As for you, angry Steelers fans: It's entirely possible that we'll reach a point where I can no longer deny Pittsburgh its rightful spot atop the Power Rankings. We're not there yet, however. Not in the wake of a sloppy Week 12 performance coming days after Patrick Mahomes accounts for nearly 500 yards of offense in another Chiefs win.
Meanwhile, on the soft underbelly of the Power Rankings, the absurd NFC East has finally realized its destiny -- clumped together in a gooey hive of mediocrity. Congrats to everyone involved.
Let's get to it.
Previous rank: No. 1
We might be reaching the point where the NFL has to split up Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill. The pairing is simply too unfair for opponents. Just ask the Buccaneers, a very capable defense that was embarrassed by the Terror Twins in a 27-24 Kansas City victory. Hill boasted over 200 yards receiving by the end of the first quarter and finished his day with 13 catches for 269 yards and three touchdowns on 15 targets. Mahomes accounted for nearly 500 yards of offense and iced the game with a clinical clock-killing drive after the Bucs had closed within a field goal with less than five minutes to play. Mahomes is rightly praised for his next-level arm talent, but he's also an expert scrambler with untouchable football IQ. He is the perfect quarterback.
Previous rank: No. 2
A Wednesday afternoon win over the Ravens wasn't pretty, but nothing was for this matchup, postponed three times in a chaotic Week 12 for both teams. Still, they got the game in, and the Steelers are 11-0 with a short week to prepare for Washington on Monday. The defense did what it was supposed to do against a deeply compromised Ravens offense, but the offense deserves nil in the way of plaudits. Pittsburgh failed to establish the run, while Ben Roethlisberger was let down numerous times by receivers who struggled with drops. If the Steelers are going to deliver a performance like that against a contender at full strength, you can pencil in that first loss right now.
Previous rank: No. 3
Taysom Hill's second start was less impressive than his first, but the Drew Brees replacement didn't need to do much with the Broncos starting a practice-squad wide receiver at quarterback. Hill scored twice from in close and the New Orleans defense handled the rest in a 31-3 win. The Saints allowed just one pass completion the entire game, a bonkers stat in bonkers circumstances. It provided cover for the fact that Hill wasn't much better than Kendall Hinton as a passer. From NFL Research: The Broncos and Saints combined for just 91 gross passing yards, the fewest in a game since 1982. Hill is 2-0 as Saints starter, but questions about his long-term viability behind center persist.
Previous rank: No. 5
Aaron Rodgers just has the look of a guy who badly wants to win MVP, doesn't he? What better way to put an exclamation point on this glorious revenge season than by taking home the league's most coveted award for a third time? Rodgers was dominant against the Bears on Sunday night, completing 21 of 29 passes for 211 yards and four touchdowns without a turnover. Forever a player of supreme confidence, Rodgers exuded swagger with each money throw against the Bears. Three of his scoring strikes came off play-action, which baffled Chicago's defense into submission. By the second half, Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams were running through arm tackles by a Bears defense that looked ready to get on the team bus. The Packers trail the Saints by one game in the race for the NFC's No. 1 seed, but they have the head-to-head tiebreaker in hand. Buckle up.
Previous rank: No. 9
The Seahawks' defense was historically bad over the season's first half, but we're seeing significant strides now. That starts with the pass rush: Seattle sacked Carson Wentz six times in Monday night's 23-17 win and has piled up 22 sacks since Week 8. This is the same defense that managed just nine sacks total in the first six games of the season. October trade acquisition Carlos Dunlap has four sacks in four games (a foot injury suffered against Philly registers concern), and Jamal Adams has provided a huge lift at the line of scrimmage with his expert blitzing ability. You can fairly argue whether any safety is worth two first-round picks -- the cost to acquire Adams from the Jets over the summer -- but he's a jack-of-all-trades playmaker whose unique skill set is invaluable to Ken Norton Jr.'s unit.
Previous rank: No. 11
The Titans entered Sunday believing they were the best team in the AFC South, and they ended the day having proved it in a 45-26 win over the Colts. It was Derrick Henry who led the way, of course, rushing for 140 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone on his way to a 178-yard performance on 27 carries. Henry has now gone over 100 yards in each of his past three games against Colts, an achievement made even more impressive by the fact that Indianapolis has not allowed any other rusher to surpass the century mark since the start of last season. This is Derrick Henry season, and no one should be surprised if he continues to crank out monster games from here on out. This is a man who feasts on tired and depleted opponents in December.
