Another week full of the hell going on moments. Baker’s miracle comeback, Mr. Irrelevant beat The G.O.A.T., everyone is afraid of playing the Lions in the playoffs, and DeShaun Watson has led 1 total touchdown drive in his first 2 games. The Texans appear to be inadvertently testing out my 2-QB strategy, and the result so far is that Amari Rodgers had more receiving yards from each QB during one game than he ever had in a game for the Packers. I love this league.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
I have a theory that Nick Sirianni goes into every game with a completely different offensive focus. And he can do that because they have so many weapons. These guys are playing Madden right now. I’m waiting for a week when someone is close to a milestone or the lead league in something and he designs the entire gameplan to revolve around that guy until he reaches the mark. Playing the Bears on the road is a hell of a trap game with the Cowboys Christmas Eve Clash on the other side. But if there’s one thing Philly has impressed me with, it’s their preparation and not taking any wins for granted.
2. Cincinnati Bengals
This is some late-season Bengals play that’s starting to look like the Super Bowl contender from last year. Chase is back, Mixon is back, Burrow is dealing, the offensive line is as good as it’s ever been, and the defense just smacked one of the best backs and running games in the league. Their remaining schedule is tough, but also a great way to build up confidence and momentum going into the playoffs. They even have a decent shot at a 1st round bye thanks to a win over KC and an upcoming showdown with Buffalo in week 17. If I had to pick a team to represent the best in the AFC right now, these guys are it.
3. Dallas Cowboys
They don’t ask how, they ask how many. Nothing pretty about that Houston win, but it’s still a win. The biggest difference right now between Dallas and Philly is that, as I already mentioned, Philly doesn’t take anyone for granted. Dallas has shown they can play with anyone, but they have to stop taking weeks off, stop looking ahead, and stop playing down to their competition. Pollard got them off to a quick start, which he’s apt to do often, and then… why did you stop? He should be running around defenses in both the running and passing game for the first 3 quarters. Then Zeke can grind them into dust. But Pollard first, and don’t let up until it’s out of reach.
4. Kansas City Chiefs
Chiefs, why are you out here giving Russell Wilson hope? I’m insulted as both a football fan and a cook. I don’t know if it’s a sportsmanship thing or what, but these top teams need to stop acting like you can just sit on big leads. We need to create a line that everyone can agree on. I suggest the 8 minute mark in the 4th quarter with at least a 4 touchdown lead. 8-4-4. Easy to remember. Like a Sim City tax plan. If you get that joke, we should hang out. As for you KC, pedal to the metal and DO NOT let Russ back in the kitchen ever again.
5. San Francisco 49ers
This poll is also up in the Facebook group, but apparently Facebook and WordPress are fighting so it can’t be embedded. But thankfully the Musk Machine is here to save the day so I can embed it for my non-existent Twitter following. Also annoyed that I can only add 4 options, cause Aaron Rodgers should really be on there as well. But they don’t really have the picks left for that. Your vote matters!
I feel like a lot of people think it doesn’t matter who plays QB for SF because they have so many offensive weapons and the defense is just stupid good, but it does. Brock Purdy has a real shot to lock down the job if he can keep playing like this. Maybe Lance can play another position, or be a Kordell-style slash player. Or maybe Shanahan will be the first to implement my 2-QB plan, but you gotta get down to the bottom of this article to read about that. Go on, keep reading. No spoilers. But I do mention Kordell again. That’s right, two Kordell Stewart name drops in one week. Point is, like we’ve seen with Tua the past few weeks, all the talent around the QB is pointless if he can’t get it in their hands.
6. Buffalo Bills
Yeah I said it. Go ahead, fight me. They’re moving in the wrong direction and Josh Allen looks like he’s either regressing or hurt, or he’s going to get hurt, or more hurt. Those carries where he leads with his throwing shoulder or just outright sacrifices his knees for a midfield 1st down… those are taking a toll and not worth the price. Every spell has a cost. Defense did okay against a struggling Jets offense, but Von Miller being gone will hurt them a lot come playoff time. I mean, it hurts them plenty right now, but Von is an absolute game-changer in the spotlight and now he’s watching in street clothes. Gabe Davis and Isaiah McKenzie have been disappointing, which clearly makes it harder to get it to Diggs. To fix that issue, they brought Cole Beasley back. That’s some desperation, and it tells me they know there’s something wrong. I’m not about to sit here and say they can’t flip their trajectory and shoot back to their early season no-one-can-touch-us status, but it’s the ides of December so it better start happening quickly.
