Thanksgiving: NFL action, good food, and family. That’s what it’s all about, right? Through a bevy of great and terrible games, we return once more to try and put this league in order, unsuccessfully. As we flail endlessly, pulled in all directions by a league full of teams who can’t decide who’s good and who’s bad, sit back and relax that you’re not the ones writing this. We are, and in 2021, it’s impossible. Welcome to the TSW NFL Power Rankings: Week Twelve.
1:Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-3)
Tampa can consider themselves lucky, as they came out on top in one of the best games of the entire week. Just barely edging out the Colts, they’re proving that they can win in a variety of ways, though on a day where Leonard Fournette doesn’t show out in spectacular fashion, things could easily have gone sour. Owed to a few great plays on defense and a mess of Indianapolis errors, they secured another ‘W’.
2:Arizona Cardinals (9-2)
Arizona can finally come back healthy, getting Kyler Murray and Deandre Hopkins back after a lengthy bye week, and they get a softball matchup against the Bears.
3: (3) Green Bay Packers (9-3)
The game was not as close as the final score would have you believe. Green Bay dominated one of the NFL’s supposed best teams, and they owe much of it to their consistent defensive success. The offense did what it always does, but the defense contained one of the most talented scoring units in the league, forcing them into new plans with regularity. A great day in Packers’ country, as they take a commanding hold on their division once again.
4: (1) Buffalo Bills (7-4)
The Bills look to be back on track after a shellacking of the New Orleans Saints during the Thanksgiving Thursday night triple-header, as their defense was as stout as it’s been all season and the offense moved the ball at will. Plenty of concerns are still valid, as shoddy offensive line play and a worrisome lack of interior run-stopping power are to blame for most of Buffalo’s limitations this season, but a blowout win over a handicapped Saints team lets them rest easy. They have a long week ahead, as they host the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football up next. All-Pro CB Tre’Davious White went down and couldn’t return, potentially a huge loss to a secondary that uses him on every snap.
5: (1) Tennessee Titans (8-4)
The Tennessee Titans are officially the most injured team in NFL history, breaking the record this Sunday against the Patriots. They looked injured too and seemed to sleepwalk their way through a game that might have been extremely important to their playoff seeding down the road. Reasonably, the Titans know that they’re a lot better than this, and when their bevy of talent returns they can continue their quest to achieve greatness, but when will that be?
6: (3) Los Angeles Chargers (6-5)
The Chargers can be one of the best teams in the entire NFL, but they definitely weren’t in an important divisional matchup against the Broncos. How many more games can they afford to drop seemingly without cause before they’re out of this AFC West race? As it stands, they’re looking hard for a Wild Card spot.
7: (4) New England Patriots (8-4)
The Patriots have done it again, beating another AFC title contender, though admittedly an extremely hobbled one. The arguments against the Patriots’ offensive capabilities are largely valid, but with Bill Belichick crafting the perfect unit to support the young Mac Jones as he develops slowly, they can get better. This defense might be the real deal though, and they’ve gelled well as the season progresses. We’re all looking forward to getting some more definitive answers as they visit the Buffalo Bills for Monday Night Football next week.
8: (1) Los Angeles Rams (7-4)
The Rams are in free-fall, but does anyone know why? They lost Robert Woods, sure, but isn’t Odell objectively a better individual talent? They added Von Miller at no true cost, which can’t have hurt their defense, right? Their sudden descent is baffling, so the blame lies largely on the coaches and Matthew Stafford, whose mistakes have cost the team dearly over the past few weeks. They’ve lost three straight, falling from 7-1 to 7-4 seemingly out of nowhere.
9: (1) Dallas Cowboys (7-4)
The team that took the field on Thanksgiving’s lunchtime spot were uncharacteristically sloppy on defense, but they could have kept pace anyway if not for a slow start on the other side of the ball. Non-stop running the ball on a night where their two best pass-catchers were out doomed them, and it wasn’t until later in the game when they became desperate that they found they could pass their way out of the deficit. Though able to force overtime, Dak and company couldn’t get it done, and it leaves us wondering: Who dem boyz?
