This week will serve as a departure from the norm for us here at the FPC Power Rankings. We are closing in on the playoffs, but that also means we are closing in on the finalized draft order. And, because a certain winless team beat a certain playoff contender, we have some movement on that front.
Jacksonville–mighty, 1-13 Jacksonville–has overtaken the Jets for first dibs on the top pick in April. As for the playoff race, six teams are safely in the field. Buffalo has also joined Green Bay and Kansas City as division champions, whereas 11 teams have been eliminated from contention. Nine teams have already won at least 10 games, and we could see as many as 14 double-digit winners by the end of the season. But for now, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for: our latest rankings!
32. New York Jets (1-13, Last week: 32)
Only the Jets can lose by winning. After somehow upsetting the Rams 23-20, New York finds itself a tiebreaker behind Jacksonville for the top draft pick in April. Things can and likely will change in the next two weeks, but beating Los Angeles could have cost this franchise Trevor Lawrence, which is hardly a fair trade.
Next week: vs. Cleveland (10-4)
31. Atlanta Falcons (4-10, Last week: 27)
They never led 28-3, yet Atlanta did hold a 17-0 lead at halftime and was up 24-7 deep into the third quarter. Much like Super Bowl LI, the Falcons could not close the deal. Tampa Bay took their first lead with over six minutes left to play, but Atlanta’s final two drives gained only six yards on seven plays. Always be closing.
Next week: at Kansas City (13-1)
30. Carolina Panthers (4-10, Last week: 29)
At 4-10, Carolina’s loss Saturday removed them from playoff contention. In mid-October, the Panthers had a winning record of 3-2. Little has gone well since, but they do have some building blocks on defense in Brian Burns and Derrick Brown (who recorded two sacks apiece against Green Bay) as well as Jeremy Chinn (who may win Defensive Rookie of the Year).
Next week: at Washington (6-8)
29. Houston Texans (4-10, Last week: 28)
Once again, Deshaun Watson did about as much as any quarterback can possibly do, although his team lost for the 10th time this year. Watson was sacked five times and lost a fumble, but he put up just under 400 total yards and had his team in position to beat the Colts. This game, just like the one two weeks ago, ended when the Texans lost a fumble inside Indianapolis’ 10-yard line.
Next week: vs. Cincinnati (3-10-1)
28. Cincinnati Bengals (3-10-1, Last week: 30)
Cincinnati has long since been removed from playoff consideration, but they found a way to impact the postseason all the same. By upsetting the Steelers on Monday night, the Bengals have not only knocked their rival down a peg on the seed line, but they have also allowed Baltimore and Cleveland to stay in the hunt for the AFC North. They have also provided a blueprint for beating Pittsburgh, which is really struggling to stop the run lately.
Next week: at Houston (4-10)
27. Philadelphia Eagles (4-9-1, Last week: 23)
Jalen Hurts has a way of winning teams over in a hurry. He did it at Alabama, at Oklahoma, and now in Philadelphia. The Eagles didn’t win on Sunday, but Hurts topped 400 total yards and scored four times (three passes and one run). The six sacks allowed by the offensive line and 526 yards allowed by the defense are much less encouraging.
Next week: at Dallas (5-9)
26. New York Giants (5-9, Last week: 17)
New York’s primetime loss would have hurt more had Washington won over the weekend. Instead, the Giants are still within one game of the NFC East title and the playoff berth that goes with it. A season-ending showdown with Dallas could have a lot riding on it.
Next week: at Baltimore (9-5)
25. Detroit Lions (5-9, Last week: 22)
Matt Stafford was not well, and the Lions offense needed nearly double the amount of points that they scored. It would have helped had their defense not yielded 46 points, although the offense’s trio of turnovers were equally harmful. On the bright side, neither Stafford nor Chase Daniel took any sacks Sunday.
Next week: vs. Tampa Bay (9-5)
24. Denver Broncos (5-9, Last week: 21)
Denver was officially eliminated from playoff contention after being blown out by Buffalo Saturday. The Broncos played poorly in the first half but were down only eight at halftime. Then the floodgates opened once the Bills scored on their first drive of the second half and returned a fumble for a touchdown on Denver’s ensuing possession. 21-13 became 35-13, and that was that.
Next week: at Los Angeles Chargers (5-9)
23. San Francisco 49ers (5-9, Last week: 26)
The San Francisco-Dallas rivalry isn’t what it used to be in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, but Sunday gave us an exciting blast from the past. Nick Mullens helped the 49ers rack up over 450 yards of total offense, but his three turnovers were incredibly costly (he threw two picks and lost a fumble, while Richie James lost another). With the loss, San Francisco was eliminated from the playoffs, so there will be no miracle repeat of last year’s NFC title.
