2021 NFL Power Rankings: Week 17

I’m back! I traveled to California to cover the USA Ultimate College National Championships. It was a really fun weekend and fantastic to see some old friends and teammates I had not seen in years. Unfortunately, I came home with COVID-19 and was in no condition to write last week.

So this is a chance for me to play catch up after the past two weeks of action. A ton has happened. The Lions beat the Cardinals. The Cowboys dropped 56 on Washington. Davis Mills outdueled Justin Herbert as the Texans dealt a major blow to the Chargers’ playoff chances. In short, it was a wild two weeks.

With just two weeks left in the regular season, here is where every team stands.

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1. Green Bay Packers: 12-3 (Last Week: 1)
Won 24-22 vs. Cleveland
Green Bay keeps on rolling. The Packers have won four straight. However, the past two have come by a combined three points. They squeaked past an incredibly banged up Baltimore side and then held on against Cleveland despite four interceptions from Baker Mayfield. Forcing the turnovers is a really good sign, but it feels like the Packers should have done better than a two-point win with that level of production from its defense.

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2. Kansas City Chiefs: 11-4 (Last Week: 2)
Won 36-10 vs. Pittsburgh
They are back. The Chiefs are cruising, winning eight straight. Five of those past six wins have been by double digits as well. Kansas City is taking care of the football, finding balance between the run and pass and dominating on defense. Only the Chargers have scored more than 14 points against the Chiefs since October. That is outrageous. No one wants to face this team right now, and for good reason. They have found a grove and unearthed more playmakers as the season has rolled on.

3. Los Angeles Rams: 11-4 (Last Week: 3)
Won 30-23 at Minnesota
Do I fully trust this team? Not exactly, but it is hard to argue with an 11-4 record and four straight wins. The point of contention is Matt Stafford’s continued inability to protect the football. He now has 13 interceptions in 15 games, throwing three more against Minnesota on Sunday. Thankfully, Sony Michel had a monster game, racking up 131 yards rushing and a touchdown. A 61-yard punt return also helped bail out Stafford. He will need to avoid turnovers if Los Angeles plans have a long stay in the postseason.

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4. Dallas Cowboys: 11-4 (Last Week: 4)
Won 56-14 vs. Washington
Dallas made a statement. After weeks of inconsistent and underwhelming offensive play, the Cowboys exploded for 56 points and nearly 500 yards of offense. It was so lopsided that Cooper Rush got in the game and threw a touchdown pass. Three different linemen scored in this game as well for Dallas. In short, everything was working. If they can carry this momentum into the postseason, the Cowboys are going to be a dangerous team with an opportunistic defense and an uber-talented offense.

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5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 11-4 (Last Week: 5)
Won 32-6 at Carolina
Tampa Bay got back on track after laying an egg against the Saints a week ago. Beating the hapless Panthers is nothing all that impressive on its own, but this was a decisive win. The Buccaneers controlled the line of scrimmage, racking up 5.1 yards per carry. On the other side, Carolina managed just 65 yards rushing. The win also officially gave the Buccaneers the NFC South title. Thankfully, it seems like the Saints will not be in the postseason to potentially derail things.

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6. Indianapolis Colts: 9-6 (Last Week: 7)
Won 22-16 at Arizona
The Colts’ 1-4 start feels like a lifetime ago. Wins over the Patriots and Cardinals firmly push them into the playoff picture and maybe even the Super Bowl conversation. Jonathan Taylor continues to look nearly unstoppable and the defense is playing at a high level. However, the passing game is still a little bit suspect and now Carson Wentz will miss at least Week 17’s game against the Raiders after landing on the reserve/COVID-19 list as an unvaccinated player. That likely ends Indianapolis’ already slim hopes of winning the AFC South.

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7. Arizona Cardinals: 10-5 (Last Week: 6)
Lost 22-16 at Indianapolis
Arizona is fading down the stretch once again. Three straight losses, including a blowout against the Lions, is a huge red flag. Cardinals fans have to be worried about another second-half meltdown. The Cards lost five of their final seven games in 2020 to miss the postseason. This time, they have already secured a spot, but finishing 12-5 will feel very different than 10-7. If Arizona cannot stop the skid, there are going to be a lot of uncomfortable questions asked of Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray.

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8. Cincinnati Bengals: 9-6 (Last Week: 9)
Won 41-21 vs. Baltimore
In case anyone was wondering, the Bengals are loving their franchise quarterback. Joe Burrow aired it out for 525 yards and four touchdowns. Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins both went over 100 yards receiving, with Higgins coming close to 200. It helped to face a decimated Ravens secondary, but this was one of the most impressive offensive performances of the season. Now, Cincinnati will get a litmus test against Kansas City with a chance to put itself in the contender conversation.

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9. Buffalo Bills: 9-6 (Last Week: 10)
Won 33-21 at New England
Buffalo exacted revenge and vaulted atop the AFC East with a convincing victory over New England. There are still clear areas for improvement as the Patriots rushed for 149 yards and three touchdowns on 5.5 yards per carry. Damien Harris was responsible for most of the damage done. As we’ve seen already this year, the Bills cannot stop elite rushing attacks. Jonathan Taylor destroyed them earlier this season. Josh Allen is playing at a high enough level to make up for many of those deficiencies, but it is a lot of pressure to put on him.

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10. New England Patriots: 9-6 (Last Week: 8)
Lost 33-21 vs. Buffalo
Not all losses are created equal. This one stings a bit more as it means the Patriots lose their lead in the AFC East. Mac Jones’ shortcomings as a passer were on full display as well. He finished 14-of-32 passing with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Damien Harris put together another Herculean effort, but the damage had been done and the defense could not quiet Josh Allen. New England is a good team, but there are clear weaknesses that teams are more than capable of exploiting.

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11. Tennessee Titans: 10-5 (Last Week: 15)
Won 20-17 vs. San Francisco
Mike Vrabel unquestionably deserves to be in the Coach of the Year conversation. Tennessee has reached double-digit victories and is in great position to win the AFC South despite a clear lack of offensive playmakers. With Derrick Henry and Julio Jones sidelined, A.J. Brown stepped up huge on Thursday night and Ryan Tannehill deserves credit for taking care of the football. It doesn’t really make sense how this team keeps on winning, but the Titans won the turnover battle and made a few key plays to edge the 49ers.

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12. Baltimore Ravens: 8-7 (Last Week: 11)
Lost 41-21 at Cincinnati
I want to crush the Ravens after another loss and with this injury-riddled roster, but they have shown a lot of fight despite starting their third-string quarterback. If Baltimore can get even a few of those injured players back, and a few off the reserve/COVID-19 list, hopes of reaching the postseason are still alive. Unfortunately, there might not be anything the Ravens can do to bolster their secondary. Surrendering 525 yards to Joe Burrow is an abysmal showing.

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13. San Francisco 49ers: 8-7 (Last Week: 13)
Lost 20-17 at Tennessee
San Francisco has spent this entire season stuck in neutral. Jimmy Garoppolo fell well short of expectations again, with two costly interceptions. It turns out he also suffered a broken thumb in the game, which will thrust Trey Lance back into action. Perhaps the rookie can jumpstart this offense, because it is lacking right now. Deebo Samuel has been sensational, but San Francisco needs someone, pretty much anyone else to step up. The playoffs are still within reach, but it is hard to feel good about the 49ers’ chances.

