It was unavoidable. Someone was going to take a hit. With eight of the previously top-ten teams facing each other, we would finally get some much needed clarity when trying to assess which teams have the edge in the thickening playoff hunt. Teams like the Chiefs and Bengals saw large leaps after big wins, while the Patriots and Cardinals held serve atop their respective conferences. It is worth noting that the Patriots and Cardinals were the only two division leaders entering Week 11 who won their respective games.
What we now have is a crowded mess behind the league's top-two teams. Streaking clubs from Kansas City and Green Bay are now in the same class as those from Denver and Detroit who dropped their games but remain ahead of the curve. Of course, there were also some rearrangements to be made at the bottom of the Power Rankings, but Week 11, if nothing else, was a showcase for potential playoff matchups.
Week 12 NFL Power Rankings
Week 12 NFL power rankings
32. Oakland Raiders (LW: 32)
The Raiders have become the easiest team to rank: last. Last in offense. Last in wins. Last in the league. Everything the Raiders have done this season appears worse than their previous attempt, and even when they hold the once-potent offense of the San Diego Chargers to 13 points, they manage to only score six of their own. Every week, we continue to believe that a win is eventually in the cards for the Raiders, but every week the faith in such a statement dwindles.
Now, after playing eight straight teams with winning records, they will face their ninth when the rival Chiefs come to town on Thursday Night Football.
(Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (LW: 31)
At least they couldn’t lose last week. The Jaguars – seemingly defying the odds of continual games of poor play – have absolutely nothing noteworthy about them. Terrible in nearly every aspect of play, they proved that nothing is impossible by beating the Browns in Week 7, but are a constant reminder of anomalies and outliers. If anything is to be said about the Jaguars, at least they are consistently awful.
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
30. Tennessee Titans (LW: 29)
Tennessee certainly made it interesting in its Monday Night Football game against the Steelers. Leading into the fourth quarter, Tennessee looked every bit capable of pulling off the upset over their visitors from Pittsburgh, but ultimately the 2-8 Titans reverted back to form.
Tennessee has absolutely nothing going for it right now, and it is fortunate to share the division with their even worse counterparts from Jacksonville. The only question heading into Week 12 is whether or not the Titans team that fought the Steelers to the end was possibly a new direction for the squad or simply a moment of brilliance.
(Rob Carr/Getty Images)
29. New York Jets (LW: 28)
While it won’t get them anywhere this season, the Jets’ win over the Steelers help ease what was already expected to be a sickening bye week. At least, the win gives the team something positive to review when preparing for their next game, but it truly doesn’t matter, anyway. They will simply be playing out the rest of their games as dead men walking.
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
28. Washington Redskins (LW: 26)
It’s bad to be 3-7. It’s worse to lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Absolutely nothing is working in Washington, and the once dynamic belle-of-the-ball Robert Griffin III looks completely lost at the quarterback position — two interceptions and an underwhelming day against one of the league’s worst teams.
Adding insult to injury, the egg the Redskins just laid came after a bye week. Perhaps they would have played even worse with less time to prepare, although it’s certainly hard to imagine.
(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (LW: 30)
Guess which team likely just lost the ‘Top Overall Pick Sweepstakes?’ That’s right, with a 20-point road victory over the disastrous Redskins, the Buccaneers won their second game of the season. In the grand scheme of 2014, this win actually does more damage to the Buccaneers’ future than it does good for the present.
Of course, no team should want to lose games, but the Buccaneers have been so bad this season that their best hope for a quick revival is a top draft pick turning into a perennial star. That, or they could always go on a seven-game run to end the season 8-8. In the NFC South, that probably would lead to a division title. By a landslide.
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
26. Carolina Panthers (LW: 25)
Winless since Week 5, the Carolina Panthers enter their bye week a sputtering mess. Unable to do anything for a large portion of their Week 11 game against the Falcons, the Panthers mounted a furious comeback in the fourth quarter that actually gave them a small lead for a short time.
Promptly, the lead was relinquished. It’s actually sad to note that, had the Panthers held on and beaten the Falcons, they would have actually moved into first place in the NFC South. At least, based on the sheer numbers, Carolina is not dead yet.
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
25. New York Giants (LW: 24)
The San Francisco 49ers have proven to be a better team than their slow start to the season indicated, but the Giants did absolutely everything in their power to give away their Week 11 game to the visiting 49ers. With five interceptions thrown, Eli Manning and the Giants routinely prevented themselves from putting points on the board in what eventually proved to be a winnable game.
At 3-7, and losers of five straight games, the Giants will now host the 7-3 Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. If there is any silver lining to what could become a nationally televised disaster, the Giants are 7-6 against the Cowboys in their last 13 meetings already with a loss this season.
