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2018 NFL Power Rankings: The Home Stretch

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Matt Weston ranks the NFL teams 32-1 now that each team has played twelve games.

Los Angeles Chargers v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Traditional power rankings suck, dude. They overreact to one HUGE win and one sad! loss. Rarely do they take in account the entire season, or even the last few weeks. To give a more accurate representation of what’s going on, and where these teams stand, I will not equivocate or give into the weekly yank of heartstrings the NFL season brings by default.

Instead, here’s where all 32 teams rank when taking account their first twelve games of the season and entering week 14.

Why Bother?

32.) Oakland Raiders—Record: 2-10. Point Differential: -147 (32). DVOA: -23.7% (29). Previously 31st.

Once upon a time I worked at a sales job in North Austin. There was a guy there, with a kid, about my age, from Nebraska, who was a Raiders fan. I talked Texans. We talked Raiders. He was so excited about Khalil Mack and Derek Carr. I was looking forward to Jadeveon Clowney and heartbroken over Teddy Bridgewater. I hope he’s doing ok. I know I am.

31) Arizona Cardinals—Record: 3-9. Point Differential: -135 (31). DVOA: -34.5% (32). Previously 28th.

Now that Tennessee doesn’t have enough meth, the Cardinals are my favorite bad team in the league. They have a great defense that, like Seattle, has bridged the gap from young to old well. Larry Fitzgerald should be on the cover of a movie called THE RECEIVER. An awful offensive line. And poor Josh Rosen trying to survive. If it wasn’t for their team name, I’d be all in. Please just change their name to like the sidewinders, or Yucca Men, or solitaires, or condors, or cacti, or plateaus, or canyons, or any sort of desert theme. Cardinals are terrible and atrocious birds. Screw David Freese.

30.) Buffalo Bills—Record: 4-8. Point Differential: -115 (30). DVOA: -25.2% (30). Previously 32nd.

Josh Allen is a rockstar. I won’t hear otherwise. You can’t quantify him or analyze his play. Unless it’s Pro Football Focus naming him the best quarterback of last week. That’s fine with me.

29.) San Francisco 49ers—Record: 2-10. Point Differential: -81 (29). DVOA: -27.6% (31). Previously 26th.

This season has been dead, ruined, over, murdered, since Jimmy Garoppolo tore his knee up. Yet, I’m in the camp that it wouldn’t have mattered anyways. This pass defense is terrible. When we get to this point of the season, there are too many games to watch every one of them. I haven’t seen San Francisco since Nick Mullens’s first start. That was all I needed to see. This has more to say about Oakland than the 49ers.

28.) New York Jets—Record: 3-9. Point Differential: -64 (28). DVOA: -19.6% (27). Previously 23rd.

Josh McCown outplayed Tom Brady two weeks ago and the Jets still lost.

27.) Cleveland Browns—Record: 4-7-1. Point Differential: -46 (24). DVOA: -10.8% (23). Previously 30th.

I finally have been able to watch the Browns play football now that Hue Jackson is the assistant to the regional head coach. It’s fine. I dig Baker Mayfield throwing it downfield. He’s like Johnny Manziel without the substance abuse. Myles Garrett is on the same athletic level as players like Khalil Mack, and Jadeveon Clowney. Nick Chubb is a future Pro Bowler. Maybe one day they’ll play collective and cohesive football.

26.) New York Giants—Record: 4-8. Point Differential: -48 (25). DVOA: -1.1.% (16). Previously 29th.

Eli Manning, he’s going nowhere.

25.) Detroit Lions—Record: 4-8. Point Differential: -62 (27). DVOA: -23.5% (28). Previously 24th.

Alex Smith broke his leg and now his leg is infected. He may never play football again. If you ever miss Smith just watch Matthew Stafford this year. They’re paying $30 million for an identical player.

Medium In The Middle:

24.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers—Record: 5-7. Point Differential: -37 (T-21). DVOA: -14.9% (26). Previously 27th.

The Bucs have an awful defense and exciting passing attack that puts its hand in the snake can by throwing too many interceptions. Ryan Fitzpatrick. Jameis Winston. It’s all the same thing man. Chris Godwin is going to be incredible on the Patriots one day.

23.) Cincinnati Bengals—Record: 5-7. Point Differential: -85 (29). DVOA: -11.0% (24). Previously 12th.

The Bengals are a UFO poster in a 1990s dorm room. I wanted to believe. I really did. I went out to the desert and drove around while the owls hooted and slept on the side of the road. I watched Andy Dalton have time to throw and sling it to his great collection of skill players. I saw nothing. I saw the Bengals’ defense fall apart, and A.J. Green and Andy Dalton disappear. I wanted to believe. I really did.

22.) Jacksonville Jaguars—Record: 4-8. Point Differential: -40 (23). DVOA: -1.9% (17). Previously 19th.

The Jags finally broke their seven game losing streak with an invigorating new strategy that will soon take over the game, don’t let the opponent score any points. Simple. Genius. How has no one thought of that before? I’m still ecstatic we got a shutout in the postmodern era of meaningless football where every play is a touchdown.

21.) Miami Dolphins—Record: 6-6. Point Differential: -56 (26). DVOA: -8.1% (21). Previously 25th.

I have no idea how this team is 6-6. I’ve watched like nine of their games. Adam Gase is some strange Jeff Fisher that I don’t fully understand.

20.) Atlanta Falcons—Record: 4-8. Point Differential: -27 (T-21). DVOA: -7.9% (20). Previously 11th.

Sometimes you only get one chance at something. That’s it. It never comes back, it never happens again. There’s no learning from a lesson to get at em’ next time tiger. There’s never a next time. 2016 was just the saddest thing ever. I don’t know if Matt Ryan will ever get the chance to even feel that miserable ever again.

19.) Washington Redskins—Record: 6-6. Point Differential: -24 (T-19). DVOA: -10.4% (22). Previously 17th.

A defense bloated, puffed up by noxious death gases and turnovers, is unraveling. Colt McCoy is gone now too. I’ve despised Mark Sanchez since week one 2009. Nothing he does is cute or funny. I won’t watch a Washington game from here on out.

18.) Tennessee Titans—Record: 6-6. Point Differential: -24 (T-19). DVOA: -12.8% (25). Previously 21st.

It’s been hard for me to get TITANEDUP this year. Even the pills won’t work. They’re mediocre. They aren’t great at anything. Unlike the Mike Mularkey era, there isn’t a core competency they’re built around. One week they blitz out of every orifice, the next they sit in zone coverage. One week they have some cool run designs, the next week it’s inside zone-inside zone-shotgun pass. Marcus Mariota is going to be 37 years old and still be an interesting quarterback prospect. At least I have the Arizona Cardinals now.

17.) Green Bay Packers—Record: 4-7-1. Point Differential: -6 (17). DVOA: 6.9% (13). Previously 16th.

Emo Aaron Rodgers cracks me up. I just imagine him listening to Death Cab Cutie, wearing all black, feeling misunderstood, and hating his step father who has been nothing but nice to him.

Playoffs?

16.) Indianapolis Colts—Record: 6-6. Point Differential: +46 (11). DVOA: 5.9% (13). Previously 20th.

Andrew Luck is averaging 6.9 yards an attempt and has thrown 32 touchdowns. The only other player in the modern era to average 6.9 yards an attempt or less and throw more than 30 touchdowns is Brett Farve. What a weird first year back. This defense is real. The Colts have almost a hundred million in cap space next year. They’re going to win 15 games next season.

15.) Philadelphia Eagles—Record: 6-6. Point Differential: -8 (18). DVOA: -6.5% (19). Previously 15th.

I’m done trying to understand this team. They make zero sense.

14.) Carolina Panthers—Record: 6-6. Point Differential: -2 (16). DVOA: 2.5.% (14). Previously 7th.

Somehow the Panthers now have the 24th ranked pass defense by DVOA. They can’t cover anyone. Cam Newton has been hanging around down in Tampa for too long and is throwing a ton of interceptions. With two of their four left against New Orleans, they’re probably stuffed and laying in front of some fire place while a cannibalistic blood orgy ensues.

13.) Minnesota Vikings—Record: 6-5-1. Point Differential: +5 (15). DVOA: 0.9% (15). Previously 10th.

Kirk Cousins averaged 4.56 yards an attempt against a mediocre New England pass defense. I had [NAME REDACTED] flashbacks. It was so dark. I was so scared. But most of all, I was so bored.

12.) Dallas Cowboys—Record: 7-5. Point Differential: +24 (12). DVOA: -2.0% (18). Previously 22nd.

This is the first likeable Dallas team in my lifetime. Their defense is a joy to watch. They wrangle up ball carriers, rush the passer, and are aggressive. It’s going to be the most Dallas thing ever when they lose to Philly this week. Unleash the memes.

11.) Baltimore Ravens—Record: 7-5. Point Differential: +83 (6). DVOA: 13.9% (9). Previously 14th.

Greg Roman is an assistant coach for the Ravens. I missed his offense. All the heavy back formations with seven fullbacks, flex wing tight ends, multiple runners, pullers everywhere, it’s like a bowl of spaghetti. The Ravens have the most balanced great defense around.

