NFL Power Rankings: Ravens Soar, Bengals Flawed24 min read
Lindy’s Sports’ UK editor Simon Milham reflects on the first 12 weeks of the 2019/20 NFL season and offers insight into each of the 32 teams with an updated Power Rankings.
32 – Cincinnati Bengals
The offensive line has been in turmoil all season, despite center Try Hopkins proving one of the more reliable pass blockers. With Ryan Finley continuing to fill in for QB Andy Dalton, WR John Ross still out and A.J. Green still a question mark, this talent-devoid roster has obvious limitations and has not made meaningful progress in any area all year. RB Joe Mixon is the lone bright spot, although defensively, they can’t cover running backs or tight ends. Still, the NY Jets (Week 13) and the Miami Dolphins (Week 16) offer hope to get off the schnide.
31 – Washington Redskins
They may have beaten the Dolphins in Miami, but the Fins have progressed a little since, while the Redskins have largely stagnated. Their pass defense, particularly on third-down, is truly awful, and rookie QB Dwayne Haskins has struggled. RB Derrius Guice has made a nice 1-2 punch with veteran Adrian Peterson, and WR Terry McLaurin has emerged as a lone bright spot in a dismal campaign. Having edged past Detroit on Sunday, outside of a divisional clash with the Giants in Week 16, it is hard to see where a third win will come from.
30 – Miami Dolphins
Tanking for Tua Tagovailoa has backfired as the Alabama QB has suffered a debilitating hip injury and now faces recovery of between six months to a year. He is not going to be the first passer taken in the draft and this leaves the Dolphins all dressed up – with three first-round draft picks (projected to be 3rd, 17th and 24th) in a probable haul of 14 in total – with nowhere to go. It may sound odd after a 2-9 start, but Brian Flores and his staff have coached the heck out of a talent-bereft roster. Let’s hope the first-year head coach he is good at darts, as they need to hit a bullseye or two in the draft.
29 – New York Giants
Though a faller in the rankings after the Bears handed them a seventh successive loss on Sunday, the Giants are not far away from being relevant. Their inability to close out games cost them against Arizona, Detroit, Dallas and the NY Jets. Rookie QB Daniel Jones is mobile, can make accurate throws and he is smart (as advertised by a degree in economics from Duke).
He makes mistakes, such as holding onto the ball too long in the pocket, lack of feeling the rush and ball security, but this is fixable – it is simply an adjustment to the speed of the NFL. Saquon Barkley is an elite RB, and if head coach Pat Shurmer can fix the defense, this young team will be in the hunt for the NFC East next season. It is possible they can end strong, with clashes against Miami and Washington in Weeks 15 and 16.
28 – Detroit Lions
The Lions can’t stop the run – ranking 28th in the NFL, allowing a whopping 5.1 yards per attempt. They haven’t been able to run the ball consistently, either. Former Alabama RB Bo Scarbrough has had two decent starts to his NFL career, but when fit, former Auburn star Kerryon Johnson is undoubtedly the better option. The Redskins have blown three fourth-quarter leads because of their lack of a running game and the same issue means they have struggled in the red zone. Hobbled QB Matthew Stafford has had little help and head coach Matt Patricia is clearly on the hot seat.
27 – Denver Broncos
Having won three of the last six – they allowed leads to slip in close losses to the Colts and Vikings – the Broncos continue to ride Vic Fangio’s defensive scheme. They have spent much of the season in the top 10 in total defense, scoring defense and pass defense, with Vonn Miller still to catch fire. Yet their offense remains one-dimensional with heavy doses of RBs Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay. It seems GM John Elway will attempt to address the struggling passing game in the draft.
26 – Jacksonville Jaguars
While the focus has been on the QB situation, with Nick Foles returning from injury, the defense has collapsed in the last three weeks. Heading into Sunday’s game with Indianapolis, it had conceded 104 points and 1,270 yards in its last three games. Owner Shad Khan stayed committed to GM Dave Caldwell, head coach Doug Marrone, and former head coach Tom Coughlin following a disastrous 2018 season. It is now worth wondering which of the trio – if any of them – will be around in 2020.
25 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bold prediction: This is turnover-prone QB Jameis Winston’s last season in Tampa. He has had six straight 300-plus yard passing games, but has an NFL-high 21 interceptions and no passer has been sacked more. Yet he has time and again been forced to throw more than he should thanks to the ongoing issues with the pass defense. Put Winston under less pressure in a different scheme and he can still be an effective weapon in this league for a team in need of help, such as Chicago, Miami, Cincinnati, Denver or Buffalo.
