1. Kansas City Chiefs
There really can be no doubt that they belong here. Not only does the offense have a plethora of options, but Mahomes also knows how to find them and spread the ball around. Throw in the 7th round gem they found in Isiah Pacheco, and this offense is all the right kinds of ridiculous. Just silly. Eventually they’ll have Kadarius Toney on legs that have barely been used this season to team up with MVS and JuJu. Oh, and Kelce… cause based on what I’ve seen this year, it’s somehow easy to completely forget about him. And the defense! Well, they’re not great, but not bad, and sprinkled with dominant players like Chris Jones. But who cares when the offense can put up 40 with far too much ease? And they’ll need 40 against the Bengals this week.
2. Dallas Cowboys
If this team reels in Odell, look out. CeeDee Lamb can be incredible if he’s not expected to carry the full WR load, and Michael Gallup was a revelation that makes that possible. If he can stay healthy. Gallup made some incredible catches on Thanksgiving and it seems like Dak is getting better at playing to Gallup’s strengths. Zeke looked like he was 5 years younger… maybe he needs an extended break here and there so he can come back and dominate for a few games when it counts. It’s an interesting balancing act to keep Zeke and Pollard both healthy and fresh into the late season and playoffs. I feel a bit strange getting this far only talking about the offense, but the simple fact is that if something dooms them eventually, it’s far more likely to be the offense. There’s still some frustrating inconsistencies and way too many penalties. As for the defense, at least half a dozen times every game I just shake my head at the physical freak of nature combined with far too much football intelligence for his age that is Micah Parsons. This kid will be talked about 50 years from now in conversations about Ray Lewis and Lawrence Taylor. And no, I don’t think that’s an overreaction.
3. Philadelphia Eagles
I almost had them overtaking the Cowboys. These two are so close. The difference right now is the Cowboys have a dominant defense and an above average offense… Philly has a dominant offense, but some huge holes on defense. Jordan Davis is now eligible to return from IR, but it’s not a sure thing he’ll be ready to go this week. Still, getting him back for the last part of the season and the playoffs will be huge. That’s the good news for the defense. The bad news is they lost CJ Gardner-Johnson for some time with a lacerated kidney. Even typing that kinda hurt… every time “lacerated” is in an injury description, I shudder. In any case, if the offense can put up 40, they should be okay. With the Titans coming up, they may only need 20.
4. Miami Dolphins
This is some top-notch journalism from Aditi Kinkhabwala revealing top-notch coaching and human being-ing by Mike McDaniel.
I really wish Miami’s ownership wasn’t so unlike-able because their team and coach are so like-able. Last week’s 30-15 win over Houston was much bigger than it looks. Miami went into halftime with a 30-0 lead and pulled Tua and other starters in the 3rd quarter. Doing so was another smart move by McDaniel, cause they’ll need their rest for the upcoming gauntlet. They now get to play the Niners, Chargers, and Bills, in a row, on the road.
5. San Francisco 49ers
Garappolo came back down to earth, though he still played the game manager roll well. CMC got shut down. But not as shut down as the entire Saints offense, so it didn’t matter. Having an offense that’s continuing to put it together paired with this defense is scary. Niners have to be in everyone’s consideration to represent the NFC in February, though I still have more confidence in Dallas and Philly at the moment. There’s still some inconsistency here, along with an unreasonable reliance on the health of 34 year old Trent Williams. He’s arguably the single most valuable player on their team, which is a scary designation for a guy his age who’s already been hurt this year.
6. Minnesota Vikings
Thanks for reading my blog, Coach O’Connell. Say hi next time. If I know you read it, I’ll know to keep Jefferson in my fantasy lineup. Seriously though, the extent to which the Vikings success on offense depends on Jefferson’s touches and targets is shocking. If there’s a football version of WAR (wins above replacement), I bet he would lead the league in that, too. I hope the Jets have Sauce shadow him this week. The thought of those two going at it all day makes me giddy. And if that happens, they should still force it to him… Sauce needs to be reminded he’s still just a rookie.
7. Buffalo Bills
Barely squeaking by the Lions isn’t exactly a great way to show your fans everything is fine. It’s not. Although as a Packers fan, I can attest to Detroit being extra feisty on Thanksgiving. But if you’re truly a top 5 team, that shouldn’t be such a huge lift. There’s something wrong here, and they need to figure it out, cause the schedule isn’t getting easier and their division is definitely getting stronger. At the very least, they need to bring in a baseball coach and teach Josh Allen how to slide. I’m sure he knows how, but maybe if he practices all day, he’ll remember to consider it as an option. They have good, productive backs on this team… there’s no reason for Allen to have 10 carries in a game.
8. Cincinnati Bengals
Tyler Boyd recently compared the upcoming Mahomes-Burrow showdown to Manning-Brady. In a league always willing to exploit a passing the torch narrative, that can and should absolutely stick as this game is hyped during the week. Huge home game for Cincy to show the AFC they’re just getting themselves back into the late season groove. The same one that propelled them last season. There are still some injury questions, but it looks promising that they’ll get Ja’Marr Chase back after his extra week of rest, plus Joe Mixon if he can get through concussion protocol. Playing defense is great and everything, but I’m looking forward to an overtime 51-45 shootout.
9. Baltimore Ravens
I wasn’t able to watch the Baltimore game, so seeing Lamar’s stats in a loss was disappointing and had me questioning a lot of my opinions about him. Then I saw this. Lamar is still a stud. He just has terrible weapons. If they start getting into win or go home situations late this season, he may have to carry it all himself, literally and figuratively.
I can’t mention Ray Lewis in a post without doing it at least twice. Imagine what he thinks watching this Ravens defense. What an embarrassment. I feel like legacy itself should make these guys play better than they are, but maybe they’re just that bad. I can’t imagine where they’d be without the Roquan Smith trade.
10. New York Jets
It shouldn’t be assumed that Mike White can put together games like that every week. But even half of that is still so far ahead of what Zach Wilson was giving them. So much of today’s game for QBs is just getting the ball in the right spot and getting out of the way. Get it to the playmakers and let them work. Lead them to open field and watch them juke, spin, or just flat outrun everyone. Zach Wilson wants to be the playmaker, but right now his team doesn’t need him walk before he can crawl. I imagine Robert Saleh’s hope is that watching Mike White will show Zach that with the talent around him, the basics are enough to win, and over time the extra stuff can be developed into his game. This team is in a win-now mode that no one expected, and there’s no time to wait for one guy to grow up. *insert joke about liking them mature* I’m so excited to see Sauce against Justin Jefferson this week. I don’t think a CB/WR matchup has had me this excited in a long time. It’s possible they won’t see each other that much based on tendencies of where they play, unless Sauce follows him everywhere. But that can make things more difficult for the rest of the secondary, especially since JJ lines up all over the field. Whatever, I’m excited for what might be.
11. Seattle Seahawks
Are the Seahawks in a spiral, or did they meet a surging Vegas team playing under no pressure? Could be both. Regardless, Seattle’s defense isn’t bad. They picked off Carr twice and kept Davante Adams in check, but Josh Jacobs put together possibly the game of the season for an individual player. It’s hard to gauge if this was a porous run defense or a player in an unbelievable zone. Again, could be both. But there’s not much time to find out. They’re now a game behind the upward-trending Niners and technically on the outside looking for the playoffs right now. Winnable games against the Rams wheel-o-QBs and Panthers need to be wins. Need to be wins. The next 3 games after that are all against top 10 teams (according to me), so if they’re a playoff team, gotta win the easy ones.
12. Los Angeles Chargers
I don’t know what will happen to Brandon Staley after this season, but I personally enjoy his decision-making process. I don’t always agree, but you can’t deny it’s entertaining. And I love when teams go for 2 instead of the extra point tie at the end of regulation. Especially on the road and/or if you’re an underdog. Go for the win and get tf out of there. Chargers weren’t an underdog, but it was on the road and Herbert was on fire at the end. Ride the momentum. Every win is crucial to keep them in the playoff hunt while some of their stars are still healing.
