Patriots shine, Titans fall, and Colts impress in loss
The NFL Power Rankings for Week 13 went through another overhaul. Some of the teams at the very top are finally beginning to separate from the pack. Other talented teams are stumbling as we approach December. But in the end, it’s important to look at the current shape of each team to properly place them in the rankings. It’s why some squads with good records are far lower than others.
NFL Power Rankings Week 13 | Tier 7: The Lions
The impressive and consistent awfulness of the Lions is the one thing in the NFL season we predicted that has gone according to plan.
32) Detroit Lions
The Lions are one of the most intriguing teams I’ve ever watched that have no business taking an NFL field. They are completely and utterly talent-deprived. Still, Detroit has now played in three games where they’ve lost by 2 points, lost by 3, and tied the Steelers.
Jared Goff could have completed every single one of his 25 attempts, and it still would have been anything but impressive. Of his 21 completions, 15 were at 5 yards or less. Granted, his 2 touchdown passes were impressive, but it doesn’t do anything to make me feel better about the Detroit’s offensive prospects moving forward. Goff has proven he cannot sustain a high-quality level of play.
NFL Power Rankings Week 13 | Tier 6: Awful to watch but somehow have won some games
I have no clue how they’ve done it at times, but each of these teams has multiple wins on the season. Some have even beaten good clubs along the way. But don’t be mistaken, they’re still very, very bad.
31) Houston Texans
I’m not exactly sure what we did to deserve a Texans vs. Jets game, but I’d like to apologize for whatever sin we committed. This was cruel and unusual punishment. Neither team has any offensive rhythm whatsoever.
Houston doesn’t have anything to feel good about offensively aside from Brandin Cooks, who should have been traded to a contender at the deadline because he just rots on this roster.
30) Jacksonville Jaguars
I swear I am not an old-school boomer yelling at the clouds about how teams don’t run the ball enough.
But … THE JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS DON’T RUN THE BALL ENOUGH, AND I AM SICK AND TIRED OF IT!
Every time I turn around, James Robinson is popping off 5 yards at a time, while rookie QB Trevor Lawrence is completing under 60% of his passes at 5 yards a clip — if he’s lucky. The Jaguars passing attack STINKS. The offensive line struggles to block, the receivers struggle to separate and catch, and Lawrence has been inconsistent as a passer.
The only positive is that he seems more willing to use his legs as the season progresses. Any time Laquon Treadwell is your leading receiver, something is wrong.
29) New York Jets
It’s obvious for anybody with working vision that Zach Wilson isn’t ready to play at the NFL level yet. He’s battling to survive out there. His process isn’t where it needs to be, and it hurts the Jets offense. But Wilson needs those reps to sharpen his steel, and as long as he’s healthy, he must be the starter the rest of the way.
The unfortunate thing here is the Jets won the game. For morale purposes, that’s never a bad thing. But they still have a game against the Jaguars, and the Saints have trouble scoring points. New York could use all the help they can get in the draft because the roster still needs a major overhaul.
NFL Power Rankings Week 13 | Tier 5: Bad teams but some fun pieces
The teams in this tier are bad, but some pieces make them fun to watch every week.
28) Chicago Bears
The National Dog Show and a crucial post-turkey nap held my attention better than this game did. Those good girls and boys pranced around for the crowd, flashing their teeth and strutting their stuff.
Meanwhile, Andy Dalton and Jared Goff were quarterbacking a football game that could have made the most hardcore criminal cower.
The only positive to take from this game on either side (aside from the Lions covering the 3-point spread) was Darnell Mooney. Bears fans can take solace in knowing they have a great young duo between Justin Fields and Mooney!
27) Atlanta Falcons
We may look at the Falcons game against the Jaguars and believe the run game got them the win. However, Atlanta picked up 12 of their 18 first downs through the air. Cordarrelle Patterson has found an exciting home in the backfield, but Matt Ryan’s efficiency — and some timely penalties — allowed them to move the chains on third down.
The Falcons’ perfect day in the red zone helped them over the hump as well. But CB A.J. Terrell deserves a special shoutout because he’s one of the only reasons this defense has appeared serviceable in 2021. Grady Jarrett is still an elite interior defender, but Terrell has really elevated his game in Year 2.
26) New York Giants
Saquon Barkley had a 32-yard run today for the New York Giants! That is awesome. Nevertheless, he had 40 total rushing yards on 13 carries, which is less than ideal.
This is a horrific offense. We know the Giants are poorly coached. The mesh video that surfaced last week was the icing on the cake for this passing attack. Daniel Jones isn’t the answer currently. New York is a schematic liability, and their offensive line is a disaster. The saddest part is, there is talent on the edge. There’s a lot of it, even!
