Week 13 NFL Power Rankings: The Texans might be the class of the AFC
Kansas City has received most of the attention this season in the AFC due to the historic performance thus far of quarterback Pat Mahomes II. Even losses at New England and at the Los Angeles Rams in a classic haven't dimmed the spotlight on Kansas City.
But maybe the Houston Texans are the real class of the AFC. Winners of eight consecutive games, Houston (8-3) has not lost since dropping its first three games by a total of 15 points. The Texans' offense ranks 12th in the NFL and the defense ranks 8th. Compare that to third and 30th for Kansas City. That poor K.C. defense could become an issue in the playoffs.
Houston took firm control of the AFC South on Monday night by defeating Tennessee 34-17. The Texans have just one game remaining against a team with a winning record (Indianapolis), so 13-3 is a strong possibility.
The team has been further motivated by last week's passing of owner Robert McNair.
"The one thing Mr. McNair wanted was a winner," J.J. Watt told ESPN. "All he wanted was a winner. He wanted to win every week. He wanted a team that could win and bring a championship to this city. So to be able to win eight straight and to be able to win tonight for him was good, and we're going to try to keep doing that for him."
1. New Orleans Saints (10-1). Last week: 1.
Fentress says: As great as the Saints' offense has been this season the play of the defense, especially against the run, cannot be ignored. The Saints lead the NFL in run defense allowing just 73.2 yards per game and is tied with Chicago for the lead in yards allowed per carry (3.6). Stopping the run will payoff huge in the playoffs against any team looking to control the ball against the Saints.
2. Los Angeles Rams (10-1). Last week: 2.
Fentress says: The Rams had a week off to catch their breath after that track meet victory over Kansas City last Monday night. They return to action this week at Detroit and then face a big showdown at Chicago the following week.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2). Last week: 3.
Fentress says: Kansas City also had the week off following its 54-51 loss at the Rams. K.C. will pretty much have this week off as well when they play at Oakland. Kansas City’s biggest challenge now is to fend off the Los Angeles Chargers for the AFC West Division crown and to hold on to the best record in the AFC.
4. Houston Texans (8-3). Last week: 6.
Fentress says: The Texans took a two-game lead over Indianapolis and a three-game lead over Tennessee in the AFC South by defeating the Titans on Monday night. Houston has a real chance at catching Kansas City for the best record in the AFC, but at the very least could finish No. 2 ahead of New England.
5. New England Patriots (8-3). Last week: 5.
Fentress says: Rookie running back Sony Michel went for 133 yards in a win over the New York Jets on Sunday. The Patriots are 4-0 when he rushes for 98 yards or more and they are 1-3 when he does not. New England hosts Minnesota on Sunday.
6. Chicago Bears (8-3). Last week: 7.
Fentress says: Chicago has won five consecutive games and that streak should continue Sunday at the New York Giants. Then things get tougher with home games against the Rams and desperate Green Bay. Safety Eddie Jackson, who had a pick-six in the team’s Thanksgiving Day win at Detroit, has developed into one of the best playmaking defensive backs in the NFL.
7. Los Angeles Chargers (8-3). Last week: 8.
Fentress says: The Chargers bounced back from that hideous loss at home to Denver last week to destroy Arizona, 45-10. The Chargers have been getting by mostly by defeating the worst of the worst in the NFL, Arizona, San Francisco and Oakland, twice. We will see what the Chargers are made of this weekend when they play at Pittsburgh.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3-1). Last week: 5.
Fentress says: The Steelers followed up the Chargers’ loss at home to the Broncos by losing at Denver themselves. The loss could come back to bite Pittsburgh when AFC seeding starts taking shape. A win over the Chargers is greatly needed this weekend to also help keep Baltimore at bay in the AFC North.
9. Minnesota Vikings (6-4-1). Last week: 10.
Fentress says: The Vikings took over the top spot in the NFC wild card race with a win over Green Bay and Carolina losing to Seattle. Holding on to that position won’t be easy with two road games coming up at New England and at Seattle.
10. Seattle Seahawks (6-5). Last week: 12.
Fentress says: Seattle got its biggest win over the year Sunday at Carolina to firmly set itself up for a playoff run. The Seahawks have four of their final five games at home and virtual gimmie wins await against San Francisco (twice) and at home against Arizona.
