NFL Power Rankings, Fantasy Football Edition: Healthy Cowboys on the rise

Power Rankings are silly. Power Rankings are fun. I like silly and fun things. And you probably do, too.

Today’s assignment is to update how fantasy-useful the 32 NFL clubs are. It’s my list and sure, it’s subjective. I welcome your reasonable disagreement at any time: @scott_pianowski on Twitter.

This is volume 4.0 of this list; we debuted in the preseason and have revisited it quarterly: 2.0 and 3.0.

32. Los Angeles Rams (Previous rank:18)

Oh well, flags fly forever, right? A team shipwrecked by injuries, though maybe the construction was also a problem. No NFL roster detonated more fantasy dreams than this one, though Matthew Stafford's injury issues in the preseason might have saved you. I was pleasantly surprised I only ranked the Rams 10th back in August.

31. Houston Texans (32)

Just when we thought Dameon Pierce might be game-script proof, he runs for eight yards in back-to-back losses. And there’s no guarantee the Texans win another game this year. I’m open-minded to Pierce doing something against the awful Browns rushing defense Week 13, but then we might need to move along. There’s no right answer in the quarterback room.

30. Denver Broncos (17)

This is how poorly Russell Wilson is playing: the Broncos are so unwatchable, they forced NBC to flex away from a Patrick Mahomes game. Only one Denver game has gone over the total through 11 attempts.

Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos have been a huge fantasy and reality disappointment. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos have been a huge fantasy and reality disappointment. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

29. Chicago Bears (24)

Justin Fields makes them fun and watchable. Anyone else at quarterback, you might as well not televise the game.

28. New England Patriots (26)

Mac Jones had the best game of his career Thanksgiving night, but perhaps that was more a comment about Minnesota’s leaky secondary. Rhamondre Stevenson is one of 2022’s best right answers, but there isn’t another hit on this offense.

27. New York Giants (30)

Saquon Barkley isn’t getting a lot of pass-game work, but given how his yards per target have cratered the last two years, it makes sense. Darius Slayton and Richie James will get some fantasy consideration during next week’s bye nightmare, but then you can probably ignore them for the fantasy playoffs.

26. Atlanta Falcons (22)

Success has many parents and so does failure — both Marcus Mariota and Arthur Smith share responsibility for the failure to launch Kyle Pitts and Drake London. The backfield is always going to be a committee of sorts, and Mariota also runs proactively, which holds down everyone’s ceiling.

25. Carolina Panthers (27)

They’re still alive in the NFC South, which underscores how awful that group is. Sam Darnold was good enough to revive DJ Moore, which is all we wanted. D’Onta Foreman will share some with Chuba Hubbard, but it’s clear who the featured back is.

24. New York Jets (28)

Mike White drew the Bears at the right time, but he also impressed with his accuracy, pocket awareness, and command of the offense. Garrett Wilson can win on any route. I give the Jets credit for proactively playing Zonovan Knight just a few weeks after the James Robinson trade.

[Week 13 Fantasy Rankings: QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | FLEX | DST | Kickers]

23. Tennessee Titans (31)

Treylon Burks spread his wings at the perfect time, and Derrick Henry starts himself on any fantasy roster. Ryan Tannehill’s resourceful running has vanished this year.

22. New Orleans Saints (23)

Alvin Kamara scored three touchdowns in one glorious afternoon against the Raiders. He doesn’t have a spike against anyone else. The Saints offensive line has been a problem, and of course the quarterback room has no obvious solution. Kamara’s also right around the age pocket where we get worried about running backs.

21. Pittsburgh Steelers (25)

Kenny Pickett is still a wait-and-see project, but at least he seems to improve every week. George Pickens’ floor is a long career as a WR2, and he might be able to jump into the first dozen, depending on what Pickett becomes. Najee Harris continues to give off that scary Trent Richardson vibe and now is battling an injury.

20. Washington Commanders (21)

The best thing you can say about Taylor Heinicke is that he’s not Carson Wentz, but it’s hard to make a fantasy offense go on just 195 yards a game. Somehow the Commanders are on a 6-1 binge despite averaging just 313 yards a game. The 49ers are likely to eat Washington’s lunch on Christmas Eve.

19. Jacksonville Jaguars (29)

Travis Etienne has never caught more than three passes in a game. JaMycal Hasty had five grabs last week. Is this a failure on the coaching staff, or a comment on Etienne? Trevor Lawrence was outstanding in the comeback win over Baltimore, and should produce this week against Detroit. The Christian Kirk and Zay Jones contracts were dunked on last spring, but both have played well.

Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars are trending up. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)
Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars are trending up. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

18. Indianapolis Colts (20)

I’d like to see more of Jelani Woods, who was one of the few players who covered himself in glory Monday night. But if the Colts can get Kylen Granson back on the field, they’ll probably make sure all their tight ends play a lot, and no one produces much. At least Matt Ryan has pumped air back into Michael Pittman and (most weeks, not Monday) Parris Campbell.