Next week: at Arizona (8-6)
22. New England Patriots (6-8, Last week: 20)
For the first time since 2008, New England will not qualify for the postseason. The Bills had already clinched the division, but the Patriots were still mathematically alive until they lost to the Dolphins Sunday. 2020 has been a challenge, and we now must wonder what changes will occur before the 2021 Patriots take the field.
Next week: vs. Buffalo (11-3)
21. Los Angeles Chargers (5-9, Last week: 24)
It took overtime and an injury to the opposing quarterback, but the Chargers finally got their first divisional win in 2020. In fact, this was Los Angeles’ first win against an AFC West rival since December 30, 2018! Justin Herbert also tied the NFL record for touchdown passes as a rookie (27) with two full games to play.
Next week: vs. Denver (5-9)
20. Dallas Cowboys (5-9, Last week: 25)
Dallas used a 17-point fourth quarter to pull away from San Francisco and keep themselves in the thick of the NFC East race. The Cowboys have won two in a row and are now only a game back of Washington. The Dallas injury report is still entirely too long, but hey, somebody’s gotta win the division.
Next week: vs. Philadelphia (4-9-1)
19. Minnesota Vikings (6-8, Last week: 18)
Minnesota swapped a 1-5 start for a 5-1 run, but a two-game losing streak has squashed the Vikings’ momentum. If that wasn’t bad enough, they finish with consecutive road games and need a lot of help to climb back into the wild card race. At least Justin Jefferson has been a revelation this year.
Next week: at New Orleans (10-4)
18. Las Vegas Raiders (7-7, Last week: 19)
Frank Sinatra encapsulated the spirit of Las Vegas in his song This Town, and the 2020 Raiders would surely agree that “this town is a make-you town/or a break-you-town and bring-you-down town.” Losers of four of their last five (with the sole win a nail-biter against the Jets), Vegas has fallen out of the playoff race and will have to climb back in without its starting quarterback. Derek Carr may be able to come back if his injured groin heals quickly, but odds are that Marcus Mariota finishes the season under center.
Next week: vs. Miami (9-5)
17. Washington Football Team (6-8, Last week: 13)
Washington held the high-flying Seahawks to 20 points, but their sluggish offense could only muster 15. This defense has quickly become capable of winning games (almost) on its own. If they make the playoffs, though, they’ll need some form of offensive production. To wit, the Football Team is fifth-best in points allowed and seventh-worst in points scored. It’s an issue.
Next week: vs. Carolina (4-10)
16. Chicago Bears (7-7, Last week: 16)
Well, look who’s got a winning streak going! After dropping six straight, the Bears have won two in a row to get themselves back in the playoff hunt. They’re a game up on division rival Minnesota and a game behind Arizona for the final postseason berth. That hot start is coming up big right now.
Next week: at Jacksonville (1-13)
15. Arizona Cardinals (8-6, Last week: 15)
Kyler Murray outshined Jalen Hurts in a battle of young, dynamic quarterbacks Sunday. Each of them scored four touchdowns, but it was Murray’s Cardinals who took the “W.” Haason Reddick got some help in the pass rush department this time around, as he was responsible for one of the team’s six total sacks.
Next week: vs. San Francisco (5-9)
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-5, Last week: 12)
When Tom Brady finally retires (you know, around 2030 or so), seismologists will surely detect inordinate activity in the greater Atlanta area. It will be a celebration. After crushing the Falcons’ hopes in the Super Bowl a few years ago, Brady navigated the Buccaneers’ offense to 31 second-half points and completed another monster comeback. Maybe next time, Atlanta.
Next week: at Detroit (5-9)
13. Baltimore Ravens (9-5, Last week: 14)
The Ravens weren’t flashy in their workmanlike dismissal of lowly Jacksonville, but they took care of business exactly like they needed to. Baltimore’s defense recorded five sacks, and the offense was a perfect five-of-five in the red zone. This team should win out and enter the playoffs on a major hot streak–although it is worth noting that they are currently on the outside looking in based on current playoff seeds.
Next week: vs. New York Giants (5-9)
12. Los Angeles Rams (9-5, Last week: 4)
Did M. Night Shyamalan direct that game? Because it took a weird twist. The Rams were favored to beat the Jets by 17 points heading into kickoff, but instead they trailed by 17 in the third quarter (20-3) en route to the season’s most stunning upset. What’s more, a road trip to Seattle is next on the docket.
