Week 10 continued with Week 9’s theme of separating wheat from chaff. There were a few noticeable upsets, a couple other near-misses, and some last-second excitement to boot. Even in the strangest season in modern memory, the NFL knows how to put a great product out there.
The unfortunate reality is that this is the point in the season where both depth and luck are tested. Some teams can barely field a competent roster. Others seem to be completely snakebitten. The teams atop our rankings are mostly healthy, mostly lucky, and mostly good. Who can keep riding the gravy train into February?
32. New York Jets (0-9, Last week: 30)
With a bye to rest and recover, we may see the Jets surge a bit in the next few weeks. Sam Darnold should be returning soon, and so should his receivers and blockers. It won’t be enough to save the season, but it should allow for more competitive games to close out the year.
Next week: at Los Angeles Chargers (2-7)
31. Washington Football Team (2-7, Last week: 31)
Washington crawled back from a 24-3 third quarter deficit to tie Detroit at 27 with only 16 seconds left. For most teams, that would lead to overtime. For Washington, of course, anything can happen, and Chase Young’s flag for roughing the passer gave the Lions enough room to nail a long field goal at the buzzer. The struggles continue.
Next week: vs. Cincinnati (2-6-1)
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8, Last week: 32)
Jacksonville fought tooth and nail in Green Bay and held a lead into the fourth quarter, but they could not close the deal and shock the league. James Robinson outgained the Packers’ four ball-carriers in rushing yards, 109-80, although Jake Luton was thoroughly outclassed by Aaron Rodgers. The Jaguars have now lost eight straight.
Next week: vs. Pittsburgh (9-0)
29. Cincinnati Bengals (2-6-1, Last week: 24)
Perhaps the most important part of Cincinnati’s 2020 season is Joe Burrow building chemistry with Tee Higgins. The pair connected seven times for 115 yards and a score against Pittsburgh, and Higgins is on pace for 1000 receiving yards as a rookie. The rest of the roster needs continued tweaking, but at least the passing game is taking shape for future years.
Next week: at Washington (2-7)
28. Carolina Panthers (3-7, Last week: 23)
The Panthers trotted out three separate attempted passers on Sunday, and all three–Teddy Bridgewater, his backup P.J. Walker, and punter Joseph Charlton–were sacked by Buccaneers defenders. Tampa Bay clobbered Carolina in total yardage (544 to 187), first downs gained (30 to 13), and time of possession (36:05 to 23:55). How did the Panthers ever hold a 17-10 lead?
Next week: vs. Detroit (4-5)
27. Dallas Cowboys (2-7, Last week: 28)
Despite having last played on October 11, Dak Prescott still ranks in the top 25 in passing yards through Monday night. With 1856 yards, he is even ahead of Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield, Drew Lock, and Cam Newton. That is a moot point now, and Dallas needs a defensive renaissance if they have any chance of climbing back into the NFC East title race.
Next week: at Minnesota (4-5)
26. Denver Broncos (3-6, Last week: 21)
Speaking of Drew Lock, he will hope to forget Sunday’s blowout loss in Las Vegas. Lock was sacked twice, threw four interceptions, and fumbled once (which was not lost). Unfortunately, Lock was not responsible for Denver’s porous run defense, which yielded four touchdowns on the ground. Lots of blame to go around in this one.
Next week: vs. Miami (6-3)
25. Houston Texans (2-7, Last week: 27)
The weather in Cleveland was bad Sunday, but the football may have been worse. Houston could only muster 243 total yards and seven points, and Ka’imi Fairbairn missed a field goal in an eventual three-point loss. One can only feel for Deshaun Watson as his prime is being wasted by organizational ineptitude.
Next week: vs. New England (4-5)
24. San Francisco 49ers (4-6, Last week: 20)
There may not be a more injured team than San Francisco this year. 49ers quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and defensive backs have been depleted like crazy so far. On top of the injury report, four turnovers and a stifled rush offense (49 yards on 25 carries) doomed San Francisco to their third straight loss.
Next week: idle
23. Philadelphia Eagles (3-5-1, Last week: 18)
Philadelphia didn’t turn the ball over against New York, achieved the same number of first downs, and were barely edged out in the total yardage and time of possession battles. So how did they lose by 10 points? They failed to convert any of their nine third down attempts, converted only one of three fourth downs, and committed 11 penalties. Situational football matters.
