The NFL is known for its parity, but the 2021 season has taken this trait to an extreme.
As noted by Around The NFL colleague Gregg Rosenthal, only five teams are more than one game out in the loss column for a playoff spot as we enter Week 11. The wide-open nature of Our League™ is reflected in the NFL Power Rankings, which gets a comprehensive makeover every seven days.
It's hard work … it's honest work … and I'm excited to clock in and get my hands dirty. Rise and grind.
Watch the NFL Power Rankings show with Dan and Matt "Money" Smith every Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET on NFL Network.
NOTE: Up/down arrows reflect movement from the Week 10 NFL Power Rankings.
Previous rank: No. 4
The defense is on a heater and it's made Green Bay the most balanced team in football. The Packers registered an impressive shutout of the Seahawks at chilly Lambeau Field and have now held Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson to 34 combined points across the past three games. Aaron Rodgers returned from his one-game COVID-19 misadventure and showed some rust, guiding the Pack to just three points in the first three quarters before putting the game away with a pair of late touchdown drives. Green Bay dodged disaster when it learned Aaron Jones is unlikely to miss more than two games with a knee injury sustained in the second half. The schedule stays tough with a rugged divisional matchup this week in Minnesota.
Previous rank: No. 3
The Titans are the hottest team in football -- and they've made history in their surge to the top of the AFC standings. Mike Vrabel's team held off the Saints, 23-21, and became the second NFL team ever to win five consecutive games against opponents that qualified for the playoffs the season before. The offense still feels limited with Derrick Henry on the shelf, but the Titans know how to grind out victories with a defense that is vastly improved. Jeffery Simmons collected two more sacks -- giving him five in the past two weeks -- and Tennessee made the key stop on New Orleans' two-point conversion attempt in the final minute. An overdue layup against the Texans awaits.
Previous rank: No. 5
You don't want to play an angry Cowboys team. A week after getting blown out by the Broncos in one of the most surprising outcomes of the season, Dallas returned the favor against a Falcons team that was in the wrong place at the wrong time. After the 43-3 demolition -- a game in which Dallas took a 36-3 lead into halftime -- Jerry Jones said he couldn't remember a more dominant performance in his 30-plus years as owner. The win -- paired with a Cardinals loss to the Panthers -- moves the Cowboys one game out of the top spot in the NFC as they hit a critical juncture in their schedule with matchups against the Chiefs, Raiders and Saints over a 12-day span. Buckle up.
Previous rank: No. 1
The Cardinals are doing the right thing. It might be painful in the short term, but it's the prudent move to keep Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins out of game action, even if it means ugly results like Sunday's 34-10 loss to the Panthers. Murray attempted to play through a lingering shoulder injury last December and Arizona's playoff hopes imploded. Giving Murray's ankle and Hopkins' hamstring the necessary time to heal will help the Cardinals in the long run as they attempt to make a deep playoff run. The team's 7-0 start to the season provided Kliff Kingsbury's team with some cushion. He's smart to use it now.
Previous rank: No. 8
The Jets were just what the doctor ordered for the Bills' slumping offense. Josh Allen picked apart New York's weak defense, throwing for 366 yards with two scores in a 45-17 win at the Meadowlands. Allen's offensive line provided him ample time to work from the pocket, and he re-established his connection with star receiver Stefon Diggs, who enjoyed just his second 100-yard day of the season. The Jets were a nice confidence booster, but we'll need to see more evidence before declaring that Brian Daboll and Co. have successfully counteracted the game plans that stifled the attack before Sunday.
Previous rank: No. 2
Tom Brady had no interest in speaking with the media after Sunday's upset 29-19 loss to the Washington Football Team, and you didn't need a degree in psychology to know why. Brady never found a groove against Washington's revitalized defense and was trapped on the sidelines as Tampa Bay's D surrendered a marathon 19-play, 80-yard drive that chewed up most of the fourth quarter and ended with a touchdown that put the game out of reach. One can imagine Brady became further peeved when he heard Bruce Arians' blunt assessment of the QB's struggles in his own press conference. An ugly afternoon for the defending champs.