14. Los Angeles Chargers: 8-7 (Last Week: 12)
Lost 41-29 at Houston
Well that was a dud. This is a clear learning experience for this young team. Los Angeles should have rolled over this overmatched Houston squad. Instead, the defense got carved up by a rookie quarterback, run over by a journeyman running back and outworked by a less talented defense. Justin Herbert threw two interceptions in a disappointing performance, but the blame has to lie with the defense for surrendering 41 points. This puts the Chargers’ playoff hopes in serious jeopardy with a pair of divisional games left on the schedule.

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15. Miami Dolphins: 8-7 (Last Week: 16)
Won 20-3 at New Orleans
Make it seven straight for Miami. It wasn’t the prettiest performance for the Dolphins, with only one offensive touchdown. Thankfully, the defense dominated rookie quarterback Ian Book in his first NFL start. Eight sacks and two interceptions, including a pick six highlighted an impressive showing that took all the pressure off Tua Tagovailoa. The second-year quarterback had an up and down night, but Miami is finding a way to win without Tua needing to carry them.

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16. Philadelphia Eagles: 8-7 (Last Week: 18)
Won 34-10 vs. New York
Are the Eagles good? Are any of these 8-7 teams good? Honestly, I have no idea. Philadelphia has won five of its past six games, including that second-half domination against New York. It helped to be playing against the combination of Mike Glennon and Jake Fromm, but you have to perform in those spots. It was something the Eagles didn’t do a month ago against the Giants. Philly suddenly finds itself in the race for the postseason. A win against Washington would put them in a really good spot to earn a spot.

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17. Las Vegas Raiders: 8-7 (Last Week: 19)
Won 17-13 vs. Denver
It is amazing that the Raiders are in the playoff conversation. Between Jon Gruden’s “resignation” over racist and misogynistic emails and Henry Ruggs’ fatal DUI crash, Las Vegas has had more distractions this season than most teams do in a decade. The mental toll these events must have had on the players is hard to imagine. And yet, they are grinding out wins to stay in the hunt. It was a huge performance from Josh Jacobs and the defense to lead the way. Denver finished with 18 yards on 16 carries, which is just ridiculous. Jacobs had more than that on a single carry, finishing with 129 yards on 27 attempts. The path to the postseason is still a tough one, but the Raiders refuse to go away.

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18. Pittsburgh Steelers: 7-7-1 (Last Week: 14)
Lost 36-10 at Kansas City
Mike Tomlin’s streak of never posting a losing season as the head coach of the Steelers is hanging in the balance. We’ve seen Pittsburgh grind out some tough wins, but they have fallen well short against the NFL’s elite teams. Sunday was no exception. Kansas City jumped all over Pittsburgh, taking a 30-0 midway through the third quarter. On the bright side, Najee Harris had one of his most efficient games of the season, picking up 93 yards on the ground on 19 carries. One more win clinches another non-losing season. The Browns and Ravens stand in the way.

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19. Cleveland Browns 7-8 (Last Week: 20)
Lost 24-22 at Green Bay
Which side of this loss do you want to focus on? Baker Mayfield threw four interceptions in a crushing performance. He was a bit unlucky to toss a couple of them, but there is no question those mistakes cost Cleveland the game. On the other hand, the Browns only lost this game by two points. They rumbled for 219 yards on 8.8 yards per carry, which is a winning formula for just about every team in the league. If Mayfield can take care of the ball, Cleveland likely wins this game easily.

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20. Minnesota Vikings: 7-8 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 30-23 vs. Los Angeles
Minnesota has to be kicking itself for losing this game. Mike Zimmer’s defense came up with three interceptions, but could not capitalize, trailing 13-10 after all three of those turnovers. Surrendering a special teams touchdown and failing to come up with stops the rest of the game sunk the Vikings. Minnesota’s playoff chances are hanging by a thread and Zimmer’s hot seat is only getting warmer.

Denver_Broncos

21. Denver Broncos: 7-8 (Last Week: 19)
Lost 17-13 at Las Vegas
This was a tough blow for the Broncos. Denver had a chance to really assert itself in the playoff race, but fell flat in a must-win in Las Vegas. It was one of the worst rushing performances we’ve seen this season, as the Broncos managed just 18 yards on 16 attempts. That did not set Drew Lock up for success. He did well not to turn the ball over, but he also did not do much to win this game when the opportunities were there. Denver now needs a ton of help to reach the playoffs.

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22. New Orleans Saints: 7-8 (Last Week: 22)
Lost 20-3 vs. Miami
Well, the Ian Book era will likely be a short-lived one in New Orleans. In his defense, he was thrown to the wolves. The Saints offensive line struggled all night long against the blitz-happy Dolphins defense. Book took eight sacks and threw a pick-six on his second career pass attempt. It was about as ugly as you can imagine for your first NFL start. The Saints can still make the playoffs, but they are going to need either Taysom Hill or Trevor Seimian under center to have any chance.

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23. Atlanta Falcons: 7-8 (Last Week: 24)
Won 20-16 vs. Detroit
Atlanta might be the worst 7-8 team in NFL history. The Falcons have the fifth-worst point differential in the league. They have one win this season over a team with a winning record. That came against the Dolphins in the midst of their early-season free fall. Miami is also 8-7. They were tied with the lowly Lions heading into the fourth quarter. Yes, Detroit has been playing better of late, but that was with Jared Goff at quarterback. Tim Boyle was the starter on Sunday. If the Falcons somehow make the playoffs, Arthur Smith should be a lock for coach of the year.

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24. Washington: 6-9 (Last Week: 23)
Lost 56-14 at Dallas
What in the world happened to the Washington defense? This was an elite unit a year ago, carrying a lifeless offense to an NFC East title. Now, they are one of the worst in the NFL. Washington ranks in the bottom five for total yards allowed, passing yards allowed, passing yards per attempt allowed and points allowed per game. Injuries have certainly played a part, but this is a massive step backward. We saw it on full display with the Cowboys dropping 56 points on them, including 42 in the first half. Ron Rivera has a lot of work to do to turn this around.

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25. Chicago Bears: 5-10 (Last Week: 29)
Won 25-24 at Seattle
With all the chaos around the NFL, it is nice to see something familiar. Nick Foles frustrated Giants fans everywhere while leading the Bears to an unlikely road win, hurting the value of Chicago’s first-round draft pick, which New York owns in 2022. Foles played well, taking care of the ball and throwing a touchdown pass and the go-ahead two-point conversion in the fourth quarter. For Chicago, it might be a meaningless win, but for Foles, it likely puts him back on the radar as a potential veteran fill-in for teams in need of a quarterback.

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26. Carolina Panthers: 5-10 (Last Week: 25)
Lost 32-6 vs. Tampa Bay
Goodness the bottom has fallen out for Carolina. The Panthers are in the midst of their second losing streak of at least four games this season, having lost their fifth in a row on Sunday. It wasn’t even close. Carolina’s offensive line gave up seven sacks and the running backs accounted for just 14 yards. It was Cam Newton who did much of the heavy lifting in the run game. On the flip side, the defense got gashed by KeShawn Vaughn and the Buccaneers run game. Matt Rhule probably deserves another year, but it is getting harder to make that argument following another lopsided loss.

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27. Seattle Seahawks: 5-10 (Last Week: 26)
Lost 25-24 vs. Chicago
Two weeks ago, Seattle was talking about running the table and making a playoff push. Instead, the Seahawks lost to the Rams and Bears, increasing speculation that Russell Wilson will force his way out this offseason and that the team could move on Pete Carroll. The loss to Chicago in particular is hard to swallow with the Bears relying on their third-string quarterback. It wasted good performances from Russell Wilson and Rashaad Penny. Seattle might be headed for a major rebuild.

