NFL Week 12 power rankings: Detroit Lions moving past ‘lovable losers’ label

The Detroit Lions (4-6) secured their third win in a row after beating the New York Giants 31-18 on Sunday, and as the team stacks win, the national attention is growing and half of the power rankings we track have the Lions slotted in the teens.

The national writers point to a variety of improvement the Lions have made over the last three weeks. Citing everything from coach Dan Campbell’s coaching style, to Jamaal Williams leading the NFL in rushing touchdowns, to the defense finding their way. There’s also a few who are only looking at the box score and not watching games (you’ll see it), but regardless, the overall theme this week is best summed up by NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus, who noted:

“The Detroit Lions are ready to move beyond the ‘lovable loser’ phase of their development.”

Let’s take a look at this week’s NFL power rankings.

The Athletic: 17 (Previous: 23)

From Bo Wulf:

Thanks for: Whatever changed on defence

“The Lions had far and away the worst defense in the league over the first eight weeks of the season. Over the course of their three-game winning streak (their first since 2017), they’ve been positively average, which has made all the difference.

Note: The Athletic displays a chart illustrating the Lions recent DVOA improvement, jumping from 32nd over the first four weeks, to 11th over the last three. They also had a few more numbers to help solidify their point. If you don’t have a subscription (which I highly recommend) they have a Black Friday deal right now you should explore.

“It’s hard to tell from the outside what’s responsible for that improvement. They’re playing a little bit more zone coverage (65.3 percent of the time, up from 54.3 percent in Weeks 1-8) and are blitzing at about the same rate. One common denominator of their opponents during this streak (Green Bay, Chicago, New York Giants) — unscary wide receivers. That won’t be the case on Thanksgiving, but we can all be grateful the Lions are relevant this year.

NFL.com: 18 (Previous: 21)

From Dan Hansus:

“The Detroit Lions are ready to move beyond the ‘lovable loser’ phase of their development. Dan Campbell’s Grit Warriors continued their ascent on Sunday, outplaying the Giants on both sides of the ball in a 31-18 win at MetLife Stadium. Detroit is suddenly in second place in the NFC North and within striking distance in the NFC Wild Card race. The Lions rushed for 160 yards and four touchdowns against the Giants, three of the scores courtesy of, um, NFL touchdown leader Jamaal Williams. Bet you didn’t have that in your preseason prediction column. Said Jared Goff of Williams: ‘He’s our horse’.”

MMQB: 18 (Previous: 22)

From Connor Orr:

“Why the 4–6 Lions over the 6–5 Commanders? The Commanders’ remaining schedule is quite a trek, while the Lions face the Bears (potentially without Justin Fields), the Jaguars and the Panthers. FiveThirtyEight has them at about a 12% chance of making the playoffs. I think, based on their ability to control the ground game and the potential diversification the offense sees if Jameson Williams comes back, we’re looking at a different football team come mid-December.”

USA Today: 19 (Previous: 22)

From Nate Davis:

“First-round WR Jameson Williams returned to practice Monday, and he may soon give a team gaining momentum another shot in the arm with his game-breaking talent.”

Sporting News: 19 (Previous: 24)

From Vinnie Iyer:

“The Lions have won three consecutive games to get off the mat, much like the Commanders, who are a little ahead of them but lost to them in Detroit in Week 2. Dan Campbell’s brand of inspired football is happening, especially with the defense starting to lift the offense.”

CBS Sports: 20 (Previous: 26)

From Pete Prisco:

“They have won three straight games to actually get into the playoff conversation. Dan Campbell is doing a nice job.”

Yahoo Sports: 20 (Previous: 27)

From Frank Schwab:

“I’m still confused by what’s going on with D’Andre Swift. He has been passed by Jamaal Williams for the No. 1 spot, and Williams is playing well. But on Sunday it was Justin Jackson, the former Chargers back who was signed off of Detroit’s practice squad on Sept. 14, who had nine carries to five for Swift. If Swift is hurt, he shouldn’t be playing. If he’s healthy, he shouldn’t be ceding work to a player like Jackson (who, in fairness, played well). It’s just a weird situation.”

The Ringer: 21 (Previous: 27)

From Austin Gayle:

“A lot would need to go their way for it to happen, but the Lions aren’t out of the postseason hunt just yet. The offense is top-10 in points per game and EPA offensive per drive since Week 9, and they’ve won each of their last three games. The defense is still abysmal in terms of yards allowed over the same three-week stretch, but they’ve limited opponent scoring drives with seven forced turnovers in those three games. It’s all likely a moot point if the Lions lose to the Bills as a 9.5-point underdog on Thanksgiving, but it’s still been a valiant effort to remain competitive from Dan Campbell and Co.”

ESPN: 23 (Previous: 29)

From Eric Woodyard:

What/who is underachieving? Run defence

“With the Lions winning three straight games for the first time since 2017 and fresh off limiting Giants running back Saquon Barkley to just 22 yards off 15 carries, it’s not an ideal time to point this out. But overall, defending the run is still a weak point. Detroit is allowing 153.7 rushing yards per game (second most in the league) and 5.18 yards per rushing attempt (third most).”

Touchdown Wires: 23 (Previous: 25)

From Mark Lane:

“Aidan Hutchinson is showcasing why he was the No. 2 overall pick. The former Michigan product is starting to give opposing offensive coordinators a reason to keep an eye on No. 97. Detroit may be turning the corner and putting a cap on their rebuild.”

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