The playoff picture is coming into full view now. Well at least the teams that will be in the postseason. The only spot that feels truly undecided is the sixth seed in the AFC. The order is still very much up in the air. There was a lot of movement in the projected seedings with San Francisco losing a stunner at home. We will see a pretty good slate of meaningful games in the final two weeks given that so many teams still have something to play for.
On the flip side, the draft order is going to be very interesting. With the Giants topping the Dolphins, there is now a huge collection of teams with three wins and five wins. The Bengals sit two games clear of everyone else in the running for the top pick. As teams wrap up their years, there is still a lot of potential movement that could occur here. For those not in the postseason, these final two weeks will be just as important with so much still left up in the air.
1. Baltimore Ravens: 12-2 (Last Week: 1)
Won 42-21 vs. New York
The Ravens continue to roll, this time taking care of an injury-riddled Jets team with ease. Lamar Jackson all but solidified his MVP campaign with five passing touchdowns. He also broke Michael Vick’s record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a season. This team looks almost unstoppable. The AFC is going to run through Baltimore and that is a scary thing for the rest of the league.
2. New Orleans Saints: 11-3 (Last Week: 3)
Won 34-7 vs. Indianapolis
How do you follow up losing a heartbreaker? Dominating what comes at you next works well. Drew Brees rewrote a good chunk of the record book on Monday Night Football. He is now the NFL’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns. He also posted the best completion percentage in a single game in league history. The defense pitched a shutout for much of the night. This version of the Saints could absolutely win a Super Bowl.
3. Seattle Seahawks: 11-3 (Last Week: 4)
Won 30-24 at Carolina
It was another less-than-convincing performance from the Seahawks, but they still got the win. Now with the news that Josh Gordon is suspended indefinitely as well, the outlook in Seattle is not as positive as it was maybe two weeks ago. Still, with the San Francisco loss, Seattle now holds the top spot in the NFC. The Seahawks just need that defense to step it up a bit down the stretch. Anything could happen here, but Seattle controls its fate.
4. Kansas City Chiefs: 10-4 (Last Week: 5)
Won 23-3 vs. Denver
Kansas City is humming along right now. The Chiefs have won four straight and remain hot on the Patriots’ heels for a first-round bye in the playoffs. It was far from your typical offensive showing from Patrick Mahomes and company, but the weather was not very cooperative so it feels justified. Travis Kelce played like a beast though and the defense took advantage of an overmatched rookie quarterback. The defense should get a boost too with the addition of veteran pass rusher Terrell Suggs.
5. San Francisco 49ers: 11-3 (Last Week: 2)
Lost 29-22 vs. Atlanta
Last week, San Francisco outlasted a true NFC contender and took over the top spot in the conference. This week, Kyle Shanahan lost to his former club and the 49ers are back down in fifth. San Francisco still controls its own destiny, but this was the type of game that has me worried about this team’s ability to make Super Bowl run. The pass rush couldn’t get home and Jimmy Garoppolo did not play well enough to make up for it. It was just one game, but this was a major let down.
6. New England Patriots: 11-3 (Last Week: 6)
Won 34-13 at Cincinnati
The Patriots got back on track, but had a very rocky start in doing so. New England trailed at the end of the first quarter in Cincy and led just 13-10 at halftime. The defense bailed out another pedestrian effort from Tom Brady (128 passing yards) and the offense. New England’s run game got rolling in the second half, but it was really the defense’s five takeaways that made the difference. While the Pats have a tendency for pulling it together and playing their best ball in the postseason, the offensive concerns just grow by the week.
7. Green Bay Packers: 11-3 (Last Week: 7)
Won 21-13 vs. Chicago
Green Bay is winning ugly and doesn’t seem to care. The Packers had a bit of a scare late in the game from the Bears, but pulled out a third straight victory. This has been a very uncharacteristic season from Aaron Rodgers, who ranks 11th in passing yards and 15th in yards per attempt. He completed fewer than 50 percent of his throws on Sunday as well. Green Bay’s offense is going to need to break out of its funk soon. Week 16 will decide the NFC North as the Packers visit the Vikings on Monday Night Football.
