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NFL Power Rankings Week 12: Chiefs soar, Patriots continue climbing, and Browns tumble

The NFL Power Rankings for Week 12 went under the knife for some serious reconstructive surgery. Teams have run out of excuses at this point.

NFL Power Rankings Week 12 | Tier 2: I think these are playoff teams, but who really knows

We can see the pieces in each organization that makes these teams playoff contenders, but none have played consistent enough football to inspire confidence in a long postseason run.

14) Minnesota Vikings

I predicted a close game between Minnesota and Green Bay because that’s the type of game the Vikings play. I knew they matched up better against the Packers than many gave them credit for, but if you were to tell me that Aaron Rodgers threw for nearly 400 yards and 4 touchdowns in a Vikings win, I would have called you a liar.

Luckily, Kirk Cousins and offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak remembered that Justin Jefferson guy is effectively uncoverable and planned accordingly against Green Bay. Cousins went toe to toe with Rodgers, and aside from the interception he tried to throw on the game-winning drive, he was nearly flawless.

13) Buffalo Bills

I have no clue what to do with this football team. The Bills are endlessly talented. They have what we all believed was a great coaching staff. Josh Allen was nearly the MVP in 2020. Yet, in 2021, Buffalo has been repeatedly inconsistent offensively, something that we didn’t see last season.

Their defense has been wonderful all year, but the team continues to shoot themselves in the foot with dumb penalties and turnovers.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see Buffalo in the Super Bowl come February. But right now, I can’t trust them to show up and score points on a weekly basis. I know the offensive line isn’t great, but with the weapons at their disposal, there really shouldn’t be any excuse.

12) Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are imposing their will on teams offensively, and it’s absolutely beautiful to watch. Jonathan Taylor is a legitimate Offensive Player of the Year contender, if not the outright leader. The Colts didn’t blow the Bills out of the water with massive plays. There was even a spell where they ran it 10 straight times.

They just kept doing it. Indianapolis turned around and handed the ball to Taylor, and he obliged by picking up a chunk and then scoring in the red zone. Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills played another sloppy game offensively, and it put them in a hole in a hurry.

There’s no question the Bills shot themselves in the foot, but the Colts have now won four of their last five games. Their only loss came against the Titans, who had a run of 6-0 themselves before meeting the vaunted Houston Texans.

11) Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals dominated the time of possession against the Raiders, and they converted on their money downs in a way Las Vegas could only dream of. Joe Burrow’s long for the day was just 17 yards, something I would have said was impossible given he and Ja’Marr Chase’s relationship earlier in the season.

The Bengals spent a good chunk on defensive free agents, and they hit on a large portion of those calls. However, the offense has been underwhelming since its hot start. Things haven’t gone as smoothly since the Baltimore game, but that doesn’t mean they can’t find their groove in the future.

10) Los Angeles Chargers

There are two teams you can almost set your watch to disappoint you late in the fourth quarter of a game. The Chargers and the Falcons can have their names used as verbs, and everyone will know exactly what you mean.

With about 10 minutes left in the game, it looked like 5.5 points was a given cover for the Chargers, but they went and decided “Chargering” was more important. A blocked punt started the party, but they went right down the field and scored to thwart that momentum.

But there was too much game left. A funky interception seemed to change Los Angeles’ fate, and then a missed fourth-down conversion seemingly sealed it.

But Justin Herbert, or more accurately, the Steelers’ defensive miscommunication, flipped the page once again. This is a talented football team with one of the most impressive young talents in the league at quarterback. But they still have to fight off the curse the franchise has long been under. They won, but it was incredibly ugly at the end.

NFL Power Rankings Week 12 | Tier 1: Talented teams we can’t trust

These are the top teams in the NFL, but none have felt obligated to separate themselves yet. Hopefully, some clarity is provided over the next few weeks.

9) Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens came away with a tough win against the Chicago Bears. They were without Lamar Jackson, whose run of illnesses is becoming a bit of an eyebrow-raiser.

He needs to return healthy because, for as fun as Tyler Huntley is, he has a long, long way to go before he’s a viable option to win multiple football games as a backup.

Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale smelled blood in the water against Chicago. He knew that the Bears’ offensive line has struggled with complex pressure packages, and he dialed them up during this game, putting Chicago’s quarterbacks under siege.

8) Tennessee Titans

After two years of analytical love, it appears losing Derrick Henry and Julio Jones has, in fact, been enough to derail Ryan Tannehill’s efforts. The Titans’ offense has looked bad for three straight weeks.

They beat the Rams because they got turnovers early, and their defense stepped up without their star runner. Unless they can find some success using play-action, I’m not sure how Tennessee’s passing attack becomes sufficient, even with A.J. Brown.

