1. New England Patriots (7-1) Bye. Previously: 1
No bye week will threaten the Patriots hold on the top spot, but a visit from the Seahawks this Sunday night might. The two teams meet for the first time since the 2014 Super Bowl, but if the game is on the line this weekend, at least the Patriots won’t have to consider the threat of Marshawn up the middle.
2. Dallas Cowboys (7-1) defeated Cleveland 35-10. Previously: 2
Jerry Jones has said Tony Romo could be ready to go this week in Pittsburgh. Dak Prescott’s play has insured that if Romo is ready to play, he’s really ready to play. The Cowboys have rushed him back far too often and too early in the past. And Romo’s return doesn’t mean any quarterback controversy. The Cowboys have their quarterback, one who’s as big a reason they’re 7-1 as anybody. What Romo provides is insurance, in case their rookie starts playing like a rookie.
3. Oakland Raiders (7-2) defeated Denver 30-20. Previously: 5
Yes, Oakland’s losses are to the Chiefs and Falcons, and maybe this ranking is unfair. But the loss to the Chiefs was three weeks ago and the Raiders have been making statements since then. After 23 penalties almost cost them a game in which they thoroughly outclassed Tampa Bay a week ago, they committed less Sunday than Denver. Three Oakland running backs had more yards on the ground individually than the entire Bronco team.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (6-2) defeated Jacksonville 19-14. Previously: 4
No Alex Smith, no Jamaal Charles, no Spencer Ware, no Jeremy Maclin, no Travis Kelce, no problem. That’s a starting offense, minus the line, and it wasn’t on the field for Kansas City Sunday. And they still won. This team knows how to do that, make no mistake. Winning the turnover battle four-to-nothing will win a lot of games where the other team winds up with 200 more yards than you do. And all those players, they won’t be gone forever.
5. Seattle Seahawks (5-2-1) defeated Buffalo 31-25. Previously: 7
It’s not just kickers Richard Sherman was taking out with zero qualms Monday night, but hits on receivers are legal once the quarterback scrambles out of the pocket. That doesn’t absolve the Seahawks of their share of the blame for tarring the end of first halves in Week 10 (for more shenanigans, see the 49ers later.) It was good timing for Seattle’s first win in three weeks, as they may meet their match when it comes to exploiting the rulebook next week in New England.
6. Atlanta Falcons (6-3) defeated Tampa Bay 43-28. Previously: 8
With their win against Tampa Bay coming on a Thursday, the Falcons should be well-rested when they face the Eagles this week. They’re catching their fellow Birds at the right time. The Eagles have won just one of their last five, and faced three straight opponents coming off byes, in addition to the extra time Atlanta will have. Aside from the Vikings, it’s worked out well for their opponents. That’s welcome news in Atlanta with New Orleans showing surprising fight and the Panthers trying to drag themselves back into the divisional race.
7. Denver Broncos (6-3) lost to Oakland 30-20. Previously: 3
Yes, Denver’s defense let Oakland set the tempo with the run game Sunday night, racking up over 200 yards on the ground. But it’s a two way street, and Denver couldn’t muster 40 rushing yards against the NFL’s 21st ranked run defense. The offense is as much of a problem as ever in Denver, even if the beginning of the season was buoyed by the recognition that Brock Osweiler wouldn’t have been the solution. It doesn’t mean they’re any closer to finding one.
8. Houston Texans (5-3) Bye. Previously: 13
Speaking of Brock Osweiler, he and the Texans get to leave the bye and look for their first road win in about the best situation possible — in Jacksonville against the last place team in their division, who have just lost four straight. If Houston wants to put it all together and establish itself as a top ten team and the leader in their division, this is a game it can’t lose.
9. Minnesota Vikings (5-3) lost to Detroit 22-16 (OT.) Previously: 6
Norv Turner exiting the building didn’t solve any problems for the Vikings, who dropped their third straight. It’s hard to fault a defense that only let Matthew Stafford get to 16 points with a 58-yard field goal at the end of regulation — but that sure didn’t look like the secondary we’ve come to expect on Golden Tate’s catch-and-run game winner. At the end of the day, this is still the NFL’s worst offense - the only one now averaging under 300 yards a game.
