Week 13 NFL Power Rankings – Pittsburgh Still At The Top, Where Is Seattle?

This is the strangest NFL season we’ve ever seen, and soon a whopping fourteen teams will earn playoff spots. The longest Week 12 in NFL history just concluded, so let’s power rank the league with an eye on the playoffs. Onward!

1. Pittsburgh Steelers: Unbeaten for the first time through eleven games in franchise history. Big Ben put on a clinic Wednesday afternoon. The defense was monstrous, despite one blown coverage assignment in the fourth quarter. And Mike Tomlin has officially outperformed, surpassed and perhaps grown wiser than his old mentor coaching Tony Dungy. No surprise this team has the best point differential in the league: 129. They’ll play Buffalo in two weeks, on Sunday night. And I can’t wait.

2. Kansas City Chiefs: Backflips into the end zone? Go ahead, man. Tyreek Hill is simply untouchable. Travis Kelce is unstoppable. Andy Reid continues to evolve. And they’re winning big games on the road, with ease – and with flair. Right now, KC has the best passing offense in football: 314 yards a game. One fluke of a loss to Las Vegas is their only stumble so far. Patrick Mahomes has only thrown three interceptions, 2 against Vegas, 1 against Tampa. Painful to admit this, given how much I revere Russell Wilson, but Mahomes is the new front runner for MVP.

3. Buffalo Bills: They’ve only lost to the Titans, Chiefs and Cardinals, and all are guaranteed or at least have a good chance of playing in the post season. Not to mention, the Bills humbled the Seahawks in the first half of their earlier matchup. Do you remember? The Bills didn’t punt. They didn’t turn the ball over. They just racked up first downs. They dropped a ruthless 24 on Ken Norton and the Legion of Whom? Through a combination of turnovers, notably picking off Russ twice, and their constant pass rush plus many clever coverage schemes, Buffalo made the already immortalized, first half of the season MVP, Russell Wilson, appear, well, human. I will say this again and again, because it bears repeating: Josh Allen looks like John Elway. And his two best targets Cole Beasley and Stefon Diggs are lethal downfield. Plus Diggs is on the verge of setting several franchise receiving records.

4. Seattle Seahawks: I won’t say who (it was my mom, if you can believe it?) but some Hawks fans around my circle may have complained about what was not exactly something more than a lackluster win last week in Philly. Although, to me, a win, is a win, is a win. On the road, in prime time, playing a dirty team too; the Eagles committed multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against DK Metcalf. But guess what? It didn’t work. He torched the Eagles. Seattle now leads the most exciting division in the league, superstacked NFC West once again. And barring the fluke Carson Wentz Hail Mary TD way deep in garbage time, I saw nothing but reason for unbridled optimism because the Hawks actually had a championship caliber team on the field. Now, three reasons why Hawks fans should gear up for a serious run at potentially representing the NFC in the Super Bowl. Reason 1: there is a pass rush, 6 sacks against the Eagles, and 7 tackles for a loss. Reason 2: there were consecutive forced three and outs against the Eagles. I imagine there will be more, many more. And Reason 3: don’t get me started on DK Metcalf. The now purple haired giant, with gaudy numbers and more hype and more receiving yards and TDs through his first two seasons than his Doppelgänger – and is therefore verifiably better than – Megatron. There, I said it. Numbers don’t lie. What’s more,  Russell Wilson just became the QB with the most wins through his first 9 seasons in NFL history. Linking with Metcalf for 177 yards en-route to overtaking the legendary Peyton Manning, Wilson boasts a staggering 94 victories, and counting.

5. Green Bay Packers: No one should disregard their loss to the Vikings, or their pummeling they took in Tampa. And I mention these setbacks up front so that we may somewhat temper the hype they’ve earned by absolutely obliterating the Chicago Bears. (I also had to say it because the Football Gods know I utterly despise Packers fans. Plus Aaron Rodgers is basically the reason why sacking the QB isn’t nearly as much fun anymore.) All that being said, the Pack leads the league in scoring – just south of 32 points per game. They’re getting much better at exactly the right time. And they only have one major test before the playoffs, a game against the Titans on Sunday Night Football, two days after Christmas. Therefore, credit where credit is due, though this kills me more than a little bit, they may – and I think they stand a great chance to – take the top seed in the NFC. 

