There is no drama at the top of these rankings. As the power rankings continue to show every week, there's not a lot you can trust in this league. Thank goodness for the 49ers, who just might be the only exception right now. After yet another easy win over a strong team, the 49ers are clearly the best squad in the NFL right now and have a great chance to go all the way if they stay healthy. Things are getting
interesting behind them, however. The supposedly elite teams in the AFC can’t stop losing, the race for the final Wild Card spot in both conferences is on, and the NFC South exists. As for everyone else, it's starting to look more and more chaotic as we get closer to the end.
1. San Francisco (9-3)
With that thumping of Philly, it's easy to argue the Niners have the two most impressive wins of the 2023 season. The Eagles and Cowboys were pounded by a combined score of 84-29. The offense is a four-headed monster, and Brock Purdy is steady at the controls. Through 12 games, Purdy leads the NFL in QBR (75.6), completion percentage (70.2%) and yards per attempt (9.6), among other key categories. Purdy hasn't just picked up where he left off, he has been better and helped elevate the Niners' offense to heights it hasn't previously reached since coach Kyle Shanahan arrived in 2017. The defense is dominant once again. Few teams have as good a resume, and no one has as much talent. Deebo Samuel talked so much trash about the Eagles leading up to the game of the year and then he backed it all up. The dude put on a show. Their show this week is a home game against Seattle.
2. Baltimore (9-3)
There's no need to move the Ravens during a week off, but all five of their remaining games are against teams in the playoff race. That gives them plenty of time to grab the top spot; or less. The Ravens got to watch both the Chiefs and Jaguars lose during their bye week. Not a bad vacation. Baltimore has nothing but tough games left, starting with the Rams this week, but they have an open path to the No. 1 seed. Their game against the Dolphins in Week 17 could go a long way in deciding that. Ravens fans like being on Miami’s radar and the Phins are coming up on New Year's Eve. Circle that one on the calendar. That’s clearly the path they have to be thinking at this time. Might be easy to overlook the Rams this week coming off their bye.
3. Dallas (9-3)
Simply put, Dak Prescott is playing the best ball of his career right now. However, there’s others responsible for their success. Who else could it be? CB DeRon Bland leads the NFL with eight interceptions, and his five pick-sixes are a single-season NFL record. All this while filling in for Pro Bowl CB Trevon Diggs, who suffered a season-ending torn ACL in his left knee in a Week 3 practice. But there's more work to be done with the Eagles on deck, and Thursday's scintillating performance against Seattle was a hell of a start to the home stretch. If he manages to beat Philly, I think he'll be the MVP front-runner the next time I write this blurb. Last week, Dallas was pushed all the way by the Seahawks, but they held on for the win in yet another good performance from Dak Prescott. Suddenly only one game back from the visiting Eagles, the Cowboys have a chance to make a play for the division at home this week before a tough run of games against the Bills, Dolphins, and Lions from Week 15 to Week 17. Dak Prescott for MVP. Somehow, his detractors would still be mad he won. No QB is under more scrutiny.
4. Philadelphia (10-2)
Philly got punched. Hard. In the face. How will they respond? Probably pretty well. Even with a humbling loss to San Francisco, the Eagles still have more wins than any other team. As much as they're probably hurting right now, they can put a stranglehold on the division with a big road win in Dallas this weekend. Just try not to let the Niners loss beat you twice by sucking this weekend. The Eagles' special teams group turned from a weakness in 2022 to a strength this season. Philadelphia entered Week 13 with the No. 1 special teams ranking in the NFL. This time of the stretch run is all about defense and special teams.
5. Miami (9-3)
Tyreek Hill will benefit from the 17th game that was added to the schedule in 2021 as he vies for the NFL's first 2000-yard receiving season. But even still, he's averaging one yard more per game than Calvin Johnson did in 2012, when he set the NFL's single-season receiving record. If he stays as hot as was in Washington, he's got a shot at setting the record in 16 games. So much focus on Tyreek, but Tua is playing as well. He makes that offense go. The Dolphins beat the stuffing out of another bad team and currently sit as the No. 1 seed. It is what it is at this point. Miami has two more easy games before finishing with the Cowboys, Ravens, and Bills.
6. Kansas City (8-4)
The Packers are surging, but Kansas City still shouldn't be losing games to a .500 team. The Chiefs probably should be lower given what we have seen from them recently, but there is no one to drop them below due to the Lions’ recent struggles and the quarterback injuries. Doth mine eyes deceive, or are the Chiefs somewhat vulnerable? The Chiefs' offensive issues are real, regardless of whether they want to blame officiating. Rashee Rice, the Chiefs' 2023 second-round draft pick, has been the team's best wide receiver so far this season. He leads the Chiefs' wideouts by significant margins in catches (52), yards (591) and touchdowns (five). Will they be real enough to waste the best defense to ever complement Patrick Mahomes? We'll see in early 2024 during the playoffs.
7. Detroit (9-3)
The last three weeks have been troubling for the Lions’ postseason outlook, especially with how strong the top three teams in the NFC have looked. The Lions will get to test themselves against the Cowboys in Week 17. Meanwhile, the Lions have guaranteed themselves a winning record with a month still to play, and that's very fun. But you have to be concerned about this defense. When the New Orleans Saints are flirting with 30 points against you, it's a pretty clear indicator you've got problems. Sam LaPorta is s breath of fresh air. Nine catches for 140 yards on nine targets and LaPorta is that something else. There were obviously season turning expectations for the Lions rookie after being selected in the second round (34th overall) of the 2023 NFL draft out of Iowa, but LaPorta has been better than advertised. His NFL career is off to a great start with the third-most catches (64) and fourth-most receiving yards (679) through the first 12 games of a tight end's career in NFL history.
8. Houston (7-5)
This is where the league starts to get very confusing. It sounds strange to say, but among a bunch of .500 teams, I think I trust the Texans the most especially after their defense pulled some of the weight Sunday against Denver. It is disappointing the Texans allowed themselves to get into a close game with the Broncos, but they came out on top and are suddenly in a much better position in the division given the injury to Trevor Lawrence. A game against the Jets this week and then two against the Titans in the three weeks after that helps their case. Hate to see what happened to Tank Dell breaking his leg. Nola Brown now enters the picture at wide receiver.
9. Buffalo (6-6)
The good news is the field did not run away from the Bills during the bye week. The bad news is they still get the Chiefs and Cowboys over the next two weeks and then finish the season against the Dolphins. They probably need to win two of those games to make the playoffs… more realistically, all three. What a fascinating stretch this is going to be for the Bills. They'll play back-to-back games against the Chiefs and Cowboys next. Those could re-announce them as a contender or sink their season. I know Buffalo is the AFC No. 10 seed, but I just can't count them out. Note to Josh Allen: It’s your turnover’s that’s causing so many losses so what’s your plan?
10. Jacksonville (8-4)
The Jaguars could not slow down the Jake Browning-led Bengals and then lost Trevor Lawrence to what could be a multi-week ankle injury in the upset
Monday night defeat. Riding high after their win over the Texans, the Jaguars now face an uncertain path to the postseason. Getting the Browns and Ravens over the next two weeks does not help matters. As of this writing, it's unclear how severe Trevor Lawrence's ankle injury is. Regardless of that, the Jags' typically stout defense has some soul-searching to do after allowing 491 yards to the Jake Browning-led Bengals. There are multiple reasons to be concerned in Jacksonville. Gotta feel for Trevor Lawrence. Injuries are just the absolute worst.