NFL Coaching Hot Seat Tracker: Preseason Preview

It’s almost time for football! Training camp is getting underway and the NFL rumor mill is in full effect. Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson and even Chandler Jones could be on the move.

There will be plenty of time to get into all of the potential scenarios for the big names looking for a change of scenery. I wanted to take a look at where every coach in the NFL stands though as we approach the preseason. Every year, we see about seven or eight head coaching openings in the league. Those openings don’t happen without a coach losing his job. Here is an early look at which coaches could be sweating it out at the end of the season. My plan is to update this list at the midway point and again after the regular season.

New York Jets – Robert Saleh
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A rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback. It’s the first time the Jets have ever had both heading into the same season in franchise history. That takes the pressure off everyone here. While seeing a massive turnaround from a 2-14 season would be great, it is not expected. As long as Saleh can show signs that he is putting the pieces in place for future success, that’s all that matters. Besides, after dealing with Adam Gase for two years, Saleh will be a breath of fresh air.

New England Patriots – Bill Belichick
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Could the Patriots really fire Bill Belichick? It feels unlikely. At this point, I think it is more likely Belichick retires or leaves on his own accord than being fired. Still, after a very rocky 2020 season, the Patriots spent a ton of money in the offseason to retool their roster. They also spent a first round pick on Mac Jones. If New England takes a step backward though and the offense flops again, maybe the team could think about making a change. Again, it feels incredibly unlikely, but the expectations are certainly higher for the Patriots in 2021.

Buffalo Bills – Sean McDermott
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The Bills are entering a clear championship window in the final two years of Josh Allen’s rookie deal. Allen took a massive step in 2020 and put together an MVP-caliber campaign. If he can come close to replicating that performance, Buffalo will be very capable of winning its first Super Bowl in franchise history. In order to get to that point, Sean McDermott needs to get the defense back to its 2019 form. With higher expectations comes increased pressure. It would take a truly miserable season for McDermott to lose his job, but he has to deliver.

Miami Dolphins – Brian Flores
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Honestly, if the Dolphins went 0-17 and Tua Tagovailoa lost his starting job to Jacoby Brissett, I think Brian Flores might still keep his job. He is a ton setter and a great culture builder. Let’s be clear, I don’t expect the above scenario to come true. Miami came up one game short of reaching the playoffs in an incredibly competitive AFC. Even if Tagovailoa falters again, I think Flores would get a chance to pick another quarterback and continue building the framework of this team.

Indianapolis Colts – Frank Reich
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Which direction are the Colts headed? The team has a championship-caliber roster in a lot of areas. Their front seven is incredible. The secondary should be even better in 2021. The offensive line is definitely among the top five units in the league. They lack a true No. 1 receiver at this point, but they have depth at the skill positions. It now all falls on Frank Reich and Carson Wentz. Indianapolis acquired Wentz this offseason for a decent amount of draft capital, reuniting him with his offensive coordinator from his early days in Philadelphia. If the Colts struggle in what looks to be a fairly weak AFC South and miss the postseason, there could be some significant turnover in Indy.

Houston Texans – David Culley
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If there was ever a team that could be accused of tanking in the NFL, it has to be the Houston Texans. After releasing franchise icon J.J. Watt amid a massive quarterback controversy on the heels of a 4-12 season, it seems like the Texans are entering a long rebuild. With limited draft capital in recent years, this roster has a massive talent deficit compared to the rest of the league. The roster building is confusing as well, as the team continues to target veteran running backs. Deshaun Watson was likely not going to play this season before his pending legal situation unfolded. Now it seems certain he will not see the field in 2021. All of this is to say, there is absolutely no pressure on David Culley to succeed this season.

