I know it’s not technically the middle of the season anymore, but my brain sees it that way. We’re in the middle of those critical few weeks where some teams are picking up powerful head-to-head wins, some teams are struggling to remain in the mathematical playoff hunt, and some owners just shifted their budgets towards the scouting department. Let’s get to it!
Ugh, that’s a sucky segue. If I’m gonna do a setup before I start the list, I need a transition catchphrase. I’ll work on that while I’m still only at double digit views. Also, just a heads up that I’m still playing around with different formats and lengths and so on. This week will be heavy on the top 10 with light blurbs after that. Otherwise I spend 3 days writing an essay about each team that I eventually cut way down. I could write an essay about paint drying. I love writing. I love writing about loving writing.
And now, LET’S GET ON THE GO BOYS! Still needs tweaking.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
I know not everyone was sold on KC before last week after what looked like a weak win over the Jags, but now there can be no doubt. Sunday night was a significant win over a Chargers team that finally looks like they’re ready to play football. Mahomes and Kelce look as good as ever, and they’ve finally given up on Edwards-Helaire as a feature back. He’s not a bad change-of-pace, but Pacheco is the real deal. Middling backs with decent speed and quickness and decent power are fading from this era of the league in favor of extremes on either side. You’re either Derrick Henry or Tony Pollard, and Pacheco has some Tony Pollard. He also has a coach who didn’t wait 2 years to recognize his worth. On the other side of the ball, Chris Jones needs to be in some Defensive MVP conversations, and I’m counting the sack/strip/recovery that got a bonkers roughing call earlier this year to his tally for those talks.
2. Dallas Cowboys
Speaking of Tony Pollard, is this his team now or what? Cause I still saw a whole lot of Zeke early in that game. He didn’t look bad, and converted at the goal line, which is a good place to use him… but he’s the grinder you use to hold a 4th quarter lead, not the home run hitter you use to build it. It’s possible McCarthy sees playoffs as inevitable and wants Pollard as fresh as possible. I would accept that logic. In any case, what a thrashing. Dak looks as healthy as ever. Micah Parsons is just an absolute freak of nature and is also in that Defensive MVP conversation. And how ’bout Brett Maher! 4-4 with field goals of 27, 50, 53, and 60 yards. Oh, I’m sorry, what’s that? I’m now hearing he hit from 60 yards twice in a row? Yup, because the officials let the first kick go and basically decided while it boomed through the air that they wanted to review the CeeDee Lamb catch on the previous play. Then they came back with ope, it was a catch, just like we said, no change, pretend nothing happened. And then Maher hit from 60 again. Actually, the second kick was even more of a no-doubter than the first one. Cowboys got it all rolling right now.
Also, one more round of applause for Cooper Rush keeping it together and going 4-1 while Dak was out. If last week’s blowout was in Dallas, he would’ve gotten a standing O from the crowd when he came in for garbage time. And he would’ve deserved it.
3. Philadelphia Eagles
Yes I’m aware that Dallas is 7-3 and Philly is 9-1, so if you’re confused by them being opposite their records in these rankings, please see my Power Rankings Methodology. I will say it would only be fair to point out Philly has a much larger target on their back, and they played an impossible to gauge Colts team last week. But that was after losing to the Commanders and I expected them to more firmly bounce back. There were some issues that will need addressing, mainly that they need to get Miles Sanders going again so Hurts doesn’t have to carry the running game load. Maybe get him involved in the short passing game. He wasn’t terrible on the ground, but there wasn’t much room out there. The most concerning thing was the turnovers. They started out 8-0 with a dominant turnover differential of +15, but they’ve now lost the turnover battle in back-to-back games, even if you take out the Goedert Facemask Fumble. All that said, Hurts still looks great, despite the turnovers, and put them on his back to squeak out a win. The target is still there, and now Aaron Rodgers is taking aim on Sunday night, so this will be a big one to set the tone for the rest of the season.
4. Baltimore Ravens
Nothing pretty about that win, but it’s still a win. It was ugly enough that the Ravens and Dolphins could easily switch places between 4 and 5, but I still think both are top 5 teams. The defense won this one for them, which is a flipped script from most of the early season. If both sides can get it together at the same time, the talent is there for a deep playoff run and possible Super Bowl. They just need to get healthy. Like, actually healthy. Dobbins and Edwards have never really been back yet, despite playing some of this game or that game. Imagine a Ravens team going into the playoffs with those no injury designation on those 2 guys instead of being perpetually questionable. Dobbins is eligible to come back this week, but no word yet if he’s ready, and Edwards is questionable *sigh* after missing the Panthers game. Honestly, if Kenyon Drake can hold it down a few more weeks, just get those two ready for the playoffs.