However, it would be foolish to ignore the quality wins on their schedule. As with seemingly every NFL team in 2021, we have to take a wait-and-see approach to this offense. But it feels like the old Tom Moore legend when talking about Peyton Manning — except it’s about King Henry instead.

7) New England Patriots

The Patriots might not be the best team in the AFC, but they’ve played like it over the past few weeks. They’ve rattled off five wins in a row, and their only loss came to the Dallas Cowboys in a one-score battle.

Mac Jones has been outstanding in his rookie campaign. He’s doing everything he needs to within the offense and is showing more ability to use his legs to pick up first downs than he ever did at Alabama.

I don’t believe the Patriots are a team that’s built to come from behind. But if you allow them to dictate the game flow, you’re going to have a bad time. Obviously, New England is disciplined defensively, and their backs and tight ends harken back to football’s past. They continue their meteoric rise in the NFL Power Rankings for Week 12.

6) Dallas Cowboys

Once again, the top teams in the NFL Power Rankings lose. This feels like a weekly occurrence at this point. My rankings might be cursed, or the NFL might just be the weirdest entity in sports right now.

The Cowboys’ offense was flat-out bad against Kansas City. Dak Prescott was off all day, and losing Amari Cooper before the game (and CeeDee Lamb right before halftime) was too much for them to overcome.

But Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones can now claim the Cowboys’ offensive line as dependents on his taces. He destroyed each and every one of them, including future Hall of Famer Zack Martin.

Dallas’ defense held up well, despite allowing the Chiefs to move the ball decently throughout the contest. Micah Parsons is special, but that doesn’t take the sting away from Cowboys fans.

5) Green Bay Packers

Despite the loss of Aaron Jones, the Packers’ offense was able to move the ball at will against the Vikings’ defense. Rodgers had an outrageous day throwing the pigskin, and AJ Dillon did more than enough on the ground to soften the blow of losing their highly compensated RB.

Defensively, Green Bay fell apart. Even though they got to Cousins a few times, they were unable to really slow down the Vikings’ passing attack. They did a fine job defending the run overall, but the secondary finally felt the loss of Jaire Alexander in a big way.

Losing to Minnesota isn’t as bad as it looks. They’re a good football team that’s found themselves in some bad situations in close games. In fact, The Vikings’ defense came into the day looking strong. We can be wary of the Packers’ defense, but the offense woke up when it needed to.

4) Los Angeles Rams

The Rams’ bye week came at an opportune time. They’d dropped two in a row, and their offense looked awful in both contests. Matthew Stafford has struggled with turnovers early in games, and Los Angeles hasn’t been able to claw back.

We know Sean McVay’s record with the lead at halftime. But truly elite teams, like the Chiefs in the past few years, perform that way because no deficit is too much to overcome. With the Packers up next, the Rams must return to their former selves and find some offensive efficiency.

3) Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs are back. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is back with a vengeance. Chris Jones has awoken, once again becoming the dominant player we knew he was. The addition of Melvin Ingram has left its mark, but Frank Clark popping out from his coffin like The Undertaker to say hello to the Cowboys’ offensive line makes Kansas City’s front somewhat dangerous.

We know the offense can get the job done, but they suffered a few blunders against Dallas, and the Cowboys took advantage. Nobody picks up first downs and touchdowns like the Chiefs. They’ve truly been their own worst enemy.

The numbers will tell you Kansas City’s offense has it. Before Week 11, despite the turnovers, they were still the top team in terms of EPA/play. Now, it appears they’re back to playing complementary football.

Watch out, NFL. The Chiefs are skyrocketing up the NFL Power Rankings, landing in the top three for the first time in a long time.

2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers needed to stop their two-game skid, and they did so in dramatic fashion against the Giants. The game stayed close on the scoreboard in the first half, but it never felt that close.

A fluke interception off of Mike Evans’ chest got the game to 10-10 a little before the half, but it felt like Tampa Bay did everything in their power to keep it that close. Once they came out in the second half and stopped making some untimely mistakes, the better team showed itself.

The Bucs also got Sean Murphy-Bunting back, which is a big step toward the right direction for the back end of that defense, which has been riddled with injuries.

1) Arizona Cardinals

This might legitimately be the best team in the NFL. The NFL Power Rankings have been difficult recently because there has been so much randomness in the league. The Cardinals have only lost two games, and one of them was without starting quarterback Kyler Murray.

But in a must-win game for Seattle, the Cardinals came out without Murray and DeAndre Hopkins and won. It was ugly at times, but they won this game pretty handily all the same.

Colt McCoy has filled in beautifully for Murray, and with a bye week upcoming, the Cardinals should feel good about possibly securing the top seed in the NFC come playoff time.

Dalton Miller is the Lead NFL Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can read more of his work here and follow him @daltonbmiller on Twitter and Twitch

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