Patrick Graham received a lot of credit on Twitter for his defense holding Philadelphia to 6 points, but those seemed like self-inflicted wounds more than anything the Giants defense did. Jalen Hurts and the Eagles still ran the ball effectively — they just couldn’t throw to save their lives.
With no Chase Young or Montez Sweat, a once terrifying defense suffering performance issues now just looks like a mediocre unit. At least Jonathan Allen is still a terror. Even if they somehow begin to play their best football, Washington has no hope for a miraculous playoff push in 2021. With the Cowboys (twice), Eagles (twice), and Raiders still on the schedule, 6 wins seems like it’d be a win for the organization and a loss for fans hoping for a higher draft selection.
WFT needs to find their franchise quarterback. They need to get their defenders back healthy for 2022. And honestly, they need a complement for Terry McLaurin, because Curtis Samuel won’t suffice.
24) Seattle Seahawks
The end is nigh for the marriage between the Seahawks and Russell Wilson. Most likely, this will also usher in the dismissal of Pete Carroll.
I certainly didn’t expect the Seahawks to average 6.5 points after Wilson’s return. Honestly, I didn’t think that was possible with Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. It would take a running of the table to feel good about Seattle’s playoff chances. Yet, at this point, they might need to be more worried about not embarrassing themselves than anything else.
23) Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins are beginning to resemble the team we believed they could be heading into 2021. The defense suffocated Cam Newton and the Carolina offense, and Tua Tagovailoa is playing in a Mac Jones-esque role for Miami. He’s facilitating passes to his playmakers (Jaylen Waddle) while making throws that intermittently impress.
The Dolphins still struggle to run the football. Regardless, if they can get contributions from rookie defenders Jevon Holland and Jaelan Phillips, this defense could suffocate opposing offenses when they make just slight mistakes.
NFL Power Rankings Week 13 | Tier 4: Pretenders
These teams have won games and made some believe they would make a playoff push, but each has flaws so significant we can only see them making a playoff run if we squint really hard while also dropping acid.
22) Pittsburgh Steelers
My colleagues at the Pro Football Network who bleed black and yellow were quite upset with me and the panel of other analysts that ranked the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 24 in the initial NFL Power Rankings before the preseason.
This game alone isn’t proof Dennis Green was right all along, but the Steelers are who we thought they were. We made an educated guess about the ability — or lack thereof — of Pittsburgh’s offense. They have a few receiving weapons that impress, and there’s no denying Najee Harris is a fun running back.
However, Ben Roethlisberger is not only over the hill — he’s tumbled down it like Jack and Jill. As I’ve said before, it’s never fun to watch a legend die slowly.
21) Carolina Panthers
There’s a chance the Panthers’ loss against Miami was the result of an off week. But if it was, it still shows their offensive floor is in the basement. The defense can only do so much to keep this team in games.
Cam Newton was awful. I’m not sure the last time I remember a quarterback throwing 20+ times while only completing 23.8% of his passes.
Unfortunately, I don’t have an intern or an in at Elias Sports Bureau to tell me the last time it happened. I assume it was when NFL QBs were still ripping darts on the sideline like Blake Bortles working construction.
In the end, this is probably just karma for passing on a rookie QB to build around. Choosing to give up assets on a reclamation project with a team as young as Carolina could be the straw that eventually breaks this staff’s back.
20) New Orleans Saints
The Saints are most likely meeting an unfortunate end to their season. Only four offenses have been less successful on a per-play basis than the Saints without Jameis Winston. Even with Alvin Kamara slated to return, New Orleans already struggled on the ground when everyone was healthy.
The defense is good, as it has been now for years, but they can’t score points for the offense. I hope that Winston returns healthy in 2022. But more than anything, I hope Sean Payton learns to actually trust him with more of the load. There is a ton of potential in this passing attack if they get one more weapon and Michael Thomas returns.
19) Philadelphia Eagles
Did the Eagles trick me into thinking they had turned the corner offensively and that they could make a run, or was this another example of “any given Sunday?”
Jalen Hurts played a horrific game. Any time a quarterback completes fewer than 50% of their passes and throws 3 INTs, there isn’t much else we must look at to assign blame. Except here, we can.
What … and I cannot stress this enough … the hell is Jalen Reagor still doing on the football field for Philadelphia? He’s a complete liability, and there is no excuse for allowing his reign of terror to continue. That is on the coaching staff.
NFL Power Rankings Week 13 | Tier 3: They look like playoff teams, but each has significant flaws
Some teams have a quarterbacking issue. Others are going through a rash of bad injury luck. These teams can step on the gas and make a playoff run, but things must start falling into place.
