NFL power rankings: Detroit Lions no longer worst team in the NFL; how high do they climb?

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We have a change at the bottom.

After eight weeks of bringing up the rear in my NFL power rankings, the Detroit Lions are no longer the worst team in the NFL.

They’re still bad. At 2-11-1, there’s no other conclusion you can make.

But the Lions have played well enough in two of the past three weeks (and have a very valid COVID-related excuse for the third) to make their way out of the cellar.

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Lions wide receiver Josh Reynolds, right, celebrates his TD catch with receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown during the first half on Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, at Ford Field.
Lions wide receiver Josh Reynolds, right, celebrates his TD catch with receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown during the first half on Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, at Ford Field.

I bumped the Lions up three spots in this week’s rankings to No. 29, and really it’s a rise that’s been weeks in the making.

I said going into this rebuilding season I did not think the Lions were worst-in-the-NFL bad. The Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets have less talented rosters, and in Jacksonville’s case, the added distraction of an imploding locker room.

The Lions checked in at No. 28 in my preseason power poll, ahead of the Texans, Jaguars, Jets and New York Giants, and I held off on dropping them to No. 32 until mid-October.

That’s when the Jaguars won in London to leave the Lions the only winless team in the league, and, well, record counts for something, so the Lions needed to show proof of work before they could climb out of the basement.

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They’ve done that since the bye, tying the Pittsburgh Steelers and beating the Minnesota Vikings, and Sunday’s upset of the Arizona Cardinals was a well-argued closing case.

Upsets happen in the NFL. The Jaguars beat the Buffalo Bills and two of the Jets’ three wins are against the playoff-contending Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals. There might have been an element of the Cardinals overlooking the Lions on a short week.

But with three games left, the Lions are starting to find their footing a bit and that’s not often the case with floundering teams. It’s no consolation for missing the playoffs a fifth straight season, but there might be hope for the Lions ahead.

This week's power rankings

Records entering Tuesday:

1. Green Bay Packers (11-3)

2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-4)

4. Los Angeles Rams (9-4)

5. Arizona Cardinals (10-4)

6. Dallas Cowboys (10-4)

7. Indianapolis Colts (8-6)

8. New England Patriots (9-5)

9. Tennessee Titans (9-5)

10. Los Angeles Chargers (8-6)

11. Baltimore Ravens (8-6)

12. Buffalo Bills (8-6)

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (19) runs for a touchdown against Detroit Lions during the second half at Ford Field in Detroit on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (19) runs for a touchdown against Detroit Lions during the second half at Ford Field in Detroit on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021.

13. San Francisco 49ers (8-6)

14. Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6-1)

16. Cleveland Browns (7-7)

17. Miami Dolphins (7-7)

18. Washington Football Team (6-7)

19. Las Vegas Raiders (7-7)

20. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)

21. Minnesota Vikings (7-7)

22. New Steelers Orleans Saints (7-7)

23. Denver Broncos (7-7)

24. Seattle Seahawks (5-8)

25. Atlanta Falcons (6-8)

26. Carolina Panthers (5-9)

27. Chicago Bears (4-10)

28. New York Giants (4-10)

29. Detroit Lions (2-11-1)

30. New York Jets (3-11)

31. Houston Texans (3-11)

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12)

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 no longer worst team in the NFL