The theme of this season has been, Who is actually good in the NFL? It seems as though every team has that one weird loss or that one surprising win—except for the Texans and Lions. Good for intrigue. Bad for survivor pools and power rankings. Alas, here’s our best shot at ranking where teams stand after Week 10. And, unlike every other week this year, let’s try to be nice. They’re just power rankings, for goodness’ sake.
1. Green Bay Packers (8–2)
Last week: Win vs. Seattle, 17–0
Next week: at Minnesota
The Packers are atop this week’s power rankings not because they lit things up on offense Sunday (they were fine), but because they have demonstrated an ability to win in different ways this season. In the past three weeks, the Packers defense only allowed a total of one touchdown scored between Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson. And though running back Aaron Jones left Sunday’s game early, back-up A.J. Dillon contributed more than 100 all-purpose yards and two TDs. This is the kind of multi-dimensionality that makes a team dangerous deep into January.
2. Tennessee Titans (8–2)
Last week: Win vs. New Orleans, 23–21
Next week: vs. Houston
The Titans are the AFC team you can trust the most right now, in part because they have gone the longest without a bad loss. (Week 4 vs. the Jets was a long time ago!) Seven of their eight wins have come against 2020 playoff teams, and now, per Tankathon, they have the easiest remaining strength of schedule. That’s good news for a team that hasn’t fallen off yet since losing offensive engine Derrick Henry, but has a chance to get him back from his foot fracture in time for the postseason.
3. Arizona Cardinals (8–2)
Last week: Loss vs. Carolina, 34—10
Next week: at Seattle
You can’t call this a bad loss for Arizona when they were missing both their starting QB and top receiver. It’s a long season and Kliff Kingsbury’s assertion that they will wait to return Kyler Murray until he is 100%, or close enough to it, is smart for the long run. But in a tight division race, it would be tough to be without their MVP candidate for a third straight week as they go on the road to face a desperate Seahawks team.
4. Dallas Cowboys (7–2)
Last week: Win vs. Atlanta, 43–3
Next week: at Kansas City
The Cowboys’ two losses this season have been by a two-point margin to the defending Super Bowl champions in the opener and Dak Prescott’s first game back from his calf injury. Being the best team in the NFC East has often been a dubious distinction, but the 2021 Cowboys are also one of the best teams in the NFC—and the NFL.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6–3)
Last week: Loss at Washington, 29–19
Next week: vs. New York Giants (Monday)
This week on The MMQB Monday Morning Podcast we discussed how, when a team Tom Brady is quarterbacking has a bad game (or two), there’s not much you can say other than, well, he’ll probably figure it out. Of bigger concern is the Bucs defense, which couldn’t get off the field and has had a revolving door at cornerback, one of the positions on the field where it is most difficult to cover up deficiencies.
6. Buffalo Bills (6–3)
Last week: Win at New York Jets, 45–17
Next week: vs. Indianapolis
The Bills are too good to fall victim to two trap games in a row. They had a good day running the ball against the Jets, averaging nearly 6 yards per carry, but then again they had a good day doing most things in the blowout win.
7. Los Angeles Rams (7–3)
Last week: Loss at San Francisco, 31–10
Next week: Bye
The Rams have made some big-name additions this month in Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr., but they also lost Robert Woods to an ACL injury right before Monday Night Football. Perhaps it’s no wonder that they didn’t play like a cohesive team against the 49ers, looking particularly out of sync on offense. They have all the pieces to be a championship-caliber team but clearly have work to do to put them all together. It’s a good time for a bye week after two straight losses.
8. Baltimore Ravens (6–3)
Last week: Loss at Miami, 22–10
Next week: at Chicago
The Ravens didn’t just look like a road team on Thursday Night Football, they looked like a road team on Thursday Night Football that had just played 98 snaps in an overtime win 4 days earlier. But even if the circumstances of this game were an outlier, the fact that Miami’s relentless blitzing stymied the Ravens’ offense means they’ll have to find ways to counteract the approach that future opponents will try to mimic.
9. Kansas City Chiefs (6–4)
Last week: Win at Las Vegas, 41–4
Next week: vs. Dallas
We’ve been waiting to see an offensive explosion like the one the Chiefs delivered against the Raiders, though the key will be replicating this performance against defenses other than Gus Bradley’s vulnerable cover-3 based scheme. Just as critical to the Chiefs working their way back to the top of the AFC West standings has been the steady improvement of their defense.
