Ten weeks down, seven weeks to go. At this point in the season, what we have seen on the field matters more than our preconceived notions of what teams are. This means teams like the Saints and Rams that have proven themselves on the field have started to make some leaps up the rankings leaderboard.
As always, these rankings are 100% FORWARD-LOOKING. A good way to think of it is that a team should be underdogs to everyone above them in the rankings and favored over everyone below them on a neutral field. Although it’s important to realize that the difference in teams is razor thin and many of the teams within the same tier would be around a pick-em in this scenario.
Here are your Week 11 Power Rankings.
Tier 1: The Defending Champs
(1) New England Patriots
Before the season, the consensus was the Patriots were the team to beat and were the heavy favorites to win the Superbowl and every sportsbook in Las Vegas and offshore. Then we let a couple of losses and poor defensive games get in our minds and thought they might be more vulnerable than we thought. Well, we’re into the winter months again and the Patriots look like the Patriots again. They haven’t wavered from being our top team in our rankings but they are once again distancing themselves from the rest of the pack.
Tier 2: The Other Favorites
(2) New Orleans Saints
(3) Philadelphia Eagles
(4) Los Angeles Rams
(5) Pittsburgh Steelers
(6) Jacksonville Jaguars
The list starts with three surprise teams out of the NFC. The Saints lost their first two games but have reeled off seven wins in a row to take a stronghold of the NFC South. Some (from the Philadelphia area) will argue that the Eagles should be ahead of the Saints due to their record but the math likes the Saints just a tick more than Philly right now. With the extra win in the standings, the Eagles still have the inside track to the 1-seed and the fastest track to the Superbowl.
We were a little slow on the Rams as they have fooled prognosticators in the past by getting off to decent starts only to falter later in the season. This isn’t that same Rams team. Sean McVay has turned this offense (and Jared Goff) into a powerhouse and they are a real threat in the NFC.
The Steelers still have the pedigree but have failed to take care of business against weaker teams, particularly on the road. Losing to the Browns and squeaking by the Browns and Colts is not a good look for a team trying to contend for a title.
Our numbers continue to be in love with the Jaguars. Defense and running the football tend to have success into the winter months but many are still discounting Jacksonville due to their quarterback. If the Jags can stick to the game plan and not force Bortles to win the game for them, they’ll be a really tough out in the playoffs.
Tier 3: Chinks in the Armor
(7) Seattle Seahawks
(8) Kansas City Chiefs
Both teams are doing just fine at (6-3) in the standings but have been less than stellar in recent weeks. Seattle is facing another key injury in their secondary and still haven’t found a viable starter in the running game to alleviate some of the constant pressure on Russell Wilson. The Chiefs exploded onto the scene with a new-look offense but teams have been able to combat that recently and have slowed down Kansas City’s Superbowl expectations.
Tier 4: Other Contenders
(9) Minnesota Vikings
(10) Carolina Panthers
(11) Atlanta Falcons
(12) Dallas Cowboys
Whatever quarterback the Vikings decide to go with, it doesn’t seem to matter to have an impact on their success. Bradford, Keenum, or Bridgewater could all have some success with the offensive weapons and that defensive roster that Minnesota has assembled.
The Panthers have let Cam loose again and when he starts running, Carolina starts winning. They are expecting some reinforcements to arrive soon including All-Pro tight end Greg Olsen returning to the lineup. Matt Ryan regressed back to Earth after an MVP season last year but the Falcons still have plenty of firepower to get back to the playoffs.
Dallas falls quite a bit in our power rankings with the Ezekiel Elliott suspension finally being upheld and also with Tyron Smith battling a couple of ailments. I stated a few weeks ago that the market often overrates fantasy players and it’s true in this case. Smith is worth more to the Cowboys than Zeke and we saw why last week in Atlanta.
Tier 5: Wildcard Hopefuls
(13) Baltimore Ravens
(14) Detroit Lions
These rankings aren’t in order of playoff odds, but it just so happened that both of these teams winded up next to each other. Both teams have very slim chances of winning their division but still have shots at a wildcard berth. Baltimore’s chances are much better due to the noticeably weaker AFC conference contenders but both have shots to make it to the postseason.
Tier 6: Spoilers
(15) Oakland Raiders
(16) Los Angeles Chargers
Neither team is likely to make the playoffs (Raiders 15%, Chargers 6%) but both have plenty of talent to make it hard on the teams that are trying to get there. To be considered a spoiler, you actually do have to win games which is a problem for the Chargers no matter what city they call home. They consistently snatch defeat from the jaws of victory more than any team in the league.
Tier 7: Average-ish
(17) Tennessee Titans
(18) Washington Redskins
The Titans are (6-3) but the numbers suggest they are not that good of a football team. They have a -8 point differential and haven’t played a very tough schedule. Barely squeaking out wins over subpar isn’t a good way to impress the power rankings model.
Tier 8: Below Average-ish
(19) Buffalo Bills
(20) Cincinnati Benglas
(21) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
My favorite annual tradition is people telling me how the Bills are going to be good this year. They still have a playoff shot within a weak AFC conference but they are once again in the middle of the pack in terms of talent going forward. The Benglas seem close to contending, I think if they give Marvin Lewis 20 or 30 more years, he might finally figure this thing out. I don’t have a good nugget on the Bucs but I’ll just say that “Eating W’s” thing Jameis did was really stupid and he seems like an idiot.
Tier 9: Mostly Missing a Quarterback
(22) New York Jets
(23) Denver Broncos
(24) Green Bay Packers
(25) Chicago Bears
(26) Arizona Cardinals
(27) Houston Texans
I wouldn’t say the Jets are missing a quarterback as Josh McCown has played admirably for a team that has already acceded preseason expectations. If I would have told you before the season that there would be ten teams worse than the Jets, you would have laughed your ass off.
The rest of the teams are dealing with injuries, rookies, or just didn’t have a good plan at quarterback (looking at you, Denver) going into the season. When you don’t have good quarterback play in this league, you quickly drop in the rankings.
Tier 10: Terrible, Horrible…
(28) New York Giants
(29) Miami Dolphins
(30) Indianapolis Colts
(31) San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers were planning to be bad this year but every other team in this group should have already fired everyone a few weeks ago. The Giants don’t seem to care about tackling on defense which seems like it could be a problem. The Dolphins may be the worst (4-5) team in history. The Colts’ offensive line that nearly got Andrew Luck killed is now doing a good job of almost getting Jacoby Brissett killed each week.
Tier 11: …No Good, Very Bad Browns
(32) Cleveland Browns
The Browns are in a class of their own. I’ll let Homer take it from here: