A team’s Super Bowl hopes can soar through the roof or veer off the tracks from week to week in the NFL, but Week 10 didn’t do much to reverse anyone’s fortunes. Most of the teams in the hunt looked great, and most of the teams at the bottom of the standings didn’t.
Philadelphia had a bye week so it doesn’t quite feel right toppling the NFL’s best record from the No. 1 spot when the Eagles didn’t do anything to ruin it. And for as ridiculously impressive as the Saints were against the Bills, the Patriots looked dominant too against the Broncos.
And so we tread water at the top.
But there were still a few teams that climbed up and slid down the rankings in Week 10:
Starting Case Keenum in seven games made the Vikings a little hard to trust as a contender, but here they are at 7-2 with Teddy Bridgewater ready to go if they choose to turn over the reins.
Minnesota has a two-game lead over the Packers and Lions in the NFC North, a top-five defense, and an offense that’s accomplishing much more than most expected it to when Keenum was forced into action. The Vikings’ schedule isn’t easy down the stretch, beginning with the Rams next week, but there’s reason for Minnesota fans to be optimistic about 2017.
Green Bay Packers
Maybe the Packers aren’t that doomed with Brett Hundley. He’s not going to be anything close to Aaron Rodgers for Green Bay the rest of the way, but the team still put together 342 yards of total offense against the Bears Sunday.
Hundley was efficient and the Packers found 160 rushing yards against a Chicago defense that has given a lot of teams trouble. It’ll still be an uphill climb to get to the playoffs, but if Hundley can keep them afloat, there’s a possibility Rodgers could be back in time for a postseason run.
If the Panthers find a way to consistently run the ball well like the way they did against the Dolphins on Monday, this team could be trouble. Jonathan Stewart finished with 110 rushing yards on 17 attempts, and it helped open up the entire Panthers offense in a 45-21 win.
Cam Newton returning to his MVP form of 2015 would instantly make the Panthers a playoff team and legitimate contender in the NFC.
Trying to win without Ezekiel Elliott is one thing, but apparently the Cowboys are completely helpless without Tyron Smith. Just ask Adrian Clayborn, who made $750,000 by completely dominating Chaz Green.
Smith probably won’t be out long, but if the Cowboys don’t beat the Eagles next week they can kiss any chance of winning the NFC East goodbye.
Wins are nice, but the lengthy list of injuries the Seahawks had against the Cardinals put a damper on the victory celebrations. Richard Sherman is out for the year, and Duane Brown has an ankle injury that could cost him some time.
With the Rams staying hot, the Seahawks’ chances of catching up in the NFC West race are slimming. A Monday Night Football game against the Falcons will be telling of the Seahawks’ ability to bounce back from these injuries.
Full hope rankings
Weekly disclaimer: These aren’t your average power rankings and are instead an attempt to measure the current state of mind — or “hope” — for each team and fan base.
The NFL can be an emotional roller coaster, and one big week can shoot a team’s spirits through the roof and tank another’s hopes of finishing with the Lombardi Trophy in February or beyond. Teams near the top are feeling great after Sunday, while those at the bottom aren’t feeling too optimistic.
If you’re looking for a ranking of who would beat who, this isn’t always going to be the best gauge:
Hope rankings, Week 11
|2||New England Patriots||2|
|3||New Orleans Saints||3|
|4||Los Angeles Rams||5|
|8||Kansas City Chiefs||9|
|19||New York Jets||17|
|20||Green Bay Packers||27|
|24||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||30|
|25||Los Angeles Chargers||23|
|26||San Francisco 49ers||31|
|32||New York Giants||26|