We feel exceedingly confident that the Chiefs, Steelers and Saints are the three best teams in the NFL. That explains their place in the latest edition of Power Rankings -- but what about the rest of the top 10?
That's what gives your NFL Power Rankings author a serious case of anxiety.
I'll admit it: I struggled with the spots immediately after the Big Three this week. Struggled in a way I hadn't all season. The second tier of contenders are in a pile-up right now and it may take some time to sort it out.
This right here is a fluid situation. A fluid situation. F-L-U-I-D. We appreciate your patience at this time.
Let's get to it.
Previous rank: No. 1
We should all try to appreciate the unimpeachable greatness of an Andy Reid offense piloted by Patrick Mahomes. On a night when Derek Carr threw the NFL QB equivalent of a no-hitter, Mahomes tossed a perfect game in the Chiefs’ 35-31 win over the Raiders. After Carr put Vegas ahead with a touchdown pass to Jason Witten with 1:43 to play, Mahomes took over and calmly marched the Chiefs 75 yards on just seven plays, culminating with a touchdown strike to Travis Kelce to break the Raiders’ hearts and earn payback for Kansas City's sole defeat this season, back in Week 5. The win all but locks up another AFC West title for the Chiefs, who now turn their attention to trying to catch the undefeated Steelers for the No. 1 seed.
Previous rank: No. 2
The Steelers might need to win every game on their schedule to hold off the Chiefs for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Don’t rule it out. Pittsburgh is 10-for-10 on the season after a 27-3 win over the outclassed Jaguars in Jacksonville. Pittsburgh’s defense was a living nightmare for Jake Luton, who took a beating and threw four interceptions (two apiece by Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds). Ben Roethlisberger led the offense with his usual efficiency, and Chase Claypool scored the 10th touchdown of his outstanding rookie season. Claypool and Diontae Johnson have added a level to this passing game that makes Pittsburgh hard to beat. Well ... impossible to beat so far.
Previous rank: No. 3
Early in the season, most of the focus on the Saints’ slow start centered around Drew Brees and the quarterback's apparent physical limitations in his age-41 campaign. That covered for the fact that Sean Payton’s defense was stinking out the joint. After Sunday’s 24-9 win over the Falcons, most of the focus remained at quarterback -- Taysom Hill was fine -- but the underlying storyline mattered more: The Saints' defense is locked in, and it’s been that way for weeks. Matt Ryan was sacked eight times and intercepted twice, and those impact plays put Hill in positive setups all afternoon. New Orleans allowed 30 points per game in the first five weeks. The Saints have allowed just 14.4 points per game in the last five weeks.
Previous rank: No. 10
So much for the narrative that the Rams are a team that only feasts on the have-nots of the league. Last week, Los Angeles throttled the mighty Seahawks offense. On Monday night, they went toe-to-toe with Tom Brady and the Bucs and came away with a 27-24 win in Tampa. Again, it was the defense that led the way for Sean McVay's team: Brady never looked comfortable in the pocket and was intercepted twice by Jordan Fuller, including the game-clincher with less than two minutes to play. On offense, Jared Goff was locked in with his top wideouts: Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods combined for 23 catches and became the first teammates in Rams history to both have 10 catches in a game. The Rams control their destiny in the NFC West.
Previous rank: No. 5
Sunday's 34-31 loss was the type that makes you wonder about the Packers. Green Bay took a 14-point lead into halftime against the Colts, then watched it all slip away in an avalanche of unforced errors. Marquez Valdes-Scantling wore the goat horns for the overtime fumble that set up Indy’s game-winning field goal, but this defeat had many fathers. The tackling on defense was poor, and an offense that piled up 28 points by halftime completely shut down in the second half, managing a single field goal to force overtime in the final seconds of regulation. The Packers have yet to beat a team that entered the game with a winning record, and it’s fair to wonder if Green Bay is simply a cut below the true behemoths of the league.
