Not much in the way of changes this week which is to be expected this late in the season. These rankings don’t overreact to a win or loss too much at this stage. Teams with a very negative trend, however, are the Cowboys (6 spot drop in two weeks) and Cardinals (4 spot drop over 2 weeks), neither of whom ranked that highly here to begin with despite the lofty records. Their drops are a combination of performance and their schedules looking less impressive each week.
Looking ahead the good teams that might send up the biggest warning flags moving forward are the Bengals, Cowboys, Cardinals, Browns, Chargers, 49ers, Lions, and Steelers. These are the teams that are really exceeding their expected performance in terms of wins and might have a difficult time avoiding some regression, though remaining strength of schedule certainly plays a role in that outcome. The playoff hopefuls who probably elicit the most bullish reactions would be the Patriots, Ravens, Dolphins, Saints, Colts, Broncos, Packers, and Bills.
Taking the actual schedule into account we are probably looking at the Patriots and Broncos finishing with the top 2 records in the AFC with the Colts coming in third. Indianapolis has the easiest path while the others have some difficult games so they could sneak one of the top two spots. Buffalo probably plays the biggest role in determining the seeding as their defense should have them competing against the Patriots and Broncos. I would favor the Ravens in the NFC North, though they have found ways to lose games they should be winning this year. Their game against Miami will likely be telling. I’d peg Kansas City and Cincinnati as the wildcard teams. I’d put Miami and Pittsburgh just outside the playoffs.
In the NFC I think it would be surprising if the Packers and Eagles were not number 1 and 2. Seattle/Arizona is interesting. The Seahawks only game they should lose is against Philadelphia, but that may not be enough. If Arizona loses this week to Kansas City its probably a strong sign that Seattle will be the three seed, but if they win Seattle needs to beat Philly to take it. The Saints should be favored to run the table to get to 9 wins and win the division by two games over Atlanta. I have Detroit as the other wildcard team in the NFC. Their schedule of Tampa, Minnesota, and Chicago the next three weeks is among the most favorable in the NFL. Dallas I have 7th at 10 wins.
NFL Power Rankings, Through Week 13
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Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.