This edition of our Power Rankings is special in that it encompasses a few extra games than the first two rankings did. By that, I mean the Thanksgiving games. Read on, enjoy, and if your team isn’t where you think they should be, tell me about it. I’ll tell you why I think you’re wrong.
NFL Power Rankings – Third Quarter
1 – Seattle Seahawks
I’m finally ready to admit it; the Seahawks are the best team in the NFL. They have been for awhile now, but I wasn’t ready to unseat the Broncos from this spot until they gave me a reason to. As far as that goes…
2 – Denver Broncos
They’ve given me multiple reasons to drop them out of the top spot. No shame in losing to the Patriots, but the manner in which it took place was ugly. And two weeks prior, allowing an inferior Chargers team to keep pace for most of the game was a bit disheartening. They’re still the class of the AFC, but this week’s road contest in Kansas City will say more about this team than any other game has this year.
3 – New Orleans Saints
They’ve officially pulled away from the rest of the NFC, and with their game in Seattle this weekend, they have a chance to prove even more. This offense is a nightmare to combat, and the defense is no mirage.
4 – Kansas City Chiefs
That loss to San Diego stings, but this is still a great football team, coached well and winning with fundamentals and boring stuff like defense and special teams. That’s sarcasm; I love the way the Chiefs are playing, and wish them continued success. Can they beat the Broncos? Yes. Will they? No better time than this, in chilly Arrowhead.
5 – New England Patriots
Throughout the injuries and the spurts of inconsistency, throughout the turnovers and the turn over at most positions, these Patriots under the Hoodie continue to fight, and to fight well. Sandwiched around a close loss to the Panthers, they bullied the Steelers and got away with a close call against Denver, the type of wins that show Championship caliber.
6 – Carolina Panthers
This spot was closely contested with the next team on my list, a team whom the Panthers ironically beat a couple of weeks ago. That made this decision for me. Winners of six in a row, the Panthers are the hottest team outside of Seattle in football right now, and if they can maintain the momentum, may turn some heads and break some hearts come January.
7 – San Fransisco 49ers
After a couple of narrow losses, the 49ers might have jumpstarted their late-season run with a win against the hapless Redskins. With Michael Crabtree back on the field and Aldon Smith returning to form, this good team could be ready to take that step back up to great at just the right time of the season.
8 – Arizona Cardinals
I know. You don’t have to scream it. This doesn’t make sense. Yes, they’ve won four straight, but who were they playing? The Jaguars? Texans? The Falcons, for crying out loud? These are teams a good team should beat. The Cardinals beat every one of them, proving they’re a good team. Then they absolutely crushed the Colts, a team most people think are a notch about good. So, what does that say about the good Cardinals team? That they’re at least capable of being better than ‘good;. This is the time to be showing that.
9 – Cincinnati Bengals
Two narrow losses to the Dolphins and Ravens bumped them down some, but if Andy Dalton can limit his mistakes, there is no reason (not even the major injury hits the defense has taken) this team cannot run the table going forward. They’ve given themselves a good push-start with a blowout win over their interstate rival Browns, that’s for sure.
10 – Indianapolis Colts
Now, more than ever, I wonder about this team. I don’t think their recent struggles, including a shameful rout at the hands of the Rams and the blowout in Arizona, are a phase; this is a team that has holes yet to fill. Their late-game heroics are absolutely thrilling, but if a team has to consistently count on coming from behind to win games, they’re going to have a hell of a time winning the games opposing teams want, and are capable of taking, just a little bit more than the Colts are.
11 – Dallas Cowboys
Now the rankings start to get tricky. In my mind, this spot is occupied by the next two teams, as well, but I’m not going to give out any confusing ties in my power rankings. Nobody likes confusing ties. Especially confusing polka-dotted ties. The Cowboys deserve this spot, but we’ll see how well they can hang on to it down the stretch.
12 – Detroit Lions
Wrapped around a couple of unfortunate losses, the Lions beat the only two teams in their division that are (or perhaps, were) in contention for the playoff bid. Routing the Packers, even without Aaron Rodgers, has to be a major confidence boost going forward. Like Dallas, I’m wary about their ability to maintain, but the rest of their division is either falling behind or were lapped a month ago.
13 – Philadelphia Eagles
Who isn’t impressed with Nick Foles these days? Chip Kelly is making things work in Philly, with one of the best running games in football and a steadily improving defense the real keys to their recent success. Like the two teams above them, I’m not sure they can keep it up, but if I’m banking on either the Eagles or Cowboys going forward…I’m going to start stashing my opinions in a mattress.
