2021 NFL Divisional Power Rankings entering Week 12: AFC North stays on top while NFC North sinks to new low


Another unpredictable week occurred in the NFL, although at this stage in the season the chaos should be predictable. The Houston Texans and Minnesota Vikings created even more upsets in Week 11, defeating teams that entered the week with at least four more victories than them on the year. There have been eight such wins this season, tied with the 1974 campaign (eight) for the most wins by teams over an opponent who had at least four more wins on the season through Week 11.

Since Week 9, there have been 11 wins by teams with a .500-or-lower winning percentage against division leaders, the most such wins to occur during Weeks 9-11 of a single season since the merger in 1970. While the upsets have balanced out the divisions in recent weeks, there wasn’t much shuffling in the divisional rankings this week. 

For one week at least, the divisions kept a normal pace. The way this season is going, that won’t stay the same as the league heads into Thanksgiving. 

8. NFC North

Last week’s ranking: 8

The Minnesota Vikings upsetting the Green Bay Packers certainly showed Green Bay won’t run away with this bad division — one that actually has two teams in the NFC playoffs through 11 weeks. The NFC North has the Chicago Bears (losers of five in a row) and the Detroit Lions (haven’t won a game all year), which keeps them last amongst the divisions. 

It didn’t help that Chicago fell to Baltimore without its starting quarterback and best wide receiver and Detroit actually received worse quarterback play in Week 11 than previous weeks. The NFC North is a league-worst 11-19-1 in out-of-division games (.371) and 16-24-1 overall (.402). If this division didn’t have Aaron Rodgers

7. AFC East

Last week’s ranking: 7

The Buffalo Bills getting trounced by the Indianapolis Colts did not help this division showcase why it should move up this week, even with the division-leading New England Patriots shutting out the Atlanta Falcons. The Miami Dolphins winning three in a row have helped this division stay competitive, but the AFC East just isn’t good enough to compete with the rest of the league at this point. 

Buffalo playing to championship potential and New England continuing to emerge as a playoff contender can carry this division over the final seven weeks. The AFC East is 12-16 in interdivisional matchups (.429) and 19-23 overall (.452). 

6. AFC South

Last week’s ranking: 6

The Houston Texans beating the division-leading Tennessee Titans was the upset of the year — and actually helped the division showcase that it is more than top heavy. Houston and the Jacksonville Jaguars are still tied for the worst record in the AFC, which hurts the strength of the top half of the division. 

The Colts’ blowout win over the Bills showed the AFC South has two strong teams, both of which could be contenders for deep playoff runs. Indianapolis will be tested with three division leaders over its next four games — a stretch that could move this division up in the rankings. 

The AFC South is just 11-17 in out-of-division matchups (.393) and 18-24 overall (.429). 

5. NFC South

Last week’s ranking: 4

Losing two games to NFC East opponents in Week 11 means that the NFC South remains in free fall. The New Orleans Saints were blown out by the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Football Team defeated the Carolina Panthers. At least the division-leading Tampa Bay Buccaneers took care of the New York Giants

This division currently has the Buccaneers and Saints in the playoffs, but that could change with all the injuries in New Orleans. The Atlanta Falcons have been blown out in consecutive games, not helping the strength of the division amongst its peers in the conference. 

This division is Tampa Bay’s to lose at this point while the other three are just battling to be .500 or better. The NFC South is 16-15 in interdivisional games (.516) and 21-20 overall (.512). 

4. NFC East

Last week’s ranking: 5

Even with the Dallas Cowboys losing to the Kansas City Chiefs, the NFC East deserves to leapfrog the NFC South after the Eagles beat the Saints and Washington upset Carolina. Both games were at home for Philadelphia and Washington, yet the wins were impressive for a division that may have competitive teams other than Dallas. 

The Giants are a lost cause at this point and don’t appear to be helping this division any time soon. The NFC East can stay in the top four if Washington and Philadelphia can continue their strong play on the field. Dallas running another string of victories will help, too. 

The NFC East is 16-19 in out-of-division matchups (.457) and 19-22 overall (.463), with three teams under. 500. Doesn’t feel like there are three under .500 teams with how the Eagles and Washington have played this month. 

3. NFC West

Last week’s ranking: 3

The NFC West holds serve this week, mainly because the division had just one out-of-division matchup (the San Francisco 49ers crushed the Jacksonville Jaguars). Inside the division, the Arizona Cardinals easily took care of the Seattle Seahawks on the road with a backup quarterback (Colt McCoy) and without their top pass catcher (DeAndre Hopkins). 

Arizona is the best team in the NFC, which certainly keeps this division at the top of its conference peers. San Francisco emerging back in the playoff conversation makes this division even stronger despite the struggles in Seattle. The NFC West still may get three teams in the postseason. 

The NFC West is 17-10 in interdivisional matchups (.630, the best in the NFL) and 24-17 overall (.585). 

2. AFC West

Last week’s ranking: 2

Kansas City taking care of Dallas in a battle of division leaders certainly showed the power of the AFC West, a division that had a strong week. The Los Angeles Chargers winning a thriller against the Pittsburgh Steelers in primetime showcased the heavyweight battle for the division lead between two conference contenders in the final seven weeks — a huge plus for the AFC West.

The Las Vegas Raiders are in free fall after losing to the Cincinnati Bengals at home, yet still remain at .500. This is one of two divisions where every team is .500 or better. The AFC West is 19-14 in out-of-division matchups (.576) and 23-18 overall (.561). 

1. AFC North

Last week’s ranking: 1 

Another week the AFC North stays on top after a strong performance by the division. The division-leading Ravens beat the Bears on the road without their starting quarterback and top wide receiver, while the Bengals took care of the Raiders on the road. 

The Cleveland Browns struggled against the Detroit Lions at home, but a win is a win in the NFL. The only loss in the division was by the Steelers, who rallied in the fourth quarter against the Chargers to take a late lead. This division could have easily went 4-0 this week. 

The AFC North is starting to pull away from the field. The division is a league-best 20-12-1 in interdivisional matchups (.621) and 24-16-1 overall (.598) — the best win percentage in the NFL. Every team is over .500 in the AFC North, making this division easily the best in football. 





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