NFL Power Rankings 2021

A Glance At All 32 Teams

1

We have had six exciting weeks of NFL action and are now getting hard evidence as to which teams are for real and which teams are pretenders. In an effort to keep you updated throughout the season, TheLines staff collaborates each week to rank all 32 NFL teams in our Power Rankings.

Here are TheLines’ NFL Power Rankings ahead of the seventh week of the season.

NFL Power Rankings 2021

#
Team
Chg
Rcrd
1
TB Buccaneers
Clearly liberated after his much-hyped return to Foxboro, Tom Brady has gone for 64-for-83 (77%) for 708 yards and 7 TDs to post a 125 passer rating in wins over the Dolphins and Eagles. The Bucs offense will only get stronger when Rob Gronkowski (ribs) returns, but their secondary is short handed with new signee Richard Sherman (hamstring) joining Sean Murphy-Bunting (elbow) on the sidelines.
1
0-0-0
2
BUF Bills
While the Bills were the better team on Monday night, Derrick Henry was the best player on the field, and his presence might have convinced Sean McDermott to go for it on 4th-and-inches instead of playing for overtime. 
1
0-0-0
3
LAR Rams
Facing a shorthanded Giants squad, Matthew Stafford started 8-for-12 en route to another 4-touchdown game and the Rams defense forced 4 turnovers with 4 sacks to beat the Giants, 38-11, the first time in NFL history a game has ended with that odd score.  
0-0-0
4
DAL Cowboys
Dak Prescott passed for 445 yards, but lost a costly fumble at the goal line and the Cowboys went 3-for-13 on 3rd down to give the Patriots a shot in New England. Talent prevailed, however, with Prescott hitting CeeDee Lamb for the overtime winner.
0-0-0
5
ARI Cardinals
With head coach Kliff Kingsbury (COVID) ruled out at the last minute, the Cardinals defense went out and strutted in Cleveland, holding the injury-diminished Browns offense to nine straight 3-and-outs. And Kyler Murray capitalized by pacing Arizona to a 17-0 lead in a flash.
3
0-0-0
6
KC Chiefs
While they finally got a decent performance from their defense, the Chiefs were still in dangerous territory early on against Washington with Patrick Mahomes committing a pair of turnovers. They got it together in the second half on both sides of the ball, with Mahomes converting eight straight 3rd downs to put the game away. 
0-0-0
7
BAL Ravens
A couple of unlikely victories over the Lions and Colts seemed to galvanize the Ravens, since they didn’t get much respect heading into a matchup with a fellow 4-1 team. But Lamar Jackson and company got back to their dominant ground game and waxed a first-place squad.
3
0-0-0
8
GB Packers
Spotting an early lead to Justin Fields and the Bears proved insignificant for the Packers. They’ll have to be sharper going forward with Washington visiting Sunday, followed by a Thursday night test at Arizona. 
1
0-0-0
9
LAC Chargers
Brandon Staley’s luck converting inadvisable 4th downs ran out, as veteran John Harbaugh coached circles around the new head coach. The Bolts have given up at least 186 rushing yards in four different contests and are yielding a league-high 5.6 YPC average. 
4
0-0-0
10
CLE Browns
Nick Chubb (calf) was inactive, Odell Beckham Jr. (shoulder) was on and off the field, and Kareem Hunt was carted into the locker room with a non-contact calf injury, leaving the Browns offense desperate for solutions in a 37-14 loss to the Cardinals. 
3
0-0-0
11
NO Saints
The Saints entered their bye week ranked 3rd in total DVOA defense and 9th in DVOA pass offense with Jameis Winston posting a 12:3 TD:INT ratio. Michael Thomas (ankle, I.R.) and Tre’Quan Smith (hamstring) are both close to returning.
1
0-0-0
12
SF 49ers
While Trey Lance flashed some athleticism in his first NFL start, Kyle Shanahan and some of the 49ers’ veteran players seem to be looking forward to Jimmy Garoppolo (calf) returning to his starting role after their bye week. 
1
0-0-0
13
MIN Vikings
Dalvin Cook (ankle) returned to his workhorse role with 140 rushing yards on 29 carries, including and the game-winning touchdown in overtime to edge the Panthers. This team seems to lead the league in wild finishes. 
1
0-0-0
14
CIN Bengals
Joe Mixon ran wild for 153 scrimmage yards on 23 touches, Ja’Marr Chase provided a few more highlights, and the much-improved Bengals defense pitched a shutout through three quarters in a blowout win at Detroit.
1
0-0-0
15
TEN Titans
Derrick Henry went on another one of his second-half tears and a dramatic defensive stand allowed the Titans to hang on against the Bills. Mike Vrabel can lead his players to dramatic heights, but can also look chagrined as they lose to some of the worst teams in football.