10. New York Giants (5-3) defeated Philadelphia 28-23. Previously: 19
The Giants go to second in the division, just like that. The game against the Eagles was a reversal of Odell Beckham Jr.’s season thus far: the yards weren’t aplenty, but the touchdowns piled up. That’s a trade I’m sure the Giants would take. Going forward, they have to feel good they’re the only team to beat the Cowboys this season. Now their job is just to stay on their heels.
11. Detroit Lions (5-4) defeated Minnesota 22-16 (OT.) Previously: 16
Detroit’s reward for winning four of their last five and moving within a half-game of the division lead is a bye week. They might have wanted to keep playing, particularly with the next team on their schedule being the Jaguars. They better get their rest on the bye, because once they’re finished with the Jags, they’ll have a short four days off before facing the Vikings again on Thanksgiving Day.
12. San Diego Chargers (4-5) defeated Tennessee 43-35. Previously: 15
The Chargers just matched 2015’s win total, and they’re doing it in the toughest division in football. Somehow, despite losing playmaker after playmaker, they’re averaging 29.8 points per game, and trail only the Falcons and Saints in that category. Now they’ve just won the Marcus Mariota bowl against the Titans, and can be glad they stuck with Philip Rivers.
13. Green Bay Packers (4-4) lost to Indianapolis 31-26. Previously: 11
That was an ugly loss at Lambeau, and the Packers won’t be back home until December, with three straight road games upcoming. Their defense was about the only one this season that couldn’t get to Andrew Luck, and while the Ty Montgomery running back experiment appears to be working, the Packers also don’t appear willing to load carries onto Montgomery — or anyone.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-4) lost to Baltimore 21-14. Previously: 10
Starting just two weeks removed from surgery, it certainly seemed safe to question whether Ben Roethlisberger should be playing in a 21-0 game in the closing quarter. If he hadn’t been, the game probably would have finished with that score. It looks like Big Ben escaped unscathed, but Pittsburgh is in serious danger of dropping their fourth game in a row next week when the Cowboys come to visit.
15. Indianapolis Colts (4-5) defeated Green Bay 31-26. Previously: 22
While it seems apt to blame the Packers for not getting to Andrew Luck with their pass rush, it’s also appropriate to praise the Colts. Donte Moncrief caught a touchdown in Green Bay. That’s enough positivity: Frank Gore, who looked to be rebounding from the only season in his career under four yards per carry, hasn’t topped 61 yards in three weeks. Big game against the Titans waits when they come off their bye.
16. Miami Dolphins (4-4) defeated New York Jets 27-23. Previously: 20
The Dolphins returned from their bye and held onto the momentum they had going into it — just barely. They’ve got a long road trip to Los Angeles this week, but should be favored to extend their win streak to four games. Jay Ajayi has 529 yards, four touchdowns, and zero fumbles lost over the last three games.
17. Buffalo Bills (4-5) lost to Seattle 31-25. Previously: 12
Whatever words they’ll have to say about the officials are appropriate after Monday Night in Seattle, but they won’t stop a three game losing streak. Only a win against Cincinnati can do that. If Sammy Watkins can join LeSean McCoy on the list of starters returning from injury, that could help quite a bit. For the Bills, the start of the season was dominated by injuries on the defense. The recent games have been the opposite. We’ll see if they have a second recovery in them.
18. Arizona Cardinals (3-4-1) Bye. Previously: 14
Arizona gets the rough treatment of dropping down on their bye because of the impressive performances of a bunch of teams right under them. It’s not fair, but once they have a winning record they can start complaining. Getting back to .500 is a necessity this week, when they host the San Francisco 49ers offense.
19. Washington (4-3-1) Bye. Previously: 17
Same rough treatment for Washington, but we made sure they wouldn’t be last in a division they have a 2-1 record in. They return from their bye to host the Packers, who should be desperate for a win. Washington better be desperate for revenge against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year at home.