8. Minnesota Vikings: 10-4 (Last Week: 8)
Won 39-10 at Los Angeles
It looked like Minnesota had brought back the Purple People Eaters in Los Angeles. The Vikings forced seven (!!!) turnovers on Sunday. Now the Chargers might not be world class competition, but it is still a huge confidence booster for the defense. The concern offensively will be regarding the health of Dalvin Cook, who left the game with a shoulder injury. Even before he got hurt though, Cook had started to lose steam. He failed to crack 30 yards rushing in three of his four contests, averaging 3.1 yards per carry in the process. Cook needs to get back on track fast with the Packers coming to town this week.
9. Houston Texans: 9-5 (Last Week: 11)
Won 24-21 at Tennessee
Houston wiped away a lot of the damage it sustained in Week 14’s loss to Denver. Edging the Titans means the Texans are in sole possession of first place in the AFC South. The division is far from locked up though with a rematch with Tennessee slated for Week 17. It was another uneven outing from Deshaun Watson, but this time the defense and ground game stepped up. Consistency is the next step for this team as it looks to lock up a playoff spot.
10. Buffalo Bills: 10-4 (Last Week: 12)
Won 17-10 at Pittsburgh
Sean McDermott has the Bills playing some old school football and it travels well. This game was unlikely to produce fireworks, but Buffalo’s offense ended up being just a little less ugly than Pittsburgh’s. In truth, the Bills defense deserves credit for that, picking off Delvin Hodges four times. Holding the Steelers to 51 yards rushing and recording four sacks didn’t hurt either. If Josh Allen can find a way to play just a little bit more efficiently, this team could make a run at a division title.
11. Tennessee Titans: 8-6 (Last Week: 10)
Lost 24-21 vs. Houston
The second half resurgence hit a bump in the road with the loss to Houston, but Tennessee’s playoff hopes are very much still alive. What is likely more significant is the overall improved play of the offensive line in recent weeks. The Titans are beginning to look like a complete football team, even in the loss. A.J. Brown is starting to look like a steal of a draft pick as well. As long as Tennessee wins Week 17 and Pittsburgh loses in Baltimore, the Titans should reach the postseason regardless of what happens in Week 16.
12. Pittsburgh Steelers: 8-6 (Last Week: 13)
Lost 17-10 vs. Buffalo
The wheels fell off this make-shift Pittsburgh offense. I really don’t feel good about putting anyone in this 12 spot. Dallas picked up a big win, but that doesn’t wipe out the past five weeks. Tampa Bay is feeding on cupcakes and Jameis Winston won’t stop throwing interceptions. Los Angeles just got steamrolled by Dallas. Pittsburgh’s defense is the only thing that is keeping them alive right now, but as the offense gets a bit healthier, there is a chance this team could find a bit more balance.
13. Dallas Cowboys: 7-7 (Last Week: 18)
Won 44-21 vs. Los Angeles
Talk about getting back on track. The Cowboys blew out the Rams in spectacular fashion. I have been trying to figure out for weeks what is going on in Dallas. The team is mostly healthy with a good young quarterback, a talented offensive line and some great skill position players in Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott. This team leads the league in total offense and ranks top five in points. Defensively, the Cowboys are top 10 in yards allowed and 13th in points allowed. They are sixth in point differential. That should be a recipe for winning more than half your games, but somehow Dallas just can’t seem to get it done in close contests.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 7-7 (Last Week: 15)
Won 38-17 at Detroit
Jameis Winston strikes again. Against a dreadful Lions secondary, the Bucs quarterback threw for 458 yards and four touchdowns. Of course he also tossed an interception, but Tampa Bay is playing a fun brand of football right now, and it’s working. The Buccaneers are winners of four straight, tied for the second longest active streak in the league. This run is a credit to what Bruce Arians is building. No one should want to face Tampa right now.
15. Los Angeles Rams: 8-6 (Last Week: 9)
Lost 44-21 at Dallas
After back-to-back wins, the Rams were firmly in the playoff chase. With the whole team forgetting to show up on Sunday, Los Angeles is now the longest of longshots to reach the postseason. The defense was horrible. It allowed 256 rushing yards and never managed to get after Dak Prescott. The lopsided scoreline lead to Jared Goff throwing the ball 51 times while Todd Gurley got only 14 touches. Sean McVay ran the ball 14 times, three of them with Goff. That formula has been killing the Rams all year long. This team has a lot of soul searching to do in the offseason because LA is built like a contender, but it isn’t playing like one.
