Enough with the nice and cozy fuzzies from the Thanksgiving season. As December begins, it’s time for some powerful love right here at The Athletic’s NFL Power Rankings.
There is little separation on the prime of both convention, and even the very best groups are flawed. This week, Patriots beat author Matthew Fairburn joins nationwide author Lindsay Jones to have a look at every workforce’s drawback space. For some groups, it’s a place group, or a roster gap. For others, it’s a vital damage, and issues that may have to be managed with the intention to make the playoffs. Some flaws are large and would require a significant overhaul to repair within the offseason.
These rankings are a composite of votes from The Athletic’s NFL reporters and editors. Before we get into every workforce’s drawback space, a couple of notes from this week’s voting:
• The Packers’ win over the Rams was spectacular and satisfied our voters to place Green Bay forward of the Bucs. It wasn’t sufficient, nevertheless, to overhaul the Cardinals for the highest spot. Arizona did obtain a smaller share of first-place votes after its bye than it did every week in the past.
• It was a wild week for the AFC West. The Raiders and Broncos had been the largest climbers, shifting up six and 5 spots, respectively, after their Week 12 wins. But we invite Broncos followers into the feedback to air their grievances after our panel had the Chargers one spot above the Broncos, regardless of Denver’s head-to-head win final week. (To be truthful, the Chargers did tumble 5 spots, from No. 10 to No. 15.)
• Speaking of huge tumbles, the Rams fell six spots and are on the verge of dropping out of the Top 10. The Titans and the Eagles additionally every dropped 5 spots.
1. Arizona Cardinals (9-2)
Previous rank: 1
Week 12 consequence: Bye
Problem space: Run protection. Teams aren’t attacking Arizona on the bottom all that usually; it has confronted the fifth-fewest speeding makes an attempt within the league this season. But when opponents do run, they’re profitable, with a mean of 4.74 yards per try. Only the Vikings and Steelers are permitting extra yards per rush, and in accordance with TruMedia, the Cardinals are giving up 3.07 speeding yards after contact, the third most within the league. Why are we specializing in run protection right here? Because Arizona’s final three games are towards sturdy speeding groups: the Colts (with Jonathan Taylor), the Cowboys (with Ezekiel Elliott) and the Seahawks (which can characteristic a run-heavy offense whether or not it’s working or not). Even the winless Lions, whom the Cardinals face in Week 15, are a good speeding workforce. Detroit averages greater than 4.6 yards per carry.
2. Green Bay Packers (9-3)
Previous rank: 3
Week 12 consequence: Beat the Rams, 36-28
Problem space: Aaron Rodgers’ toe. Don’t fear, we’re not going to publish the picture once more. But what the final month or so has taught us is that when the Packers have Rodgers on the sphere, they will make a robust argument they’re the very best workforce within the NFC. And with defensive stars Za’Darius Smith and Jaire Alexander doubtlessly returning later this season, Rodgers’ toe is the important thing damage to look at. He limped at occasions in Sunday’s win, and he’s doubtless going to only need to handle the ache, play by means of it and hope he can keep away from additional damage.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-3)
Previous rank: 2
Week 12 consequence: Beat the Colts, 38-31
Problem space: Third-down protection. The Buccaneers are a well-rounded workforce that appears able to contend for an additional Super Bowl berth. They’ve had some uninspiring losses, however it’s powerful to poke too many holes on this workforce. One space they might enhance is third-down protection. They’re within the backside half of the league, permitting opponents to transform on third down 40.9 % of the time. Against the Colts, they allowed 4 third-down conversions when Indy wanted 10 or extra yards. That was outdoors the norm, however these conditions could be the distinction in the course of the postseason.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
Previous rank: T-4
Week 12 consequence: Bye
Problem space: Defensive sub packages. A month in the past, we might have merely put the whole protection right here, however the Chiefs have made an impressive turnaround within the three video games previous their bye. Defensive questions stay, nevertheless, notably with their nickel or dime packages and when security Daniel Sorensen is on the sphere. Sorensen’s taking part in time has dropped from the primary half of the season (he performed greater than 90 % of the defensive snaps in Weeks 1-5 and has performed about 50 % previously two video games), however we should always anticipate opposing offenses to proceed to attempt to exploit the Chiefs’ cross protection when he’s on the sphere.
