NFL Power Rankings: Week Twelve

Commence ball-punching - Dilip Vishwanat

The Bears handed it to the Vikings to reclaim first place in the NFC North. Where does that leave them in our power rankings collection?

At this point in the season, injuries are a common theme for any NFL team. Everyone has relatively important players nursing injuries, missing some games, or out for the season. The Bears officially entered the fray of the walking wounded with six starters leaving Sunday's game against the Vikings with some sort of ailment. Celebrations for the 28-10 division win were quelled with subsequent news of Devin Hester's concussion, Matt Forte's, and Lance Brigg's, and Charles Tillman's ankles, Lance Louis and his torn ACL, and Chris Spencer and his injured knee. The Vikings, on the other hand, played Sunday without Percy Harvin (ankle), and had starters Harrison Smith and Kyle Rudolph leave the game with concussions.

The Packers got throttled THROTTLED by the New York Phoenix Giants on Sunday Night 38-10, dropping them to 7-4 and in second place in the NFC North. Green Bay played the game without Greg Jennings, Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, Sam Shields and Bryan Bulaga (injured reserve). That loss was the Packers worst defeat since 2007, when Brett Favre and company lost 35-7 to Adrian Peterson (30 carries, 102 yards, 1 TD) and Kyle Orton. Yes, it was the Bears, featuring the other Adrian Peterson (Brian Urlacher returned an INT 85 yards for a touchdown in that game too, by the way).

The last place Lions, meanwhile, extended their Thanksgiving Day losing streak to nine years (and probably counting) with a 34-31 loss to the Houston Texans. The Lions played well overall, but as the tryptophan invaded our bodies and dulled our senses, Jim Schwartz did a particularly brain-dead thing that triggered an admittedly stupid rule. In the end, the Lions fall to 4-7, and any playoff talk in Detroit solely consists of remembering the Tigers.

Power Rankings time! All rankings listed are linked in the table.

SBNation ESPN PFT AdvStats FO
Bears (8-3) 7 (8) 6 (6) 8 (11) 7 (8) 14 (13) 5 (6)
Packers (7-4) 9 (6) 9 (4) 9 (7) 9 (4) 12 (7) 6 (5)
Vikings (6-5) 17 (15) 16 (14) 17 (14) 17 (14) 23 (21) 18 (16)
Lions (4-7) 19 (19) 20 (19) 24 (21) 19 (18) 11 (10) 11 (15)
1st place Texans Texans Texans Texans Broncos Patriots
32nd place Chiefs Chiefs Chiefs Chiefs Jaguars Raiders

The Bears edged their way up in three of the four subjective rankings and are now ranked higher than the Packers in all four polls after trailing last week in all four. ESPN had Chicago holding steady at six, which was the highest subjective ranking for the Bears from last week. ESPN said:

For better or worse, their success is tied to Cutler, and his return to action showed how valuable he is.

With a 24-10 record as a starter over the past three years and a 2-6 record without Cutler... yeah, he's important. As a Bears fan, I like the way SBNation put it:

Makes a difference when you have Jay Cutler and not Jason Campbell, huh? The Bears should be favored in every remaining game down the stretch.

The Vikings loss knocks them into a three-way tie for the sixth playoff spot with the Buccaneers and Seahawks, two teams Minnesota has already lost to and are consistently ranked higher than. Its hard to see the Lions drop much lower in the rankings, even with more losses, because (barring injury) they are way better than the bottom-of-the-barrel teams (in no particular order: Raiders, Browns, Bills, Eagles, Panthers, Cardinals, Jaguars, Chiefs, Jets, Chargers, Titans).

AdvancedNFLStats' Team Efficiency rankings are included for a second straight week, although this may be their last. To be fair, I really like the site and use it a fair amount for researching articles, but I'm struggling to understand the stat-crunching that must go on to create this list. The top three teams make sense - Broncos, 49ers, Texans - but that's followed up by the Panthers, Seahawks, and Giants. Two of those three teams I can see that high, but the Panthers? Really? With no running game except for their quarterback and an injury-riddle swiss cheese-like defense (that is playing a bit better)? Or the Lions being 11th, higher than the Packers, Bears, Bucs, and Ravens. For what its worth, the Bears have the best defense according to the site and the second-worse offense.

Football Outsiders' weighted DVOA ratings gets their own table breakdown on how they view the NFC North:

Overall Offense Defense Special Teams
Bears 5 26 1 3
Packers 6 5 7 12
Vikings 18 20 20 6
Lions 11 4 25 28

The Packers represent the best-balanced team in the NFC North, but the Bears are the only team to have two of the three phases in their respective top-five. The Lions resurgent running game has helped them to the fourth best offense, although they have the lowest rated defense and special teams. To compare to the Team Efficiency ratings mentioned above, they have the Lions defense rated 16th and their offense 7th.

Football Outsiders has been tracking the Bears defense as an all-time great performer, and while the team dropped one spot after Sunday, they still come in as the fourth-best rated defense ever through week 12, behind the 2002 Bucs, and 1991 Eagles and Saints teams. The 2005 Bears defense is 8th on the list, and the 2006 Bears are 10th. The top rated special teams units through week 12? The 2007 and 2011 Chicago Bears.

The Falcons, 10-1 and sporting the best record in the NFC currently rank 17th, and are the lowest rated one-loss team ever for Football Outsiders. They rank 14th in offense, 16th in defense, and 17th on special teams. The Texans, also 10-1, rank 8th overall, 11th in offense, 6th in defense, but 32nd on special teams.

What do you think of the rankings? Are the Falcons one of the worst 10-1 teams ever? Should the Bears be in the top-5? What about AdvancedNFLStats Team Efficiency ratings?

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