6. New Orleans Saints: After New Orleans went 1-2 through three games, I used one of my favorite lines from an, “I Think You Should Leave,”  sketch in whimsically imagining Sean Payton’s hyperbolical and hypothetical internal dialogue, “…So then if it flies out the window? I’m toast!” I thought the team was feckless. But I was wrong. Therefore the theme of their season is, “Who knows?” Seriously. There is no other rational reaction other than, Who knows what this team can do? Are they great? I’m not sure they are. Without Brees under center, it’s just weird, kind of slipshod, no? Kamara’s hurt, though I consider him still an elite back in the league. The defense is more than robust and well fortified. But, as I said, who knows? Hill seems like a better QB starter option. Except, he isn’t Payton’s go-to guy. Maybe Jameis Winston will earn some odd sort of redemption after last year’s blind (he received corrective eye surgery in the off season) gunslinging down field in Tampa, with a very deep playoff run leading his new team, maybe taking down his old Bucs in the process. And then we can all wonder what the hell is happening as we watch Winston look us dead in the eye, through the camera, again and again and again, shove his extra large throwing hand’s W-shaped fingers into his warping cheeks and mouth during pre-game highlights in an effort to, well, once more, I don’t know, inspire? “Eat a W.” I don’t know, man…

7. Tennessee Titans: Derrick Henry was so unbelievably good in high school, the local league officials invented a new and extremely specific mercy rule to prevent Henry from demoralizing the other amateur athletes: if his team went up by 21 points, Henry had to come out, sit out on the sideline until the other team caught up. Despite all that, Henry managed to rack up over 12,000 yards and 153 TDs in his four high school seasons. 

8. Los Angeles Rams: Seems the only thing LA does well consistently is defeat the Seahawks. Against the Dolphins, they could put together nothing on offense. Then San Francisco demolished the Rams, for all intents and purposes, when  San Francisco had no right to, nor any talent available to pull it off – or so we thought. They could potentially turn on the jets and blaze a path to the NFC Championship game because their defense is still the best in the NFL – Donald and Ramsey remains horrifyingly talented – but will they? Their biggest test seems to be their game on the road, in Seattle, just two days after Christmas, where I can almost assure anyone the game’s conditions will be cold, wet, and nasty. Can anyone say, “Rock fight?”

9. Cleveland Browns: The Browns are 8-3. No, you are not hallucinating. This is real, very, very real. ESPN gives them a 32.7% of victory against a Tennessee team with an identical record. Maybe that’s all we need to know by how unreal their playoff bound squad seems to the league as a whole. As of now, they are the only team five games over five hundred with a negative point differential. 

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tony Romo won over the entire nation with his savant play calling prediction prowess the first season he commentated in-game for CBS. After Tampa lost to KC on Sunday, Romo said, “I expect to see these two teams playing on this same field in the Super Bowl.”No matter how flawless Romo’s track record of predictions are, I don’t buy it for a second. This Tom Brady Bucs team does not show up in big games. They’ve only won a single game in prime time this year, and that was against the Giants. Twice they’ve fallen to the Saints. Once to the Chiefs. And does anyone remember their loss to the Bears? They have a ton of great pieces on offense, but it just isn’t good enough to explain a record two games over five hundred this deep in the season. Maybe after their bye week they bounce back. 

11. Miami Dolphins: After starting the year 1-3 by losing to Seattle, Buffalo and New England, things changed rapidly. Miami went on a tear, winning 5 in a row and 6 out of 7. They stopped the Rams on nearly every drive. They beat the brace off San Francisco. And Tua won the young gun battle against Murray. This team is very, very young. Brian Flores said today Tua is a game-time decision. To me, this means, if he doesn’t play against the Bengals, he’ll most certainly start against KC.