5. New England Patriots (8-4)
Previous rank: 7
Week 12 consequence: Beat the Titans, 36-13
Problem space: Red-zone offense. The Patriots have scored a landing on 55.6 % of their journeys to the purple zone. That’s twenty fourth within the NFL. Nick Folk tried six subject targets and made 5 of them towards the Titans, and it wasn’t the primary time an lack of ability to complete on offense has popped up. The Patriots are still rolling, although. They received by 20-plus factors for the third straight recreation, they’ve outscored their opponents 63-0 within the second half of their final 4 video games and now have the NFL’s finest level differential. The Patriots are a workforce with few weaknesses, with an actual shot on the AFC’s No. 1 seed.
6. Baltimore Ravens (8-3)
Previous rank: 9
Week 12 consequence: Beat the Browns, 16-10
Problem space: Consistent quarterback play. The bar is extremely high for Lamar Jackson, and whereas his passing numbers have been respectable this season (he’s averaging a career-high 261 passing yards per recreation), the Ravens ought to anticipate extra in the event that they wish to maintain on to the AFC’s No. 1 seed. Baltimore survived his four-interception night time in Week 12 largely due to how the protection shut down the Browns, coupled with Cleveland’s personal offensive struggles. That received’t occur when Baltimore performs higher groups within the postseason.
7. Buffalo Bills (7-4)
Previous rank: 11
Week 12 consequence: Beat the Saints, 31-6
Problem space: The offensive line, which is identical one which helped the Bills get to the AFC Championship Game a yr in the past. This yr, although, the group has been a letdown. Daryl Williams, Dion Dawkins and Cody Ford have allowed a mixed 66 pressures. Jon Feliciano and Spencer Brown might assist as soon as they’re again on the sphere, however the Bills haven’t been constant in cross safety all yr. They additionally haven’t been capable of run the ball. Buffalo has the protection and passing recreation to make up for it, however it must do a greater job of retaining Josh Allen upright if it’s going to make a deep run.
8. Dallas Cowboys (7-4)
Previous rank: 8
Week 12 consequence: Lost to the Raiders, 36-33 in additional time
Problem space: Continuity on the offensive line. The Cowboys are averaging simply 3.6 yards per carry over their final three video games. What was once the energy of this workforce has turn out to be an space of concern. Dallas was rotating linemen early towards the Raiders, however that didn’t assist. The offensive line ranks within the prime 10 in holding and false-start penalties, and penalties had been a team-wide difficulty within the Thanksgiving loss to Las Vegas. Luckily for the Cowboys, they nonetheless have time to snap out of it before the postseason.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4)
Previous rank: 13
Week 12 consequence: Beat the Steelers, 41-10
Problem space: Ball safety. The Bengals have improved on a lot of their weaknesses recently, and had virtually a perfect game Sunday towards Pittsburgh. But one space for concern is their means to guard the ball on offense. Cincinnati has dedicated at the very least one turnover in 9 of 11 video games and has three multi-turnover video games — all losses. Its blowout loss to the Browns three weeks in the past ought to function a reminder of how shortly a recreation can spiral uncontrolled once you’re not cautious (Joe Burrow threw two interceptions and Ja’Marr Chase fumbled). Cincinnati’s turnover ratio has improved due to the protection’s 5 takeaways the previous two weeks.
10. Los Angeles Rams (7-4)
Previous rank: T-4
Week 12 consequence: Lost to the Packers, 36-28
Problem space: Self-inflicted errors. As the eminently quotable Jalen Ramsey mentioned after Sunday’s loss to the Packers: “We have guys who are way too good to be losing games like this.” That begins with the 2 folks beneath the largest spotlights: quarterback Matthew Stafford and coach Sean McVay. Stafford has to play safer and smarter as a result of the Rams, regardless of what Ramsey mentioned, most likely aren’t adequate to beat a decide six from their quarterback each week. And McVay should discover a manner to assist Stafford and the offense maintain longer drives. Stafford-to-Cooper Kupp is working, clearly, however the Rams should turn out to be a greater short-yardage operating workforce. It’s on McVay to get the offense again on monitor.
11. Tennessee Titans (8-4)
Previous rank: 6
Week 12 consequence: Lost to the Patriots, 36-13
Problem space: Offensive firepower. Ryan Tannehill threw for just 91 yards towards the Patriots on Sunday. The Titans ran for 270 yards, however a whole lot of that got here on two performs. One was a 68-yard landing, the opposite was a 30-yard run from D’Onta Foreman that ended with a misplaced fumble. With Julio Jones and A.J. Brown out, Tannehill couldn’t get something going within the passing recreation. Derrick Henry was a significant loss, however the Titans want their receivers simply as badly. If they will get wholesome, the Titans will nonetheless be a harmful workforce come January.