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28. Houston Texans: 4-11 (Last Week: 31)
Won 41-29 vs. Los Angeles
The Texans are on a win streak! Houston shocked the Chargers with a huge upset led by rookie quarterback Davis Mills. The former Stanford man outplayed Justin Herbert with an inferior supporting cast, making it clear the Texans might just have a quarterback to build around going forward. On top of his sterling showing, Rex Burkhead turned the clocks back to his Patriots days with a 149-yard, two-touchdown performance. Houston is showing some solid signs of progress, which bodes well for the future under David Culley.

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29. New York Jets: 4-11 (Last Week: 30)
Won 26-21 vs. Jacksonville
It almost didn’t happen, but the Jets hung on to win their fourth game of the year. It wasn’t Zach Wilson’s best game as a passer, but he more than made up for it with his legs. He picked up 91 yards rushing, including a 52-yard touchdown scramble. New York’s defense was not perfect, but came up with a clutch stop in the final seconds on the goal line to seal the win. It was a gutsy performance as the Jets were decimated by COVID this week, missing a number of key starters and head coach Robert Saleh. Plus, the Seahawks lost, which is good for the Jets draft pick situation.

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30. Detroit Lions: 2-12-1 (Last Week: 27)
Lost 20-16 at Atlanta
Dan Campbell has this team competing with everyone right now. It was not as impressive a performance as a monster win over the Cardinals, but a gritty loss to the Falcons with Tim Boyle at quarterback continues to solidify the locker room’s belief in Campbell. The defense played well, holding the Falcons to 254 yards of offense, but struggled to contain Kyle Pitts. Losing close games is the best case scenario with a chance to secure a great draft pick and build some momentum heading into 2022.

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31. New York Giants: 4-11 (Last Week: 28)
Lost 34-10 at Philadelphia
The Giants announced plans to run it back with Joe Judge and Daniel Jones. It is hard to understand why. I get keeping Jones. New York has done a terrible job of protecting him and he has one more season guaranteed on his rookie contract, pending his fifth year option. However, keeping Judge feels like an odd choice. He has not done much to indicate he is the right coach to lead the franchise. Plus, the Giants seem likely to move on from Dave Gettleman. Not allowing the new general manager to pick his own head coach will make the opening less desirable.

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32. Jacksonville Jaguars: 2-13 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 26-21 at New York
The outlook for the Jaguars has changed quite a bit since the last time I put these power rankings together. Urban Meyer is gone and the team is searching for a replacement coach with interviews set with Doug Pederson and Jim Caldwell. Unfortunately, the one thing that has not changed is the losing streak. Jacksonville lost its seventh straight game and owns a 3-28 record since the start of last season. Trevor Lawrence still has not thrown a touchdown pass since October. Some positive momentum feels much needed before the season ends.

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2022 NFL Mock Draft: Panthers, Lions find QBs of the future and six WRs go in first round

There are still two weeks left in the regular season and the entirety of the playoffs to be played, but for a number of fans, the look ahead to 2022 has already started. At this time, eight teams have already been eliminated from playoff contention. More are sure to follow in Week 17.

That means it is time for mock draft season. This is already my third mock of the season and my final one of 2021. The draft order has changed quite a bit over the course of the season as Miami and Kansas City completely turned around early-season slumps. Meanwhile, Carolina and Washington have faded down the stretch to the point where they are picking in the top 10.

This is the most up-to-date draft order according to Tankathon through the conclusion of Sunday Night Football. The outcome of Dolphins-Saints on Monday night will likely see each team slide a couple spots in either direction. So much of the NFL is grouped around that .500 mark right now.

As I continue to dissect film during bowl season, my evaluations of players have definitely changed. I know that there will likely be more quarterbacks off the board in the first round, but this is how I grade them at this stage. With no trades allowed, this is how I see the first round shaking out as of right now.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13) – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
Jacksonville could head a number of directions with the first pick, but taking the dominant edge rusher out of Michigan to pair with Josh Allen feels like the best bet. Hutchinson finished as the runner up for the Heisman for a reason. He has a bit of J.J. Watt to his game, beating tackles with a combination of speed and power.

2. Detroit Lions (2-12-1) – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EGDE, Oregon
This is a pretty great consolation prize for the Lions. While not quite on the same level of Chase Young, Thibodeaux is a dynamic pass rusher with an impressive array of pass-rush moves. He has disappeared at times and can struggle when put into conflict by RPOs and read options. Overall, he would be a great pairing with Romeo Okwara and hopefully help transform a Lions’ defense lacking talent.

3. Houston Texans (3-12) – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
This is a situation of the Texans simply going with the best player available. Laremy Tunsil remains well entrenched at left tackle, but Houston could use an upgrade on the right side. Neal would give Davis Mills a chance to prove himself at quarterback. If not Mills, then whoever replaces him would have one of the best tackle pairings in the league. Neal is a mountain disguised as an offensive tackle. He checks all the physical boxes and passes the eye test.

4. New York Jets (4-11) – Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State
Morgan Moses is on an expiring contract and Mekhi Becton has not shown he can stay healthy. That creaks the door open for the Jets to sure up their offensive line. The offensive lineman in Joe Douglas will not be able to resist taking Ekwonu either. This guy is nasty and brings power that teams crave. He is certainly a bit raw in terms of technique. He needs a bit of polish, but keeping Zach Wilson upright has to be the biggest priority of the offseason.

5. New York Giants (4-11) – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Daniel Jones is coming back in 2022. At least that is the word out of East Rutherford. That opens the door for New York to go with the best player available and continue to overhaul its roster. Kyle Hamilton is a bit of a unicorn. He has the size of a linebacker, but lines up at safety. He has the coverage skills to be a centerfielder, but can drop down into the box as well. With Jabril Peppers out of a contract this season and Logan Ryan turning 31, there is some need for another safety in New York as well.

6. New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks (5-10) – Ahmed Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
When you start all first- and second-year players in the secondary, there are bound to be some growing pains. That said, New York clearly still has a need for a true No. 1 corner. The man they call “Sauce” absolutely fits the bill. He has yet to allow a touchdown in his three years as a starter at Cincinnati. He brings the requisite length needed to play on the outside in the NFL. The only question will likely be about his speed. Gardner will be one to watch at the combine.

7. Carolina Panthers (5-10) – Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
Let’s make this clear, this is a reach! I like Pickett as a passer, but at 23 years old, it is safe to assume he is already pretty far along in his development as a quarterback. Read that as a potentially low ceiling. However, this feels like a really good landing spot for Pickett. There is a lot of talent on the defense and a solid receiving corps. If Christian McCaffrey can get healthy, he will have one of the best offensive weapons in the entire league. Carolina would need to bolster the offensive line to make this work, but there is potential for this to be a hit.

8. New York Giants via Chicago Bears (5-10) – Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
The aforementioned Daniel Jones has had his struggles, but he has rarely been protected. Tyler Linderbaum will help change that. He is an incredibly agile center with good blocking angles and great open field speed. He should be an asset in the run game as well with his ability to pull outside and set the edge. Targeting offensive line help makes a ton of sense for the Giants. Saquon Barkley would probably appreciate the move as well, assuming he can get onto the field.

9. Washington Football Team (6-9) – Drake London, WR, USC
With Pickett off the board, there are no quarterbacks that I can justify going in the top 10. Instead, Washington addresses the massive issue facing its receiving corps. There is no size. Drake London would solve that immediately. He might not be the most explosive athlete, but he plays a lot like Mike Evans. His ability to catch the ball away from his body and make contested grabs makes him an excellent security blanket for any quarterback. Perhaps Washington could trade back into the end of the first to snag a rookie quarterback. If not, load up this roster and try to find a veteran who can lead you to the playoffs.

