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NFL Power Rankings Poll: Saints Still No. 1, Cowboys Climb Into Top 10

Our panel of eight voters ranks all 32 teams from the Saints to the 49ers.

Twelve weeks are in the books. We’re through all the bye weeks and every team has played the same number of games. Thursday Night Football will be the final NFL game of November. Next week we’ll be three-quarters of the way through every team’s schedule. But enough about the calendar.

It was a quiet week at the top of our rankings, with the top eight teams remaining the same and only two of them flip-flopping in the order. At this point we know who the best teams are. But below them some of the teams surging into the playoff picture are jockeying for position.

Our biggest jump this week came from the Broncos, leaping from a tie for 23rd up to 17th. Two other teams rose four spots: the Cowboys into ninth and the Browns into 23rd. The biggest drop came from the Jaguars, who fell seven spots. The Jags were No. 1 in these rankings after their Week 2 win over the Patriots. Now they are all the way down in 28th. That’s what happens when you’re 3-8.

This week's voters:

Andrew Brandt, Business of Football Columnist
Mitch Goldich, Producer /Writer
Gary Gramling, Senior Editor
Jonathan Jones, Staff Writer
Robert Klemko, Staff Writer
Bette Marston, Associate Editor
Mark Mravic, Executive Editor
Jenny Vrentas, Senior Writer

Blurbs by Mitch Goldich

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Last Week’s rank: 1
Points in poll: 224
Highest-place vote: 1 (8)
Lowest-place vote: 1 (8)
Last week: Win 31-17 vs. Atlanta
Next week: at Dallas

The Saints remain on top after taking care of business on Thanksgiving. The schedule does get tougher though, starting this week in Dallas. They close with Carolina twice plus Pittsburgh in the final three weeks. The race for the NFC’s top seed is going to be really fun, and also meaningful given the way the Saints play in their dome.

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Last Week’s rank: 2
Points in poll: 216
Highest-place vote: 2 (7)
Lowest-place vote: 3 (1)
Last week: Bye
Next week: at Detroit

The Rams had a chance to clinch the NFC West in November, but the Seahawks’ win delayed the inevitable. The Rams’ schedule isn’t quite as tough as the Saints’, but they also have less margin for error given that New Orleans owns the tiebreaker. But the Rams have a few potential speed bumps. It’s hard to imagine two teams in the same conference going 15-1, but the Rams could easily keep winning to keep the pressure on.


Last Week’s rank: 3
Points in poll: 210
Highest-place vote: 2 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 4 (1)
Last week: Bye
Next week: at Oakland

The Chiefs are still on top of the AFC, and gained a little cushion in their quest for a first-round bye thanks to Pittsburgh’s loss. Still, they want the top seed and would lose the tiebreaker to New England. Now they have Oakland after a bye week to get back in the win column, and you’ll hear all week about Andy Reid’s record coming out of the bye.

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Last Week’s rank: 5
Points in poll: 204
Highest-place vote: 3 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 4 (7)
Last week: Win 27-13 at New York Jets
Next week: vs. Minnesota

The Patriots rebounded from a loss with their trademark ho-hum, pull-ahead-by-two-touchdowns-late win at the Meadowlands. They clinched their 18th straight year at .500 or better, which is just insane.


Last Week’s rank: 4
Points in poll: 189
Highest-place vote: 5 (3)
Lowest-place vote: 8 (1)
Last week: Loss 24-17 at Denver
Next week: vs. Los Angeles Chargers

The Steelers’ six-game winning streak was bound to end at some point. They are still cruising toward a division title, but the top four seeds are bunched up closely. The Steelers figure to have some of the most entertaining games in the final month (Patriots, at Saints), as they always do. It starts with a flex-worthy game Sunday night against the Chargers.


Last Week’s rank: 6
Points in poll: 184
Highest-place vote: 5 (2)
Lowest-place vote: 8 (2)
Last week: Win 23-16 at Detroit
Next week: at New York Giants

The Bears are rolling, and believe it or not their point differential (+106) is only one point behind the Rams’. It makes life really easy when you can count on your defense to score a touchdown every week, they should try to keep doing that.


Last Week’s rank: T-7
Points in poll: 177
Highest-place vote: 5 (2)
Lowest-place vote: 11 (2)
Last week: Win 45-10 vs. Arizona
Next week: at Pittsburgh

The loss of Melvin Gordon really hurts. This is a perennially snake-bitten franchise that looked to be in great position heading down the stretch run. Having him back for the playoffs is the most important thing, but it’s not great timing before the Steelers’ game.


Last Week’s rank: T-7
Points in poll: 177
Highest-place vote: 6 (2)
Lowest-place vote: 10 (1)
Last week: Win 24-17 vs. Green Bay
Next week: at New England

The Vikings won practically a must-win game against the Packers. Now all they have to do is go to New England and Seattle in back-to-back weeks. But if they can win just one of those games, they’ll be set up to claim an NFC wild-card spot. Their fans aren’t giving up on the division, but that would be a pretty good outcome at this point in the season.


