Week 13 allowed Mercury Morris and the 1972 Miami Dolphins to pop their annual bottle of champagne. Morris and his teammates famously celebrate as the last undefeated team loses a game, and Pittsburgh held out as long as they could. The up-and-coming Washington Football Team not only moved themselves closer to a playoff berth, but they also shook up our weekly rankings! Priorities, right?
Two teams clinched playoff berths over the weekend–Kansas City and New Orleans. Could those two teams find themselves atop our rankings this week? Oh, we’ll never tell.
32. New York Jets (0-12, Last week: 32)
The Jets held a lead with 30 seconds left against Las Vegas, but Gregg Williams kept their perfectly imperfect season alive. New York’s perfectly imperfect defensive coordinator called for a blitz, which he is often wont to do, and it allowed Henry Ruggs to shake loose in the secondary for the game-winning score. Don’t blame Williams though, Jets fans, as he is only keeping you in the lead for Trevor Lawrence (1-11 Jacksonville is still right on your heels). Besides, he was already fired.
Next week: at Seattle (8-4)
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-11, Last week: 31)
Jacksonville led by nine points in the first half and by 10 early in the second half. They even tied the game late to force overtime. In the extra session, however, the Jaguars threw an interception and gave up a long drive culminating in a game-ending field goal. What’s more, they couldn’t even gain ground in the draft standings because of Las Vegas’ comeback win over the Jets.
Next week: vs. Tennessee (8-4)
30. Los Angeles Chargers (3-9, Last week: 27)
The Chargers’ first half on Sunday was one to forget for their special teams units. The Bolts missed a field goal, allowed a punt return touchdown, and had a field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown. The second half wasn’t much better, and Los Angeles was beaten soundly in all three phases of the game.
Next week: vs. Atlanta (4-8)
29. Cincinnati Bengals (2-9-1, Last week: 30)
Cincinnati scored only seven points, turned the ball over twice, and allowed six sacks while recording none of their own. As you might have guessed, they lost. The Bengals have lost four in a row, and it is mind-boggling to think that they beat the now 8-4 Titans by 11 points. What?
Next week: vs. Dallas (3-9)
28. Dallas Cowboys (3-9, Last week: 29)
The Cowboys hung tough in Baltimore Tuesday night, but they were unable to keep pace with the Ravens as the game wore on. Injuries are the major story of Dallas’ 2020 season, although poor defensive play is a close second. That side of the ball has repeatedly failed to carry the weight after losing quarterbacks and offensive linemen left and right.
Next week: at Cincinnati (2-9-1)
27. Philadelphia Eagles (3-8-1, Last week: 26)
Have we now seen the end of Carson Wentz’s tenure in Philadelphia? Jalen Hurts came on in the third quarter and led the Eagles to a touchdown. Still, he completed well under half of his passes, threw an interception, and was sacked three times. Hurts provided a spark, but he wasn’t that much better than Wentz. He’s going to get his first start this weekend, so what he does with it is entirely up to him.
Next week: vs. New Orleans (10-2)
26. Carolina Panthers (4-8, Last week: 25)
The Panthers are 1-6 since they took a winning record at 3-2. They’ll certainly get some slack, since this is the first year under Matt Rhule, and they have shown flashes of promise. Jeremy Chinn, for instance, was recognized as the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Month for both October and November.
Next week: vs. Denver (4-8)
25. Denver Broncos (4-8, Last week: 24)
Denver did a great job of limiting Kansas City to field goals on Sunday night. The Chiefs hadn’t scored under 23 points since October 6th of last year before the Broncos kept them to 22. Despite their defensive efforts, two interceptions and a missed field goal prevented Vic Fangio’s team from finishing the upset.
Next week: at Carolina (4-8)
24. Chicago Bears (5-7, Last week: 23)
Chicago held a 10-point lead at three different points throughout Sunday’s game (16-6, 23-13, and 30-20). They never did build enough cushion, and Detroit took advantage, scoring the winning touchdown with under two minutes to play. That touchdown had been set up by a Mitch Trubisky sack-fumble. Wake the Bears up when December ends.
Next week: vs. Houston (4-8)
23. San Francisco 49ers (5-7, Last week: 15)
San Francisco rode a dominant pass rush and a dynamic offensive attack to a Super Bowl berth last year. This season, injuries have derailed both of those assets, and the 49ers are middling through a brutal campaign. Against Buffalo on Monday night, they failed to record a single sack and lost the time of possession battle by nearly 10 minutes.
