NFL Week 12 Power Rankings: BTSC's Turkey Week Edition Might Surprise You

Yeah, yeah, I know, many of you don't like NFL Power Rankings. I think I know why though. Beyond just the undeniable fact that they're largely a futile exercise based on all the unpredictability we see each weekend, I think most media outlets get it wrong. Here's why. First of all and most importantly, I think most forget that 'Power Rankings' aren't supposed to be some sort of weekly poll that hands out gold stars for what you did or did not do the previous weekend. Power Rankings in my book are one's assessment of the 'power' of each team. Or said differently, they're a subjective evaluation of how each team would stack up against one another were everyone to play everyone on neutral fields.

Want an example? Why put the Houston Texans at No. 3 as CBS did last week while clearly acknowledging that the loss of Matt Schaub is going to hurt the team? The Texans are no longer the third best team in the NFL with Matt Leinart playing quarterback for them. I'm sorry, they are not.

So, with that said, here's my list:

1. Green Bay Packers:
  • Record: 10-0
  • Division/Conference Standing: Obviously the Packers are 1st in both the NFC North, the NFC, and all of football. They'll be playing at Lambeau Field in the playoffs until they're either bounced out or headed to Indianapolis for a chance to repeat.
  • Thoughts: Not much more to say here. The Pack are cruising and totally dispelling the myth of the Super Bowl hangover. Next up is a road test against the Lions on Thanksgiving Day. Should be an entertaining one. 
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Record: 7-3
  • Division/Conference Standing: The Steelers are currently second in the AFC North behind the Ravens. Having lost both regular season matchups to Baltimore, Pittsburgh must finish one game clear of Baltimore to edge them out in the division for what would likely be a first round bye and one of the top two seeds in the AFC playoffs. If they can't quite catch up, the Steelers will likely be the top wild card -- the No. 5 seed -- and face which ever 9 win team wins the AFC West.
  • Thoughts: Is it a bit homerific to put the Steelers ahead of the Ravens considering Baltimore beat them twice? Well, see, that's why we're trying to do things differently. I think with Ray Lewis potentially out for awhile and the Steelers set to return to close to full strength physically -- particularly on defense where injuries have prevented Dick LeBeau from deploying his entire fleet of talented head hunters. Really though when I look at these two teams, I see two evenly matched squads, so when I try to determine who has more 'power' moving forward after accounting for other variables like injuries, I can't help but give Pittsburgh the nod because of Ben Roethlisberger's track record of success in big spots.
3. Baltimore Ravens
  • Record: 7-3
  • Division/Conference Standing: By defeating the Bengals in Week 11, Baltimore slipped back into the top spot in the AFC North. However with New England winning on Monday night and also improving to 7-3. Baltimore is currently in the No. 3 hole in the conference. They lose out on conference record tiebreakers to New England and were beaten by Houston earlier in the season.
  • Thoughts: What would continue to worry me if I were a Ravens fan is just how bad the team can look in its worst moments. You know how the cliche goes -- 'it's not how good you are on your best day, it's how good are you on your best day.' Or something like that. But in Baltimore's case it really does seem to resonate with me. When they're on, they're tremendous in all facets. The hope for Ravens fans, I suppose, is that the team continues to bring their best game against good competition like they've been doing this year. Despite being apprehensive about them laying an egg out of nowhere come playoff time, I'll also say that I expect either Pittsburgh or Baltimore to be representing the AFC in the Super Bowl this coming February.
4. Dallas Cowboys
  • Record: 6-4
  • Division/Conference Standing: The Cowboys currently lead the NFC East at 6-4 thanks to a tiebreaker over the Giants. But Dallas and New York have yet to even play this year, so needless to say this division is wide open. For the time being though, the Cowboys check in as the No. 4 seed in the NFC with the worst record amongst division winners. Dallas might have to settle for that No. 4 spot quite frankly when you consider they ain't catching Green Bay or San Francisco for one of the top two spots. New Orleans is very catchable for the No. 3 seed, but the Saints are a game clear with six weeks to play, and four of their remaining games will be at the Super Dome.
