How does this league keep getting wilder? There are actual people out there right now saying because the NFL identifies as an “entertainment” organization, that means everything is scripted. I’ve seen videos explaining how the Rams comeback over the Raiders was rigged. And these people are dead serious. All these rarities aren’t making it any easier to quiet down the conspiracy talk. Largest comeback in league history, followed by the most bizarre ending to a game courtesy of one of the most disciplined teams in the league.
I mean, I get how some questions might crop up. This league is weird, this country’s conspiracy infatuation is weirder, and someone is eventually gonna tie all this back to “The Hat Man” from Aaron Rodgers ayahuasca trip. Don’t be that person.
I love this league. Enjoy my madness.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
Even though Philly is at the top again and deservedly so, I am a bit concerned about the Dallas game. Not because I think Dallas is better, but because Dallas plays to their competition. That’s great for the Eagles overall record because they win the games they’re supposed to win, which is why they’re 13-1. Dallas blows the games they’re supposed to win but comes up big in the most challenging games, so playing them in primetime on Christmas Eve while trying to maintain the 1 seed in the NFC is not optimal. Hurts is practicing so it looks like he may still go (update, no he won’t), but they’ll need to rely more on Miles Sanders this week so Hurts doesn’t have to throw that shoulder into anyone on a run. Personally I think they should sit Hurts and unleash Minshew Mania™.
Can you imagine the psychological scarring to the Cowboys if they got beat by the Mississippi Mustache™? I don’t think they could recover from that one in time for the playoffs.
Update before publish: Hurts is out. Minshew looks set to be the starter. Time for some Minshew Magic™!
2. Cincinnati Bengals
Had them here last week for a reason, and they stay here for the same reason. This is the hottest team in the AFC and they’re still tightening their stride. It’s weird how sometimes an injury to a star player can ultimately make the team better. Chase and Mixon missed some weeks, but now they’re back, plus Burrow got some time to work more with Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, and Samaje Perine.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
Offensively, they have so many weapons and it can’t be easy for any team to gameplan how to stop them. You can focus on Kelce, which seems to have the most success, but then you’ve gotta be able to stomach JuJu and Pacheco and now Jerick Freakin’ McKinnon running wild. Defensively, there are some things to shore up. After giving up 28 to the Broncos, they gave up 24 to the Texans… neither of those teams should have ever been allowed in the game. But in both cases, KC’s offense did enough and they won. They don’t ask how, they ask how many. Unfortunately, in the “how many” realm, they’re currently 1 short of the 1 seed thanks to dropping to Buffalo earlier this year. And you know they want that 1 seed so the playoffs come through KC, a stadium with a superfan who went to games in a wolf mask and robbed banks, in the wolf mask, so that he could afford to go to the games.
I love this league so much. Not that much, but still, a lot.
4. Minnesota Vikings
Here is where you need to take a deep breath and remember the methodology. Are they better than the Niners or Bills? Maybe, maybe not. But coming out of that win over the Colts, I can’t think of anyone riding a higher high. KJ Osborn is finally establishing himself as the other WR option so Jefferson doesn’t need to get triple-covered every play. Thielen seems to have aged out of that spot, but he’s still dangerous. Just not we need to cover this guy, too-level dangerous. Osborn could be that guy. The only time I saw Jefferson get single coverage, he basically said how dare you and put a route on Gilmore that was just silly.
There are still question marks on defense, but the offense needs to remember they can run with anyone in a shootout.
5. San Francisco 49ers
Defense continues to look dominant, offense continues to make very few mistakes. Much like I said with Jimmy G in the past, Purdy just needs to keep his head down and stay out of his own way. He seems capable of doing that. There’s no reason he can’t develop into the guy for a team, or this team, in the future, but right now he’s a rookie and just needs more and more reps. In the meantime, he’s got like 5 other the guy-s around him who will continue making him look good as long as he lets them. I’m already excited for this offseason QB controversy, especially when Tom Brady goes on “vacation” to LA.
