‘Tis the season … for power rankings. With just three games to play, the playoff picture is sharpening into focus and contending teams are jockeying for position. Each week, some teams are clinching playoff bids, others are being eliminated from postseason contention, and 10 months after Super Bowl LIV, the defending champion Chiefs are still on top.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (12–1)
Last week: Win at Miami 33–27
Next week: at New Orleans
The Chiefs got off to a slow start, Patrick Mahomes turned the ball over three times—and the best team in football still earned a road win against a good conference opponent to clinch the AFC West for the fifth straight year.
2. Green Bay Packers (10–3)
Last week: Win at Detroit 31–24
Next week: vs. Carolina
The Packers jumped into the top spot in the NFC standings with a win and the Saints’ loss to Philadelphia, plus the head-to-head victory against New Orleans in Week 3, which now looms large in the race for the conference’s only first-round bye.
3. Buffalo Bills (10–3)
Last week: Win vs. Pittsburgh 26–15
Next week: at Denver
Washington ruined Buffalo’s chance to hand Pittsburgh its first defeat of the season, but this was nonetheless a statement win for the Bills, who are closing in on what would be their first AFC East crown since 1995.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (11–2)
Last week: Loss at Buffalo 26–15
Next week: at Cincinnati
The Steelers have hit a rough patch, which seemed inevitable given some of their ugly early-season performances that still yielded wins. The offense, which seems reliant on a 38-year-old QB coming off season-ending surgery to make plays, has a lot to figure out, but the defense should get a boost when Vince Williams, Robert Spillane and Joe Haden can return.
5. New Orleans Saints (10–3)
Last week: Loss at Philadelphia 24–21
Next week: vs. Kansas City
Taysom Hill couldn’t pull the Saints out of an early hole, and they missed an opportunity to clinch the NFC South title. Brees’s availability is up in the air with the Chiefs coming to town this week, but the Saints will not rush him back from his fractured ribs and punctured lung.
6. Los Angeles Rams (9–4)
Last week: Win vs. New England 24–3
Next week: vs. New York Jets
The Rams are on a hot streak, winning four of their last five games. After the Jets this Sunday, the Week 16 game at Seattle will likely determine the NFC West champion.
7. Seattle Seahawks (9–4)
Last week: Win vs. New York Jets 40–3
Next week: at Washington
Seattle got back on track with a win against the Jets that was so secure that back-up QB Geno Smith played the last quarter-plus in place of Russell Wilson. Before the critical meeting with the Rams, though, they’ll have to travel to suddenly hot Washington to face one of the league’s most intimidating fronts, led by rookie DE Chase Young.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8–5)
Last week: Win vs. Minnesota 26–14
Next week: at Atlanta
This was a weird win for the Bucs, who only possessed the ball for 20 minutes, 57 seconds. Tom Brady’s 48-yard TD pass to Scotty Miller, which was entirely in the air, was Brady’s longest of the season and a resounding answer to the creeping questions about the 43-year-old’s arm strength.
9. Baltimore Ravens (8–5)
Last week: Win at Cleveland 47–42
Next week: vs. Jacksonville
The Ravens needed a win against Cleveland to stay on track for a postseason bid, but they (and we) got a lot more than just that! The early headline was that Lamar Jackson looked like last season’s Lamar Jackson—then he disappeared into the locker room for an extended period to deal with cramps. He returned at the two-minute warning to convert a fourth-and-5 with a go-ahead passing TD; when the Browns responded with a TD of their own, Jackson led another go-ahead drive that ended with the game-winning 55-yard FG. Bonkers, thus the long blurb! Don’t count the Ravens out, especially with their soft final stretch: Jags, Giants, Bengals.
10. Tennessee Titans (9–4)
Last week: Win at Jacksonville 31–10
Next week: vs. Detroit
After a down week in the loss to Cleveland, Derrick Henry was back with the fourth 200-yard rushing performance of his career, an NFL record.
11. Indianapolis Colts (9–4)
Last week: Win at Las Vegas 44–27
Next week: vs. Texans
Jonathan Taylor broke through with a 150-yard rushing performance that’s the best of his rookie season, while T.Y. Hilton and Philip Rivers built on their hot-of-late connection, resulting in Indy’s best offensive performance of the year.
12. Cleveland Browns (9–4)
Last week: Loss vs. Baltimore 47–42
Next week: at New York Giants
Aside from throwing his first interception since Oct. 25, Baker Mayfield did everything he could to win this game for Cleveland. Despite the loss, the Browns are a very different team than the one that fell to Baltimore, 38–6, on opening weekend.
13. Miami Dolphins (8–5)
Last week: Loss vs. Kansas City 33–27
Next week: vs. Patriots
The Dolphins played a tough game against the Chiefs, led again by their ball-hawking defense, which had four takeaways. Miami is still very much in the playoff mix, though it has a relatively tough final stretch with games against New England, at Las Vegas and at Buffalo.
14. Arizona Cardinals (7–6)
Last week: Win at New York Giants 26–7
Next week: vs. Philadelphia
Haason Reddick said he cried after his breakthrough five-sack performance against the Giants, in his home state of New Jersey. As the Cardinals ended their three-game skid to move into the conference’s 7-seed slot, it was the defense that led the way.
