NFL Power Rankings Week 11: 1-32 poll, plus we identify each team's most important remaining game

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Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Regular readers of the NFL Power Rankings know that we like to look ahead to future events while putting teams in order. This week is no different, as we're using this space to have our NFL Nation reporters pick the one remaining game on the schedule of the team they cover that is the most important. (Well, some picked two, but we digress.)

This exercise saw many of our reporters pull a Bill Belichick and focus all their attention on the next game ahead. But some went beyond the "on to Cincinnati" mantra and looked forward to games that might decide division titles (Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers or Buffalo Bills-New England Patriots, anyone?) and home-field advantage (that Arizona Cardinals-Dallas Cowboys game in January could be spicy) or even contests that might provide pride or settle draft positions (you know you're looking forward to Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New York Jets on Boxing Day). But if you want to know which games to tune into from here on out, read below.

How we rank our Power Rankings: Our power panel -- a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities -- evaluates how teams stack up throughout the season.

Previous rankings:10 | 9 |8|7 | 6 | 5 | 4 |3 |2 |Preseason

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NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF


1. Green Bay Packers (8-2)

Previous ranking: 3

Most important remaining game: Nov. 28 vs. Rams

The Packers have a realistic chance at the No. 1 seed in the NFC. They've already beaten one of the other teams with only two losses, the Cardinals, and the Rams are right in that mix, as well. Division games are important -- and the Packers still have four of them left, including two with the Vikings -- but this game could go a long way toward determining who gets that playoff bye. -- Rob Demovsky

2. Tennessee Titans (8-2)

Previous ranking: 2

Most important remaining game: Nov. 28 at Patriots

For starters, this game will be Mike Vrabel's return to the stadium where he made his mark as a three-time Super Bowl champion -- and the second time facing his former coach, Bill Belichick. The Patriots are 2-4 at home, and everyone is jumping on the "Mac Joneswill lead New England to the playoffs" train. Jones' efficiency as a passer (69% completion rate) should provide a good test for the Titans' secondary.-- Turron Davenport

3. Arizona Cardinals (8-2)

Previous ranking: 1

Most important remaining game: Dec. 13 vs. Rams

For all intents and purposes, this game will likely decide the NFC West. The division has turned into a two-team race between Arizona and the Rams, so a win by the Cardinals on a Monday night would go a long way toward giving them their first division title since 2015 -- which means at least one home playoff game. Three weeks later, Arizona will visit the Cowboys for a game that could determine the entire NFC. -- Josh Weinfuss

4. Dallas Cowboys (7-2)

Previous ranking: 7

Most important remaining game: Jan. 2 vs. Cardinals

With nearly a four-game lead in the NFC East, it's difficult to say any of the four remaining division games are the biggest games. Dec. 2 at New Orleans is pretty big for conference purposes, but the biggest is the Cardinals matchup, because home field advantage in the NFC could be up for grabs. The Cowboys might feel like they owe Arizona a little too after they were throttled 38-10 at AT&T Stadium a year ago. The Cowboys still have some business they must tend to for that game to be as big as it possibly can be, but if they want to be real contenders, they will be in position to lay claim to the top spot in the conference. -- Todd Archer

5. Los Angeles Rams (7-3)

Previous ranking: 4

Most important remaining game: Dec. 13 at Cardinals

The Cardinals are in first place in the NFC West, and they easily defeated the Rams37-20in a Week 4 matchup. When these squads meet again in December, this time on Monday Night Football, it could very well determine the division winner. The Rams had won eight straight over the Cardinals under coach Sean McVay, until their early-October loss to coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray. Regardless of which team wins the division, both are nearly a lock to earn a playoff berth. -- Lindsey Thiry

6. Buffalo Bills (6-3)

Previous ranking: 8

Most important remaining games: Dec. 6 vs. Patriots and Dec. 26 at Patriots

The Bills have big matchups against the Buccaneers and Saints on the schedule, but the key games remaining are versus the Patriots. Buffalo leads the AFC East, with a chance to win the division for a second straight year. However, the Patriots are a half-game back, and the division could come down to their two December meetings -- the first of which is on Monday Night Football. How will Mac Jones fair against the league's top scoring defense? With the way the Patriots dominated the AFC East for so long, these games will have a variety of implications.-- Alaina Getzenberg

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3)

Previous ranking: 5

Most important remaining game: Monday vs. Giants

To quote Tom Brady: "The next one." As in, this week. Yes, against the New York Giants. The Bucs dropped two in a row for just the second time in Brady's tenure as a Buccaneer to fall to 6-3. Even worse, they looked like a total shell of themselves at Washington. While still in contention in the NFC, coach Bruce Arians said they were "totally" lacking in passionand that they need to do some "soul searching" this week. -- Jenna Laine