6. Buffalo Bills
As hard as it is to believe, I like the Bills. Stefon Diggs is one of my favorite players and I badly want him to get a ring at some point in his career. But he won’t do that with Josh Allen’s backup and Allen still seems to think he’s a running back. I don’t care that he runs, I care how he finishes a run. I’ll be disappointed if I don’t hear about the team bringing in a baserunning coach in the offseason to teach him how to slide. He is everything to this offense and he needs to prioritize throwing and use running less an a part of his game and more as an added weapon, an extension. Force teams to fear his arm until they leave the middle wide open to scamper 30 yards and slide. Not only is it safer, how often this season have we seen 15 yards added to QB runs when they slide? I know football is this super tough guy macho sport where players play through injuries, but you’re not playing through a torn ACL, a fractured ankle, a broken clavicle, and definitely not a concussion.
Also, just so we’re clear, Devin Singletary going to the ground at the end of the game to set up the field goal was absolutely the right decision. If he had scored the TD, the fastest team in the NFL gets 30 seconds and timeout to tie it. Maybe Allen could learn something from Singletary about how giving yourself up on a play can be better than trying to play hero.
And yes, I heard the TV “analyst” mocking Singletary’s decision. I’m not about to take end-of-game notes from Butt Fumble Sanchez.
7. Dallas Cowboys
As I mentioned, I’m sure they’ll show up and play to Philly’s level. If they want a chance in the playoffs, they need this win. I don’t know how you psychologically come out of this game with a loss against Philly’s backup QB with any confidence. They need this to be a statement game. A win by a touchdown or less won’t cut it.
8. Miami Dolphins
I know they lost, but what a performance. And it says something about their offense that I legitimately thought if Singletary had gone in for a touchdown at the end, that would be Miami’s best chance. Cause I had no doubt they could score in 30 seconds with a timeout, even in the snow. Especially in the snow. DB slips and suddenly you’ve got Tyreek or Waddle streaking down the sideline. This is why teams practice situational football, and Singletary made sure he kept the game out of Tua’s hands. While they ultimately looked pretty good and seem to be getting back into a groove, the fact is they’ve lost their last 3 and now find themselves on the playoff bubble. This Sunday’s game against the Packers is important, but not nearly as important as the next 2 against the Pats and Jets. If they lose to the Pack, they need to win those last 2 games.
9. Los Angeles Chargers
Every time Herbert is allowed to fire at will, he makes incredible plays. That arm is something else. They keep getting better, they keep getting healthier, and they’re peaking at a great time. They also have a very weak schedule to close out the season, with a Monday nighter against the wounded in their soul Colts, followed by a New Year’s Day home game against the wounded in their bones Rams, and finish up with the broken Broncos. There’s no reason the Bolts can end the year 11-6 and the 5 seed in the playoffs.
10. Detroit Lions
The Lions are in the top 10! The Lions are in the top 10! And they still have a top 5 pick in the draft. And if you think they’ll use that on a QB (unless they intend to roll out my QB-by-Committee plan), then I’ll just assume you haven’t been paying attention. This team is on the rise, and there’s no reason to muck that up with a rebuilding-type move like drafting a top-5 QB. Give him more weapons, some offensive line help, or build some defensive depth. They have a real chance to make the playoffs yet this year, and I can’t imagine anyone wants to pull that matchup on Wildcard Weekend.
11. New York Jets
The anti-Lions appear to be the Jets. And not just because they lost to them last. Defense is still absolutely for real and stacked with talent, with Quinnen Williams set to come back either this week or next. But losing Breece Hall for the year really hit them hard, and the QB back and forth has made it difficult to establish any offensive consistency. Really interested to see what happens if Zach Wilson helps get them to the playoffs and then Mike White is ready to go. I think that’s a locker room decision.
