All-32: NFL Power Rankings Heading Into Week 13
As we're now past Thanksgiving, the NFL playoff picture should start to become more clear. That's kind of been the case, but not quite.
There are six teams with at least an 80 percent chance of making the playoffs, but there are a few question marks after that. We also have possible division winners that just aren't great football teams right now. Our teams ranked No. 23, 24, and 25 in this week's rankings all have a lead in their respective division. And for the third time this year (and second week in a row), there's a tie by nERD towards the top of the list.
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: -10.77, Record: 0-12, Last Week: 32)
The Cleveland Browns probably aren’t going to win a game this season.
We’ve seen this coming for some time, but as the Browns head into their Week 13 bye, the possibility is much more probability. For Cleveland’s four remaining games, their highest win probability is in Week 14 against the Cincinnati Bengals at 27.7 percent. In Week 17, the Browns have a 25.9 percent chance of beating the Pittsburgh Steelers, odds that could change wildly depending on what Pittsburgh has to play for.
No team ever wants to go 0-16, but the Browns might be better positioned than most to handle the future. As the draft order stands right now -- it will change -- Cleveland has the No. 1 and No. 12 overall pick, thanks to the 2016 draft trade with the Philadelphia Eagles.
While the Browns are last in nERD and winless, they aren’t the worst in any one area, though they’re close. Cleveland has the No. 27 offense by Adjusted NEP per play and the No. 31 defense by Adjusted Defensive NEP per play. That’s not great, but it’s also workable. Much of the offense is young, including last year’s first round pick Corey Coleman, who just returned from a hand injury and made Janoris Jenkins -- one of the league’s best corners this year -- look silly in coverage against the New York Giants on Sunday.
This won’t be a quick rebuilding process -- there probably isn’t even a quarterback worth taking with Cleveland’s first round picks -- but there’s young pieces to build upon on this roster.
31. San Francisco 49ers (nERD: -8.43, Record: 1-10, Last Week: 31)
30. Los Angeles Rams (nERD: -8.02, Record: 4-7, Last Week: 28)
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (nERD: -6.39, Record: 2-9, Last Week: 30)
28. Chicago Bears (nERD: -6.06, Record: 2-9, Last Week: 29)
27. Indianapolis Colts (nERD: -5.39, Record: 5-6, Last Week: 26)
All hope the Indianapolis Colts had of coming back to win the AFC South likely vanished when Andrew Luck was ruled out of the Thanksgiving night game against the Steelers with a concussion. Scott Tolzien did what he could, but max-Scott Tolzien is not ideal for an NFL team in the playoff hunt. He was far from the only problem, but his -0.09 Passing NEP per drop back was tied for the third-worst performance of the week at starting quarterback.
At 5-6, Indianapolis has just a 12 percent chance of making the playoffs, 11.9 percent of which comes from taking the AFC South. The Colts do get the New York Jets on Monday Night Football, but with that game on the road, it’s close to a tossup by our numbers -- 48.7 percent win probability for Indianapolis.
Not all has been bad for the Colts, though. Indianapolis ranks 12th in Adjusted NEP per play on offense, which is somewhat surprisingly led by the seventh-best running game by Adjusted Rushing NEP per play.
The defense has been the biggest letdown for the team. They’re the worst defense in the league by Adjusted Defensive NEP per play. The defense has gotten the fifth-best average starting field position in the league, but has given up the most yards per drive and fourth-most points per drive of any team.
With the talent on offense, the team could get by with a below-average defense, especially with the current construction of the AFC South. But there’s a big gap between below average and league-worst. That’s been a big piece in keeping the Colts from playoff contention in 2016.
26. New York Jets (nERD: -4.49, Record: 3-8, Last Week: 27)
25. Houston Texans (nERD: -2.34, Record: 6-5, Last Week: 22)
24. Baltimore Ravens (nERD: -1.92, Record: 6-5, Last Week: 21)
23. Detroit Lions (nERD: -1.83, Record: 7-4, Last Week: 24)
22. Tennessee Titans (nERD: -1.70, Record: 6-6, Last Week: 20)
At No. 22 by nERD, the Tennessee Titans are the highest ranked team in the AFC South. Watch any game of theirs and it wouldn’t be hard to come to the same conclusion. But, the Titans enter their Week 13 bye with just a 22.3 percent chance of winning the division. The Houston Texans, who are just a half-game up in the standings, are still the favorite at 66.7 percent.
Tennessee is a borderline top-10 offense this season, ranked 11th by Adjusted NEP per play. True to Mike Mularkey’s vision, the Titans have the third-lowest pass-to-run ratio in the league while having just the 12th-highest average lead per play on offense. On a per-play basis, though, the passing offense has been much more efficient than the run. On the ground, the Titans rank 18th in Adjusted Rushing NEP per play, but eighth in Adjusted Passing NEP per play.
We've discussed Marcus Mariota's development this season before, but it bears repeating just how well he's played. He’s currently seventh among quarterbacks in Passing NEP per drop back, barely behind popular MVP-candidate Derek Carr.
