NFL power rankings, Week 12: Where do the Ravens fit among the top contenders?
Each week of the NFL season, The Baltimore Sun will rank all 32 NFL teams. The rankings will take into account not just weekly performance, but how well each team measures up as Super Bowl contenders, regardless of win-loss record.
Here are the rankings after Week 12:
The top contenders
1. Arizona Cardinals (9-2; No. 1 last week)
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-3; No. 2)
3. Green Bay Packers (9-3; No. 3)
4. New England Patriots (8-4; No. 9)
5. Baltimore Ravens (8-3; No. 5)
6. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4; No. 6)
7. Buffalo Bills (7-4; No. 13)
The contenders started to separate from the pack this week. The Buccaneers, Packers and Patriots earned the most impressive wins of the weekend, further establishing themselves as betting favorites to reach the Super Bowl.
Tampa Bay rallied to beat the Colts, 38-31, with Leonard Fournette outshining fellow running back Jonathan Taylor by scoring four total touchdowns. Tom Brady led four second-half touchdown drives, including a game-winning eight-play, 75-yard march with 3:29 left, to help the Bucs keep pace with the Cardinals and Packers in the race for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. There might not be a more complete team in the league when healthy than Tampa Bay, as evidenced by its No. 1 overall ranking in Football Outsiders’ DVOA .
Not to be outdone, the Packers dominated the Rams, 36-28, behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a stellar defensive performance that included three turnovers. Matthew Stafford threw a pick-six for the third straight game, as Rasul Douglas returned an interception 33 yards for a touchdown to seal the game late in the third quarter. Green Bay is rolling without defensive stars Jaire Alexander and Z’Darius Smith, and the offensive line has stepped up in the absence of star left tackle David Bakhtiari and swingman Elgton Jenkins. Matt LeFleur continues to prove he’s one of the league’s best coaches, pushing his record to 35-9 since taking over in 2019.
Then there’s the messy AFC. The Ravens survived a defensive slugfest against the Browns, 16-10 , to somehow emerge with the conference’s best record despite being decimated by injuries. Lamar Jackson has been inconsistent, to say the least, and his numbers won’t blow anyone away, but he’s put himself in the MVP conversation by keeping the Ravens’ offense afloat without its top two running backs. The Ravens still need to show more improvement in the passing game if they want to get over the hump in the postseason, but they’ve proven their resilience by finding ways to win each week. When you become the only team in the Super Bowl era to score fewer than 17 points, finish with fewer than 325 total yards, throw at least four more interceptions than your opponent and still win, it might just be your year.
The Patriots, meanwhile, have become the story of the season, crushing the Titans, 36-13, for their sixth straight win. An unheralded group of receivers in Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor has emerged to help rookie quarterback Mac Jones, who is Pro Football Focus’ seventh-highest graded quarterback . The defense has been the real star, ranking second in DVOA and securing a league-high 19 interceptions.
On the cusp of contention
8. Dallas Cowboys (7-4; No. 7)
9. Los Angeles Rams (7-4; No. 8)
10. Tennessee Titans (8-4, No. 4)
11. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4; No. 14)
12. Indianapolis Colts (6-6; No. 11)
13. San Francisco 49ers (6-5; No. 18)
It’s been a month of head-scratching results for the Cowboys, who fell to the Raiders in overtime on Thanksgiving, 36-33, for their third loss in their last four games. Now coach Mike McCarthy is out for Thursday night’s game against the Saints after testing positive for COVID-19, creating more uncertainty about the team’s ability to get back on track. The NFC East title no longer looks like a cake walk, either, with Washington, Philadelphia and even the Giants coming on strong of late. Dallas should be fine once receivers Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb return, but it remains a step below the top NFC contenders.
The same goes for the Titans in the AFC. Injuries have taken their toll, with Tennessee forced to rely on running backs Dontrell Hilliard and D’Onta Foreman and receivers Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and Chester Rogers in the absence of stars Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. Coach Mike Vrabel and quarterback Ryan Tannehill have been able to weather the storm so far, and there’s little doubt the Titans get into the postseason by virtue of the league’s easiest schedule and a two-game lead in the AFC South. But until they get healthier, they can’t be considered serious AFC contenders.
