The Detroit Lions lead the NFC North. The Miami Dolphins, once left for dead at 1-4, are a legitimate wild card favorite. The Oakland Raiders, who haven’t won more than eight games since you were in diapers (probably), lead a division boasting a combined record of 29-15.
Oh, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Seattle Seahawks. Convincingly.
Yeah, it’s been that kind of year in the NFL. The constants remain. The Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars are bad. The New England Patriots are good. That sort of stuff. But this season has undoubtedly been one of the more surprising in recent memory. And that’s what makes it so fun to try to make sense of it all.
As always, plenty of movement in this week’s edition of the FanRag Sports NFL power rankings. Read on to see who rose, who fell and where your own team ranks.
And remember, these rankings are intended to inspire discussion, so, whether you agree or disagree, let us hear it in the comments below.
- Cleveland Browns (0-12) Last Week: 32
At least the Browns can’t lose on their bye week, right? Right?
- San Francisco 49ers (1-10) Last Week: 31
Lost in San Francisco’s awfulness is the fact that Colin Kaepernick is actually having one heck of a comeback season. The controversial signal-caller had three passing scores and a 100-yard rushing game during Sunday’s narrow loss to the Dolphins. Kaepernick has kept San Francisco in games against the likes of Arizona, New England and Miami over the past several weeks, but when your top target is Jeremy Kerley, it’s tough to turn close games into wins.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) Last Week: 29
Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith sent out a tweet a few days ago that really shined a light on just how inadequate Gus Bradley has been. Of the 154 NFL coaches to last at least 59 games, Bradley ranks dead last with a .237 win percentage. Now, nobody expected these Jaguars to contend for a Super Bowl, but they’re too talented to be so downright awful. That’s on Bradley.
- Chicago Bears (2-9) Last Week: 30
Are the Bears a better team than the Jaguars? Absolutely not in their banged-up state and probably not even when they’re fully healthy either. But that’s exactly why Chicago ranks ahead of the league’s other 2-9 team. The Bears may field a ragtag group of backup-caliber players, but at least they’re doing their damnedest to compete while outmatched.
- Los Angeles Rams (4-7) Last Week: 27
After four consecutive games in which they scored 10 or less, the Rams finally topped 20 points, mostly on the strength of three touchdown passes from rookie Jared Goff, during Sunday’s showdown with the Saints. So, naturally, Los Angeles’ defense forgot to show up. The Rams let the Saints march all over them on the way to 569 yards of offense and 49 points. Suddenly, 7-9 is looking optimistic for Jeff Fisher and Co.
- New York Jets (3-8) Last Week: 28
Who else but the Jets? Sure, any team could’ve signed Darrelle Revis, but it’s so fitting that the NFL’s premier dysfunctional franchise reunited with their one-time golden boy – largely in an effort to combat Tom Brady – only to have it blow up in their face. Brady and rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell tortured Revis on Sunday, beating the former All-Pro for two scores (including the game-winner). In typical Jets fashion, Revis is blaming his teammates.
- Cincinnati Bengals (3-7-1) Last Week: 26
Unsurprisingly, Cincinnati struggled mightily in its first game sans A.J. Green. But it’s not as though the problems they had in their loss to Baltimore weren’t present in their previous losses. Mike Nugent, with nine missed kicks on the season (field goals and extra points), continues to be a liability. Of course, his shortcomings would be easier to accept if the Bengals could finish off red zone drives. Instead, they settled for red zone field goals twice in Baltimore. With Justin Tucker on the other side, you’d be hard-pressed to find many teams that’ll beat Baltimore in a kicking duel.
- Arizona Cardinals (4-6-1) Last Week: 23
For a half, Arizona’s showdown with the Falcons looked like the sort of well-contested, playoff preview it was once expected to be. But, as is so often the case in the NFL, the superior team sped away as the game wore on. Atlanta scored 38 points, the third time in four games that an opponent has hung 30 on what’s supposed to be a tough Arizona defense. More jarringly, this marked the fourth time in five games that Arizona left winless. It’s lone win since Oct. 23 came in a nail-biter against the 49ers.
- Carolina Panthers (4-7) Last Week: 21
The Panthers have blown late-game leads twice in their past three games. If they could’ve held, Carolina would be 6-5 and right in the thick of the NFC South race. Instead, those games, as much as any the Panthers have played this year, serve as a glowing reminder that they’re not the NFC Championship team that was, for so much of last season, at its best in high-pressure situations.
- Indianapolis Colts (5-6) Last Week: 18
Scott Tolzien played about as well as could be expected on a short week against the Steelers. Unfortunately, his teammates didn’t follow suit. Receivers dropped balls, Indianapolis inexplicably refused to double-cover Antonio Brown and Chuck Pagano stubbornly eschewed a few short field goal attempts that could’ve made it a one-score game late. Would things have been different with Andrew Luck? Maybe, but it’s not like he hasn’t plagued by the team around him this season either.