Tennessee Titans – Mike Vrabel
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Mike Vrabel has the Titans playing at an extremely high level. They are tough, determined and disciplined, which is usually a product of good coaching. After making a splashy move to land Julio Jones, the pressure is on for Tennessee to make a deep postseason run. With Arthur Smith heading to Atlanta, it is going to be interesting to see if the Titans can maintain their offensive success. A major step backward could see Vrabel come under scrutiny. I think his job is safe, but stranger things have happened.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Urban Meyer
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It is very bizarre to say a first-year head coach is on the hot seat, but Urban Meyer is unlike most rookie coaches. Meyer comes with a ton of clout from his days at Ohio State and Florida. He also just drafted arguably the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck. The heat here mostly stems from Meyer’s checked history with team culture. The league fined the Jaguars $200,000 for OTA violations and slapped Meyer with a $100,000 fine of his own. The fines stemmed from breaking the non-contact rules of OTAs. This comes on the heels of Meyer hiring former Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle. Doyle resigned one day after his hire following a chorus of former Hawkeyes saying he discriminated against them. The Jaguars have a chance to build something special around Trevor Lawrence. There have already been red flags. Jacksonville needs to be sure it has the best possible system in place for Lawrence to succeed.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Mike Tomlin
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With Ben Roethlisberger’s tenure in Pittsburgh seemingly at its end, could the Steelers opt for a fresh start and move on from Mike Tomlin as well? It certainly feels possible. Despite winning the AFC North and reaching the playoffs, Pittsburgh struggled mightily down the stretch, including a dismal playoff loss against the rival Browns. With no clear succession plan in place and a roster coming up against the cap, the Steelers could look to rebuild with a new coach and a new quarterback.

Baltimore Ravens – John Harbaugh
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A few years ago ago, it felt very possible the Ravens were set to move on from John Harbaugh. Baltimore missed the playoffs from 2015-2017. Joe Flacco was struggling. The defense was far from its championship-winning dominance in 2012. Lamar Jackson likely saved Harbaugh’s job. Baltimore is now among the top title contenders heading into 2021. Harbaugh feels very safe, but there is always a scenario where he could not be back. There have been concerns around the Ravens offense being too one dimensional with Jackson at the helm. Finally winning a playoff game took the edge off, but if Baltimore somehow misses the postseason in 2021, the heat will be turned up on Harbaugh.

Cleveland Browns – Kevin Stefanski
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After reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and winning the franchise’s first playoff game since 1994, Kevin Stefanski is among the safest coaches in the league. His run-heavy approach was incredibly successful, utilizing the two-headed attack of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to great effect. Stefanski also put Baker Mayfield’s career back on the right path. Now, there are still questions that persist around Mayfield, but after investing heavily in the defense, he might not need to do much for the Browns to be successful again.

Cincinnati Bengals – Zac Taylor
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Through two years on the job, Zac Taylor owns an ugly 6-25-1 record as a head coach. Some of that is a product of joining a team in the midst of a rebuild, but this is the year to start seeing some progress. Joe Burrow is undoubtedly the quarterback of the future in Cincinnati. Coming off a gruesome knee injury, expectations will be tamped down some for Burrow, but another double-digit loss season could cost Taylor his job. The team needs to take advantage of Burrow being on his rookie contract and can’t afford to waste another year of his development and that salary cap window waiting to see if Taylor can put together a winning formula.

Kansas City Chiefs – Andy Reid
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Unsurprisingly, the pressure seems to be fairly low on Andy Reid. He delivered the franchise its first Super Bowl victory since 1970 in 2019. He led the team back to the big game in 2020 despite having an offensive line decimated by injuries. It cost the Chiefs a chance at repeating, but Kansas City is expected to be among the top contenders to lift the Lombardi in 2021. As long as Reid and Patrick Mahomes are still clicking, the Chiefs are going to be among the best teams in the league.

Denver Broncos – Vic Fangio
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Maybe this is a bit warmer than Vic Fangio truly deserves, but the Broncos are heading into a pivotal season. The team put a lot of faith in Drew Lock by passing on Justin Fields and Mac Jones on draft night. Courtland Sutton is back after missing 2020 due to injury. So is Von Miller. Winning the division is an incredibly tall task at this point with the Chiefs leading the way, but it feels like the Broncos need to be in the playoff conversation for Fangio to keep his job. Another five-win season with suspect quarterback play and a subpar defense is going to trigger a rebuild.

Los Angeles Chargers – Brandon Staley
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Brandon Staley walks into a fantastic situation. He has a talented defense with a number of proven playmakers. He inherits one of the most exciting quarterback prospects in the league in Justin Herbert. Los Angeles is also stocked with some reliable playmakers on offense with Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler. The Chargers are simply looking to take a step in the right direction this year. Anthony Lynn was a good coach, but struggled with time management and maintaining leads. If Staley can show an ability to at least be average in those two areas, he will be a major improvement and the Chargers will be at least a league average team.

Las Vegas Raiders – Jon Gruden
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At what point are the Raiders going to put it all together? Heading into his fourth year of his second stint with the franchise, Jon Gruden has yet to post a winning record or reach the postseason. Las Vegas had its moments in 2020, but on the whole it was a disappointing campaign. If the Raiders don’t show signs of progress, expect a rebuild to follow. Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock have had ample opportunity to shape this team how they want it to. Now it is time for the results to follow.