10: (1) Indianapolis Colts (6-6)
The Colts were so very close to having an argument for a sudden leap up this list, but instead, they fell just short of the reigning Super Bowl champions in the week’s best game bar none. Indy should have controlled this game, but a bevy of mistakes turned the game around far too quickly, and they couldn’t keep up in the end. It was their own fault that they allowed the lead to get away from them, and if not for a few simple errors they would be sitting pretty a bit higher up this list.
11: (2) Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
K.C. just started to find their groove again, and now they’re coming off a bye week; We all know what Andy Reid does after a bye week. They take on the Broncos on Sunday Night Football.
12: (2) San Francisco 49ers (6-5)
Here’s San Francisco again, getting hot at the right time. They’ve forcefully re-entered themselves into the fight for the NFC West, and they looked like a team that deserved to be there. Perhaps they do, in an NFL season where every team seemingly has a chance at the playoffs, and once you’re in, it’s only three wins until the Super Bowl.
13: (3) Baltimore Ravens (8-3)
Sure, Baltimore got the win, but this was as ugly as they come. A few flashy plays and a single excellent clock-killing drive to end the game were the few highlights of one of the worst games of Lamar Jackson’s career so far. He was still possibly the better of the two QBs on the field on Sunday night, but that doesn’t say much. To play the way they did and secure a ‘W’ is rare, and an opportunity they won’t be afforded again.
14: (2) Cleveland Browns (6-6)
Cleveland is a hard place to be at the moment, as a team with AFC championship aspirations is flailing. Their highs are high but their lows are about as low as they come, and this is a bad one. They were stopped from doing what they do best, and had no acceptable backup plan, ultimately failing their defense, who were doing a spectacular job of shutting down Lamar Jackson (four interceptions).
15: (2) Cincinnati Bengals (7-4)
If the Bengals have truly turned back time to a distant era where they could fight for the division title, then it’s only appropriate that they did it by time traveling to fetch a younger Joe Mixon. Mixon has exploded this season, and he’s dealt damage to a number of qualified defenses, but what he did to the Steelers on Sunday was brutal. It’s been fun to watch, as has this surprising defense.
16:(1) New Orleans Saints (5-6)
It’s tough to be a Saints fan. Despite a solid roster, plenty of discipline, good quality coaching and the ability to win close games, players can’t play out of a hospital bed. Taysom Hill, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Marcus Davenport, Ryan Ramczyk and more were sidelined. It’s a credit to their defense that they kept the game as close as it was, and it wasn’t close. Luckily, they have plenty of time off, and the season isn’t done just yet. If they can just get healthy, they can still try to compete.
17: (1) Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5-1)
The Steelers are fighting with the Browns for the title of worst team in the AFC North, and they’re winning (or is it losing?). As they lean on Najee Harris, they need to understand that he’s not a cure-all for the offense’s woes, as much as he may help. They need to consider reducing his workload to split the touches around, as putting all their eggs in one basket has failed them more than one time too many this season already.
18: (2) Las Vegas Raiders (6-5)
After a three-game skid, the Raiders put themselves back into the Wild Card race in style. An explosive start put them in the lead, which they didn’t relinquish until the fourth quarter. They should consider themselves lucky that they went up against a bruised Dallas WR core, but they still earned this win fair and square. In a game where the two teams earned a combined 28 penalty flags, Vegas got the overtime ‘W’. Derek Carr’s ability to find men downfield for those highlight-reel chunk plays was their savior in this one.
19: (1) Minnesota Vikings (5-6)
The Vikings are just about as good as any team in this playoff race on a good day, but the loss of Dalvin Cook for the next two or more weeks will severely hamper their odds in a close NFC battle for limited spots in the postseason. Quietly, Kirk Cousins is having an excellent season, and if they were just a little closer to the Packers they would probably be getting the coverage that they wholly deserve right now.
20: (2) Washington Football Team (5-6)
Much like the Dolphins, Washington is starting to look like the team that we all expected to see at the start of the season. Their defense is starting to hit its stride, and the offense is crafty enough to figure it out as they prove to be something of a problem. An unlikely contender for a late playoff spot, Washington has won their last three games.