12. Baltimore Ravens
Lamar is still out, and now Devin Duvernay is out for the year. This team can’t seem to catch a break with injuries. Finally get Gus Edwards and JK Dobbins back, but Lamar is hurt and there are no receivers left. The defense has solidified with the addition of Roquan Smith, but the offense hasn’t looked right since week 3. But it at least looked semi-functional with Lamar out there creating. With Huntley, it’s just a mess. Outside linebacker Tyus Bowser walked back his weird Instagram story showing video of pieces of paper that read “Fire Greg Roman.” Whether he meant it or not, and whether Harbaugh and the players’ defense of Roman is genuine, the OC is gonna be on a short leash. If they somehow manage to miss the playoffs, I can’t imagine a world where he keeps his job, even if it’s just desperation by Harbaugh to keep his own job. They need someone in that building that can harness Lamar’s abilities.
13. Green Bay Packers
Dig if you will, the possibility of a Brady v. Rodgers NFC Championship game. I can see your mind right now, so lemme join you. You’re gonna go through all the steps of calling me crazy and maybe thinking I’m high and then eventually you’ll realize it’s still mathematically possible. And since the Bucs would be the 4th seed and Packers the 7th, them meeting if they both make it is very possible. And finally, you’ll look at everything that’s happened this season and realize… holy crap, this could happen.
14. New York Giants
Just let me take my lumps. I still don’t think Daniel Jones is taking them anywhere, but if he can get them a lead, Circle Button Saquon can hold it. I’ll admit they’re probably better than I thought they were, but I don’t think they’re as good as some think. If they can hang onto their playoff spot, I’m seeing a quick exit.
15. Jacksonville Jaguars
Another team hitting stride at just the right time. Also helps that Tennessee is falling off a cliff and giving the Jags a shot at the division. Let’s not forget that in Urban Meyer’s disaster season, they were constantly surrounded by distractions and ended up worst in the league… now with Pederson, they’re on the verge of potentially winning their division and going into the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the league.
16. Las Vegas Raiders
How does one team have so many crazy finishes in a season? 12 of their 14 games were within a touchdown. 3 went to overtime. Then two weeks ago they watch Baker Mayfield pick them apart on 2 days of practice, then follow that up with the one of the most bizarre endings to a game I’ve ever seen. The only thing they came out of that game seeing clearly is that Chandler Jones should get some goal line carries. Mac Jones probably still has his giant paw imprinted on his face.
17. Washington Commanders
Chase Young coming back is exactly what these guys need. Some kind of boost. Because a tie and then a loss to the Giants, especially under the circumstances, is hard to stomach. But I do want to talk about that last Washington drive, and not because of pass interference. If you’re trying to win or tie a game via pass interference calls late in the 4th quarter, you’ll lose a lot of games. What was more concerning was 1) Heinicke tripping over his own feet when he could’ve walked in and avoided all this controversy, and 2) the absolutely atrocious call on Terry McLaurin.
I’m by no means an expert on rules, but I do understand this one, and I understand the ref is under no obligation to confirm positioning for a wide receiver. But like many things in football, including raising the bar for pass interference in the 4th quarter, there are unwritten rules. I played TE/WR in high school, and it was taught to us even then to check with the ref… he may help, he may not. This is commonly done at the college and NFL levels, as well. Sometimes they help, sometimes they ignore you. But under no circumstances should they ever give an okay, then throw the flag seconds later. I don’t know how that’s seen as anything but malicious, and I don’t understand why it would even happen. Again, no written rule was broken when he did that, but there should probably be an investigation into why it went down that way.
18. Seattle Seahawks
I really wanted the Seahawks to keep surprising everyone and sneak into the playoffs, but it’s not looking good. They still have the talent, but they’ve now dropped 4 of their last 5 and likely need to win out to have a chance. And winning out starts with having to go to KC and beat the Chiefs. This game likely decides their season, as a win would be a huge momentum shift, but a loss makes the playoffs mathematically improbable. They really got done in by backfield injuries this year.
