NFL power rankings: Detroit Lions climb three spots, but league's strength resides in AFC

Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press
·4 min read

AFC teams have won five of the last six Super Bowls, and about a third of the way through the 2020 season, the power in the NFL seems to be consolidated in that conference again.

Five of my top six teams in this week’s power rankings hail from the AFC, and two of the league’s three remaining unbeatens reside in the conference.

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I had the Seattle Seahawks as my No. 1 team heading into Week 6, and I wasn’t about to penalize them for having a bye. Russell Wilson is the front-runner for league MVP at this point, or at least the co-front-runner with Patrick Mahomes and Ryan Tannehill, and Seattle has the league’s highest-scoring offense.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) raises his hands as fans cheer at the end of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020 in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Seahawks defeated the Dolphins 31-23.(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) raises his hands as fans cheer at the end of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020 in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Seahawks defeated the Dolphins 31-23.(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

But you can make the case that any of the next four teams in my rankings deserve to be No. 1, and in my heart of hearts I still think the two best teams in the NFL are one-loss teams the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens.

The Chiefs and Ravens both have losses on their ledger, but Kansas City has Mahomes, a generational talent at quarterback, and more impressive wins than anyone in the NFL: at Baltimore in Week 3, and at Buffalo on Monday night.

The Ravens have mostly beat up on mediocre-to-bad football teams so far, but they, too, have a special talent at quarterback, and just as importantly, a Super Bowl-ready defense.

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The AFC’s two unbeaten teams, the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers, square off in the game of the week this week and I have to admit I was slow to believe in both.

We all knew Tennessee was a good team after last year’s playoff run, so its success is not a total surprise. By my hang-up with putting the Titans among the league’s elite heading into the season was Tannehill, and whether he could repeat his success a second year.

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) celebrates after scoring a touchdown Tuesday in Nashville, Tenn.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) celebrates after scoring a touchdown Tuesday in Nashville, Tenn.

Well, he’s done that, and as long as Derrick Henry stays healthy, the Titans are legitimate Super Bowl contenders and maybe the most balanced team in the league.

The Steelers, likewise, seemed like a good bet for a rebound heading into the season after the job Mike Tomlin did keeping them above water despite their injury woes last year. But Ben Roethlisberger seemed shot at times before undergoing elbow surgery, and I had doubts about what he’d be when he returned.

At 38 years old, he has 11 touchdown passes, one interception and is experiencing a bit of a renaissance.

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For the record, I’m taking the Titans to win Sunday’s game, and I see a dogfight the next couple months between them and the Chiefs for the AFC’s No. 1 seed.

Back to the NFC, the Lions moved up a couple spots this week after Sunday’s win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars are one of the handful of worst teams in the league, but the Lions played a pretty complete game and with so many dreadful teams sitting at one win, they deserved a little bump.

This week’s rankings

1. Seahawks (5-0)

2. Chiefs (5-1)

3. Ravens (5-1)

4. Titans (5-0)

5. Steelers (5-0)

6. Packers (4-1)

7. Saints (3-2)

8. Bears (5-1)

9. Buccaneers (4-2)

10. Cardinals (4-2)

11. Bills (4-2)

12. Raiders (3-2)

13. Rams (4-2)

14. Colts (4-2)

15. Browns (4-2)

16. Patriots (2-3)

17. Dolphins (3-3)

18. Panthers (3-3)

19. 49ers (3-3)

20. Chargers (1-4)

Adrian Peterson (28) of the Detroit Lions celebrates with teammates Miles Killebrew (35) and Jahlani Tavai (51) after defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars 34-16 at TIAA Bank Field on Oct. 18, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida.
Adrian Peterson (28) of the Detroit Lions celebrates with teammates Miles Killebrew (35) and Jahlani Tavai (51) after defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars 34-16 at TIAA Bank Field on Oct. 18, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida.

21. Texans (1-5)

22. Lions (2-3)

23. Cowboys (2-4)

24. Eagles (1-4-1)

25. Falcons (1-5)

26. Broncos (2-3)

27. Vikings (1-5)

28. Bengals (1-4-1)

29. Giants (1-5)

30. Washington (1-5)

31. Jaguars (1-5)

32. Jets (0-6)

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

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: NFL power rankings: Detroit Lions jump; AFC's 4 Super Bowl contenders