8. Kansas City Chiefs (6-4)

Previous ranking: 13

Most important remaining game: Dec. 16 at Chargers

This game looms large in determining the AFC West champion, particularly because the Chargers beat the Chiefs in Week 3 at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs moved into sole possession of first place by beating the Raiders on Sunday night, but Kansas City is just a half-game up on both the Chargers and Raiders. The Chiefs have plenty of work to do to secure their sixth straight division title, but this Thursday night game looks pivotal. -- Adam Teicher

9. Baltimore Ravens (6-3)

Previous ranking: 6

Most important remaining game: Dec. 12 at Browns

The Browns are still projected as the Ravens' biggest threat in the division, with a 19.6% chance of winning the AFC North, according to ESPN's Football Power Index. This Week 14 game comes after the Ravens play at Pittsburgh and the Browns are on a bye. If Baltimore can overcome these odds and win in Cleveland, it would go a long way in the Ravens securing their third AFC North title in four years. -- Jamison Hensley

10. New England Patriots (6-4)

Previous ranking: 12

Most important remaining games: Dec. 6 at Bills and Dec. 26 vs. Bills

The Patriots are surging, and if things continue in this direction, their two December games against the AFC East-leading Bills will go a long way toward determining the division championship. The Dec. 6 game is on a Monday night in Orchard Park, New York, and then the teams will meet up in Foxborough, Massachusetts, three weeks later. -- Mike Reiss

11. New Orleans Saints (5-4)

Previous ranking: 11

Most important remaining game: Jan. 2 vs. Panthers

The real answer is this week at Philadelphia, where the Saints will try to avoid their first three-game losing streak since 2016. Frankly, every game matters for a team now holding onto a playoff berth by the skin of its teeth. But I'll circle the Week 16 home date against Carolina on my calendar, since the Panthers are now the Saints' closest pursuers in the wild-card race and have already beat them, in Week 2. Both teams have a chance to be at their best by the end of this season now that they're getting healthier and adding key players, includingCam Newton. This game could have huge implications for two teams hoping to peak in January. -- Mike Triplett

12. Los Angeles Chargers (5-4)

Previous ranking: 9

Most important remaining game: Sunday vs. Steelers

It's the next game, which is an essential one, since the Chargers have lost three out of the past four following a 4-1 start, the most recent defeat coming at home against the Vikings. The offense was stagnant against Minnesota, only gaining 253 yards and losing the time of possession battle by more than 12 minutes. The Chargers, who also have lost games to the Patriots and Ravens during the past month, need a victory over an AFC contender to get back on track for the playoffs. Beating the Steelers -- who are a half-game ahead of them in the wild-card standings -- in front of a national audience could set the Chargers up for a second-half push. -- Shelley Smith

13. Cincinnati Bengals (5-4)

Previous ranking: 16

Most important remaining game: Dec. 5 vs. Chargers

ESPN's FPI has Cincinnati as underdogs in six of its final eight games. That means Cincinnati will need to steal a couple of games to make the playoffs for the first time since 2015. The Week 13 tilt against the Chargers is essentially a pick 'em game: Los Angeles is favored 0.4 points, per FPI. Cincinnati would love to bank a win with these final four games: at Denver, vs. Baltimore, vs. Kansas City, at Cleveland. -- Ben Baby

14. Cleveland Browns (5-5)

Previous ranking: 10

Most important remaining game: Nov. 28 at Ravens

Despite the up-and-down performances, the Browns are still in the thick of the AFC North race. By knocking off the Ravens in Baltimore on Thanksgiving weekend, the Browns can take control of the North, with a bye week and then a rematch with the Ravens in Cleveland on Dec. 12. Cleveland has not won a division title since 1989. The Browns could took a major step toward doing so with one win -- if not two victories -- over Baltimore. -- Jake Trotter

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3-1)

Previous ranking: 14

Most important remaining games: Dec. 5 vs. Ravens and Jan. 9 at Ravens

The AFC North is wide open, and despite tying the winless Lions, the Steelers are No. 2 in the division -- trailing just the Ravens. Technically, every remaining division game is important, but the Steelers still have to play the Ravens twice -- including a Week 18 matchup in Baltimore. In the paper boat race, it's likely that the division winner and some additional playoff berths will be decided in the final weekend of the season. -- Brooke Pryor

