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2021 NFL Power Rankings: New England Patriots soar, Minnesota Vikings drop

Sportsnaut
Sportsnaut
 15 hours ago

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The first 17-game season in NFL history is well underway. And while there are still plenty of games ahead to judge how we remember this season, we’ve already seen big changes in our NFL power rankings:

Following another exciting week of the 2021 NFL season, let’s dive into our Week 14 NFL power rankings.

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32. Houston Texans (LW: 30)

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Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans are the worst NFL team in 2021. Say what you want about the Detroit Lions, but they show fight and their regime doesn’t suspend players for vague “disciplinary” reasons. There is so much work to be done in Houston and we have so little confidence the right people are in place. At least the Texans provided us a new team to put last in our NFL power rankings.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (LW: 31)

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Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars can’t keep Trevor Lawrence upright, the play-calling is a mess and the team’s No.1 receiver is draft bust Laquon Treadwell. But the fact that Urban Meyer is returning in 2022 makes everything feel even bleaker for Jacksonville.

30. Detroit Lions (LW: 32)

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Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions won a football game and everyone outside Minnesota deserves to enjoy this moment. While this certainly remains one of the worst teams in the NFL, Detroit competes in many of its matchups and Dan Campbell deserves a ton of credit for keeping this locker room motivated.

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29. New York Jets (LW: 29)

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets opened Sunday’s game with 18 consecutive points. After that, they could do nothing but watch as the Philadelphia Eagles literally laughed in their faces and thought so little of this team they didn’t shake hands at the coin toss. That tells you everything you need to know about the state of this franchise.

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28. New York Giants (LW: 21)

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Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

If you thought the New York Giants offense was tough to watch with Daniel Jones under center and Jason Garrett calling plays, we’d like to introduce you to Mike Glennon and Freddie Kitchens. Glennon attempted 44 passes Sunday against a great Dolphins’ secondary and Yew York averaged 3.4 yards per attempt. If this trend continues, Jake Fromm will attempt 50 passes against the Los Angeles Chargers.

27. Chicago Bears (LW: 28)

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Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Cardinals caught the third-most Andy Dalton passes on Sunday. Any talk of him being a starting quarterback needs to end. Things are about to get ugly for Chicago at Lambeau Field and this team doesn’t even have its own 2022 first-round pick to make the losses easier to stomach.

26. Carolina Panthers (LW: 25)

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Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1), walks off the field dejected after being tackled at the one yard line but he Dolphins defense during NFL game at Hard Rock Stadium Sunday in Miami Gardens. Carolina Panthers V Miami Dolphins 40

It was fine while it lasted for the Cam Newton redemption tour. The truth is, years of getting crushed by the Carolina Panthers offensive line put a short shelf life on Newton’s career. It’s an unfortunate irony that it’s now going to officially end with the same team, behind an even worse offensive line. As for the Joe Brady firing , we’ll look back upon that as Matt Rhule blaming someone else for an offense he assembled.

25. Atlanta Falcons (LW: 25)

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Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Ownage is ownage, Tom Brady owns the Atlanta Falcons. We should see this team rebound on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, but that brief moment where Atlanta looked like a fringe playoff contender feels so long ago. With that said, there’s at least a path to eight wins for the Falcons.

24. Minnesota Vikings (LW: 15)

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone picked the Minnesota Vikings to win Sunday, even without Dalvin Cook. But deep down, the fans knew this was coming. The Vikings never deserved a victory on Sunday, so it’s fitting that Mike Zimmer’s defense basically allowed Detroit to win with inexplicable coverage decisions. This is the game that gets Zimmer fired and may result in sweeping changes in the front office and on offense.

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23. New Orleans Saints (LW: 26)

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Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton will go down as one of the best play-callers and offensive mind in his era. But the infatuation he has with Taysom Hill is baffling. Clearly, four interceptions, dropped INTs and a 46.3% completion rare weren’t enough to sway Payton. The only reason New Orleans moves up our Week 14 NFL power rankings is that its defense is outstanding.