12. San Francisco 49ers (6-5)
Previous rank: T-15
Week 12 consequence: Beat the Vikings, 34-26
Problem space: Injuries. Few groups within the playoff hunt appear as inclined to collapsing after key accidents than the 49ers, who’ve endured greater than their share of huge ones over the previous season and a half. That’s why it was scary to see receiver Deebo Samuel, who has been the 49ers’ finest offensive participant in current weeks, crouched over in ache and being helped off the field Sunday. Or to look at the protection lose not one, however two, beginning linebackers (Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw) in the identical recreation. The 49ers have clawed their manner again into the NFC wild-card race with three straight wins, and it could be a disgrace if accidents gradual their progress.
13. Indianapolis Colts (6-6)
Previous rank: 12
Week 12 consequence: Lost to the Buccaneers, 38-31
Problem space: Holding onto leads. The Colts have led by double digits in 9 straight video games. They’ve additionally managed to lose three of these video games. They blew a 19-point, second-half lead towards the Ravens, an early 14-0 lead towards the Titans and most recently coughed up a 10-point, second-half lead towards the Buccaneers. For a workforce that’s now 6-6, these blown leads may very well be what retains them out of the playoffs.
14. Las Vegas Raiders (6-5)
Previous rank: 20
Week 12 consequence: Beat the Cowboys, 36-33 in additional time
Problem space: Consistency. We wouldn’t have blamed Raiders followers in the event that they headed into the Thanksgiving recreation towards the Cowboys feeling discouraged. Las Vegas had misplaced three consecutive video games, and yet one more collapse within the second half of the season felt inevitable. Then got here an overtime win in Dallas, and whereas it wasn’t fairly, possibly it was sufficient to snap the Raiders out of their funk. Now the query is whether or not they can put collectively consecutive good video games for the primary time since October.
15. Los Angeles Chargers (6-5)
Previous rank: 10
Week 12 consequence: Lost to the Broncos, 28-13
Problem space: Offensive line manufacturing. Yes, nonetheless. Rookie left sort out Rashawn Slater has been a standout, however accidents and an absence of depth throughout the remainder of the road have made the unit a significant legal responsibility. Quarterback Justin Herbert is athletic sufficient to flee some strain, however the Broncos’ means to generate constant strain Sunday led to certainly one of Herbert’s worst outings of the season (he threw two interceptions, together with a decide six). With the Chargers in a precarious place within the AFC playoff race, they have to discover methods to higher shield Herbert in coming weeks.
16. Denver Broncos (6-5)
Previous rank: 21
Week 12 consequence: Beat the Chargers, 28-13
Problem space: Offensive line well being. The Broncos had only one beginning offensive lineman (heart Lloyd Cushenberry) on the sphere within the second half of Sunday’s win. Guard Graham Glasgow was already out for the season. Then, on Sunday, Denver misplaced backup sort out Calvin Anderson, who had been filling in for Garett Bolles, who was out with COVID-19. That left Quinn Bailey, who was known as up off the observe squad, blocking Joey Bosa. The Broncos appear to have lastly found an offensive identity as an influence operating workforce, however they’ll must get after which keep wholesome up entrance, particularly with an enormous AFC West recreation towards the Chiefs this week.
17. Minnesota Vikings (5-6)
Previous rank: 14
Week 12 consequence: Lost to the 49ers, 34-26
Problem space: Offense with out Dalvin Cook. The best-case situation for the Vikings is that the shoulder damage Cook suffered Sunday received’t preserve him out lengthy, as a result of Minnesota actually wants the operating again. Without Cook, the Vikings might want to lean more heavily on Kirk Cousins and focus much more consideration on receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. Perhaps Cousins is up for it: There are criticisms, however he’s had sturdy stretches this season, with simply three interceptions on greater than 400 passing makes an attempt.
18. Cleveland Browns (6-6)
Previous rank: 17
Week 12 consequence: Lost to the Ravens, 16-10
Problem space: Baker Mayfield’s sturdiness. Finally, the Browns get to relaxation this week. They’ve been battered this yr, and no participant is coping with extra aches and pains than Mayfield. It’s apparent in his play. He’s accomplished lower than 53 % of his passes in every of the previous three video games and is averaging lower than 7 yards per try in that span. He has additionally thrown three interceptions and fumbled twice (one misplaced) throughout this present tough stretch. Mayfield deserves credit score for his toughness and willingness to play by means of ache (in a contract yr), however coach Kevin Stefanski should resolve quickly if that is actually the very best course for the workforce because it tries to remain in the playoff race.
19. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5-1)
Previous rank: T-15
Week 12 consequence: Lost to the Bengals, 41-10
Problem space: Quarterback. The Steelers’ problems are extensive right now, so Ben Roethlisberger is hardly the one difficulty. And whereas he’s nonetheless the very best quarterback choice on the Steelers’ roster — we noticed as a lot once they tied the Lions with out him in Week 10 — he’s hardly been good. And in Week 12, he was very dangerous: two interceptions (together with an unpleasant decide six) and three sacks, whereas finishing simply 58.5 % of his throws. Roethlisberger has did not common greater than 7 yards per passing try in seven of his 10 begins. So now, because the Steelers attempt to cling to relevance within the AFC, in addition they have to be reckoning with the top of the Roethlisberger period, one thing they most likely ought to have thought of extra completely after final season.
20. Washington Football Team (5-6)
Previous rank: 23
Week 12 consequence: Beat the Seahawks, 17-15
Problem space: Consistent quarterback play. Washington is scoring at a greater charge within the purple zone than it was within the first few months of the season. But with the Raiders, Cowboys (twice) and Eagles (additionally twice) forward, is Taylor Heinicke constant sufficient for Washington to problem for a playoff spot? He’s given the Football Team a spark at times, however he additionally has three multi-interception video games this season and solely 4 multi-touchdown video games.
21. New Orleans Saints (5-6)
Previous rank: 19
Week 12 consequence: Lost to the Bills, 31-6
Problem space: Injuries. Every workforce is banged up this time of yr, however the Saints are coping with too many accidents to key gamers to be aggressive proper now. On Thanksgiving, they performed with out their top two quarterbacks (Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill), their prime two operating backs (Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram) and a number of starters on the offensive line. They’ve additionally been with out broad receiver Michael Thomas all season. It’s powerful to understand how aggressive this workforce might have been this season, as a result of we haven’t seen the important thing gamers on the sphere wholesome on the similar time.
22. Miami Dolphins (5-7)
Previous rank: 24
Week 12 consequence: Beat the Panthers, 33-10
Problem space: Pass safety. The Dolphins have received 4 video games in a row and are second within the NFL in defensive EPA throughout that stretch. Miami’s protection is coming round, and Tua Tagovailoa has accomplished 80 % of his passes in back-to-back video games. The Dolphins are nonetheless preventing an uphill battle to make the playoffs, and the largest concern remains to be cross safety. They’re permitting strain on 39.5 % of dropbacks. Only the Seahawks are worse. Given Tagovailoa’s rising damage historical past, getting higher safety for his or her quarterback ought to be a precedence within the offseason.
23. Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)
Previous rank: 18
Week 12 consequence: Lost to the Giants, 13-7
Problem space: Turnovers. In their first 9 video games, the Eagles turned the ball over seven occasions. In their final three video games, they’ve turned the ball over six occasions. Jalen Hurts threw three interceptions in a loss to the Giants Sunday, however these weren’t the one pricey errors. Jalen Reagor, the workforce’s 2020 first-round decide, dropped game-winning touchdowns on back-to-back performs on the finish. Philly’s playoff likelihood is beginning to slip away, however with two video games towards Washington and others towards the Jets and Giants, the Eagles can climb again into rivalry in the event that they cease beating themselves.
24. Carolina Panthers (5-7)
Previous rank: 22
Week 12 consequence: Lost to the Dolphins, 33-10
Problem space: The passing recreation. The Panthers rank second-to-last in Football Outsiders’ passing offense DVOA. Translated: Only the Lions have a less-efficient passing offense. From Teddy Bridgewater final season to Sam Darnold earlier this season and now Cam Newton, Matt Rhule and his employees have been searching for an answer at quarterback. They have the most effective defenses in soccer and have run the ball properly at occasions, however the passing recreation goes to carry them again till they discover a solution at quarterback. With Christian McCaffrey now out for the season, the Panthers can’t flip to him to cowl up their offensive flaws.
25. Atlanta Falcons (5-6)
Previous rank: 27
Week 12 consequence: Beat the Jaguars, 21-14
Problem space: Both traces. Matt Ryan has been hit greater than any quarterback within the NFL. The operating recreation has been caught in impartial when Cordarrelle Patterson isn’t within the recreation. Atlanta’s offensive line has some points to work by means of, however it’s nonetheless a younger group. The Falcons are also final within the league in sacks and strain charge, in accordance with TruMedia. Dean Pees has schemed some blitzes, however the Falcons don’t have a cross rusher on the sting who strikes concern into opposing offenses. If Atlanta doesn’t take a quarterback within the first spherical of the 2022 NFL Draft, addressing both the offensive or line of defense can be a clever transfer.
