All-32: NFL Power Rankings Heading Into Week 11
Week 10 brought what we all needed -- a great week of football. There were some great matchups between teams in the playoff hunt. The Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers delivered an insane ending, and the Sunday Night Football matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots was the most watchable and entertaining primetime game of the season.
As we're past the halfway point, we're getting better football on the field, and the better teams are starting to break out. At this point in the season, 10 teams have at least a 60% chance of making the playoffs, and 17 teams rank as above-average squads, per our nERD metric.
A weekly reminder, our power rankings aren’t subjective, they’re based off our nERD scores put together by people much smarter than me. For those unfamiliar, nERD is our calculation of how good a team really is, based on expected point differential against a league average team. If the team's nERD rating is 10, they would be expected to win by 10 points against a league-average opponent. All individually noted rankings are based off our Net Expected Points metric, which measures the value of each play on the field based on how an average team would be expected to perform, according to historical data.
Each week, we’ll list all 32 teams from worst to best with a more detailed breakdown of four different teams. The highlighted teams will rotate each week, which will lead to each team being featured two to three times during the course of the season.
32. Cleveland Browns (nERD: -10.88, Record: 0-10, Last Week: 31)
31. San Francisco 49ers (nERD: -9.10, Record: 1-8, Last Week: 32)
30. Chicago Bears (nERD: -6.52, Record: 2-7, Last Week: 25)
29. Los Angeles Rams (nERD: -6.20, Record: 4-5, Last Week: 29)
28. Jacksonville Jaguars (nERD: -6.12, Record: 2-7, Last Week: 30)
27. Indianapolis Colts (nERD: -5.46, Record: 4-5, Last Week: 27)
26. New York Jets (nERD: -4.97, Record: 3-7, Last Week: 26)
25. Detroit Lions (nERD: -3.55, Record: 5-4, Last Week: 24)
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (nERD: -3.51, Record: 4-5, Last Week: 28)
Tampa Bay’s jump here is thanks to a 26-point win over the Chicago Bears. The easiest way to make a leap in these rankings is in a one-week span is to blowout a bad team. It’s one of the best tells of a good team -- the ability to put away inferior opponents. We have enough information on the Bucs this season to know they’re not a good team, but when they’re on, there’s some promise.
That’s the case for Tampa as a whole, and Jameis Winston as a quarterback. Winston’s been up and down through the first season and a half in his career, and he’s shown more similarities to his Week 10 opponent, Jay Cutler, than a future top-five quarterback some were expecting. Winston is 19th among quarterbacks in Passing NEP per drop back, which is right around where he finished as a rookie last season. While he’s thrown touchdowns at a much higher rate this year (5.6 percent to 4.1 percent), he’s turning the ball over at the same rate (2.9 percent to 2.8 percent), and his yards per attempt has dropped from 7.1 to 6.7, which is 23rd among quarterbacks.
The Bucs promoted Dirk Koetter from offensive coordinator to head coach in order to keep continuity with Winston for his development. But that’s stalled this season while the No. 2 pick in that draft, Marcus Mariota, is thriving under very different circumstances.
23. Baltimore Ravens (nERD: -1.97, Record: 5-4, Last Week: 23)
22. Pittsburgh Steelers (nERD: -1.64, Record: 4-5, Last Week: 22)
21. Houston Texans (nERD: -1.51, Record: 6-3, Last Week: 19)
The Houston Texans aren’t a good football team. Luckily for them, being in the AFC South allows them to play a lot of other teams who are also not great at football. Houston moved to 6-3 on the season after a 24-21 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. With that three-point win, the Texans have been outscored by 27 points on the season, which is the fourth-worst point differential in the AFC and typically nets just 3.7 wins. Houston is currently the No. 3 seed in the conference. While the Titans have finally overtaken the Texans in our rankings, Houston’s banked wins still give them a 76.6 percent chance of making the playoffs.
Houston’s defense is still a top-10 unit and the main reason this team is able to hang around in games. They’re currently eighth in Adjusted Defensive NEP without J.J. Watt, because they’ve gotten production from others along the line like Whitney Mercilus, who leads the team in sacks, and Jadeveon Clowney.
There’s only so much the defense can do, though, to counter how poorly the offense has played, a unit that ranks 30th in Adjusted NEP per play. Brock Osweiler continues to be a problem with the dynamic duo of poor awareness and bad accuracy. Among 35 quarterbacks who have dropped back at least 100 times this season, Osweiler is 33rd in Passing NEP per drop back.
20. Cincinnati Bengals (nERD: -1.33, Record: 3-5-1, Last Week: 17)
19. Carolina Panthers (nERD: -0.31, Record: 3-6, Last Week: 18)
18. Tennessee Titans (nERD: -0.04, Record: 5-5, Last Week: 21)
17. Miami Dolphins (nERD: 0.16, Record: 5-4, Last Week: 20)
16. Kansas City Chiefs (nERD: 0.37, Record: 7-2, Last Week: 15)
During Andy Reid’s tenure with the Kansas City Chiefs, the team has been good and vastly underrated. Typically, Kansas City has been in the top 10 of our nERD rankings while comfortably finishing second behind the Broncos in the division. This year, they’re still in second (to the Oakland Raiders) and playing good football, but they’re slightly underperforming their typical level of play. Through 10 weeks, the Chiefs are just 16th in these rankings and are only an expected 5.5-win team by point differential, despite an actual 7-2 record.
