We’ve only got 32 games to go! And given the circumstances, with 224 games down, it’s pretty remarkable the NFL’s been able to keep the train on the tracks this deep into the COVID-19 crisis.
It hasn’t been perfect. There have been outbreaks (Titans, Ravens) and weird lineup situations (Kendall Hinton) and that’s all made for strange moments. But we’ve also made it, with 15 weeks and 14 games for every team in the books.
Of course, that also means that we have enough information to form detailed opinions on the 32 teams with each of them coming down the stretch. Here, then, as part of our weekly power rankings are, some of mine.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (13–1)
Last week: Win at New Orleans 32–29
Next week: vs. Atlanta
They went into the Superdome and beat the second-best team in the NFC, and all this is increasingly routine—the Chiefs are now 22–1 since Veteran’s Day 2019. Plus, way more this year than last, they’re able to win different ways.
2. Buffalo Bills (11–3)
Last week: Win at Denver 48–19
Next week: at New England (Mon.)
Josh Allen’s all grown up, and so is this Bills group—and it’s no mistake they’re here. Four years of building has manifested in an AFC power that looks like it could be Kansas City’s long-term foil in the conference.
3. Green Bay Packers (11–3)
Last week: Win vs. Carolina 24–16
Next week: vs. Tennessee
The Packers can put home field to bed on Sunday night at home against Tennessee, and I think the edge you’d get out of it this year—with teams having to come to a cold, empty and dark Lambeau in January—is even more pronounced than usual.
4. New Orleans Saints (10–4)
Last week: Loss vs. Kansas City 32–29
Next week: vs. Minnesota (Fri.)
New Orleans went to the mat with the mighty Chiefs despite having a quarterback coming back from 11 cracked ribs, and playing without its best receiver (Michael Thomas) and, for most of the game, pass-rusher (Cam Jordan). If Drew Brees can get right for January, this is a team no one wants to face.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (11–3)
Last week: Loss at Cincinnati 27–17
Next week: vs. Indianapolis
I had no idea what to do with the Steelers after whatever that was Monday night. With Indy next, Pittsburgh is in real danger of losing the division to Cleveland.
6. Indianapolis Colts (10–4)
Last week: Win vs. Texans 27–20
Next week: at Pittsburgh
At some point, the Colts are going to get the respect their big, fast roster deserves. If Andrew Luck were still here, I believe Indy and Kansas City would be neck and neck in the AFC for the foreseeable future. With Philip Rivers, I still think the Colts can run with the Chiefs.
7. Seattle Seahawks (10–4)
Last week: Win at Washington 20–15
Next week: vs. Los Angeles Rams
The pass rush closing out the game Sunday—a game held clear on the other side of the country—was significant for a Seattle team that’s been leaning on Russell Wilson and its offensive pass game hard all year.
8. Cleveland Browns (10–4)
Last week: Win at New York Giants 20–6
Next week: at New York Jets
I’ll reiterate this stat line from the MMQB: 99-of-141, 1,232 yards, 10 TDs, INT. That’s Baker Mayfield’s last four games. And if Mayfield keeps playing that way, look out—the Browns may well win their first division title since the ’80s.
9. Tennessee Titans (10–4)
Last week: Win vs. Detroit 46–25
Next week: at Green Bay
The defensive issues are real, and it's why I have the Titans down here, but I still feel like I’m underrating them. I also think Derrick Henry deserves real MVP consideration.
10. Baltimore Ravens (9–5)
Last week: Win vs. Jacksonville 40–14
Next week: vs. New York Giants
It seems like coming out of their COVID outbreak, the Ravens have rediscovered their identity, and Lamar Jackson is running and working the ball around more efficiently. And this time, Baltimore will head into January as the hunter, rather than the hunted.
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9–5)
Last week: Win at Atlanta 31–27
Next week: at Detroit (Sat.)
Tom Brady brings, above all else, belief. There’s no way previous Bucs teams would come back from a 17-point deficit like this Tampa Bay group did—and it’s the second time this year they’ve done it. Bottom line, when 12 is the QB, most things are possible.
12. Miami Dolphins (9–5)
Last week: Win vs. Patriots 22–12
Next week: at Las Vegas (Sat.)
Miami was down DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki, and has a rookie quarterback. The Patriots knew the Dolphins had to run it. And Miami still churned out 250 yards rushing against that defense. Pretty impressive.
13. Los Angeles Rams (9–5)
Last week: Loss vs. New York Jets 23–20
Next week: at Seattle
I’m sure they’d just like to move on to Seattle.
14. Arizona Cardinals (8–6)
Last week: Win vs. Philadelphia 33–26
Next week: vs .San Francisco (Sat.)
When Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins are on, and for a lot of varying reasons, there isn’t a more entertaining team to watch in football.