Previous rank: No. 12
Patrick Mahomes back? Patrick Mahomes back! There was reason for extreme optimism around Chiefs Kingdom after Mahomes looked unstoppable in a 41-17 beatdown of the Raiders in Vegas. This was the vintage Kansas City offense that had been missing for most of the season, and it all centered around the former MVP behind center: Mahomes finished with 35 completions on 50 passing attempts for 406 yards, five touchdowns and zero turnovers. His relentless play-making ability wore down the Raiders in the second half and served as a reminder that Mahomes in full flight is one of the best to ever play. "That guy is great," Tyreek Hill said of his QB. "He's unbelievable. I can't ask to be in a better position with a better quarterback."
Previous rank: No. 11
It almost feels like the good times never left Gillette Stadium -- they just took a one-year sabbatical in 2020 like the rest of us. On Sunday, the Pats rolled over the Browns for their fourth consecutive victory in a 3.5-hour party at Foxborough. Two days earlier, Bill Belichick gushed about Josh McDaniels, telling reporters he didn't believe the offensive coordinator "has any weaknesses as a coach." Then McDaniels dialed up a game plan against Cleveland that produced six touchdowns in eight possessions when starter Mac Jones was on the field. Jones was back in a groove in what has been the most impressive season of any rookie QB by a wide margin. If he continues to mature, there's no limit how far the Pats can go in a wide-open AFC.
Previous rank: No. 7
The Rams certainly won the publicity game with their splashy moves to acquire Von Miller and Odell Beckham, but their slump on the field has now stretched across consecutive ugly prime-time performances. Monday night’s 31-10 loss to the 49ers was another feather in the cap of Kyle Shanahan, who has made it a habit to outshine fellow wunderkind Sean McVay in head-to-head matchups between NFC West rivals. Matthew Stafford was let down by multiple dropped passes from his receivers in L.A.'s first game without Robert Woods, who tore his ACL during Friday's practice. Both Miller and Beckham were quiet in their first game action -- that will have to change if the all-in Rams are to get where they want to be.
Previous rank: No. 6
Lamar Jackson has mixed in some lows with the highs during the brilliant start to his pro career, but it's hard to remember Jackson looking as demonstrably frustrated as he was on Thursday night in Miami. Jackson and the Ravens' offense were a mess in what was supposed to be a homecoming party for the quarterback against the NFL's 30th-ranked defense. Brian Flores sent waves of blitzes at Jackson, overwhelming the pass protection and repeatedly putting the fourth-year pro in impossible situations. Much will be made about the Dolphins creating a playbook for how to attack Baltimore -- it's on John Harbaugh and Co. to counterpunch after a humbling loss. "We just weren't ready," Harbaugh said, "and that's on me."
Previous rank: No. 9
The Chargers remain a frustratingly inconsistent operation, particularly on offense. A week after Justin Herbert and Co. appeared to shake their slump in a win over the Eagles, the L.A. attack was again out of sync in a 27-20 loss to the Vikings, the Bolts' third loss in five games at SoFi Stadium this season. The hit-or-miss nature of the offense is putting the other side of the ball in a vulnerable position, as Los Angeles continues to lose the time of possession battle on a weekly basis. A tired Chargers defense had the Vikings at second-and-17 and third-and-20 on the final possession of the game and surrendered first downs in each instance as Minnesota successfully ran out the clock for the win.
Previous rank: No. 10
At some point, we might have to believe what the Browns are telling us: This is an inconsistent team incapable of putting together a sustained stretch of good play. Sunday's 45-7 loss to the Patriots served as an indictment on both sides of the ball and left players openly questioning the coaching staff's ability to make adjustments after it was over. The Browns put up a touchdown on their first drive and never scored again. The defense surrendered scoring drives covering 99, 95, 92 and 83 yards. Last place in the tightly packed AFC North is not where Cleveland thought it would be with seven games to go. The disappointment is real.
