Week 12 NFL Power Rankings: Steelers, Texans and Bears on the rise
The New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City have been the clear class of the NFL this season with New England still operating as a viable Super Bowl contender.
Lurking below that foursome are Houston, Pittsburgh and Chicago. All three have control of their respective divisions and have combined to win 17 consecutive games.
But just how good are the Steelers (7-2-1), Texans (7-3) and the Bears (7-3)? Could one of them truly make a run at the Super Bowl or are they merely the leaders of the second tier of NFL teams. Time will tell. In the AFC, the Patriots certain are vulnerable and Kansas City, despite it's amazing offense, has one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
In the NFC, however, the top two teams don't appear to be as vulnerable. Can anyone at this point really imagine Chicago or maybe a Dallas going into Los Angeles or New Orleans and winning? It seems unlikely.
Still, the top of the NFL is rounding into shape.
1. New Orleans Saints (9-1). Last week: 1.
Fentress says: The Saints are ridiculous. They are not even giving opponents a glimmer of hope. The 48-7 destruction of Philadelphia was something to behold. N.O. has scored 144 points over its last three games. Amazing.
2. Los Angeles Rams (10-1). Last week: 2.
Fentress says: The Rams survived to win the game of the century (well, maybe just decade) over Kansas City on Monday night, 54-51. The most important part of the win is that it kept the Rams within striking distance of earning home field advantage over the Saints.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2). Last week: 3.
Fentress says: For the second time this season, Kansas City’s defense got exposed. New England took down K.C., 43-40 earlier this season and last night the Rams won a shootout over Kansas City in Los Angeles. Coach Andy Reid’s offense is on fire but the defense is not Super Bowl worthy.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-2-1). Last week: 6.
Fentress says: The Steelers survived to win 20-16 at struggling Jacksonville but the fact that they came back from being down 16-0 against a solid defense on the road was ultimately a good sign.
5. New England Patriots (7-3). Last week: 4.
Fentress says: The Patriots, who have lost three road games, now must consider that they could not only find themselves on the road at Kansas city in the AFC championship game but could also have to contend with playing at Pittsburgh or at Houston in an earlier round if they don’t get their act together.
6. Houston Texans (7-3). Last week: 7. Fentress says: The Texans have now won seven consecutive games. They could put the AFC South on lockdown with a win this week over Tennessee on Monday Night Football. Four of Houston's final six games are at home where the Texans are is 3-1.
7. Chicago Bears (7-3). Last week: 9.
Fentress says: Chicago earned by far its best win of the season Sunday night over Minnesota to take control of the NFC North. Next up are games at both Detroit and the New York Giants, making 9-3 a real possibility.
8. Los Angeles Chargers (7-3). Last week: 5.
Fentress says: Very disappointing loss to Denver at home on Sunday. Unacceptable. No way this team will be a legitimate threat to K.C., Pittsburgh or New England.
9. Carolina Panthers (6-4). Last week: 8.
Fentress says: Going for a two-point conversion down 20-19 at Detroit with just over a minute remaining was gutsy and it backfired. Now the Panthers must look over their shoulder in the NFC wild card race.
10. Minnesota Vikings (5-4-1). Last week: 10.
Fentress says: The Vikings remain the No. 2 NFC wild card team behind Carolina but now must worry about several teams behind them, namely Seattle, Dallas and Green Bay. Minnesota hosts the Packers on Sunday.
11. Washington (6-4). Last week: 11.
Fentress says: QB Alex Smith broke his leg 33 years to the day when former Washington QB Joe Theismann suffered one of the most famous leg breaks in sports history. Backup Colt McCoy looked solid in relief but Washington is in big trouble moving forward.
12. Seattle Seahawks (5-5). Last week: 14.
Fentress says: Seattle’s run game is elite, the defense is solid and QB Russell Wilson is, well, Russell Wilson. The Seahawks control their own fate with games remaining at Carolina (Sunday) and in December at home against Minnesota.
13. Indianapolis Colts (5-5). Last week: 16.
Fentress says: QB Andrew Luck has thrown three or more touchdown passes in seven consecutive games. He is quietly putting together an MVP caliber season and has the Colts in playoff contention.
14. Dallas Cowboys (5-5). Last week: 17.
Fentress says: Dallas has won two straight and with Washington QB Alex Smith done for the season, the Cowboys have a chance to steal the NFC East.
15. Tennessee Titans (5-5). Last week: 12.
Fentress says: Very disappointing showing for the Titans in a 38-10 loss at Indianapolis in which QB Marcus Mariota injured his elbow. Playoff hopes are in jeopardy. Again.
16. Baltimore Ravens (5-5). Last week: 18.
Fentress says: Win over Bengals saved the Ravens from their free fall.
17. Miami Dolphins (5-5). Last week: 17.
Fentress says: Fighting to remain in the hunt.
18. Green Bay Packers (4-5-1), Last week: 18.
Fentress says: The Packers, still alive, have not won a road game and have three more remaining.
19. Cincinnati Bengals (5-5). Last week: 19.
Fentress says: The Bengals began the season 4-1 and have since gone 1-4.
20. Denver Broncos (4-6). Last week: 20.
Fentress says: Broncos now just one game behind deep crew of 5-5 teams in wild card hunt.
21. Detroit Lions (4-6). Last week: 25.
Fentress says: Win over Carolina was shocking but can the Lions shock again Thursday against the Bears? It's a must-win for Detroit.
22. Atlanta Falcons (4-6). Last week: 19.
Fentress says: Atlanta won three straight games to get into the playoff hunt and then promptly lost two consecutive games to fall to two games under .500. Next up: at the Saints. D.O.N.E.
23. Philadelphia Eagles (4-6). Last week: 21.
Fentress says: Crushed at New Orleans, the Eagles must win their next two at home against the New York Giants and Washington in order to have a playoff shot.
24. Cleveland Browns (3-6-1). Last week: 22.
Fentress says: Defeating in-state rival Cincinnati on the road this week is quite possible.
25. New York Giants (3-7). Last week: 30.
Fentress says: Don’t look now but the Giants have won two straight games. So what if they came against San Francisco and Tampa Bay.
26. Buffalo Bills (3-7). Last week: 24.
Fentress says: QB Josh Allen is expected to return this week against the New York Jets.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7). Last week: 26.
Fentress says: Jacksonville will stick with QB Blake Bortles because, quite frankly, a better option doesn't exist.
28. New York Jets (3-7). Last week: 28.
Fentress says: QB Sam Darnold will likely not play this week against New England due to a foot injury.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-7). Last week: 27.
Fentress says: QB Jameis Winston should start the rest of the season in order for Tampa Bay to figure out what it has in the former No. 1 overall pick. Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the answer.
30. San Francisco 49ers (2-8). Last week: 31.
Fentress says: As of now, the 49ers would have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft because they have the worst strength of schedule of the 2-8 teams.
31. Oakland Raiders (2-8). Last week: 32.
Fentress says: The Raiders traded WR Amari Cooper and have ost their other top three receivers to injury.
32. Arizona Cardinals (2-8). Last week: 29.
Fentress says: RB David Johnson got his first 100-yard game of the season going for 137 in loss to the Raiders.