All-32: NFL Power Rankings Heading Into Week 12
Thanksgiving is when teams really start thinking about their playoff odds. We've been thinking about it for much longer, but Thanksgiving is the time to assess where each team falls in the standings. Right now there's one really good team atop the rankings, one close to complete team, and a whole bunch of contending teams with flaws. That's the type of year it's been. And in a year with two ties, we have our second tie of the year by nERD near the top of this list. Entering the week, seven teams have at least an 80 percent chance of making the playoffs and another two are above 70 percent.
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: -10.41, Record: 0-11, Last Week: 32)
31. San Francisco 49ers (nERD: -8.84, Record: 1-9, Last Week: 31)
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (nERD: -6.75, Record: 2-8, Last Week: 28)
29. Chicago Bears (nERD: -6.55, Record: 2-8, Last Week: 29)
28. Los Angeles Rams (nERD: -5.84, Record: 4-6, Last Week: 29)
The next era of Los Angeles Rams football officially started on Sunday with the first start of rookie Jared Goff. Unfortunately, it looked a lot like the old era of Los Angeles Rams football. Under a rare rain storm in Los Angeles, Goff was inconsistent and inaccurate on his passes as he finished the day 17-of-31 for 134 yards. His -0.22 Passing NEP per play in Week 11 was worse than only Carson Palmer, who had a -10.62 expected point swing by throwing a 100-yard pick-six.
Goff’s feet were rarely set and many of his passes sailed high over his receiver’s head, even when he was targeting players other than Tavon Austin. That Austin -- the least efficient receiver in the league by Reception NEP per target -- was only targeted twice, might have been the highlight of the passing game in Week 11.
One bright spot for the Rams was the alight re-emergence of Todd Gurley. Gurley finished with just 76 yards on 20 carries, but he had a 24-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter, which is his long run for the season. However, he still remains the least efficient back, ranks last in Rushing NEP per attempt among 27 running backs with at least 100 carries on the season.
27. New York Jets (nERD: -4.48, Record: 3-7, Last Week: 26)
26. Indianapolis Colts (nERD: -3.67, Record: 5-5, Last Week: 27)
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (nERD: -2.79, Record: 5-5, Last Week: 24)
24. Detroit Lions (nERD: -2.67, Record: 6-4, Last Week: 25)
23. Pittsburgh Steelers (nERD: -2.18, Record: 5-5, Last Week: 22)
22. Houston Texans (nERD: -2.05, Record: 6-4, Last Week: 21)
21. Baltimore Ravens (nERD: -1.81, Record: 5-5, Last Week: 23)
20. Tennessee Titans (nERD: -1.37, Record: 5-6, Last Week: 18)
19. Cincinnati Bengals (nERD: -1.16, Record: 3-6-1, Last Week: 20)
The bottom has fallen out on the Cincinnati Bengals. In a year with a winnable AFC North, the Bengals can’t find a way to put everything together. An offense that was one of the best in the league last season is just 14th in Adjusted NEP per play and has been hit with injuries throughout the season. Early on, it was the loss of Tyler Eifert, but just this past week, Giovani Bernard was lost for the year and A.J. Green suffered a hamstring injury, though it’s not as serious as first believed.
Without the surrounding talent of last season, Andy Dalton has regressed as a passer. Dalton was first among quarterbacks in Passing NEP per drop back last season, but he’s just 16th this year. He’s not making mistakes like turning the ball over, but his process in the pocket is more rushed than last year, which causes him to flee too early or freeze and take a sack. Dalton’s sack rate has gone up from 4.9 percent in 2015 to 7.5 percent in 2016. Part of that also is the quality of the offensive line, which has gone from allowing the sixth-lowest pressure rate in 2015 to 23rd this season, per Sports Info Solutions charting data from Football Outsiders.
At 3-6-1, the Bengals have just a 14.8 percent chance of making the playoffs. If there’s one silver lining, the first-round playoff exit streak for Marvin Lewis and the Bengals will finally be snapped.
18. Green Bay Packers (nERD: -0.48, Record: 4-6, Last Week: 13)
17. Carolina Panthers (nERD: -0.46, Record: 4-6, Last Week: 19)
16. Miami Dolphins (nERD: -0.18, Record: 5-5, Last Week: 17)
A 6-4 record is probably better than anyone, including those around the team facility, imagined for the Miami Dolphins through 10 games. It hasn’t been a pretty 6-4, evidenced by the most recent game against the Rams, but it still is 6-4. Even with that, the Dolphins have just a 39.2 percent chance of making the playoffs thanks to the stacked AFC West, which is likely to send two Wild Card teams to the playoffs along with the division winner.