Previous rank: No. 13
Sean Payton was not a happy man after Sunday's 23-21 loss to the Titans ... and we get it. His kicker missed two extra points, a potential game-tying two-point conversion was foiled in the final minute, and officials cost New Orleans seven points with a highly questionable roughing the passer penalty. Credit the Saints for hanging tough against a red-hot opponent, on the road, with four key offensive starters sidelined by injuries. But it's the result that matters most, and New Orleans missed out on a golden opportunity to move into a first-place tie with the Bucs atop the NFC South.
Previous rank: No. 21
The Vikings' offense needed to start taking chances again. The attack had become increasingly conservative in recent weeks, with Kirk Cousins repeatedly throwing short of the sticks. That changed in Sunday's win over the Chargers, a critical victory in which Justin Jefferson re-established himself as the most explosive playmaker on the team. Jefferson was uncoverable at times, finishing with nine catches for 143 yards, including the crucial 27-yard catch late in the fourth quarter that helped Minnesota run out the clock to seal the win. Per Next Gen Stats, Cousins was 5-for-6 for 114 yards when targeting Jefferson more than 10 yards downfield. It's a trend that must continue with a critical showdown against the Packers on tap.
Previous rank: No. 18
The Colts came out of the creampuff portion of their schedule with wins over the Jets and Jaguars, but Sunday's victory over a feisty Jacksonville team left more questions than answers. The offense struggled to get anything going after a fast start, and Carson Wentz was back to making the kind of ill-advised throws that got Indy beat by the Titans in Week 8. A bad team like Jacksonville won't always make you pay, but Wentz won't be nearly as fortunate with matchups against the Bills and Buccaneers on tap. The Colts have yet to win a game against a team with a winning record this season -- if they don't come out the next two weeks with at least a split, they'll confirm their also-ran status.
Previous rank: No. 16
The bye came at an ideal time for defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo. Statistically speaking, the Bengals were one of the best defenses in football over the first seven weeks of the season -- but things fell apart in back-to-back losses to the Jets and Browns. Cincinnati surrendered 75 points in the two losses, struggling to stop both the run and the pass. Now in his third season on the job, Anarumo's future in Cincy might hinge on what happens the rest of the way. Said Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard: "We gotta look at ourselves and see what team we're really made of these last weeks."
Previous rank: No. 24
With his team in virtual must-win territory and scrutiny at a high point in his time on the 49ers sideline, Kyle Shanahan cooked up his best game plan of the season. The result was a blowout of the rival Rams that may serve as a turning point for what’s been one of the NFL’s most disappointing teams. Jimmy Garoppolo continued to build on his recent run of strong play, and Deebo Samuel delivered another All-Pro-level performance for the Niners, who won at Levi’s Stadium for the first time in 393 days. This was a complete effort by San Francisco, which needed just one stellar night to re-establish itself as a player in the NFC postseason race.
Previous rank: No. 14
The Steelers played down to the level of their opponent on Sunday, and it cost them what should have been an easy win at Heinz Field. With Ben Roethlisberger at home following a positive COVID-19 test, Mason Rudolph and the rest of the Steelers bumbled their way to a 16-16 tie against the winless Lions. Rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth fumbled near the Detroit sideline with eight seconds left, denying Pittsburgh the chance at a potential game-winning (and face-saving) field goal. Big Ben’s availability for this week is in doubt, and it was revealed Monday that star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick has also landed on the COVID-19 list. The Steelers are being challenged right now.
Previous rank: No. 25
Cam Newton is back and scoring touchdowns, Christian McCaffrey is healthy and living in the second level of defenses, and the Panthers are once again a credible NFC playoff contender. Newton had a surprise supporting role in Week 10, accounting for two touchdowns and a downfield pass that resulted in a defensive pass interference call in a 34-10 win over the Cardinals. Coach Matt Rhule said Monday that Newton will work with the first-team offense this week in practice, a sure sign the former MVP will replace P.J. Walker as starter on Sunday against Washington. This all remains a bit, well, weird considering the circumstances that led to Newton's exit from Charlotte -- but Rhule and Panthers brass deserve some credit for putting the greater good ahead of pride.