26. Seattle Seahawks (3-8)
Previous rank: 25
Week 12 consequence: Lost to the Washington Football Team, 17-15
Problem space: The entire offense, some of the disappointing models in all the NFL this season. Monday’s efficiency was an abomination: Seattle had simply 5 first downs earlier than its last offensive possession started with 2:19 remaining, and 96 of its 267 complete yards got here on that one drive. The Seahawks can not persistently transfer the ball; they will’t run it, as Pete Carroll would favor; and Russell Wilson isn’t hitting the deep, explosive performs the way in which he’d like. There isn’t any simple repair right here, and Seattle is going through some main questions in consequence.
27. Chicago Bears (4-7)
Previous rank: 26
Week 12 consequence: Beat the Lions, 16-14
Problem Area: Coaching drama. The Thanksgiving win in Detroit might need quashed the nationwide dialog about Matt Nagy’s job status for every week, however it could be naive to suppose that’s the final we’ll hear about it, particularly with Arizona, Green Bay and Minnesota on the schedule within the subsequent three weeks. If issues go poorly towards the Cardinals and Packers, we are able to solely think about what the group will sound like at Soldier Field in a prime-time recreation in Week 15. Everything that occurs for the remainder of the season ought to be seen by means of the lens of what it means for the Bears’ future — one which doubtless doesn’t embody Nagy.
28. New York Giants (4-7)
Previous rank: 28
Week 12 consequence: Beat the Eagles, 13-7
Problem space: Offensive line. The Giants have a whole lot of drawback areas beneath coach Joe Judge, and firing offensive coordinator Jason Garrett received’t be a magic repair. Quarterback Daniel Jones might not be adequate (and might be out Sunday towards the Dolphins with a strained neck), however having one of many worst offensive traces in soccer definitely doesn’t assist.
29. New York Jets (3-8)
Previous rank: 31
Week 12 consequence: Beat the Texans, 21-14
Problem space: Zach Wilson’s supporting forged. The rookie quarterback hasn’t had a great start to his career. He was a turnover machine early within the season after which suffered an damage that saved him on the sideline for a month. If the Jets are going to maintain Wilson’s profession on monitor, they should proceed to spend money on the offensive line this offseason and discover one other cross catcher or two to assist raise this offense. They presently lack a reputable No. 1 receiver or No. 1 tight finish. They additionally need to rebuild the defense, so Joe Douglas has a whole lot of work forward of him.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9)
Previous rank: 30
Week 12 consequence: Lost to the Falcons, 21-14
Problem space: Passing offense and protection. According to Football Outsiders’ DVOA, the Jaguars rank thirty first in passing offense and twenty ninth in passing protection. They have some promising gamers within the secondary and a possible star at quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, however it’s truthful to surprise if the coach is placing this workforce able to win video games. Urban Meyer has admitted receivers are operating the flawed routes and that he didn’t know why operating again James Robinson was benched within the second half of the loss to the Falcons. His off-field points are one factor, however Meyer additionally hasn’t proven a lot promise on the sphere in Year 1.
31. Houston Texans (2-9)
Previous rank: 29
Week 12 consequence: Lost to the Jets, 21-14
Problem space: Offense. The Texans rank final in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric on that aspect of the ball. They’re final in speeding offense and thirtieth in passing offense. With an damage to Tyrod Taylor and uneven play from each Taylor and Davis Mills, this passing offense has been a disaster. Houston must discover a long-term reply at quarterback and encompass him with higher cross catchers than Taylor and Mills have been throwing to this season. The protection has turned a nook within the final month, however the offense remains to be holding this workforce again.
32. Detroit Lions (0-10-1)
Previous rank: 32
Week 12 consequence: Lost to the Bears, 16-14
Problem space: Jared Goff. We hate that all the pieces about this dreadful Lions season comes again to Goff, however all Detroit wanted was for him to carry down the fort at QB for 2 seasons whereas the rebuild took shape. Even that has confirmed to be an excessive amount of for Goff, who has been one of many worst quarterbacks within the league this yr. Tim Boyle wasn’t any higher in his one begin in Week 11, when Goff was out with an indirect damage, and David Blough went 0-5 beginning rather than the injured Matthew Stafford in 2019. So Goff’s the man for now … and doubtless subsequent yr as properly, because of monetary concerns.