Week 11 brought us more exciting action between playoff contenders. The Seahawks and Cardinals, Titans and Ravens, Colts and Packers, and Chiefs and Raiders all served to whet our collective appetites before Thanksgiving football on Thursday. Even better news is that there are no byes this weekend. In fact, only Tampa Bay and Carolina have off days remaining, and those will be on December 13th. We are almost in the home stretch.
Unfortunately, another star player was lost for the season, and COVID-19 exposures linger around every corner. But while it’s here, we might as well enjoy the football extravaganza. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, however you choose to celebrate. Now, on with the rankings.
32. New York Jets (0-10, Last week: 32)
Remember when Joe Flacco was an elite, Super Bowl-caliber quarterback? Pepperidge Farm remembers. Nowadays, though, you’ll find him lofting softball interceptions to opposing defenses, who are all too happy to return them for touchdowns. Kudos to Frank Gore on his 80th career rushing touchdown, which ties him with Edgerrin James for 20th all-time.
Next week: vs. Miami (6-4)
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9, Last week: 30)
Jake Luton looked like a rookie sixth-round pick against Pittsburgh, completing under half of his passes for 151 yards, no touchdowns, and four interceptions. The Jaguars defense also failed to record a sack through 46 Steeler pass attempts. But hey, they won the first quarter, 3-0!
Next week: vs. Cleveland (7-3)
30. Cincinnati Bengals (2-7-1, Last week: 29)
Thoughts go out to Joe Burrow, who was carted off the field after sustaining a knee injury which will end his season. The Bengals may consider this a blessing in disguise, since now they can evaluate the rest of the roster without Burrow’s magic covering blemishes. The offensive line will need to be addressed in a big way if Burrow is ever going to live up to his lofty potential in year two and beyond.
Next week: vs. New York Giants (3-7)
29. Atlanta Falcons (3-7, Last week: 19)
The Falcons were thoroughly contained in New Orleans on Sunday. Offensively, they mustered only 248 total yards and were held to two third down conversions on 14 attempts. Defensively, they had no answer for the Saints’ rushing attack. Back to the drawing board, Atlanta.
Next week: vs. Las Vegas (6-4)
28 – 25. NFC East (12-27-1, Last week: N/A)
3-7, 3-7, 3-7, and 3-6-1. The NFL wants parity, and they have found plenty of it in the NFC East. Philadelphia holds a half-game lead by virtue of an early-season tie with Cincinnati. Just so we aren’t accused of punching down on the poor division, it is worth noting that three of the four teams won this weekend (all except Philadelphia), and the Giants have actually won two in a row.
Next week: ennui (look it up)
24. Detroit Lions (4-6, Last week: 20)
Matt Stafford had never been shut out before Sunday, and the Lions just flat-out laid an egg against Carolina. Detroit corralled two interceptions in the end zone, or the 20-0 final score may have been even worse. Obviously, Stafford and the offense could not turn either of those turnovers into points or even positive momentum. Detroit’s mercurial play continues.
Next week: vs. Houston (3-7)
23. Los Angeles Chargers (3-7, Last week: 21)
Justin Herbert overcame a complete lack of running game help (29 yards on 26 carries) to carry the Chargers past the hapless Jets. Herbert and Keenan Allen have a clear connection, and their defensive brethren added an early score with a pick-six. Anthony Lynn needs to correct his team’s mistakes that caused a 24-6 halftime lead to shrink to a 34-28 final score.
Next week: at Buffalo (7-3)
22. Carolina Panthers (4-7, Last week: 28)
Congratulations to XFL star P.J. Walker, who won his first career start as a quarterback in the NFL Sunday. Walker started in place of injured Teddy Bridgewater, and he reunited with his college head coach to show off some of that Temple Owl toughness. Brian Burns helped lead the defense to its first shutout since 2015, with two sacks and a pass deflection.