Previous rank: No. 4
The Buccaneers changed their practice routine, but the results remain the same. This time it was the Rams who took out the Bucs in prime time, dropping Bruce Arians' team to 1-3 under the lights this season. Tampa Bay put up a fight Monday, looking nothing like the team that was outclassed by the Saints earlier this month on Sunday Night Football. Still, the Bucs weren't sharp enough against the Rams and that starts with Tom Brady, who threw two bad interceptions and was generally not as precise as he needed to be throughout the night. Credit L.A.'s front seven for putting pressure on Brady, but games like these were a major reason why the quarterback got that $50 million contract. The Bucs are paying for vintage Brady, but they're not always getting it.
Previous rank: No. 7
The weather is about ready to turn in Western New York, which means it's time for the Bills to finally figure out their running game. It’s been a near-constant issue this season, and it puts too much pressure on Josh Allen and the passing game on a week-by-week basis. Sean McDermott told reporters at the beginning of the Week 11 bye that he wants to find ways to improve the ground attack, and you have to expect that might mean more opportunities for third-round rookie Zack Moss. Devin Singletary’s high-end abilities as a pass protector will keep him in the mix, but Moss deserves a shot to show what he can do in early-down situations. A subplot to watch Sunday against the Chargers.
Previous rank: No. 8
The Raiders didn’t have an opportunity to take a victory lap around the parking lot this time, but they had no reason to hang their heads after a narrow 35-31 loss to the Chiefs. Derek Carr delivered one of the best performances of his career, throwing three touchdowns while leading the offense with expert precision. Vegas punted just twice all night, and Carr’s scoring connection with Jason Witten put the Raiders ahead with less than two minutes to play. The defense wasn’t up to the task of stopping Patrick Mahomes with the game on the line, but you could argue there’s no defense that can say that right now. The biggest positive? The Raiders have proved over two games that they aren’t afraid of the defending champions. This is a rivalry reborn.
Previous rank: No. 13
General manager John Schneider hit big in his deadline trade for Carlos Dunlap. The veteran pass rusher secured a big win over the Cardinals with a sack late in the fourth quarter, one of two takedowns of Kyler Murray he had in a 28-21 win. Dunlap now has 3.5 sacks, seven QB hits and five tackles for loss in three games in Seattle. Dunlap has essentially filled the void left by Jadeveon Clowney, who, for all the talk about his role as a "disruptor" on defense, managed just three sacks in 13 games with Seattle last season. The broader question here is one of optimism: Is the Seahawks' defense finally turning the corner after their horrid start? With the next four opponents under .500, there’s a chance to build some momentum down the stretch.
Previous rank: No. 12
The Colts didn’t author a masterpiece on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, but results matter more. Indy is 7-3 after a 34-31 overtime win over the Packers, a game that showed a fighting spirit in Frank Reich’s team. The Packers piled up 28 points and took a 14-point lead into halftime, but the Colts shut down Aaron Rodgers and Co. after that. Indianapolis forced four turnovers on the day, none bigger than Julian Blackmon’s expert strip of Marquez Valdes-Scantling that set up Rodrigo Blankenship’s game-winning kick in overtime. Back-to-back wins over the Titans and Packers have set up Indy well -- if they can complete the sweep of Tennessee on Sunday, they’ll be in excellent position for their first division title in six years.
Previous rank: No. 14
The Ravens held Derrick Henry back for the better part of three quarters on Sunday, but you can’t keep a good rushing champion down. Henry gained 96 of his 133 yards after halftime, including a 29-yard TD dash in overtime to lift the Titans to a huge 30-24 win over the Ravens in Baltimore. A.J. Brown, another physical marvel on the Titans roster, ran through four would-be Ravens tacklers on a 14-yard touchdown reception that put Tennessee ahead late in regulation. After the game, Ravens coach John Harbaugh appeared to refuse a handshake from Mike Vrabel. That might have provided the best feeling of all for the Titans, who seem to be in the heads of their rivals.
Previous rank: No. 6
The Ravens had another chance to entrench themselves as an AFC power player in Week 11, but instead came away looking like a pretender. On Sunday, they suffered the indignity of watching the Titans -- the same team that ruined their fairytale season in 2019 -- celebrate a walk-off 29-yard scoring run by Derrick Henry in overtime. Baltimore outplayed Tennessee for much of the game, but a touchdown by A.J. Brown late in the fourth quarter -- on a third-down play in which Brown ran through four would-be Ravens tacklers on his way to the end zone -- said a lot about the current state of Ravens football. "It looked like that team wanted it more than us," Lamar Jackson said. The man's got a point.