16. Chicago Bears: 7-7 (Last Week 14)
Lost 21-13 at Green Bay
Futility set in once again in Chicago as it missed a chance to grab a massive win. Three straight wins had given the Bears hope, but an ineffective offense cost them a fourth. Mitch Trubisky threw the ball 53 times, which is highly questionable. However, Chicago ran the ball 27 times, so it wasn’t like it completely abandoned the run game. This offense needs an infusion of talent along the offense line and some more reliable contributors at the skill positions. Trubisky has certainly struggled this season, but his supporting cast has also been subpar.
17. Philadelphia Eagles: 7-7 (Last Week: 16)
Won 37-27 at Washington
Philly keeps finding new ways to win and somehow make me feel worse about its long-term success. Against a paltry Washington side, the defense made Dwayne Haskins look like a Pro Bowler. Offensively, the Eagles played pretty well. Carson Wentz had a really good game despite having no receivers to speak of. Winning with Greg Ward and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is impressive. Wentz does need to solve this fumbling issue that has cropped up in recent weeks. As more starters return, the offense should improve. There might be no hope for this defense though. The showdown to decide the NFC East looms for Philadelphia.
18. Atlanta Falcons: 5-9 (Last Week: 22)
Won 29-22 at San Francisco
After a dismal first half of the season, Atlanta has really turned things around. It threw the mother of all wrenches into the NFC playoff picture after shocking San Francisco. There have still been some hiccups along the way with lopsided losses to Tampa Bay and New Orleans. However, the Falcons have wins over the Saints, Panthers and 49ers. They are 4-2 in their last six games. Finishing the season with two more wins could save Dan Quinn’s job. With Jacksonville and Tampa Bay on the slate, it is certainly possible.
19. Cleveland Browns: 6-8 (Last Week: 17)
Lost 38-24 at Arizona
This was likely the dagger in the Browns playoff hopes. It was another unpleasant result for Freddie Kitchens and company. Measuring the Browns based on their expectations entering the year will lead anyone to conclude this has been a shockingly disappointing year. If you look at Cleveland’s past though, not regressing is a big step in the right direction. A better offensive line is crucial for this team to finally reach those highs next year. With $51 million in projected cap space and not a ton of free agents, this team is still in position to make the jump.
20. Indianapolis Colts: 6-8 (Last Week: 19)
Lost 34-7 at New Orleans
That was an absolute drubbing. It has become abundantly clear that this Colts offense is nowhere near ready to compete with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. He is not Andrew Luck and he has a much worse supporting cast than Luck likely ever did. T.Y. Hilton has been banged up all year. Marlon Mack has dealt with his own injuries. Eric Ebron, Chester Rogers, Paris Campbell and more are on injured reserve. It is hard to win games when no one is available to play. That being said, this was a blow to morale. The defense looked powerless and the offense had nowhere to turn. Indy is heading into the offseason with a ton of question marks.
21. Denver Broncos: 5-9 (Last Week: 20)
Lost 23-3 at Kansas City
If this was a test, Drew Lock failed miserably. It was a rough outing for the rookie making just his third start, this one in the snow back in the same state he played college football in. He should never have been asked to throw the ball 40 times in this game, but he also looked horrible in the process. He threw one interception, and was lucky that it was only one. This serves as a tough reminder there are going to be growing pains with a young quarterback and that Denver is still a ways from competing in the AFC West.
22. Los Angeles Chargers: 5-9 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 39-10 vs. Minnesota
For the second week in a row, the Chargers were involved in a blow out. This one didn’t happen to go their way though. The Vikings defense tormented Philip Rivers and company. Rivers threw three interceptions and Los Angeles lost four fumbles. That is a recipe for disaster. The Chargers defense didn’t have its best game either, but it was far from being the problem in this one. Expect a major shakeup to that offense during the offseason.
23. Arizona Cardinals: 4-9-1 (Last Week: 25)
Won 38-24 vs. Cleveland
Snap. That is the sound of Arizona finally snapping its losing streak. After six in a row, the Cardinals got back in the win column, mostly thanks to Kenyan Drake. He ran all over the Browns to the tune of 137 yards and four touchdowns. It was an important win for the overall rebuilding process of this team. It was a good reminder that Arizona is headed in the right direction. There is still a lot of room for improvement, but this felt good for Kliff Kingsbury.
