NFL power rankings, Week 11: Ravens among crowded group of contenders in unpredictable season

Each week of the NFL season, The Baltimore Sun will rank all 32 NFL teams. The rankings will take into account not just weekly performance, but how well each team measures up as Super Bowl contenders, regardless of win-loss record.

Here are the rankings after Week 11:


The contenders

1. Arizona Cardinals (9-2; No. 1 last week)

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3; No. 4)


3. Green Bay Packers (8-3; No. 2)

4. Tennessee Titans (8-3, No. 3)

5. Baltimore Ravens (7-3; No. 7)

6. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4; No. 9)

7. Dallas Cowboys (7-3; No. 5)

8. Los Angeles Rams (7-3; No. 6)

9. New England Patriots (7-4; No. 10)

There’s no doubting the Cardinals’ claim to the top spot after they’ve won two of three games without star quarterback Kyler Murray and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. A 23-13 road victory over the Seahawks behind backup Colt McCoy is the latest example that coach Kliff Kingsbury’s team is a force to be reckoned with in the NFC. Arizona has a 47% chance to clinch the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye, according to FiveThirtyEight, which shows just how much the Cardinals have separated from the pack.


Of course, the Bucs and Packers will be right on their heels. Tampa Bay bounced back from two straight losses with a dominant 30-10 win over the Giants on Monday night, with Tom Brady carving up New York’s defense and the Bucs’ front seven whipping the Giants’ offensive line and forcing two Daniel Jones interceptions. Green Bay lost to the Vikings on a last-second field goal, 34-31, but Aaron Rodgers played one of his best games of the season in leading the Packers back from a 23-10 deficit. As long as those two quarterbacks are healthy, there’s a clear hierarchy at the top of the NFC.

Not so much in the AFC. The Chiefs’ 19-9 win over the Cowboys was the latest example of a defensive resurgence under coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, but Patrick Mahomes is still struggling to find his groove, throwing another interception Sunday. Ryan Tannehill threw four picks in the Titans’ 22-13 loss to the last-place Texans, ending Tennessee’s six-game winning streak. With Lamar Jackson sidelined by an illness, the Ravens needed a game-winning drive in the final minute from backup quarterback Tyler Huntley to beat the Bears, 16-13. None of those teams are separating from the pack, with each week creating more uncertainty about the AFC hierarchy.

That’s opened the door for the hottest team in the NFL. Many expected the Patriots to be competitive this season after they spent big money in free agency, but counting on a rookie quarterback doesn’t often lead to success. Mac Jones has exceeded expectations, keeping the offense on schedule with his pinpoint accuracy during this five-game winning streak. With the AFC in flux, it’s not unreasonable to consider coach Bill Belichick’s team a Super Bowl contender.

On the cusp of contention

10. Los Angeles Chargers (6-4; No. 11)

11. Indianapolis Colts (6-5; No. 16)

12. Minnesota Vikings (5-5; No. 13)


13. Buffalo Bills (6-4; No. 8)

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams (81) runs for a touchdown past Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Tre Norwood (21) on Sunday in Inglewood, California.

The Chargers appeared destined for one of their signature heartbreaking losses Sunday night against the Steelers after blowing a 14-point fourth-quarter lead, but Justin Herbert connected with Mike Williams for a 53-yard touchdown with 2:09 left to give Los Angeles a wild 41-37 win. This team might not be trustworthy, but Herbert continues to establish himself as one of the league’s best quarterbacks. His talent alone could carry the Chargers to a deep postseason run.

The Colts and Vikings, meanwhile, have shown how misleading the first few weeks of the season can be. After starting a combined 2-6, they’ve surged back into the playoff race. Indianapolis is getting it done behind running back Jonathan Taylor, who took the NFL lead in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns with a 185-yard, five-touchdown performance in a 41-15 rout of the Bills. Minnesota is riding the hot hand of Kirk Cousins, who threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns in a win over the Packers. Say what you want about Cousins’ ability to make a Super Bowl run, but he surpassed Aaron Rodgers for the second most games with 300 or more passing yards and three or more touchdown passes in a quarterback’s first 10 seasons. If he and Taylor continue to play at this level, the Colts and Vikings are going to be tough to beat in the playoffs.

The Bills are trending in the opposite direction. Buffalo’s second loss in three games was ugly, raising concerns about how effective this offense can be if Josh Allen can’t return to his 2020 form. The Bills are struggling to find any downfield success in the passing game, and the defense was pushed around up front by Indianapolis. What looked to be an easy path to a second straight AFC East title is anything but now that the Patriots look like a contender. Buffalo needs to find answers, and fast.