10. New England Patriots (6–4)
Last week: Win vs. Cleveland, 45–7
Next week: at Atlanta (Thursday)
An obnoxious Boston fan I work with said that my picking the Patriots to win the division gave him hope during the Patriots’ 1–3 start. (Glad to be able to finally offer some hope to forlorn Boston fans.) Mac Jones had his best game yet in a decisive win against the Browns, and the rebuilt units on both sides of the ball have come together quickly since the bumpy first month of the season.
11. Los Angeles Chargers (5–4)
Last week: Loss vs. Minnesota, 27–20
Next week: vs. Pittsburgh
After a fast start to the season, the Chargers have hit a speed bump, losing three of their last four games. One common denominator between each of these losses was a creative defensive mind on the other side of the ball: Wink Martindale (Ravens), Bill Belichick (Patriots) and Mike Zimmer (Vikings). The Chargers may need to lean on their own creative defensive mind, head coach Brandon Staley, to work on a counter-punch to how teams have been limiting their offense.
12. Cleveland Browns (5–5)
Last week: Loss at Cleveland, 45–7
Next week: vs. Detroit
The MMQB’s Conor Orr smartly wrote that we are allowed to be disappointed in the Browns’ .500 start. The AFC North is still anyone’s division—which is why all four teams have among the top 5 most difficult remaining schedules. The Browns have been banged up, including QB Baker Mayfield, and Myles Garrett’s post-game comments about the defense not being able to make in-game adjustments during the Patriots rout raise questions for defensive coordinator Joe Woods.
13. New Orleans Saints (5–4)
Last week: Loss at Tennessee, 23–21
Next week: at Philadelphia
Sean Payton called this week’s loss to Tennessee “gut-wrenching.” It’s easy to understand why, as for the second straight week, the Saints lost a game they had a chance to win. They’re still in position to make the playoffs, but Payton knows that the margin of error isn’t wide for a team thinned by injuries to key players.
14. Cincinnati Bengals (5–4)
Last week: Bye
Next week: at Las Vegas
The bye week was well-timed for the Bengals, who looked like they needed a break after back-to-back losses to the Jets and the Browns. The bye week also brought good news for them in the AFC North race, with both the Ravens and Browns losing and the Steelers tying.
15. Las Vegas Raiders (5–4)
Last week: Loss vs. Kansas City, 41–14
Next week: vs. Cincinnati
It had been impressive how well the Raiders were able to forge ahead under this season’s highly unusual circumstances. But Derek Carr’s leadership and play alone can’t win games, and the defense fell apart against the Chiefs, allowing more than 500 yards of total offense, to lose control of the division.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers (5–3–1)
Last week: Tie vs. Detroit, 16–16
Next week: at Los Angeles Chargers
The Steelers bungled the chance to be tied with Baltimore atop the AFC North standings by not managing a win against the winless Lions. Ben Roethlisberger was out after self-reporting COVID-19 symptoms, but the Steelers kept giving away chances to win, including Pat Freiermuth’s fumble on the edge of field-goal range in the final seconds of OT. It doesn’t help that injuries are mounting for the Steelers, including to defensive centerpiece T.J. Watt, who left the game early with hip and knee ailments.
17. Minnesota Vikings (4–5)
Last week: Win at Los Angeles Chargers, 27–20
Next week: vs. Green Bay
This week, the Vikings ended up on the right side of a one-score game. Mike Zimmer clearly listened to The MMQB Monday Morning Podcast’s questioning of his decision not to go for the win at the end of regulation last week against Baltimore and this week went for it on a fourth-and-2 to ice a big win against the Chargers that keeps them in the playoff mix.
18. San Francisco 49ers (4–5)
Last week: Win vs. Los Angeles Rams, 31–10
Next week: at Jacksonville
The 49ers have been hard to figure out this season. One week after an ugly loss to the Kyler Murray-less Cardinals, they delivered a decisive win against the Rams. They pounded the ground game, running the ball more than 40 times, and Jimmy Garoppolo also had some nice moments, including his 40-yard TD on fourth down to put the game essentially out of reach early in the fourth quarter.
19. Indianapolis Colts (5–5)
Last week: Win vs. Jacksonville, 23–17
Next week: at Buffalo
The good news: Jonathan Taylor continues to assert himself as one of the best backs in the game with another 100-yard performance, his fifth of the season. The bad news: The Colts were in a nailbiter with the Jaguars and still haven’t beaten a team that’s above .500.