15. Chicago Bears (7–7)
Last week: Win at Minnesota 33–27
Next week: at Jacksonville
Matt Nagy’s group has bounced back in a huge way the last couple weeks, and the Bears get the Jags and the Packers potentially resting starters next week, meaning the path to 9–7 is clear. And with some help from Arizona, it’s not impossible that the Bears sneak into the playoffs either.
16. Las Vegas Raiders (7–7)
Last week: Loss vs. Los Angeles Chargers 30–27 (OT)
Next week: vs. Miami (Sat.)
A young Raiders team has to play with urgency, starting now. Miami will be no easy out, and without a win, Vegas’s postseason hopes will evaporate.
17. Minnesota Vikings (6–8)
Last week: Loss vs. Chicago 33–27
Next week: at New Orleans (Fri.)
The Vikings have been playing with fire all year, playing from behind. They got burned this time around.
18. Washington Football Team (6–8)
Last week: Loss vs. Seattle 20–15
Next week: vs. Carolina
Love the continued fight from Ron Rivera’s bunch. He’s getting everything possible out of his roster. This week, it wasn’t quite enough. But the Football Team is coming along.
19. New England Patriots (6–8)
Last week: Loss at Miami 22–12
Next week: vs. Buffalo (Mon.)
Eliminated from the playoff hunt for the first time in 12 years, and playing meaningless football this early for the first time in 20 years. A dark fall for the Patriots, and one that’ll give way to a winter chock-full of big-picture questions.
20. Dallas Cowboys (5–9)
Last week: Win vs. San Francisco 41–33
Next week: vs. Philadelphia
Give Mike McCarthy credit. Andy Dalton, too. They rode out a really ugly stretch, and now could win the division (yes, it’s a historically bad division, but still).
21. Los Angeles Chargers (5–9)
Last week: Win at Las Vegas 30–27 (OT)
Next week: vs. Denver
Trust me when I say this job will be in demand. The quarterback looks otherworldly. There’s talent elsewhere on the roster. There’s plenty to be excited about.
22. San Francisco 49ers (5–9)
Last week: Loss at Dallas 41–33
Next week: at Arizona (Sat.)
The injury dam broke. This just isn’t a great team anymore. It can be in 2021. Not now.
23. New York Giants (5–9)
Last week: Loss vs. Cleveland 20–6
Next week: at Baltimore
The offense showed its warts Sunday night against Cleveland. The Giants have some roster-building to do on that side of the ball, and the existing problems will probably be enough to keep them from truly contending in 2021.
24. Philadelphia Eagles (4-9-1)
Last week: Loss at Arizona 33–26
Next week: at Dallas
The Eagles found something in Jalen Hurts, and it means one of two things: Either Carson Wentz was dragging a pretty competent offense down, or Hurts is a revelation. Neither is great for Wentz’s future in Philly.
25. Denver Broncos (5–9)
Last week: Loss vs. Buffalo 48–19
Next week: at Los Angeles Chargers
Last weekend gave the Broncos a glimpse of how much building is left to go—and it does make me wonder if John Elway is going to get restless soon, and take a big swing at something or someone.
26. Detroit Lions (5–9)
Last week: Loss at Tennessee 46–25
Next week: vs. Tampa Bay (Sat.)
Well, the interim head coach had to fire the special teams coordinator mid-week, which is about how things have gone this year in Detroit.
27. Carolina Panthers (4–10)
Last week: Loss at Green Bay 24–16
Next week: at Washington
Matt Rhule’s group is getting the best of both worlds—the Panthers are competitive each week, and their draft pick keeps rising. To the point where, very legitimately, Rhule & Co. should be in position to take a top quarterback.
28. Houston Texans (4–10)
Last week: Loss at Indianapolis 27–20
Next week: vs. Cincinnati
The Texans have kept playing hard through everything, and that Packer game should be a nice test for where the players are.
29. Atlanta Falcons (4–10)
Last week: Loss vs. Tampa Bay 31–27
Next week: at Kansas City
I mostly feel bad for the players and coaches. Coming off blowing a 17-point lead to Brady and the Bucs, those guys now get a trip to Arrowhead.
30. Cincinnati Bengals (3-10-1)
Last week: Win vs. Pittsburgh 27–17
Next week: at Houston
Great win for Zac Taylor & Co. Even better: it didn’t jeopardize the team’s draft pick, which could bring massive Oregon OT Penei Sewell to protect Joe Burrow.
31. New York Jets (1–13)
Last week: Win at Los Angeles Rams 23–20
Next week: vs. Cleveland
I know people think losing the first pick is a big deal. The reality is that, this year, it really is. Poor Jets fans.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1–13)
Last week: Loss at Baltimore 40–14
Next week: vs. Chicago
We could look back soon and say December 2020’s biggest winner was a team that didn’t win a game that month. And for good reason.