Previous rank: No. 15
Is it happening again? Raiders fans hoped this season would be different than the two that preceded it, but Sunday night’s 41-14 loss to the Chiefs felt like a harbinger of doom. In Week 9, the offense faltered on the road against the Giants. In prime time at Allegiant Stadium on Sunday night, it was the defense that faltered against a version of Patrick Mahomes that Silver & Black fans hoped was staying in witness protection. At 5-4, the Raiders remain in the thick of the AFC West race, but it’s fair to wonder if Vegas and the rest of the division had its chance to run away and hide from the Chiefs ... and squandered it. Ready or not, here they come.
Previous rank: No. 26
If the Eagles go on to make a dash to the playoffs (not a pipe dream in the wide-open NFC Wild Card race), we might point to Darius Slay’s 83-yard fumble return as the season’s turning point. On the final play of the third quarter, Slay scooped up Melvin Gordon’s fumble, fumbled the ball himself, then recovered and dashed nearly untouched to the end zone to silence the fans at Mile High and send Philadelphia to its fourth road victory in six tries. With a steadily improving Jalen Hurts under center, the Eagles have a chance to make some noise if their defense can continue to deliver impact plays like we saw from "Big Play Slay" on Sunday.
Previous rank: No. 19
It may be unfair to say Russell Wilson launched a PR assault to celebrate his early return from finger surgery, but it sure felt like the Seahawks quarterback was trying to top Adele for the biggest event on television this weekend. The Return did not go to plan, however: Wilson looked like a shell of himself after the four-week layoff, and the Seahawks were shut out for the first time ever with their star quarterback under center. Wilson’s passer rating (39.7) was the fourth-lowest of his career, as the offense wasted a strong performance by an improving Seattle defense that held Aaron Rodgers to three points through the first three quarters. The 2021 Seahawks may never find a way to put it all together.
Previous rank: No. 17
The Broncos came into Week 10 hoping to prove that the previous Sunday’s dominant win over the Cowboys wasn’t a fluke -- then they stepped on the field and made all their doubters look smart. Denver delivered a flat and uninspired effort in a 30-13 home loss to the Eagles that showed just how far this team remains from serious contention in the AFC. Teddy Bridgewater played perhaps his worst game as a Bronco, piloting the offense to just one touchdown in five red-zone trips and making an apparent “business decision” on the Darius Slay 83-yard fumble return that sealed Denver’s fate. It was a bad look for the quarterback and a bad way for the Broncos to hit the bye week.
Previous rank: No. 22
The Giants spent their bye week just trying to get healthy. Injuries have been the story with this team, with critical players on the offense disappearing for large swaths of the season. Running back Saquon Barkley and wide receivers Sterling Shepard, Kenny Golladay and Darius Slayton have each been sidelined for three games or more. Electric rookie wideout Kadarius Toney missed two games. The injury avalanche has muddled the evaluation process of third-year QB Daniel Jones while putting handcuffs on offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, who doesn’t need any additional impediments to the job. If any team deserves some “injury luck” in the second half, it’s the G-Men.
Previous rank: No. 23
The Bears have disappointed on defense after a fast start, but the news isn’t all bad. The team continues to receive superstar play from Roquan Smith, who has fully entrenched himself as one of the best off-ball linebackers in football. Smith was an absolute menace against the Steelers before the bye, recording 12 tackles and one sack in the narrow loss at Heinz Field. He had 93 tackles through Week 9, tied with Seahawks star Bobby Wagner for the most in the NFL. Khalil Mack has been the face of the Bears’ defense for several years, but he’s no longer the team’s best player on that side of the ball.
Previous rank: No. 28
This was the version of the Washington Football Team that Ron Rivera believed he was taking into battle in September. The defense picked off two Tom Brady passes and held the high-powered Bucs offense under 300 yards, while the offense closed the game out with one of the most impressive drives by any team this season. Taylor Heinicke led Washington on a stunning 19-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that bled more than 10 minutes in the final quarter and removed any chance of Brady riding in to save the day. It would have been a perfect Sunday if not for the terrible news that star pass rusher Chase Young tore his ACL in the game and must undergo reconstructive knee surgery. Just one of those years.
