It took until darn near Thanksgiving but finally Power Rankings has a little consistency. Nine of last week’s top 10 teams are still in the upper reaches this week, and the situation is even more settled at the bottom—the only movement among the nine teams bringing up the rear came from a swap at spots 29 and 30.
What’s that tell us? Well, at one end of the spectrum, the legitimate playoff threats have carved out a little separation. At the other, it’s becoming more and more obvious by the week who’s going to be sitting home after Jan. 1.
Just six weeks remain in the regular season. This is where we’re at as December approaches:
32. Cleveland Browns
Alabama would not beat the Browns, but you are lying if there’s not at least 0.1% of your brain thinking that maybe Alabama could beat the Browns. Cleveland’s now 1–23 in its past 24 games and was officially eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday.
31. San Francisco 49ers
RECORD: <span style="color rgb(117, 117, 117); font-family iwan-reschniev, Arial, sans-serif; font-size 30px; text-transform uppercase; background-color rgb(255, 255, 255);">1-9</span>
30. Chicago Bears
Jay Cutler’s done for the season. So is Zach Miller, in all likelihood. Alshon Jeffery? Still suspended for three more games, and now Jerrell Freeman has to sit for four. It’s like John Fox is driving a carpool and everyone is hopping out early because they can’t stand the conversation anymore.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Rex Ryan called Jacksonville “the best two-win team I’ve ever seen,” which is like saying, “That’s the best movie I’ve ever seen starring Rob Schneider.” Kidding, Rob. Big fan of your daughter’s music. Anyway, the Jaguars. They’re terrible.
28. New York Jets
27. St. Louis Rams
In 21 of Jeff Fisher’s 74 games as their head coach, the Rams have failed to score more than 10 points. That’s nearly 30% of the games since Fisher arrived in 2012. Take out those 21 games and Fisher actually has a 29-23-1 record as the St. Louis/L.A. coach, but unfortunately that’s not how this all works.
26. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals had the league’s seventh-ranked scoring offense last season. They’re sitting at 25 for the moment, and fading. There have been injuries and player departures, but it’s safe to confirm at this point that former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was a key piece—maybe the most important piece—to the puzzle.
25. Arizona Cardinals
24. Green Bay Packers
Until Sunday, the Packers had gone 64 years without allowing 40-plus points in back-to-back games. (The 1929 Packers allowed 22 points combined over their entire 13-game season.) It’s never happened three straight, so the Green Bay D could make a little unwanted history with another meltdown at Philadelphia.
23. Philadelphia Eagles
Officially, the Eagles have been charged with 17 drops this season. That number feels much too low, given how the receivers have played of late. Right now, I wouldn’t trust receiver Nelson Agholor to carry an egg from the fridge to the stove.
22. Baltimore Ravens
21. Tennessee Titans
Five straight losses to the Texans and, with Sunday’s result, now 11 consecutive losses to the Colts. The Titans’ attempt to ascend the AFC South has a firm cap until they break those droughts. When you run the 110-meter hurdles, you can’t just walk around the hurdles to get to the finish line.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers managed to snap their four-game skid, but they did so while scoring just one offensive TD against a Browns team that had been allowing 30.1 points per game. Time for Pittsburgh to decide if it’s a real contender or not.
19. Minnesota Vikings
18. Indianapolis Colts
Not that there’s ever a good time to suffer a concussion, but on a short week before a critical game is rough. That’s the reality facing Andrew Luck, who is all but certain to sit the NFL’s Thanksgiving Day nightcap against Pittsburgh. A tough break for a team that finally was trending in the right direction.
17. New Orleans Saints
The Saints have lost 44 times in their history when allowing fewer than 250 yards of offense to the opposition. But it’s only happened twice since 2011, both times vs. Carolina: —a 17–13 setback in ’13 and Thursday’s 23–20 defeat.
16. San Diego Chargers
15. Carolina Panthers
At just shy of 3.6, the Panthers on Thursday averaged fewer yards per play than any other winning team so far this season. Not since 2006 had Carolina come away victorious in a game in which it failed to top that 3.6 ypp plateau. (h/t to Pro Football Reference for the research.)
14. Houston Texans
The Texans’ trip to Estadio Azteca wound up being like so many of the U.S. national team’s visits there, right down to the laser pointers and the back line of defense forgetting how to, ya know, play sports at a key moment. If they can bottle Brock Osweiler’s performance, though, that would go a long way toward holding on in the AFC South.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
12. Buffalo Bills
Sunday marked the fifth time this season the Bills have finished with fewer than 200 yards passing. They’re 4–1 in those contests, as strong a hint as any that this team typically goes as its run game and defense go. Week 12’s home game against Jacksonville is must-win, both for the Bills’ playoff chances and Rex Ryan’s status.
11. New York Giants
Since the start of October, the Cowboys, Giants and Redskins are a combined 17-3-1, and the Giants haven’t tacked anything on to that loss column in more than a month. Feel free to take the “they’re not very good” tact on New York, but ... well, people said the same thing about the 2007 and ’11 Super Bowl champion teams.
10. Detroit Lions
If the NFL ever decides to take really drastic measures and boost its ratings by using the ol’ cliffhanger, to-be-continued TV trick, the Lions would be a perfect fit. Detroit trails the Jaguars by four in the fourth quarter, Ford Field is silent and nervous, ominous music plays while the camera zooms in on Jim Caldwell not blinking for 30 seconds. Fade to black. Roll scenes from next week’s episode.
9. Atlanta Falcons
8. Washington Redskins
Man, how about Kirk Cousins? He is (“You like that!”) really playing some (“Oooooooweeeeee!”) excellent football (“How do ya like me now?!”). Kirk! Do you mind? We’re trying to have a conversation here. Better go ahead and sign that $100 million contract before the death of Vine decreases your likability quotient by 50%.
7. Kansas City Chiefs
One bad home loss is all it took to make Kansas City’s footing a little wobbly. Now the Chiefs travel to Denver and Atlanta back-to-back before a Thursday night home game with division-leading Oakland. They need more from their offense—the Chiefs haven’t topped 20 points since Week 8.
6. Miami Dolphins
5. Denver Broncos
The Broncos have won at least 12 games each of the past four seasons, a streak surpassed only by the Patriots’ current run of six in a row. Getting to that mark again will require a 5–1 close against a schedule that includes two games with Kansas City, one with New England, a trip to Tennessee and a Week 17 showdown with Oakland, possibly for the division crown.
4. Oakland Raiders
The last time Oakland secured its eighth win before Thanksgiving was 2000, the start of a three-year run that ended with a trip to the Super Bowl. So, there’s extra reason for Raiders fans to give thanks before they bite the head off a live turkey this holiday season. I assume that’s how the Black Hole crazies celebrate, yes?
3. New England Patriots
Week 11 marked the first time all season that the 49ers did not commit a turnover, but it was actually the sixth game in which New England failed to force one. The Patriots have come up with just nine turnovers on the year—and seven of those nine came in Weeks 2 and 3. That puts them only halfway to the franchise’s previous season-low total of 18, set by the 2005 team.
2. Seattle Seahawks
1. Dallas Cowboys
As MVP last season, Cam Newton accounted for 4,473 total yards from scrimmage. Dak Prescott is on pace for 4,449. Newton’s impressive combined TD total of 45 is probably out of Prescott’s reach (he’s at 21), but also note that Prescott has 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions since Oct. 16. Prescott may not win MVP honors, but he’s making a serious case.