Next week: at Seattle (10-4)
11. New Orleans Saints (10-4, Last week: 7)
New Orleans was bested by Kansas City in most major statistical markers, including total yardage (411 to 285), total plays run (92 to 52), time of possession (41:14 to 18:46), and first downs achieved (34 to 15). They also committed twice as many penalties as the Chiefs (10 for 93 yards to five for 54). All things considered, it’s amazing they only lost by three points.
Next week: vs. Minnesota (6-8)
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3, Last week: 6)
That 11-0 record is fading fast. Pittsburgh has already clinched a playoff berth, but they have lost the notion of a home-field advantage thanks to three straight defeats. Like the Bears, the Steelers’ fantastic start has bought them some cushion, although with Indianapolis and Cleveland on deck, the struggles may not be over yet.
Next week: vs. Indianapolis (10-4)
9. Miami Dolphins (9-5, Last week: 11)
Salvon Ahmed and Elandon Roberts carried the Dolphins to victory against rival New England Sunday. Miami has not fully secured a playoff spot, but they did eliminate the Patriots, which counts for something. Additionally, the Fins are slotted seventh at the moment, and they hold a tiebreaker over Baltimore.
Next week: at Las Vegas (7-7)
8. Cleveland Browns (10-4, Last week: 10)
The Giants are far from a complete team, yet the Browns must feel relieved that Baker Mayfield can carry the team to victory without much of a running game. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined to rush for only 71 yards on 22 carries. And Cleveland’s defense did exactly what they needed to do: holding New York’s shorthanded offense to under 300 total yards and two field goals.
Next week: at New York Jets (1-13)
7. Indianapolis Colts (10-4, Last week: 9)
“Well, it’s Groundhog Day. Again.” For the second time in three weeks, the Colts outplayed the Texans early, allowed them to hang around late, and sealed the game on a crucial fumble recovery to stop Houston from scoring the game-winner. DeForest Buckner added three sacks to his stellar 2020 campaign to this point.
Next week: at Pittsburgh (11-3)
— Charlie Clifford (@cliffWISH8) December 20, 2020
6. Tennessee Titans (10-4, Last week: 8)
With 436 through 14 games, Tennessee–not Kansas City, Green Bay, Buffalo, or Seattle–leads the league in points scored. Everyone knows what Derrick Henry is capable of, but it has been the ascension of Corey Davis, A.J. Brown, and Jonnu Smith that has allowed Ryan Tannehill to play at such a high level all year. The one drawback, of course, is that the Titans are also last in the league in sacks produced with 14.
Next week: at Green Bay (11-3)
5. Seattle Seahawks (10-4, Last week: 5)
The Seahawks are thankful to be done with the NFC East. Despite being a punching bag all year, Seattle went 3-1 against the division, and none of their three wins came by more than a touchdown. They were never truly threatened in Washington Sunday, and they gained a leg up on the Rams by virtue of the Jets’ stunning upset.
Next week: vs. Los Angeles Rams (9-5)
4. Buffalo Bills (11-3, Last week: 3)
The Bills clinched the AFC East crown for the first time since 1995, before Josh Allen was even born. They stampeded over Denver with 534 yards of total offense and a momentum-swinging fumble return touchdown early in the third quarter. Buffalo has won four in a row and seven of eight going back to October.
Next week: at New England (6-8)
3. Green Bay Packers (11-3, Last week: 2)
The Packers had already wrapped up the NFC North, and they still sit atop the NFC playoff seeding after dispatching the Panthers Saturday. It was never an overwhelming performance, although the 21-3 halftime score held well into the third quarter. Aaron Jones led the way with 145 yards on the ground to steady the ship and hold Carolina at bay.
Next week: vs. Tennessee (10-4)
2. Kansas City Chiefs (13-1, Last week: 1)
Even though they’re still winning, the Chiefs have been living on the edge. In their first eight games, Kansas City earned a 7-1 record, and six of those wins were decided by nine or more points. Since then, they have not won a game by more than six points, but they are 6-0.
Next week: vs. Atlanta (4-10)
1. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-13, Last week: 31)
Jacksonville lost the battle (against Baltimore), but it may have won the war. Thanks to New York’s shocking victory, the Jaguars are seated in the top draft spot with two games to play. This team needs a lot of help, and quarterback play doesn’t fix an atrocious defense, but Trevor Lawrence is the consensus top player in this year’s draft class, so he would immediately improve Jacksonville’s organization.
Next week: vs. Chicago (7-7)