The Steelers have finally lost, so there’s a new team atop the power rankings. I was previously keeping the Steelers locked into, #1 even as they started looking shakier as the season went on, out of respect for the fact that they were undefeated. That is no longer true, so now all hell breaks loose in the rankings.
1. 📈 Chiefs (11-1): I’m sure most people believe the Chiefs are the best team in the league at this point, and now that the Steelers have lost a game I don’t see any reason to deny Kansas City the top spot. They’re the reigning Super Bowl Champs, Mahomes is in a two-man race with Aaron Rodgers for 2020 NFL MVP and title of best QB in the league, they’ve got a top-5 coach in the league, they’ve got weapons all over the place on offense, they’re virtually unbeatable in close games, not even a three-score lead is safe against them, and they are now 20-1 in their last 21 games dating back to last season and including their Super Bowl run. Now, all of their past 4 games they’ve won by one possession. As great as they seem, they have been in a lot of close games this season which technically means they’re beatable. However, maybe it’s just me, but even when Kansas City is in close games, I’m never really worried about them. It just feels like unless the Chiefs are down 24 points in the 4th quarter, they’re going to find a way to win. They’re just that good. Maybe one of these weeks they’ll run into a team that can find a way to stop them in the 4th quarter and beat them. But until that happens, they’re pretty much unbeatable.
2. 📈 Saints (10-2): Sean Payton is now 8-0 over the past two seasons with backup QBs. The New Orleans Saints have become a well-oiled machine; a New England-like system that just seems to win no matter what. Remember 2008 when Tom Brady tore his ACL in the first game of the season and the Patriots still went 11-5 with Matt Cassel as their starting QB? Or when Brady got suspended for the first 4 games of the 2016 season due to “Deflate-gate” and the Patriots still started 3-1 with a combination of Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett at QB? New Orleans is the same kind of team now. Now, a lot of that has to do with them having an elite defense (the Patriots had an elite defense in both 2008 and 2016) that gives the backup QB a lot of margin for error. In the three games that Taysom Hill has started this season, the Saints defense has allowed 9, 3 and 16 points. As long as you’re at least remotely competent at QB, you’re going to win those games. Taysom Hill deserves a lot of credit for stepping up and surpassing expectations with his QB play, but let’s be honest here: the real strength of this Saints team is their defense. Is it good enough to contain the Chiefs? Well, Kansas City and New Orleans play in week 15, so we’ll find out soon.
3. 📈 Packers (9-3): Packers ahead of the Steelers? Yes. I just think the Packers would beat the Steelers if they played right now. The Packers scored 31 on the Colts defense and 34 on the Bears defense (one of their TDs against Chicago was by the defense). They can move the ball and score against great defenses. Plus, Green Bay’s Achilles’ heel is their run defense, and Pittsburgh has been one of the worst running teams in the league lately. So Pittsburgh wouldn’t be able to exploit Green Bay’s biggest weakness. Green Bay is #5 in passing offense and #8 in rushing offense. They have so many ways to beat you. And they have potentially the best QB in the league.
4. 📈 Rams (8-4): I’m putting the Rams over the Steelers, too. The Rams are more complete. Their defense is elite and they have a top-10 offense statistically. My gut feeling tells me their offense isn’t as good as the statistics say, because they have a committee running approach and I have Jared Goff ranked as only a slightly above-average QB, but Sean McVay is one of the best playcallers in the league. He’s just one of the best coaches in the league, period. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt, even though they’re not as explosive as the Chiefs and Packers. But honestly: neither are the Saints outside of Alvin Kamara. Of the top 4 teams, the Chiefs and Packers are really similar teams–both really explosive offenses with average defenses. Then the Saints and Rams are really similar to one another: respectable but not super explosive on offense, but they both play elite defense. You have two different styles of teams inside the top 4. The Rams aren’t quite as good as the Saints in my opinion, but they are a very similar team. And if it’s working for New Orleans it can work for the Rams.