10. Atlanta Falcons (7-8) – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
A perfect blend of need and value, Atlanta desperately needs someone with George Karlaftis’ skill set. There is definitely some cause for concern when you put on the Ohio State film and see him overmatched by a pair of quality tackles. However, Karlaftis’ upside and raw traits make him worth the gamble in this spot. The Falcons desperately need pass rushing help. They rank last in the NFL in sacks by a sizeble margin, totaling nine fewer than the Jaguars and Lions so far this season.

11. Denver Broncos (7-8) – David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan
Denver will be disappointed to see Karlaftis off the board, but will take the next best edge rusher on the board. That has to be David Ojabo after the breakout season he had across from Aidan Hutchinson. Ojabo is not nearly as polished as his partner in crime, but his traits are incredible. With Von Miller now in Los Angeles, the Broncos definitely need someone to pitch in across from Bradley Chubb. Ojabo has a long way to go in order to replicate Miller’s production, but he will help soften the blow nonetheless.

12. Minnesota Vikings (7-8) – Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Another mock, another corner to the Vikings. If it’s broken, keep trying to fix it. Minnesota ranks in the bottom 10 for passing yards and passing touchdowns allowed. The Vikings will be thrilled to see Singley still available. His stock has slipped following an injury-riddled season, but the physical ability and top-end potential is all still there. If he tests at the combine, there is a good chance he will not last this long on draft day.

13. Cleveland Browns (7-8) – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
Baker Mayfield may well be the problem in Cleveland, but he could still definitely use an improved receivers room. Jarvis Landry is declining and Odell Beckham Jr. is gone. Rashad Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones are excellent depth options, but the Browns need a new go-to playmaker. Enter Garrett Wilson. He is a silky smooth route runner with solid speed, good hands and a nose for the end zone. Keeping him in state would be a great move by the front office.

14. Philadelphia Eagles via Miami Dolphins (7-7) – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Philadelphia has been a pleasant surprise in the second half of the year. While there are questions about Jalen Hurts as the long-term answer at quarterback, there is no one worth replacing him with in this spot. Instead, the Eagles finally address the shortcomings of their linebacker unit. Lloyd would be an upgrade over any of Philly’s current starters. He is very athletic with some ability to rush the passer. Feels like a slam dunk pick for this defense.

15. New Orleans Saints (7-7) – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
While quarterback could certainly be in play, this is still much too early for QB2 on my board. Even if the Saints did take a quarterback, he would have no one to throw to. New Orleans’ group of receivers is on par with Detroit and the Jets when it comes to proven playmakers. If Michael Thomas returns, that could change things a bit, but there is still room for more additions at the position. Burks was a bit inconsistent this year, but showed flashes of elite ability. He lit up Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M, but disappeared against LSU and Georgia. There is a lot to like about his upside.

16. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7-1) – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
Yes, the Steelers need a new quarterback. No, that does not mean they should reach for one in the middle of the first round. Pittsburgh has a host of other issues it still needs to address to get back into championship contention. The biggest being a porous offensive line. Cross lacks much experience as a run blocker, but has a lot of solid tape in pass protection. He is far from perfect, with several holding calls and uneven technique, but he anchors well and has the size to excel at the next level. He would be in the mix to start at left tackle from Day 1 in Pittsburgh.

17. Los Angeles Chargers (8-7) – DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
Same old Chargers. Los Angeles has shown signs of progress this season, but it still cannot avoid the pitfalls. The Achilles heel has been the run defense. Only three teams are allowing more rushing yards per game or yards per attempt this season. Finding some help on the interior of the defense line is the key to turning things around. Leal is a talented pass rusher who can hold his own against the run. He has the versatility to flex out to the edge as well. Brandon Staley would have a lot of fun exploring the ways he could deploy Leal against opposing offenses.

18. Las Vegas Raiders (8-7) – Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
Las Vegas has room to improve in the trenches on both sides of the ball. It is hard to overlook Jordan Davis, both literally and figuratively. He is huge, listed at 6’6″ and 340 pounds. He definitely excels as a run stuffer, but shows flashes of pass-rush brilliances. He has a quick first step and rarely loses ground. He could help transform the Raiders defensive front. Davis, Max Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue is the beginnings of a scary unit.

19. Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) – Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
As great as Darius Slay has been this season, Philadelphia cannot continue to rely on him to do everything in their secondary. Clemson might have had a down year, but the struggles were all on the offense. Defensively, the Tigers were still stocked with future NFL players, led by Andrew Booth Jr. The rangy cornerback has good size and impeccable athleticism. He will need a bit of coaching to truly take the step in his development, but there is a lot to like about his potential fit in the NFL.

20. Baltimore Ravens (8-7) – Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
Baltimore is tied for the most sacks allowed this season. Some of that is a byproduct of having mobile quarterbacks who hang onto the ball longer than he probably should, but most of it falls on underperforming tackles and injuries. Trevor Penning may face a bit of a learning curve arriving from FCS powerhouse UNI, but his intangibles point to a seamless transition. If he can protect Lamar Jackson, this will be a pick well spent.

21. Miami Dolphins via San Francisco 49ers (8-7) – Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M
Miami is on an incredible run right now, winning six in a row heading into Monday Night Football. However, that should not erase the deficiencies that showed up during the first half of the season when the Dolphins were 1-7. Tua Tagovailoa’s protection has room for improvement. Kenyon Green has the potential to be a Day 1 starter at either guard spot, providing some much-needed stability. He has some experience at tackle as well, which only adds to his value.

22. New England Patriots (9-6) – Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
This may be my worst nightmare. Letting Bill Belichick get his hands on a playmaker like Dean is dangerous for the rest of the league. He is often compared to Jonathan Vilma between his size and downhill play style. Dont’a Hightower is turning 32 in March and will be a free agent after the season. Dean could help fill the void and eventually grow into a similar defensive leader.

23. Philadelphia Eagles via Indianapolis Colts (9-6) – Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Might as well return to the well. Philadelphia seems to have hit big time with Devonta Smith, so it would be wise to find another Alabama receiver to play alongside him. While Smith is certainly capable of big plays, Williams excels at it. He would be what the team hoped to get in drafting Jalen Reagor. There are certainly some drops on his film, but most of them are avoidable. Coaching could solve that. It’s not something to ignore, but it is correctable. This sets up Jalen Hurts or whoever takes over at quarterback in the future for success.

24. Arizona Cardinals (10-5) – Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Arizona is once again fading in the second half of the season. While there are questions to ask of the offense, the secondary is getting torn to shreds. Adding a tall, long corner in Elam could change the trajectory of the unit entirely. Hopefully, that size will come into play in the red zone, where the Cardinals have been dreadful down the stretch.

25. Buffalo Bills (9-6) – Nicolas Petit-Frère, OT, Ohio State
Buffalo needs to invest along the interior of its offensive line. While Petit-Frère is not an interior lineman, he could allow the Bills to kick Spencer Brown inside. If not, the Ohio State tackle could move to guard himself. He has shown the ability to handle top speed rushers on the outside with his play against George Karlaftis. On the other hand, he struggled against Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo. Either way, he should help keep Josh Allen clean now and into the future.

