NFL power rankings: Bears, Texans hit new highs; Eagles, Falcons keep falling

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NFL Power Rankings (SN Illustration)

There are a lot familiar NFL playoff teams still at the top of the standings as we enter the stretch run of the 2018 season. But there also is the usual transition of power with some former contenders fading and some new ones continuing to climb the charts.

The results of last week’s games were a perfect example of that to shake up the middle tier yet again. Here is a look at our updated NFL power rankings going into Week 12.

NFL power rankings

1. New Orleans Saints 9-1 (last week: 1)

The Saints could have scored 50 against the Eagles if they wanted to. They say you need to beat the champs to be the champs, and New Orleans went the extra mile with that beatdown of Philly.

2. Los Angeles Rams 10-1 (last week: 3)

The Rams are having plenty of defensive issues, and know they need to finish one game ahead of the Saints in order to get home-field advantage. So it was nice for them to make a statement of their own against the Chiefs.

3. Kansas City Chiefs 9-2 (last week: 2)

After beating the Steelers and just falling short to the Patriots, the Chiefs remain AFC favorites despite the close loss to NFC power Los Angeles on Monday night.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers 7-2-1 (last week: 4)

The Steelers don’t get any style points for their win in Jacksonville, but they did exorcise some demons from last season. It should make them feel more confident that this season can end a lot better.

5. New England Patriots 7-3 (last week: 6)

The Patriots are in a bit of a funk with Tom Brady in a mini-slump, but they usually figure these things out during a bye. They are never out of Super Bowl contention until someone can eliminate them for real in the playoffs.

6. Chicago Bears 7-3 (last week: 10)

The Bears needed a signature victory to prove this breakout season for Mitchell Trubisky and their defense is not just about preying on bad teams. That Vikings domination qualifies.

7. Houston Texans 7-3 (last week: 9)

These Texans are not close to resembling the team that started the season 0-3. They are getting the job done with the running game, the defense and the simple connection between Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins. They can do a lot more than just win the AFC South.

8. Los Angeles Chargers 7-3 (last week: 5)

The Chargers always deal with a home-field disadvantage in their own stadium, the one thing that keeps them from being totally great. The good news is, despite the loss, they welcomed Joey Bosa back for some needed impact.

9. Carolina Panthers 6-4 (last week: 8)

The Panthers failed to use the Lions to get well after the Steelers debacle. They’re simply not a good road team (1-4) in relation to being an undefeated (5-0) home team. That makes the Seahawks and Saints matchups in Carolina almost must-win games.

10. Minnesota Vikings 5-4-1 (last week: 7)

The Vikings saw their offensive line and running game issues get exposed again by the Bears’ mighty front. There’s still too much on Kirk Cousins and the defense to be impeccable, which they were not.

11. Washington Redskins 6-4 (last week: 11)

The Redskins lost Alex Smith, but at this point, considering they are the least QB-dependent team in the NFL, they won’t look much different with Colt McCoy taking over with a limited receiving corps and run-heavy, defensive-minded approach. Their non-QB problems are more likely to catch up to them soon.

12. Dallas Cowboys 5-5 (last week: 17)

The Cowboys have silenced the Jason Garrett replacement rumors with two monumental road victories over the Eagles and Falcons. If they can hold serve against the Redskins on Thanksgiving, they will be a heavy favorite to take back the NFC East.

13. Indianapolis Colts 5-5 (last week: 19)

The Colts have won four consecutive games to surge back into both AFC South and wild-card contention. Frank Reich is doing a bang-up job with his offensive and defensive staff in his first year, and Andrew Luck is a near lock for comeback player of the year.

14. Seattle Seahawks 5-5 (last week: 20)

The Seahawks’ commitment to the running game has been key to helping their young defense and easing the pressure on Russell Wilson. The old-school formula has them in good NFC wild-card shape if they can beat the Panthers in Week 12.

15. Baltimore Ravens 5-5 (last week: 21)

Lamar Jackson started, and they suddenly became a run-heavy team instead of the inefficient, pass-happy one they had been with Joe Flacco. You can bet the defense liked that development, too, as the team is suddenly back in AFC wild-card position.

