NFL Power Rankings: Ravens, Patriots reign supreme in AFC
Two teams in the AFC are so far ahead of the rest, it’s not even funny.
Aside from the Ravens and Patriots, there are 14 piles of inconsistency and cluelessness to choose from when trying to stack them all in order of potency and competency. The Ravens have already dislodged the Patriots in this hypothetical ordering of the best teams in the conference.
This five-game string of wins starting with a triumph at Seattle is the most impressive run by a non-Patriots team in the AFC since the 2013 Broncos went off at the start of the year. It’s fascinating to watch.
16. Cincinnati Bengals (0-11)
The Bengals are going back to Andy Dalton. They have five games to secure a win and avoid the 0-fer. Who’s gonna cough it up? Jets this week? Miami in Week 16 might be their best chance but it’s in Miami. Fascinating stuff.
(Last three rankings: 16, 16, 16)
15. New York Jets (4-7)
They’ve now won three in a row and scored 34 in each of them. They have the Bengals and Dolphins back-to-back. Like Cleveland, the Jets can make a little run here at the end and put some lipstick on the pig of a season they had going. I’m still holding a grudge from their losing to Miami, Jacksonville and the Patriots in consecutive weeks. But they are 4-7. So they go up next week. Unless they lose to Cincy. Then I put them 16.
(Last three rankings: 15, 15, 15)
14. Miami Dolphins (2-9)
After a beating from the Browns following a beating by the Bills, the Dolphins host a desperate Philly team this Sunday. I have Miami higher than I ought to. If they get blasted again, they got to slide down one.
(Last three rankings: 14, 14, 14)
13. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7)
They are getting pummeled routinely now — a 42-20 loss to the Titans on Sunday when they allowed 159 yards to Derrick Henry and got carved up by Ryan Tannehill and rookie receiver A.J. Brown, who is becoming a big-play problem for teams. This team has nosedived since the 2017 AFC Championship Game in New England. It happens.
(Last three rankings: 11, 13, 13)
12. Denver Broncos (3-8)
Suffered the fate so many teams do when crossing the Mississippi left to right. Went to Buffalo and laid an egg. God, they are impotent offensively. They now stand at 3-8 and are casting about trying to figure out what they want to do at quarterback.
(Last three rankings: 10, 11, 11)
11. Cleveland Browns (5-6)
They’ve won three straight and are 5-6. With Pittsburgh, Cincy (two times) and Arizona on the schedule (and the Ravens), they have a shot at making a run. Maybe another year of Freddie Kitchens would be fun. Just saying.
(Last three rankings: 13, 12, 12)
10. Los Angeles Chargers (4-7)
They are 4-7 and coming off their bye have to travel to Denver and Jacksonville. Does Philip Rivers have enough gas left in his tank to stave off the inevitable replacing that seems to be looming?
(Last three rankings: 8, 8, 9)
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)
Lost by 14 to the Browns. Beat the horrific Bengals by a mere six and had to sweat it out to get it done. They are 6-5 and this week get Cleveland at their place after the War By the Shore (of Lake Erie) two weeks ago.
(Last three rankings: 9, 9, 8)
8. Tennessee Titans (6-5)
Now they got themselves to 6-5 with the win over the Jags. Their fate’s in their own hands though with Indy, Oakland and Houston on the road and home games with the Saints and Texans. A playoff appearance for Mike Vrabel in his second season in charge after benching Marcus Mariota?
(Last three rankings: 12, 10, 10)
7. Indianapolis Colts (6-5)
So they lost. For the third time in four games. They are now in tiebreaker hell with the Steelers, Raiders and Titans all at 6-5 as well. In five of the 10 games he started and finished, Jacoby Brissett’s thrown for fewer than 200 yards. Since October 6, he’s thrown five TDs and two picks and four of the TDs came in one game.
(Last three rankings: 5, 7, 6)
6. Oakland Raiders (6-5)
They finally let me down. Week after week they rolled off those resourceful wins or turned in credible performances in tough circumstances. Then they get rolled by the Jets 34-3. Not mad. Just disappointed in the 6-4 Grudenaires as they now visit the Chiefs.
(Last three rankings: 6, 4, 4)
5. Houston Texans (7-4)
They took out the Colts a week after completing laying down in Baltimore against the Ravens with a chance to challenge for the No. 2 seed in the conference. This week they get the Patriots on Sunday Night Football. The Texans (7-4) won’t see a Patriots offense as beat up as the one Dallas couldn’t take advantage of. As such, they can’t be kicking field goals all night. I’d go for it against the Patriots defense on fourth down every time I’m outside my own 35 and need three yards or less. You can’t count on them making a mistake on offense or in the kicking game and you have to find a way to extend drives. You can’t dig a hole and hide, Billy O. Stephon Gilmore on De’Andre Hopkins will be a treat.
(Last three rankings: 3, 3, 6)
4. Buffalo Bills (8-3)
What a litany of crap teams and quarterbacks these guys have seen. A procession of sub-mediocrity that has them 8-3 and back up to No. 4. This week, they took out Brandon Allen and the Broncos. They lost to the Browns and got waxed by the Eagles. Only Arizona has a lower strength of victory than Buffalo’s .239 (21 wins among their 11 opponents). Over the next four weeks, if they go 2-2 I’ll be stunned: at Cowboys, Ravens, at Steelers, at Patriots.
(Last three rankings: 7, 8, 7)
3. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
Week off, they didn’t do themselves any damage. They now come off their bye at 7-4 with three out of five at home down the stretch. Raiders at home then a trip to New England ahead. They should be able to hold onto first in the AFC West.
(Last three rankings: 4, 5, 3)
2. New England Patriots (10-1)
They will be better offensively than they were the past two weeks. Signs of life in the running game — which we saw Sunday — will go further than anything we saw from the rookie wideouts. But the most important asset this team has right now is its collective IQ. Chance to show that once again on Sunday.
(Last three rankings: 1, 1, 2)
1. Baltimore Ravens (9-2)
You’d be a moron if you were unimpressed by what Lamar Jackson’s doing — although there’s a limit to anyone’s ability to withstand the three-hour gushfest “Booger and Tess” unleashed Monday night. Also impressive? Since beating the Patriots, there hasn’t been one indication the Ravens are satisfied with their rise. They’ve rolled off three impressive wins since. Game of the week coming up against the Niners.
(Last three rankings: 2, 2, 1)