13. Washington Commanders
I feel like this needs to start with an “if you had told me before the season” thing, but I can’t think of one. I just love Taylor Heinicke. Yeah, his stats are mediocre at best. I don’t care. If you don’t think his attitude and leadership and drive are a huge deal for his teammates on both sides of the ball, then I’ll just assume you troll around the internet yelling at people for enjoying things. Let people enjoy things. I’m enjoying this. It’s a fantastic narrative that not only puts them into the playoff race, but also sets the team up for a bonkers offseason. If you’re keeping track, that’s the first time I’ve said bonkers so far. But seriously, do they cut or try to trade Wentz? Does the team get sold? Does the stadium get approved? Do they give Taylor Heinicke some kind of modest contract if he keeps winning despite pedestrian numbers? I can’t wait to see this all unfold.
14. Tennessee Titans
This isn’t a knock on them, but there’s no way I stay awake for another Titans game this season. It’s this double whammy where their offense is boring, and then they make the other team’s offense boring, all culminating in a game that ends with at least one team scoring 17 points, every one of which feels like getting a tooth pulled. I’m serious about the 17 point thing, though. That happened in 6 of their 11 games this season, including a 4 game stretch that ended last week when they only scored 16. My point is, I’ve never seen a team with so many wins and losses while scoring less than 20 points. And that’s the most exciting thing I can say about them.
15. New England Patriots
Who gave Mac Jones permission to start dropping dimes?! Did Mac go rogue?! I feel like Bill would never admit it if that happened, which gives Mac all the leverage. Moral of the story, Mac can play. They lost because of Justin Jefferson, not the offense. They still sit at 6-5 and in the playoff race, but the Bills on Thursday could be a turning point in their season. It’s time Bill… let Mac deal!
16. Cleveland Browns
Pretty big jump in one week, compliments of a big comeback win over the Bucs and DeShaun Watson’s impending season debut. I honestly just hope Watson has been watching from home and thinking, do they remember Kareem Hunt is on their team? Chubb+Hunt got 30 carries (and oh look, they won), but Chubb had 26 of them, with Hunt only getting 5. It makes no sense… they won’t give Hunt a new contract, they didn’t trade him, and they won’t use him. So why bother? Why not save Chubb’s legs a bit for next season when Watson will presumably (assuming no further legal trouble) be there from the start? At 4-7, even with Watson in, they’ll need to run the table for even a small chance, and that includes rematches with Baltimore and Cincinnati. This front office is a mess.
17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Has anyone seen Tom? Does he look tired again? I bet he looks tired. I bet he ate a cheeseburger right after his divorce was finalized and has been running on that high for weeks, but it’s finally catching up to him. It’s okay though, cause the NFC South is a dumpster fire and the friggin’ Panthers are only a game and a half out. So I’m sure Tom can eventually limp them into the playoffs if Todd Bowles lets him.
18. New York Giants
Yeah, I’ll keep tooting my own horn. The Giants are frauds. They’re 7-4 by circumstance. They’ve been exposed the past 4 weeks, losing 3 of them with the only win coming against the worst team in the league. This team is middle of the pack at best. Making the playoffs will require winning at least half their games the rest of the year, which includes Washington and Philly twice each, as well as the Vikings on the road. Don’t start buying playoff tickets yet.
19. Atlanta Falcons
It’s not time for Desmond Ridder yet. Still in the division race with a relatively light schedule the rest of the way. But like, Maybe let Ridder take a few extra reps and get a headstart on next season. Just in case, you know, sneaking into the playoffs with a losing record doesn’t set you up for a deep run.
20. Detroit Lions
Don’t tell anyone, but I was rooting for the Lions last week. I have an unhealthy need for the Bills to lose and drop so I can be right about not crowning them before the season started or keeping them at the top even after some early losses or weak wins. It’s selfish, and I’m okay with that. So anyway, I made a full Thanksgiving dinner and the food was hot so I paused the game to eat. Roughly 40 seconds left and Detroit was down 3 and driving. I ignored my phone completely. No social media, no alerts, I wanted to watch this ending. And what an ending it was! Except I didn’t see it, cause right when I was about to hit play, I dropped the controller and whatever button got hit that sent everything live and it was too far back for me to rewind. I caught the replay game on Friday, but it just wasn’t the same. Still though, props to Detroit for taking the preseason champs to the wire.