(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
24. Minnesota Vikings (LW: 22)
The Vikings had appeared to turn a corner entering their bye week in Week 10, fresh off two consecutive victories and facing the reeling Bears. Unfortunately for Minnesota, the extra week of preparation did little to overcome its actual on-field deficiencies – namely, its ineffectiveness on offense with under 250 total yards.
If nothing else, this season quickly became a trial-by-fire for rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. With the powerhouse Green Bay Packers coming to town next week, the Vikings may be in for another rough divisional game before facing the Panthers and Jets in consecutive weeks.
(Tom Dahlin/Getty Images)
23. Chicago Bears (LW: 27)
They couldn’t lose every game by an increasingly widening margin, could they? Apparently not. The Bears finally ended their streak of atrocious play — five losses in six games, the last two by a combined 69 points — with a victory in Week 11. Yes, it was against the even less impressive Vikings, but the Bears are not in a position to debate strength of victories.
In that regard, their win against the Vikings does little to salvage their disastrous season, as it would take a complete reversal, coupled with a miracle, in order to make this year yield anything useful.
(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
22. New Orleans Saints (LW: 19)
By the time the season ends, the New Orleans Saints may look back on everything that has transpired in 2014 and consider it one giant missed opportunity. Even with two overtime losses and a losing record entering Week 11, the Saints still led the pathetic NFC South.
Their second consecutive home loss – which had not happened in back-to-back games since late 2009 – sent the Saints back into the muddled mess of the rest of the division. Now at a disappointing 4-6, New Orleans has proven to be every bit as bad as its record.
Failing to capitalize on the down year of the NFC South would be the icing on the otherwise disgusting cake the Saints brought to the party this season.
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
21. St. Louis Rams (LW: 23)
We have found the secret ingredient for the Rams’ success: force them to play every single postseason team from the previous year. Somehow, a team with six losses has beaten the Seahawks, 49ers, and Broncos in their past five games. Completely inexplicable. Are the Rams actually good? No. Are they capable of beating any given team on any given week? Certainly. Unfortunately for St. Louis, it’s a case of ‘Too Little, Too Late’ in a crowded NFC West. What’s worse, the Rams still remain uncertain about the future of their quarterback position – including Sam Bradford coming off another injury – and will likely end up with a draft position outside the top-ten altogether.
(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
20. Atlanta Falcons (LW: 21)
They certainly aren’t anything special, but, for the time being, the Atlanta Falcons are the least-awful team in the NFC South. Games against the terrible Buccaneers and struggling Panthers are surefire ways to tally wins, but the real story is that their six losses are tied for the fewest in the division.
Their position atop the NFC South should not necessarily be a surprise – on paper, the Falcons have some of the most talented weapons on the field – so this might actually be a case of an underachieving team turning its season around.
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
19. Houston Texans (LW: 20)
Maybe the Texans aren’t dead yet. Improbable as it may seem, Houston’s victory in Cleveland keeps the team alive in an otherwise one-horse race. Quarterback Ryan Mallett looked solid in his first career start but, as it always seems to be in Houston, J.J. Watt stole the show – the defensive lineman came in for an offensive play and caught his second touchdown pass of the season.
Houston remains a turnover-forcing machine – the Texans’ defense tallied another interception and fumble recovery – and the longer they can stay in games, the longer they can stay in the AFC South race.
(AP Photo/David Richard)
18. Buffalo Bills (LW: 17)
It was only a matter of time before the weight around the Buffalo Bills’ neck pulled them back underwater. Kyle Orton is indeed a serviceable quarterback – capable of winning on nearly any given night – but he cannot be trusted to lead a team for an entire season.
Even with the Buffalo defense and running game both ranking in the top-ten, the Bills are nothing more than an average football team with bursts of greatness at times. At least, against weaker teams. Lucky for them, the Bills host the Jets next week.
(Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
17. Cleveland Browns (LW: 11)
That can’t happen. With seemingly every other game in Week 11 pitting top teams against one another, the Browns were in the driver’s seat taking on the 4-5 Houston Texans and their inexperienced quarterback making his first career start. On cue, the Browns lose by double-digits. At home.
Still at 6-4 and well-entrenched in the AFC North race, Cleveland needs to be more consistent on a week-by-week basis to survive its brutal division. As of now, the Browns are proving all the naysayers right. Let’s see how they respond with four of their remaining six games away from Cleveland’s ‘Dawg Pound.’
(Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
16. Baltimore Ravens (LW: 15)
With the Ravens’ two-touchdown victory against the Titans in Week 10, they stopped what could have been a deadly slide in the cannibalistic AFC North. A 6-4 record is typically the minimum desired output after ten games, but the Ravens find themselves behind THREE teams in the division, and losing a tiebreaker to the Bengals.
