biggest win of the season, pounding the Los Angeles Rams by three touchdowns. Winning in similar fashion against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars might not be as impressive, but it was every bit as important. The 49ers are back to .500 for the first time since Week 4 after winning three of four.

    Veteran left tackle Trent Williams told reporters after the game that the Niners are playing at the level he knew they were capable of.

    "I don't feel like some light clicked on or nothing," Williams said. "That's what we want to do every game. Sometimes they make a good play, we make mistakes and it doesn't go our way. But that is how we always want to play a game like that."

    The Niners are still on the outside of the postseason picture at present. But with two straight coming up against teams that are .500 or worse and San Fran playing well, the team could crash the wild-card race soon enough.

16. Cleveland Browns (6-5)

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Last Week: 16

    Week 11 Result: Won vs. Detroit 13-10 

    The good news for the Cleveland Browns is that after defeating the Detroit Lions in Week 11, the team is back above .500 for the season.

    That's it. That's all the good news.

    To be blunt, the Browns were mostly terrible against a winless Lions team starting Tim Boyle at quarterback. Nick Chubb had a good game, picking up 130 yards on 22 carries. But Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield was a mess, completing just 15 of 29 passes with a pair of ugly interceptions.

    After the game, head coach Kevin Stefanski went to bat for his banged-up signal-caller.

    "Baker has done a really, really good job at taking care of the football in terms of interceptions, and he knows that we do not want to give them anything," Stefanski said to reporters. "I'm sure he's frustrated with those, but he has done a nice job this season."

    "Maybe it's his bad shoulder," Davenport said. "Maybe he's pressing and trying to do too much. But whatever the reason, Mayfield hasn't looked good in a while. And after watching Cleveland struggle to put away a putrid Lions team led by a quarterback who threw for 77 yards the entire game, it has just about become impossible to take the Browns seriously as a contender."

15. Minnesota Vikings (5-5)

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Last Week: 17

    Week 11 Result: Won vs. Green Bay 34-31

    The story of the 2021 season for the Minnesota Vikings has been heartbreak. The Vikes have been in every game this year, only to continually come up short at the end. All five of Minnesota's losses have come by seven or fewer points, including a pair of losses in overtime.

    Sunday against the rival Packers, it appeared for a while like we might see the same sad story play out again—after taking a 31-24 lead late, the Vikings allowed Aaron Rodgers to burn the team for a 75-yard scoring strike to Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

    However, rather than folding, this time the Vikings rallied, driving the length of the field before Greg Joseph knocked through a chip-shot field goal as time expired to lift Minnesota back to .500 and into a playoff spot as things stand now.

    It's the kind of win that can establish some real momentum for a team. But the Vikings won't have ant time to rest—next Sunday brings a trip to Levi's Stadium to battle a San Francisco 49ers team that is also contending for a wild card spot in the NFC.

    "I don't totally trust the Vikings, but two of their losses have come in overtime and another came by a single point on the road against the only nine-win team in the NFL," Gagnon said. "They entered the week ranked ninth in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average at Football Outsiders), and that felt a little off. But maybe it wasn't. This at least looks like a playoff team."

14. Cincinnati Bengals (6-4)

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    Last Week: 13

    Week 11 Result: Won at Las Vegas 32-13

    The Cincinnati Bengals had work to do coming out of the bye. After losing two straight heading into the off week, the Bengals faced a fork in the road. Win, and the team could move into playoff position in the AFC. Lose, and people would think that these new and improved Bengals really weren't all that improved after all.

    The team went with that first route.

    The Bengals didn't just beat the Raiders to get back on the winning track—they spanked Las Vegas thanks to a 123-yard, two score effort from tailback Joe Mixon.

    After the game, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor admitted to reporters that the "P" word has now officially entered the conversation.

    "We don't talk a lot about big picture this season, what games we have coming up ... we just put ourselves in a position to control our destiny at this point," Taylor said. "As long as we take care of our business one week at a time then we'll be in great shape."