7. Minnesota Vikings
Before I get into a few things to bash them on, let’s talk a bit about how Vegas oddsmakers aren’t stupid. It was weird that the then 5-7 Lions were favored over the then 10-2 Vikings, but this is why the house always wins. They consider everything, and momentum is important. The Lions are on absolute fire, and a brick wall wasn’t stopping that wrecking ball of an offense last week. Harrison Smith being out was a huge blow to the defense, and lack of decent depth behind him was their greatest sin. I don’t even know what his injury is and don’t feel like looking it up because it won’t change this fact: Harrison Smith with a broken leg wouldn’t have let that Jameson Williams TD happen, and that play took Detroit’s already sizable momentum and shot it full of steroids. Every team should have 3 safeties minimum on their roster that can play with each other and are as smart as the QB. You think I’m exaggerating; I’m not. Big plays flip fields, shift momentum, change entire seasons, and at the heart of it is very often blown coverage by a safety. It’s the most underrated position on defense.
8. Miami Dolphins
That whole “Tua is the most accurate passer thing” was a line I could buy for much of the season, and something like that doesn’t just disappear, so I have to wonder what’s wrong with Tua. He didn’t stop knowing how to lead a receiver two weeks ago. But all of a sudden, he’s out there with the yips throwing it 5 yards behind a crossing route. Mike McDaniel may need to accept that keeping Tua’s confidence up is a full-time job. Speaking of full-time jobs, it’s time to hire a full-time roughing the passer ref. Just one person in New York assigned to watch every QB hit from every angle on every play. Because the Jealan Phillips hit on Justin Herbert was as clean of a hit as I’ve ever seen, and it came on a critical 3rd down, and literally no one thought that call was correct. Even Herbert was running off the field without hesitation thinking it was 4th down. McDaniel was laughing, because what else can you do? It was so absurd, laughter is the only remaining response. The league needs to make some sort of change before the playoffs start and a championship game gets decided by a play like this. My take: the “driving to the ground/full body weight” rule needs to go.
9. Los Angeles Chargers
They’re finally getting healthy, and potentially getting hot at the right time. Also helps to be the recipient of the aforementioned roughing call, though that shouldn’t take away from the offense looking better than it looked all year. Having both Mike Williams and Keenan Allen back seems to have ignited something in Herbert. As long as those two stay healthy, and Ekeler and Herbert stay healthy, they could make a run. The problem is that it seems if even one piece is missing, they fold. The Chargers have a depth problem at some positions and that can make things difficult late in the season. On the plus side, Joey Bosa should be back soon, and just in time to help them make the push for a playoff spot.
10. Baltimore Ravens
It’s hard to say anything about this team without knowing who the QB is for their next game. Lamar hasn’t practiced yet this week, so he’s unlikely, though if anyone could walk in there and perform without practicing, it’s him. It doesn’t help that they play Saturday, leaving him one less day to heal. Huntley practiced and it seems like he’s set to pass concussion protocols and get the start, but he hasn’t shown much this year in his limited play. Yet somehow, they just keep squeaking out wins. Much of that credit goes to solidified defense ever since they traded for Roquan. With the Browns running game struggling and DeShaun Watson looking exactly like he hasn’t played football in two years, because he hasn’t, they should be able to squeak their way to 10-4.
11. Detroit Lions
Is this not the most exciting 6-7 team you’ve ever seen? I could probably be talked into putting them a spot or two higher than this. Jared Goff looks more like his early Rams form with every game. Aiden Hutchinson is every bit the beast they thought he could be. Jamaal Williams, who is still my favorite person in the NFL, plus Swift, plus Amon-Ra St. Brown, plus now Jameson Williams… these guys are good. And not only are they talented, but they believe they can beat anyone. There are few things that are certain in the NFL, but one thing that’s definitely certain is that NFC playoff teams are really hoping the Lions don’t make the playoffs. And if they do, no one wants to face them wildcard weekend.
That said, if they make the playoffs, they’ll be playing on the road for as long as they can hang around. These next few weeks will not only be a test to see if they can sneak into the postseason, but also if they can do it while winning on the road. I saw a post from a Detroit news site bragging about how Goff has 20 TD passes at home this year… which is a weird flex because he has 22 total. Which means only 2 TD passes through 5 games on the road. Some of that can be attributed to Williams lighting up the scoreboard on the ground, but some can also be attributed to some really weak road performances from Goff. 4 games left this season, and 3 are away, so this would be a good time for him to fix those numbers.