0-0-0
16
LV Raiders
The Raiders responded to the resignation of Jon Gruden with a hot start in Denver. Maxx Crosby and company recorded 5 sacks while forcing Teddy Bridgewater into 3 interceptions and a fumble to preserve the victory. 
1
0-0-0
17
NE Patriots
Bill Belichick’s defense gave up the most total yards (567) of his storied career and Mac Jones threw a Pick-6 at a horrible time to spoil a chance of beating the Cowboys. Jones bounced back with a 75-yard TD at his next opportunity, but there are a ton of issues on this football team. 
1
0-0-0
18
IND Colts
The Colts lost the time of possession battle and allowed the Texans to go 7-for-12 on 3rd downs, yet Frank Reich’s squad stepped out of character by using chunk plays (mainly Jonathan Taylor runs) to gash the Texans and pull away for a bounce-back win. 
4
0-0-0
19
CAR Panthers
Sam Darnold was only 7-for-12 passing with an interception before he came alive late with a couple of clutch throws to force overtime. He received an assist from Carolina’s excellent defense and special teams. Outside of shaky QB play and the continued absence of Christian McCaffrey (hamstring), the Panthers look like a complete team. 
3
0-0-0
20
PHI Eagles
Jalen Hurts is an extremely talented dual-threat QB and a franchise-changing presence for the Eagles. However, Nick Sirianni needs to take a little onus off the shoulders of his second-year QB by taking advantage of some fantastic upcoming matchups for his rushing offense. 
1
0-0-0
21
PIT Steelers
T.J. Watt came up clutch with a strip of Geno Smith to set up an overtime win over the Seahawks. The Steelers have been awesome defensively to offset their feeble offense. 
1
0-0-0
22
DEN Broncos
Denver has dropped three straight after starting the season 3-0 against poor competition. The Broncos offensive line ranks 25th in adjusted sack rate (8.1%) and could not protect Teddy Bridgewater from the Raiders’ fierce pass rush on Sunday. 
1
0-0-0
23
SEA Seahawks
Without Russell Wilson (finger, I.R.), the Seahawks put together a valiant team effort and nearly stole a game in Pittsburgh. Geno Smith completed 71.9% of his passes, but his lack of pocket presence cost Seattle dearly. 
0-0-0
24
WAS Football Team
Taylor Heinicke failed to capitalize on some juicy opportunities to take a big lead over the Chiefs and Washington was never able to climb back from those squandered chances. Terry McLaurin couldn’t produce against double teams and there aren’t many other options for Heinicke to target. 
1
0-0-0
25
CHI Bears
Chicago fans got a glimpse of the future with Justin Fields rushing for an early score and Khalil Herbert (19 carries, 97 yards, TD) running well in his new starting role. Then they got a harsh reminder that the Packers still own the NFC North with Davante Adams and Aaron Rodgers putting their young team to bed. 
1
0-0-0
26
ATL Falcons
Matt Ryan averaged 289.3 passing YPG with 8 TDs and zero picks over his three starts heading into the bye. Cordarelle Patterson is averaging 11.8 yards per catch with 9 total TDs to help inject life into Atlanta’s offense.
0-0-0
27
NYG Giants
Darius Slayton (ankle), Kenny Golladay (knee), and Saquon Barkley (ankle) missed Sunday’s home game against the Rams and Daniel Jones promptly reverted to his turnover-prone tendencies against an elite opponent. 
2
0-0-0
28
JAX Jaguars
There is enough talent on the Jaguars roster to challenge below-average teams and they finally broke through with a win in London over the Dolphins. Imagine what this franchise could do if Urban Meyer put in the same hours as most NFL coaches. 
4
0-0-0
29
MIA Dolphins
Tua Tagovailoa started hot in his return from a ribs injury and led the Dolphins on a scoring drive on their first possession. Then their offense reverted to it’s predictable ways, producing just 77 rushing yards while failing to put a desperate Jacksonville squad away. 
2
0-0-0
30
NYJ Jets
While the Jets are averaging a league-low 13.4 PPG under Robert Saleh, the former 49ers DC is getting his boys to bear down in the clutch, as Gang Green allows the fourth-lowest TD conversion rate (42.86%) in the red zone this season. 
1
0-0-0
31
DET Lions
Dan Campbell criticized Jared Goff for another lackluster performance against long odds. The offensive line didn’t provide much help with the Lions rushing for just 2.0 YPC in a blowout loss to Cincinnati. 
3
0-0-0
32
HOU Texans
Davis Mills is 50-for-72 (69.4%) with 555 passing yards over his last two starts, but only has 3 TDs with 2 INT in that span. Houston simply doesn’t have enough weapons on either side of the ball to uplift a young QB. 
2
0-0-0

