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NFL Power Rankings: Week 12

NFL Power Rankings: Bill Belichick

NFL Power Rankings: Bill Belichick

Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

Normally around this time of year, the playoff race is starting to clarify and you see plenty of separation between the haves and the have nots in the NFL. After another weekend where there were only a handful of upsets though, there are a lot of teams still in the hunt for the postseason thanks to a burgeoning middle class.

Doing as much as one can to sort through all that and factoring in everything from overall roster strength, to quarterback play, to the coaching staff, here is the latest edition of NFL power rankings and where every team stacks up from 1 to 32.

Week 12 NFL Power Rankings

1. Philadelphia Eagles

Last week: 1

NFL Power Rankings: Eagles

That epic second-half run in Dallas further solidified the Eagles as the best team in the NFL and all but locked up the NFC East title. Carson Wentz and crew are aiming higher though and the increasing pressure put on them by the Saints doesn’t appear to be affecting them.

2. New England Patriots

Last week: 2

The game may have been south of the border but it was the same old ho-hum victory for the Pats, who are now on a six-game winning streak and have their defense playing as good as they have been in a long time. Given the upcoming slate though, we won’t really know how good this group is until mid-December and maybe not even then.

NFL Power Rankings: Patriots

3. New Orleans Saints

Last week: 3

NFL Power Rankings: Saints

That furious overtime rally to beat Washington was impressive but you can’t help but wonder why the team wasn’t clicking early. Still, this was the first time in a few weeks where the Saints needed Drew Brees (above, right) to be the gunslinger of old and he came through to run the amazing streak to eight wins in a row.

4. Minnesota Vikings

Last week: 5

NFL Power Rankings: Vikings

That game against the Rams had a playoff-type atmosphere at the home of this season’s Super Bowl and the defensive effort after allowing the early score was a thing of beauty for Mike Zimmer’s squad. Given the way that Case Keenum is playing and the chemistry he’s developed with the receiving corps, you wonder if he’ll stick around well past this year in the Twin Cities.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers

Last week: 6

NFL Power Rankings: Steelers

The running game might have been the lone area that wasn’t clicking like it should have against the Titans on Thursday night but that was an otherwise terrific effort from Big Ben and company. This defense isn’t just physical, it’s fast and flying around all over and might be a huge part of Mike Tomlin’s best team since the title-winner of a few years ago.

6. Los Angeles Rams

Last week: 4

NFL Power Rankings: Rams

That first scoring drive was a thing of beauty for the Rams. Then the rest of the game happened. Still, this is a young team that needs to be in those situations and need to find ways to respond, especially given the upcoming tests L.A. will face.

7. Carolina Panthers

Last week: 8

NFL Power Rankings: Panthers

The best division in football sure seems like it’s the NFC South and it was almost an awesome bye week for the Panthers had the Redskins held on to beat the Saints. That wasn’t the case, but getting healthy and resting up for a key stretch run in the next month was probably not a bad consolation prize.

8. Detroit Lions

Last week: 13

NFL Power Rankings: Detroit Lions

This team hasn’t really put together a full four quarters worth of sharp effort but they’ll need it with that big Thanksgiving game against the Vikings. If they can win that one, a division title certainly could be in the cards.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars

Last week: 10

NFL Power Rankings: Jaguars

Not sure there’s a team in the league who wouldn’t trade defenses for this unit, which are just dominant up front and have speed to burn on the back end. Quarterback play, as always, remains the glaring weakness and that was the case once again as they held off the Browns.

10. Atlanta Falcons

Last week: 14

NFL Power Rankings: Falcons

Beating the Seahawks on the road in Seattle during “Monday Night Football” is one of the more impressive wins of the year for the Falcons, which are really looking sharp on defense behind that monster pass rush. The running game isn’t quite where you want it to be but the offense seems to be in more of a rhythm right now than it was earlier in the season.

11. Tennessee Titans

Last week: 9

NFL Power Rankings: Tennessee Titans

You could tell a short week of prep after a bad performance and then going on the road to Pittsburgh was going to result in the Titans taking their lumps. They have a chance to get back to business the next few games against the bottom third of the league but will need better play out of QB Marcus Mariota going forward.

12. Kansas City Chiefs

Last week: 7

NFL Power Rankings: Chiefs

The most shocking result on Sunday was an easy one to spot: the Chiefs not showing up at all against the lowly Giants (and after all the Andy Reid off a bye week talk, no less). This is still a team that has a lot of weapons but this funk K.C. is in does not bode well given how mediocre the AFC West has turned out to be.

13. Dallas Cowboys

Last week: 11

NFL Power Rankings: Cowboys

Jerry Jones loves to make history but he would rather like to forget about that second half, at home, to a division leader that has reset expectations from Super Bowl to making a wild card game. We’ll see what the Cowboys are when they get back to full strength but they are barely keeping their heads above water.