Next week: at Cleveland (6-3)
22. New York Giants (3-7, Last week: 25)
Daniel Jones and Wayne Gallman combined for three rushing touchdowns in their upset win over the Eagles. Leonard Williams contributed five of the Giants’ 12 quarterback hits, and James Bradberry broke up two passes. All four teams in the NFC East are now separated by only a game and a half in the standings.
Next week: idle
21. Los Angeles Chargers (2-7, Last week: 26)
Through nine games, the Chargers have had only one outcome determined by more than a single score. Their October 25 victory over Jacksonville was a 10-point final margin, at 39-29. Despite their 2-7 record, Los Angeles’ average score is roughly 27-24. They’re close.
Next week: vs. New York Jets (0-9)
20. Detroit Lions (4-5, Last week: 22)
Good for Detroit not blowing another second half lead. But seriously, Lions, can you learn how to close out a win without insane amounts of drama? This may be a season-saving win, with three NFC North games remaining, two of which are at home. Without a playoff berth, the 2021 Lions could be in a full rebuild.
Next week: at Carolina (3-7)
19. Atlanta Falcons (3-6, Last week: 19)
In their final seven games, Atlanta will play New Orleans and Tampa Bay twice apiece. Their three non-divisional games include 6-3 Las Vegas at home and at 8-1 Kansas City. The playoffs are probably a pipe dream, but the Falcons can still play spoiler and have a major impact on postseason seeding. Keep an eye on them.
Next week: at New Orleans (7-2)
18. New England Patriots (4-5, Last week: 29)
Bill Belichick and Cam Newton are agents of chaos. After struggling to dispatch the winless Jets, the Patriots decided to simply run all over Baltimore, and now they’re back creeping around the playoff picture. They will need some help, but you can bet this is not the last we will hear of New England.
Next week: at Houston (2-7)
17. Chicago Bears (5-5, Last week: 16)
Remember when the Bears were 5-1? Boy, that feels like forever ago. Matt Nagy handed over play-calling duties to Bill Lazor, but the end result was the same. Chicago needs to help their quarterback–whoever it may be–with better blocking and skill position talent. Play-calling can only go so far.
Next week: idle
16. Minnesota Vikings (4-5, Last week: 17)
The Vikings have clearly flipped their “on” switch. Their third divisional win in a row doused what little hope Chicago may have had for a turnaround. Minnesota’s offense is humming, and Mike Zimmer’s young defense is starting to take form.
Next week: vs. Dallas (2-7)
15. Cleveland Browns (6-3, Last week: 14)
Cleveland outrushed Houston by 141 yards (231-90), which helped seal a sloppy win in sloppy field conditions. Baker Mayfield may have been the top overall pick a few years ago, but the Browns will only go as far as their running game and defense take them. Right now, it has taken them to a 6-3 record and put them in the thick of the playoff race.
Next week: vs. Philadelphia (3-5-1)
14. Tennessee Titans (6-3, Last week: 7)
Ryan Tannehill was unable to spur the Titans’ offense when it needed him most against Indianapolis. Tannehill was limited to just 147 yards passing on 56 percent completions, and Derrick Henry had to shoulder the load by himself. Punter Trevor Daniel and kicker Stephen Gostkowski have likely spent the long weekend in coach Mike Vrabel’s doghouse after costly miscues gave the Colts momentum in the second half.
Next week: at Baltimore (6-3)
13. Seattle Seahawks (6-3, Last week: 8)
Already racked by injuries, the Seahawks lost several more players in their loss to Los Angeles over the weekend. Missing key starters and losing the turnover battle is rarely going to end up in a win. If you played interior offensive line, running back, or cornerback in your past, you may want to call Pete Carroll for a tryout.
Next week: vs. Arizona (6-3)
12. Las Vegas Raiders (6-3, Last week: 10)
The Raiders absolutely mauled the rival Broncos this weekend, forcing five total turnovers, deflecting 10 passes, and holding the ball for over 36 minutes of game action. Josh Jacobs and Devontae Booker each averaged over five yards per rush and ran for two touchdowns apiece. On the other side of the ball, Jeff Heath picked off two passes and broke up two others.