Previous rank: No. 9
There are plenty of positive ways to describe the Cardinals on offense, but "balanced" would not be one of them. This is a team whose success or failure is almost entirely dependent on the greatness of Kyler Murray. The second-year quarterback struggled to find his groove against the Seahawks on Thursday night, then suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder in a 28-21 loss. Murray has a sprained AC joint, an issue that's not expected to keep him out of action. That said, Kliff Kingsbury likely de-emphasized Murray in the running game to protect him against Seattle. It will be interesting to see if that trend continues when Arizona returns from its mini-bye. Quarterbacks and shoulder injuries can be a lethal combination.
Previous rank: No. 15
Cleveland is not the place for pretty football this season, but who's going to argue with the results? The Browns are off to their best start through 10 games since 1994, and they beat the Eagles on Sunday without their most important player. Myles Garrett was inactive after being moved to the COVID-19 list on Friday, but Cleveland's defense still made life miserable for Carson Wentz in a 22-17 win. Sione Takitaki put the Browns on the board with a pick-six, and Olivier Vernon's third sack of the day put two points on the board. One troubling subplot to watch: The Browns have scored only two offensive touchdowns in their past three games. In defense of bad offense, the unending cycle of miserable weather in Cleveland on football Sundays has not helped. Can't you move this stuff to Pittsburgh, Mother Nature?
Previous rank: No. 11
When Tua Tagovailoa took over as starting quarterback at the beginning of this month, the move came with the assumption the Dolphins would ride with their first-round pick through thick and thin. The mandate is less clear after Brian Flores yanked an ineffective Tua in the fourth quarter of a 20-13 loss to the Broncos. After the game, Flores told reporters that Tua has the "full support" of the coaching staff and locker room, but does that mean he'll turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick if his rookie struggles again next week? Or the week after that? It's possible Miami's five-game win streak altered Flores' mindset and leaves the coach caught between developing for tomorrow while trying to win today. That's a tricky tightrope to walk when a first-year quarterback and proven backup are in the mix.
Previous rank: No. 16
On Sunday against the Cowboys, Kirk Cousins played his best game of the season, Dalvin Cook ran for 100 yards, Justin Jefferson had another long touchdown and Adam Thielen added two scores of his own ... but it all went for naught, because the Mike Zimmer's defense took a huge step back. The Cowboys have been one of football's worst offenses since Dak Prescott's season-ending ankle injury, but Andy Dalton had no issues finding open receivers, while the Minnesota run defense allowed Dallas to pile up 180 yards on the ground. The Vikings kicked away a golden opportunity to move within a game of the Cardinals in the NFC wild-card race and now put themselves in a position where they might need to win out to extend their season. Not an ideal circumstance.
Previous rank: No. 19
On the day his only other true competitor for Offensive Rookie Of The Year went down with a season-ending knee injury, Justin Herbert delivered another performance that left the Chargers feeling extremely optimistic about their future. Herbert picked apart an overmatched Jets secondary for 366 yards and three TDs, becoming the first rookie in NFL history to have five games with at least three scoring passes. Herbert did much of his damage with the great Keenan Allen, who set a franchise single-game record with 16 catches for 145 yards and a score. Sixteen! The Chargers once again showed off their seemingly unshakable trait of allowing their opponent to hang around late in the game, but the defense got the necessary stop to close out the win.
Previous rank: No. 17
The Patriots have not missed the postseason since 2008, but that streak is in serious peril after Sunday's disappointing 27-20 loss to the Texans. At 4-6, the Patriots have put themselves in a position where they might have to win out to extend their season into January. Problem is, there's not enough talent on this roster to imagine the Pats getting nuclear hot after Thanksgiving. The Texans entered Sunday as football's worst run defense, but New England curiously went away from the running game and lead back Damien Harris after a hot start. The Patriots will need to re-establish their ball-control game with Kyler Murray up next.