New York Giants – Joe Judge
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Only entering his second year, Joe Judge might be a victim of circumstance more than anything else if he were to lose his job after this season. New York had a rocky 2020 campaign, finishing 6-10 and struggling to figure out its direction offensively. The Giants are in for a much better season in 2021. Saquon Barkley should be healthy at some point early in the year. Dave Gettleman invested draft capital at wide receiver and edge rusher, two positions of need. However, if Daniel Jones struggles and New York suffers through another 6-10 season, Gettleman will almost definitely be gone and the Giants will be looking to find a new franchise quarterback. If there is already that much turnover, Judge could be gone as well.

Philadelphia Eagles – Nick Sirianni
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It is incredibly rare that coaches are fired after just one season. However, it has also happened twice in the past three years. Steve Wilks only got a single season in Arizona and was fired after 2018. Cleveland canned Freddie Kitchen after a disappointing 2019 campaign. It’s not out of the question for the 2021 season either. I already touched on Meyer. Nick Sirianni is not facing as much pressure as his Jacksonville counterpart, but Philadelphia has never been known for being patient. Sirianni inherits a team with more questions than answers at a number of key positions, namely quarterback. If Jalen Hurts flames out and Sirianni shows no signs of building a positive culture, I could see a scenario where ownership decides to clean house.

Dallas Cowboys – Mike McCarthy
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Speaking of coaches lasting one year with a team, there was some buzz that Mike McCarthy could be done after a single season in Dallas. Even before Dak Prescott went down for the season, the Cowboys looked outmatched. It got much worse after that. McCarthy did enough to somehow earn a second year, but now the pressure is on. Dallas needs to win the NFC East for McCarthy to keep his job. It is an incredibly weak division and the Cowboys have the most talented roster, at least on paper. McCarthy might even need to win a playoff game to truly secure his place in 2022.

Washington Football Team – Ron Rivera
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Ron Rivera seems to have endeared himself well to the fans and to the locker room in D.C. After scraping together a playoff appearance despite a losing record, Washington still has not addressed the quarterback position long term. If it takes a step back in 2021, I don’t think that will be enough to force Rivera out. It would take a truly terrible season to see him lose his job. However, there will be those who feel like Washington’s defense gives them a good chance to repeat as division champions. Expectations lead to increased pressure. Given what we’ve seen in recent years, nothing is out of the question.

Atlanta Falcons – Arthur Smith
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After impressing as the offensive coordinator in Tennessee, Arthur Smith has earned the chance to lead a team of his own. The Falcons are coming off a tough season full of late-game collapses and bad injury luck. Atlanta is caught in limbo as well. They have some veteran players that would make you believe they want to contend, mainly Matt Ryan. The front office gave Ryan a vote of confidence, or realized they could not afford to move him, when it passed on Justin Fields in the 2021 draft. Instead, they grabbed an elite pass-catcher in Kyle Pitts for Ryan to work with. That feels like a move towards contending in the short term. Then, the Falcons traded Julio Jones to Smith’s former team. Like I said, the team is in limbo. I think that bodes well for Smith’s job security while Atlanta attempts to figure out its direction moving forward.

New Orleans Saints – Sean Payton
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It is the end of an era in the Bayou. Drew Brees’ retirement leaves the Saints with uncertainty at quarterback for the first time in a decade and a half. New Orleans is also in salary cap hell after loading up to contend in the future Hall of Famers’ final few years. Now, the Saints seem set for a step backward. Where does that leave Sean Payton? He has shown he can win games without Brees in recent years with Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill stepping in to lead the team when Brees went down with injury. I think the pressure is likely off for Payton in 2021. It is a year for the Saints to retool their roster and identify their new franchise quarterback. If New Orleans tanks, Payton’s seat could get warmer, but I expect him to be back in 2022.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Bruce Arians
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The only way Bruce Arians is not the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2022 is if he decides to retire after the season. Fresh off a Super Bowl victory, the Buccaneers brought back essentially their entire roster to make a run at a repeat. Even if Tampa suffers from a major Super Bowl hangover and misses the postseason, it would be a rash move to fire Arians. He has the trust of Tom Brady, which goes a really long way in securing his position on one of the best teams in the league.