How the rankings are determined

The sports betting experts at TheLines file individual NFL Power Rankings each Monday morning throughout the pro football season. Brett Collson, Matt Brown, Nate Weitzer, Matt Burke, Stephen Andress, Brett Gibbons and Mo Nuwwarah rank all 32 teams each week and we post the consensus rankings above.

Each person on staff at TheLines files their rankings based on week-to-week play in the NFL, providing a weekly snapshot as to how “powerful” each team is at certain points throughout the season.

How to use NFL Power Rankings

Stay tuned for updates to our power rankings all season long! These can serve as a valuable tool for placing NFL futures bets or planning how to bet on NFL games.

Of course, you have to account for factors such as travel time, home field advantage, and injuries as the season progresses. Yet early in the season, it’s possible to go against the betting public by sticking to your own process.

Bettors tend to overreact to recent results and are very reactionary in an “update league” like the NFL. Therefore, the betting market shifts to these reactions.

If you stick with the raw data, i.e. metrics on offensive line play, a quarterback’s record at home, and turnover differential, you might be able to cash big early in the season before oddsmakers and the betting public adjust. Trust your data and stay one step ahead with a comprehensive Power Rankings system.

How to handicap NFL games

What does it mean to “handicap” a game? At first, it might seem that you’ll be running advanced metrics and spitting out numbers and point spreads. In reality, handicapping is a fancy bettor’s term for preparing and researching. There’s dozens of game factors that need to be taken into account like injuries, matchups, and metrics but also market factors like line movement and public biases.

Surface-level factors

First are the surface-level factors that can determine a game like home field advantage (though in 2020, that was severely diminished), key injuries, and the weather. For injuries, don’t just browse the fantasy football injury report– a diminished offensive line or defensive secondary can be devastating to a team’s performance. For example, the Washington Football Team was able to record eight sacks on then-Eagles QB Carson Wentz and overcome a 17-point deficit and underdog odds due to three key offensive line absences for Philadelphia in Week 1 of the 2020 season.

Traditionally, the home team is given a 2- or 3-point advantage for playing in their home city in front of their home fans. Even without fans in attendance, travel takes a toll on visiting teams and has some (albeit diminished) effect on the line. Also needed for consideration is the weather: rain, wind, and snow can hurt a pass-heavy offense and cold weather might hurt warm-climate teams. Teams playing at altitude (Denver) may also have an advantage over teams that don’t frequently play at altitude (Miami).