    Taking care of that business isn't going to be easy though. The Bengals schedule from here out is among the toughest in the NFL. Beginning with matchup No. 2 of the season with the Steelers in Week 12, Cincinnati doesn't face a team that presently has a losing record the rest of the way.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4-1)

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Last Week: 12

    Week 11 Result: Lost at Los Angeles Chargers 41-37

    The Pittsburgh Steelers have encountered more than a little adversity of late. The team was without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in Week 10 and cornerback Joe Haden and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick in Week 11.

    Those latter losses certainly played a part in Pittsburgh's four point loss to the Chargers Sunday night. For a team that is so well known for playing stout defense, it's not often that you see Pittsburgh gashed for over 500 yards of offense and over 40 points.

    It was a costly loss that put a stop to a five game Pittsburgh unbeaten streak. It was also the beginning of the second-most difficult stretch-run schedule in the NFL. In Week 12, Pittsburgh faces the same Bengals team that blasted the Steelers in Week 3. Then comes the first of two meetings with the rival Ravens, followed by games against the Vikings, Titans and Chiefs.

    "The Steelers have been too good for too long to count then out," Davenport said, "but Sunday's loss to the Chargers makes Sunday's trip to the Queen City a must-win. Pittsburgh can't afford to fall 1.5 games back of the Bengals with two head-to-head losses. Not with how tightly packed the AFC Wild Card race is in 2021."

12. Los Angeles Chargers (6-4)

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Last Week: 11

    Week 11 Result: Won vs. Pittsburgh 41-37

    Like so many NFL teams in 2021, the Los Angeles Chargers have been up and down. There was the up of a 4-1 start that included wins over Cleveland, Las Vegas and Kansas City. And the down of a 1-3 stretch after that included a blowout loss in Baltimore and home defeats at the hands of Minnesota and New England.

    Sunday night's win over Pittsburgh was in some ways a microcosm for the season. For most of the game, the Chargers did just about whatever they wanted offensively, piling up a whopping 533 yards of offense.

    But the Chargers also blew a 17-point fourth-quarter lead, and it took a late touchdown pass from Herbert to Mike Williams to pull out a four-point win and keep the pressure on the Chiefs in the AFC West.

    However, while the win was far from flawless, Sobleski thinks it shows that the Bolts have to be taken seriously in the AFC bracket.

    "The Chargers remain very dangerous in the muddled AFC," he said. "A win Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers placed Los Angeles right back into the thick of things as a legitimate playoff contender. With the team's backfield of quarterback Justin Herbert and running back Austin Ekeler, the Chargers offense is extremely difficult to defend based on their varied skill sets. As long as the defense plays well enough, Los Angeles can beat anyone."

11. Indianapolis Colts (6-5)

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    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    Last Week: 14

    Week 11 Result: Won at Buffalo 41-15

    So Colts running back Jonathan Taylor had himself a day in Week 11.

    Taylor was absolutely dominant in Indy's shocking dismantling of the Buffalo Bills. On the ground , the second-year pro gashed the Bills for 185 yards on 32 carries. Taylor also added 19 yards on three receptions.

    Oh, and Taylor scored five touchdowns, which sounds like a lot.

    It was an explosion that moved Taylor into the lead in rushing yards for the season. It was also just the second time this season that Taylor carried the ball more than 20 times, and as Colts head coach Frank Reich told reporters after the game, the team is prepared to lean on their young back more down the stretch this season.

    "We are hoping that we can just continue to build that workload like in the track and field," Reich said. "Really have a second half of the year that's stronger and faster than the first half of the year. That would be the goal."

    "The Colts will be hard-pressed to catch Tennessee in the division—they're two back in the loss column and lost both head-to-head meetings with Tennessee this year," Davenport said. "But after starting the season 0-3 Indianapolis has peeled off six wins in eight games. This is not just a team capable of making a run at a wild card berth. It's the kind of team no one wants to play on the first weekend of the postseason."