16. Green Bay Packers 4-5-1 (last week: 13)

All signs are pointing to an Aaron Rodgers-Mike McCarthy breakup, as the team is about to miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season, something that it doesn’t expect with a healthy Rodgers. But forget the offensive dysfunction — the defense is the reason for their free-fall.

17. Tennessee Titans 5-5 (last week: 12)

Here we go again. Marcus Mariota got hurt, the running game disappeared and the defense saw everything break down after looking so strong in recent weeks. The Titans are the hardest team in the NFL to figure out, so we’ll put them at the heart of mediocrity in these rankings.

18. Cincinnati Bengals 5-5 (last week: 14)

The Bengals showed some needed life in Baltimore to try to save their fading season, but it still wasn’t enough. Their defense couldn’t stop even a one-dimensional, mostly QB-rushing offense.

19. Miami Dolphins 5-5 (last week: 18)

The Dolphins come out of the bye with a chance to make their AFC wild-card push, but we have no idea who will be their quarterback … or if they’re a passing or running team. The bad defense is bound to drag them down in a hurry.

20. Philadelphia Eagles 4-6 (last week: 15)

The Eagles had been playing scrappy and competitive despite all their issues, but it all came crashing down with a listless performance in New Orleans. The division is within reach, but a Super Bowl repeat is not.

21. Atlanta Falcons 4-6 (last week: 16)

The Falcons have been good at losing close games at home to match their consistent slow-starting road woes. Matt Ryan is having another great season, but their defensive issues in key moments have been too tough for him to overcome.

22. Detroit Lions 4-6 (last week: 24)

The Lions had no business beating the Panthers, but did with better execution from primary young playmakers Kerryon Johnson and Kenny Golladay. There is promise for Matt Patricia’s team after this transitional year.

23. Denver Broncos 4-6 (last week: 26)

The Broncos are playing like they’re trying to keep Vance Joseph around, and that relentless performance against the Chargers will help. Denver, though, is still a long way from actual wild-card contention.

24. Cleveland Browns 3-6-1 (last week: 22)

The Browns were jumped by a couple of surprise winning teams during their bye. They still look like a more organized and legit spoiler team with Baker Mayfield, Gregg Williams and Freddie Kitchens.

25. New York Giants 3-7 (last week: 30)

The Giants in recent weeks have showed what they can do when they’re using the running of Saquon Barkley to open things up for Odell Beckham Jr. and allowing their defense to be more opportunistic. Too bad it was too little, too late against worse teams.

26. Jacksonville Jaguars 3-7 (last week: 23)

The Jaguars finally got Leonard Fournette and the defense clicking at the same time, and they still lost because of a conservative approach and a lack of punch in the passing game. That was fun while it lasted, Blake Bortles and Doug Marrone.

27. Buffalo Bills 3-7 (last week: 27)

They should expect Josh Allen to return to action after the bye, and that will give them something forward-looking beyond a good pass defense for 2019.

28. New York Jets 3-7 (last week: 28)

Will Sam Darnold return from his foot injury and show improvement in what’s been a rookie year of regression? The Jets need better play from him, the running game and defense in order to save Todd Bowles.

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-7 (last week: 25)

Pick a Bucs quarterback, any Bucs quarterback, and he will throw picks in a high-risk, limited-reward downfield passing game. Not shaking that mentality out of Ryan Fitzpatrick or Jameis Winston speaks poorly of Dirk Koetter’s overrated offensive coaching.

30. San Francisco 49ers 2-8 (last week: 31)

The 49ers are going to take a long look at Nick Mullens with the intention of flipping him for something in the offseason. Knowing how competitive they have been with big injuries is a signal to mark them as a team to watch in 2019.

AFTER FURTHER REVIEW:
Biggest takeaways from Week 11 in NFL

31. Oakland Raiders 2-8 (last week: 32)

The Raiders did not look great in the desert with more Derek Carr-Jon Gruden dissension. But they actually made some changes that helped, and they didn’t quit, so that’s at least something of which the coach can be proud, right?

32. Arizona Cardinals 2-8 (last week: 29)

The Cardinals played an exciting offensive game with Josh Rosen, Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald and still couldn’t come through against the Raiders. The promise is there, but the victories are not.