26. Cincinnati Bengals (9-6) – Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
Cincinnati’s secondary has played surprisingly well this season, but lacks staying power. For one, the Bengals can get out from under Trae Waynes’ horrible contract this offseason. They also need Chidobe Awuzie to replicate a career year for this unit to have a chance in 2022. Adding the upside of McCreary gives them someone to develop into the future. He brings an exciting blend of athleticism and size that makes it easy to project him as an NFL starter.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4) – Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC
Tampa Bay will be disappointed to see the top corners off the board by this stage and will simply turn to a best player available approach. With a number of key defensive players on expiring contracts, adding another player in the front seven could help ease the blow. Drake Jackson is a long edge rusher with solid production from his time at USC. Much of his stock is based on the projection of what he could become if he can marry his physical tools with improved technique and pass-rush planning at the next level.

28. Detroit Lions via Los Angeles (11-4) – Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
If there was ever a team that could afford to gamble on a high-risk, high-reward quarterback, it is the Detroit Lions. With the extra pick in the 2022 draft from the Matthew Stafford trade, the Lions could attempt to find his replacement. Willis brings incredible physical traits, namely blazing speed and a very strong arm. He needs a lot of refining though. He has a tendency to hold onto the ball too long, often times misses reads and bails out of the pocket a bit too frequently. Selecting Willis does not prevent Detroit from taking a quarterback in the first round of the 2023 draft either if it ends up with a chance to take Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud. This is just one shot at the dartboard with potential to net future draft capital if he is moved. What I love about this is that Jared Goff can start for one more season before his contract expires and the Lions can make a real run at turning the roster around.

29. Tennessee Titans (10-5) – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Julio Jones has not been the reliable option across from A.J. Brown that the Titans were hoping for. Injuries have derailed most of his previous two seasons and he will turn 33 in February. Tennessee needs another receiver for Ryan Tannehill to turn to. Chris Olave could be the perfect complement to Brown. He is well-rounded and can generate separation. Not to mention good size at 6’1″. He would only open things up more for Derrick Henry as defenses had to respect his speed.

30. Dallas Cowboys (11-4) – Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
The turnaround by Dallas’ defense is truly remarkable. However, it is also benefiting from an unsustainable turnover rate. 33 forced turnovers in 15 games is impressive and hard to repeat. With the top corners off the board, the Cowboys grab a versatile safety with some slot corner experience in Hill. He has tons of athletic upside and regularly ends up around the football. The offense has had its struggles, but there is more than enough talent to see things stabilize. Now it is time to build a defense to match.

31. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) – Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
Kansas City has evolved over the course of the season. Its defensive renaissance does not mean help on that side of the ball is no longer needed. That being said, it is hard to resist Jahan Dotson in this spot. He is a reliable target capable of making contested catches over the middle of the field. I think he could be a perfect fit for what the Chiefs need in this offense past Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. If Kansas City lands a defensive lineman or cornerback in the second round, this will feel like a really strong start to the draft.

32. Green Bay Packers (12-3) – Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia
Aaron Rodgers does not care about the wide receivers you would like to mock to Green Bay. Instead, the Packers continue to build in the trenches. Devonte Wyatt does not get the headlines of his more famous teammates like Nakobe Dean or Jordan Davis, but he should start soon. He is a violent game wrecker. He might not be quite as athletically gifted as those teammates and definitely needs to improve his gap discipline, but there is a lot to like about his tape. With a few potential cap casualties on defense this offseason, finding cost-effective defenders is a must. Don’t rule out a trade back with a quarterback needy team here. Washington, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Denver could all move up to get a quarterback with that coveted fifth-year option.

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NFL Draft Daily: Should teams consider waiting on quarterbacks in 2022?

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

I cannot remember a time where this many teams had a need at quarterback at the same time in the NFL. The list of teams that could potentially have a new starter or spend a premium draft pick on a quarterback is long. The Steelers, Packers, Falcons, Panthers, Saints, Eagles, Giants, Broncos, Texans, Lions, Seahawks and Washington are all facing questions about the future at the position. Maybe even the Raiders and Vikings belong in that conversation. Some have aging veterans to replace, some have recent draft picks that have not worked out and some have disgruntled stars who could be on the move.

Ben Roethlisberger is expected to retire at the end of the season. (Wikimedia Commons)

That puts a ton of focus on the upcoming NFL draft. Unfortunately, this is one of the worst quarterback classes in some time. That doesn’t mean none of these quarterbacks will be good. In fact, there is a surprising amount of depth to this quarterback class. However, there are no slam dunk picks in this draft class as of right now. Maybe someone will separate themselves during the pre-draft process, but we don’t have a Joe Burrow, Trevor Lawrence or Kyler Murray level prospect. Honestly, none of them even come close.

So that begs the question, should teams punt on this year’s quarterback class? There is not a one-size fits all answer, even though I am tempted to just say yes. For a team like the Lions, using the first-round pick they have from the Rams on a quarterback could make some sense, especially if it is someone like Malik Willis, who definitely needs some time on the bench to develop, but brings rare physical traits. Jared Goff is still under contract for 2022 and that team is nowhere near competing for a wildcard spot, much less a title. Taking Willis or grabbing someone like Sam Howell or Desmond Ridder at the top of the second round should not prevent Detroit from taking a top quarterback prospect if they end up in the top five again next season. Suddenly, those other players become valuable trade chips. Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen both netted second-round picks and they both looked awful leading up to that point.

On the other hand, for teams like the Texans or Giants. I don’t like the idea of drafting a quarterback in this class. Reaching to take Matt Corral or Kenny Pickett in the first round does not raise that team’s ceiling all that much. At this point, I would rather spend another year with Davis Mills or Daniel Jones while continuing to amass talent around the quarterback position.

Lawrence has thrown just one touchdown pass since the start of November. (Wikimedia Commons)

And this is the real crux of why I think it makes sense to wait on a quarterback: situation matters. Mac Jones is thriving in New England right now and may even win Offensive Rookie of the Year. Does that mean he is a better quarterback than Trevor Lawrence or that the Jaguars should have taken him No. 1 overall? Probably not. I have a feeling Lawrence would be crushing it in New England as well. The Patriots have a top-flight defense, the best coaching staff in the league and a strong running game to help Jones. Lawrence has none of those things in Jacksonville.

At this point, for teams that are not ready to challenge for division titles and playoff spots, it just doesn’t make sense to grab a quarterback and figure everything else out later. If one of the quarterbacks in this class slides to the Steelers and goes on to have a great career, will people point out that other teams could have drafted him? Yes, absolutely. However, it is incredibly unlikely that these players would find the same success because the support cast around them is so much worse.

The Giants will have to decide this offseason if they want to pick up Jones’ fifth-year option. (Wikimedia Commons)

Let’s use the Giants as an example. Fans are fed up with Daniel Jones, and for good reason. He has not shown much progress since his rookie season and is frustratingly inconsistent. However, if you put Corral behind that offensive line next season and expect him to fare much better, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell you. New York has never been able to surround Jones with the right talent to succeed. Even when the front office has spent big, it has been on injury-prone stars who cannot stay on the field. At full strength, the Giants offense should be great, but we rarely ever see Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Kadarius Toney, Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley on the field together. And even when they are, Jones rarely has enough time to get them the ball. Not to mention Jones has not had the best coaching in his career either.

If you’ve read this site long enough, you know I am a big proponent of investing in the offensive line. It is the key to being a successful football team. So if I am the Giants, Steelers, Texans, Panthers or Washington, I am investing in the offensive line in this draft class and waiting until 2023 to find my long-term answer at quarterback. Plus, veteran options like Jimmy Garoppolo, Marcus Mariota and Teddy Bridgewater will likely be available to help bridge the gap. I would rather wait until 2023, when players like Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud will headline the draft class. What’s more, this is a great draft for offensive linemen and defensive talent. Teams will regret reaching for quarterbacks and missing out on those elite prospects.