They only have one division game remaining – Week 17 against the Browns — so they will need to make up ground beforehand to have any chance at climbing out of the hole they put themselves into. Keep in mind that ‘the hole’ in which Baltimore currently find itself is due more to the nature of the powerful AFC North this season than anything else.
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
15. San Diego Chargers (LW: 13)
Beating the Raiders isn’t impressive — literally every team that has played them has done the same — but avoiding a letdown at home in a divisional game after a bye week is crucial. This is especially true on the heels of a three-game losing streak in a division that suddenly became extremely top-heavy.
Even with three straight losses, the Chargers, at 6-4, are only one game out of the AFC West lead. With only two more division games remaining on the schedule – home against the Broncos and at Kansas City – the Chargers likely will need to win both to recover lost ground in earlier losses to the two AFC West co-leaders.
(AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
14. San Francisco 49ers (LW: 16)
They made it interesting late, but the San Francisco 49ers escaped New Jersey with a critical road victory against the struggling Giants. Now at 6-4 and tied with the Seattle Seahawks for second place in the NFC West, the 49ers appear to slowly be reviving a season that was once on life support.
Their offense still has yet to break the 30-point mark – San Francisco’s only game with more than 31 points came via an interception return for a touchdown – and only two of their six wins have been by double digits, but the 49ers will now host four of their final six games after winning two straight on the road.
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
13. Miami Dolphins (LW: 12)
It certainly wasn’t the prettiest win – and it came against a team who has finally returned to earth — but Miami’s home victory on Thursday Night Football keeps them alive in the AFC playoff hunt. Quite possibly the biggest takeaway from the last few weeks of football is the consistent play of quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
If the name sounds familiar, he was the one that many people suggested benching after the first few weeks of the season. After their much needed win, the Dolphins head to Denver to put their top-five defense to the test against Peyton Manning.
(Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
12. Cincinnati Bengals (LW: 18)
It is certainly plausible that Cincinnati’s Week 11 victory in New Orleans was more of an indictment about the struggling Saints than anything else, but the Bengals slid back into the division lead on the heels of three Andy Dalton touchdown passes and a stout defensive performance. The Bengals tend to go back-and-forth between ‘contender’ and ‘pretender,’ even after three straight postseason appearances.
Largely aided by the emergence of rookie running back Jeremy Hill and the health of wide receiver A.J. Green, the Bengals appear to be back on the inside track for the AFC North crown. It will just be a matter of whether or not they can sustain it.
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (LW: 14)
There is no word to describe the Pittsburgh Steelers other than ‘inconsistent.’ Even within games, Pittsburgh bounces back-and-forth between terrible, great, and mediocre. For a large portion of their Monday Night Football game in Tennessee, the Steelers looked lost and dangerously reminiscent of the team that fell apart in New Jersey a week prior against the Jets.
Then, as quickly as they needed to put everything together, they stuff the ball down the throat of the Titans and win the game outright. This example is nothing more than a microcosm for the Steelers’ 2014 season. Like the rest of the AFC North, the real Steelers team that plays the remaining five games of the season is the only one that matters.
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
10. Seattle Seahawks (LW: 9)
It has not been an easy title defense for the Seattle Seahawks thus far. Poised to stay within two games of the division-leading Cardinals, the Seahawks traveled to Kansas City only to get stopped in their tracks by the streaking Chiefs. Seattle now finds itself tied with San Francisco for second place in the NFC West.
As expected, Seattle has brought out the best in nearly every opponent this season, but still has their fate laid out in front of them. Five of their six remaining games are against division opponents.
(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
9. Indianapolis Colts (LW: 6)
Are the Colts more victims of schedule or streaks? After going 0-2 to start the season against a pair of now 7-3 teams — Denver and Philadelphia — the Colts ripped off five straight victories before losing two of their last three games.
Naturally, this is largely due to when the Colts ran into the Broncos, Eagles, Steelers, or Patriots, but there are no excuses in a league where Indianapolis should cruise to a playoff berth via an otherwise weak division.
The Colts have a prolific offense led by one of the game’s best young passers in Andrew Luck, but they won’t be playing teams of the same ilk as the Titans and Jaguars if they reach the postseason.
(Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
8. Philadelphia Eagles (LW: 5)
Was it Mark Sanchez? Was it overconfidence? Was it the strength of the Packers? It may have very easily been all three factors, but the Eagles finally fell back to earth without Nick Foles under center.
It is likely that one of Philadelphia’s last two games was a fluke – dismantling the Panthers while getting torn apart by the Packers – but the team probably falls somewhere in the middle. Luckily for the Eagles, their 7-3 record is still good for a share of the NFC East lead, but their Week 11 loss helped erase all confidence for the team going forward.