Last Week’s rank: 13
Points in poll: 161
Highest-place vote: 7 (2)
Lowest-place vote: 13 (1)
Last week: Win 31-23 vs. Washington
Next week: vs. New Orleans

The Cowboys became the favorites in the NFC East the moment Alex Smith went down, and they got a chance to back it up immediately. This week against New Orleans we’ll find if they might actually be NFC contenders.


Last Week’s rank: 9
Points in poll: 160
Highest-place vote: 5 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 14 (2)
Last week: Win 34-17 vs. Tennessee
Next week: vs. Cleveland

The Texans are as hot as anyone not named the Saints, after starting 0-3 and then reeling off eight straight wins. That’s half a schedule! And none of their five remaining opponents (Browns, Colts, Jets, Eagles, Jaguars) are currently in the playoff picture. Say hello to your AFC South champions; they might get a first-round bye and host Pittsburgh or New England in the divisional round.

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Last Week’s rank: 12
Points in poll: 160
Highest-place vote: 9 (3)
Lowest-place vote: 12 (2)
Last week: Win 30-27 at Carolina
Next week: vs. San Francisco

Here come the Seahawks, a team not a single MMQB writer picked to make the playoffs before the season. It feels like spirits being so high in Seattle right now means that Richard Sherman’s return to town this week is going to be particularly fun.

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Last Week’s rank: 10
Points in poll: 145
Highest-place vote: 9 (2)
Lowest-place vote: 16 (2)
Last week: Loss 24-17 at Minnesota
Next week: vs. Arizona

I was thinking about these Packers when I was marveling at the Patriots’ streak of 18 straight seasons at .500 or better. Sometimes teams with Hall of Fame quarterbacks just have a down year. But the Packers have real issues to fix. I wouldn’t want to face Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs if they run the table and win five straight, but there’s just not much reason to believe this year’s version will do it.

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Last Week’s rank: 14
Points in poll: 139
Highest-place vote: 11 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 15 (2)
Last week: Win 27-24 vs. Miami
Next week: at Jacksonville

The Colts found a way to win. Comeback Player of the Year Andrew Luck to NFL MVP Eric Ebron just seems to be an unbeatable combination, you know?


Last Week’s rank: 11
Points in poll: 134
Highest-place vote: 10 (2)
Lowest-place vote: 18 (1)
Last week: Loss 30-27 vs. Seattle
Next week: at Tampa Bay

The Panthers once looked capable of challenging the Saints for the NFC South. Now they may need to win one of their two games remaining with New Orleans just to get into the postseason. First things first, win in Tampa on Sunday or risk the whole thing spiraling away from them.


Last Week’s rank: 15
Points in poll: 134
Highest-place vote: 12 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 15 (3)
Last week: Win 25-22 vs. New York Giants
Next week: vs. Washington

The Eagles are not dead yet. There’s a whole NFL middle class that seems to have a new must-win game every week, and the Eagles are in it. Their next one comes at home on Monday night against Colt McCoy.


Last Week’s rank: 16
Points in poll: 125
Highest-place vote: 13 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 18 (1)
Last week: Win 34-17 vs. Oakland
Next week: at Atlanta

Lamar Jackson won again, and it just feels like the Ravens don’t have many options but to ride with him. Side note: I understand that it’s a tough business, but I’d hate to be the long-time head coach of a franchise and then get fired the year after drafting the QB of the future in the first round. Maybe playing Jackson helps save John Harbaugh’s job, even if not the Ravens’ season.


Last Week’s rank: T-23
Points in poll: 107
Highest-place vote: 16 (3)
Lowest-place vote: 20 (2)
Last week: Win 24-17 vs. Pittsburgh
Next week: at Cincinnati

That’s a potential season-saving win for the Broncos, who survived a 97-yard touchdown and a fake field goal touchdown to beat the Steelers. The AFC has four teams sitting at 5-6, and the Broncos are the only one trending up.


Last Week’s rank: 19
Points in poll: 101
Highest-place vote: 17 (3)
Lowest-place vote: 21 (2)
Last week: Loss 31-23 at Dallas
Next week: at Philadelphia

Redskins fans have hated our rankings all season. Now that they’ve given up the division lead and watched Colt McCoy throw three interceptions… they’ve actually gone up half a spot. But the Redskins are still in position for either the NFC East or a wild-card berth if they can beat Philly this week. It’s possible a full week and a half of prep makes life easier for Colt McCoy.


Last Week’s rank: 18
Points in poll: 101
Highest-place vote: 18 (4)
Lowest-place vote: 20 (2)
Last week: Loss 34-17 at Houston
Next week: vs. New York Jets

What a disappointing turn for this season to beat the Patriots and then lose two division games in a row by 28 and 17 points. Four AFC teams are 5-6 and the Titans have the worst conference record of the group.