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22. Seattle Seahawks (LW: 27)

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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe the Seattle Seahawks won’t trade Russell Wilson this offseason. The victory over the San Francisco 49ers was surprising, even more so because this offense still can’t figure out a way to get DK Metcalf more involved. Set for a date with the Texans on Sunday, this team is headed for its first winning streak. Consider that another loss for the Jets.

21. Philadelphia Eagles (LW: 22)

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

No, there isn’t a quarterback controversy in Philadelphia. Gardner Minshew played well in Week 13, taking advantage of one of the worst secondaries in the NFL. But Minshew is nothing more than a younger version of Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Eagles know Jalen Hurts offers far more long-term upside.

20. Denver Broncos (LW: 18)

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Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos wasted a year with one of the best rosters in the NFL. A great defense and a fantastic, young cast of offensive weapons would put most teams in the Super Bowl mix. But Denver settled for Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock at quarterback. No matter the cost, George Paton must land a star QB in 2022.

19. Pittsburgh Steelers (LW: 23)

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh avoided a season-ending loss in Week 13, thanks to T.J. Watt playing like an NFL MVP and Ben Roethlisberger turning back the clock with his fourth-quarter comeback. Will it translate into this team making the playoffs? Everything we’ve seen in 2021 says no, but a Thursday Night Football duel with Minnesota might provide an answer.

18. Miami Dolphins (LW: 20)

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Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Four teams in NFL history started 1-7 and then climbed their way back to 6-7. Incredibly, the Miami Dolphins’ five-game win streak might not end here. With the Jets, Saints and Tennessee Titans on the docket after the bye, the Fins could finish with nine wins.

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17. Cleveland Browns (LW: 17)

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Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Week 12 Sunday Night Football loss to the Ravens must lead to changes. Cleveland generated four takeaways, but its offense managed just 10 total points in the entire game. We’re not convinced Baker Mayfield deserves a lucrative contract extension, but this loss falls on Cleveland abandoning its rushing attack and its barren receiving corps. Let’s see how this offense looks coming out of the bye.

16. Washington Football Team (LW: 19)

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Ron Rivera might not be one of the best NFL head coaches, but few can match his leadership and ability to keep a team together. Everyone wrote Washington off after a 2-6 start, especially with its defense collapsing. But the bye week changed everything and WFT is a playoff contender with an outside shot to win the NFC East.

15. Las Vegas Raiders (LW: 12)

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s fair to wonder how the Las Vegas Raiders are viewed if pass interference is called on the Derek Carr bomb. It would have flipped the game, likely setting up a game-winning kick as time expired. But we can’t look past this team losing four of its last five games, with the victory coming against a severely short-handed Cowboys’ roster.

14. San Francisco 49ers (LW: 11)

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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

This is what happens when Jimmy Garoppolo is forced to put the game on his shoulders. When opponents are successful in containing the 49ers’ rushing attack, this team has little shot at a victory. It means the stakes are even higher for Kyle Shanahan and Trey Lance in 2022.

13. Baltimore Ravens (LW: 9)

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

To think some put the Baltimore Ravens in the top five of NFL power rankings before Sunday’s loss. Lamar Jackson is being asked to do far too much and there is too little talent around him for it to be successful. On the other side of the ball, one of the worst secondaries in the NFL just lost its only good player for the season. Stick a fork in Baltimore.

12. Tennessee Titans (LW: 14)

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Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) watches from the sidelines late in the fourth quarter as they lose to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021 in Foxborough, Mass. Titans Patriots 154

Anyone who isn’t a die-hard fan of the Tennessee Titans is better off not watching this team. With Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown and Julio Jones on injured reserve, there’s nothing this unit can do offensively. Meanwhile, in part due to injuries, the defense is regressing. The current roster doesn’t belong higher in any NFL power rankings.