11. Dallas Cowboys (6-5). Last week: 14.
Fentress says: Remember when QB Dak Prescott was a bust and the media was calling for coach Jason Garrett’s head? Sure you do. It was just three weeks ago. All of that nonsense has been put on hold following a three-game winning streak that has the Cowboys sitting atop the NFC East.
12. Indianapolis Colts (6-5). Last week: 13.
Fentress says: The Colts have now won four consecutive games and sped past the Titans for second in the AFC South. The Colts are tied with the Ravens for the second AFC wild card spot. Up next are games at Jacksonville and at Houston.
13. Baltimore Ravens (6-5). Last week: 16.
Fentress says: A win over Oakland has kept the Ravens in the wild card hunt, but for how long?
14. Carolina Panthers (6-5). Last week: 9.
Fentress says: Three consecutive losses have knocked the Panthers against the ropes. But they can get right with wins at Tampa Bay this week, and then at Cleveland.
15. Washington (6-5). Last week: 11.
Fentress says: QB Colt McCoy has played solid football but this team is lost without Alex Smith. Washington still must face the Eagles twice.
16. Denver Broncos (5-6). Last week: 20.
Fentress says: Don’t look now, but wins over the Chargers and Steelers have the Broncos back in the mix. The next four are against the Bengals, 49ers, Browns and Raiders. Look out!
17. Tennessee Titans (5-6). Last week: 15.
Fentress says: The Titans aren’t done, yet. Up next are home games against the Jets and Jaguars followed by a game at the Giants. Tennessee pretty much must win all three.
18. Philadelphia Eagles (5-6). Last week: 23.
Fentress says: The Eagles also aren’t quite done, yet. They must win their next two games against Washington and at Dallas.
19. Miami Dolphins (5-6). Last week: 17.
Fentress says: QB Ryan Tannehill returned but the Dolphins still lost 27-24 to the Colts. Miami's season will be on the line this week against Buffalo.
20. Green Bay Packers (4-6-1), Last week: 18.
Fentress says: Green Bay must win out and has a pretty soft remaining schedule.
21. Cleveland Browns (4-6-1). Last week: 24.
Fentress says: Cleveland won’t make the playoffs this season but the hiring of the right coach could produce a strong 2019.
22. Cincinnati Bengals (5-6). Last week: 19.
Fentress says: A loss to the Browns and losing QB Andy Dalton (thumb) for the season equals a wrap for the Bengals’ playoff hopes.
23. Atlanta Falcons (4-7). Last week: 22.
Fentress says: Loss at the Saints ended the Falcons' thin playoff hopes. Atlanta has too much talent to not be in the mix.
24. Buffalo Bills (4-7). Last week: 26.
Fentress says: QB Josh Allen has shown enough this season for Bills’ fans to be optimistic about the future.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7). Last week: 29.
Fentress says: QB Jameis Winston delivered in his latest return to the starting lineup. Then again, the Bucs were playing vs. San Francisco.
26. Detroit Lions (4-7). Last week: 21.
Fentress says: Loss to the Bears pretty much ended Detroit’s playoff hopes.
27. New York Giants (3-8). Last week: 25.
Fentress says: Rookie RB Saquon Barkley had 243 rushing yards over the past two weeks.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-8). Last week: 27.
Fentress says: This is now one of the greatest collapses in NFL history. From last season's AFC title game to a 3-1 start this season to losing seven consecutive games. Unreal.
29. New York Jets (3-8). Last week: 28.
Fentress says: The Jets have managed to score just 56 points in their last five games, all losses.
30. San Francisco 49ers (2-9). Last week: 30.
Fentress says: The team gave up on troubled LB Rueben Foster, a 2017 draft gamble that didn’t pan out.
31. Oakland Raiders (2-9). Last week: 31.
Fentress says: Forget about the lack of a pass rush, Oakland is dead last against the run (151.4 yards allowed per game).
32. Arizona Cardinals (2-9). Last week: 32.
Fentress says: The Cardinals cut two starters after 45-10 loss to the Chargers. Wow, that’s rough.