NFL power rankings entering Week 12 of the 2021 season (previous rank in parentheses):
1. Cardinals (4): Give them their flowers as league’s lone nine-win team reclaims top spot for second time in past four weeks. Give them a full bouquet as league’s only 6-0 road team – all those victories coming by double-digit margins. Yet if Arizona can maintain its current position, as QB Kyler Murray (ankle) and WR DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring) continue to heal into the bye week, the Cards won’t have to leave the desert after Jan. 2.
2. Buccaneers (5): Their mini skid ended Monday night, but they’ll really need NT Vita Vea back to contain the Indy ground assault in Week 12.
3. Packers (1): So for their upcoming date with the Rams, Green Bay won’t have OL Elgton Jenkins (torn ACL) or LT David Bakhtiari (ACL recovery) as QB Aaron Rodgers tries to evade DT Aaron Donald and OLB Von Miller while on a bum toe. Nothing to see here.
4. Chiefs (10): A defense that’s given up 47 total points over the past four weeks (all wins) while taking the ball away eight times is what’s really ridden to the rescue of the AFC West leaders. Maybe QB Patrick Mahomes will be ready to take torch following a week off.
5. Cowboys (2): Losers of two of their past three and incredibly beaten up going into a short Thanksgiving week against Las Vegas. The good news is Dallas’ adversity has come against AFC West competition, which should limit any damage suffered on tiebreaker front.
6. Patriots (8): You can question how many quality wins they have, but when you’re beating NFL competition by an aggregate 94-13 score over a three-week period, that speaks volumes. Their next four games are against Tennessee, Buffalo (twice) and Indianapolis, a stretch that should put New England into clearer perspective.
7. Titans (3): The absence of RB Derrick Henry was bound to hurt eventually, but give them credit for what they’ve overcome from personnel perspective. Tennessee has played a league-high 82 players this season, eight more than any other team.
8. Rams (7): QB Matthew Stafford heads back to Lambeau Field, where he’s 3-7 all time … though he has split his last six in Wisconsin.
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9. Ravens (9): Holding steady at No. 2 in the conference even if they’ve been fortunate to split last four contests. Now AFC North leaders enter crucial stretch as they face each of their formidable divisional foes over next three weeks.
10. Vikings (11): Even QB Kirk Cousins is looking for room on Minnesota’s bandwagon. Not much room on Cousins bandwagon either, Pro Football Focus justifiably ranking him as league’s second-best passer after Sunday’s upset of Green Bay, in part due to his 0.5% interception rate.
11. Colts (16): RB Jonathan Taylor’s ascendance into NFL superstar – he just became fifth player in Super Bowl era (since 1966) to collect 200 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns in one game – occurs just as HBO’s cameras began rolling to document “Hard Knocks” during regular season for the first time.
12. Bills (6): Scrutiny on a struggling crew was already building, and now Buffalo will have to figure out its issues on a national stage – the next two games on Thanksgiving night (at New Orleans) and a Monday nighter against New England in Week 13 … preceding a road trip to Tampa.
13. Chargers (12): In yet another remarkable performance Sunday night, QB Justin Herbert became the first player in Super Bowl era to pass for 350 yards and rush for 90 in the same game. And he’s definitely breaking mold for the Bolts, who’d never had a QB run for at least 90 in team’s 62-season history.
14. Browns (14): A much-needed Week 13 bye week is sandwiched by two games against Baltimore – meaning a careening Cleveland team will get little respite much as Baker Mayfield and Co. could use it.
15. Bengals (15): Only two road games left for a squad that’s rebounded into AFC’s top wild-card slot. And comforting to know what a deadeye rookie K Evan McPherson is after he drilled three field goals from 50+ yards, a team record, in Sunday’s walkover at Las Vegas.
16. 49ers (19): They’re lying in weeds after beating the Rams on a Monday night before securing win in Jacksonville despite a 1 p.m. ET kickoff and a cross-country flight during short week. Sunday’s home date with Minnesota could have major playoff ramifications.
17. Steelers (13): No team has a tougher seven-game lineup left on its schedule, none of Pittsburgh’s remaining opponents owning a losing record. OLB T.J. Watt and S Minkah Fitzpatrick can’t return soon enough.
18. Eagles (21): They’re now the No. 1 rushing team in NFC (153.4 yards per game) and no longer have a goose egg in win column at Lincoln Financial Field. Fortunately, their next two are in New Jersey against the lowly Giants and Jets – golden opportunities to vault Philadelphia into wild-card position.
19. Panthers (17): Really must have next two games (at Miami, Atlanta) if they’re going to be relevant during season’s final month. Good thing QB Cam Newton and RB Christian McCaffrey have baked-in chemistry as both try to navigate an offense neither has played in much.
20. Saints (18): Now that they’ve once again paid part-time QB Taysom Hill, isn’t it maybe time to play him behind center, too, given team is 0-3 with Trevor Siemian as the starter?
21. Raiders (20): For a team that should switch things up, we’d suggest running more … but this offensive line doesn’t allow for much.
22. Broncos (22): If nothing else, they’re clearly happy with their wide receivers, extending Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick in past week. Nice selling point for their next quarterback.
23. Washington (24): Why did no one make a bigger deal of QB Taylor Heinicke’s Carolina revenge tour last week? Were there really more prominent prodigal sons in Charlotte or something?
24. Seahawks (23): QB Russell Wilson has lost three in a row for first time in his 10-season NFL career after a record 150 consecutive starts without such ignominy. Meanwhile, frustrated coach Pete Carroll is prematurely walking out of press conferences. Just feels like this organization is fraying at seams.
25. Falcons (25): They were first team in 21 years to have three quarterbacks serve up an interception in the same game. Matt Ryan’s still the only one to throw a TD pass this year, but he hasn’t done that in nearly nine quarters.
26. Dolphins (29): Their next three are in Miami against the Panthers, Giants and Jets. Legitimate chance 4-7 Fins could be back at .500 going into home stretch.
27. Giants (26): Just a shame what’s befallen RB Saquon Barkley, easy as it was to miss his 12 mostly irrelevant touches as he returned to action Monday night.
28. Bears (27): With Khalil Mack shelved, OLB Robert Quinn somehow managed a career-best 3½ sacks Sunday. At least something’s going right in Chicago.
29. Jaguars (28): They’ve got five takeaways this season, three fewer than any other team.
30. Jets (30): Their last divisional win came in 2019 … meaning they’ve lost 10 straight against AFC East.
31. Texans (32): When you’re paying your only superstar to not play while constantly churning the roster, no wonder David Culley can’t afford to issue any game balls. Nice win, though, Coach.
32. Lions (31): Now that Houston’s latest victory has all but secured No. 1 pick of the 2022 draft for Detroit, will the Lions reach for one of the quarterback prospects? Or just play it safe by snagging another Oregon product, DE Kayvon Thibodeaux in this case?
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL power rankings Week 12 2021: Are Chiefs or Patriots top AFC team?