16. Indianapolis Colts (5-5)

Previous ranking: 19

Most important remaining game: Dec. 19 vs. Patriots

There are seven AFC teams currently with records of 6-4, 5-4 and 5-5 in the race for one of the final two playoff spots in the AFC. The Patriots would make the playoffs if they were to start today, while the Colts would be on the outside looking in. New England could put the Colts' playoff hopes on life support by beating them in Indianapolis. That, of course, is if the Colts are still in contention for a postseason spot when the teams meet in Week 15. The Colts have not beaten Bill Belichick and the Patriots since the 2009 season (nine straight losses). -- Mike Wells

17. Carolina Panthers (5-5)

Previous ranking: 24

Most important remaining game: Sunday vs. Washington

I easily could have gone with one or both of two games against NFC South rival Tampa Bay in the final month of the season, since Carolina likely will need to win one to make the playoffs. I went with Washington because the Panthers have lost three straight at home and must take care of business at Bank of America Stadium to make the Bucs games meaningful. This will be emotional because it's the return of former Carolina coach Ron Rivera andCam Newton's return as the starter. A dud here would be a huge blow following a big win on Sunday at Arizona. -- David Newton

18. Las Vegas Raiders (5-4)

Previous ranking: 17

Most important remaining game: Sunday vs. Bengals

Yes, Sunday at home against the Bengals. No, there's not some huge, old-school beef to settle due to Ickey Woods or Ken Anderson. It's just that the Raiders' season is threatening to spiral out of control -- again -- and until Las Vegas wins a game, it will simply become more of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Or did you not see a 6-4 start in 2019 turn into a 7-9 finish or the 6-3 start last year end at 8-8? These Raiders started 5-2, and after embarrassing defeats at the Giants and home to the Chiefs, they look nothing like their former selves. -- Paul Gutierrez

19. Minnesota Vikings (4-5)

Previous ranking: 20

Most important remaining game: Sunday vs. Packers

The Vikings are currently No. 8 in the NFC playoff picture and only a half-game behind seventh-seeded Carolina -- who they beat in Week 6. At 4-5, the Vikings must string together wins to stay in the fight for one of the final two wild-card spots. Plus, remember when Aaron Rodgers told Chicago Bears fans. "I own you"? He has an even more compelling case against Minnesota, having thrown 50 touchdown passes to seven interceptions in his career -- a 7-1 ratio that is the best by any QB versus a single opponent, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The Vikings are far behind the Packers in the NFC North pecking order, but games like this always carry more weight. -- Courtney Cronin

20. Denver Broncos (5-5)

Previous ranking: 15

Most important remaining game: Nov. 28 vs. Chargers

This game will be the Broncos' first back from the bye and their first following the 30-13 loss to the Eagles on Sunday. And it's at home, where the Broncos are just 2-3 this season, with of all three of their ugliest losses -- against Baltimore, Las Vegas and Philadelphia -- coming in front of the team's faithful. The Broncos need to come out of the bye with some on-field passion instead of postgame angst. If they are really going to be in the middle of the muddled AFC West race, they need to win this game to start a stretch run the right way. -- Jeff Legwold

21. San Francisco 49ers (4-5)

Previous ranking: 22

Most important remaining game: Sunday at Jaguars

Pardon the cliché here, but the reality for the 49ers is that the next game is the most important one on the schedule and will be for the foreseeable future. If you're an optimist hoping they can still muster a postseason run, well, they better beat the likes of the Jaguars. If you're a pessimist and the season is already shot, this is the type of game that could lead to rookie Trey Lance finally taking over as the starter. Either way, the Niners are in no position to look beyond the next game on the slate. -- Nick Wagoner

22. Philadelphia Eagles (4-6)

Previous ranking: 23

Most important remaining game: Sunday vs. Saints

The only realistic path to the playoffs is by securing a wild-card berth. Currently, the Eagles are one game back of the final slot. The Saints are one of the teams they're contending with. A win Sunday could give them an essential tiebreaker advantage over New Orleans if the teams both end up with the same record. Philly already owns the tiebreaker over the Panthers and Falcons after beating them earlier this season. They'd be positioned well for a late playoff push if they can find a way to register their first home win of the season against the Saints. -- Tim McManus

23. Seattle Seahawks (3-6)

Previous ranking: 21

Most important remaining game: Sunday vs. Cardinals

Seattle needs a miracle to catch the Cardinals or Rams in the NFC West standings. But with Kyler Murray and backup Colt McCoy both hurting, Sunday's game looks like an opportunity for the Seahawks to get one of the upset wins they likely need for a 9-8 finish and a shot at the conference's seventh playoff spot. There's a good chance they'll be favored in five remaining games (versus Washington, Houston, Chicago, Detroit and San Francisco). If they win all five -- and that's a big if for a 3-6 team -- they'd need to beat a favored opponent to get to nine wins. Arizona's quarterback issues could give the Seahawks their best chance at that this Sunday. -- Brady Henderson