2019 Passing Yards Leaders through Week 12!
(by @Bridgestone) pic.twitter.com/ndeg4tpcBx
— NFL (@NFL) November 27, 2019
24 – Arizona Cardinals
Vance Joseph is a good coordinator, yet he oversees a bottom-five defensive unit which has been painful to watch. Each week, the offense, led by rookie QB Kyler Murray, is entertaining and competitive, only for the defense to crumble. Their schedule has been brutal, facing seven offenses ranked in the top 10 in yards per game, yet the talent is simply not there in abundance. GM Steve Keim is likely to be replaced soon, as his drafts from 2013-18 have yielded five offensive and three defensive players who are still with the team. Another off-season reboot can be assumed.
23 – Atlanta Falcons
Having allowed over 30 points for the first time since Week 7, the Falcons’ defense came crashing down to earth on Sunday, allowing 446 yards to an inconsistent Buccaneers’ offense. The Falcons’ offensive line is inexperienced and injured, and a replication of their Week 10 and 11 wins over New Orleans and Carolina in the next couple of outings looks beyond them after a disappointing 35-22 home loss to the Bucs. This was a defeat that HC Dan Quinn could have done without and it is arguable that a 5-11 or 6-10 season will save him.
22 – New York Jets
The Jets have had reliability problems along the offensive line all season and that has stunted QB Sam Darnold’s development and made RB Le’Veon Bell (3.2 yards per carry) look pedestrian. They have had more success from empty sets, but Adam Gase knows his line is not going to overpower anyone and he must do a better job of creating deception as opponents have generated plenty of pressure from four-man fronts. Gang Green have also not defended the pass well, yet they have been able to stop the run, which helped in their three wins against NFC East teams and in a stunning upset of Oakland on Sunday. The Bengals and Dolphins in successive weeks means more potential victories and could mask the problems that they still have.
21 – Los Angeles Chargers
It has not been a great year for the QB draft class of 2004. Phillip Rivers has never been picked off seven times in a two-week period until facing the Raiders and Chiefs. They must face them again in Weeks 16 and 17. The Broncos and Vikings before that means it will be an uphill battle to make the playoffs for the team that is not going to be the London Chargers (that will be Carolina or Jacksonville). For now, tens of fans will turn up to watch them in LA.
20 – Chicago Bears
The Khalil Mack trade has worked out fine for Oakland. Mack was shut out of the box score when the Bears faced the Rams last week, even though their offensive line has more holes than an election manifesto. Matt Nagy is not designing a scheme that plays to limited QB Mitchell Trubisky’s strengths – he is not a pocket passer – and the offensive line can’t open holes for the running game or pass protect with consistency, blowing coverages and assignments. It is perplexing. If Baltimore can embrace who and what their QB is, why can’t the Bears?
19 – Carolina Panthers
QB Kyle Allen had a good outing against New Orleans on Sunday but is clearly not the answer and those who were quick to signal the end of Cam Newton’s tenure in Charlotte have been silenced over the past few weeks. The Panthers are now 5-6 after throwing away a game they should have won, with Joey Slye missing two extra points and a potential go-ahead field-goal compounding their misery. Even if they run the table – not easy facing games that include Seattle, Indianapolis and New Orleans – a 10-6 record is unlikely to get a wildcard. ‘Riverboat’ Ron Rivera has played his final hand, it would appear.
18 – Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers moved to 6-5 for the season when fending off Cincinnati and while they have a relatively easy run-in, with games against Cleveland, Arizona, Buffalo and the NY Jets before a trip to Baltimore, they are still in an offensive state of flux. Back-up Mason Rudolph was benched for Delvin Hodges, who went on to lead the Steelers to two road wins in as many tries. They are still in a crowded AFC wildcard race with three other 6-5 teams – Indianapolis, Tennessee and Oakland – but have a defense that can carry them, boosted by Minkah Fitzpatrick, who has been opposing offenses’ worst nightmare since arriving from Miami in a trade.