- Green Bay Packers (5-6) Last Week: 24
Just when we’re ready to quit on the Packers they turn in a performance like that. The offense played explosive early and dictated the pace in what was still a tight game late. Meanwhile, a defense that had been pulverized over the previous month stunningly held the Eagles to a season-low 13 points. Oh, and did we mention this was Philly’s first home loss all season? We know that these Aaron Rodgers-led Packers can function like this, now it’s just a matter of sustaining it.
- New Orleans Saints (5-6) Last Week: 25
At halftime, New Orleans’ clash with the Rams was going about as expected. The Saints were piling up points, as they are prone to do. Meanwhile, their defense was making rookie Jared Goff look like Kurt Warner, as it is prone to do. But something clicked for the Saints at intermission. Their defense came out and forced an interception, three punts and a fourth-down stop. Again, this Rams’ offense is as bad as any in the NFL, but, for as criticized as the Saints’ defense is, it was a welcome change to see them put their foot down.
- Tennessee Titans (6-6) Last Week: 19
A win, as they say, is a win. And we’ll never dock a team too much after it picks up one of those. That said, the Titans didn’t exactly earn any brownie points in their too-close win over the lowly Bears. Much like last year’s Raiders, Tennessee feels like it’s still a year or two away. Nonetheless, the fact that this team is in the playoff picture for the first time since 2011 is a sign of the bright future ahead of it.
- Houston Texans (6-5) Last Week: 14
After several games on a tight leash, the Texans finally let Brock Osweiler go out and throw the ball a bit. As you might expect, the end result was poor. Osweiler threw three interceptions against the Chargers. While the final pick came on a desperation Hail Mary, the two before it were of the putrid and inexcusable variety. Who’d have thought after last year’s playoffs that this team would miss Brian Hoyer?
- San Diego Chargers (5-6) Last Week: 22
The Chargers now boast a 3-1 record against the AFC South. Only Houston’s 3-0 mark is better inside the division, and the Chargers hold the tiebreaker over them after Sunday’s impressive road win over Bill O’Brien and Co. But alas, the Chargers don’t play in the NFL’s weakest division. Instead they play in it’s strongest, the AFC West. As such, San Diego is doomed to trudge along to an 8-8 finish and lament the losses that could’ve been wins.
- Philadelphia Eagles (5-6) Last Week: 13
Remember when the Eagles boasted skill players like LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin? This season’s made that seem like a lifetime ago. Five more games full of watching Darren Sproles trying to run up the gut and overmatched receivers struggling to get open is going to wear on the Philly faithful. On the bright side, the Eagles do run a heck of a screen.
- Minnesota Vikings (6-5) Last Week: 10
It’s hard to even call the Vikings’ offense one-dimensional. That would imply there’s some dimension of Minnesota’s offense that’s reasonably effective on a weekly basis. No, this is a team that can’t run the ball and, so, it uses tons of short crossing patterns as a sort of pseudo-run game. That’s great for “Madden.” But, as Darius Slay showed on Thanksgiving, a real-life defense will get privy to that after a while.
- Buffalo Bills (6-5) Last Week: 17
For the first time since Week 2, the Bills got to play with almost a complete cast of their offensive stars and, well, the results weren’t always pretty. Buffalo managed just six points in the first half of its home tilt with the Jaguars, but the offense came alive in the second half. McCoy and Sammy Watkins each had gains of more than 60 yards and Tyrod Taylor accounted for two second-half scores. It was a welcome sight for a Bills team that’ll need each of that trio functioning at full capacity if it hopes to make a playoff push.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) Last Week: 20
The Buccaneers channeled their ’02 predecessors on Sunday. Tampa Bay racked up six sacks, allowed five points and forced three turnovers in a win over the Seahawks. While the defense probably won’t reach the dynamite form of Tampa Bay’s best-ever group, it’s safe to say that its offense is already better than that of the ’02 Bucs. Tampa Bay didn’t pile up points against a fearsome Seattle defense, but it did control the pace of the game and, on the back of a few brave and impressive throws from Jameis Winston to Mike Evans, did more than enough to win.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) Last Week: 16
After racking up 48 sacks last season, Pittsburgh managed just 13 in its first nine games this year. Over the past two weeks, though, the Steelers have racked up 11 QB takedowns. They had the benefit of playing against the Browns and the Colts, but the Steelers made a noticeable effort to dial up more blitzes in those games. Of course, that heightens the risk of allowing big plays, but for a defense who’s rarely come up with any momentum-changing plays of their own this year, the risk could be worth the reward.