Next week: vs. Kansas City (8-1)
11. Miami Dolphins (6-3, Last week: 9)
If Brian Flores doesn’t take home Coach of the Year honors, something will have gone horribly awry. Miami has now won five in a row and is 6-1 since its 0-2 start. Facing the Broncos, Jets, and Bengals in the next three games could put the Dolphins at 9-3 in December, just like we all predicted…
Next week: at Denver (3-6)
10. Indianapolis Colts (6-3, Last week: 15)
Special teams often go unnoticed in box scores, yet they play a huge role in separating wins from losses. On Thursday night, the Colts took advantage of a shanked punt, a blocked punt for a touchdown, and a missed field goal on three consecutive Titans possessions to turn a 17-13 deficit into a 34-17 lead. Those miscues might have cost Tennessee the AFC South title.
Next week: vs. Green Bay (7-2)
9. Buffalo Bills (7-3, Last week: 5)
At 7-3, the Bills have a lot to feel good about. Still, their last-minute loss to Arizona has to sting. Then again, holding an explosive Arizona passing attack to 245 yards without several defensive backs (who were held out for contact tracing purposes) is notable. Now, Buffalo desperately needs a running game to complement Josh Allen.
Next week: idle
8. Baltimore Ravens (6-3, Last week: 3)
Baltimore’s offense is not meant to pass the ball more than it runs, but that was the situation it found itself in Sunday night. Lamar Jackson was only okay, with two sacks and an interception against him. The real story was the Ravens’ defense not being able to stop New England’s rushing offense, which left Jackson and company in a 13-point third quarter hole.
Next week: vs. Tennessee (6-3)
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3, Last week: 13)
Tom Brady is fourth in the league in passing yards, Ronald Jones is third in rushing yards, Devin White is fifth in tackles, and Carlton Davis is tied for third in interceptions. The Bucs are incredibly well balanced, and they are still figuring out how to play together. If they keep jelling through December, they could be a nightmare in January.
Next week: vs. Los Angeles Rams (6-3)
6. Green Bay Packers (7-2, Last week: 6)
Aaron Jones has not looked entirely like himself since early October. In his last three games (against Tampa Bay, San Francisco, and Jacksonville), Jones has averaged just over three yards per carry and has scored only once. Green Bay is slotted as the NFC’s top seed at the moment, and Jones’ return to form could make them even more formidable.
Next week: at Indianapolis (6-3)
5. Arizona Cardinals (6-3, Last week: 12)
Air raid?! Kliff Kingsbury’s offense ran the ball 35 times for 217 yards against Buffalo. In fact, Kyler Murray’s only passing touchdown was the one that counted most: his Hail Mary to DeAndre Hopkins to win the game with only two seconds left. Murray was responsible for all three Arizona touchdowns (two rushing, one passing).
Next week: at Seattle (6-3)
4. Los Angeles Rams (6-3, Last week: 11)
The Rams harassed Russell Wilson to no end on Sunday, hitting him 12 times, sacking him six times, breaking up four passes, and forcing Wilson into two interceptions and a lost fumble. Add to that a 300-yard passing day by Jared Goff, and you have a three-way tie atop the NFC West at 6-3. Can we petition the league to give the NFC East’s playoff berth to another West team instead?
Next week: at Tampa Bay (7-3)
3. New Orleans Saints (7-2, Last week: 4)
Drew Brees left Sunday’s win with broken ribs. He will miss more time, and Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill will continue filling in for him, just as they did against San Francisco. Fortunately, Alvin Kamara and a rugged defense can win games without much help, and the Saints have a lead within their division since they swept Tampa Bay.
Next week: vs. Atlanta (3-6)
2. Kansas City Chiefs (8-1, Last week: 2)
No one is doubting the Chiefs’ legitimacy as contenders. They are the reigning champs, after all. But four of their next five games are on the road, traveling to 6-3 Las Vegas (which is the only blemish on Kansas City’s record so far), 7-3 Tampa Bay, 6-3 Miami, and 7-2 New Orleans. We may have some exciting football on the horizon, folks.
Next week: at Las Vegas (6-3)
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-0, Last week: 1)
The Steelers needed a game like this. Only their 38-7 thrashing of Cleveland could be considered a “blowout” win, and each other victory came by 10 points or less. Poor Cincinnati had no answer for Pittsburgh, who played a dominant game on offense, defense, and special teams. This one answered a lot of lingering questions.
Next week: at Jacksonville (1-8)