17 – Cleveland Browns
Having won three straight to move to 5-6, the Browns are now in the wildcard discussion and have a favourable schedule, which includes games against winless Cincinnati (twice), Arizona, and divisional clashes with Pittsburgh and Baltimore. The biggest problem is not with the talent on the field, but the lack of it off it. While they have cut down the number of turnovers in recent weeks, infuriating penalties have plagued the Browns – and that is a coaching issue. The running game is clicking with Nick Chubb and there is steady improvement. Baltimore may be hard to catch in the division now, however.
16 – Los Angeles Rams
The Rams have struggled to run the ball all season and Todd Gurley’s paltry 22 yards underlined the offensive line problems in Monday’s lop-sided home loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The NFC defending champion Rams (6-5), were handed their worst loss in three seasons under Sean McVay. They managed just 111 yards in three quarters before finishing with 221. It was the second time in three games they have failed to score a TD and now they sit two games out of the second wildcard spot (held by Minnesota at 8-3) with five to play and still have to face San Francisco and Seattle. This was not the plan and it would appear the Rams are done.
15 – Buffalo Bills
The Bills’ secondary is among the best in the NFL, but if this defensive does have a weakness, it is against the run. They still held the pop-gun Denver attack to 134 yards and no touchdowns in an ugly 20-3 win on Sunday, but their schedule stiffens with tilts against Dallas, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and New England before a season finale against the Jets. Unless QB Josh Allen is trusted to throw downfield and relieve some of the pressure from a running game that is looking better each week with Devin Singletary and veteran Frank Gore, the Bills will remain one-dimensional and could be one and done in the playoffs, should they get there.
14 – Tennessee Titans
QB Ryan Tannehill is looking more comfortable than he ever did in Miami in compiling a 4-1 record as a starter after instigating a 42-20 win over Jacksonville. The Titans will need consistency and accuracy from him in the next few weeks, as while bruising RB Derrick Henry leads a run-heavy attack, they face some middling run-defenses such as Indianapolis (9th against the run), Oakland (14th), Houston (twice, 17th) and New Orleans (3rd). Can they make the playoffs? Three division games, two of which are on the road, will determine their path and since they have to face the Texans twice, their odds to win the division are big.
TIP: Tennessee Titans to win the AFC South at
13 – Oakland Raiders
After three successive wins, the Raiders were inexplicably crushed 34-3 by the New York Jets on Sunday and now face a couple of testing games at Kansas City and at home to a resurgent Tennessee. At 6-5, their playoff dreams are far from extinguished, but their soft underbelly has been exposed on the road with a close loss at Indianapolis and routs by Minnesota, Green Bay and the Jets. They have already lost to the Chiefs, who are a game ahead at 7-4, but should they win at Arrowhead, their 9-2 odds to win the AFC West with BetVictor will start to look very big indeed, particularly since the Chiefs still have to face New England.
12 – Indianapolis Colts
Having lost three of their last four and ceded the top spot in the AFC South to Houston following last Thursday’s 20-17 home defeat, the Colts were dealt another blow when tight end Eric Ebron was placed on Injured Reserve. They are in a familiar spot following losses to the Dolphins, Steelers and Texans: their backs are against the wall. They recovered from 1-5 last season to go to the divisional round of the playoffs but may have to do so this time without injured RB Marlon Mack. Without him, they still managed to run for 175 yards against the Texans, but they must learn to finish drives.
11 – Philadelphia Eagles
Cut out ridiculous celebrations when down by 14 points in the fourth quarter and the Eagles might be taken more seriously. Even at 5-6, there is still hope. Their defense is still playing to a high standard – Philadelphia has allowed just 17 points in each of their last two contests against New England and Seattle – and QB Carson Wentz cannot play any worse than he did against the Seahawks, even if a depleted offensive line somehow implodes further. DeSean Jackson is missed as a reliable deep threat and it does not help that Alshon Jeffrey, Jordan Howard and Nelson Agholor are injured. Still, their run-in is easier than that of the Cowboys, starting with Miami on Sunday.
TIP: Philadelphia Eagles to win NFC East
10 – Houston Texans
Such is the competitive AFC South, both the Titans and Colts are arguably worthy of the Texans’ spot at No.10. Houston were blown out by Baltimore, but bounced back four days later to claim top spot in the division with a 20-17 road win in Indy. They lead the division with a 7-4 record – and are 8/13 BetVictor favourites to take it – but still have to face the Patriots, Titans (twice), and a tricky trip to Tampa. That said, the Texans now have an 89.7