18) Cleveland Browns
Honestly, I have no clue how Baker Mayfield will be able to film any commercials in the offseason. He’s moving like my grandfather, who’s had both knees replaced and probably needs his hip done too. Mayfield will need surgery on his shoulder, and he appears endlessly battered throughout his anatomy.
I praise him for being a warrior, but he’s not playing good football. There is a lot of bashing of Mayfield due to his play, but we’ve already seen what he can do when he’s not physically compromised.
Neither Mayfield nor Lamar Jackson seemed to want to go out and take the victory tonight. Mayfield and the Browns’ passing attack struggled all night. He couldn’t complete 50% of his passes, and Cleveland couldn’t run the ball against Baltimore. Another loss would severely hinder the Browns’ postseason aspirations.
17) Tennessee Titans
This team is completely broken. The Titans are down their only three offensive weapons. They’re the victims of awful injury luck, but that’s the risk you take when you frontload a roster and lack all semblance of depth.
Tennessee ran the crap out of the ball this week. They totaled 39 carries and averaged nearly 7 yards per attempt.
Let me put that differently: the Titans ran for 270 yards without Derrick “King” Henry against a fantastic Patriots defense. Yet, they could only muster 13 points. Somewhere out there, crazy-eyes Adam Gase is feeling all sorts of vindication after that putrid outing from Ryan Tannehill.
At this point, I’d be surprised if the Colts didn’t catch the Titans in the AFC South. It’s a sobering example of just how much injuries dictate success or failure in this league.
16) Los Angeles Chargers
As the kids would say, “woof.” That was an ugly overall performance by the Chargers. They struggled to run the football, and despite being solid defending the run, they weren’t able to put the ball in the end zone on offense.
They looked disjointed in the first half and then only possessed the ball once in the third quarter. When the game came down to the wire at 14-7 in the fourth, Justin Herbert threw a red-zone interception that swung the game in the Broncos’ direction.
The Chargers have always been particularly good at beating themselves. I said as much in my preview of this game. I just thought Herbert could lift their curse. Maybe he will, but he might not be ready yet in Year 2.
15) Denver Broncos
I did not expect the Broncos to come out and defensively throttle the Chargers offense. Herbert entered the day with a great chance to narrow the gap between himself and the top of the MVP odds. Instead, he threw a bad red-zone pick and was off-target on another that went for 6 points the other way.
Patrick Surtain is a star in the making, and despite having to play both Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock, Denver was able to lean on its rushing attack to move the chains consistently. The Broncos improved their playoff hopes and standing in the NFL Power Rankings with a strong overall performance.
14) Minnesota Vikings
I still think this is a pretty good football team, but as with every Kirk Cousins-led team, they’re always just a tick off of being a legitimate contender. The Vikings have won many football games with him, but he is also the same QB who will completely lose a linebacker in coverage and throw an untimely interception.
Unfortunately, the Vikings cannot run block to save their life, so it’s all on the right shoulder of Cousins and the hands of Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson. That’s not a very good plan for offensive sustainability. Complementary football is important. It allows one unit to overcome the deficiencies of the other at times. The Vikings simply do not have that.
13) Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders’ game plan against the Cowboys was foolproof in the modern NFL. Get to third-and-long, launch the ball downfield but underthrown, and get a free defensive pass interference call. Their 3-for-13 effort on third down turned into 8-of-13 with those penalties.
It also turned into 16 of the Raiders’ 36 points, including the game-winning field goal on a third-and-18 prayer.
But luck was far from the only reason Las Vegas won. Hunter Renfrow, DeSean Jackson, and Zay Jones worked the Cowboys secondary throughout the contest. And eventually, they remained on the field long enough to wear down the Dallas defense on the ground.
It’s a difficult road to the playoffs, with games against Kansas City, Cleveland, Indianapolis, and the Chargers still on the schedule. But with all they’ve endured this season, it would be quite a sight to see the Raiders make a playoff appearance.
12) San Francisco 49ers
We saw a lot of the bad side of Jimmy Garoppolo against Minnesota, but it didn’t matter all that much. As long as he doesn’t make fatal mistakes, the 49ers have the line and the weapons to move the ball methodically downfield.
Oh, or they could just give the ball to Deebo Samuel and watch him work his magic. 2 targets for George Kittle is a bit of an eyebrow-raiser, but as I’ve said before, his sheer presence on the field changes the dynamic of this team offensively.
A strong day on third down defensively elevated San Francisco to a win against a Vikings squad that appeared to get things going on offense recently. This game was only as close as it looks on the scoreboard because of a Kene Nwangwu kick return for a TD.