    "Hand the ball to Jonathan Taylor and good things will happen," Sobleski wrote. "With Derrick Henry injured and Nick Chubb limited in recent weeks, Taylor emerged as the game's best ball-carrier. Over the last six games, the second-year running back amassed 795 yards at 6.6 yards per carry and 11 rushing touchdowns. Other teams know what's coming and they still can't stop the Colts' ground-and-pound attack." 

10. Baltimore Ravens (7-3)

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    David Banks/Associated Press

    Last Week: 9

    Week 11 Result: Won at Chicago 16-13

    Week 11 didn't start out as planned for the Baltimore Ravens—just before the start of Sunday's game in Chicago, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was scratched from the starting lineup with an illness.

    The game that followed wasn't pretty—with Tyler Huntley under center, the Ravens failed to hit 300 yards of offense or average four yards per carry on the ground.

    But thanks to some late heroics from Huntley and a Devonta Freeman touchdown, the Ravens gutted out a win that helped strengthen their hold on first place in the AFC North.

    While speaking to reporters after the game, cornerback Marlon Hunphrey applauded the Ravens for overcoming adversity and gutting out a win.

    "I think it means a lot," Humphrey said. "I think going into the game, there's a lot of not knowing what was going happen. We have two corners go down. All week, you don't have Lamar and then he comes back Friday and you're like, 'We're good, we're good.' Then, you see him on the plane curled up in a ball and I look over, I'm like, 'I don't think this guy's gonna be able to play.' It was just crazy."

    With the Steelers losing on Sunday night, that win became all the more important.

9. Dallas Cowboys (7-3)

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Last Week: 4

    Week 11 Result: Lost at Kansas City 19-9

    The Dallas Cowboys entered Week 11 with an opportunity. Travel to Kansas City and beat the Chiefs in a game may viewed as a potential Super Bowl preview, and the Cowboys could stake a claim to the title of the NFC's No. 1 team.

    Instead, the Cowboys now face the same questions that have seemingly dogged the franchise for years about the team's legitimacy as a contender.

    The Cowboys entered Week 11 as the league's No. 1 offense both in terms of yards per game and points per game. In each and every game, Dallas had found the end zone at least twice.

    But Kansas City completely shut down a Cowboys offense that was short-handed at wide receiver, holding Dallas to just 276 yards of offense and shutting the Cowboys out of the end zone. Dallas turned the ball over three times and managed just 16 first downs.

    Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott allowed to reporters that he wasn't pleased even a little by the game's outcome.

    "I'm never discouraged but pissed off, yeah, for sure," Prescott said. "Especially when you have an opportunity to come out and play against a team that's been in the Super Bowl the last two years, and we had a chance to show what we're capable of. But this is a resilient team that's going to continue to fight and get better, I can tell you that."

    At least the team won't have to mull on the defeat for long—Dallas has a quick turnaround before hosting the Raiders on Thanksgiving.

8. Buffalo Bills (6-4)

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    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    Last Week: 6

    Week 11 Result: Lost vs. Indianapolis 41-15 

    The Buffalo Bills have been on quite the roller-coaster ride as of late.

    Back in Week 9, the Bills suffered the biggest upset of the season, falling 9-6 in Jacksonville. As ugly as that loss was, they appeared to put it behind them when they pounded the New York Jets in Week 10.

    In Week 11, the Bills were on the receiving end of a pounding. And thanks to their blowout loss at home against the Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo fell out of first place in the AFC East.

    Colts running back Jonathan Taylor gouged the Bills for over 200 total yards and five touchdowns. The Bills had almost as many turnovers (four) as they did third-down conversions (five).

    While speaking to reporters after the game, Bills quarterback Josh Allen insisted the team wasn't panicking about its recent struggles.

    "We're a really good football team when we don't bite ourselves in the butt. What we put on the field today is not who we are," Allen said. "We need to do a better job on all fronts. There's no way around it, but at the same time, it's not panic mode."