17. Green Bay Packers (16)

At this point, I’d like to see Jordan Love play. My expectations aren’t bouncy, I’m just sick of the Aaron Rodgers experience. Christian Watson is the classic case of a rookie receiver having the light turn on during the second half of the year.

16. Arizona Cardinals (19)

DeAndre Hopkins has the best under-the-hood stats of his time in Arizona, which is saying something. But on too many weeks, Kyler Murray struggles in structure and can’t keep the offense on schedule. James Conner continues to run in mud, but he has a reasonable floor for touches and a fair amount of touchdown equity.

15. Cleveland Browns (15)

Deshaun Watson hasn’t played an NFL game in two years and he’s had little time to prepare with his new teammates. There’s a wide range of outcomes here. Nick Chubb’s yearly YPCs since he joined the NFL: 5.2, 5.0, 5.6, 5.5, 5.2.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12)

The offense hasn’t collapsed, but this is an old team with little playoff upside. You still have to chase those targets and air yards with Mike Evans, however.

13. Baltimore Ravens (10)

The Ravens badly needed receiver help in the spring and they badly needed it at the deadline; instead, they’re trotting out retreads and secondary ideas. To be fair, they expected Rashod Bateman to take a major step forward and that was sunk by injury. Lamar Jackson had 12 total touchdowns in his first three games; he has eight since.

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12. Detroit Lions (11)

Maybe the Lions don’t want to overextend D’Andre Swift, and perhaps they’re always going to love Jamaal Williams more than the rest of the world. But when teams clearly show you how they feel about a situation, you have to listen. Swift’s weekly touch count since he retuned from injury: 10, 5, 7, 8, 9. If you’re expecting some 18-touch game out of nowhere, you haven’t done your SAT prep.

11. Las Vegas Raiders (14)

Josh Jacobs goes down as one of the 2022 league winners (Andy Behrens will dine out on this for six months), though we’d like to see more consistency. For all the bellyaching about Davante Adams, there he is, sitting at WR3, like most expected.

10. Minnesota Vikings (9)

I liked the move for T.J. Hockenson, but I’m stunned the Vikings have been able to acclimate him this quickly. But I can’t unsee the fact that this is the worst statistical season of Kirk Cousins’s career.

9. Miami Dolphins (13)

The passing tree has gotten a little wider than we’d like the last few games, not that I’ll ever feel bad for Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle managers. The Tua Tagovailoa/Justin Herbert prime-time meeting in Week 14 will be fun.

8. Seattle Seahawks (8)

Geno Smith’s had some recent turnover problems, but he’s also had a rating over 100 in five straight games. I don’t view him as a pumpkin risk. Kenneth Walker III’s production is a little more skewed towards long runs, not as consistent as I’d like. You want a higher success rate. He’s still a big fantasy win, but you want the offense to stay on schedule.

7. Cincinnati Bengals (7)

Tyler Boyd has fallen flat despite the absence of Ja’Marr Chase. Samaje Perine might be as good as Joe Mixon at this stage of their careers. Joe Burrow always impresses me with his poise and calmness, no matter how many hits he’s taken or what game situation he’s thrust in. Burrow is a perfect frontman for an offense and franchise.

6. Los Angeles Chargers (6)

We badly wanted the Chargers to get a receiver at the trade deadline, but there will be more options to fix this receiver room in the offseason.

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5. Kansas City Chiefs (4)

Isiah Pacheco finally got in the end zone again last week, but be mindful that the Chiefs have 29 touchdown passes and just nine touchdown runs. And four of those ground scores have gone to a collection of Patrick Mahomes, Mecole Hardman, and Noah Gray. If you can still trade, the timing could be right to shop Pacheco.

4. Buffalo Bills (2)

The weekly wheel of Gabe Davis: WR14, WR66, WR87, WR1, WR18, WR61, WR45, WR9, WR31, WR64. I think that goes down as a net loss, but he always feels a little too good to bench. Josh Allen hasn’t looked 100 percent for a while.

3. Dallas Cowboys (5)

The early Dak Prescott injury threw the offense out of balance, but it’s possible the five main Cowboys will be fantasy useful in the playoffs. CeeDee Lamb is still just 23 and he’s improved every season.

2. Philadelphia Eagles (1)

They ran all over Green Bay last week, but this passing game doesn’t have the same juice without Dallas Goedert. Miles Sanders is a win for positive regression; a year after somehow scoring zero times on 163 touches, he already has eight spikes this year. He’s always been a productive runner, offering 5.1 YPC for his career.

1. San Francisco 49ers (3)

Deebo Samuel only has two smash games this year, and although his rushing opportunity hasn’t dropped through the floor, last year’s lucky touchdown rate has predictably normalized. The 49ers have an abundance of great players, and they’re going to get in each other’s way sometimes. Christian McCaffrey's knee irritation is something to monitor, but he seems on track to play for now.