  • Thoughts: Yeah, yeah, that extremely fortunate overtime win over the Redskins in Week 11 was weak. But the reality is that the Dallas-Washington rivalry is every bit as heated as the Steelers-Ravens grudge. For quite some time now, neither team has been worth a damn, but they come to play against one another. The underdog's always a threat, and in both games this year, the game was decided by three points or fewer. I put Dallas ahead of New Orleans and New England, by the way, because I think they have the type of defense that can give the quarterbacking gods that are Tom Brady and Drew Brees fits. We saw the Dallas defense play well against New England for the better part of 60 minutes earlier this fall. And I know that if you have any shot at disrupting Brees, it's by creating pressure up front without having to sell out entirely on the blitz. Dallas can certainly do that and that's why I'd give them the slight edge over New Orleans in a one-game scenario right now.
5. New Orleans Saints
  • Record: 7-3
  • Division/Conference Standing: The Saints are first in the NFC South and third overall in the NFC. Catching SF and GB is a long shot but not an impossibility, but New Orleans is likely looking at a competition with the Cowboys/Giants, with the winner earning the No. 3 seed and a potential trip to San Francisco rather than the No. 4 seed and a likely trek up to the frozen tundra.
  • Thoughts: The Saints took care of business in pivotal games against the Buccaneers and Falcons in Weeks 9 and 10 respectively. New Orleans' roster has some flaws, and there's a few teams they just don't match up well against. But you absolutely have to score 24-30 points to beat them and that basically speaks for itself. If you win the turnover battle and play cleanly for four quarter on offense, you can beat the Saints, even while still allowing Brees to get his 300 yards and a touchdown pass or two. But you can't beat New Orleans if you're only just playing well defensively and not capitalizing with touchdowns, not field goals. We'll learn a bit about them this next three weeks as they host the desperate Giants, the dangerous Lions and then travel to Tennessee to play a Titans team that could very well be still in the thick of a playoff race of their own in Week 14. 
No. 6. New England Patriots
  • Record: 7-3
  • Division/Conference Standing: 1st place AFC East, 1st place overall in conference. This could be New England's top spot to lose, but that all changes with a road loss at Philadelphia next Sunday. The Steelers would hold a tiebreaker over New England, but that only comes into play if Pittsburgh wins the AFC North. If Baltimore wins the division, it's not clear just yet who would earn that top seed based on conference records to begin with and then moving down the tiebreaker chain. 
  • Thoughts: I don't think the Pats and Saints are terribly dissimilar. Great QB play, impressive weapons at certain skill positions, a few gamers and big play guys on defense but a defense that's nonetheless very susceptible to all sorts of different attacks. New England is too good though to slip up against the mediocre teams of the league, which should allow them to secure one of those top two spots in the conference and at least one home game at Gillette Stadium as a reward.
No. 7. San Francisco 49ers
  • Record: 9-1

  • Division/Conference Standing: First in the NFC West, clear of Seattle by a healthy five games. And second in the NFC behind only Green Bay. New Orleans might be able to catch them, but if San Francisco can break even at 3-3 down the stretch, it's very unlikely they aren't hosting a divisional round game as the No. 2 seed.
  • Thoughts: Too low you say? I don't think so. You really ready to tell me that you'd bet your mortgage on an Alex Smith led San Francisco team over any one of the six teams I've listed above them? I didn't think so. Fine, maybe Dallas. Fair enough. But when you project wins against Dallas, it's typically assuming a Tony Romo letdown special is on the horizon, not that Dallas isn't talented enough to sting you when they're playing even just B+ football.Keep in mind that SF has only beaten three teams with winning records so far -- Cincinnati, Detroit, and the NY Giants. Their consistency has been remarkable, but I'm not sold until they beat a team like Baltimore or Pittsburgh. I don't think they will either.