Carolina Panthers – Matt Rhule
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2020 was a rebuilding year for the Panthers. Carolina rebuilt its defense in the 2020 NFL draft, gave Teddy Bridgewater a try at quarterback and lost their best player for most of the season due to injury as Christian McCaffrey played in just three games. Honestly, going 5-11 was a decent feat given how young Carolina’s starters were on both sides of the ball. Matt Rhule has earned the title of one of the best teachers in the game. His coaching skills were showcased during the Senior Bowl this past January. Given that the Panthers made a move to acquire Sam Darnold, I think the expectations will be slightly higher, but I still don’t think Rhule has anything to worry about heading into 2021.

Detroit Lions – Dan Campbell
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If Detroit goes 1-16 in 2021, that might just be mission accomplished for the Lions. Avoiding a winless season and setting the team up to find its quarterback of the future would be a solid start to what will likely be a long rebuild. Dan Campbell likely won’t let any of that happen. He is competitive as hell and I think we could see the Lions win a game or two that they probably shouldn’t simply by putting in a ton of effort. Campbell is going to have his team motivated to play every week. Unless his tough as nails persona rubs players the wrong way in the locker room, I think Campbell will be given a few more years to rebuild this team.

Chicago Bears – Matt Nagy
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Drafting Justin Fields likely takes a little bit of heat off Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace. However, I don’t think it changes a tremendous amount for how this duo needs to approach the 2021 season. It needs to be clear at the end of the year that Fields is on track to be a franchise quarterback and that Nagy is the right person to help him reach his potential. Nagy was lucky to keep his job following a 2020 season where Chicago’s offense was nothing short of anemic. The combination of Nick Foles and Mitchell Trubisky was tough to watch. David Montgomery having a breakout season made up for some of those deficits, but the Bears need to show major progress offensive. It does not mean they will suddenly become the Chiefs or the Buccaneers, but fewer turnovers and sharper play will go a long way.

Green Bay Packers – Matt LaFleur
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Much of how Matt LaFleur will be judged stems from what happens with Aaron Rodgers. Will management blame him for the fractured relationship with the 2020 MVP? Unlikely, seeing as Rodgers’ issues seem to stem more from how the front office operates. There are two ways to spin LaFleur’s tenure in Green Bay. The Packers have reached back-to-back NFC Championship games and dominated the NFC North. For reference, Seattle was the last NFC team to reach back-to-back conference title games in 2012 and 2013. However, unlike the Seahawks, the Packers have been unable to get over the hump. Could another year where the team comes up short in the postseason raise enough questions about LaFleur’s ability to win the biggest games of the year to cost him his job? That seems bold, but don’t rule it out.

Minnesota Vikings – Mike Zimmer
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Mike Zimmer said after the 2020 season that Minnesota’s defense was the worst he ever coached. Enter Patrick Peterson, Mackensie Alexander, Bashaud Breeland, Dalvin Tomlinson, Chazz Surratt and Patrick Jones II. Now, it falls on Zimmer to get the most out of this new talent. Kirk Cousins is locked in through 2022, but another lackluster season from the Vikings could get the wheels turning on a rebuild. Especially if Aaron Rodgers does not play this season, this is Minnesota’s division to lose. Failing to do so would be a major letdown that would likely cost Zimmer his job.

Seattle Seahawks – Pete Carroll
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An underperforming defense, inconsistent play and a disgruntled star quarterback are a recipe for losing your job as a head coach in the NFL. Pete Carroll has the Seahawks in the mix as a playoff regular, but they have not made it past the division round since their 2014 Super Bowl loss. With Russell Wilson complaining this offseason about his offensive line, it certainly will turn up the scrutiny on Seattle’s performance this season. Another early playoff exit highlighted by a team that can’t quite put it all together could spell the end of Carroll’s tenure.

Arizona Cardinals – Kliff Kingsbury
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Entering his third year in charge of the Cardinals, Kliff Kingsbury needs to start producing some results. Arizona came close to reaching the playoffs in 2020, losing the tiebreaker to Chicago for the final spot. However, after starting 5-2, the Cardinals limped to a 3-6 finish. I mean limped literally as well because the team started to struggle right around the time Kyler Murray suffered an ankle injury. Murray still has three years left on his rookie deal, which gives Arizona a fairly lengthy Super Bowl window, but this year feels like an important one to show some progress after signing veterans like J.J. Watt, Malcolm Butler and James Conner to an already talented roster.