    The Bills might not be panicking yet, but that doesn't mean they won't be soon. After a road game in New Orleans on Thanksgiving night, they have their first meeting of the season with the rival Patriots, followed by a trip to Tampa.

    It's a tough stretch for a team that has been up-and-down in recent weeks.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3)

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    Last Week: 7

    Week 11 Result: Won vs. New York Giants 30-10

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hit a bump in the road in the weeks leading up to and just after the team's bye—consecutive losses to the New Orleans Saints and Washington Football Team.

    It was nothing but smooth sailing against the New York Giants on Monday night.

    Now, a cynical sort might say that Tampa's blowout of the hapless G-Men said more about the Giants being terrible than the Buccaneers fixing the issues that cost them against New Orleans and Washington.

    But it was a clean game the Buccaneers dominated on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Tampa amassed 415 yards of offense and had almost twice as many first downs as New York. Defensively, the Bucs only surrendered 215 yards and forced three turnovers.

    "Monday's blowout was a reminder that while Tampa may not have the NFC's best record, the road to the Super Bowl still goes through the Buccaneers," Davenport said. "This week's road tilt with a Colts team that just blasted Buffalo has quietly become one of Week 12's biggest matchups."

6. Green Bay Packers (8-3)

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Last Week: 2

    Week 11 Result: Lost at Minnesota 34-31 

    Last week, the Green Bay Packers held the Seattle Seahawks to only 208 total yards and zero points. Heading into Week 11, no team in the NFC had allowed fewer points per game than Green Bay.

    But on Sunday, Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings had little trouble racking up yardage and scoring points against the Packers.

    Cousins threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns in a back-and-forth three-point win, while Minnesota wideout Justin Jefferson hauled in eight catches for 161 yards and two scores.

    One loss isn't the end of the world for the Packers. They still hold a multiple-game lead in the NFC North. But quarterback Aaron Rodgers aggravated his toe injury in the first half, while Pro Bowl offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins tore his ACL and will miss the rest of the season.

    That latter injury could mean big trouble for a Packers team that was already thin up front.

    "Maybe the Packers will eventually put it all together and Rodgers and the offense will click alongside the recently impressive defense," Gagnon said. "But that hasn't happened very often thus far. The Packers were probably a little lucky to be 8-2 considering they hadn't scored more than 27 points in a game since September. Sunday's loss to Minnesota might have represented a correction. They'll be in the playoff mix, but they aren't a top-three team right now."

5. Tennessee Titans (8-3)

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Last Week: 1

    Week 11 Result: Lost vs. Houston 22-13 

    Well, so much for Tennessee's stint atop these power rankings.

    Getting beat is one thing. Getting beat by a terrible Houston Texans team despite outgaining them over 2-to-1 because you turn the ball over five times is another.

    It was a horrendous performance all the way around, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill was the first to admit his four-pick clunker of a game was at the heart of it.

    "We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot you know?" Tannehill told reporters after the game. "Turnovers, turnover on downs, penalties. We shot ourselves in the foot all day. And we got to get better, and it starts with me."

    At least one of our analysts fears it was more trend than aberration.

    "The Titans just haven't been the same since Derrick Henry went down, and it has finally caught up with them," Davenport said. "With an assemblage of retread running backs struggling to run effectively, the pressure on Ryan Tannehill has compounded exponentially, and he isn't handling it well. Add in that Julio Jones is hurt and A.J. Brown left Sunday's loss, and there's no shortage of reasons to doubt this team's ability to go into Gillette Stadium and hang with the surging Patriots next week."

4. New England Patriots (7-4)

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Last Week: 10

    Week 11 Result: Won at Atlanta 25-0

    The Evil Empire is back.

    After shutting out the Atlanta Falcons at home, the New England Patriots have won five straight games. Over their last three wins—two of which came against teams that were .500 or better entering Week 11—they've allowed only 13 points while scoring 94.

