Every team in the league has played 75% and we now have a pretty good idea about the strengths and weaknesses of each one. Or do we? The NFL has a way of reminding us that just when you think you have everything figured out, the unexpected happens and turns our preconceived notions into mush. Are the Chiefs really this bad? Are the Jaguars really good? Can Russell Wilson continue to lead the Seahawks without the Legion of Boom? All of these questions and more are answered in this week’s power rankings.
(1) New England Patriots
The Patriots are who we thought they were! At the beginning of the season, there were props for a 16-0 season and they were the biggest Superbowl favorite we had seen entering a season. Well after a bumpy start, the Patriots have a real shot at 14-2 and are our favorite to win the Lombardi trophy in February.
(2) Philadelphia Eagles
Losing a primetime game at Seattle isn’t enough to knock down the Eagles in our power rankings. Even the best teams in the league can struggle when they play at CenturyLink Field, and that win said more about the Seahawks than it did about the Eagles.
(3) Jacksonville Jaguars
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Jacksonville at number 3?!” I hear you and to the human eye, it seems high to me too. But I still think we have biases against teams with subpar quarterbacks and great defenses. For example, if the Packers have Aaron Rodgers and a poor defense we still label them as Superbowl contenders. Well, the Jaguars have an Aaron Rodgers-like defense and a poor offense so what’s the difference. While it certainly helps to have a franchise quarterback, it’s not a necessity.
(4) Los Angeles Rams
Something tells me that if you would have had this team in St. Louis, they might have drawn a few more fans to the dome. The offense is humming and Wade Phillips has the defense getting after the quarterback. The Rams have no glaring weakness and will be a tough out in the playoffs.
(5) New Orleans Saints
The Saints are a top-5 team in the league and Drew Brees has been a fantasy disappointment. See what I mean about unpredictability? What the Saints did do is kill it in the 2017 NFL Draft and improve their secondary and added a huge weapon in Alvin Kamara to the arsenal.
(6) Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers are still the main roadblock for the Patriots in the AFC and they have a chance to snatch home-field advantage in a key game next week. But they can’t look past their division rival Baltimore this week in what should be another cringeworthy battle in the AFC North.
(7) Minnesota Vikings
This will feel like a slight to some, but really there isn’t much of a difference between the Jaguars and Vikings. You could scramble all of those teams up and just make the home team -3 in any matchup and we’d feel that would be a good number.
(8) Seattle Seahawks
Seattle is not going quietly into that good night. Key injuries could have left them with plenty of excuses to quit, but Russell Wilson has been impossible to bring down the last few weeks while Bobby Wagner has been impossible to block over that same period. We keep mentioning Patriots-Steelers as a key matchup next week, but Seahawks-Rams could decide the NFC West so don’t gloss over that one.
(9) Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens could be the most underrated team in the league. They are quietly churning out wins with great defense and special teams. With almost no fantasy relevance, Baltimore is flying under the radar but no team is going to want to face them in January.
(10) Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers have climbed out of the AFC West cellar and are now one of the ten best teams in the league according to our numbers. They still aren’t the favorites to win the division since Kansas City currently has the tiebreaker but that could all change in a couple of weeks.
(11) Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons are a good team but have a lot of work to do to make it into the playoffs. This Thursday’s game against the Saints is essentially a must-win and then they still have another game against the Saints in two weeks and then close out against the Panthers at home. Even winning three out of four and having ten wins on the season may not be enough to reach the playoffs in the stacked NFC.
(12) Carolina Panthers
The Panthers are actually the favorites to get into the playoffs over the Falcons due to the tiebreaker but their schedule is no cakewalk either. And it could get tougher if Aaron Rodgers comes back in Week 15 as Carolina is hosting Green Bay.
(13) Kansas City Chiefs
Will the real Kansas City Chiefs please stand up? Recency bias would suggest they fall even further than this but we still have to count those early games they won in our projections. Somehow, the Chiefs are still a favorite to get into the playoffs thanks to an easy schedule down the stretch including games against the Dolphins and Broncos.
(14) Detroit Lions
The Lions are the most average team according to our numbers which isn’t a great proclamation about a team but given where they were a few years ago, I think Detroit fans will take it.
(15) Dallas Cowboys
If it weren’t for the Chiefs, we’d be talking a lot more about the Cowboys slide down the power rankings. Although their slide at least makes sense as we can attribute suspensions and injuries as the cause. Dallas now has just a 2.4% chance to make the playoffs according to our simulations.
(16) Oakland Raiders
The Raiders are tied with the Chiefs and Chargers at 6-6 at the top of the AFC West but have just an 11.3% chance of reaching the playoffs thanks to a schedule that includes three of four on the road (@KC, DAL, @PHI, @LAC).
(17) Tennessee Titans
The numbers continue to be down on the Titans this year but still project them to be a playoff team.
(18) Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals are playing just well enough for Marvin Lewis to keep his job. Mainly because there is nothing they can do where he gets fired.
(19) Washington Redskins
Washington seems like the toughest out of any of the teams in this range, but a 5-7 record still puts you down here among some of the more boring teams in the league.
(20) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
When the model can’t really tell the difference between Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick, that’s not a good thing for your “franchise” quarterback, is it?
(21) New York Jets
In all honesty, Todd Bowles deserves some votes as coach of the year in the NFL. And apparently Josh McCown has been eating his avocado ice cream because he is playing his best football at age 38.
(22) Buffalo Bills
Much like Tennessee, the model isn’t a fan of the BIlls despite their 6-6 record. Buffalo has just a 11.5% chance of getting into the playoffs according to our numbers.
(23) Houston Texans
Houston is a bad team with Tom Savage at quarterback. I think they’ll be good again next year with Deshaun Watson at quarterback. That’s the type of hard-hitting analysis you come for when you read these power rankings.
(24) Arizona Cardinals
I know they have a backup quarterback carousel going, but they seem like one of the bigger disappointments in the league this year given their roster.
(25) Miami Dolphins
This team is so bad that they only beat the Broncos by 26.
(26) Chicago Bears
They are getting some Mitch Trubisky some experience in what was planned to be a rebuilding year. The problem is that everyone is getting to see that Trubisky doesn’t look like a good quarterback at all.
(27) Green Bay Packers
So this is obviously their rating with Brett Hundley. If Aaron Rodgers is back, the Packers jump all the way back into the tenth spot. That’s how important having the best quarterback in the league is. (Sorry not sorry, Brady homers)
(28) Denver Broncos
Recruiting Peyton Manning has glossed over the fact that John Elway and the Broncos brass has been terrible at evaluating quarterbacks over the last decade and they have no clear future at the position in sight.
(29) New York Giants
Speaking of Mannings, Eli is back this week and this was the only storyline that could get people to actually care about the Giants at this point in the season.
(30) San Francisco 49ers
Jimmy G bumps up the 49ers one spot up to number 30 in the power rankings. I bet Belichick is really regretting that trade now.
(31) Indianapolis Colts
Any time you allow a career day to Blake Bortles, you probably should re-evaluate where you are in life.
(32) Cleveland Browns
Always and forever.
Disagree with any of these rankings? I’m not sure how you could, honestly, but if so let’s discuss politely on twitter @BetLabsTravis