24. Carolina Panthers: 5-9 (Last Week: 24)
Lost 30-24 vs. Seattle
Christian McCaffrey is a one-man wrecking crew. Kyle Allen spoiled another incredible effort from Run CMC with three interceptions, but the Panthers only lost by one possession. Allen’s constant inability to take care of the ball along with a struggling run defense are major concerns, but their are some bright spots. DJ Moore had another great game and the defense hit Russell Wilson seven times. This team is already in flux with Ron Rivera’s firing so expectations should be kept fairly low for these final two games. We might even get a chance to see rookie quarterback Will Grier.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars: 5-9 (Last Week: 28)
Won 20-16 at Oakland
Gardner Minshew worked his magic and engineered a comeback for the Jags. He almost waited too long, as Jacksonville’s offense essentially did nothing for the first three quarters. Lucky for them, Oakland’s offense went into hibernation after halftime and the defense could not hold up. The win really does not mean a whole lot, but it does point towards Minshew being the starter to open the 2020 season.
26. Oakland Raiders: 6-8 (Last Week: 23)
Lost 20-16 vs. Jacksonville
I hate to say this was a fitting end to the Raiders time at the Coliseum, but that was about as textbook a choke job as you could get. Oakland held a 13-point halftime lead and posted two zeros on the scoreboard in the second half. As this team prepares to move to Las Vegas, it must hope it can unearth a new defense and some wide receivers in the process. Jon Gruden is not happy and Mike Mayock can’t be either.
27. New York Jets: 5-9 (Last Week: 27)
Lost 42-21 at Baltimore
That was about how you would have expected this game to go for the banged up Jets. The Ravens dominated the first three quarters and once they called off the dogs, Sam Darnold led a pair of scoring drives to provide some false hope to a beaten down team. New York had no answer for Lamar Jackson and continues to add to the list of needs it will have to address in the offseason. Just remember, there were 28 players selected after Darnold and before Jackson.
28. Washington: 3-11 (Last Week: 26)
Lost 37-27 vs. Philadelphia
For a while there, it looked like Washington was about to deal a critical blow to Philadelphia’s playoff chances. Even though the defense couldn’t see the game through, the front office has to feel good about the level at which Dwayne Haskins played. He threw for 261 yards and two touchdowns while also showing some running ability. It is hard to peg where this team will go next with an interim head coach and a general manager on the hot seat. However, those issues would seem less significant if Washington knew it was set at quarterback.
29. New York Giants: 3-11 (Last Week: 31)
Won 36-20 vs. Miami
For the first time in months, Saquon Barkley looked like an All-Pro running back. He finally broke out of his sophomore slump with 112 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns. It was actually a very productive day for Giants skill position players that figure to feature heavily in the future. Sterling Shepard caught nine balls for 111 yards and Darius Slayton hauled in his eighth touchdown of the year. New York might have hurt its draft stock, but snapping a long losing streak has to feel good.
30. Miami Dolphins: 3-11 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 36-20 at New York
DeVante Parker made the Dolphins front office look very good on Sunday. Just a few days after signing a big extension, Parker scored two touchdowns. Unfortunately, they were Miami’s only two touchdowns of the game. The ‘Fins have a long way to go, but this team is also identifying pieces it can build around in the future. Given how talent-deprived this roster is, that fact that Miami is even competitive speaks volumes about the job Brian Flores has done this season.
31. Detroit Lions: 3-10-1 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 38-17 vs. Tampa Bay
Detroit lost its sixth straight game and continue to show how valuable Matthew Stafford is to this club. This team is just crawling towards the finish line at this point. Wes Hill led the team in rushing with 21 yards and David Blough threw two interceptions, including a pick-six. I can’t imagine the Lions expected either of those players to see the field this year, much less be the offensive leaders in a given week. Matt Patricia’s seat has to be feeling awfully warm right about now.
32. Cincinnati Bengals: 1-13 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 34-13 vs. New England
For one half, the Bengals looked like they were really going to press the Patriots. Then the second half came and Cincinnati imploded. Andy Dalton threw four interceptions, coach Zac Taylor criticized his receivers and then wide receiver Tyler Boyd questioned the playcalling. Altogether, not a good look. Cincy pretty much has a vice grip on the first pick with New York winning on Sunday. Bengals fans are already dreaming of Heisman winner Joe Burrow.