21. Green Bay Packers
I have some opinions. I haven’t shared them elsewhere yet because I want to lay this out in all its glory. Which means the Packers will be getting their own post, coming hopefully before the game on Sunday or before Rodgers gets abducted by the Mooninites and their five thousand dimensions. Don’t question it.
22. New Orleans Saints
Losing 13-0 to SF kinda feels like a metaphor for their season. Good defense that only gives up 13 points to the stacked Niners, but the offense can’t get a point. Going into Tampa this weekend will pretty much decide their season, which should already be decided, but not when you’re in the NFC South. A win would put them only half a game behind Tampa and a head-to-head split on the year. You think it’s crazy that I’m talking about division races in the 20s, but I’m not even done yet.
23. Chicago Bears
Fields availability for the Packers game this week is still up in the air, but at 3-9 and with a bye week coming up, there doesn’t seem to be any need to rush him back in and risk further injury. An extra week to heal would give him a fresh run to build rapport those last few games and build excitement for next year. Take a breather, kid. You earned it.
24. Arizona Cardinals
This team is such a mess. Now 4-8 and all but out of the playoffs, they now have to decide whether they’ll go forward with GM Steve Keim and HC Kliff Kingsbury, both of whom just got extensions through 2027 before the year started. It’s likely they’ll both get at least one more year to show something. To do that, they’ll need to get Kyler focused and working at another level, cause his contract is far more significant to the team. Keim and Kingsbury will be out the door long before Kyler.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars
Impressive win against Baltimore, and once again I love going for 2 for the win at the end of games. It worked twice this week. Jags were playing at home, but were clear underdogs, another situation where chances can be taken to steal a win.
26. Pittsburgh Steelers
I know when I’m wrong. Kenny Pickett can play, and starting him appears to have been the right decision. It turns out Mike Tomlin knows more about coaching an NFL team than me. I’m just as surprised as you! The Colts are obviously a weak team, but their defense is solid and Pickett lit them up. I still think he could’ve taken a year off and come into next season hitting the ground at this higher level, but there’s also a benefit to building confidence and momentum to end the season. He looked like a real NFL QB on Monday night.
27. Las Vegas Raiders
Alright, now let’s talk some more about Josh Jacobs. His 303 yards from scrimmage were more than 7 teams in week 12. Suddenly, Vegas has this new life. Still, they’re 4-7 and at least 2 games behind 9 teams and 3 games behind 7 teams, which is the playoff number. They don’t have the worst upcoming schedule, but it does feel a bit like they have to keep winning and hope a lot of other teams falter.
28. Carolina Panthers
Panthers are still in the division race and that doesn’t for a second dissuade me from putting them this low. And yes, they won, against Denver. That doesn’t count anymore.
29. Los Angeles Rams
Remember how Josh Jacobs had 303 yards from scrimmage? The Rams, all of them, had 198. Looking at the schedule to start the year and seeing Thanksgiving weekend with Rams at Chiefs must’ve had a lot of TV people excited. Womp womp.
30. Indianapolis Colts
I still liked the move to go to Sam Ehlinger earlier this year. He couldn’t move the ball, but come on, neither can Matt Ryan. At least Ehlinger has some upside. Matt Ryan looked bad enough in Atlanta that everyone said moving to a new team would rejuvenate him, which means we’re all accepting that he stunk at the end of his time there. Welp, he still stinks in Indy, so it’s not like it’s getting any better. Their offense is unwatchable. Even completed passes felt like pushing a rock uphill. If they had tied the game Monday night and didn’t go for 2, I was going to bed. No way was I watching overtime of that pile of garbage game.
31. Denver Broncos
That’s a rough stat. Let’s have another, courtesy of Jordan Love!
So his numbers are bad, but surely his teammates love his manufactured persona, right?
Honestly half seems like more than I would expect. But still, this is your franchise QB. If Hackett wants to keep this job, which already seems unlikely, he’s gotta do something to get a handle on this and turn it around. Like, yesterday. This team is in a fragile state and they need babysitters for a little while. Get Russ’s head right before going back to Xs and Os.
32. Houston Texans
Come on, Houston, get it together! I need to feel what it’s like to put Broncos Country in this spot. Revenge game against DeShaun Watson this week. The time is now!