20. Philadelphia Eagles (4-4) lost to New York Giants 28-23. Previously: 9
It’s a big drop for the Eagles, but their struggles — losing four of the last five — have come alongside their two most impressive wins — Pittsburgh and Minnesota — looking less and less impressive. They released Josh Huff, a dangerous kick returner but their fourth wide receiver. The good and bad news for Eagles fans is the team could release their second best receiver without anyone noticing.
21. New Orleans Saints (4-4) defeated San Francisco 41-23. Previously: 21
Gaining 571 yards of offense certainly makes your defense allowing San Francisco 486 easier to swallow. It’s a lot, but nobody has exactly high expectations for the defense in New Orleans and the 49ers were playing catchup. Focus instead on the Saints — the Saints! — running the football 42 times for 248 yards, and staying a game-and-a-half behind the Falcons.
22. Cincinnati Bengals (3-4-1) Bye. Previously: 18
The Bengals too fall victim to precarious bye-week placement in the power rankings. The Steelers losing streak prefaced by the Ravens losing streak mean they’re still right there in the division but they have to start winning some close matchups: no games they should be significant favorite in exist until they face Cleveland in Week 15.
23. Baltimore Ravens (4-4) defeated Pittsburgh 21-14. Previously: 27
Maybe Baltimore should be higher, as they do lead the AFC North now. But outside of a 95-yard Mike Wallace torching of his old team in the opening quarter, there wasn’t a lot on display Sunday. The only rushing attack worse than Pittsburgh’s in this game was the Ravens’, as they gained 50 yards on 29 carries. The carries are at least an uptick.
24. Carolina Panthers (3-5) defeated Los Angeles 13-10. Previously: 24
The Panthers are back in the win column - but many of the same issues persist. The offensive line allowed the Rams defensive front — admittedly fearsome — to sack Cam Newton five times, and paved the way for just 59 yards on the ground. Newton didn’t take issue with any of the hits he suffered this week.
25. Tennessee Titans (4-5) lost to San Diego 43-35. Previously: 23
While it was DeMarco Murray who spent the week on the injury-watch list, it was Derrick Henry who was a surprising scratch and Murray who played against the Chargers. Whether that had anything to do with Murray turning in his worst performance of the year — and Marcus Mariota turning the ball over three times — is something to keep an eye on.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5) lost to Atlanta 43-28. Previously: 26
The Falcons weren’t into giving the Buccaneers the chances to hang around that Oakland did a week earlier. The good news in Tampa Bay is the franchise is fine: Jameis Winston is practicing after leaving Thursday’s blowout late with a dinged up ankle. At least the team knows they still have a capable backup. Mike Glennon in relief: 10-for-11, 75 yards, and a touchdown.
27. New York Jets (3-6) lost to Miami 27-23. Previously: 25
Welcome back to the turnover train. For the first time since his return to the lineup Ryan Fitzpatrick tossed two — and a lateral that surprisingly wasn’t turned over - and for the first time since his return to the lineup the Jets lost.
28. Los Angeles Rams (3-5) lost to Carolina 13-10. Previously: 28
Make it four losses in a row for the Rams, and boo-birds starting for Case Keenum. The interceptions could be coming a-plenty when the Rams and Jets face off next weekend. The quarterback struggles were to be expected, but Todd Gurley’s dismal season? Not so much.
29. Chicago Bears (2-6) Bye. Previously: 29
The Bears get to leave their bye and their fantastic win over the Vikings in the rear-view and look into one of the few matchups that might be deemed winnable this week: Tampa Bay. This banged up team could use the rest, but maybe not the momentum break that came after their big Monday Night win.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6) lost to Kansas City 19-14. Previously: 30
Jacksonville sure knows how to shoot themselves in the foot. Face a Kansas City team missing almost literally all their weapons, limit them to 231 yards, and then lose because you turned the ball over four times.
31. San Francisco 49ers (1-7) lost to New Orleans 41-23. Previously: 31
Chip Kelly’s philosophy is all about running more plays than the other team. The 49ers are 25th in the NFL in plays run. The 49ers defense has been on the field for more plays than five teams that have played a full game more than the Niners.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-9) lost to Dallas 35-10. Previously: 32
That was the least inspired performance by the Browns in weeks. Which is, you know, saying something