- Baltimore Ravens (6-5) Last Week: 15
Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are a combined 66 years of age. And, as Sunday’s win over the Bengals confirmed, they’re still one of the league’s most potent edge-rushing duos. Suggs and Dumervil combined for three strip-sacks, including a critical one by Dumervil in the fourth quarter to put the game on ice. Add in the league’s most lethal kicker in Justin Tucker and the Ravens have found their winning recipe. It doesn’t taste good, but it’ll damn sure fill you up.
- Miami Dolphins (7-4) Last Week: 12
The Dolphins have needed late-game heroics to defeat bottom-feeding teams in each of the past two weeks. In fact, Miami’s last four wins have come against sub-.500 teams and each has been decided by one score. However, the Dolphins were thought to be among the NFL’s bottom-feeders earlier this year. The fact that they keep winning, especially in so many different ways, deserves praise and not criticism.
- Washington Redskins (6-4-1) Last Week: 9
Missed field goals and red zone failures that led to those kicks are the primary reason the Redskins dip in this week’s rankings. We saw how explosive Washington’s offense can be during an impressive, 20-point fourth quarter, but the three quarters full of missed opportunities before it sealed its fate. That’s why the Redskins are merely a wild card hopeful at this point in the season.
- New York Giants (8-3) Last Week: 11
Well, the Giants finally won a game by double digits, but the fact that it was against the Browns keeps them from ascending too far up these rankings. That, and the Giants’ hot-and-cold nature in the victory, keeps the 8-3 G-Men below several seven-win teams. A road win over a more daunting Pittsburgh Steelers team, though, will earn New York top-five consideration.
- Seattle Seahawks (7-3-1) Last Week: 3
The NFL has several bad offenses, like the units for the Rams and the Ravens. It also has a few top-notch ones, like the Saints and the Falcons. However, there may not be a group as maddeningly inconsistent as the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle’s five-point outing against the Buccaneers now marks three times this year that it’s offense has been held to six points or less. The group has had flashes of outright dominance, but the inconsistency could doom it in the postseason.
- Denver Broncos (7-4) Last Week: 6
Denver doesn’t slide much. Really, it’s hard to dock any team coming off a slugfest like that. In truth, there was a lot to like about Denver’s efforts in its loss to Kansas City. Von Miller showed out and Trevor Siemian showed why John Elway has faith in him. That said, Gary Kubiak’s stubborn decision to eschew a near-certain tie in favor of a long shot win could loom large at season’s end.
- Detroit Lions (7-4) Last Week: 8
Matthew Stafford, rightfully, garners a lot of credit for Detroit’s successes this season. But it was the Lions’ defense that outshined an impressive Minnesota D on Thanksgiving. Detroit cornerback Darius Slay came up with the tide-turning interception for a Lions defense that has allowed 20 points or fewer in each of their past five games. This isn’t a defense replete with big-name players, but its production over the past month-and-a-half can match up with any team in the league.
- Atlanta Falcons (7-4) Last Week: 5
Taylor Gabriel was one of several Browns receivers sent packing after 2015 and it’s safe to say that he’s enjoyed the change of scenery. In Atlanta’s last four games, Gabriel’s accounted for five touchdowns and six plays of 20 yards or longer. The diminutive speedster probably won’t overtake Julio Jones, but it’s more than fair to say he adds yet another challenging dynamic to an already-threatening Atlanta offense.
- Kansas City Chiefs (8-3) Last Week: 7
It seems like poetic justice that, after years of late-game gaffes, Andy Reid gets one of the biggest wins of his Chiefs tenure on the back of an opposing coach’s error. But don’t get it twisted; the Chiefs put forth a phenomenal effort en route to their biggest win this season. Tyreek Hill and Justin Houston starred on Sunday night, and they should only get better when their respective running mates, Jeremy Maclin and Dee Ford, return to the lineup.
- Oakland Raiders (9-2) Last Week: 4
Yes, the Raiders’ defense let up an inexcusable 25 second-half points. And yes, without the heroics of nine-fingered triggerman, Derek Carr, they’d have likely blown a 17-point advantage. But Carr did save the day and his draft-buddy, Khalil Mack, put the cherry on top with a game-clinching strip-sack. The Raiders will go as far as their young stars can take them and, so far, that’s worked out A-OK.
- New England Patriots (9-2) Last Week: 2
It’d be easy to downgrade the Patriots for playing the Jets so closely, but records go out the window in rivalry games. Give the Browns some Jets jerseys and they probably play New England close. What matters is that, for seemingly the 200th time in as many wins, Tom Brady willed his team to a road victory over a game opponent.
- Dallas Cowboys (10-1) Last Week: 1
The Cowboys have been in dogfights for three weeks running. Their detractors might use that as proof that they’re not as good as their sterling record. But, as the Broncos showed last season, a team that could find ways to win late in games stands a great chance at winning a championship. Come January, it’ll be a good thing that this youth-laden team was so battle-tested in November.