Previous rank: No. 7
The Bills turned the ball over three times in the span of seven offensive plays during Sunday's fourth quarter and lived to tell the tale. Call it a karmic recalibration two weeks after the infamous Hail Murray. Let's also give credit to Buffalo's defense, which allowed just three points total in the three Chargers possessions that followed those turnovers. The Bills talked during the bye week about getting their running game going, and we saw that on Sunday: Buffalo rushed for 172 yards at 5.7 yards per carry. Devin Singletary (82) and Zack Moss (59) combined to go over 100 yards for just the second time this year. The Bills are 8-3 in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1995-96.
Previous rank: No. 4
"Our quarterback has to take better care of the football." That was the terse public statement by Sean McVay after the Rams stumbled their way to a 23-20 loss to the injury-riddled 49ers. Los Angeles had four turnovers in the game, and Jared Goff was responsible for three -- including a fumble in Niners territory and a pick-six in the first minute out of halftime. Goff has thrown 10 interceptions and lost four fumbles, tied for the second-highest number of giveaways in the league. The Rams invested their future in Goff when they handed him a healthy contract extension last fall, but you wonder if the team is experiencing some buyer's remorse 15 months later.
Previous rank: No. 6
Poor Carlton Davis. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles had so much faith in his young corner that he cooked up a game plan that left Davis one-on-one with Tyreek Hill. It did not work out. Davis was torched on a historic level, as Hill had surpassed 200 yards receiving with two touchdowns by the end of the first quarter. The Bucs mounted an admirable fourth-quarter comeback, but the 27-24 loss showed a considerable gap between Tampa Bay and the defending Super Bowl champions. Back-to-back losses to the Rams and Chiefs make you wonder where the Bucs truly stand amongst the league's elite teams, but a favorable schedule keeps a path to the postseason open. After the bye, Tampa Bay faces four sub-.500 opponents with a combined record of 17-27.
Previous rank: No. 10
If the Colts hoped to prove their Week 10 win over the Titans was no fluke, they didn't do a very good job of it on Sunday. Playing without DeForest Buckner (COVID-19 list), Indy's front seven was dominated by Tennessee's offensive line and running back Derrick Henry, who piled up 140 yards and three touchdowns by halftime. The 449 total yards by the Titans were the most allowed by the Colts in any game this season, and they surrendered 35 points in the first half one week after giving up 28 points in the first two quarters against the Packers. On offense, the Colts dipped the moment left tackle Anthony Castonzo exited with a knee injury. Castonzo's health is a major subplot to watch with the statue-like Philip Rivers behind center.
Previous rank: No. 8
The Raiders changed the way a lot of people looked at them on Sunday -- unfortunately, not in a good way. Jon Gruden's team was humbled and embarrassed in a 43-6 loss to the Falcons, delivering an effort that summoned memories of last season's December collapse. This was a nightmare performance for Derek Carr, who lost three fumbles on sacks and threw a pick-six. Josh Jacobs looked slow and tentative on an injured hip before leaving the game with a sprained ankle. (Jacobs, fittingly, lost a fumble on the play he went down.) Vegas was also undisciplined, committing a season-high 11 penalties for 141 yards. It was a disaster from pretty much every angle, bad enough that even a Week 13 matchup against the winless Jets brings some level of doubt.
Previous rank: No. 12
John Harbaugh must have thought the whole world was against him these past 10 days. His roster gets decimated by a COVID-19 outbreak, and when he finally gets his team on the field for a bizarre Wednesday matinee against the Steelers, it feels like every call goes against Baltimore in a 19-14 defeat. All told, the Ravens delivered a highly commendable effort without many of their most important players -- if they converted that near touchdown before halftime, the game's outcome could have flipped. Unfortunately, moral victories only take you so far this time of year, and the Ravens could still be without Lamar Jackson in a must-win game against the Cowboys on Tuesday. Last chance to save the season.
Previous rank: No. 14
The Browns are poised to snap their endless postseason dry spell because they continue to beat the teams they're supposed to beat. The latest example came Sunday, when Cleveland dispatched a feisty Jaguars team to clinch the franchise's first non-losing season since 2007. If Derrick Henry is the NFL's pre-eminent closer at running back, Nick Chubb is right behind the Titans star. With the Browns up 27-25 and attempting to run out the clock, Chubb picked up a first down on the ground, then another that was negated by penalty, followed by a final first down on a screen pass with 1:37 to play. Game over. The Browns don't profile as a league superpower, but they have an enviable collection of star players who can take out any team on the right day.
