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The top ten teams underwent a massive shakeup this week after two supposed title contenders went down to losing teams. Also, the races for the final seeds in the AFC and NFC are heating up, making several teams desperate entering the season’s final two weeks.
Last week’s ranking: 1
Kansas City hasn’t won a game by two scores or more since Week 8, but the Chiefs are undefeated during that time. Patrick Mahomes kept his offense humming against a great New Orleans defense and proved once again that the Chiefs are the best team in the NFL.
Last week’s ranking: 2
Even though the Saints came within a field goal of forcing overtime against Kansas City, I’m putting Buffalo at second on these rankings. Josh Allen had a career game against Denver as the Bills racked up 48 points in the blowout. Stefon Diggs is an elite receiver, and Buffalo’s defense is finally starting to perform like an elite unit.
Last week’s ranking: 3
The Saints gave the Chiefs everything they could handle. Sean Payton’s team came up three points shy of forcing overtime. If Drew Brees hadn’t missed four games leading up to the showdown, New Orleans might’ve pulled off the upset. Once Brees is back in rhythm and Michael Thomas rejoins the team, New Orleans should reach its full potential.
Last week’s ranking: 6
Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry are the best quarterback-running back duo in the NFL. With two more standout performances, Henry could hit 2,000 rushing yards, and Tannehill already has a career-high 31 passing touchdowns this season. While Tennessee’s defense is a massive flaw, the offense is ten times better than it was last year.
Last week’s ranking: 10
Tom Brady turned on the jets in the second half of Tampa Bay’s matchup against Atlanta, scoring 31 points to complete a massive comeback. However, it was a tale of two halves. Tampa Bay didn’t score in the game’s first 30 minutes. While the Buccaneers are extremely talented, they can’t run the ball, and they’re incredibly inconsistent.
Last week’s ranking: 4
Even though the Packers continue winning games as Aaron Rodgers proves once and for all that drafting Jordan Love was a mistake, Green Bay still has obvious weaknesses. The Packers aren’t blowing out lesser competition, and they haven’t found a way to prevent other teams from running down their throat.
Last week’s ranking: 8
Indianapolis survived another last-minute upset bid by the Houston Texans to pick up a win. The Colts sacked Deshaun Watson five times, with DeForest Buckner leading the way. T.Y. Hilton and Jonathan Taylor both posted their fourth consecutive games with over 70 yards, showing Indy’s improving offensive punch.
Last week’s ranking: 13
Cleveland is on the verge of ending a 17-year playoff drought. Their last playoff berth came in 2002, and the Browns hadn’t won ten games in a season since 2007. A win over the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football put an end to that misery.
Last week’s ranking: 11
Tua Tagovailoa looked like the real deal, handing Bill Belichick his first loss to a rookie quarterback since 2013. The Alabama product only had one bad game in his first seven starts, and the Dolphins are peaking at the right time. Miami possesses one of the NFL’s best defensive backfields, led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Xavien Howard, and an underrated front seven.
Last week’s ranking: 9
Seattle narrowly escaped the Washington Football Team on Sunday. While the Seahawks have built up a strong pass rush led by Jamal Adams and Carlos Dunlap, their production on both sides of the ball remains erratic.
Last week’s ranking: 12
Baltimore finishes its regular season against the New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals. Barring any surprises, John Harbaugh’s team should finish the year 11-5. A ten-win team might miss the AFC playoffs this year, but I don’t think an 11-win team will.
Last week’s ranking: 5
What an embarrassment. The Rams had a humiliating loss to the New York Jets on Sunday, which ended New York’s 13-game losing streak. Jared Goff gets paid too much money to not score more than 23 points against a defense like New York’s. Los Angeles has a great defense, but they can’t make a deep playoff push with Goff playing poorly.
Last week’s ranking: 16
The Cardinals are on a two-game winning streak, but both of those matchups came against teams with losing records. The battle for the seventh seed in the NFC heats up in the season’s final two weeks as Arizona faces the divisional rival San Francisco 49ers and Rams.
Last week’s ranking: 15
Even without Antonio Gibson and Alex Smith, Washington came within a touchdown of upsetting the Seahawks. I don’t see Dwayne Haskins leading Washington to the playoffs, meaning they better get Smith back soon. Every team in the NFC East can technically still win the division, making Washington’s Week 16 game against Carolina a must-win.
Last week’s ranking: 7
The Steelers are on an indefensible three-game skid with their most recent losses coming to the Cincinnati Bengals and third-string quarterback Ryan Finley. The offensive line is in shambles, and Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t have the strength or accuracy to take advantage of Chase Claypool or Diontae Johnson.