Next week: vs. Washington (5-7)
22. Houston Texans (4-8, Last week: 17)
It seems like every week we mention Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt in the Texans’ blurb. But seeing their reaction at the end of Sunday’s narrow loss to Indianapolis tells it all. Watt shook his head in disbelief, while Watson hid his under a towel on the team bench, unable to watch Philip Rivers kneeling out the final minute of the game. It’s hard not to feel for two of the best players in the league suffering through a wasted season like this.
Next week: at Chicago (5-7)
21. Atlanta Falcons (4-8, Last week: 21)
The good news for Atlanta is that they’re done with New Orleans for 2020 after losing to them twice in three games. Of course, the bad news is that–following a one-off trip to Los Angeles–the Falcons will complete their season series with Tampa Bay…sandwiching a trip to Kansas City. If Raheem Morris can win two of those three games, he deserves to be head coach for life.
Next week: at Los Angeles Chargers (3-9)
20. Detroit Lions (5-7, Last week: 28)
After firing their coach and general manager, the Lions overcame a 10-point deficit to overtake the Bears, 34-30. Matt Stafford threw for over 400 yards and three scores, Adrian Peterson added two more on the ground. Jamie Collins notched 10 total tackles, one and a half of which were for a loss.
Next week: vs. Green Bay (9-3)
19. Arizona Cardinals (6-6, Last week: 13)
They started 6-3, but the Cardinals have gone 0-3 since. Kyler Murray has passed for under 175 yards in each of the last two weeks and has also been kept out of the end zone rushing the ball for three straight weeks. Murray had previously run for at least one touchdown in eight of Arizona’s first nine games.
Next week: at New York Giants (5-7)
18. Las Vegas Raiders (7-5, Last week: 19)
Darren Waller. Good gravy. The Raiders’ star tight end hauled in nearly half of Derek Carr’s completions on Sunday (13 of Carr’s 28, to be exact) for an even 200 yards and two touchdowns. Waller’s huge day may have taken a backseat to Henry Ruggs’ last-minute heroics, but Las Vegas wouldn’t have been in the game at all if it weren’t for him.
Next week: vs. Indianapolis (8-4)
17. Minnesota Vikings (6-6, Last week: 16)
The Vikings are quietly the hottest team in the league. They have leapt from a 1-5 start to a 6-6 current record, smeared only by a confusing loss to Dallas on November 22nd. If Minnesota can upset either Tampa Bay or New Orleans on the road and hold serve against the Bears and Lions, they will find themselves in the playoffs.
Next week: at Tampa Bay (7-5)
16. New England Patriots (6-6, Last week: 18)
Is Bill Belichick still coaching the Patriots, or is it Frank Beamer? Sunday’s blowout win over the Chargers looked like vintage Beamer Ball: two special teams touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns, and a stifling defense. New England is surging at the right time, although a tough three-game stretch awaits.
Next week: at Los Angeles Rams (8-4)
15. Baltimore Ravens (7-5, Last week: 14)
With COVID-19 mostly in their rearview mirror (more on that in a second), Baltimore returned to its winning ways on Tuesday night. The Ravens snapped a three-game losing streak, are still firmly in the playoff picture, and have perhaps the league’s easiest final stretch, ending with the Jaguars, Giants, and Bengals. However, Dez Bryant tested positive for the virus during pregame warmups and was summarily removed from the field, but we will find out in the next few days if other members of the team were also exposed.
Next week: at Cleveland (9-3)
14. New York Giants (5-7, Last week: 22)
Wayne Gallman exploded against the Seahawks, averaging over eight yards per carry as the offense tried to protect veteran journeyman Colt McCoy at quarterback. The Giants’ defense also tallied five sacks and deflected seven pass attempts, holding Seattle to their lowest point production all year (12). Don’t look now, but New York hasn’t lost in over a month.
Next week: vs. Arizona (6-6)
13. Washington Football Team (5-7, Last week: 20)
Well, Washington knocked off undefeated Pittsburgh on Monday evening, just like we all expected. Alex Smith led his group to a field goal just before halftime and started the third quarter with a touchdown drive, cutting a 14-0 deficit down to only four points without the Steelers’ offense ever taking the field. Washington’s defense then held the host Steelers to a field goal, two punts, a turnover on downs, and an interception to secure the comeback and the major upset.
Next week: at San Francisco (5-7)
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5, Last week: 12)
How much of the discord between Tom Brady and Bruce Arians is legitimate, and how much of it is overblown to fill 24/7 airwaves? There is likely some conflict, sure, but these two competitors know that they need each other to win a ring in February, so it’s unlikely to be all that worrisome for Bucs fans. A more pressing concern should be the defense that has given up at least 400 yards in each of the team’s three most recent losses.