    Quarterback Mac Jones has been the best rookie signal-caller this season by a mile. Whether it has been edge-rusher Matthew Judon on defense or wide receiver Kendrick Bourne and tight end Hunter Henry on offense, New England's huge offseason spending spree has paid massive dividends.

    At least one of our analysts believes the Pats are much more than just a playoff contender. They are a legitimate threat to win the AFC East and go deep into the playoffs.

    "The way these Patriots are playing on both sides of the ball, it isn't hard to imagine them winning at home in Week 12 against a Tennessee Titans team that has struggled offensively since Derrick Henry went down," Davenport said. "That would set up a battle for first place in the AFC East in Buffalo the following week, which absolutely no one expected from a New England team led by a rookie quarterback in 2021."

    "At this point, the Patriots are in the conversation as the NFL's best team," Sobleski added. "They've won five straight games and have the league's best point differential. As always, New England is well-coached. But the Patriots are also getting high-end play from the quarterback position again. Jones should be considered the current favorite for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. During this winning streak, he ranks first leaguewide in overall grade, second in passer rating and third in passing yardage, per Pro Football Focus." 

3. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    Last Week: 8

    Week 11 Result: Won vs. Dallas 19-9

    Not long ago, a hot topic of conversation in NFL circles was what was "wrong" with the Kansas City Chiefs.

    As it turns out, the answer to that question is "nothing."

    Sunday's victory over the Dallas Cowboys was the Chiefs' fourth consecutive win. It was their third straight victory over a team that had a winning record at the time. And it was the fourth consecutive game in which they allowed 17 or fewer points.

    That resurgent Chiefs defense was the big story against the Cowboys. Facing a Dallas offense that entered Week 11 leading the league in both total offense and scoring offense, the Chiefs held Dak Prescott and Co. to only 276 yards. It was the first game of the season in which Dallas was held out of the end zone.

    "Yes, the Chiefs have one more loss than the Titans and Ravens in the AFC," Davenport said. "But with the way they're playing, especially on defense, there's no way I can rank another AFC team above them. It's been a season of big swings from a lot of teams, but right now, no team in the conference is playing better than the Chiefs."

2. Los Angeles Rams (7-3)

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Last Week: 5

    Week 11 Result: Bye Week

    The Los Angeles Rams went into their bye week with some things to figure out.

    No team wants to hit the off week in a slump, and that's doubly true for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. But that's where the Rams found themselves after getting pasted in San Francisco in Week 10.

    While speaking to reporters last week, head coach Sean McVay pledged that the Rams were going to come out swinging after the bye.

    "We'll look inwardly," McVay said, "we're going to figure this thing out, and we're going to come back freakin' swinging, I promise you that, these last seven games of the regular season."

    The first place the Rams need to look is Matthew Stafford and an offense that has scored only 26 total points over the past two games after scoring at least that many points in all seven victories this season.

    The Rams won't have a ton of time to find those answers. On Sunday, they're off to Green Bay for a showdown with the Packers that carries major postseason implications.

1. Arizona Cardinals (9-2)

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Last Week: 3

    Week 11 Result: Won at Seattle 23-13 

    The Arizona Cardinals have now been without starting quarterback Kyler Murray and star wideout DeAndre Hopkins for the past three weeks.

    They've barely slowed down during that span.

    After hitting a pothole last week in a loss to the Carolina Panthers last week, the Arizona bandwagon was back on cruise control in Week 11. Colt McCoy scorched a banged-up Seattle Seahawks secondary for 328 yards and two scores.

    With Hopkins on the shelf, veteran tight end Zach Ertz and wideouts Rondale Moore and A.J. Green all hauled in at least four catches for 50-plus yards. And Arizona's defense shut down Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense, allowing just 266 total yards and one touchdown.

    "Reclaiming my top spot in these rankings with their quarterback and top wideout out in Seattle may be the most impressive thing that the Cardinals have done all season," Davenport said. "Now the Redbirds can take a breath during their bye week, get Murray healthy and prepare for a prime-time matchup with the Rams that could be a de facto NFC West Championship Game."


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