12. New York Jets
All that early season excitement is really starting to wane. They’ve now dropped 3 of their last 4, and the offense is having a really hard time locking down any kind of identity. I don’t mean that in an Eagles way where they can shift offensive priorities and still perform… they’re having trouble performing in any offensive phase. Much as I’m all in favor of Mike White over Zach Wilson and definitely over Flacco, White has thrown 101 passes in the past 2 weeks. I mean, what are you doing? The running game has looked good even without Breece Hall, and the defense can dominate if the offense can grind out some long drives. Jets need to Dilfer this offense these last few games to get into the playoffs and not go into another confused offseason.
13. Washington Commanders
This is the most important game of the season for the Commanders. A win would give them the tiebreaker over the Giants and a big leg up in the playoff race. The nice thing for Washington is that they literally haven’t had to think about any other team for going on 3 weeks now. They practiced for the Giants the first week of December, played them and tied them in New Jersey, then they had their bye week, meaning another 2 weeks to prepare for the rematch this Sunday in DC. Not surprisingly, that game got flexed to Sunday night. There’s no excuse to lose this game.
14. Seattle Seahawks
Much like the Jets, the early season warm fuzzies are starting to wear off. Time to step up. Geno is frustrated, and they’ve really missed Kenneth Walker III. As of right now, Walker has been a full participant in 2 practices this week and looks to be ready to go. Just in time, too, with Brock Purdy coming to face the 12s for the first time. A win would even them up with SF on the year and put them only a game behind in the West. A loss puts them on the playoff bubble.
15. New England Patriots
Let Mac sling! This offense could be so good. It just hurts to watch how good they could actually be. Join me in a painful journey of seeing how talented the Pats have the potential to be on offense.
Exhibit A: Marcus Jones, who’s actually a cornerback. Which makes what he did to Ben Niemann even wilder.
Rhamondre Stevenson later went down, leaving the Pats with 2 running backs… Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong. Harris proceeded to run guys over, and Strong put a late-game juke that a Cards player is still recovering from. They’ve got talent, and no coach seems to know how to use it.
By the way, despite having a rough overall outing, the play of the game comes from Nelson Agholor, who was apparently the only one on the field who noticed Devante Parker wasn’t right and needed to be pulled. This is why they have spotters, and those spotters failed. Literally everyone could tell Parker needed to be pulled. Except the spotters, the refs, and the announcers. Pathetic. Btw, I’m not generally a Buck-Aikman basher, but this has been my only real complaint about them as a duo… they get into this buddies-at-the-bar mode and don’t pay close enough attention to actual things happening on the field. We all saw something was clearly wrong, and both of them missed it.
16. Tennessee Titans
This is getting kinda long and I’m running out of playoff teams. Anyone think the Titans get past wildcard weekend? Anyone? At this point, they need to hope they even get there. Jags are within 2 games and they play each other again in week 18.
17. Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers needs to stop going on McAfee. No one cares anymore about how you tripped out and saw the other side. Or whatever he said happened. Didn’t even read the article. Not even worth finding it to link to. I don’t care who the QB is next year, just please make it not be this fool.
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady’s team just lost to a team led by a rookie who was the absolute last pick in the last draft, and in doing so, they now have to worry about fending off Sam Darnold and the interim coach-led Panthers and Desmond Ridder and the Falcons, the latter of whom is now fully locked into that decision because when they told Marcus Mariota that Ridder would be starting, Mariota left. He just walked out and left. God I love this season.
19. Cleveland Browns
Wake me up when they wake up Kareem Hunt. Cause the Browns threw it in a long time ago and still didn’t bother trading him. This team is worthless under this leadership.
20. Atlanta Falcons
Bring on Desmond Ridder! I wanted the Packers to draft him so badly. I know I should temper expectations and I’ll accept if he struggles through the end of the year, but I just have this gut feeling their gonna take off and sneak in the playoffs. Can’t really do much there behind this offensive line, but it would still be fun to watch Ridder emerge and build excitement for 2023.
21. New York Giants
In the other corner, there’s just no excitement for 2023. Too many cheap early wins puts them on the playoff bubble, but out of a decent draft pick. Lucky for them, there’s another QB talent in the draft that anything before 20 could still get a top prospect, or at least trade up for one. That’s right, I’m talking about the draft with a team that’s 7-5-1. Because that’s how much faith I have in them.