Last week’s ranking: 20
Mitchell Trubisky is making a late-season campaign to keep his job. It won’t work, but the Bears could sneak into the playoffs. Chicago is one game back in the playoff race with matchups against Jacksonville and Green Bay remaining on their schedule.
Last week’s ranking: 14
If the Vikings wanted to make the playoffs, they couldn’t afford any slip-ups down the stretch. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened to Mike Zimmer’s team against the Chicago Bears. Despite big performances from Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson, Minnesota lost 27-33. At this point, the Vikings just want to finish the year without a losing record.
Last week’s ranking: 22
Somehow, the Eagles aren’t mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. If they win out and have a few games go their way, Jalen Hurts’ team can still take the NFC East title. Make no mistake, this is now Hurts’ team. Carson Wentz might never take another snap in Philadelphia if the rookie continues playing this well.
Last week’s ranking: 18
For the first time since 2008, the Patriots won’t make the playoffs. This year marks Bill Belichick’s first time without a winning record since 2000, when Drew Bledsoe was still the starting quarterback. However, this season was a success for the Patriots, who won several more games than expected.
Last week’s ranking: 17
This is the second year in a row under Jon Gruden where the Raiders started off strong only to collapse down the stretch. The Raiders lost five of their final six games in 2019 and have lost four of their previous five this season.
Last week’s ranking: 26
Surprisingly, the Chargers won a close game in Week 15. Los Angeles outlasted Las Vegas in an overtime matchup on Thursday night. The Chargers have wins against some of the NFL’s worst teams this year, including Atlanta, Cincinnati, Jacksonville, and New York (Jets). The Raiders are the only team they’ve beaten that hasn’t had a losing record.
Last week’s ranking: 29
The Cowboys are only one game back in the NFC East, which only shows how horrible that division is. Andy Dalton finally looks comfortable in the offense, but he hasn’t faced difficult teams over the past two weeks. Dallas finished the season with divisional games against the Philadelphia Eagles and Giants.
Last week’s ranking: 19
Just as the Giants began getting hot, Daniel Jones suffered injuries that limited his mobility and forced Colt McCoy into the lineup. I don’t know that the Giants would’ve done better in their past two games with a healthy Jones, but it might’ve made a difference.
Last week’s ranking: 25
Carolina gave the Packers a run for their money, but Matt Rhule’s team isn’t ready to beat the NFC’s best squads. Interestingly, the Panthers fired general manager Marty Hurney after the loss. Rhule now gets the opportunity to help pick a GM that agrees with his vision for the team.
Source: The #Panthers have fired GM Marty Hurney
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 21, 2020
Last week’s ranking: 23
The Lions scored 25 points on Sunday, but they were no match for the Titans. Without Kenny Golladay, the Lions are missing their usual star receiving threat. However, this team’s real weakness is on the defensive side of the ball.
Last week’s ranking: 27
Stop me if you’ve heard this story before, Matt Ryan and the Falcons blew a lead to Tom Brady. Atlanta led 17-0 at halftime before Brady’s Buccaneers scored 31 points in the second half to keep the Falcons at four wins. Ryan and Calvin Ridley shined, but the rest of Atlanta’s team remains underwhelming.
Last week’s ranking: 28
For the second time in the last three weeks, the Texans lost to the Colts on a fumble in the red zone. Watson had his team in position to force overtime, but a Keke Coutee fumble gifted the Colts their tenth win.
Last week’s ranking: 21
Denver got stomped by Buffalo on Saturday, giving up a season-high 48 points. On paper, the Broncos have talented young players at almost every position, except quarterback. Look for Denver to invest in a new quarterback-head coach duo this offseason.
Last week’s ranking: 24
Nick Mullens looked horrible against Dallas. The backup quarterback turns the ball over multiple times each week, taking his battered and beaten team out of games. The offense took a turn for the worst when Deebo Samuel went down injured early in Week 14. Mullens misses his top receiver.
Last week’s ranking: 30
Cincinnati’s pass rush pressured Roethlisberger throughout Monday Night Football, and the Bengals picked up a massive 27-17 upset over the Steelers. Before Monday, the Bengals hadn’t scored more than 20 points in a game since Week 8 against the Tennessee Titans, when Joe Burrow was still the starter.
Last week’s ranking: 32
There won’t be an 0-16 team in the NFL this year. Sam Darnold, Frank Gore, Marcus Maye, and Quinnen Williams propelled the Jets to their first win of the season. However, New York drops to second place in the draft standings, meaning they’ll miss out on Trevor Lawrence.
Last week’s ranking: 31
With their final games coming against the Bears and the Colts, Jacksonville is in place to land Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. All that’s left is to clean out the front office and coaching staff.
Check out our previous power rankings.
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