Strength of schedule is useful when looking at futures bet. The Steelers and Ravens have the most difficult schedules in 2021, based on the combined 2020 record/winning percentage of their opponents. AFC North teams have a tough go of it in 2021, as those teams will play NFC West teams. The Seahawks, Rams and Cardinals all finished .500 or better in 2020, and the 49ers (6-10 in 2020) are a chic pick to be the comeback team of 2021. Be sure to factor in all division vs. division matchups when surveying the NFL landscape.

Deeper factors

Beyond those easily-identifiable factors are matchups, schemes, and metrics. If you aren’t a film junkie, don’t worry – there’s plenty of Twitter follows and websites that can help you break it down and make it easily understandable.

Look for size advantages in receivers and defensive backs; players like Julio Jones can make life difficult for a 5’ 8” corner and the Titans might gameplan to exploit that advantage. Other positional advantages to keep in mind: pass rushers against inexperienced/struggling offensive tackles and athletic pass-catching tight ends against linebackers who struggle defending receivers. Schematic advantages are also worth noting. For example, seasoned vets like Josh McDaniels (Patriots offensive coordinator) or Mike Zimmer (Vikings head coach and former defensive coordinator) will have an advantage against a first-year play-caller.

Advanced metrics can be telling and expose weaknesses in teams, but with thousands of metrics out there, it can be difficult to tell which are really helpful. NBC’s Warren Sharp is a great resource for finding advanced metrics that make significant differences in outcomes. A quick tab on stats worth paying attention to:

  • Yards per play (rather than total yards)
  • Expected points per drive (rather than points per game)
  • Air yards per attempt (rather than passing yards thrown)
  • 3rd down conversion

These numbers will break down the efficiency and effectiveness of an offense (or defense, if you’re going with allowed) and remove the “garbage time” numbers plenty of players can pile on. Contrary to the belief that stats never lie, stats can actually be the best liars when used incorrectly.

If you’ve really got a handle on the NFL game, a popular focus recently has been on coaches’ understanding of analytics and their willingness to utilize probability factors in their gameplan. Failing to use analytics and probability can cost teams victories. Examples include rushing on third and long, hoarding timeouts, settling for field goals inside the three yard line, etc. Older coaches who’ve rejected the use of modern analytics can move lines (especially over/unders) and are worth keeping tabs on.

Market factors

Outside of the game itself, bettors should understand how lines move and react to sharp bettors and the general public. One thing to remember about public betting: they are easily and drastically influenced by recency bias and non-sequitur trends. For example, Sammy Watkins almost always comes out in Week 1 and dominates, but disappears for the rest of the year. Yet year-in and year-out, Watkins is picked up in thousands of fantasy leagues with hopes that he continues his streak. This affects statistical futures from the droves of public bettors that go and bet his over in receiving yards and moves the line up (say, from 405.5 yards to 425.5 yards).

Sharp bettors (professionals and those who prepare correctly) can take advantage of moving lines and get better odds for their wagers. Taking the Watkins example, bettors who take the under now have 20 more yards of breathing room and a higher probability of success. The same goes for good players who play a poor Week 1 (ex. Saquon Barkley in Week 1 of 2020). Their futures will decrease due to the public all betting under their totals, and gives sharp bettors more space to work with when betting overs.

This tactic is known as fading the public and has a long track record of success.

Power Rankings vs. Power Ratings

Everyone sees Power Rankings just about everywhere you look – SportsCenter, the Herd, just about every website – and those are useful in their own right. The concept is simple, just a 1-32 list of the best team to the worst team. Maybe it’s based on metrics, maybe it’s based on the eyeball test, maybe it’s both.

Power Ratings differ quite a bit despite sounding similar. Ratings quantify the numerical advantage one team has over another based on past scores and season performance. Ratings are drawn exclusively from quantifiable metrics (though those metrics may differ person to person) and are used to help predict future scores and outcomes, rather than saying Team X is just better than Team Y and should win.