Even with that play, Tennessee is an underdog in the division due to its upcoming schedule, which is much tougher than the Texans. Both teams play the Jacksonville Jaguars, but Tennessee’s schedule includes games against the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, while the Texans get the Colts, Bengals, and Packers before the two teams meet in Tennessee for Week 17.
21. Miami Dolphins (nERD: -0.82, Record: 7-4, Last Week: 16)
20. Cincinnati Bengals (nERD: -0.68, Record: 3-7-1, Last Week: 19)
19. Kansas City Chiefs (nERD: -0.58, Record: 8-3, Last Week: 15)
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (nERD: -0.47, Record: 6-5, Last Week: 25)
17. Carolina Panthers (nERD: -0.45, Record: 4-7, Last Week: 17)
16. Pittsburgh Steelers (nERD: -0.23, Record: 6-5, Last Week: 23)
15. New York Giants (nERD: 1.06, Record: 8-3, Last Week: 14)
14. Oakland Raiders (nERD: 1.22, Record: 9-2, Last Week: 13)
13. Green Bay Packers (nERD: 1.38, Record: 5-6, Last Week: 18)
12. Arizona Cardinals (nERD: 1.63, Record: 4-6-1, Last Week: 9)
11. Philadelphia Eagles (nERD: 2.36, Record: 5-6, Last Week: 6)
10. Buffalo Bills (nERD: 2.43, Record: 6-5, Last Week: 11)
9. San Diego Chargers (nERD: 3.24, Record: 5-6, Last Week: 10)
8. Seattle Seahawks (nERD: 3.28, Record: 7-3-1, Last Week: t-2)
7. Minnesota Vikings (nERD: 3.59, Record: 6-5, Last Week: 5)
Despite some recent struggles, the Minnesota Vikings still have one of the NFL's best defenses. They’re No. 2 in Adjusted Defensive NEP per play and just held the No. 7 offense by Adjusted NEP per play to 13 points. Unfortunately, the Vikings' offense scored only 10 points against the No. 30 defense and the last-second loss sent Minnesota to 6-5 and outside the top-six seeds in the NFC.
It wasn’t long ago that the Vikings looked like the NFL's most dominant team, peaking at No. 2 in nERD prior to Weeks 6 and 7. However, injuries to the defense and even more injuries on offense have derailed Minnesota’s playoff odds with just over a quarter of the season left.
Per NFL.com’s Next Gen Stats, Sam Bradford is getting the ball out at the second-quickest pace of any quarterback. He’s also throwing the league’s shortest passes by average air yards. These two things are out of necessity with an offensive line that has seen 10 different players on at least 10 percent of the team’s offensive snaps. The Vikings’ line is allowing the 11th-lowest pressure rate per Sports Info Solutions charting from Football Outsiders, but that pressure isn’t technically coming because the ball is getting out so quickly.
This shift has helped turn Bradford from one of the league’s best quarterbacks to one that now ranks 15th in Passing NEP per drop back this season.
Minnesota is still dealing with injuries heading into Thursday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys. Center Joe Berger remains out with a concussion while Stefon Diggs and Terence Newman are listed as questionable, though both practiced in full Wednesday.
At 38 years old, Newman has been a key piece in the Minnesota defense, with the fewest yards per pass allowed among cornerbacks targeted 30 or more times per Sports Info Solutions charting.
6. Washington Redskins (nERD: 4.10, Record: 6-4-1, Last Week: 8)
5. New Orleans Saints (nERD: 4.34, Record: 5-6, Last Week: 12)
The biggest surprise on this list is the New Orleans Saints. One topic of discussion about these rankings is how much blowouts are favored, as they're typically the best way to uncover good teams. The best teams shouldn’t just beat the lower-tier teams, they should blow them out. Well, that’s exactly what we got with New Orleans’ 49-21 win over the Los Angeles Rams in Week 12.
L.A. had one of the league's better defenses and they still rank 13th in Adjusted Defensive NEP per play, which makes New Orleans’ ability to put up 49 points fairly impressive. The Saints were No. 12 in nERD last week, so a jump to No. 5 isn’t crazy -- we’ve always seen the Saints as better than their record. Despite the favorable ranking, New Orleans has just a 14.4 percent chance of making the playoffs.
We all know the Saints offense is one of the best. It is year after year and ranks third by Adjusted NEP per play this season, but what’s helped spark New Orleans’ rise over the past few weeks is a defense that’s playing competently. The unit as a whole still ranks 28th by Adjusted Defensive NEP per play, but the play has improved lately. No team has scored more than 25 points on the Saints since Week 8 and while that’s no lockdown defense, it’s the ‘85 Chicago Bears compared to what the New Orleans defense has been in the past.
4. Denver Broncos (nERD: 5.43, Record: 7-4, Last Week: 4)
t-2. Atlanta Falcons (nERD: 5.65, Record: 7-4, Last Week: 7)
t-2. New England Patriots (nERD: 5.65, Record: 9-2, Last Week: t-2)
1. Dallas Cowboys (nERD: 7.69, Record: 10-1, Last Week: 1)