Previous rank: No. 13
The Cardinals built a 10-0 lead early and held the Patriots to 179 yards of offense -- but unforced errors and another quiet game for Kyler Murray led to a 20-17 loss that dampened Arizona's playoff hopes. Zane Gonzalez missed wide right on a 45-yard field goal attempt with a minute to play, and Isaiah Simmons bailed out New England's meager offense with a late hit on Cam Newton that set up Nick Folk's game-winning 50-yard field goal as time expired. Murray didn't exhibit any obvious signs of the shoulder injury he suffered in Week 11, but the Patriots' defense did excellent work keeping him in the pocket and limited the dual-threat passer to just 31 rushing yards. Did New England just provide other teams a blueprint? Stay tuned.
Previous rank: No. 15
The Dolphins are very lucky to have Ryan Fitzpatrick. Tua Tagovailoa could miss multiple weeks with his thumb injury, but the rookie's absence doesn't necessarily dim Miami's postseason chances because of the presence of Fitzpatrick, the league's top backup. The 38-year-old threw two touchdown passes without committing a turnover in the Dolphins' 20-3 win over the Jets on Sunday, then watched as the defense did the rest of the heavy lifting. Miami's D forced a befuddled Sam Darnold into two interceptions and has now come up with at least one takeaway in 17 consecutive games, a league-best streak. The team's best ballhawk is cornerback Xavien Howard, who had a pick in his third straight game and holds the league lead with seven interceptions overall.
Previous rank: No. 16
The Vikings' playoff hopes seemed to all but evaporate when Chad Beebe muffed a punt deep in Minnesota territory with 2:10 to play on Sunday. The Panthers had the ball and the lead after another self-inflicted wound for Minnesota in a day full of them. But the defense kept the damage to a field goal, setting the stage for one of Kirk Cousins' greatest moments in purple. With no timeouts and playing without his favorite target in Adam Thielen, Cousins marched the Vikings 75 yards on seven plays, culminating with a 10-yard touchdown strike to -- you guessed it -- Chad Beebe. One missed Joey Slye field goal later, the Vikings had escaped with a 28-27 win. It wasn't long ago that Cousins was on a Winston-esque 30/30 pace. Over the last month, he's been one of the most productive quarterbacks in football.
Previous rank: No. 18
The Patriots are never going to win pretty this year. They're simply not built that way. But results are results, and New England has now won three of four games after a last-second 20-17 win over the Cardinals. Cam Newton salvaged an otherwise-unsightly day with a late 14-yard scramble on third-and-13 that turned into a 29-yard play when Isaiah Simmons was flagged for a late hit on the quarterback. Four plays later, the Pats were celebrating after Nick Folk's 50-yard field goal attempt split the uprights. Week 11's disappointing setback against Houston put the Pats in a situation where they might have to win out to keep their postseason streak alive. A three-game road trip begins with a matchup against the 3-8 Chargers.
Previous rank: No. 20
Raheem Morris might be interim coaching his way into legitimate consideration for a full-time gig in Atlanta. The Falcons blew out the Raiders on Sunday and improved to 4-2 since they fired Dan Quinn and promoted Morris in October. Atlanta set season highs with five sacks and five turnovers, including a pick-six by Deion Jones, and piled up 43 points on just 304 yards of total offense. The Falcons played without Julio Jones and Todd Gurley, who both missed the game with injuries. If the offense can get healthy and the defense continues to play at this level, the Falcons will be the non-playoff team no one wants to play down the stretch.
Previous rank: No. 21
The 49ers have been absolutely decimated by injuries this season, which makes their 5-6 record after Sunday's 23-20 win over the Rams all the more impressive. San Francisco won because its ball-hawking defense forced four turnovers, including a pick-six via rookie Javon Kinlaw. The offense was carried by Deebo Samuel, who just looks different than other players when the ball is in his hands. His 24-yard reception on third-and-2 sustained the game-winning field-goal drive. Samuel showed no ill-effects from the hamstring injury that cost him the previous three games, notching a career-high 11 catches and a season-high 133 receiving yards. The Niners swept the Rams in back-to-back years for the first time since 2008-09.