20. Carolina Panthers (5–5)
Last week: Win at Arizona, 34–10
Next week: vs. Washington Football Team
A team can’t get a bigger boost of adrenaline than the Panthers did from Cam Newton’s scoring touchdowns on his first two touches in his return to the team. Matt Rhule said Newton will prepare in the hopes of starting this week against Washington, suddenly making things a lot more interesting for a team that’s currently in position to be the NFC’s No. 7 seed.
21. Denver Broncos (5–5)
Last week: Loss vs. Philadelphia, 30–13
Next week: Bye
A week after shutting down the Cowboys, the Broncos faltered to the Eagles. Their promising start to the season has long since faded, and they look very much like a team headed for a reboot at both QB and head coach at season’s end.
22. Seattle Seahawks (3–6)
Last week: Loss at Green Bay, 17–0
Next week: vs. Arizona
Russell Wilson said his finger felt fine in his expedited return from surgery, but the Seahawks QB was noticeably off-target in addition to his throwing two interceptions. It’s getting late in the season for the Seahawks, who haven’t been 3–6 since 2011—the year before Wilson was drafted into the NFL and also the last time they were shut out in a game.
23. Atlanta Falcons (4–5)
Last week: Loss at Dallas, 43–3
Next week: vs. New England (Thursday)
Arthur Smith may regret making sweeping proclamations about how the Falcons’ culture has changed from having “soft souls” to a team that can find a way to finish … days before playing the Falcons’ recent ex-coach, Dan Quinn.
24. Philadelphia Eagles (4–6)
Last week: Win at Denver, 30–13
Next week: vs. New Orleans
Jalen Hurts’s development this season has been a pleasant surprise, perhaps even for the Eagles themselves, who didn’t intend to start the second-round pick in his second season and quietly lurked on the QB market during this past offseason. But Hurts’s play the last three games, in wins against Detroit and Denver and a close loss to the Chargers, should at least earn him more consideration by the organization.
Last week: Win vs. Tampa Bay, 29-19Next week: at Carolina
The Washington defense we saw against the Bucs finally looked like the unit we had been waiting to see all year. The Bucs only managed 273 yards and scored their lowest point total of the season (tied with their win against Brady’s old coach). But this performance came too late in the season and also with a
season-ending injury to Chase Young
26. Chicago Bears (3–6)
Last week: Bye
Next week: vs. Baltimore
Before the bye week, Justin Fields turned in his best outing of the season in a tight loss to Pittsburgh marred by officiating mistakes that went against his team. It’s not an easy task returning against the Ravens defense, but the best case for the Bears is for Fields to continue building his performance as he gains experience.
27. New York Giants (3–6)
Last week: Bye
Next week: at Tampa Bay (Monday)
The Giants hope to have both running back Saquon Barkley and left tackle Andrew Thomas back post-bye week. But, the team has a lot of work to do in the second half of the year in order to meet owner John Mara’s preseason standard of “making progress” and “moving in the right direction.”
28. Miami Dolphins (3–7)
Last week: Win vs. Baltimore, 22–10
Next week: at New York Jets
The team’s handling of Tua Tagovailoa this season has been hard to figure out. The former first-round pick is expected to return to his starting role this week but won’t be 100 percent, after re-aggravating the finger injury that was serious enough for the team not to start him against the Dolphins, but not serious enough for him not to enter the game when Jacoby Brissett injured his knee.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (2–7)
Last week: Loss at Indianapolis, 23–17
Next week: vs. San Francisco
Trevor Lawrence said he was disappointed in himself after fumbling the ball in the final minute against the Colts to end the Jaguars’ hopes of completing their comeback. This Jaguars season has been disappointing, but for reasons that go far beyond Lawrence.
30. New York Jets (2–7)
Last week: Loss vs. Buffalo, 45–17
Next week: vs. Miami
The Mike White Era was over in a New York minute. But the primary objective of 2021 was always developing the No. 2 overall pick, Zach Wilson. As soon as Wilson is cleared to return from his PCL injury, making sure he gets something out of his remaining starts should be the focus.
31. Houston Texans (1–8)
Last week: Bye
Next week: at Tennessee
The Texans have eight games to go until the 2021 season is over and they can proceed to the next stage of their rebuild.
32. Detroit Lions (0–8–1)
Last week: Tie at Pittsburgh, 16–16
Next week: at Cleveland
The Lions will now officially avoid the ignominy of becoming the first 0–17 team in NFL history. That’s something. But there’s not much to celebrate after their ugly tie with the Steelers, especially not the play of Jared Goff, who completed only 56 percent of his passes and threw for 54 yards during regulation.
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