NFL Power Rankings: Several Teams Back from the Dead


Kansas City Chiefs running back Spencer Ware (32) celebrates a touchdown as quarterback Alex Smith (11) looks on during the fourth quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Teams at the center of this week’s NFL power rankings are thankful for their second chance at a playoff run. The several teams once left for dead that have returned to contention reflect the other worldly league-wide parity being experienced right now. There are seven teams with a record of 7-3 or better. There are also seven teams with a record of 3-7 or worse. That leaves eighteen teams, more than half the league, mired in the middle of the pack somewhere between 4-6 and 6-4. And since twelve teams make the playoffs that means that somewhere among those eighteen teams we’re going to have five emerge to join the top seven. I’d venture to guess that this level of parity has never before been seen in the NFL.
After the Lions’ Week 3 loss to the Broncos, fans had already flushed the season down the drain. After all, only three teams had made the playoffs after an 0-3 start since 1990. Here are the early records for some of the eighteen teams vying for a playoff spot after Week 11:

Seattle (5-5): 2-4 after Week 6
Washington (4-6): 2-4 after Week 6
Houston (5-5): 1-4 after Week 5
New Orleans (4-6): 0-3 after Week 3; 1-4 after Week 5
Chicago (4-6): 0-3 after Week 3; 2-5 after Week 8
Kansas City (5-5): 1-5 after Week 6

This year is showing us that Week 3 is way too early to throw in the towel. Through six weeks, none of the above teams had more than two wins. Now, not all of these teams will make the playoffs. Maybe none of them will. But each of these teams that were left for dead by some, if not most, has a legitimate shot based on their remaining schedule to win their division or contend for one of their conference’s two wildcard spots.

It’s at a time like this that makes you wonder: if Detroit could have just held off San Diego in Week 1, or Calvin Johnson doesn’t fumble against Seattle in Week 4, or by some miracle, both of those things go Detroit’s way, maybe we’re talking about a 5-5 team right now and the potential wildcard implications for Thursday’s match up with the Eagles. While it’s almost certainly too late for the Lions this season, maybe Jim Caldwell was right about the negativity in Detroit. Fans in Kansas City, Seattle and Chicago might be able to shed some light on if things were as gloomy there as they were in Detroit just a month ago. Let’s be thankful that we get to watch our team every Thanksgiving and get to watch a couple other good match ups this year too. You’ll notice a special theme to this week’s power rankings. I listed what each team is thankful for but first, the week’s big movers.

This week’s biggest riser is Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers moved up nine spots from 24 to 15 after a 45-17 dismantling of Philadelphia en route to a 5-5 record. If you’re paying attention, that puts them squarely in the thick of the wildcard playoff race and they play the current wildcard Atlanta Falcons at home December 6th. Honorable mention to the Jacksonville Jaguars who moved up seven spots from 25 to 18 after winning their third game in the last four.

Our biggest drop this week was the St. Louis Rams who dropped their contest with the Baltimore Ravens because their coach left their quarterback in after his brain had been smashed into the ground. Good call coach. The Rams fell eight spots from 15 to 23. Dishonorable mention to the Eagles who fell six spots from 18 to 24 after being throttled by the Bucs.

That about does it for the big movers and shakers in this week’s NFL power rankings, so without further ado:

New England Patriots. 1. team. 47. The Patriots are thankful for awful officiating and an endless supply of receivers. The Pats stay undefeated.. (10-0). Previous:

Previous: . Carolina Panthers. 2. team. 87. Carolina is thankful for the cakewalk they got before their Thanksgiving matchup with the Cowboys. They steamrolled Washington 44-16 and head to Dallas on a short week to play the no longer Romo-less Cowboys. Don’t nap through this one.. (10-0)

32. Arizona has a lot to be thankful for. Bruce Arians has coached the Cardinals to consecutive hot starts. Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald and Chris Johnson are all healthy and playing great.. (8-2). Previous: . Arizona Cardinals. 3. team

Previous: . Denver Broncos. 4. team. 45. Brock Osweiler gives thanks for his first NFL start and for his first NFL win as a starter. The Manning replacement outplayed his predecessor in one key stat: interceptions. Osweiler didn’t throw a single one on Sunday.. (8-2)

56. The Bengals have dropped two straight primetime match ups. Both losses were close, though in very different fashion. They should be thankful they get the Rams and Browns up next.. (8-2). Previous: . Cincinnati Bengals. 5. team

team. 49. The Packers are thankful to be back on top of the NFC North. It’s a rare sight to see them anywhere else after Week 4. With Minnesota pushing for the division, Green Bay has every reason to win out, including the 2 seed and a playoff bye.. (7-3). Previous: . Green Bay Packers. 6

(7-3). Previous: . Minnesota Vikings. 7. team. 60. Atlanta is falling apart right as Minnesota comes to town. Following that, games with Seattle and then Arizona on a short week for Thursday Night Football mean Teddy Bridgewater will be thankful for Adrian Peterson and the pounding he’ll take so he won’t have to.

team. 55. The Steelers give thanks for the bye week. The banged up group got to take a little extra time to heal up for the home stretch. Their ailments may return rather quickly though with a road trip to Seattle up next.. (6-4). Previous: . Pittsburgh Steelers. 8

(5-5). Previous: . Kansas City Chiefs. 9. team. 124. Kansas City is thankful to be back at .500 with six games left to play. After a 1-5 start, the Chiefs were left for dead. They now find themselves in the thick of the playoff race.