The Colts and Bengals aren’t in that top tier yet, but they’re making a push. Indianapolis held a 10-point halftime lead over the defending champion Bucs before letting that game slip away, but the Colts have turned into a well-rounded team after their 1-3 start. Indy doesn’t have many stars other than Taylor, but they’re well-coached and competitive in almost every game. Cincinnati, meanwhile, has relied on its stars this season, with second-year quarterback Joe Burrow taking the leap from good to great. The former No. 1 overall pick ranks sixth in expected points added/completion percentage over expectation composite, according to RBSDM.com , and is PFF’s third-highest graded quarterback. The Bengals own the league’s fifth-best point differential (+83) after a 41-10 rout of the Steelers, a sign that their 7-4 record is no fluke.
Don’t sleep on the 49ers, either. Injuries to star wide receiver Deebo Samuel and linebacker Fred Warner hurt, but San Francisco is right back in the playoff hunt with a 34-26 win over the Vikings. Jimmy Garoppolo might be in his final season as the starting quarterback, but he’s playing efficiently enough behind a powerful running game to keep one of the league’s best offenses on schedule. This is a team that could surprise come January.
The wild cards
14. Los Angeles Chargers (6-5; No. 10)
15. Minnesota Vikings (5-6; No. 12)
16. Cleveland Browns (6-6; No. 16)
17. Denver Broncos (6-5; No. 22)
18. Las Vegas Raiders (6-5; No. 20)
19. Washington Football Team (5-6; No. 23)
20. Miami Dolphins (5-7; No. 25)
It remains difficult to get a read on the Chargers, who look unstoppable some weeks and pedestrian the next. A 28-13 loss to the Broncos was one to forget for Justin Herbert, who has graded as one of the league’s best quarterbacks but remains limited by offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s short passing scheme.
The AFC West figures to play a big role in the playoff race, with all four teams capable of cracking the top seven spots. The Broncos and Raiders have scratched and clawed to remain in the hunt, but it remains to be seen if they have enough in the tank to be competitive down the stretch. Quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr will have to put the team on their backs.
Speaking of scratching and clawing, look at Washington and Miami. Once considered among the dregs of the league after dreadful starts, they’ve roared back to life in recent weeks, with Washington riding a three-game winning streak and the Dolphins winning four straight. Quarterbacks Taylor Heinicke and Tua Tagovailoa have thrived of late, and the defenses are finally playing up to their potential. Both teams have uphill climbs when it comes to winning their division, but if they continue to play this well, a wild-card berth isn’t out of the question.
Still hanging on
21. Philadelphia Eagles (5-7; No. 17)
22. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5-1; No. 15)
23. Atlanta Falcons (5-6; No. 24)
24. New Orleans Saints (5-6; No. 19)
25. Carolina Panthers (5-7; No. 21)
26. New York Giants (4-7; No. 29)
The Eagles lost a golden opportunity in Sunday’s 13-7 loss to the Giants, with quarterback Jalen Hurts throwing three interceptions in a disappointing offensive performance. The second-year pro didn’t get much help from his receivers, including two crucial drops from Jalen Reagor on the final drive, but the loss raises doubts about Hurts’ long-term future as the starter. The Eagles have built a dynamic rushing attack around the former Oklahoma star, but if he doesn’t show improvement as a passer down the stretch, Philadelphia might need to bring in some competition through the draft or free agency.
The Steelers are another team at a quarterback crossroads. Ben Roethlisberger threw two interceptions in a blowout loss to the Bengals, including a dreadful pick-six to former Pittsburgh cornerback Mike Hilton. The veteran was responsible for minus-15.8 expected points added Sunday, yet another disappointing performance in a season full of them. Only Jets rookie Zach Wilson has a lower passing grade than Roethlisberger this season, according to PFF. Whether it’s through a trade, free agency or the draft, it’s all but certain the Steelers will look to upgrade at quarterback this offseason.
27. Chicago Bears (4-7; No. 27)
28. Seattle Seahawks (3-8; No. 26)
29. New York Jets (3-8; No. 20)
30. Houston Texans (2-9; No. 28)
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9; No. 31)
32. Detroit Lions (0-10-1; No. 32)
Is this Russell Wilson’s final season in Seattle? The veteran quarterback didn’t show much fire in a do-or-die 17-15 loss to Washington on Monday night, fueling speculation about his future with the team. The Seahawks have already lost more games this season than they ever have with Wilson as the starter, and there’s still six games to go. If it gets any uglier, there could be big changes coming this offseason.