Next week: at Minnesota (4-6)
21. Chicago Bears (5-5, Last week: 17)
Rather than challenging for NFC supremacy, the Bears and 49ers are locked in a duel to determine who is the NFL’s most injured team. Chicago’s depth chart features enough “O,” “Q,” and “IR” tags to fill a Scrabble board. The biggest question mark is at quarterback, where Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles are both dealing with injuries on top of ineffective play.
Next week: at Green Bay (7-3)
20. Minnesota Vikings (4-6, Last week: 16)
Well, so much for that. After winning three games in a row and getting themselves within a game of .500, the Vikings were upended at home by the Cowboys and lost a lot of momentum. Kirk Cousins and Adam Thielen shredded Dallas’ secondary but came up short on their final two downs with the game on the line. Minnesota also gave up a concerning 180 rushing yards.
Next week: vs. Carolina (4-7)
19. New England Patriots (4-6, Last week: 18)
New England’s offensive identity took a hit in Houston. After leading the league in rushing attempts through nine games, the Patriots launched 40 pass attempts in their 27-20 loss. Of course, being down 21-10 at halftime will force any team to come out throwing. As bizarre as it seems, Bill Belichick’s team is unlikely to make the playoffs this year.
Next week: vs. Arizona (6-4)
18. Houston Texans (3-7, Last week: 25)
Deshaun Watson stood toe to toe with Cam Newton and came out the victor. Watson accounted for all three Texans touchdowns (two passing, one rushing), and he spread the ball around to keep things balanced. Nine receivers caught at least two passes, which helped soften the formidable New England secondary.
Next week: at Detroit (4-6)
17. Denver Broncos (4-6, Last week: 26)
Melvin Gordon’s day was a perfect microcosm of the Broncos’ up-and-down season to this point; Gordon ran for two scores and would have had a third, but replay determined that he lost a fumble at the one-yard line instead. Strangely, three of Denver’s four wins have come against the AFC East. They play Buffalo on December 20th.
Next week: vs. New Orleans (8-2)
16. San Francisco (4-6, Last week: 24)
Perhaps no team has ever needed a bye more than San Francisco did. From injuries to COVID-19 quarantines, the 49ers roster has been unrecognizably fluid through their first 10 games. Now, both Tevin Coleman and Deebo Samuel may be healthy enough to return to action. At this point, every little bit helps.
Next week: at Los Angeles Rams (
15. Miami Dolphins (6-4, Last week: 11)
Brian Flores has made unconventional personnel decisions in his tenure already so his benching of Tua Tagovailoa for Ryan Fitzpatrick in the fourth quarter doesn’t come as a huge surprise. Flores reiterated that Tagovailoa will remain the team’s starter, and Fitzpatrick came on to run a hurry-up offense to get Miami back in the game. It didn’t result in a win, but this helps solidify that no one is above reproach within the Dolphins’ locker room.
Next week: at New York Jets (0-10)
14. Las Vegas Raiders (6-4, Last week: 12)
After smacking Kansas City around in their previous matchup, the Raiders were not able to duplicate their success on Sunday night. Las Vegas was outgained in total yards, they gave up 36 first downs, and they allowed the Chiefs to possess the ball for over 32 minutes of game action. Still, they had a chance to steal a victory late but were doomed by a Derek Carr interception.
Next week: at Atlanta (3-7)
13. Arizona Cardinals (6-4, Last week: 5)
After outrushing Buffalo 217-73, the Cardinals were then outrushed by Seattle 165-57. Of course, rushing yards rarely tell the whole story of a game. However, without some balance offensively, Kyler Murray becomes exposed to a pass rush that may wear down his slight frame.
Next week: at New England (4-6)
12. Baltimore Ravens (6-4, Last week: 8)
Baltimore’s offensive struggles are becoming a little more worrisome with each passing week. They aren’t bad offensively, mind you, they’re just much less explosive than we saw last year. Still, they held a 21-10 third quarter lead before blowing it against Tennessee. Offense isn’t the only problem for the Ravens, but it is a problem.