Previous rank: No. 20
“We were outcoached and outplayed.” There’s not much else Arthur Smith could say after an embarrassing 43-3 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday at Jerrah World. One week after a gritty win over the Saints that gave credence to the thought that Atlanta could be a playoff team, the Falcons looked completely out of their depth against a conference superpower Dallas team that was in a foul mood after its own blowout loss a week earlier. Matt Ryan threw for a measly 117 yards, Cordarrelle Patterson exited with an ankle injury, and the Cowboys scored four consecutive touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 36-3 lead into the tunnel at halftime. It was as demoralizing as a loss gets, but the page turns fast in the NFL. Up next: The surging Patriots on Thursday night.
Previous rank: No. 29
Brian Flores needed that win. Tua needed that win. Dolphins fans needed that win. The 22-10 upset over the Ravens was fun and silly and memorable -- and for reasons that went beyond the greatest touchdown in NFL history that didn’t count. Credit Brian Flores and defensive coordinator Josh Boyer for cooking up a high-risk/high-reward game plan that sent waves of pressure at Lamar Jackson to stunningly successful results. The Ravens’ high-flying offense -- which piled up 500 yards on the Vikings four days earlier -- didn’t even manage a touchdown until there were four minutes remaining in the game. It was a coaching masterpiece that maximized the abilities of Miami’s talented secondary. Chef’s kiss.
Previous rank: No. 27
Urban Meyer didn’t get a win on Sunday in Indianapolis, but the first-year NFL coach provided more evidence he has stabilized the operation after the self-immolation that marked the early portion of his rookie season. Jacksonville fell behind 17-0 against the Colts but fought back and was in position to potentially win the game before Trevor Lawrence lost a fumble in the final minutes. Led by Josh Allen, Jacksonville’s defense is showing signs of improvement, but Meyer and the Jags braintrust must devote significant resources to adding pieces around Lawrence in the offseason. The rookie too often seems to be on an island.
Previous rank: No. 31
The good news is obvious: The Lions didn’t lose on Sunday, which counts as undeniable progress for a team that went into its bye at 0-8. That said, Detroit let another second-half lead slip away and failed to seize the moment when a thoroughly spooked Ryan Santoso badly missed a 48-yard attempt in overtime that would have sent the host Steelers to the locker room in shame. After the game, an exasperated Dan Campbell likened the game -- and his first season as Lions coach, we surmise -- to living in The Twilight Zone, a strange and mysterious place where nothing is quite what it seems. "We didn't win, but we didn't lose, either," Campbell said. "All you can ask for is improvement and we improved."
Previous rank: No. 30
Mike White Mania was fun while it lasted. The backup quarterback was in over his head against the Bills, throwing four interceptions in an ugly performance that will quiet any talk of keeping Zach Wilson on the bench any longer than necessary. The 45-17 loss was also another hideous day for Robert Saleh’s defense, which has delivered the worst four-game stretch in the history of the franchise. How bad has it been? The Jets are the first team to allow at least 45 points three times in a four-game span since the 1966 Giants. GM Joe Douglas has so much work to do to return the Jets to respectability, but dedicating serious resources to the defense needs to be at the top of the priority list.
Previous rank: No. 32
When we look back at the history of the Texans a decade from now, 2021 will be remembered -- if it’s remembered at all -- as the lost season for Houston’s NFL franchise. The depressing Deshaun Watson saga overshadowed anything that happened on the field from the summer through October, and when that drama was (temporarily) tabled post-trade deadline, all that was left was the worst team in football playing out the string ahead of what could be a massive organizational reboot. The coaches and players live in football purgatory: They exist, but everything about this team feels ephemeral. The wrecking ball is coming. Collect your paychecks and try to compile some decent tape.