Rookie quarterbacks are one of the hottest commodities in all sports, especially first-rounders. When you have a young quarterback on a controlled salary, you create a five-year window where you can compete for a title and spend whatever money is needed to build a successful roster around that player. I would rather spend the money and draft capital ahead of time to create a situation where a rookie quarterback is capable of thriving. For those who are going to say any team built like that would be too good to draft a top quarterback, may I remind you that the Chiefs traded up for Patrick Mahomes, the Texans traded up for Deshaun Watson, the Ravens traded back into the first round to grab Lamar Jackson at No. 32 and that Mac Jones fell into the Patriots’ laps at No. 15. You don’t always need to tank to find your quarterback of the future.

In short, I think it is time the NFL changes its roster-building technique. Teams who are consistently successful draft the best players available and find value in veteran contracts when it comes to free agency. New England went 7-9 before turning things around with a 9-4 record so far and that was after losing the greatest quarterback of all time. Mike Tomlin has not had a losing season in his tenure as the Steelers head coach. Even if he does have one this year, Pittsburgh should still be in the mix to reach the playoffs in 2022 because the rest of the roster is still pretty talented, with the exception of the offensive line. Even the Saints, who have started three different quarterbacks this season due to injury, are only one game under .500. They have a really strong core, a good coaching staff and a front-office who, mostly, invests well in the draft.

I’m not saying that teams should stop drafting quarterbacks in the first-round, but let’s not force it when it isn’t there. This isn’t a good quarterback class. It pales in comparison to the 2021 group, but most would. I am looking forward to ranking all the quarterbacks from recent class when I am done grading this current group. I think that will be really eye-opening regarding its relative strength.

Until then, just build in the trenches and everything will be fine.

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2021 NFL Power Rankings: Week 15

Three more teams joined the ranks of the eliminated this week as the Jets, Lions and Jaguars all saw their playoff chances officially reach zero. In truth, their hopes of reaching the playoff disappeared months ago, but now those teams can officially begin to look ahead to 2022.

Meanwhile, playoff races across the league are even more murky after the Cardinals lost to the shorthanded Rams on Monday night and a host of wildcard hopefuls swapped places. There are 14 teams in the NFL with six or seven wins so far this season. All of them will believe they can emerge from the pack to reach the postseason.

As we head into the home stretch of the regular season, here is how all 32 teams stack up.

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1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 10-3 (Last Week: 2)
Won 33-27 vs. Buffalo
Tampa Bay seemed to be strolling to a comfortable win against Buffalo, holding a 21-point lead at halftime. Then everything went sideways. The Bills outscored the Bucs 17-3 in the fourth quarter to force overtime. It seemed like Josh Allen was going to earn the walk-off win after Buffalo received to start the extra period, but Tampa’s defense found its footing and finally got a crucial stop. Tom Brady hit Breshad Perriman for the 58-yard game winner and the Bucs reached double digit wins on the season.

Packers logo

2. Green Bay Packers: 10-3 (Last Week: 3)
Won 45-30 vs. Chicago
Talk about wild momentum swings: This is not how I expected this game to go. Jakeem Grant scored on a 97-yard punt return to put the Bears up 10-0. The Packers then scored twice in just over a minute to take the lead. Chicago struck back quickly to go back on top. Green Bay finally took control in the third quarter, outscoring Chicago 21-0. This game really had everything though from recovered onside kicks to defensive and special teams touchdowns. In the end, Aaron Rodgers maintains his ownership stake in the Bears and the Packers stay comfortably atop the NFC North.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)

3. Arizona Cardinals: 10-3 (Last Week: 1)
Lost 30-23 vs. Los Angeles
Divisional games are always weird, but that does not excuse the Cardinals missing a huge opportunity. The Rams were dealing with a COVID outbreak, missing Jalen Ramsey, Tyler Higbee and others, but you would never have known it on Monday. Kyler Murray forced the issue too often, tossing a pair of interceptions and Kliff Kingsbury might have gotten a bit too aggressive with his play calling at times. Now, Arizona’s lead in the NFC West is down to one game as it loses the top spot in the NFC. This one stings a lot.

Patriots Logo

4. New England Patriots: 9-4 (Last Week: 4)
Bye Week
The Patriots should probably send Tom Brady a polite thank you note after he beat the Bills this week to stretch their division lead to two games. New England got the week off in the midst of a seven-game win streak, one that shows no signs of stopping either. Its final four games feature all AFC opponents, including a trio of playoff hopefuls. The Colts are up next before a rematch with the Bills. New England will finish out the season against Jacksonville and Miami, the latter of which will be a chance to avenge a Week 1 loss.

Chiefs Logo

5. Kansas City Chiefs: 9-4 (Last Week: 5)
Won 48-9 vs. Raiders
Kansas City is currently petitioning the league to play the Raiders every week. At least, that’s what I assume is happening. In two meetings this season, the Chiefs have outscored their AFC West rival 89-23. Las Vegas has not belonged on the same field on both occasions. Patrick Mahomes was uber efficient, completing 20-of-24 passes. The run game produced some big plays with Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrell Williams and Derrick Gore all finding the end zone. Meanwhile, Kansas City’s defense forced five turnovers in a dominant performance. Derek Carr spent much of the game running for his life and the Chiefs run defense held strong. Another crucial divisional game awaits. This time it is the Chargers on Thursday night.

6. Los Angeles Rams: 9-4 (Last Week: 7)
Won 30-23 at Arizona
I cannot overstate how monumental a win this was for the Rams. Missing a few key contributors due to COVID-19 protocols, Los Angeles did not miss a beat. It frustrated Kyler Murray and came up with some vital stops when it mattered most. Murray threw for 383 yards, but finished without a touchdown and two interceptions. On the other side, Matt Stafford looked dialed in. He tossed three touchdowns and took care of the football. This opens the door for the Rams to win the division and compete for the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

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7. Dallas Cowboys: 9-4 (Last Week: 6)
Won 27-20 at Washington
Early on, it seemed like the Cowboys were going to run away with this one. Washington could not get anything going offensively and Dallas led 24-0 at halftime. However, the Cowboys managed just three points in the second half while Washington stormed back and nearly forced overtime. The defense did its job, forcing four turnovers, including a scoop-and-score. Despite all the talent, questions about Dallas’ offense persist following performances like this one. Dak Prescott and company have a lot of room for improvement.

Colts logo

8. Indianapolis Colts: 7-6 (Last Week: )
Bye Week
Indianapolis finds itself right in the thick of the AFC wildcard race. Following an 0-3 start, the Colts have gone 7-3 since then, largely on the back of Jonathan Taylor. The second-year running back leads the league in rushing by more than 300 yards and has scored 18 touchdowns so far this season. He will obviously be the catalyst for everything this offense does going forward. A showdown with the Patriots awaits with major playoff implications on the line.

9. Los Angeles Chargers: 8-5 (Last Week: 10)
Won 37-21 vs. New York
Sure, it helped to face Mike Glennon instead of Daniel Jones, but this was still a complete performance from the Chargers. Justin Herbert aired it out for three touchdowns while the ground game picked up 152 yards. Meanwhile, the defense got after Glennon, forcing a pair of turnovers. The run defense continues to be a problem, the Chargers surrendered 135 yards on 5.2 yards per carry, but if the offense can build an early lead, this defense is capable of protecting it.

Bills logo

10. Buffalo Bills: 7-6 (Last Week: 12)
Lost 33-27 at Tampa Bay
I know that the analytics community hates running backs and the value of a top back is inconsequential compared to other positions. However, the Bills could really use a top-end running back right now. Buffalo did not attempt a traditional running play in the first half, instead calling designed runs for Josh Allen. He was wildly successful, going over the century mark, but so was Devin Singletary in limited opportunities. The Bills need to find balance on offense. It will take some pressure off Allen and could be the difference in close games like this. Buffalo did well to rally, but it should never have been behind by so much in the first place.