14. Seattle Seahawks

Last week: 12

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks

Seattle sports radio probably would have loved to cover a big win over the Falcons but a week’s worth of debate over Pete Carroll’s decisions to run the fake field goal and use that challenge will be almost be worth it from a caller perspective. Still, that blown chance to pull back even with the Rams could be an issue given how well the NFC South teams have been playing.

15. Washington Redskins

Last week: 15

NFL Power Rankings: Redskins

Gutsy effort in a difficult environment against the hottest team in the league even if the result wasn’t what Jay Gruden and company wanted. This may not be the season Washington was expecting but the fight in this group is better than most would have predicted after the injury bug hit.

16. Los Angeles Chargers

Last week: 22

NFL Power Rankings: Chargers

It probably says plenty about the AFC this year but the Chargers are certainly not out of the hunt for a postseason bid given how they’re playing. While they took advantage of all those interceptions to run away on Sunday, a better test will be on Turkey Day as we see just how good that front seven really is in Big D against the Cowboys.

17. Baltimore Ravens

Last week: 17

NFL Power Rankings: Ravens

Back to .500 is a good thing and keeps this team in the running to extend their season into January. Still, they haven’t really beaten a good quarterback or top-notch team yet and really have benefitted from the soft schedule.

18. Oakland Raiders

Last week: 16

NFL Power Rankings: Raiders

This team is simply mediocre and the big flaws we’ve seen time and time again were really exposed against the Pats down in Mexico City. Yet because they’re in the AFC, there’s still a slim shot they can turn things around and get back into things.

19. Houston Texans

Last week: 27

NFL Power Rankings: Texans

Quality effort at home against the Cardinals was good to see but doesn’t mean much going forward. At least DeAndre Hopkins is must-see TV even if Tom Savage is the one throwing him the football.

20. Buffalo Bills

Last week: 18

NFL Power Rankings: Bills

What a frustrating experience that trip to LA must have been for Bills fans as Nathan Peterman had a nightmare of a first start. The way the whole thing was managed however, makes you wonder if the coaching staff has already proven to be in over their heads.

21. Green Bay Packers

Last week: 19

NFL Power Rankings: Packers

Brett Hundley is 1-5 as a starter but that game against the Ravens in Lambeau might have been the most disappointing. This team is clearly one that is only going to play spoiler down the stretch and that’s about it.

22. Arizona Cardinals

Last week: 23

NFL Power Rankings: Cardinals

Larry Fitzgerald is still fun to watch but that is about the only redeeming quality of tuning in to see the Cardinals slog through the rest of the season.

23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Last week: 24

NFL Power Rankings: Buccaneers

Not pretty, but a road win over their in-state rivals is always nice to have and even more so when you see some life out of Ryan Fitzpatrick. 

24. Cincinnati Bengals

Last week: 28

NFL Power Rankings: Bengals

Incredible to see that was the Bengals’ first win in Denver since 1975. The offense wasn’t much to write home about aside from okay play out of Andy Dalton however.

25. Miami Dolphins

Last week: 20

NFL Power Rankings: Dolphins

The head injuries aside, it’s pretty clear the Jay Cutler experiment has run its course and the Matt Moore show needs to continue. It might not be the inspiring option but it’s the one they have right now.

26. Denver Broncos

Last week: 21

NFL Power Rankings: Broncos

John Elway has only himself to blame for the current situation the team is in and firing your offensive coordinator prior to Thanksgiving won’t fix the issues at quarterback for the Broncos.

27. New York Jets

Last week: 25

NFL Power Rankings: Jets

The second-half stretch run following the Jets’ bye looks extremely rough but this is still a squad that is punching above the weight of their roster thanks to a career year from Josh McCown.

28. Chicago Bears

Last week: 26

NFL Power Rankings: Bears

Considering where this team is in the rebuilding phase, giving Mitchell Trubisky a chance to lead a late comeback (twice as it turned out) is good for his development. Still, that defense in the second quarter and down the stretch couldn’t make a play when it needed one.

29. New York Giants

Last week: 31

NFL Power Rankings: Giants

That overtime win against the Chiefs was the shocker of all shockers in Week 11 but injuries to D.J. Fluker, Orleans Darkwa and others could mean it will be a short-lived feeling.

30. Indianapolis Colts

Last week: 29

NFL Power Rankings: Colts

Coming off a bye, will those encouraging performances the past few weeks carry over? This team will be overmatched against the Titans and Jags but close games could be as good as wins this time of year for a team looking for another high draft pick.

31. San Francisco 49ers

Last week: 30

NFL Power Rankings: 49ers

Could we see Jimmy Garappolo make an appearance coming out of the bye? Hosting Seattle might not be the defense for him to make his debut against but it seems like we’re inching closer to that point.

32. Cleveland Browns

Last week: 32

NFL Power Rankings: Cleveland Browns

This team has four decent chances between now and Christmas to get a win and avoid an 0-fer season. Things don’t look great to avoid that prospect but we’ll see if the return of Josh Gordon will help provide a little boost.

— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.