The wild cards

14. Cincinnati Bengals (6-4; No. 17)

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4-1; No. 14)


16. Cleveland Browns (6-5; No. 15)

17. Philadelphia Eagles (5-6; No. 20)

18. San Francisco 49ers (5-6; No. 21)

19. New Orleans Saints (5-5; No. 12)

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon (28) runs from Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib (94) on Sunday in Las Vegas.

Good luck trying to predict the order of finish in the AFC North. The Bengals put an end to their two-game losing streak with a 32-13 win over the Raiders on Sunday, but they look like a far cry from the team that blew out the Ravens a few weeks ago. The Steelers have kept themselves afloat despite a slew of injuries, but they aren’t nearly as menacing on defense as they have been in years past and are relying on Ben Roethlisberger to carry a dink-and-dunk offense. The Browns keep trotting out a hobbled Baker Mayfield and hoping he can stay standing long enough to keep them in contention. It feels like the Ravens’ division to lose, given the unsteady play from the other three contenders.

Meanwhile, the NFC playoff race is heating up. The Eagles have surged to three wins in their past four games and might have found a quarterback to build around in Jalen Hurts, who continues to deliver on the ground and through the air alongside some talented young playmakers. The 49ers might be in quarterback limbo with Jimmy Garoppolo and rookie Trey Lance, but for now, Garoppolo gives them the best chance to win. Will San Francisco let its recent surge dictate Lance’s development the rest of the season? If coach Kyle Shanahan has any say, Garoppolo will get a chance to guide this team to the playoffs in what’s likely his final year with the team.


Still hanging around

20. Las Vegas Raiders (5-5; No. 18)

21. Carolina Panthers (5-6; No. 19)

22. Denver Broncos (5-5; No. 22)

23. Washington Football Team (4-6; No. 25)

24. Atlanta Falcons (4-6; No. 23)

Cam Newton’s return to Carolina produced some must-see moments, but it still ended with a 27-21 loss to Washington. The Panthers get the rest of the season to decide Newton’s future with the team, and given the options in the draft and free agency, he might be their best bet in 2022. That’s more of an indictment of the Sam Darnold experiment and the $18 million fifth-year option the Panthers picked up for the former first-round pick than anything else.

Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) runs for a short gain Sunday against the Panthers in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Washington has its own quarterback questions to answer, but for now, it’s happy to ride Taylor Heinicke’s hot hand. Back-to-back wins over Tampa Bay and Carolina have resurrected the team’s playoff hopes, just like last year’s four-game winning streak that began right around this time. Crazier things have happened, especially in this unpredictable season.

The basement

25. Miami Dolphins (4-7; No. 28)

26. Seattle Seahawks (3-7; No. 24)

27. Chicago Bears (3-7; No. 26)

28. Houston Texans (2-8; No. 31)

29. New York Giants (3-7; No. 27)


30. New York Jets (2-8; No. 29)

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8; No. 30)

32. Detroit Lions (0-9-1; No. 32)

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mack Hollins (86) scores a touchdown in front of New York Jets safety Ashtyn Davis (21) on Sunday in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

At least there’s no quit in Miami. The Dolphins have won two straight against current and former Ravens quarterbacks (Lamar Jackson and Joe Flacco) to regain some respectability after a miserable start. Tua Tagovailoa has at least shown signs of improvement, and there’s enough talent on both sides of the ball to be excited about. We’ll see if that’s enough to save coach Brian Flores’ job.

Pete Carroll and Matt Nagy might not be so lucky. Carroll was so frustrated after Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals that he left his news conference early, a sign that this nightmare season is wearing thin on the longtime coach. A clearly limited Russell Wilson has not been enough to make up for Seattle’s many deficiencies, and there isn’t much hope for improvement after the Seahawks gave up their first-round pick in the Jamal Adams trade. Nagy, meanwhile, is refusing to commit to a starting quarterback after seemingly giving the keys to rookie Justin Fields over veteran Andy Dalton. His job depends on Fields’ development, and yet he seems unwilling to do everything he can to build the best support system around his young star. It might be his downfall.

The Giants could be headed for a coaching change, too. Joe Judge is 9-17 with New York, and other than a few weeks of contention in a bad NFC East last season, it’s been a disappointing tenure. Daniel Jones has not taken a step forward in his third season, and much of the blame falls at the feet of Judge for his hire of offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and the team’s inability to build a competent offensive line. If New York can’t show improvement over the final seven weeks, big changes might be necessary.