Kansas City has a 72.1 percent chance of making the playoffs, due in large part to one of the best defensive units in the league. The Chiefs rank fifth in Adjusted Defensive NEP per play, and they haven’t had Justin Houston on the field for a defensive snap yet this season. They’re getting great performances on each level of the defense. Dee Ford has broken out with 10 sacks this season, Derrick Johnson is still a tackling machine at 34 years old, and Marcus Peters is again a turnover waiting to be forced in the secondary, including the strip of Kelvin Benjamin that set-up the game-winning field goal against Carolina with just 29 seconds remaining in Sunday’s game.
The Chiefs have played well, but have a tough stretch coming after a Week 11 meeting with Tampa Bay. Starting in Week 12, they’ll travel to Denver and Atlanta, then host the Raiders. At 7-2, there’s some wiggle room, but a rough stretch in those three games could make the race for the final playoff seed in the AFC much closer than it currently looks to be now.
15. New York Giants (nERD: 0.39, Record: 6-3, Last Week: 16)
14. Oakland Raiders (nERD: 1.12, Record: 7-2, Last Week: 14)
13. Green Bay Packers (nERD: 1.16, Record: 4-5, Last Week: 10)
12. New Orleans Saints (nERD: 1.70, Record: 4-5, Last Week: 13)
11. Washington Redskins (nERD: 2.42, Record: 5-3-1, Last Week: 12)
Kirk Cousins is putting up great numbers, but he's in a really good spot. If we think of the Cowboys as the ideal place for a running back to succeed, that’s what Washington has right now for a quarterback.
Between the offensive line and the wide receivers, the job for a quarterback is made much easier. Jamison Crowder is 10th in Reception NEP per target among receivers with 50 or more targets on the year. Of Crowder, Cousins told the Washington Post, “I feel like sometimes he makes me a more accurate quarterback with the way that he chases down the football and brings it in.”
DeSean Jackson missed last week’s game with a shoulder injury, but Cousins spoke about the impact Jackson has on his throws too. “It's not just that he's fast ... he gives you a lot of room for error. He can compete for the ball in the air," he told ESPN.
And that’s what we’ve seen from Cousins so far, a quarterback who has been getting a lot of help from what’s around him while doing pretty well in his own right. Washington will host Green Bay, but then face three straight road games -- at Dallas, Arizona, and Philadelphia -- which will test both Cousins and the Washington team that currently holds the No. 6 seed in the NFC.
10. Buffalo Bills (nERD: 2.70, Record: 4-5, Last Week: 11)
9. San Diego Chargers (nERD: 3.54, Record: 4-6, Last Week: 3)
8. Arizona Cardinals (nERD: 3.71, Record: 4-4-1, Last Week: 8)
7. Minnesota Vikings (nERD: 3.77, Record: 5-4, Last Week: 6)
6. Atlanta Falcons (nERD: 3.96, Record: 6-4, Last Week: 5)
5. Seattle Seahawks (nERD: 4.81, Record: 6-2-1, Last Week: 9)
4. Denver Broncos (nERD: 4.90, Record: 7-3, Last Week: 4)
3. Philadelphia Eagles (nERD: 5.33, Record: 5-4, Last Week: 7)
2. New England Patriots (nERD: 5.98, Record: 7-2, Last Week: 2)
The Patriots are actually beatable with Tom Brady at quarterback. In reality, all that loss did was add a tally in the right column in the standings. New England still sits at No. 2 in these rankings and are the clear favorite in the AFC. The Seahawks gave the Patriots a tough game, but there’s not many teams who could play New England like Seattle did last Sunday night.
There is one concern for the Patriots, which is the defense. The Pats rank just 14th in Adjusted Defensive NEP per play, and their inability to create a pass rush has been a major factor. New England is currently 29th in sack rate -- though they are 18th in pressure rate, per Sports Info Solutions charting data from Football Outsiders.
New England does have the offense to carry an average defense, even if Rob Gronkowski does have to miss some time. Among tight ends to see at least 30 targets, Martellus Bennett is third in Reception NEP per target, and he was just fine as the lone tight end early in the season. Brady is still the best quarterback in the league -- first in Passing NEP per drop back -- when he’s not off making legendary commercials.
Through the rest of the season, the schedule looks pretty favorable for the Patriots, too. They get the San Francisco 49ers in Week 11, and the only opponent they might not be favored against will be Denver, which is a Week 15 road matchup.
1. Dallas Cowboys (nERD: 8.17, Record: 8-1, Last Week: 1)