Previous rank: No. 17
The Chargers drafted a quarterback in April who hit the ground running as a top-10 passer in the league. And yet, the Bolts languish at 3-8 after a 27-17 loss to the Bills on Sunday. The organization has to ask why. Los Angeles failed to take advantage of three Buffalo turnovers in the second half, and head coach Anthony Lynn faced criticism after the game for egregious clock mismanagement, a familiar refrain around these parts. Lynn said it was "completely miscommunication" that led to a comedy of errors in the final minute after Justin Herbert connected on a Hail Mary pass that put the Bolts at the Bills' goal line with no timeouts. A ponderous hand-off, a doomed pass, a field-goal unit running on then off the field, capped by the world's saddest QB sneak as time expired. Woof.
Previous rank: No. 24
The Texans were feeling good about themselves after Deshaun Watson carved up the Lions for four touchdowns in a blowout win on Thanksgiving, but their holiday cheer was tempered on Monday with the announcement that Will Fuller's season is over after testing positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance. It's crushing news for Fuller, who had a monster game against Detroit and was enjoying a career year just as he was set to reach free agency. The six-game ban will carry over to the opener of next season, and you have to wonder how many teams he scared off with this poorly timed development. As for the 2020 Texans, they still have Watson in prime form, but removing his No. 1 option in the passing game is likely to have a detrimental effect -- perhaps substantially so.
Previous rank: No. 19
Jeremy Chinn scored on fumble returns on consecutive plays from scrimmage in the third quarter. Dalvin Cook was held to just 3.4 yards per carry. Carolina had the lead and the ball inside the Vikings' 10-yard line with less than two minutes to play. But in the end, all of those positives weren't enough to stave off defeat, a dramatic 28-27 setback that effectively eliminated the Panthers from postseason contention. Teddy Bridgewater didn't exactly light it up in his Minnesota homecoming, but hang this loss on a defense that surrendered 18 points in the fourth quarter and allowed Kirk Cousins to march 75 yards in just 65 seconds for the game-winning touchdown. The Panthers are either the best bad team or the worst good team in football. Whatever they are, it won't be enough to extend their season beyond Week 17.
Previous rank: No. 22
Vic Fangio didn't mince words after COVID-19 protocol violations left the Broncos without a quarterback to dress in Sunday's 31-3 loss to the Saints. "I was disappointed on a couple of levels, that our quarterbacks put us in this position, that our quarterbacks put the league in this position," the coach said. Future trivia question answer Kendall Hinton delivered an admirable effort in an impossible situation, and now the Broncos have to shift their focus to finishing a disappointing season that took a hard left into the Twilight Zone in Week 12. Drew Lock apologized for the lack of mask discipline that helped put Denver in this mess -- we don't imagine this episode will help his standing as the Broncos evaluate their options behind center in 2021 and beyond.
Previous rank: No. 23
The Giants moved into first place in the NFC East with a too-close-for-comfort 19-17 victory over the Joe Burrow-less Bengals, but the big story after the game centered on the health of quarterback Daniel Jones, who exited the win with a strained hamstring. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday that Jones dodged a more serious injury, but his availability is in doubt for Sunday's matchup against the Seahawks. If you're a Giants fan concerned about Colt McCoy's ability to hang with Russell Wilson and the explosive Seattle offense ... well ... you have every right to be worried. Get well soon, kid.
Previous rank: No. 28
The only thing that would make sense in the NFC East this season is Alex Smith leading Washington to the division title. It suddenly feels like a very real possibility after the Football Team blew out the Cowboys on Thanksgiving in Jerrah World. Smith's journey from a life-threatening on-field injury to QB of a playoff-contending team is Disney-movie remarkable, but he's not being asked to do it alone. Washington's front seven is a problem for teams who struggle to block up front (there's a lot of those!), and rookie Antonio Gibson is turning into an impact player in the backfield. Gibson rushed for 115 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-icing 23-yard score on the first play after Dallas' ludicrous failed fake-punt attempt in the fourth quarter. Keeping this momentum could prove difficult on Monday in Pittsburgh.
Previous rank: No. 25
Last week on the Around the NFL Podcast, I offered up a breakdown on the job-security level of each head coach entering the final stretch of the regular season. Mike McCarthy was in my "50/50" category -- I believed there was a coin-flip chance he'd be one-and-done in Dallas. That scenario might have ticked up to 60/40 after a grim Thanksgiving performance that included a wild fake-punt gambit that could've sunk the season. Sure, the loss of both starting tackles in one drive was another reminder of Dallas' brutal injury luck this season, but that can't totally absolve McCarthy. Jerry Jones is 78 and he sees other teams -- most recently, the Lions -- taking aggressive steps to improve their team on the sideline. Will he still feel McCarthy is the right guy if the Cowboys finish this absurd season in the NFC East basement?
