A new week of the 2021 NFL season brought more surprises and shakeups to affect Sporting News’ weekly power rankings. Week 13 was fortunate for some, but it also was very unlucky for some other teams.
The arrival of Week 14 means there are only five weeks left in the expanded schedule to teams to either finish the season strong in playoff position or create something on which to build for next year. While there are many with hopes to earn the No. 1 through 7 seeds in both conferences, there are more teams headed to think more about the 2022 draft.
Here’s how SN looks at that intersection and how all the teams stack up against each other from 1-32 now:
MORE: Updated NFL standings, playoff picture for Week 13
NFL power rankings
1. Arizona Cardinals 10-2 (previous ranking: 1)
The Cardinals got Kyler Murray back in Week 13 and their offense went off again in tough conditions against an overmatched Bears defense. How about Arizona’s own defense going back to the ultimate pressure and takeaway machine? With Murray, the Cards are a legitimate Super Bowl threat.
2. Green Bay Packers 9-3 (2)
The Packers enjoyed their late-season bye while the top NFC and NFL teams around them won games. The Packers have a big win at the Cardinals on their resume to push for the top seed down the stretch. Aaron Rodgers is playing very well and look for the defense and running game to become bigger factors.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9-3 (3)
The Buccaneers are back in their late offensive form of last season when they went on their successful Super Bowl as a wild-card team with great momentum. Tom Brady is locked into passing a lot and even with a big mistake, can be unstoppable with a big boost from Leonard Fournette.
4. New England Patriots 8-4 (4)
The Patriots are the best team in the top-heavy AFC thanks to their recent defensive-fueled strong body of work with the best coach in the game, Bill Belichick. They can flex more by beating the Bills in Buffalo on Monday night.
5. Kansas City Chiefs 8-4 (7)
The Chiefs dispatched Denver as expected on Sunday night to keep pulling away from the once-promising Raiders and Broncos. That also maintained their distance from the second-place Chargers. Andy Reid is now 20-3 after a bye and Kansas City is working back into form as the AFC team to beat, even with Patrick Mahomes not totally right.
6. Tennessee Titans 8-4 (6)
The Titans needed a bye to regroup and get healthier in a few spots to support their Derrick Henry-less offense. Mike Vrabel’s team has been good at manufacturing wins and needs to keep doing that to show enough all-around pop with Ryan Tannehill to hold off the Colts in the division.
7. Baltimore Ravens 8-4 (5)
The Ravens ran into a wall against the rival Steelers on the road as they still struggle with meshing their offense and defense together for optimal results. There’s some cause for concern but John Harbaugh has the cheat code of Lamar Jackson to keep them on track to still win the tough AFC North.
8. Buffalo Bills 7-4 (8)
The Bills smashed the Saints in Week 12 for a much-needed get-well game on the road before taking on the Patriots trap at home. Buffalo can still be a big-time threat in the AFC playoffs, but it would be a lot easier as a No. 1 seed than wild card.
9. Dallas Cowboys 8-4 (9)
The Cowboys followed the Bills in ripping the Saints and while their offense still was trying to figure out a few more things to restore its balance and explosiveness, their much-improved defense served up a reminder that it can also take over games with big plays.
10. Los Angeles Rams 8-4 (11)
The Rams used the Jaguars to get well as expected at home, with Matthew Stafford playing more relaxed and the team leaning more on the running game, as it should, to complement the defense. Now that has to keep up against better teams, especially the NFC threats.
11. Los Angeles Chargers 7-5 (13)
The Chargers are staying firmly in the playoff picture and a big reason why is how well the offense is operating with Justin Herbert working to Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler. Tne defense also came out and swamred Joe Burrow, making their talented second-year QB was the one winning and more comfortable to make big plays.
12. Cincinnati Bengals 7-5 (10)
The Bengals were sloppy at the worst time against the Chargers as they missed a chance to strengthen their playoff position by jumping the Ravens in the AFC North. They still profile as a playoff team with Burrow but the hard finishing schedule is a huge obstacle.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers 6-5-1 (17)
The Steelers saved their season and AFC North chances by beating the Ravens, and got the bonus of the Bengals losing. The reigning North champions have a playoff shot now with Ben Roethlisberger playing better in his apparent swan song and the defense getting well.
14. Indianapolis Colts 7-6 (18)
The Colts don’t try to fool anyone with their game plans. They want to win on both lines of scrimmage by running the ball and stopping the run, and also getting timely big pass plays from Carson Wentz and a few game-changing takeaways. Jonathan Taylor’s MVP chances should get more attention behind Murray and Brady.
