As a fan of the NFL, I am absolutely loving all the wild things that have happened so far in 2021. As the scribe of the NFL Power Rankings every week, the craziness has raised my blood pressure to levels of near hospitalization. What am I supposed to do with good teams losing to FCS-level competition? Every week, the top franchises seem to go down. So, sorry if you’re a fan of a top-three team. They’ll probably embarrassingly lose their next game.
NFL Power Rankings Week 12 | Tier 6: The Lions
These are the 2021 Detroit Lions. There have been many Lions teams like it, but this one is ours.
32) Detroit Lions
When your plan on offense involves starting Tim Boyle, you’re not trying very hard to win that particular football game. Still, the Lions almost beat the Browns, who could only manage 13 points against Detroit.
The Lions’ offense never saw the red zone. Detroit’s only score came off a 57-yard D’Andre Swift touchdown run. Boyle only managed 77 yards through the air, and the Lions averaged 4 more yards per play on the ground than they did passing the ball.
NFL Power Rankings Week 12 | Tier 5: Awful to watch but somehow have won some games
I have no clue how they’ve done it at times, but each of these teams has multiple wins on the season. Some have even beaten good clubs along the way. But don’t be mistaken, they’re still very, very bad.
31) Houston Texans
Congratulations are in order. Like the Jets before them, the Texans have slain the mighty Titans of Tennessee. But they didn’t just beat them in an ugly game. No, they dominated from the start, eventually taking a 13-0 lead that the Titans couldn’t come back from.
They intercepted Ryan Tannehill four times in the game. Before Week 11, Houston ranked 27th in defensive expected points added per play (EPA). That ranking will undoubtedly improve after this dominant outing. I want to say the Texans’ offense is better with Tyrod Taylor, but his long pass for the day was just 13 yards, and he averaged just 4.5 yards per pass attempt. This is still a bad football team, but today, the Titans played far worse.
30) Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars’ offense is in complete shambles. Jacksonville has only managed to score 20+ points three times in 2021, and their season-high is 23. They possess one of the most incompetent offenses I can remember. Absolutely nothing is going right.
Trevor Lawrence is struggling with accuracy issues. His receivers aren’t helping him by making plays. The offensive line is a dumpster fire, and they are schematically unimaginative. It’s all bad.
Meanwhile, after looking equally bad early, the Jacksonville defense seemed to improve. Unfortunately, they ran into a 49ers team with an offense trending upward. With the Falcons, Texans, and Jets still on the schedule, the Jaguars need to figure something out offensively or risk being the league’s laughing stock come late January.
29) New York Jets
It’s a coin flip to decide who is worst between the Texans, Jets, and Jaguars. Luckily, the Texans play New York next week, and the Jaguars follow the week after! But even then, we won’t really have a clue because any of these teams can go out and beat a contender on a weekly basis.
That is because every NFL team is afraid to be great in 2021. The Jets are statistically the worst defense in the NFL on a per-play basis, and they’re the sixth-worst offensive team. Additionally, we have no clue who will be their signal-caller next week.
NFL Power Rankings Week 12 | Tier 4: Bad teams but some fun pieces
The teams in this tier are bad, but some pieces make them fun to watch every week.
28) Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins’ game against the New York Jets felt like a duel between two frivolous football teams. Both offenses moved the ball against underwhelming defenses just to soil themselves in the red zone.
Miami’s offense is still incredibly limited. There are very few big-play opportunities. Tua Tagovailoa was particularly efficient in Week 11, something he must continue for this offense to move the ball effectively moving forward.
27) Chicago Bears
Matt Nagy’s key card shouldn’t work tomorrow. Justin Fields went down with an injury, and Nagy wouldn’t commit to the rookie when asked after the game who would start at quarterback if both Fields and Andy Dalton are healthy.
That’s no way to inspire confidence in your rookie QB, who was successful in the last two weeks. Neither Bears quarterback touched a 50% completion rate on the day, and Dalton’s stats were elevated by a massive run-after-the-catch play from Darnell Mooney.
Chicago’s defense finally showed up, but it was against Tyler Huntley in his first-ever NFL start. I don’t expect this defense to slow many NFL offenses.
26) New York Giants
The Giants don’t do anything particularly well. They’ve thrown assets at the offensive and defensive lines. General manager Dave Gettleman has tried to build through the trenches, but that project has failed miserably on the offensive side of the ball.
Defensively, New York has a ton of talent, but Patrick Graham’s defense has underachieved thus far in 2021. On offense, the hiring of Jason Garrett was a bad idea from the start. It’s done nothing but stunt the growth of Daniel Jones, despite the Giants’ attempt to load up with offensive weapons.
Their Monday Night Football game against the Buccaneers felt like the epitome of this season. The Giants hung in there for a bit but fell apart in the second half. They were fortunate the Bucs gifted them a pick-six to make it a 10-10 game. Once Tampa Bay scored again, it felt over because the Giants couldn’t get anything done offensively. They finished the night going 1-of-9 on third down.
25) Atlanta Falcons
The NFL moves fast. Just a few short weeks ago, the Falcons were the seventh seed in the NFC playoff picture. Now, they’re 4-6, in 12th place in the conference, and it looks like their season is over.
Their win against the Saints is looking less impressive by the day. Their other victories have come against the Giants, Jets, and Dolphins. We know where those teams stand in the NFL Power Rankings.
Atlanta has some pieces defensively and offensively, but they’re in a weird spot. They’re rebuilding, but they have a veteran quarterback taking up a massive chunk of the salary cap.
Taylor Heinicke still leaves a ton of plays on the field in the Washington passing attack. Nevertheless, he makes up for it every once in a while with his ability to create out of structure.