24. Atlanta Falcons (4-5)

Previous ranking: 18

Most important remaining game: Thursday vs. Patriots

After a 43-3 pasting by Dallas -- Atlanta's worst loss since 2004 -- the Falcons need to find something positive. Add in that the team hasn't won at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this year and that they are playing the Patriots in Atlanta for the first time since the Falcons lost to New England in Super Bowl LI (dropping a 28-3 lead in the process) and there's a bunch of storylines that can be exorcised with a win on Thursday. Plus, at 4-5 in a crowded middle of the NFC, a victory could do wonders for the team's potential playoff hopes. -- Michael Rothstein

25. Washington Football Team (3-6)

Previous ranking: 27

Most important remaining game: Sunday at Panthers

Not only is the game against coach Ron Rivera's former team, it's also the next game -- and when you're 3-6, that's always the most important one. But in this case, it's even more so for another reason: Washington is coming off its most complete win over a good team (Tampa Bay) in a few years. If it wants to crawl back into any sort of wild-card contention or have that win build momentum, then it has to follow that game up with another strong showing -- and a victory. -- John Keim

26. Chicago Bears (3-6)

Previous ranking: 25

Most important remaining game: Sunday vs. Ravens

This Sunday's game amounts to a last stand for the Bears. You can forget about any late-season, miraculous playoff run if the Bears lose to Baltimore. Everything is on the line for Chicago, including the fate of embattled coach Matt Nagy, who can't afford many more losses on his résumé if he wants to keep his current job. The entire Bears organization is backed up against a wall. This weekend's matchup versus the Ravens could determine many things. -- Jeff Dickerson

27. New York Giants (3-6)

Previous ranking: 26

Most important remaining game: Monday at Buccaneers

If the Giants, currently 1.5 games back of the No. 7 spot, want to even pretend to be in the playoff picture, they're going to have to pull off a massive upset. Yes, it's unlikely. They are on the road against the defending champs opening as 11.5-point underdogs, per Caesars Sportsbook. Maybe getting healthier off the bye week helps? -- Jordan Raanan

28. Miami Dolphins (3-7)

Previous ranking: 30

Most important remaining game: Sunday at Jets

Interviewing coaches must be rubbing off on me: This week's game is the most important remaining on the schedule because it's the next one. Now sitting at four games below .500 after a two-game win streak, the Dolphins' margin for error is razor-thin -- as in, they can't afford to lose another contest for the next several weeks. Miami is a long shot to make the playoffs, but with the NFL's third-easiest remaining schedule (according to ESPN's FPI) with games against the Jets, Panthers, Giants and Jets again coming up, those playoff chances aren't totally zero quite yet. But losing to the Jets in Week 11 would certainly derail any hopes. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

29. New York Jets (2-7)

Previous ranking: 29

Most important remaining game: Dec. 26 vs. Jaguars

At 2-7, it's all about trying to save face. This is an important game because these were the two worst teams last season based on record -- and also because of the rookie quarterback matchup ofZach Wilson vs.Trevor Lawrence. Which team is showing the most progress? Which quarterback is developing faster? This isn't a standings game; it's a pride game. -- Rich Cimini

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-7)

Previous ranking: 28

Most important remaining game: Dec. 19 vs. Texans

The Jaguars looked awful in a season-opening loss at Houston, a team that was generally regarded as the worst in the NFL heading into the season. They couldn't line up correctly, had too many men on the field and played sloppy. That remains the Texans' only victory. The Jaguars have to beat Houston to show that they -- Urban Meyer and QB Trevor Lawrence, especially -- have made significant progress since September. -- Mike DiRocco

31. Houston Texans (1-8)

Previous ranking: 31

Most important remaining game: Nov. 28 vs. Jets

Two of the Texans' final eight games come against teams with only two wins: the Jets and Jaguars. The best chance at a victory might be against the Jets at home in Week 12. It's a game that will likely impact draft position the most. Houston's lone triumph this season came in Week 1 against the Jaguars. The Texans (1-8) are currently a half-game behind the 0-8-1 Lions for the No. 1 pick. -- Sarah Barshop

32. Detroit Lions (0-8-1)

Previous ranking: 32

Most important remaining game: Nov. 25 vs. Bears

Still in search of their first victory, the Lions are playing for pride in coach Dan Campbell's first season. The playoffs are obviously out of the picture, but the Thanksgiving Day game has been a staple in the franchise's history since 1934. If they lose every other game, the one game they do want to win is this annual holiday classic, with NFL fans all across the world watching as they enjoy their turkey and dressing. Ironically, the holiday matchup first kicked off against the Bears more than eight decades ago, so this is always a big deal. This year is no different. -- Eric Woodyard

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