No. 8. New York Giants
  • Record: 7-3
  • Division/Conference Standing: 2nd place in NFC East, No. 8 overall position in NFC. The Giants are probably going to have to win their division to get a playoff berth. Tied with Dallas through Week 11, they control their own destiny having two games against the Cowboys still on tap in Weeks 14 and 17.
  • Thoughts: It's actually going to be tough for New York to sneak into the playoffs because of their looming schedule -- their three remaining road games are against New Orleans, Dallas and the Jets, with a home tilt against the Packers and a season-concluding home game against the Cowboys on the horizon as well. Brutal. Still, this is a power poll, and I think the Giants have one of the eight best rosters in the league right now. If they can catch a few breaks in the injury department and get out of their own way by cutting down on mistakes, the Giants will continue to be a tough out each week.
No. 9. Atlanta Falcons
  • Record: 6-4
  • Division/Conference Standing: 2nd place NFC South; No. 7 overall slot in NFC. Atlanta is in great shape to earn a playoff bid thanks to the easiest schedule of any of the primary wild card contenders. The Falcons play Minnesota, at Houston, at Carolina, Jacksonville, at New Orleans and Tampa Bay to close. Hard for me to see them not winning at least four of those and getting to 10 wins. They might need to get to 11 though considering all four of their losses have come in-conference.
  • Thoughts: I don't like how many yards the Falcons amass relative to their point production, and I still question if their defense is physical enough to stand up to some types of matchups in winter weather. But the Falcons can play any number of styles now that Michael Turner is healthy and running the ball well again. I think they're steady enough at quarterback as well to handle those mediocre teams looming on the schedule.
No. 10. Detroit Lions
  • Record: 7-3
  • Division/Conference Standing: 2nd place in NFC North, No. 5 overall seed in NFC. The Lions are about to enter murderer's row in their schedule -- still to come are two games with Green Bay, a road visit to New Orleans, home against San Diego and a road trip to Oakland. The Lions likely won't climb any higher than the No. 5 seed, but looking at that schedule, it's a possibility they go 3-3 and miss the playoffs altogether. In fact, I'm comfortable saying that without at least splitting their upcoming two against Green Bay, the Lions narrowly miss out on the playoffs. They already have three NFC losses on their resume, including to Atlanta and Chicago.
  • Thoughts: It's hard not to be impressed with the Lions' explosive offense. Matthew Stafford rung up five more touchdown passes just last week in a shootout win over Carolina. Nobody would want to play Detroit indoors in a one-game elimination scenario, but I still think there's some growing pains in store for Jim Schwartz's squad this next six weeks.
No. 11.  Chicago Bears
  • Record: 7-3
  • Division/Conference Standing: 2nd place in NFC North, No. 6 seed in NFC. Four of Chicago's remaining six games are away from Solider Field. That's the bad news. The good news is the first two are against Oakland and Denver, with a home game against the Chiefs in Week 13 sandwiched in between. The Bears must go 2-1 in their remaining three NFC games -- vs. Seattle, at Green Bay and at Minnesota to hold on, and even then it might be enough.
  • Thoughts: This is all about the loss of Jay Cutler. Once more, I am not ranking based on past success or achievement, and for the Bears, it's hard to envision them remaining competitive down the stretch with the inexperienced Caleb Hanie taking over for Cutler for at least the next month, and likely until the end of the regular season, if not longer. The Bears are espousing full confidence in the former Colorado State QB, but the best the kid's going to do is lead the Bears to a 3-3 record down the stretch. Mike Martz's offense isn't exactly a cakewalk to pick up on the fly, and the Bears' offensive line isn't solid enough to make life easy on Hanie in pass protection or in the running game.
No. 12. Oakland Raiders
  • Record: 6-4

  • Division/Conference Standing: 1st place AFC West; No. 4 overall seed in AFC. It's possible the Raiders slide into the No. 3 hole if the Texans slide considerably down the stretch. That's provided Oakland staves off Denver and San Diego for the divisional title out west. Likely though they end up the No. 4 seed and will host either Baltimore or Pittsburgh (the No. 5 seed) in the opening round of the playoffs. 