21: (2) Miami Dolphins (5-7)
Well, we got a glimpse of what we expected to see from Miami this year. Shutdown defense, and an offense that isn’t perfect but has a whole handful of playmaking ability to outscore their opponents in close contests. This one wasn’t close though, as they brutalized a Carolina team that had many feeling faithful again.
22: (3) Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)
The Eagles have been a pleasant surprise in 2021 with Jalen Hurts under centre, but they fell short against a Giants team that are destined for a good draft position too. Though Philly didn’t play well offensively, their run game has clearly developed nicely, and it’s a building block for next season. They’ll have great draft picks to work with, as two picks back-to-back in the top ten can help lift this team over the top.
23: (3) Denver Broncos (6-5)
The Broncos are back to their usual tricks: Confounding the entire league with a mix of great and terrible play that varies purely on which way the wind blows during each snap. They’re bottom in their division, and only one game out of the lead currently held by Kansas City, somehow.
24: (3) Carolina Panthers (5-7)
Well, he was back. Cam Newton failed to do anything for the Carolina offense against the Dolphins’ secondary, completing just five passes and throwing two interceptions. The Panthers’ own back four have been incredible from week to week, battling injuries to succeed, but they had a tough day against Tua and Waddle. The loss of Christian McCaffrey for the remainder of the season is just another blow to a team that’s taken quite a few hits this season.
25: New York Giants (4-7)
New York isn’t the powerhouse that they dreamed of being before the season started, but they’ve got a lot to be excited about. Daniel Jones is playing well enough to keep the offense afloat, and this defense is quietly overperforming against solid scoring opponents with alarming regularity. They could trip up a lot of playoff-competing opponents as the season’s end draws near; They play both the Chargers and Cowboys over the next few weeks.
26: (2) Seattle Seahawks (3-8)
Goodbye, playoffs. Seattle waved farewell to whatever postseason hopes they had left as their game-tying two-point try was intercepted, and the contest was over. The problem may not be Russell Wilson, but what is it? They’ve fallen far short of the expectations laid on them before the season, and their token attempt at fixing the offensive line to keep Wilson happy in the offseason has failed. Their first-round pick would be 4th overall right now, and currently belongs to the New York Jets.
27: (1) Atlanta Falcons (5-6)
The Falcons are legitimately a great offense when everything hits just right. The problem is that they don’t hit just right very often, let alone all at the same time. A balanced offense came out of nowhere as the usually-stale Atlanta run game burst to life, and Matt Ryan made the most of what he had to bring home a win.
28: (3) New York Jets (3-8)
The Jets got Zach Wilson back, but not much more than that. This win was another dull episode in the Wilson rookie saga, but things looked good on the other side of the ball. Their defensive line was solid all game and made the plays count when they got a chance at them.
29: Chicago Bears (4-7)
The Bears went into this game missing just about everyone of worth from this lineup and still came out with a ‘W’. The reason? They played the Lions, and if they’d taken on any other team in the NFL and played that exact game they would have rightfully lost. If you came here for in-depth analysis and appreciation of the win, look somewhere else. The Bears are bad.
30: Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9)
This game just highlights how good Trevor Lawrence could be. We say could be, since his errors are often unforced, but most great NFL QBs have experienced growing pains as they transition to the pros. Perhaps next season the Jaguars could give him some more help but, until then, they flail aimlessly.
31: (4) Houston Texans (2-9)
This week in ‘Games no-one watched and no-one cared about’: The Texans lost to the Jets in an unimportant game that mattered only for the value of future draft capital. They fell to pieces, beating themselves consistently, and couldn’t move the ball at all against a mediocre Jets defense.
32: Detroit Lions (0-10-1)
Detroit does what Detroit does, falling short of beating the backups for the Chicago Bears of all teams. This secondary made Andy Dalton look like an elite QB on some plays, and that’s scary. Despite having their starting QB and most of the offense healthy, they failed to outscore the Bears’ 16-point pittance, and deserve to be sitting at the bottom of this list.
Don’t forget to check out last week, and come back next time to see how another week of NFL action changes the board.