Titans logo

11. Tennessee Titans: 9-4 (Last Week: 13)
Won 20-0 vs. Jacksonville
Tennessee has struggled to find an offensive identity since Derrick Henry suffered a broken foot. Turns out, that really didn’t matter on Sunday. The Titans defense intercepted Trevor Lawrence four times and held the Jaguars to eight, yes you read that right, eight yards of rushing. Mike Vrabel will be thrilled his team pitched a shutout, but questions about his offense still remain. It was good to see Julio Jones back on the field, but the former Falcons star has yet to establish himself in this offense. Hopefully A.J. Brown is not far behind Jones for a return to the field.

49ers Logo

12. San Francisco 49ers: 7-6 (Last Week: 15)
Won 26-23 at Cincinnati
San Francisco was definitely a bit fortunate to win this one. Having missed a potential game-winning field goal in regulation, Cincinnati winning the coin toss seemed like the final blow. Instead, Nick Bosa came up with a critical sack to force a field goal and Brandon Aiyuk ultimately tight-roped the sideline for the game winner. While this was an impressive win, it is hard to feel like the 49ers are ready to get on a roll. The offense has plenty of hiccups while the defense is still a bit inconsistent. A very winnable game against the Falcons is up next.

Bengals Logo

13. Cincinnati Bengals: 7-6 (Last Week: 11)
Lost 26-23 vs. 49ers
It would be easy to say these are just the same old Bengals, but the old Bengals would not have even been in this game. Joe Burrow played well, with a pair of scoring strikes. Unfortunately, the offensive line was an issue yet again, surrendering five sacks. Joe Mixon could not get anything going either, averaging 3.2 yards per carry. Cincinnati’s defense pressured Jimmy Garoppolo all day, recording five sacks of their own. Down the stretch though, they had no answer for the passing attack, which ultimately cost them the game. This is the type of loss that could come back to haunt them come playoff time.

Ravens logo

14. Baltimore Ravens: 8-5 (Last Week: 9)
Lost 24-22 at Cleveland
The Ravens showed a ton of heart to battle back from down 24-3 without Lamar Jackson to nearly win this ball game. Tyler Hundley gave the team a fighting chance, leading a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown drives. Baltimore even recovered an onside kick. Unfortunately, the Browns defense came to play. Jadeveon Clowney sacked Hundley on second down for a huge loss and then Denzel Ward finished things off with a great open-field tackle to secure the win. Injuries are catching up with the Ravens right now and we see this team head into a free fall if they are not careful.

Browns logo

15. Cleveland Browns 7-6 (Last Week: 16)
Won 24-22 vs. Baltimore
I can only imagine the headlines in Cleveland if the Browns had managed to blow this game with Tyler Hundley outdueling Baker Mayfield in the process. Kevin Stefanski is very lucky to avoid that media firestorm. Still, there are some concerns for the Browns following this win. Most notably, the offense ground to a halt after halftime as the Ravens pitched a shutout in the second half. That is not a winning formula in the NFL. Cleveland still has so many issues to iron out.

Pittsburgh_Steelers logo

16. Pittsburgh Steelers: 6-6-1 (Last Week: 14)
Lost 36-28 at Minnesota
Give Pittsburgh credit for making this score line look respectable and for nearly pulling off the largest regular season comeback in NFL history, but this was an ugly performance. The Steelers did not score until the two-minute mark in the third quarter. That almost makes their improbable fourth-quarter surge even more impressive, but there is no reason Pittsburgh should ever have been trailing 29-0 in the first place. Lucky for the Steelers, the Ravens and Bengals also lost this week, so they did not lose ground in the division.

Dolphins logo

17. Miami Dolphins: 6-7 (Last Week: 17)
Bye Week
Miami will be disappointed to see Cleveland win as it gives the Browns a leg up in the wild card race. However, losses by the Bills and Bengals means that hope is far from lost. Tua Tagovailoa is finally hitting his stride with a string of solid performances. He is far from lighting the world on fire, but it is major progress for the young quarterback. Now, the Dolphins face a banged up Jets team they beat a month ago.

Eagles Logo

18. Philadelphia Eagles: 6-7 (Last Week: 18)
Bye Week
Eagles fans will be watching the injury report closely this week as they await the status of Jalen Hurts for Sunday’s game against Washington. The team will obviously want to get him back in the fold, but fans might be hoping for another week of Gardner Minshew II, who led Philly to a victory over the Jets in Week 13. It is going to be a long week of speculation either way.

Vikings logo

19. Minnesota Vikings: 6-7 (Last Week: 22)
Won 36-28 vs. Pittsburgh
We have not praised Dalvin Cook enough yet. He miraculously came back from a shoulder injury to start against the Steelers on a short week and took over the game. He finished with 205 yards on the ground along with two scores. It was arguably the best performance we’ve seen by a running back all season. Minnesota’s defense did just, and I mean just, enough to hang on for a much-needed victory.

Denver_Broncos

20. Denver Broncos: 7-6 (Last Week: 21)
Won 38-10 vs. Detroit
Nothing like a visit from the Lions to help wash away the bad memories of losing to the Chiefs. Denver’s running back tandem of Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams both dominated the contest, combining to score four touchdowns on the afternoon. It was an emotional day at Mile High, but the Broncos did Demarius Thomas’ memory proud with a lopsided victory. This sets up a showdown between 7-6 teams on Sunday.

Washington made up logo

21. Washington: 6-7 (Last Week: 19)
Lost 27-20 vs. Dallas
Washington’s winning streak has finally come to an end. Winners of four straight entering Sunday’s game, Washington was on the cusp of being a real problem in the NFC wildcard picture, perhaps the NFC East division race. Instead, Taylor Heinicke and the offense fell flat and it was too much to overcome in the closing stages. He exited with a knee injury and carries a questionable injury tag into the beginning of this week. Unfortunately, four turnovers and five sacks made Washington’s comeback bid ultimately obsolete.

Saints logo

22. New Orleans Saints: 6-7 (Last Week: 22)
Won 30-9 at New York
They might not have faced much resistance, but it is always impressive to drop 30 points on a team while keeping them out of the end zone. New Orleans outclassed New York on both sides of the football. Suddenly, the Saints find themselves back in the playoff fun.

Falcons logo

23. Atlanta Falcons: 6-7 (Last Week: 25)
Won 29-21 at Carolina
Somehow, some way, Atlanta has put itself back in the playoff conversation following an important win over Carolina. Matt Ryan didn’t do much, but he valued the football and that was the difference in the game. The Falcons defense forced three turnovers, including a pick-six by Mykal Walker. A fumble by Quadree Ollison in the final minutes made things a bit more interesting as Carolina pulled within eight, but Atlanta was able to run out the clock. The Falcons are still outsiders in the playoff conversation, but get a chance to make up ground against San Francisco this week.

Raiders logo

24. Las Vegas Raiders: 6-7 (Last Week: 20)
Lost 48-9 at Kansas City
Once again, the Raiders are imploding in the second half of the season. They also looked like a JV team stomping on the Chiefs logo before getting rolled by 39 points. Derek Carr was far from perfect, but got very little help from his offensive skill players and offensive line. There is not much to learn from this game other than the Raiders are capable of being inordinately bad.