14 – Baltimore Ravens
Hey, who knows? This team hasn’t looked right all year, and I can’t say they looked all that great in their recent victories, but they’re starting to do the things that won them a Superbowl last year. Not as consistently, and they aren’t going to convince me otherwise until they’re in the playoffs. It’s a long road, but this team is full of the kind of experience you want in a close fight.
15 – Chicago Bears
The road ahead looks as bleak as the road behind, the path that is littered with injuries and a defense that has done a 180 since last year. They have to pick up their game in a hurry to catch up with the Lions, but Detroit could be gracious enough to give the division up. You just never know with them, do you?
16 – Tennessee Titans
A sadder tale is hard to find in the NFL this year. The Titans have narrowly lost almost all of their games, and are still somehow in a position where they could win their division given an inspired effort against a struggling Colts team this week. At this point, however, the “what could have been” feeling in Tennessee is hard to shake.
17 – St. Louis Rams
Quite the journey for this team in 2013. Hopeful after showing heart and determination along with budding skill in 2012, they struggled to find an identity for the first quarter of the season, and have spent the next two quarters trying to adapt to a run-first, defensively aggressive approach. They’ve notched back-to-back victories, and while they’re going nowhere in the stacked NFC West, they’re not going to be an easy out for anybody going forward.
18 – Miami Dolphins
Should they be ranked lower? I cannot see the argument for it. Besides a colossal rout at the hands of the Saints, the Dolphins have been in a position to win every single game they’ve played this year. All that despite a QB playing his 4th year at the position (in his lifetime), an offensive line that has been swallowed whole by injury, poor play and ridiculous off-the-field nonsense and a running game that was last seen when Tony Sparano was the head coach. Still, their defense is the most underrated unit in the NFL, and they keep them in games. They’re still right in the middle of the mix for the final wildcard spot in the AFC, but they’ve got a tough hill to climb.
19 – San Diego Chargers
They’re bumped a spot behind the Dolphins because they lost to them, but from a distance, it appears the Chargers have a better chance at making a run at the postseason. They’re a better team where it’s obvious, but a lesser team where it’s not; a great QB can only take you so far. This team has some growing to do, but the pieces are there, for sure. It’s a shame they play in the same division as the Broncos and Chiefs…well, maybe not the Chiefs, who the Chargers upset last week, but you catch my drift.
20 – Pittsburgh Steelers
Way down, small steps forward, a big step over the Lions and then right back down, losing to the Ravens, whom the Steelers have gotten the better of for years. While technically still in the mix in a crowded AFC wildcard picture, I highly doubt this team is going to make it past 6 wins. 6 wins will be an accomplishment in itself considering how their season began.
21 – Green Bay Packers
Somewhere underneath all of their exposed flaws is a team that, with a different QB on the field, somehow plays better in all three phases. Aaron Rodgers is a legitimate MVP candidate whether he’s healthy or not, and lately this season has proven the latter to be as true as the former.
22 – New York Jets
One dimensional offense is an understatement; Geno Smith has a long way to go, and so does this team’s corps of receivers. While I was surprised by their handful of upset victories and less surprised by their toughness in the face of huge odds, the eventual collapse they’re in the midst of doesn’t surprise me at all. Now, if they beat the Dolphins this week, I can enjoy the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach Rex Ryan must feel every time the Jets call a pass play.
23 – Cleveland Browns
If ever a team was a QB away from contention…well, a QB, a RB, a few more offensive lineman, maybe another receiver and some special teams help…you get the picture.
24 – Buffalo Bills
In two years, this team might be at the top of the division. Right now, they’re near the bottom of the NFL. Growing pains.
25 – Oakland Raiders
In two years, this team might….sike. I don’t care what they do, this team is going to be dwelling at the bottom of the AFC West until Peyton Manning retires, the Chiefs stumble and the Chargers stop improving at a better clip.
26 – New York Giants
After deep consideration of putting them about three places ahead, I looked back and realized that their victories, while counting as victories, didn’t exactly show a team that was headed towards something bigger and better than the terrible mess they found themselves in after a couple of months of football. They had a chance to prove it wasn’t a mirage last week, and couldn’t do it.
27 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
There’s a brief glimmer. A quick glimpse you can get, rarely, of a team that could be serious. But there are one too many question marks, including at the pivotal position of head coach, to see this team as much better than what their record says they are.
28 – Washington Redskins
29 – Minnesota Vikings
This spot is theirs by default. That default’s name is Adrian Peterson. His backup isn’t half-bad, either. He should be some other team’s starter next year, in fact.
30 – Jacksonville Jaguars
This spot is theirs because the last two teams are on nearly impossible to believe losing streaks. Congrats, Jacksonville; you’re the worst team in the NFL, but at least you don’t play like it. Sometimes.
31 – Atlanta Falcons
At least they have their QB.
32 – Houston Texans
At least they have their defense.