With a third of the season remaining, all we’ve learned is that “on any given Sunday” it still applies.
1. Philadelphia (8-1)
The Eagles are at the top of the NFL power rankings because they only have one loss and quality wins against the Dolphins and Cowboys. Analytically speaking, other teams are more well-rounded. But Philadelphia knows how to win when things are ugly. Philadelphia has lost the Super Bowl, World Series, and Taylor Swift in the last year. That's a tough scene, but the Birds are in a good position to redeem the City of Brotherly Love if they can stay healthy. The defense has weak points. Their offense does not. The offensive line is dominant. Jalen Hurts is playing incredibly well, and they possess an endless reserve of weapons.
2. San Francisco (6-3)
That is certainly one way to get back on track. The 49ers absolutely dominated the Jaguars Sunday. That’s more like it. Brock Purdy did not turn the ball over, the enhanced front seven generated consistent pressure, and the 49ers demolished what was a 6-2 Jagaurs squad on the road. They looked like a completely different team with Trent Williams and Deebo Samuel back on the field with each other. The 49ers' defense looked like their defense again in a throttling of the red-hot Jaguars. Put the word out that the 49ers are back.
3. Kansas City (7-2)
The Kansas City Chiefs don’t feel as dominant in 2023 as we’re used to seeing, but they’re incredibly well-rounded. They’re having a down year offensively. They rank fifth in EPA, and their per-play rate is much lower than usual. It will be a Super Bowl rematch and battle of current No. 1 seeds when the Eagles travel to Kansas City on Monday night. While that game might be more important to Philly given their schedule after it, the Chiefs offense has something to prove given their lackluster start, and Kansas City cannot afford to give up any ground in the top-heavy AFC. The Ravens, Bengals, and Jaguars all lost in Week 10. Even on the bye, Patrick Mahomes can't stop winning. But their defense also ranks fifth in EPA. Steve Spagnuolo has a unit that got going immediately in 2023, rather than their usual slow start before becoming a top-half defense.
4. Baltimore (7-3)
A tipped interception from Lamar Jackson and a strip sack that bounced right back into the Browns’ hands were two huge plays late that completely changed the direction of this game. However, this does give the Ravens two losses inside the division, which is not good, considering how tight the AFC North race is at the moment. The Ravens have lost seven games with Lamar Jackson as their starter in the last two seasons. Per current win probability, they had at least a 75 percent chance to win in each of those games. That can't continue to be a trend in Charm City. This team is still one of the best in the league, but they need to find a fix for their -17 fourth-quarter scoring margin.
5. Miami (6-3)
The Miami Dolphins have arguably the most dangerous offense in the NFL, and their defense has looked completely different in the two games that Jalen Ramsey has played in. If they can get Jaelan Phillips back healthy for the home stretch, this team could really run away and hide with the AFC East. The Dolphins are plus +109 in their six wins against teams below .500. They are minus-49 in their three losses that came against above-500 teams. 'Fins are electric, but they need to show they can beat the cream of the crop to be taken seriously as a title contender. The Dolphins have another run of games against lower-tier teams over the next five weeks before finishing with the Cowboys, Ravens, and Bills. We will likely have the same questions about this team until those final three games.
6. Detroit (7-2)
Dan Campbell and the Lions might have single-handedly ended Brandon Staley's run with the Chargers. Congratulations are in order for the Lions. They decided that defense would be optional against the Chargers, but they got away with it. Jared Goff was great, and the Lions’ rushing attack had a field day against the Chargers. At least, Detroit's 41-point, 533-yard performance should be the final nail in his LA coffin. Given what the Eagles have next up on the schedule, the Lions have a realistic path to the No. 1 seed. The Motor City Kitties are for real and are live to get the top seed in the NFC.
7. Dallas (6-3)
Dak Prescott made a horrible decision late in the first quarter when he was fooled by the Giants showing blitz and dropping into coverage instead. Outside of that one decision, Prescott and his pass seasoned catchers were flawless. Dallas has beaten the Giants (twice), the Jets, the Patriots, the Rams, and the Chargers. They have two more easy games before they get the Seahawks, Eagles, Bills, Dolphins, and Lions five weeks in a row. That run will tell the story of Dallas’ season. The Cowboys have lost to the Eagles, 49ers, and Cardinals. Not a sterling resume for a team that fancies itself a Super Bowl contender. It won’t be a shock to anyone if the coach puts a nail into the coffin with bad decisions and calling the plays.
8. Cincinnati (5-4)
The Cincinnati Bengals had a few missed opportunities late. But while usually losing to the Texans would be seen as a black eye on the calendar, that Houston team is different. A loss to a red-hot C.J. Stroud won't shakeFrodo my faith in the Bengals. This is the third straight season they've started 5-4. I expect a similar finish as the last two. Now they get the Ravens on a short week. The margin for error is just so small for this team in the loaded AFC. A loss here finishes them and the Bengals know how to lose in Primetime night games.
9. Jacksonville (6-3)
One game does not make or break a season. However, what looked like an easy stroll to the AFC South title looks a bit uncomfortable now with how Houston has played since their surprising loss to the Panthers. The Jaguars were embarrassed at home by the 49ers, losing 34-3 and getting nothing done on offense. The passing game has disappointed this season, and Trevor Lawrence ranks 27th among 33 eligible quarterbacks. Trevor Lawrence has more turnovers than touchdowns this season. The Jags need the "generational talent" to start playing like it if they want to reach their ceiling.
10. Cleveland (6-3)
Deshaun Watson went 14-for-14 for 139 yards and a touchdown in the second half of the Browns' comeback win over the Ravens. It's the best he has looked in a Browns uniform. Cleveland’s defense allowed 6.1 yards per play, but they played relatively well outside of a few big plays. The Browns’ offense commanded the ball, outgained the Ravens, and moved the chains more often. And against an impressive Ravens defense, the Browns converted 8 of 16 third downs.
The Browns have proven they can win games with lackluster quarterback play, but they face a tough road the rest of the way. I need to see more of that before I can elevate Cleveland from "Frisky Team With A Good Defense" to the "Legitimate Contender" category. It's a positive development, though.