15. Las Vegas Raiders (7–6)
Last week: Loss vs. Colts 44–27
Next week: vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Jon Gruden’s response to the Raiders yielding 457 yards to the Colts was to fire defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. With their third loss in the last four games, the Raiders’ playoff hopes are not over but have taken a big blow.
16. Minnesota Vikings (6–7)
Last week: Loss at Tampa Bay 26–14
Next week: vs. Chicago
The Vikings had surged back into the playoff picture by winning five of their previous six games, but the loss in Tampa Bay set them back in their quest to salvage their season. Dan Bailey’s three missed field goals and one errant extra point cost them 10 points.
17. Washington Football Team (6–7)
Last week: Win at San Francisco 23–15
Next week: vs. Seattle
With four straight wins, Washington is now in the driver’s seat of the NFC East. They beat the 49ers without scoring an offensive touchdown; its defense, instead, found the end zone twice.
18. New England Patriots (6–7)
Last week: Loss at Los Angeles Rams 24–3
Next week: at Miami
The Patriots’ remarkable run of 11 straight AFC East titles officially ended this past weekend. With no Tom Brady and a roster weakened by COVID-19 opt-outs and some draft misses, New England is finally having what has long seemed unthinkable—a down year.
19. Denver Broncos (5–8)
Last week: Win at Carolina 32–27
Next week: vs. Buffalo
This season has not brought the definitive answer to the Broncos’ QB question the team had hoped for, but Drew Lock made a strong case to continue to hold onto the job with his performance vs. the Panthers, throwing four touchdowns with no interceptions.
20. Chicago Bears (6–7)
Last week: Win vs. Houston 36–7
Next week: at Minnesota
Mitchell Trubisky’s career will be forever defined by the QBs the Bears did not take, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. For one Sunday, at least, he got to flip that storyline with three TD passes in a win against Houston.
21. Carolina Panthers (4–9)
Last week: Loss vs. Denver 32–27
Next week: at Green Bay
Rookie Jeremy Chinn has been a bright spot for the Panthers this season, but Teddy Bridgewater missed another opportunity to deliver a game-winning drive after getting the ball back with 2:48 to play and trailing by 5.
22. New York Giants (5–8)
Last week: Loss vs. Arizona 26–7
Next week: vs. Cleveland
Joe Judge drew scrutiny for his decision to play Daniel Jones despite the fact that the QB’s mobility was still impaired two weeks after straining his hamstring. After four straight wins, this loss dropped the Giants behind Washington in the NFC East standings with a tough final stretch that includes games against Cleveland and Baltimore.
23. Philadelphia Eagles (4-8-1)
Last week: Win vs. New Orleans 24–21
Next week: at Arizona
Jalen Hurts’s debut as the starting QB exceeded expectations. He didn’t just provide the Eagles' offense a spark, he gave the unit an identity, to the tune of 246 rushing yards.
24. San Francisco 49ers (5–8)
Last week: Loss vs. Washington 23–15
Next week: at Dallas
In this injury-addled season for the 49ers, backup QB Nick Mullens’s turnovers foiled their chances against Washington. It’s possible Kyle Shanahan could turn to C.J. Beathard next week.
25. Atlanta Falcons (4–9)
Last week: Loss at Los Angeles Chargers 20–17
Next week: vs. Tampa Bay
Matt Ryan had a down day in L.A., throwing three interceptions, including two in the fourth quarter that curtailed potentially game-winning drives for Atlanta. Afterward, the 35-year-old asserted he has “plenty left in the tank.”
26. Los Angeles Chargers (4–9)
Last week: Win vs. Atlanta 20–17
Next week: at Las Vegas
A play-calling gaffe by the offensive coordinator at the end of the first half resulted in a missed chance for the Chargers to kick a chip-shot FG. But the team continued to play hard for coach Anthony Lynn and managed the final drive beautifully, with a 25-yard pass by Justin Herbert setting up the game-winning field goal.
27. Dallas Cowboys (4–9)
Last week: Win at Cincinnati 30–7
Next week: vs. San Francisco
About the only memorable thing from this game was that Andy Dalton won his revenge contest against the Bengals, where he was the starting QB for nine seasons.
28. Detroit Lions (5–8)
Last week: Loss vs. Green Bay 31–24
Next week: at Tennessee
Matthew Stafford did everything he could to hang in with Aaron Rodgers’s Packers, until suffering a rib injury while trying to make a first down at the goal line. His status for next week is up in the air, as is his future in Detroit.
29. Houston Texans (4–9)
Last week: Loss at Chicago 36–7
Next week: at Indianapolis
After four AFC South titles in the last five years, the Texans were eliminated from postseason contention with a performance against the Bears that franchise stalwart J.J. Watt called “embarrassing.”
30. Cincinnati Bengals (2–10)
Last week: Loss vs. Dallas 30–7
Next week: vs. Pittsburgh
Before his season-ending knee injury, Joe Burrow was carrying the Bengals’ offense, which has predictably sputtered without him. All eyes are on next season in Cincy.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1–12)
Last week: Loss vs. Tennessee 31–10
Next week: at Baltimore
The Mike Glennon era lasted 2.5 games in Jacksonville. Now, the team has turned back to Gardner Minshew, before it is back in the QB market this offseason.
32. New York Jets (0–13)
Last week: Loss at Seattle 40–3
Next week: at Los Angeles Rams
With three games left, it’s hard to see the Jets avoiding 0–16. Another West-coast trip, against the rolling Rams, is not an auspicious opportunity.