/NFL power rankings: Recapping my hits, misses (like the Detroit Lions) from strange 2020 – Detroit Free Press

NFL power rankings: Recapping my hits, misses (like the Detroit Lions) from strange 2020 – Detroit Free Press

With one game left in the regular season and the top of the power rankings all but settled — the one-loss Kansas City Chiefs are the clear Super Bowl favorites, with the Green Bay Packers, Buffalo Bills and New Orleans Saints the most serious challengers for the title — this seems like a good time to go back and do a full audit of my first power rankings of the year.

Naturally, there were some hits and misses, including a few times in the exact same spot I have them now.

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The hits

The Chiefs

This was an easy one. Kansas City was No. 1 in my preseason poll and the Chiefs are No. 1 now. They have a generational quarterback and a ton of offensive talent. I do think the Bills will test them in the playoffs, but aside from a two-week stint at No. 2 after their only loss of the season, I’ve had the Chiefs No. 1 all year.

Lions' Trey Flowers chases Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes during the fourth quarter at Ford Field, Sept. 29, 2019.

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The Seahawks

I have the Seahawks at No. 5 now, as the third best team in the NFC, and that’s exactly where I had them back in September. I wrote then, “Adding Jamal Adams to an already-good defense makes Seattle a legit Super Bowl contender.” And while Russell Wilson has been the biggest reason for the Seahawks’ success, no one would be surprised if they made a run for the title.

[ Why Darrell Bevell felt ‘helpless’ watching the Lions’ blowout loss from home ]

I put the Titans ahead of the Colts in my preseason power rankings, at No. 7, one spot below where they are now, but I picked Indianapolis to win the AFC South. Both teams enter Week 17 with 10-5 records, and while Indy needs a little help to lock up a playoff berth, I feel pretty good about how I saw the Colts, as a good defensive team with an aging quarterback who would do just enough to make them dangerous.

They looked like the worst team in the league in September and four months later, nothing has changed.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) calls a play during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

The misses

The Steelers

It’s funny, I remember debating whether I should give the Browns or Steelers a wild card spot in my preseason prediction. I went Browns, which was a fine call, but I missed on Pittsburgh. Before Week 1, I ranked the Steelers 22nd and wrote, “It feels weird starting the Steelers so low, but until Big Ben proves he has something left, this is where they belong.” Big Ben still looks shot, but lesson learned on underestimating Mike Tomlin.

[ Matthew Stafford determined to play in finale: ‘I want to be out there’ ]

I put Miami at No. 26 in my preseason power rankings, perhaps too jaded by the failed ex-Patriot experiment going on here to think the Dolphins could make a playoff run in Year 2 of Brian Flores. Kudos to them for the amazing turnaround.

The Cowboys

Both the Cowboys and 49ers made my preseason top 10. Both teams have dealt with major injuries this season that have contributed to their 6-9 records, but I give myself and everyone a little bit of a pass on the 49ers. They’ve been competitive all season despite their injury woes and probably would be playoff-bound had they maintained some semblance of health. The Cowboys, on the other hand, still have the chance to make the playoffs but are a complete mess. This was a whiff by me.

Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia before the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on October 14, 2019 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

I had the Lions 18th in my preseason power rankings, and they’re 25th now. That’s not a huge discrepancy, but I admittedly overestimated how competitive they would be. I thought the Lions had an outside chance to make the playoffs as a wild card, and, boy, was I wrong. It has been a disastrous year all around.

[ Stafford refused to ride a cart after his ankle injury. Here’s why. ]

This week’s power rankings

1. Chiefs (14-1)

2. Packers (12-3)

3. Bills (12-3)

4. Saints (11-4)

5. Seahawks (11-4)

6. Titans (10-5)

7. Steelers (12-3)

8. Ravens (10-5)

9. Browns (10-5)

10. Buccaneers (10-5)

Tom Brady (12) led the Buccaneers to their first playoff berth since 2007.

11. Colts (10-5)

12. Dolphins (10-5) 

13. Rams (9-6)

14. Bears (8-7)

15. Cardinals (8-7)

16. Raiders (7-8)

17. Washington (6-9)

18. Vikings (6-9)

19. 49ers (6-9)

20. Chargers (6-9)

21. Cowboys (6-9)

22. Patriots (6-9)

23. Giants (5-10)

24. Panthers (5-10)

25. Lions (5-10)

26. Broncos (5-10)

27. Texans (4-11)

28. Eagles (4-10-1)

29. Falcons (4-11)

30. Bengals (4-10-1)

31. Jets (2-13)

32. Jaguars (1-14)

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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