Previous rank: No. 24
A 20-0 win over the Lions on Sunday reaffirms the belief that the Panthers have the right man on the sideline. Many teams would roll over without their best player (Christian McCaffrey, shoulder) and starting quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater, knee), but Matt Rhule kept his group focused and prepared. Said safety Tre Boston after the game: "We're the toughest, hardest-working team in the league." The Panthers likely played themselves out of the playoff hunt with the five-game losing streak that was snapped Sunday, but they have the feel of a team that is going to wreak havoc on the playoff picture over the final six weeks. Arrow up in Charlotte.
Previous rank: No. 18
Pass protection continues to be a problem for the Falcons. Matt Ryan was sacked eight times in Sunday's loss to the Saints and is on pace to be sacked 43 times this season. Last year, Ryan was taken down a career-high 48 times. Not exactly the results you expect from a line starting five former first-round picks. In fairness to the blockers up front, the Saints did stellar work in the secondary, as well, locking down Atlanta receivers on a day Julio Jones missed extended action with a hamstring issue. The Falcons were simply throttled by one of the best teams in football. It's just a bit more annoying when that team happens to be your bitter rival.
Previous rank: No. 21
"I expect Jimmy to be our starter next year. I expect him to come and play with us this year." Those were the words of Kyle Shanahan, who last week attempted to throw cold water on rampant speculation the 49ers might look to move on from Jimmy Garoppolo in the offseason. Jimmy G is still nursing a high-ankle sprain that has sidelined him for the 49ers' last two games, and it's unclear if he's already played his last down this season. Shanahan expects to see his QB again, and you wonder if a return in December would turn into something of an audition for the quarterback who very nearly won a Super Bowl in February. Change happens fast in the NFL.
Previous rank: No. 25
Vic Fangio has had his share of heartbreaking losses in his time as Broncos head coach, but the Misery Index would have hit a perfect 10.0 had Melvin Gordon's goal line fumble allowed the Dolphins to somehow steal a win at Mile High. Thankfully, All-Pro safety Justin Simmons made an acrobatic interception in the end zone to seal the victory. It was a great game overall for the Denver defense, which confused, bruised and battered rookie Tua Tagovailoa to the point that Brian Flores lifted his rookie in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick. That was all part of the plan for Fangio, who believed Denver could rattle Tua all the way to the bench with the right scheme. Mission accomplished for the Broncos, who could continue to give playoff contenders fits the rest of the way.
Previous rank: No. 22
Just when it was starting to look like the Joe Judge regime had found an open stretch on the New Jersey Turnpike, a gossipy bit of internal melodrama involving the firing of an offensive line coach and the utterance of a very naughty word threw Big Blue back into gridlock. It's a test for Judge, who doesn't want to be tagged as the latest Belichick disciple who people don't want to work for. NFL Network's Michael Silver reported last week that Judge's "personality style has been off-putting to some." I call this going Full Patricia. You never go Full Patricia. The focus has to be all-in on the Bengals, the last sub-.500 team New York will see for a month.
Previous rank: No. 28
Add another voice to the chorus reminding the general public that none of the Texans' myriad issues this season is a reflection on the quarterback play of Deshaun Watson. He's been excellent this season, a superstar in need of better structure around him. On Sunday, Watson got some help in a 27-20 win over the Patriots. The defense played its best game of the year, holding the third-ranked New England running game to just 86 yards. Leading the charge on the front line was, of course, J.J. Watt, who set a career high with four batted passes. His final pass breakup came at an opportune time, a third-down swat when the Patriots were driving for the game-tying score in the final minutes. In a time of transition for the franchise, Texans fans should enjoy Watt while they still can.
Previous rank: No. 30
For the first time since Dak Prescott's injury, the Cowboys look like a functioning unit on offense. Andy Dalton returned after a two-game absence (concussion, COVID-19 list) and threw three touchdown passes, while Ezekiel Elliott finally delivered his first 100-yard game on the ground this season in a 31-28 win over the Vikings. The return of a healthy Dalton is like bringing a grown-up back to the quarterback room, and the results on Sunday feel like something that can be sustainable rather than a flash of light in a season of darkness. Beat Washington on Thanksgiving and Dallas could find itself atop the NFC East by the end of Week 12. Weird year, man.