12. Minnesota Vikings: When the Vikings nearly stunned the Seahawks on Sunday Night Football before Seattle hit the bye week 5-0, I thought Minnesota may just have been the best 1-4 football team I’d ever seen. They are loaded with talent. They’re getting hot and they’re getting lucky too. That’s a downright dangerous combination for the same team that needed no luck whatsoever to crush Green Bay. WR, Adam Thielen was just activated, and back from the Covid list. He now joins an Dalvin Cook led offense that held possession of the ball for near forty minutes against Seattle. Cook has the most rushing TDs, 13, and is second in the league in total rushing yards.

13. San Francisco 49ers: They handed LA their very first SoFi Stadium loss. And it was a thriller. The Niners had no business sticking around, let alone controlling and dominating their most recent game. They are so banged up on both sides of the ball, one could make the argument that at full strength they’d potentially sit atop the NFC West. As it stands, they’ll need to string together whatever they can and adapt to new Covid-19 restriction that bar the use of their home stadium and practice facilities while they continue digging up improvisational skills they may not have known they had – they play three out of their next four games in Phoenix. 

14. New England Patriots: A win is a win, but, wow – were they ugly or what? Cam Newton is not playing well at all. It’s true, their signature wins have come against decent teams, Vegas, Arizona, Baltimore. But they might miss the playoffs. Their third behind Buffalo and Miami. In 3 of their next 5 games they will play the Rams, Bills and Dolphins. So Cam needs to play better than 26th best in the league if the Pats want to have a shot of sneaking in to the playoffs via the Wild Card.

On the brink.

15. Arizona Cardinals: The high point of the upstart, unforeseen Arizona Cardinals rollercoaster was unquestionably the, “Hail Murray.” I won’t say I saw coming what happened next. But some strong teams peak way too early and fall off then continue falling. They were smothered in Seattle. And the evil hooded mastermind found more ways than one, and certainly enough grit to derail and stall the most popular bandwagon team’s velocity for another week. Arizona needs to sweep the season series against the Niners and split with LA if they want a real shot at the playoffs.

16: Baltimore Ravens: They nearly stunned the league’s only unbeaten team with a skeleton crew. Since losing to the Chiefs, they’ve played worse and worse. The offense can’t find continuity nor explosiveness. They’ve just seemed off. Lamar Jackson will come back, maybe not stronger right away, but certainly with something fresh and rejuvenated enough to improve upon his dreadfully mediocre first half of the season. Many high profile league scenarios repeat themselves. So here is another one to consider; when he was several years out of the league, in coming back, Michael Vick reminded everyone why he will always be one of the greatest rushing QBs ever. I expect Jackson will muster fire enough to do something similar, something spectacular. Guaranteed.

17. Indianapolis Colts: The defense is excellent and exceeding expectations. That much I think we can all agree upon. This very low ranking for a 7-4 team may surprise some avid fans, but I do not trust Phillip Rivers for a second. He will not win a Super Bowl during his playing career. So anything he does is a moot point. 

And now the rest of the league.

18. Las Vegas Raiders
19. Chicago Bears
20. Washington Football Team
21. Atlanta Falcons
22. New York Giants
23. Houston Texans 
24. Detroit Lions 
25. Carolina Panthers
25. Philadelphia Eagles
26. Los Angeles Chargers 
27. Denver Broncos
28. Cincinnati Bengals
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
30. New York Jets

About Jackson Pappin 50 Articles
Jackson Pappin is a freelance writer. A 2018 WSU Edward R. Murrow College of Communication alumni, he writes fiction, journalism, columns, essays and poetry. His work has been published in Anastamos, The Oregonian, The Spokesman Review, The Seattle P.I. Reader Blogs, The Daily Evergreen, The Central Circuit, LandEscapes and at the Spectra Art Gallery. His writing is available at https://jacksonpappin.blogspot.com

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