11. Cincinnati Bengals (LW: 8)

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Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals lost Sunday’s game on the Joe Mixon fumbled returned for a touchdown. Before that moment, this team responded from a 24-point deficit and was on the verge of a go-ahead touchdown. But these are the moments a young team learns from, Let’s see if Cincinnati can get the job done against San Francisco next week.

10. Buffalo Bills (LW: 10)

We’re going to need to see a lot more from the Buffalo Bills to move them up further. It’s great that this offense came alive in the second half, but they essentially beat the ‘Aints in Week 13. Buffalo then dropped the ball big time in a Week 13 home loss to the Patriots in less-than-stellar conditions. That included yielding well north of 200 rushing yards. Buffalo has now lost four of seven. Ouch!

9. Los Angeles Chargers (LW: 16)

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Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

It had been weeks since the Los Angeles Chargers last won a meaningful game. But true to form with a team that goes on wild hot and cold spells, it came through against an underrated Bengals’ roster. Sitting at 8-5, Los Angeles must take advantage of the terrible Giants in Week 14.

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8. Los Angeles Rams (LW: 13)

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Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams beat up on bad teams, pummeling them with touchdowns and sitting back as stars make big plays on both sides of the ball. But too often when the Rams face fellow Super Bowl contenders, we see they don’t belong in the same discussion. Maybe Los Angeles proves us wrong against the Arizona Cardinals, but it’s unlikely.

7. Indianapolis Colts (LW: 10)

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Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

There is nothing to learn from the victory over the Texans. Indianapolis did what everyone expected, imposing its will in every aspect of football. But the real litmus test, which will prove whether or not the Colts are a Super Bowl contender, is how this team performs with two weeks to prepare for the New England Patriots.

6. Kansas City Chiefs (LW: 5)

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Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs offense is definitely not back. For whatever reason, Patrick Mahomes is mediocre at best when playing at home in 2021. At Arrowhead Stadium, he holds an 80.1 passer rating with a 10-7 TD-INT ratio and is completing only 61% of his attempts. On the road, a stellar 110.7 passer rating with a 15-5 TD-INT ratio and a 70% completion rate. Maybe the Chiefs don’t want the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

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5. Dallas Cowboys (LW: 6)

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Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys move up our NFL power rankings once more by default. If picking a head-to-head matchup between the Chiefs and Cowboys, we’d pick Dallas. It’s a safe bet that the offensive line will find a rhythm and Amari Cooper should be 100% in Week 14. Pair that with this playmaking defense, Dallas is better than the Chiefs.

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4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (LW: 4)

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Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Five consecutive games with an interception and a 13-7 TD-INT ratio during that stretch isn’t exactly MVP-caliber play. But we’ve learned Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just use the regular season to work through a variety of things. Once the playoffs arrive, the Bucs might be the team to beat.

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3. Green Bay Packers (LW: 2)

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Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers entered the bye week with a 9-3 record. On the surface, that meets the usual standard for an Aaron Rodgers -led team. But all of this is being accomplished without All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari, star pass rusher Za’Darius Smith and top-five cornerback Jaire Alexander. With all three returning before the playoffs, Green Bay is a dangerous Super Bowl contender. With a Week 14 win and a Vikings’ loss, Green Bay is NFC North champs.

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2. New England Patriots (LW: 3)

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David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots are the best team in the AFC and they proved that in less-than-stellar conditions Week 13. New England defeated the Bills in Buffalo by the score of 14-10 while throwing the ball just three times. The weather called for this game plan, and brought back memories of some January playoff games of yesteryear. As the Pats have proven throughout their seven-game winning streak, the can win any which way.

1. Arizona Cardinals (LW: 1)

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Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins are back. Even before that, Arizona sat atop the NFL standings and looked like the Super Bowl favorite. Given how sharp Murray looked Sunday, able to unleash his athleticism without limitations, it’s fair to say the Cardinals have the front runners for NFL MVP and Coach of the Year.

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