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25. Seattle Seahawks: 5-8 (Last Week: 27)
Won 33-13 at Houston
Given how the NFC wildcard race is going, maybe the Seahawks are not out of this just yet. Beating the lowly Texans does not make you a playoff team, but this was a well-rounded performance highlighted by Rashaad Penny’s breakout game. It has been a long time in the making, but the fourth-year back ripped off two 30-plus yard touchdown runs en route to a 137-yard day. Seattle needs to maintain this success in the ground game if it has any hope of making a run.

Panthers logo

26. Carolina Panthers: 5-8 (Last Week: 26)
Lost 29-21 vs. Atlanta
Firing Joe Brady appears to have done nothing in the short term. Carolina continues to struggle with turnovers and inefficiency. It is hard to see things getting much better this season with Christian McCaffrey on the shelf and an offensive line that desperately needs reinforcements. The Panthers defense has not been as dominant as it looked the first half of the year either, but there are only so many change of possession situations that a defense can weather. Matt Rhule’s seat seems to be getting hotter, but I think it just adds pressure to get things corrected for 2022.

Giants Logo

27. New York Giants: 4-9 (Last Week: 24)
Lost 37-21 at Los Angeles
Another week, another disappointing offensive performance for the Giants. Firing Jason Garrett has not done a ton to change the results for one of the most anemic units in the league. Mike Glennon started in place of the injured Daniel Jones this week and it did not go well. He committed two turnovers and failed to crack 200 yards passing in this game.

Bears logo

28. Chicago Bears: 4-9 (Last Week: 28)
Lost 45-30 at Green Bay
This did not feel like a two-score loss for the Bears. In fact, this was some of the best football Chicago played all year. There were wild swings in momentum. Jakeem Grant’s 97-yard punt return put them up by 10 only for Justin Fields to throw a pick-six a short while later to go down 14-10. Fields flashed all of the potential Bears fans hoped to see from him. He had some costly errors, but that’s to be expected from a rookie quarterback. At this point, questions have to be asked of a supposedly great defense that just gave up 45 points.

Jets logo

29. New York Jets: 3-10 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 30-9 vs. New Orleans
One of the tough things about turning over a roster is that when you rip it down to the studs, there is very little depth available for when players suffer injuries. With Elijah Moore and Michael Carter now on injured reserve, New York’s offense is relying on Braxton Berrios and La’Mical Perine. Some of that is on Joe Douglas for not drafting better. Denzel Mims still can’t stay healthy and this defense looks wildly overmatched. Point is, it is really hard to evaluate Zach Wilson when he is throwing to guys who wouldn’t make a lot of rosters around the league.

Lions Logo

30. Detroit Lions: 1-11-1 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 38-10 at Denver
Welcome back down to Earth, Lions fans. Detroit stood absolutely no chance in Denver, as the offense never got going and the defense had no answer for the run game. Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams combined for 194 yards of offense and four touchdowns in the blowout. On the bright side, you can stop worrying about being winless and just enjoy the hype around Michigan being in the College Football Playoff.

Texans logo

31. Houston Texans: 2-11 (Last Week: 31)
Lost 33-13 vs. Seattle
Well at least they scored this week. That’s more than the Jaguars can say. It was a tough situation for Davis Mills to return to as he had to throw the ball 49 times while the run game managed just 2.5 yards per carry. The one thing to take away from this all: Mills means the Texans do not have to reach for a quarterback in April.

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32. Jacksonville Jaguars: 2-11 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 20-0 vs. Tennessee
Trevor Lawrence threw four interceptions as the Jaguars were shutout at home. That barely even made headlines because Urban Meyer is once again in the news for his treatment of players and coaches. It seems like Meyer’s grating personality is taking a toll in Jacksonville and the results on the field don’t exactly give him carte blanche here. Lawrence, the top quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck, has thrown one touchdown pass since the start of November. Getting him trending in the right direction is a must for the Jags over the final four games of the season.

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NFL Draft Daily: Does Bo Nix have a future in the NFL?

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

In a somewhat surprising move, Auburn quarterback Bo Nix announced he is going to enter the transfer portal after graduating from the university. Nix had been a three-year starter and won SEC Freshman of the Year back in 2019.

After arriving in Auburn with a ton of fanfare, Nix is the son of former Auburn quarterback Pat Nix, it seemed like Bo was set to deliver on the hype. He helped take down No. 11 Oregon in his first collegiate game and capped off the regular season with a win over No. 5 Alabama in the Iron Bowl. NFL scouts were certainly paying attention, waiting to see if Nix could take the next step in his sophomore season.

Unfortunately, injuries, inconsistent play and questionable decision making all side tracked Nix over the past two seasons to the point where the NFL does not even seem to be an option at this point. There is zero draft buzz around him despite being a former five-star recruit who just started for three years in the SEC.

His level of play has not really merited much draft consideration, Nix has yet to top 16 passing touchdowns in a season and often struggles with accuracy, but he checks pretty much all of the physical boxes to be an NFL quarterback. At 6’3″ with a strong arm and plus athleticism, he has many of the things quarterbacks coaches crave. Don’t get me wrong, he needs a ton of work on his footwork, processing and decision making, but those are aspects of the game that often improve with repetition and good coaching.

However, Nix was already working with one of the best quarterbacks coaches in the country. Jordan Palmer works with a number of the top college and pro quarterbacks to help them improve their fundamentals and reach their potential. He’s worked with Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow and more in his role at EXOS. Palmer is a huge believer in Nix, saying he thought Nix would be the No. 1 overall pick in this upcoming draft back in March. That obviously won’t come true, but could a change of scenery and continued tutelage from Palmer finally lead Nix to realize his potential?

The NFL seems to have this fascination with the unknown. It’s what makes prospects like Trey Lance and Davis Mills so enticing. It’s why Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold can still net a second-round pick in a trade despite horrible play on the field. The idea of potential is addictive to NFL general managers, scouts and owners. The potential to hit on a prospect no one else saw, or to see a player finally reach their full potential makes them look like the smartest person in the room. They love that sensation.

With that in mind, Nix still has potential. He is only 21 years old and has rare physical gifts that you cannot teach. If he can find a new team and show some development in 2022, he will be worth a draft pick come the 2023 NFL draft. Maybe not in the first round, depending on just how much improvement we see in this hypothetical, but in the second or third round.

The question then becomes where could Nix go to take that next step and get himself on NFL draft boards. Notre Dame immediately comes to mind as Jack Coan will not be back next year. UCF also makes some sense with Nix’s former coach Gus Malzahn calling the shots down in Orlando. I don’t love this one because of Nix’s previous struggles in Malzahn’s system. Cincinnati could also make sense with Desmond Ridder in his final year with the program.

I would love to see Nix land somewhere with a good quarterback coach who can help simplify the game for him and help him grow as a passer. Pairing him with Lincoln Riley at USC feels like a dream, but I have a feeling Riley will stick with one of the young quarterbacks he already has in house. I like UNC as a potential fit with Mack Brown and Phil Longo turning Sam Howell into a solid draft prospect. Perhaps Pittsburgh could be a good fit as well given Kenny Pickett’s development this season. Mark Whipple definitely made a huge difference in his game. Maybe a move to LSU could work, but Brian Kelly does not have his full coaching staff in place yet, so it is hard to tell if that would really be a great fit for Nix.

Ultimately, the chances Nix ends up being a high draft pick or NFL starter look pretty bleak right now. Every year though, we see a quarterback rise up the ranks that just hasn’t put it together yet. This year it looks like Pickett. The year before it was Zach Wilson and the year before that was Joe Burrow. The point is, the door is not closed on Nix’s NFL future. He just needs to get this next move right if he has hopes of playing pro football.

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