10.) Denver Broncos—Record: 6-6. Point Differential: +14 (13). DVOA: 21.4% (5). Previously 18th.

The Broncos have played well all season. They lost close games, Case Keenum had too many interceptions, and Vance Joseph was on his way out. Then they had some insane turnover luck against Los Angeles (C) and Pittsburgh, and Keenum hasn’t had to do anything. With the games left against San Francisco, Cleveland, @ Oakland, and Los Angeles (C), they’re my pick for the AFC #6 seed.

9.) Houston Texans—Record: 9-3. Point Differential: +67 (8). DVOA: 7.2% (10). Previously 9th.

The second half Cleveland Browns are the first team to really throw the ball downfield against Houston. And guess what, it worked. Don’t run the ball against Houston, throw it deep, blitz Deshaun Watson, double DeAndre Hopkins, and you’re probably going to beat them. Teams haven’t done this, and haven’t really been set up to do this. They may not see this until the second round of the playoffs. Until they do, it’s possible to know how good they really are. My guess is they’re the best middle class team, unless Bill O’Brien let’s Watson throw it deep and manufacturers him as a runner. .

The Contenders:

8.) Seattle Seahawks—Record: 7-5. Point Differential: +60 (10). DVOA: 11.2% (10). Previously 13th.

Russell Wilson should be an MVP candidate. He’s been sacked 36 times and still has 29 touchdowns to 5 interceptions. This is the best season of his career. Imagine what he could do behind an offensive line that could pass protect. There’s no way they don’t land the #5 NFC seed.

7.) Pittsburgh Steelers—Record: 7-4-1. Point Differential: +64 (9). DVOA: 14.6% (6). Previously 6th.

The Steelers are a top five team when they throw the ball downfield. When they get all horizontal and quick passing and screen passing they get into a deep December rut. Throw it deep to Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster at least 15 times a game. They have to score a bunch too. Against great quarterbacks, they struggle to play man coverage, and have trouble against deep throws.

6.) Chicago Bears—Record: 8-4. Point Differential: +103 (4). DVOA: 14.6% (7). Previously 8th.

The Bears finally beat a good team by beating Minnesota. Now it looks like they aren’t very good. The Bears have devoured crappy teams like metal tins waiting pickup, and have struggled against great ones. This week against the Rams is, is what we say in the biz, a chance for the Bears to really prove themselves.

5.) New England Patriots—Record: 9-3. Point Differential: +72 (7). DVOA: 14.4% (8). Previously 4th.

Tom Brady is leading long slogging drives. Everyone is healthy except for Rob Gronkowski. The defense is fine. They’re going to win the AFC and it’s going to be terrible.

4.) Los Angeles Chargers—Record: 9-3. Point Differential: +91 (5). DVOA: 28.1% (3). Previously 5th.

My favorite moment from this season so far is the Steelers jumping the Chargers first game winning field goal attempt. It’s the Chargers! They can’t make any field goals. Don’t try to block it. There isn’t even a need to line up. They’ll miss it on their own. In that setting, against this team, the one thing you can’t do is jump offsides. The kicker of course missed, and received multiple chances to try again.

The underlying subterranean river flowing under it all is the fortune the Chargers have had one year. Last year, or the year before, they would have lost this game. This season they’ve made a couple of field goals, won some one possession games, have limited the turnovers, and have stayed healthy since the annual Injured Reserve preseason pilgrimage. It’s never been a question of talent with San Diego. It’s been black cat problems. This season everything is coalescing together.

3.) Kansas City Chiefs—Record: 10-2. Point Differential: +117 (3). DVOA: 39.9% (1). Previously 3rd.

I think they’ll be alright without Kareem Hunt. Running backs are fungible. Hunt was like the fourth best player on this offense. Spencer Ware had been fine before, and hasn’t played in a while. I’m not worried about last week. It’s all about Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill now.

2.) Los Angeles Rams—Record: 11-1. Point Differential: +121 (2). DVOA: 29.5% (2). Previously 2nd.

Somehow I forgot the Rams have only lost one game. As quick as we are to react to every game, and every week, we often forget, it’s a long season. Sixteen weeks is like four months. That’s like a third of a year. That’s a pretty long time.

1.) New Orleans Saints—Record: 10-2. Point Differential: +150 (1). DVOA: 22.6% (4). Previously 1st.

Everyone has a bad week here and there. It happens. If they get a one seed, there’s no way they don’t get out of the NFC. It’s time to beat Carolina and wish upon some stars.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Derwin James

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Saquon Barkley

Comeback Player of the Year: J.J. Watt

Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald

Offensive Player of the Year: Patrick Mahomes

NFL MVP: Todd Gurley

Superbowl: New Orleans Saints over New England Patriots