5. 📉 Steelers (11-1): Out of respect for the 11-1 record, I’m going to keep them ahead of the Bills for now. But they play the Bills this weekend and I kinda think the Bills are going to win. The Steeler’s running game has fallen off a cliff lately, and not just because James Conner has missed the past two games. After starting the season with 5 straight 100+ yard rushing games, they have now had just one 100+ yard rushing game in their past 7 games, and it came against the Jaguars. In 4 of those 7 games, they’ve been held under 50 rushing yards as a team, bottoming out with just 21 rushing yards last night against Washington. This is not sustainable. I know it’s a passing league, but you have to be able to run the football in this league. 38-year-old Ben Roethlisberger is not throwing this team to a Super Bowl. It’s just not going to happen. I can’t consider the Steelers a truly elite team until they figure out their running game.
6. 📈 Bills (9-3): They would be 10-2 if not for the Hail Murray loss to the Cardinals a few weeks ago. They played the Chiefs tough but lost 26-17 back in week 6. And last night they just handily beat an underrated 49ers team in technically a road game, but in reality a neutral-site game. I’m not a fan of their running game, but their defense looks to be coming around and their passing game is elite. I have Josh Allen ranked as the 4th best QB in the NFL this season behind only Rodgers, Mahomes and Watson. They’re an explosive offense. What does Josh Allen have in common with those three QBs I have ranked ahead of him? He can extend plays with his feet and throw on the run. In the 2020 NFL, you cannot be an elite QB unless you can do those things. Allen can even give you more: he can run for big yards, too. He’s got 322 rushing yards and 6 rushing TDs this season. He’s not Kyler Murray running the ball (665 rushing yards and 10 rushing TDs) but he doesn’t need to be, since he’s been a way better passer than him this season. If you have a great QB, you’re a legit team. The Bills have a great QB.
7. 📈 Bucs (7-5): They moved up despite not playing this week, but that’s what happens when teams like the Seahawks and Titans lose, and the Colts probably would’ve lost had Houston not botched the snap on the goal line as they were going in to win the game. I have my reservations about the Bucs because their pass defense is getting exposed lately and they can’t beat elite teams. But the Bucs are one of 4 teams in the league to have a winning record despite playing against an above-.500 strength of schedule. They’ve played a much tougher schedule than any of the other top-10 teams, and I feel like I shouldn’t knock them for that. It would be nice to have seen them beat an elite team like the Saints, Chiefs or Rams, then again all that really tells me is that the Bucs not a top-4 team. If those are the teams you lose to and you beat pretty much everybody else, then you’re a pretty good team. They’ve still got a lot to figure out on offense and again, their passing defense is their weak-link. But the talent and potential are there.
8. 📈 Browns (9-3): It feels weird ranking the Browns this high, but who else could I put here? Definitely not the Titans, who the Browns just beat convincingly. Definitely not the Colts, who the Browns beat earlier in the season. Maybe the Seahawks? It just doesn’t feel right putting the Seahawks ahead of the Browns after what both teams did this past week. The Browns were beating Tennessee 38-7 at half and up 41-21 with 7:40 to play in the game. Don’t be fooled by the 41-35 final score: it was a blowout. You’d prefer the Browns to be able to put that game away, but they’re young and still learning to win so I’m not too worried. At this point there can’t be any doubt the Browns will pick up Baker’s 5th year option. How on earth could they walk away from the QB that is going to lead them to their first playoff appearance since 2002?
9. 📉 Seahawks (8-4): They just lost to the Giants, and while it was an ugly loss for Seattle given that they only scored 12 points and lost to a backup QB, the Giants are an underrated team. They’re a team on the rise right now. Yes, Seattle should still be able to beat them, but Seattle is a flawed team. Their offensive line is bad, their pass defense is atrocious, and their run defense, which was supposed to be pretty good, got gashed for 190 yards by the Giants. This is an incomplete team that can only win the Super Bowl if Russell Wilson plays at a greatest QB of all time-level. But as good as he is, he’s not the greatest QB of all time, so you can’t expect him to be. I’m selling all my hypothetical Seahawks stock. They’ll win some more games and will make the playoffs, but they’re not going to do anything in the playoffs. They’re just too incomplete and flawed.