Previous rank: No. 27
The Eagles faced the league's worst-ranked pass defense on Monday night and looked like they were playing on a 120-yard field going uphill both ways. Doug Pederson told reporters Tuesday that he was given no assurances he would keep his job through the end of the season -- a stunning admission for the head coach who brought the Eagles their only Super Bowl win less than three years ago. The bigger question: How much can you pin on Pederson when Carson Wentz is the very obvious problem? Check out this tidbit from NFL Research: Since 1950, Wentz is the sixth QB -- and only one under age 30 -- to have a passer rating more than 24 points below his combined rating over the prior three seasons. Wentz has collapsed. Making Pederson the sacrificial lamb feels more than a little unfair.
Previous rank: No. 26
New/old quarterback, same old results. The Bears were blown out by the Packers on Sunday Night Football, but don't be too quick to put all the blame on Mitchell Trubisky. The beleaguered former first-round pick mixed some good with some bad, but it was the defense that failed to be competitive in Chicago's latest prime-time dud. Aaron Rodgers torched the secondary for four touchdowns, while the RB tandem of Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams blew through half-hearted tackle attempts all night long. It was the defense that powered Chicago during its 5-1 start, but Chuck Pagano's group has been unable to lift the team during its five-game losing streak. Matt Nagy could be coaching for his job over the final five weeks.
Previous rank: No. 29
The Lions are blowing it up ... again. On Saturday, the team announced it had fired head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn, seismic moves made 48 hours after the Lions were blown out by the Texans on Thanksgiving. Though Quinn had his share of personnel victories in his five years on the job, Patricia was more or less a total miss. The former Patriots defensive coordinator struggled to connect with players and oversaw a Lions team that regressed from the back-to-back 9-7 finishes that preceded the dismissal of Jim Caldwell. Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell takes over as interim coach, while owner Sheila Ford Hamp and president Rod Wood will spearhead the search for a new head coach and GM. If the incoming regime plans to start over, it could mean the end of Matthew Stafford in Detroit.
Previous rank: No. 30
The Bengals began life without Joe Burrow with a commendable effort, but they'll need Brandon Allen to be better if they're going to find another win before the end of the season. Allen's fourth career start went pretty much as one might expect: He finished 17 of 29 for 136 yards with one touchdown, one interception and one lost fumble in the 19-17 loss. The Bengals scored their first touchdown on a 103-yard kickoff return by Brandon Wilson, and Allen didn't find his way inside the Giants' 20-yard line until the final minutes of the game. Burrow, meanwhile, was scheduled to undergo reconstructive surgery on his left knee this week. He's expected to make a full recovery with the hope he's under center again for Week 1 of 2021.
Previous rank: No. 31
Mike Glennon made his first start since 2017 and gave the Jaguars an obvious boost -- not enough to beat the Browns, but enough to keep Jacksonville's offense respectable in a way it hadn't been under Jake Luton. The performance rightfully earned Glennon another start on Sunday against the Vikings, Jacksonville's first game without Dave Caldwell in the building since 2012. The team announced Sunday that they had dismissed the general manager, who oversaw just one winning season during his eight-year tenure: the Jaguars' Cinderella run to the AFC Championship Game in the 2017 campaign. Doug Marrone remains employed for now, but his fate seems decided, as well. Jacksonville's 10th consecutive loss clinched a third straight season with double-digit defeats. No one survives that.
Previous rank: No. 32
The Jets were easily beaten again on Sunday -- this time a 20-3 loss to the Dolphins -- and after the game, Adam Gase appeared to get caught in a lie when asked who was calling plays. This is what passes for a dramatic subplot for these Jets, who have five more chances to avoid becoming the third team in NFL history to go 0-16. It’s difficult to understand why New York continues to employ Gase, especially while other downtrodden teams dismiss coaches and prep their respective relaunches. Perhaps Gase is still around precisely because of his inability to win games. After all, an 0-16 season sets the franchise up far better in the long-term than 2-14 or 3-13 would. In a way, keeping Gase in the building until the bitter end is the worst punishment management could hand down.