15. Washington Football Team 6-6 (20)
Taylor Heinicke has lead WFT to four consecutive wins with the hopes of getting his team back into the playoffs, this time as an above-.500 wild card with an outside chance of winning the division with the two games left against both the Cowboys and the Eagles. That was an impressive all-around hard-fought win at the Raiders.
16. San Francisco 49ers 6-6 (12)
The 49ers cooled off in Seattle against.the desperate Seahawks, who were trying to bring respectability to a lost season. The 49ers still look very good offensively and defensively at times, with the difference being.a fluky fake-punt TD on Sunday. They will try to get back on track in a key interconference game and Super Bowl rematch with the Bengals.
17. Las Vegas Raiders 6-6 (14)
The Raiders got their big win over the Cowboys but had a key last-minute fail against Washington. Derek Carr is just not helping them overcome their offensive shortcomins enough and the defense isn’t that great at finishing.
18. Cleveland Browns 6-6 (16)
The Browns should have liked the developments of the Ravens, Bengals and Raiders losing during their bye, giving them new life for another run to the playoffs. They should come out healthier led by Baker Mayfield, who tends to heat up in December.
19. Denver Broncos 6-6 (15)
The Broncos just didn’t have enough offensive juice to stay with Mahomes and the Chiefs on Sunday night. Teddy Bridgewater has been a competent bridge, but that’s about it. This team also suffers from finding offensive and defensive meshing from week to week.
20. Philadelphia Eagles 6-7 (21)
The Eagles got a spark from Gardner Minshew at QB to take care of the Jets in the same stadium where they had a clunker against the Giants last week. The win was huge to put them back on the brink of playoff position and also show how explosive and balanced their offense can be.
21. Miami Dolphins 6-7 (26)
The Dolphins have won five consecutive games taking full advantage of a more favorable midseason schedule, although they do have a win over the Ravens in that mix. Brian Flores’ defense is feeling it again while Tua Tagovailoa keeps on dealing.
22. Minnesota Vikings 5-7 (19)
The Vikings threw away a game they needed in handing the Lions their first victory in the waning moments. They’ve gotten ridiculous living and dying by the close game with Kirk Cousins and Mike Zimmer, but will there be changes from that in 2022?
23. Carolina Panthers 5-7 (24)
The Panthers entered their bye in crisis mode after losing to the Dolphins and now having more QB questions than answers with Cam Newton. Having no Christian McCaffrey and no Joe Brady along with a fading defense can put them into free-fall down the stretch.
24. Atlanta Falcons 5-7 (22)
The Falcons did their best to hang with Brady and the Buccaneers, but Arthur Smith’s pass defense and inconsistent running game when not deploying Cordarrelle Patterson keeps costing his team in complementary football.
25. New Orleans Saints 5-7 (23)
The Saints tried to get a much-needed offensive spark with Taysom Hill, and although he ran well against the Cowboys, the major passing woes should concern Sean Payton making more of a commitment to him. Alvin Kamara returning is the real spark New Orleans needs.
26. Seattle Seahawks 4-8 (28)
The Seahawks pulled out all the stops with offense, defense and special teams to take down the 49ers as Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson put them into their best full-spoilers mode.
27. New York Giants 4-8 (25)
The Giants didn’t have Daniel Jones against the Dolphins and their offense continued to look bad with only a few fleshes, mostly in the running game. It keeps wasting what’s been a pretty strong overall defense.
28. Chicago Bears 4-8 (27)
The Bears couldn’t keep up with the Cardinals and the negative game script with bad defense is hurting the effectiveness of Andy Dalton and the limited passing game .David Montgomery’s running provides the only reliable asset.
29. New York Jets 3-9 (29)
The Jets came out more competitive against the Eagles with Zach Wilson looking better but he keeps getting burned by limited offense around him and a wilting defense for Robert Saleh.
30. Houston Texans 2-10 (30)
What was that? The Texans have been fighting hard for David Culley, but now it’s gotten to a point they have literally nothing to show for it.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars 2-10 (31)
The Jaguars did what was expected against the Rams, flopping in every which way and getting destroyed from wire to wire. Is Urban Meyer sure he doesn’t want to find a way to return to college?
32. Detroit Lions 1-10-1 (32)
The Lions had been working up to their win over the Vikings for the past month, with a lot of close low-scoring results, including that Steelers tie. Congratulations to Dan Campbell’s motivation to avoid another dubious distinction.