Last Week’s rank: 17
Points in poll: 97
Highest-place vote: 17 (2)
Lowest-place vote: 21 (1)
Last week: Loss 31-17 at New Orleans
Next week: vs. Baltimore

The Falcons are pretty much cooked now. They’ve been a team our poll has ranked well above what their record would indicate all season, but that appears to be crashing down to earth too.


Last Week’s rank: 20
Points in poll: 80
Highest-place vote: 19 (2)
Lowest-place vote: 24 (2)
Last week: Loss 23-16 vs. Chicago
Next week: vs. Los Angeles Rams

The Lions have showed some fight at various times this season, but now they have enough players banged up to be double-digit underdogs at home against the Rams. It feels like the upset magic has probably run out.


Last Week’s rank: T-23
Points in poll: 75
Highest-place vote: 21 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 26 (1)
Last week: Loss 27-24 at Indianapolis
Next week: vs. Buffalo

Remember when the Dolphins were 3-0 and the Texans were 0-3? Yes, that was this year.


Last Week’s rank: 27
Points in poll: 73
Highest-place vote: 21 (2)
Lowest-place vote: 24 (1)
Last week: Win 35-20 at Cincinnati
Next week: at Houston

The Browns are one of the few teams here at the bottom that should be really excited about wins. Things are legitimately exciting right now. They scored 28 points in the first half for the first time since 1991. They won on the road for the first time in 26 tries. They’re talking playoffs. Crazier things have [probably] happened?

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Last Week’s rank: 22
Points in poll: 63
Highest-place vote: 20 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 28 (2)
Last week: Loss 35-20 vs. Cleveland
Next week: vs. Denver

Andy Dalton is done for the year and now the Bengals will have to make their annual decision to keep Marvin Lewis. After five straight years losing a wild-card game, this is now likely a third straight year missing the playoffs. Bengals fans: Which stretch is more frustrating?

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Last Week’s rank: 26
Points in poll: 53
Highest-place vote: 25 (5)
Lowest-place vote: 26 (3)
Last week: Win 27-9 vs. San Francisco
Next week: vs. Carolina

That may prove to be a costly win, given how many teams at the bottom of the draft order lost this week.


Last Week’s rank: 28
Points in poll: 51
Highest-place vote: 25 (3)
Lowest-place vote: 28 (1)
Last week: Win 24-21 vs. Jacksonville
Next week: at Miami

Remember when the Bills and Jaguars met in the playoffs 10 months ago? Well the Bills got their revenge, I guess. Most people who watched that 10-3 game thought both teams needed to get a new quarterback, and the Jaguars may be jealous that at least the Bills got a one-year head start.


Last Week’s rank: 25
Points in poll: 45
Highest-place vote: 24 (2)
Lowest-place vote: 28 (4)
Last week: Loss 25-22 Philadelphia
Next week: vs. Chicago

I told you last week that noise about the Giants staying alive in the playoff hunt was nonsense, and now their two-game winning streak is over. With eight losses, the Giants are now on their way to a fifth losing season in the last six years.


Last Week’s rank: 21
Points in poll: 41
Highest-place vote: 23 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 28 (1)
Last week: Loss 24-21 at Buffalo
Next week: vs. Indianapolis

The Blake Bortles benching is long overdue. That’s pretty bad self-scouting to enter the season with just Bortles and Cody Kessler without at least bringing in a more credible threat to compete for the job. Especially when so many people said this at the time.

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29. NEW YORK JETS (3-8)

Last Week’s rank: 30
Points in poll: 28
Highest-place vote: 29 (8)
Lowest-place vote: 29 (8)
Last week: Loss 27-13 vs. New England
Next week: at Tennessee

Our eight voters unanimously put the Jets in 29th, which feels oddly perfect for where they are right now. For most of the season, at least we’ve been able to say that at least they have their quarterback of the future. But playing out the string with Josh McCown doesn’t do much for anyone in a season that should be about developing Sam Darnold. Here’s hoping he’s back soon.


Last Week’s rank: 31
Points in poll: 18
Highest-place vote: 30 (5)
Lowest-place vote: 31 (3)
Last week: Loss 34-17 at Baltimore
Next week: vs. Kansas City

The Raiders moved up a spot this week, proving once again that you just never know how our voters will treat this bottom three. They didn’t get any votes for the bottom spot, so that’s nice I guess.


Last Week’s rank: 32
Points in poll: 13
Highest-place vote: 30 (2)
Lowest-place vote: 32 (4)
Last week: Loss 45-10 at Los Angeles Chargers
Next week: at Green Bay

The Cardinals actually led 10-0 after the first quarter. And then, well, you can see the final score.


Last Week’s rank: 29
Points in poll: 11
Highest-place vote: 30 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 32 (4)
Last week: Loss 27-9 at Tampa Bay
Next week: at Seattle

The 49ers have been bad enough that it’s hard to imagine simply inserting Jimmy G would fix all of their problems. They’ll have a high draft pick, and they could really use it.

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