10. 📉 Titans (8-4): Give them respect for attempting to mount a furious comeback against the Browns late. Maybe if a bounce or two goes their way they could’ve had a miraculous win. But as it stands, their passing defense and their pass rush is just not good enough to make them a Super Bowl threat. Their biggest wins of the past few weeks have been over the Colts and Raiders. The Colts can kinda throw it, but the Ravens are one of the worst passing teams in the league. The Titans’ secondary will get shredded against a team like the Chiefs, or the Packers, who the Titans play in week 16. Tennessee is definitely a playoff team, but I don’t trust them beyond that. They were out-schemed, out-coached and out-played by Cleveland. The Titans are like the Seahawks: good, but incomplete and thereby flawed.
11. 📉 Colts (8-4): Colts got the win over the Texans, but they were lucky to win. Houston somehow fumbled a snap down around the Colts goal line with a chance to go up 27-26. I see the Colts like I see the Titans: a playoff-caliber team, but not quite good enough to win some games and make a run once they get there. DeShaun Watson had an okay day passing against the Colts defense: 26/38 for 341 yards, but 0 TDs and 1 INT. He was sacked 5 times and only posted a 44.2 QBR. I definitely trust the Colts defense more than the Titans’, but the Titans are better on offense. I could go either way with the Colts and Titans, to me they’re about equal teams.
12. ↔️ Dolphins (8-4): They took care of business against the lowly Bengals, but I’m still not all that impressed with the Dolphins offense. It’s just not explosive. I still think the Dolphins are a decent team, but they’ve played the Jets and Bengals in the past two weeks. We haven’t learned much about them at all. They handled their business.
13. 📉 Ravens (7-5): The Ravens just beat the Cowboys 34-17. No, I’m not giving them credit for this win. It was the Dallas Cowboys. They’re the worst team in the worst division in the league. When the Ravens were 6-2, would you have given them credit for winning this game? Me neither. The Ravens needed to win this game to have any shot at saving their season. They’re still the 9th seed in the AFC as the Raiders hold the tiebreaker over them, although I do think they’re a better team than Vegas. But not by much.
14. 📈 Raiders (7-5): I can’t believe I’m moving the Raiders up after almost losing to the Jets, but it’s not as if the Vikings looked much better against the Jags. I’m losing faith in the Raiders by the week.
15. ↔️ Vikings (6-6): The Vikings are officially the 7th seed in the NFC after they beat the Jaguars and the Cardinals lost to the Rams. It’s concerning that the Vikings needed OT to beat the lowly Jags, but the Jags played both the Packers and Browns to the bitter end the past few weeks.
16. 📈 Patriots (6-6): They’re starting to look better and better. They just trounced the Chargers 45-0 even though Cam only threw for 69 yards. They had a blocked field goal TD and a punt return TD, but the real story was how they absolutely shut down Justin Herbert. He was 26/53 for 209 yards passing with 2 INTs and an 8.8 QBR. Belichick owns rookie QBs. The Patriots are probably going to narrowly miss the playoffs, but they’re a decent team now and nobody wants to play them.
17. 📉 Cardinals (6-6): They’re in freefall. They’ve been figured out on offense.
18. 📈 Giants (5-7): They have taken over the NFC Least after a 17-12 win in Seattle. The Giants are a team on the rise. If only Saquon Barkley wasn’t out for the season–the Giants really need a few explosive offensive playmakers to take things to the next level.
19. 📈 Washington (5-7): The team that handed the Steelers their first loss. They’ve got a great defense and I think they’re really coming together as a team right now. They along with the Giants and Patriots are the teams with mediocre records that nobody wants to play right now.
That’s it for the rankings. None of the remaining teams are worth talking about really.
Although I will add one last thing: If you look at the Eagles’ schedule, they have been close in most games. Yes, they’ve taken a lot of Ls this season, but they have been close against good teams. Their only real blowout loss was week 2.