19. New England Patriots
So apparently there’s an issue where Kraft wants Zappe to start and Belichick wants Mac Jones. If this ultimately leads to Belichick retiring and Kraft hires a new coach who will give the starting gig to Zappe, I’m just gonna throw out there that Mac would look good in green & gold. Seriously, what is Kraft thinking? Mac’s problems this year haven’t been with his abilities… it’s been about having no offensive coordinator and being reined in instead of unleashed. If he’s benched, I hope he demands a trade and goes somewhere with a coach that can actually help him develop. He’s got so much talent.
20. Tennessee Titans
Bet they didn’t expect to see the Jags sneak up like this. Though losing their last 4 made it less sneaking and more like opening the door wide and taking their coats. They badly need to beat the Texans this week, otherwise they could find themselves tied in the division with Cowboys and a rematch with the Jags on the road to finish the year. Oh, and do it all with Malik Willis, cause Tannehill is out for the year. No pressure.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I keep wanting to just say Brady is done. Just let me say it. Someone take this division that the Bucs are handing them and put Brady out of his misery. But no, no one will take it, even though he looks like he might blow away with a strong gust of wind. I just checked, no games left in windy cities, unless Phoenix gets a surprise monsoon. Is that what they’re still called? The Weather Channel has been making up terms lately so I figured they would have something fun for that, like Cloudburst Warning. As I write this, my area is under a Heavy Freezing Spray Warning.
22. Cleveland Browns
Congrats to DeShaun Watson for doing the absolute bare minimum to win a game.
23. Atlanta Falcons
Okay but hear me out. Ridder didn’t do much, but in his first career NFL start, he made some plays. Much like Mariota, Ridder had to run for his life all game, but he showed the ability to break pressure, made some really good leading throws, and had no turnovers. And he still almost led them to a tie or win on a good drive until a perfect 4th down throw to Drake London turned into a fumble that all but ended the game. Tyler Allgeier looks incredible despite the shaky offensive line. It seems like I could say they’re out of it, but 5-9 means a game out of 1st in the NFC Dirty South. If Ridder can quickly get more comfortable, they could make a run at this and be a mildly dangerous playoff team.
24. Carolina Panthers
Next in line in the NFC South garbage bin is Sam Darnold and the inexplicable Panthers. Moving on. I wanna see Matt Rhule’s face if they win this division.
25. New Orleans Saints
Andy Dalton has the 5th highest overall QB grade and the 2nd highest passer grade from PFF. That’s weird, right? But then you look at his stats and they’re decent. So where’s the disconnect here? They have a good defense, they have Kamara and decent receivers… it has to be annoying for Saints fans that what they see somehow isn’t translating to wins.
26. Pittsburgh Steelers
Travelers flying in to Pittsburgh International Airport are greeted by two statues… George Washington, and the Immaculate Reception, widely considered the greatest play in NFL history. RIP Franco Harris.
27. Chicago Bears
This is just silly. Yeah, they lost, but the mental victories this team is getting this season are real.
28. Los Angeles Rams
I want Baker to succeed and if Stafford retires, I hope the Rams give Baker a deal so he can come back next year and play with Kupp and Robinson and Skowrenek. But for the rest of this year he basically has Van Jefferson. And Tyler Higbee… thanks for remembering him Baker, my fantasy team appreciates the assist.
29. Denver Broncos
So they won. With Brett Rypien. Against Trace McSorley. I really don’t have much more to say about these bottom dwellers, especially when they already traded away their future. For the sake of their defense, I hope they eventually figure things out. Or Ejiro Evero gets the hell out and takes his best players with him.
30. Arizona Cardinals
Are they still playing? And why?
31. Indianapolis Colts
I mean. How do you come out of a game like that with an identity. And you better believe I’m bringing in my 8-4-4 Rule. 8 minutes, 4 TD lead in the 4th quarter… until then, stop pretending you already won. They started sitting on their lead before the first half even finished, and I’m sure Jeff Saturday will be blamed for a lot of things. But that’s the most egregious. Keep the pedal down.
32. Houston Texans
2 QBs. Come on, guys, stop teasing and lean into it. Set the stage for a Davis Mills and Bryce Young Day 1 Duo. The world may not be ready, but I am.