44. Atlanta is thankful for their 5-0 start. If not for that, they would already be out of playoff contention after losing 4 of their last five. They’re holding onto a one game lead for the last wildcard spot and could find themselves on the outside looking in if they lose to Minnesota next week.. (6-4). Previous: . Atlanta Falcons. 10. team

11. team. 36. Seattle is thankful for Thomas Rawls, the running back who has filled in for the injured Marshawn Lynch. Beast Mode Jr. tallied up 209 yards rushing on 30 carries.. (5-5). Previous: . Seattle Seahawks

team. 31. There are two divisions in football where there are no teams with winning records. The Giants are thankful to be in one of those divisions. At .500, they currently lead the NFC East by one game.. (5-5). Previous: . New York Giants. 12

team. 16. Tyrod Taylor is thankful for the playing time clause in his contract that activated after last night’s game, voiding the third year of his deal. That means he could be in for a nice payday next year.. (5-5). Previous: . Buffalo Bills. 13

Previous: . New York Jets. 14. team. 30. The Jets are 1-4 in their last five. They’re thankful for the last minute Blake Bortles interception that prevented them from being 0-5 in their last five.. (5-5)

Previous: . Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 15. team. 48. Tampa Bay is thankful for their remaining schedule that holds five winnable games before a finale against a Panthers team that could be playing backups. The Colts are the next toughest team left on the schedule and they play the Rams and Bears.. (5-5)

team. 57. The Bears could really throw a wrench into the NFC playoff picture. They get to play a role in determining their division race and possibly the wildcard race by playing both the Packers and Vikings as well as Tampa Bay and Washington. Just two games back from the last wildcard spot, Chicago is thankful for the chance to make the playoffs.. (4-6). Previous: . Chicago Bears. 16

Indianapolis Colts. 17. team. 46. The Colts are thankful to be back on top of the AFC South thanks in part to their 3-0 division record. This is a three team race to the end.. (5-5). Previous:

Previous: . Jacksonville Jaguars. 18. team. 52. The Jaguars are giving thanks for having the most talented quarterback in the division. That’s not exactly a high bar when the watermarks are Hasselbeck, Yates and rookie Mariota, but it should be enough to keep them in the division race down the stretch.. (4-6)

19. team. 15. New Orleans gave thanks for the bye week as it provided them the opportunity to fire Rob Ryan. Hopefully the new DC can call a better game because if the defense was only average, the Saints could make the playoffs.. (4-6). Previous: . New Orleans Saints

Oakland Raiders. 20. team. 28. That’s three straight losses for a Raiders team that looked like playoff contenders when November started. With the Chiefs resurging and the Broncos and Packers still left on the schedule, Oakland should be thankful to get to 6 wins this year.. (4-6). Previous:

team. 10. Houston is thankful for T.J. Yates, who put up a respectable stat line including two touchdown passes and zero interceptions. That’s good enough to keep pace with the Colts’ 40 year old Hasselbeck.. (5-5). Previous: . Houston Texans. 21

59. The Dolphins give thanks to Lamar Miller’s health. The running back had less than 10 rushing attempts for the 4th time this year. The Dolphins are 0-4 in those games and 4-2 when he gets his carries. He should be nice and healthy for the next head coach!. (4-6). Previous: . Miami Dolphins. 22. team

51. The Rams give thanks to Todd Gurley. The rookie has produced most of the team’s offense this year. With the defense in place, a young, talented quarterback is just about all this team needs to compete in the NFC West. And maybe a new coach.. (4-6). Previous: . St. Louis Rams. 23. team

24. team. 54. As up and down as the Eagles have been, they’re thankful to still be in the division race. Although, if they can’t win on Thanksgiving it may be a while before their next one.. (4-6). Previous: . Philadelphia Eagles

(3-7). Previous: . Dallas Cowboys. 26. team. 123. The Cowboys are thankful that Tony Romo is back. The hope is that they can run the table and steal the division from the Giants. They’ll need some help though.

Detroit Lions. 27. team. 50. While the playoffs remain a long shot (like, a really, really long shot), the Lions play an Eagles team on the skids and follow that up by playing the Packers at home. If they can win those two games, an admittedly large task, they could legitimately win out.. (3-7). Previous:

Baltimore Ravens. 28. team. 26. The Ravens are thankful for the win that was gifted to them because Jeff Fisher is a dumb/bad/negligent coach who leaves his quarterback in after he clearly suffered a damaging brain injury.. (3-7). Previous:

team. 42. With the Cardinals and Bengals still left on the schedule, San Francisco is all but assured a losing season. They’re thankful for the high draft pick they’ll be getting to help rebuild a gutted roster.. (3-7). Previous: . San Francisco 49ers. 29

13. San Diego followed five consecutive one score losses with a 33-3 drubbing by the Chiefs. The Chargers are just thankful for the end of the season being one week closer.. (2-8). Previous: . San Diego Chargers. 30. team

Tennessee Titans. 31. team. 35. At 2-8, the Titans are thankful for the opportunity to play spoiler in a three-way race for the division. They still have match ups with all three opponents and finish the season with back to back contests against the Texans and Colts.. (2-8). Previous:

The Browns are thankful for nothing. The football gods owe the city of Cleveland something better than Jim Haslam.. (2-8). Previous: . Cleveland Browns. 32. team. 53