Los Angeles Rams – Sean McVay
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While Cam Akers certainly strikes a blow to Los Angeles’ title hopes, it should not drastically change the team’s expectations for 2021. After making the bold move to acquire Matthew Stafford, the Rams are positioning themselves as championship contenders. Taking all of that into account, I still think Sean McVay is entrenched in the organization that he can weather an underwhelming season. Long praised as one of the great offensive minds in the sport, McVay has proven himself to be valuable to this franchise. After all, the team is only three years removed from a Super Bowl appearance. Not to mention, the Rams upset the Seahawks in Seattle with an injured Jared Goff at quarterback. I think McVay is likely safe, but expectations are high for this Rams team heading into 2021.

San Francisco 49ers – Kyle Shanahan
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After slogging through a ridiculous season of injuries, the 49ers seem poised to bounce back in a big way in 2021. However, the team is also facing a changing of the guard at quarterback after selecting Trey Lance with the No. 3 pick in April. I think that actually increases the likelihood Kyle Shanahan keeps his job. He is praised as an offensive guru who has developed several quarterbacks in his coaching career. On top of that, he and general manager John Lynch signed six-year extensions following a Super Bowl appearance. Shanahan will be around for a while in San Francisco.

Way-too-early 2021 NFL Power Rankings

Welcome to the NFL offseason. The Buccaneers put a bow on the 2020 season by steamrolling the Chiefs 31-9 in a lopsided Super Bowl. Now, all 32 teams shift their focus to 2021. After a year like none we have ever seen before, we are heading for an offseason like none before.

There are at least a dozen teams that could make a change at quarterback. The NFL combine will not be taking place as usual either due to COVID-19 restrictions. On top of all of that, the salary cap is set to decrease by close to $15 million. This sets up one of the most interesting and pivotal offseasons in recent memory.

With tons of key players potentially switching teams, there is bound to be a lot of movement in these rankings before we get anywhere close to the start of the 2021 season. As it stands though, this is how each team stacks up following Super Bowl LV, as well as a quick look at each team’s biggest free agents.

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1. Kansas City Chiefs
2020 record: 14-2
Key free agents: WR Sammy Watkins, CB Bashaud Breeland, CB Charvarius Ward, SS Daniel Sorenson, OLB Damien Wilson
Even coming off a drubbing in the Super Bowl, no team is better positioned to make another run at the Super Bowl than the Chiefs. The core of the team is signed through at least 2021 and Kansas City’s front office has done well in recent years to find solid contributors in the draft. As long as Patrick Mahomes is healthy, it is going to be hard to pick against him and Andy Reid.

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2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2020 record: 11-5
Key free agents: WR Chris Godwin, OLB Shaquille Barrett, LB Lavonte David, TE Rob Gronkowski, DT Ndamukong Suh, DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches, RB Leonard Fournette, WR Antonio Brown, K Ryan Succop
Tampa Bay will not be going anywhere as long as they have Tom Brady. Yes, Brady will be 44 next season, but this team is built for success all across the roster. There are a number of critical free agents the team will need to lock up, but players like Gronk and AB are likely to stick around to keep chasing rings. There are probably a few other veterans around the league that would do the same thing. Call it the Brady effect, but this team is going to be a front runner to repeat.

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3. Buffalo Bills
2020 record: 12-4
Key free agents: G Jon Feliciano, OT Darryl Williams, LB Matt Milano, CB Josh Norman, DE Trent Murphy, TE Tyler Kroft
Make no mistake, the Bills are for real. Buffalo has the offensive firepower and defensive grit to be one of the best teams in the league in 2021. Without a ton of crucial free agents, the front office could get aggressive in pursuing another corner across from Tre’Davious White or a more reliable tight end. If Josh Allen can come anywhere close to repeating his performance next year, Buffalo will be back in the postseason.

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4. Green Bay Packers
2020 record: 13-3
Key free agents: RB Aaron Jones, C Corey Lindsley, CB Kevin King, RB Jamaal Williams, WR Allen Lazard, TE Robert Tonyan, DE Montravius Adams
Once again, the Packers found themselves on the doorstep of the Super Bowl, but could not break through. This team is still really close to putting it all together and finally getting Aaron Rodgers his second ring. Green Bay has some key offensive pieces to re-sign in Jones, Lazard, Lindsley and Tonyan, but this roster is pretty solid throughout. With the right additions at cornerback and along the offensive line, this team should be primed for another deep playoff run.