Even if Miami doesn’t make it to the postseason, there’s been plenty to like about the team under first-year head coach Adam Gase. Jay Ajayi has been able to lead the running game and has been the best back in the league, per our metrics, leading the way in Rushing NEP per play. The Dolphins as a team rank third in Adjusted Rushing NEP per play.
Ryan Tannehill has flashed some incredible plays, but he’s also showed some of the downfalls that make Tannehill what he is and not one of the top stars in the league. Gase, though, appears to know exactly what he has in his quarterback and what his limitations are. Not every head coach is that aware, as crazy as that may seem.
Through 11 weeks, the Dolphins are the model league average team on the field. They’re 15th in Adjusted NEP per play on offense and 13th in Adjusted Defensive NEP per play. That might not be enough to get them into the playoffs, but it’s enough to build upon for the future.
15. Kansas City Chiefs (nERD: -0.17, Record: 7-3, Last Week: 16)
14. New York Giants (nERD: 0.39, Record: 7-3, Last Week: 15)
13. Oakland Raiders (nERD: 1.22, Record: 8-2, Last Week: 14)
For as much as the Oakland Raiders have been winning, they haven’t ranked too highly in these rankings. The No. 13 spot right now is the highest the Raiders have been in nERD this season. That ranking is due to a lot of close wins. While Oakland sits at 8-2 and currently holds the No. 1 seed in the AFC, they have the point differential of an expected 5.7-win team -- a 2.3-win difference. Last season, only two teams finished the year more than two expected wins above their point differential -- the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. While the Broncos are on track for the playoffs, neither team has been able to follow up the success of last season.
Oakland has also been down in the rankings because of a defense that’s been among the worst in the league. The Raiders have the 29th-ranked defense by Adjusted Defensive NEP per play, which could be a problem against better offenses. Those won’t likely come until the playoffs, though, as the Raiders have a favorable schedule through the end of the regular season. Among Oakland’s remaining opponents, only the Buffalo Bills have a top-15 offense, per Adjusted NEP per play.
While the Raiders have an 86.8 percent chance of making the playoffs, we only have them with a 46.5 percent chance of winning the division. The 7-3 Broncos are still close behind at 35.2 percent. Denver also has better Super Bowl odds at 9.4 percent, compared to Oakland’s 5.9 percent chance, which is the sixth-highest mark in the league.
12. New Orleans Saints (nERD: 2.05, Record: 4-6, Last Week: 12)
11. Buffalo Bills (nERD: 2.76, Record: 5-5, Last Week: 10)
10. San Diego Chargers (nERD: 3.18, Record: 4-6, Last Week: 9)
9. Arizona Cardinals (nERD: 3.20, Record: 4-5-1, Last Week: 8)
8. Washington Redskins (nERD: 3.86, Record: 6-3-1, Last Week: 11)
7. Atlanta Falcons (nERD: 3.96, Record: 6-4, Last Week: 6)
6. Philadelphia Eagles (nERD: 4.29, Record: 5-5, Last Week: 3)
Through the span of a few weeks, the Philadelphia Eagles have gone from one of the most dominant teams in the league to the fringe of playoff contention. The Eagles, despite ranking sixth in the league by nERD, have the unfortunate pleasure of being in this year’s toughest -- or at least top two --division. At 5-5, the Eagles are in last place in the NFC East, even though that would lead the AFC North. They currently have a 25.3 percent chance of making the playoffs.
Philly’s defense has been what’s made them one of the better teams in the league. The unit ranks second in Adjusted Defensive NEP per play, thanks in part to one of the best front fours in the league. The Eagles are sixth in the league for sack rate but first in defensive pressure rate, per Sports Info Solutions charting. Brandon Graham is having a breakout season. He’s fourth in the league with 21.5 pressures, despite having just five sacks.
The offense, though, has been what’s holding the Eagles back over the past few weeks. Carson Wentz has looked more like a rookie lately than he did during his first few starts. Among signal callers with at least 100 drop backs, Wentz is 21st in Passing NEP per drop back and 25th in Success Rate -- the percentage of plays that positively impact NEP. Wentz could certainly be helped out more by his supporting cast, though that help won’t be coming much this season. Among 66 wide receivers with 50 or more targets, Tavon Austin is the only player to be less efficient than Nelson Agholor by Reception NEP per target.
5. Minnesota Vikings (nERD: 4.47, Record: 6-4, Last Week: 7)
4. Denver Broncos (nERD: 4.90, Record: 7-3, Last Week: 4)
t-2. New England Patriots (nERD: 5.62, Record: 8-2, Last Week: 2)
t-2. Seattle Seahawks (nERD: 5.62, Record: 7-2-1, Last Week: 5)
1. Dallas Cowboys (nERD: 8.33, Record: 9-1, Last Week: 1)