On one play against the Panthers, he faded away on a downfield crossing route that should have been a touchdown in the front corner. But he missed an open Terry McLaurin (which happens a lot), and Washington missed out on points. But on another crucial down, Heinicke stumbled and rumbled around, buying time until his receiver could come back to the ball.
Finally, the Football Team had a good defensive outing on third down, and they picked up a win against Ron Rivera’s former team in the process.
23) Seattle Seahawks
I never thought I’d see a day where the Seahawks’ offense would be inept for a multi-game stretch with Russell Wilson, but here we are. The offense moved the ball decently against the Cardinals, but they were just 2-of-10 on third down and could only manage a score on 1 of 3 red zone attempts.
The defense sold out to stop the Cardinals’ rushing attack, but they couldn’t secure third-down stops. Seattle allowed Colt McCoy to complete 79.5% of his passes for 328 yards and 2 TDs. That was without DeAndre Hopkins, who is still injured. For the first time in Pete Carroll’s tenure, the Seahawks simply don’t have an identity.
NFL Power Rankings Week 12 | Tier 3: It wouldn’t surprise me if they made the playoffs
It wouldn’t surprise me to see any of these teams in the playoffs, but none of them are serious enough contenders to do more than a week of damage should they get there.
22) Pittsburgh Steelers
Yes, the Steelers lost. Yes, the defense practically allowed the Chargers to do whatever they wanted offensively without punishment. But this loss actually impressed me because the offense showed some juice in the second half with their backs against the wall that I wasn’t sure they had in them.
Dionte Johnson and Chase Claypool had big games, and Ben Roethlisberger pushed the ball downfield more often than normal. The issue in Pittsburgh remains their inability to run the football despite Najee Harris’ best efforts.
Cameron Heyward and Cam Sutton made the play of the game with just under five minutes left in the game. Justin Herbert threw a pass that bounced in the air off Heyward’s helmet, and Sutton corralled the interception.
21) New Orleans Saints
The Saints were always going to struggle without both offensive tackles and Alvin Kamara. They needed their defense to step up.
The opposite of that happened. On a per-play basis, New Orleans’ defense looked fine, but they struggled to get stops on third down, which is a testament to Philadelphia’s offensive line and run game as a whole.
I felt the Saints may struggle a bit defensively today. They hadn’t faced a true dual-threat QB this season, and the Eagles are using their mobile signal-caller better than anyone else in the league aside from Baltimore.
20) Carolina Panthers
I’m not sure what the Panthers will be with Cam Newton moving forward, but I certainly didn’t expect this defense to struggle with Washington as much as they did. They have a young, fast unit that flies around. Yet today, they allowed conversion after conversion on third down.
There is a lot of talk about head coach Matt Rhule struggling or Joe Brady not calling the offense well enough. I even saw some negative tweets about defensive coordinator Phil Snow throughout the day. Stop!
The Panthers aren’t so talented on either side of the ball that we should expect them to compete for playoff contention. It wouldn’t surprise me because I thought they were close even with Sam Darnold — but it’s not a given.
19) Denver Broncos
The Broncos had a bye after losing to the Eagles last week. The week before, they’d beaten the Dallas Cowboys, and we got excited about what this team could be. Against Philadelphia, though, they may have just run into the better team.
Denver’s offense isn’t consistent, and their secondary flashes anywhere from elite to barely serviceable, depending on the day. With the Chargers and Chiefs upcoming, the Broncos must take one of those games to stay competitive in the AFC playoff picture.
18) Cleveland Browns
I know they won, but the Browns are a team trending in the wrong direction. Baker Mayfield has looked bad in three of Cleveland’s last four games. They blew out a good (we think) Bengals team but have struggled to score points recently aside from that.
With the Ravens coming up on Sunday Night Football in Week 12, it is officially “put up or shut up” time for the Browns, who entered the season with what looked like one of the better rosters in football. It just goes to show that if the QB can’t play, he’ll just get in the way.
17) Las Vegas Raiders
Well, it seems we may have received our answer about whether the Raiders are a real contender or not. They’ve now dropped three straight to slide to 5-5 on the season, and their offense has struggled in recent weeks.
Losing to the Giants felt like a fluke, but both the Chiefs and Bengals thoroughly dismantled Las Vegas. The Raiders’ biggest issues offensively have come on third down. They’ve only converted on two in the past two games.
16) Philadelphia Eagles
This is a fun football team. The Eagles were quite chippy against the Saints, too. Jordan Mailata got into it with Marcus Davenport, and he jawed with multiple other Saints defensive linemen. But Philadelphia’s on-field dominance has jumped their stock in the Week 12 NFL Power Rankings.
Philadelphia’s offensive line dominated the point of attack, and they were able to methodically move the ball downfield. The game could have gotten even more out of hand if they had capitalized better in the red zone.
In their past four games, the Eagles have scored an average of 34.5 points, which will win you most football games even if the defense is bad. That defense, however, has scored a couple of touchdowns themselves in recent weeks.
15) San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers’ win against the Los Angeles Rams a week ago was very impressive. Yet, we’ve seen our fair share of bad teams surprising good ones. I wanted to see them do it again. I wanted to see them defeat a team they should beat by 10+.
They did, and I applaud the way they’re doing it. Kyle Shanahan got into his bag a bit, using Deebo Samuel as both a rusher and a receiver against the Jaguars — he led the team in rushing this week.
Still, the 49ers didn’t do much defensively to impress. The offense kept the ball away from Jacksonville, and San Francisco’s defense did what they should do against an inept offense.
Next week, the Niners play at home against the Minnesota Vikings, who are another team that looks very good for being 5-5.