Next week: at Pittsburgh (10-0)
11. Cleveland Browns (7-3, Last week: 15)
It’s only fitting that Philadelphia and Cleveland would play in a cold, rainy game. Those conditions favored the Browns, whose running game and defense are superior to the Eagles’. Nick Chubb ran for 114 yards, and Olivier Vernon notched three of his team’s five sacks to secure the ugly win.
Next week: at Jacksonville (1-9)
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-4, Last week: 7)
Tampa Bay has a legendary quarterback, an uber-talented defense, and creative, experienced coaches. But they’re still finding their way, as Monday night’s loss to Los Angeles would indicate. They remain among the NFC’s better teams, but it’s a stretch to call them elite at this point. Will they turn it on by the playoffs?
Next week: vs. Kansas City (9-1)
9. Green Bay Packers (7-3, Last week: 6)
Green Bay lost three fumbles and threw an interception in a narrow overtime loss on the road in Indianapolis. Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams stayed hot, but the Packers’ defense gave up 140 yards on the ground. Indianapolis outscored Rodgers and the Pack 20-3 in the second half and overtime.
Next week: vs. Chicago (5-5)
8. Tennessee Titans (7-3, Last week: 14)
The Titans bounced back from both an ugly loss and a double-digit second-half deficit to secure their seventh win. They’re now one of four AFC teams with seven wins and one of nine with at least six. If the playoffs started today, they would be the fifth seed.
Next week: at Indianapolis (7-3)
7. Buffalo Bills (7-3, Last week: 9)
The Bills are currently slotted as the AFC’s third seed, behind Pittsburgh and Kansas City. They can still reach the summit, but they will need help along the way, especially considering that they already dropped a head-to-head matchup against the Chiefs. Buffalo and Pittsburgh are playing on Sunday Night Football December 13, so get your popcorn ready.
Next week: vs. Los Angeles Chargers (3-7)
6. Indianapolis Colts (7-3, Last week: 10)
First-year Colts played a huge role in knocking off the Packers. Philip Rivers, DeForest Buckner, Michael Pittman, Julian Blackmon, and Rodrigo Blankenship were all instrumental in the 34-31 overtime victory. Here’s a statistical oddity: hot-or-cold Nyheim Hines has had three different two-touchdown games in 2020; he has not scored in any of the team’s other seven games.
Next week: vs. Tennessee (7-3)
5. Los Angeles Rams (7-3, Last week: 4)
Los Angeles Rams (7-3, Last week: 4)
For a while, it appeared that opposing defenses had figured out Sean McVay’s dynamic offensive scheme. But with an extended offseason to rewire things, the Rams are as capable as ever. Oh yeah, having Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey on the other side of the ball helps win a few games here and there as well.
Next week: vs. San Francisco (4-6)
4. Seattle Seahawks (7-3, Last week: 13)
The Seahawks had lost three of four heading into their rematch with the Cardinals. After a 28-21 home win to even the season series with Arizona, Seattle now faces, in order: Philadelphia, the Giants, the Jets, and Washington. They may be 11-3 in the blink of an eye.
Next week: at Philadelphia (3-6-1)
3. New Orleans Saints (8-2, Last week: 3)
No Drew Brees? No problem! Taysom Hill won his first career start, but it was the Saints’ defense that stole the show. They managed to sack Matt Ryan eight times and pick him off twice, which helped New Orleans pitch a shutout in the second half.
Next week: at Denver (4-6)
2. Kansas City Chiefs (9-1, Last week: 2)
The Chiefs avenged their only loss of the season by dinking and dunking their way all over the field against Las Vegas. Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill ate up 19 receptions–most of them underneath–while Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Le’Veon Bell combined for three rushing touchdowns. Defensively, the lack of pass rush is troubling, but a crucial last-minute interception sealed the win.
Next week: at Tampa Bay (
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0, Last week: 1)
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been playing football for a very long time, and usually playing it very well. However, they have never been 10-0 before now. Mike Tomlin is doing a phenomenal job with this group, who have given up the second fewest points (174) and have the highest overall point differential (+124).
Next week: vs. Baltimore (6-4)