The Eagles still have both games against the Cowboys in front of them, so they have the opportunity to clean up this mess and control how the division ultimately gets decided.
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
7. Dallas Cowboys (LW: 8)
Nobody needed a week off more than Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, and the bye could not have been placed better in Dallas’ schedule. Fresh off an overseas beating of the hapless Jaguars, the Cowboys are positioned for a tight NFC East race the rest of the way.
With four of their six remaining games featuring division opponents – including two against their current NFC East co-leaders from Philadelphia – the final six weeks of the season should provide unparalleled drama for the Cowboys. As always, it’s how they react to this added pressure that matters most.
(AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
6. Detroit Lions (LW: 4)
It took a little longer than it probably should have for America to buy into the Detroit Lions and their top-ranked defense, but they stormed to the top of the NFC North and were given a fortunate twist in the schedule when their Week 11 road matchup included the NFC’s top team with a backup quarterback.
As if it were too perfect for the Lions, they squandered the opportunity, failing to score a touchdown, grab a share of the lead for the number one seed in the NFC, and losing their own grip on the NFC North division. With everything in their own hands, the Lions dropped the ball. As further punishment for wasting their gifts, they get to travel to New England next week.
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
5. Denver Broncos (LW: 3)
Lose in New England? Forgivable. Lose in St. Louis? Unacceptable. The Rams’ shocking upset over the Broncos does little to damage their overall fantastic season, but Sunday’s visit to St. Louis was Denver’s best mathematical opportunity to tally another win in the foreseeable future.
The next opponent with a losing record that Denver will face is the Oakland Raiders in Week 17. If the Broncos are as dangerous as everyone believes them to be, Week 11 should be nothing more than a blip on the radar, but their true nature will be revealed in the coming weeks.
(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
4. Kansas City Chiefs (LW: 10)
Technically trailing the Broncos by virtue of a tiebreaker, the Kansas City Chiefs moved into a first-place tie atop the powerful AFC West with an impressive home win over the defending Super Bowl Champions from Seattle.
Kansas City’s top-ten defense continued its impressive season, holding yet another team without a rushing touchdown, as the Chiefs’ running backs tallied three of their own.
Next week’s game in Oakland could easily be overlooked with the Broncos looming in the distance, but right now, the Chiefs are playing better than anyone else in the AFC West.
(Photo by Jerome Davis/Getty Images)
3. Green Bay Packers (LW: 7)
The Green Bay Packers have officially entered ‘beat every team by halftime mode.’ With their thrashing of the Eagles one week removed from blowing out the Bears on national television, Green Bay looks like a dominant team on the rise.
Manned by an elite quarterback, the Packers’ top-ranked scoring offense looks capable of beating any defense thrown at it, and has moved to the top of the NFC North with the Lions’ loss in Arizona. For the sake of neutral NFL fans everywhere, we can only hope both teams remain playing at this high of a level when the Packers meet the Lions in Week 17.
(AP Photo/Tom Lynn)
2. Arizona Cardinals (LW:2)
There’s a reason why the Cardinals remained in the top-two of last week’s power rankings even after the loss of Carson Palmer — they are the best, most complete team in the NFC. Defense and a solid running game appear to be the strengths of a Cardinals’ squad that harkens back to the winning formula of the early part of the century, but make no mistake about it, Arizona has its foot pressed on the gas pedal full-throttle for sixty minutes.
Even with a backup quarterback forced to man the ship for the rest of the season, the team continues to take deep shots down the field while its defense attacks opposing quarterbacks on nearly every play. Now with a two-game lead in the race for home field advantage throughout the playoffs — in the case of the Super Bowl hosting University of Phoenix Stadium, this includes every playoff game — the Cardinals are a runaway favorite for the NFC’s top seed.
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
1. New England Patriots (LW: 1)
Another game, another win. After New England’s Monday Night Football loss in Kansas City in Week 4, the Patriots have set fire to the rest of the league via a six-game winning streak by an average margin of victory of approximately 19 points per game.
The Patriots’ recent dominant run looks even more impressive when you consider their last two opponents — the 7-3 Denver Broncos and the 6-4 Indianapolis Colts.
New England is set to face the two NFC North co-leaders in the Lions and Packers in the next two weeks, but there is no reason to believe the Patriots are slowing down. Including their two wins this season, the Patriots are 31-5 after Halloween since 2010.
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Now, as we head into a heavy week with 30 teams at play, the focus for Week 12 will be placed largely on teams formerly running away with a playoff berth only to suffer a setback loss. Namely, how will the Broncos, Colts, and Lions respond?