22. Las Vegas Raiders
If I had to pick a team as the hardest to place per week in power rankings for 2023, congrats Vegas, this time you won something. And you’re so far ahead in that category, no one could possibly catch up, no matter how hard you try to let them.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars
Huuuge win last week against the Titans. If they can pull off an upset against Dallas this week, Tennessee may wanna start looking over their shoulders and not taking the division for granted. Cause Trevor Lawrence just lit them up.
24. Los Angeles Rams
So many hypotheticals, so many narratives, and it’s all coming to Green Bay on Monday Night Football. Can you imagine if Baker can come into Lambeau and beat Aaron Rodgers in prime time? I know as a Packers fan, I shouldn’t be hoping for it, but a part of me just wants that story.
25. Carolina Panthers
Can someone just put these guys out of their misery? My goodness. Since that beatdown from Cincy, they’ve won 3 out of 4, Sam Darnold is slinging it, and they’re a game out of 1st place. And now they’ve got a relatively weak schedule that includes the Steelers and Saints, plus another with the Bucs, who they beat previously so beating (or tying) them again would lock in the tiebreaker.
26. Pittsburgh Steelers
Trubisky didn’t look good last week, Pickett didn’t look good the week before. I’m now fully on the Pickett train, but he’s in concussion protocol for the second time in just his rookie season. At this rate, he could have a career cut short out of fear of lasting brain damage, so maybe just let him sit another week regardless if he passes through protocols. Not sure if Trubisky gets the nod this week after a rough one against Baltimore, so we may see Mason Rudolph.
27. New Orleans Saints
I’m not sure who had waiver priority between the Saints and the Rams, but how did the Saints not even try for Baker? Are we pretending Andy Dalton is the answer? Or that Jameis will come back and forget how to throw picks next year? Or just go straight wishbone triple option with Taysom Hill? Better hope there’s still someone available in the 2nd round next year cause Philly has their currently top-5 pick in the 1st. Talk about a bleak future.
28. Chicago Bears
Come on, Chicago! It’s time to play spoiler! There’s no better time of year for a 3-10 team than when they get a shot at home against a 12-1 team trying to lock in a top seed so they can rest their starters. And Fields is exactly the kind of QB who can lead that kind of charge. He’ll really have to, because Philly might put up 70 on this Roquan-less defense.
29. Arizona Cardinals
Did Kyler Murray’s season-ending injury just save Kliff Kingsbury’s job? They won’t draft a top QB after giving Kyler all that money, which means Colt McCoy will likely be their week 1 starter next year. There’s always a chance Kyler is ready by then, but a mid-December ACL injury makes that a heavy lift. With that being the case, bringing in a new coach and installing a new offense without Kyler, then needing him to step in and run that offense a month-ish into the season would be foolish. Unless Michael Bidwell goes nuclear and punts Keim and Kingsbury and drafts a top-5 QB to start over, it looks like the exact same regime will limp in for at least one more season.
30. Indianapolis Colts
Did you know Matt Ryan used to use a device called NeuroTracker to train his brain back when he was actually kinda good? I feel like maybe he stopped doing that. It’s like going to the gym… you skip once, then once more, then next thing you know you can’t remember the last time you went. This kind of tech is used by Esports organizations and I’ve been reading up on those. Anyway, he still sucks, but that was interesting.
31. Denver Broncos
Russ finally cooked a little bit, though it took an early 27-0 deficit and a relaxed Chiefs defense to get things moving. Unfortunately for Russ, his cooking eventually led to entering concussion protocol, where he currently remains. So we could see Brett Rypien v. Colt McCoy in a surefire epic showdown on Sunday afternoon. Hang onto your seats!
32. Houston Texans
So I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I have a theory that at some point, some team will implement a QB-by-committee approach. And not just a “one passer and one runner” thing like Neil O’Donnell and Kordell or Dalton and Taysom. I’m talking two QBs with maybe some different skills, but relatively equal talent. They would have to be similar enough that the offensive scheme doesn’t get too complicated for everyone else, but different enough that defenses wouldn’t have enough time in a week to prepare for both of them. When the game starts, they can split time, or go with the hot hand, which presumably would be whoever the defense skimmed over in practice.
I’m putting this here because 1) The Texans came as close to doing this as I’ve seen in a long time with Davis Mills and Jeff Driskell, and 2) It’s literally the only interesting thing about the Texans right now. The other possibility is that Lovie is just starting early auditions for Bryce Young’s backup. That’s more likely, but I’m still excited and hoping for some coach out there, probably Mike McDaniel, to look at that and be like, hmm… I wonder… And then he’ll do a Google search to see if it’s been done before and BAM! The hell going on.