Previous rank: No. 23
Matt Nagy has yet to announce a quarterback for Sunday's matchup against the Packers, only saying that a change under center is still "on the table." The translation feels straightforward: Nagy has seen enough of Nick Foles, but he can't pull the trigger on that move until he knows Mitchell Trubisky (shoulder) is physically able to return. We're past the point where Trubisky is auditioning for his future in Chicago -- that ship has likely already sailed for the former No. 2 overall pick -- but it makes sense for the Bears to get a younger, more mobile player under center. The alternative of a hobbled, possibly washed Foles isn't much of an option at all.
Previous rank: No. 26
It was another lost Sunday for the Eagles offense, but Doug Pederson is not ready to make a move at quarterback. "You're sending the wrong message that your season is over," Pederson said of potentially benching Carson Wentz after a 22-17 loss to the Browns. "We have to work through this. When times get tough, that might be the easy thing to do." The Eagles certainly want to give Wentz every opportunity to succeed after signing him to a four-year extension worth up to $166 million in June of 2019. But why invest a second-round pick in Jalen Hurts if they had no intention of giving him a chance to help the team? Perhaps Hurts hasn't won over the Eagles on the practice field or in the meeting room, but that's all speculation. What we know for sure is the Eagles are a mess on offense and Wentz is a major reason why.
Previous rank: No. 29
Alex Smith's incredible comeback feels complete now. He survived the injury, put in the endless rehab, got cleared, earned a spot on the roster, worked his way up the depth chart, cracked the lineup, and now, for the first time in more than two years, won a start. Smith's performance in a 20-9 win over the Bengals was on brand in its understated efficiency (17 of 25 for 166 yards and a touchdown), and there's little question he's the most qualified quarterback to be leading Washington in its chase for a division title. A Thanksgiving Day matchup with the Cowboys provides another showcase for Smith and his amazing journey -- it will be hard not to root for him while you eat your turkey.
Previous rank: No. 20
The clock is ticking louder than ever now on Matt Patricia. The Lions had a chance to get themselves back into the playoff race on Sunday against the Panthers but instead pulled a no-show, shut out 20-0 in a game that reaffirms all the doubts surrounding this team and its coaching staff. The Panthers entered the game without star running back Christian McCaffrey or starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. But former XFL glory boy P.J. Walker moved the ball far better against the Lions than Matthew Stafford and an undermanned Detroit attack did against a Carolina defense that entered Sunday ranked 29th in football. The Lions can find their way back to the periphery of the postseason picture with a win over the Texans on Thanksgiving Day, but there's zero reason for buy-in here. Lions fans surely agree.
Previous rank: No. 27
It looked terrible when it happened, and we pretty much knew Joe Burrow's fate as he was carted to the locker room on Sunday. But the official diagnosis on Monday -- a torn ACL and MCL for the No. 1 overall pick -- is a grim reminder of the fragile nature of pro football. Burrow needs reconstructive surgery and extensive rehab, with a timetable that will push his readiness right up against opening day in 2021. There are certain teams that never seem to catch a break, and Burrow's instant impact with the Bengals made you think they had finally escaped their eternal purgatory. The injury puts a crushing -- but hopefully momentary -- halt to all that optimism. Get well soon, kid.
Previous rank: No. 31
You had a feeling the Steelers' top-ranked pass rush would present a doomsday scenario for rookie quarterback Jake Luton, and four interceptions and a 27-3 loss later, that's pretty much exactly how it played out. Luton has not provided a spark to the offense in his three starts, and it feels like time for Doug Marrone to hand the reins back to Gardner Minshew if the second-year QB is healthy enough to return. Of course, that's where the gray area comes into play. The Jaguars are on a nine-game losing streak and could be a well-targeted Sam Darnold spiral away from owning the top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. We don't want to be too cynical here, but six more starts by Luton might be exactly what the Jaguars need.
Previous rank: No. 32
"You don't want to go 0-16, especially if this is my last year. I can't go out like that." Those were the words of Frank Gore, who hopes his 16th season in the NFL doesn't end with the Jets becoming the third team in NFL history to lose out over a 16-game season. Gang Green showed a pulse on offense for the second consecutive game, but an undermanned secondary starting three rookies had no answers for Justin Herbert in a 34-28 loss to the Chargers. The Jets remain in pole position for the No. 1 overall pick, but Gore's comments offer another reminder that no one in the New York locker room wants anything to do with 0-16, pro football's version of a scarlet letter.