Next week: vs. Minnesota (6-6)
11. Indianapolis Colts (8-4, Last week: 11)
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. The Colts were about to give up a touchdown in Houston, leading only by six, when Nick Martin fired a low snap down by Deshaun Watson’s shin. Anthony Walker recovered the loose ball, and Indianapolis snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Next week: at Las Vegas (7-5)
10. Tennessee Titans (8-4, Last week: 6)
The Titans gave up first-half scoring runs of 17 and 21 points. Tennessee did score touchdowns on four of their six possessions in the second half, but no team is equipped to fight back from a 38-7 halftime deficit. Another cause for concern is that the Titans’ defense gave up four passing touchdowns without recording a single sack or interception. That must be addressed in a hurry.
Next week: at Jacksonville (1-11)
9. Seattle Seahawks (8-4, Last week: 4)
The Seahawks are suddenly reeling, losing a dud against the Giants to bring their record to 8-4 on the year. While 8-4 is still pretty good, remember that they had started 6-1. Russell Wilson has already been sacked 40 times thus far, and he has thrown eight interceptions in the last seven games (only three through his first five games).
Next week: vs. New York Jets (0-12)
8. Miami Dolphins (8-4, Last week: 9)
One might wonder how the atrocious Bengals ever held a lead against the Dolphins, but examine a little closer. Miami has compiled an impressive record by facing the league’s easiest schedule to this point (.365 opponent win percentage). In fact, no other team has played opponents with a collective win percentage under .400; Pittsburgh is closest at .404. Even so, the Dolphins can only play who is on their schedule, and they are markedly better than they were last year.
Next week: vs. Kansas City (11-1)
7. Los Angeles Rams (8-4, Last week: 10)
Troy Hill broke up two passes, one of which he intercepted and returned 35 yards for a score. Jared Goff threw for 351 yards and a touchdown, and the Rams ran their way into the end zone three more times. Oh, and Aaron Donald added a sack to his season total of 11, which is second-best in the league.
Next week: vs. New England (6-6)
6. Cleveland Browns (9-3, Last week: 8)
Baker Mayfield and the Browns came out of the gates on fire in Tennessee Sunday. Now, was the 38-7 first half score an aberration, or was that being outscored 28-3 in the second half? No one is questioning Cleveland’s talent. At this point, it’s all about consistency.
Next week: vs. Baltimore (7-5)
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-1, Last week: 1)
Pittsburgh had covered up some cracks in its facade this season (weak schedule, no deep passing game, key injuries), but the dam burst against Washington on Monday. Granted, the Steelers still own a tiebreaker over the Chiefs for the AFC’s number-one seed in the playoffs. Keep in mind that only the top seed gets a first-round bye this year, so finishing second in the standings is a lot more damaging than it used to be.
Next week: at Buffalo (9-3)
4. Buffalo Bills (9-3, Last week: 7)
An early botched handoff between Josh Allen and Zack Moss in the shadow of their own end zone gifted San Francisco the game’s first score. After that, the Bills outpaced the 49ers 34-17 until a garbage time touchdown made the final score look more competitive than it was. Allen and the Bills have a huge opportunity to hand Pittsburgh its second straight loss when they play host on Sunday night.
Next week: vs. Pittsburgh (11-1)
3. Green Bay Packers (9-3, Last week: 4)
Another game, another dynamite performance from Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams. The pair hooked up 10 times for 121 yards and two scores, while Aaron Jones added another 130 on the ground, including a 77-yard touchdown. Kingsley Keke nabbed two of the Packers’ seven sacks.
Next week: at Detroit (5-7)
2. New Orleans Saints (10-2, Last week: 3)
New Orleans is proving that they are more than any one player. They have won games without Michael Thomas, without Janoris Jenkins and Marshon Lattimore, and now without Drew Brees. The Saints have already clinched a playoff spot, and they have their sights set on the NFC South crown and a first-round bye as well.
Next week: at Philadelphia (3-8-1)
1. Kansas City Chiefs (11-1, Last week: 2)
The Chiefs have taken over our top spot despite not playing their best game over the weekend. The old adage says: “good teams find a way to win ugly,” and Kansas City did just that. Keep an eye out, though, as each of their last four wins has come by under seven points. Might we have yet another top team in our next edition?
Next week: at Miami (8-4)