How to build your own Power Rankings

For those looking to rank teams 1-32 based on last season, the games ongoing this season, and looking quickly at the depth chart, you can do just that. However, it likely won’t serve as a useful tool when it comes to betting, especially against the spread; you’ll want to build (or find) a set of power ratings first. That way, you’ll have a more accurate and quantifiable justification to your rankings and remove potential biases.

To create these power ratings, begin with ranking the teams according to projected number of wins. This will give you a base to work with rather than working from scratch. Assign a number to each team, starting at the top with 16 and running down to the bottom where the last ranked team receives -16. From there, adjust the numbers– 16 through -16, with zero being the middle– based on projected point totals, defensive ranks, and personnel. If interested, look up formulas on expected point differentials to create a more pinpoint rating for each team.

Putting it together

Once you have your numbers, compare two teams (numbers in parentheses are hypothetical power ratings): Indianapolis (12) @ Los Angeles Chargers (-8).

The difference between these teams ratings, 4, is now your theoretical point spread. Add in a 2.5-point advantage for the home team (Los Angeles) for an adjusted point spread of 1.5 in favor of the Colts.

Now add in your factors (injuries, metrics, etc.) to fine-tune your spread. Derwin James is out for the season and creates a massive disadvantage for the Chargers’ defensive secondary (the numbers on this are worth looking up) and should benefit the Colts at least half a point. Your final spread for this game comes out to Colts -2 (-110) @ Chargers.

Now, take your projected spread of -2 and compare it to the Vegas lines. Say the opening line comes out to Colts -4.5 (-110) @ Chargers. That should be an easy bet, since our projected point total is -2 and we would take the Chargers to cover. The process will take some refining and new factors will emerge as the season goes on, but this is the basic process in handicapping your own NFL games.

Not only will this help you quantify point spreads and decide on feasible spreads, but it will help you dig deeper and find new metrics that create a new dimension of understanding for betting on the NFL.

2021 NFL Pre-season Power Rankings

Here were our initial 2021-22 Power Rankings accompanied by their FanDuel Sportsbook Super Bowl odds at the time. Also included are current odds to win this season’s big game.

RankTeamSuper Bowl odds - FebruarySuper Bowl odds - MaySuper Bowl odds - September 7Super Bowl odds - Oct. 19
1Tampa Bay Buccaneers+950+500+650+600
2Kansas City Chiefs+500+650+500+700
3Buffalo Bills+1100+1200+1200+550
4Green Bay Packers+1100+1700+1200+1200
5LA Rams+1200+1300+1500+850
6New Orleans Saints+1900+2700+3000+3500
7Baltimore Ravens+1400+1400+1400+1000
8Tennessee Titans+2700+3500+2500+2500
9Cleveland Browns+2200+1700+1600+2200
10Pittsburgh Steelers+3100+4000+4400+10000
11Seattle Seahawks+2000+2300+2000+10000
12San Francisco 49ers+1300+1400+1400+5000
13Miami Dolphins+2800+3000+3300+20000
14Indianapolis Colts+2900+2500+3300+10000
15Dallas Cowboys+3300+2800+2900+1400
16Chicago Bears+6000+4800+6000+20000
17Arizona Cardinals+4100+4000+4800+1100
18Washington Football Team+8000+5000+5000+20000
19LA Chargers+3100+3200+3300+2000
20New York Giants+7000+6500+7500+50000
21Philadelphia Eagles+5000+8500+9000+20000
22Las Vegas Raiders+5000+7500+7500+10000
23Minnesota Vikings+4400+4000+4400+8000
24Atlanta Falcons+5000+5000+6000+25000
25Carolina Panthers+5000+7000+9000+20000
26New England Patriots+3700+3200+3700+10000
27Denver Broncos+8000+2400+5000+8000
28Houston Texans+7000+18000+55000+100000
29Cincinnati Bengals+8000+8000+12000+10000
30New York Jets+6500+10000+12000+100000
31Jacksonville Jaguars+8000+10000+12000+100000
32Detroit Lions+12000+15000+20000+100000