5. Miami Dolphins
Picture this: Your head coach is a scheming mad genius on offense, your team puts up 31, 35, then 39 points over 3 games, then the team has a bye week for the mad genius to implement more mad genius scheming, then you come out of the bye week with a home game against the consensus worst team in the league to test out those schemes. Or save them completely to get ready for the brutal run that comes after this week. When they were 3-3, I said “there’s no reason they can’t be 8-3 going into December.” They’re dangerously close to that, and barring a trap game this week, they’ll be in a good position to withstand the coming storm and at least hold a playoff spot. I’ll save the future schedule talk for next week. See? Growth.
6. Buffalo Bills
I’m not overly fond of teams that start out hot, then enter an identity crisis at a crucial point in the season. They can really go in either direction. It looks like they chose up, and a Thanksgiving Day game against the surging Lions should let us see where they are. The most impressive part of last week’s “home” win was the running game, which I’ve been harping on for weeks now. 18 carries for Singletary, 11 for Cook, and only 3 for Josh Allen. I have to wonder if the Browns were watching this, cause they got beat down by a team doing what they should’ve been doing. Allen also only threw it 27 times. On that slit film turf they played on last week and will play on again this week, and with Allen’s arm injury likely lingering a bit yet, it would be smart to continue keeping him on a pitch count.
7. San Francisco 49ers
They could easily be anywhere from 3 to 7. Monday night’s impressive thrashing of the Cards in Mexico City had everything. The defense dominated as usual, though it was against Colt McCoy… but it’s not like the Niners D was a question mark. Everyone got involved on offense. Deebo and Kittle had huge games, Mitchell ran well, McCaffrey did everything well, and Garappolo put it in their hands. But I still don’t trust him enough to put the team much higher than this. As long as he understands his role and stays out of the way, he can keep looking this good. But he’s the guy with the most power over how the offense goes, and I have this feeling he might start to think he’s the reason it’s going so well. Jimmy, it’s not you. It’s everyone else, but you can look really good by letting that continue. Remember that, and you might Dilfer your way into a ring.
8. Minnesota Vikings
You know what you did.
9. Cincinnati Bengals
How about 2 big wins and then getting Chase back! As well as the Chiefs are playing, I still think the AFC will be represented by an AFC North team. Cincy’s offense has put up 42 and 37 in their past 2 games, and Burrow looks ready to start putting up 500 yard games again. Only 2 sacks last week, which should help. That said, those two games were some cupcakes. The next 2 games are the Titans and Chiefs, followed by a rematch with the Browns team that beat them down a few weeks ago without DeShaun Watson, who will have a game under his belt by then. Time to sack up.
10. Tennessee Titans
How do they keep winning? I don’t get it. It’s not like they beat up bad teams and then get beat by better teams. It’s just always close. Doesn’t matter if it’s the best team in the league or the worst. Literally. They beat the Texans by only 7, then a week later lost to the Chiefs in overtime. That actually makes it kinda depressing that the Packers was their biggest win margin of the season. The scary part was Tannehill and Treylon Burks developing some chemistry. Though I think they need to send Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry a present for that soft zone on every 3rd down. Anywho, they have a +8 point differential on the year and that’s just so believable.
11. Seattle Seahawks
With the way Niners have taken off, it’s hard to remember that Seattle won 4 in a row before dropping that Germany game and going into a bye week. Their next 3 games are winnable against struggling teams before they get a chance to split with the Niners at home.
12. New England Patriots
The only reason this team could possibly be 6-4 is because their defense is good and Matt Judon is an absolute beast. Another Defensive MVP contestant. However, I don’t know how much longer they leave things in the hands of Mac Jones. Then again, Bill will leave him in as long as it still annoys people.
13. Los Angeles Chargers
THAT is the Justin Herbert I’ve been waiting to see, and THAT is why a losing team went up a bunch of spots. Very few teams outside of KC would have beaten them last week. Now we need to see some repeat performances so they can stay in the playoff picture while they get healthy.
14. Washington Commanders
Heinicke just keeps delivering. I mean, nothing special, but enough. More importantly, he’s got his team fired up and 4-1 since he took over. And he’s so grateful and humble about it all. Is Wentz even hurt anymore? Who cares, he’s done. Not even worth being a backup. Maybe keep your arm warm in case Sam Howell wants to play catch.