  • Thoughts: Carson Palmer has led the Raiders to consecutive road wins after losing his first start against Denver, but the lion's share of the credit belongs to Michael Bush and the Raiders' rushing attack. Their ability to run the ball consistently and not put too much pressure on Palmer and the offensive line is the only major asset this Raiders squad has, but make no mistake, that's a good top attribute to possess. Beating a Caleb Hanie led Bears squad this weekend would go a long ways towards convincing me that Oakland has what it takes to finish things off and win the division. If they stumble this weekend, anything's possible, as their next two are at Green Bay and at Miami against a surging Dolphins squad.
No. 13. New York Jets
  • Record: 5-5
  • Division/Conference Standing: 2nd place in AFC East, No. 9 overall seed in AFC.
  • Thoughts: The Jets have put themselves in a tenuous position after blowing a lead against Denver last Thursday. At 5-5, with all five losses coming in-conference, the Jets can ill-afford to lose to another conference opponent, and really might need to run the table to make it in as a wild card depending on how other teams fare. If the Jets can get hot though, they're still built to compete in December and January. Their upcoming slate of 'easy' games might be the shot of confidence in the arm that Mark Sanchez needs to get Rex Ryan's offense clicking more consistently. 
No. 14. Houston Texans
  • Record: 7-3
  • Division/Conference Standing: 1st place in AFC South, No. 3 overall seed in AFC.
  • Thoughts: Seem too low for a team sporting a 7-3 record, tied with three other teams including Pittsburgh for the best mark in the AFC? Maybe slightly, but this slide is all about the loss of Matt Schaub to a foot injury for an indefinite period of time, perhaps the remainder of the season. Let's see how teams fare stopping the Texans' potent rushing attack now that they have to not be frightened by what Matt Leinart might do on play-action. Fortunately for Texans fans, the schedule is soft enough for Houston to hold onto their two game lead in the South and advance on to their first ever postseason.
No. 15. Philadelphia Eagles
  • Record: 4-6
  • Division/Conference Standing: 3rd place NFC East, No. 10 seed in NFC. The Eagles have zero margin for error now and can really only hope that the Giants and Cowboys split their two games and both stumble to 9-7 finishes. The silver lining is they are 3-1 in divisional games with one more game against Washington and Dallas still on the schedule.
  • Thoughts: If Sunday night's win over the Giants was a turning point for the Eagles' defense, we may not have heard the last of Philadelphia. A home test against the Patriots awaits this Sunday, and though not exactly a must-win game, it's close.
No. 16. Cincinnati Bengals
  • Record: 6-4
  • Division/Conference Standing: 3rd place in AFC North, No. 6 overall seed in AFC.
  • Thoughts: The Bengals start off their gauntlet of tough games 0-2, with a respectable showing against the Steelers and a heartbreaking loss to the Ravens last Sunday. Cincinnati will have to beat Cleveland, Arizona, Houston and the Rams in St. Louis, and then still also beat either Pittsburgh or Baltimore to get to 11 wins and make the playoffs. The Bengals have taken care of business against lesser teams consistently this season, but now the young squad must get on another run and not get tripped up even once. Without Leon Hall their best cornerback, I can't see that happening. Still, the future is decidedly bright in Cincinnati.
No. 17. Miami Dolphins
No. 18. Denver Broncos
No. 19. San Diego Chargers
No. 20. Seattle Seahawks
No. 21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
No. 22.  Cleveland Browns 
No. 23.  Arizona Cardinals
No. 24.  Tennessee Titans
No. 25.  Buffalo Bills
No. 26.  Minnesota Vikings
No. 27. Washington Redskins
No. 28. Jacksonville Jaguars
No. 29. St. Louis Rams
No. 30. Kansas City Chiefs
No. 31. Carolina Panthers
No. 32. Indianapolis Colts
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