15. New York Jets
Still a dominating defense, but losing Breece Hall seems like it’s taking a toll. Mike White has been announced as this week’s starter at QB after Zach Wilson clunked out and then gave an arrogant press conference where had acted like it never happened. Dude, you’re on TV. We all saw it. This is an opportunity for him to get his head right and understand his role on a team, a team that has often been just fine, if not better without him. Time to focus on football and accountability… your friends’ moms will still be a generation older than you after the season.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom looks kind of alive, but is he? Like, at 41 years old, I have bursts of energy that make me feel like I’m 20 again, but they fade and then I feel 60 for a little while. But I also eat a lot of bread. Speaking of age, this gem comes from fellow WordPress blogger Sorryless:
Tom Brady looks forty-five years old and so do his teammates.
I mean, watch them and tell me there’s a more accurate description. You can’t. They’re the team of old guys on one last run to show these whippersnappers a thing or two but dinner was at 4 and the playoffs don’t start until 8.
17. New York Giants
EXPOSED! But for real this time. Losing to the Lions at home. Plus losing another receiver for the year. That’s rough. I don’t think they’ll make the playoffs. That’s my official prediction.
18. Atlanta Falcons
Here’s that young, inconsistent team of whippersnappers who look different every week, but they don’t eat dinner until 7. The battle for the NFC South is gonna be weirdly fun.
19. Detroit Lions
Big win against the Giants. Now they get a chance to play some more spoiler against the Bills at home in their regular Thanksgiving slot. Then again, the Bills are an actual good team, unlike the Giants. Then again then again, Jamaal Williams. He’s Washington on my Rushmore.
20. Green Bay Packers
It’s fun seeing young guys step up. It’s weird seeing Aaron Rodgers in a position to try playing spoiler to the Eagles this week. Despite my earlier knock on Joe Barry, I don’t dislike him as a coordinator. But as I’ve said before, I think he’s better at player development than calling a game. The 3rd down defense was head-scratching last week.
21 New Orleans Saints
Can’t really call them out of it in the NFC South. If they can pull an upset in SF this week, they get the Bucs and Falcons right in a row with a bye week in the middle. 7-7 Saints would be in the thick of that race, if not leading it.
22. Chicago Bears
I really hope Justin Fields can keep playing this year. Maybe just take a week off? It’s not worth it to risk further ligament damage in his shoulder, but man it would be huge for him to have some momentum and more rapport with his receivers going into next year.
23. Arizona Cardinals
That was a whooping. Hard to gauge them with Kyler on the bench. They aren’t fully out of the division race yet, but they very well could be by the end of this week. A loss against a tough Chargers team this week coupled by an SF and/or Seattle win would put them 3.5 behind potentially 2 teams with 5 games left.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
I know he played okay last week, but I refuse to believe they think Pickett gives them the best chance to win right now. Little late to go back now, I guess. I just feel like this was a low-key tanking move so they can get their rookie QB reps while also knowing he’ll keep their record bad enough for a good pick. Call me cynical.
25. Los Angeles Rams
From Defending Champs to 25th Element. What a fall. And then, a few days after McVay said Darrell Henderson wasn’t used much because of a knee issue, they cut him. They could’ve put him on IR, but instead waived him and exposed him to wire. Bizarre move to offer up your currently most productive player on offense. This feels like a we can’t just sit here and do nothing move, and those are always foolish.
26. Indianapolis Colts
They put a scare on Philly, but it wasn’t enough. Seems like the Titans have a first grip on the division now, so it’s probably a good time to start evaluating young players and scouting the draft class and looking at coaches. Or do none of that and try to get some wins to give those young guys a glimmer of hope for next year.
27. Cleveland Browns
Let’s see here… Chubb + Hunt = 19 carries. And they lost. Shocker. Hunt only got 5 of those. Why didn’t you trade him?
28. Jacksonville Jaguars
Get those scouts out there looking at offensive linemen and receivers. Their remaining schedule should leave them with a nice draft pick again.
29. Carolina Panthers
Sam Darnold, come on down! The better you do, the worse the team’s draft pick will be to find their next QB. That’s some kinf of motivation.
30. Las Vegas Raiders
A tough, gritty win over the *checks notes* Broncos? Well congrats on being better than terrible. I’m sure it’ll be locker room fodder to start believing, but to the rest of us, it looks like a bad team squeaked by a slightly worse team.
31. Denver Broncos
Apparently Melvin Gordon was the reason they’re so bad? Another we can’t just sit here and do nothing move. I’m now 500% sure Nathaniel Hackett was 300% sure Rodgers would follow him. And since Denver’s front office seemed to want to bring in a HC/QB duo, don’t be surprised when they give Darrell Bevell a look after Hackett gets the 64 yard boot.
32. Houston Texans
You’re trying, and that’s what matters.