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5. Baltimore Ravens
2020 record: 11-5
Key free agents: OLB Matt Judon, DE Yannick Ngakoue, OLB Tyus Bowser, C Matt Skura, RB Gus Edwards, WR Willie Snead
It was a rocky start to the year, but what we saw from the Ravens in the second half of the season points to this team’s championship credentials. Baltimore has some clear holes to fill in the front seven on defense with Judon, Bowser and Ngakoue all out of a contract. The offensive line could use a boost and Baltimore is desperate for another receiver, but the foundation is still strong.

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6. Cleveland Browns
2020 record: 11-5
Key free agents: OLB Olivier Vernon, SS Karl Joseph, DT Larry Ogunjobi, WR Rashad Higgins
I am very bullish on the 2021 Browns. Cleveland has arguably the best offensive line in the league, a deep group of offensive playmakers and a solid front seven. The secondary should be a bit healthier this season, but the Browns also have enough cap space to make a signing or two to bolster the unit. Baker Mayfield does not need to be Superman for Cleveland to take the next step. If he can avoid turnovers, this team should be in the thick of the division title race.

7. Los Angeles Rams
2020 record: 10-6
Key free agents: C Austin Blythe, OLB Leonard Floyd, RB Malcolm Brown, CB Troy Hill, TE Gerald Everett, SS John Johnson, WR Josh Reynolds, LB Sam Ebukam
Los Angeles created themselves a two-year window to go win a championship by acquiring Matthew Stafford. The Rams’ biggest obstacle to accomplishing that goal will be finding a way to supplement the roster with limited draft capital. L.A. is projected to be $25 million over the cap as of right now. They are likely going to lose a lot of their key role players. Stafford is not a mobile quarterback, so if the Rams cannot find a way to protect him, this is going to be a really ugly collapse.

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8. Seattle Seahawks
2020 record: 12-4
Key free agents: LB K.J. Wright, RB Chris Carson, DE Bruce Irvin, G Mike Iupati, DT Poona Ford, LB Shaquem Griffin, CB Shaquill Griffin, G Ethan Pocic
Seattle played two halves of a great season. The offensive was unstoppable in the first half while the defense looked helpless. In the second half, the offense ground to a halt while the defense found its stride. It all culminated in a disheartening first-round playoff loss. The Seahawks have some critical free agents to re-sign and a number of holes left to fill. Russell Wilson will give them a chance to be great, but the supporting cast is not ideal. Mike Iupati’s retirement is just another sign that this front office needs to invest in the offensive line. If the Texans have taught us anything, it’s that you need to keep your franchise quarterback happy.

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9. Miami Dolphins
2020 record: 10-6
Key free agents: C Ted Karras, LB Elandon Roberts, DT Davon Godchaux, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
It all falls on Tua Tagovailoa now. With a solid amount of cap space, a few premium draft picks and a great coaching staff, Miami seems to have the foundation in place to be successful this year and beyond. The theme of this offseason will be finding Tagovailoa some help. Miami knows it needs to find a No. 1 receiver and to solidify the offensive line. Expect the team to be in the running back market as well. With a strong offseason, the Dolphins could definitely push themselves into the top five.

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10. Tennessee Titans
2020 record: 11-5
Key free agents: WR Corey Davis, TE Jonnu Smith, DT Da’Quon Jones, OLB Jadeveon Clowney, LB Jayon Brown, K Stephen Gostkowski
Tennessee could not take that next step forward after an AFC Championship run in 2019, but the Titans did well to avoid falling apart as well. It is clear the Titans have a formula that works. They just need to reinvest in the front seven on defense to get back on track. Jadeveon Clowney did not work out and you can bet the front office will be looking for some pass rushing help this offseason. Some really interesting free agent decisions exist too in Corey Davis and Jayon Brown.

49ers Logo

11. San Francisco 49ers
2020 record: 6-10
Key free agents: OT Trent Williams, CB Richard Sherman, FB Kyle Juszczyk, DE Solomon Thomas, CB K’Waun Williams, RB Jerick McKinnon, FS Jaquiski Tartt, RB Tevin Coleman
How does a 6-10 team that lost both its offensive and defensive coordinator end up 11th? Well when pretty much your entire roster is hurt and you still find ways to win football games, that inspires a lot of confidence for when you do get Nick Bosa and company back on the field. This is going to be a crucial offseason for the 49ers, who could be a player in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes. Cutting Jimmy Garoppolo would get this team up to roughly $45 million in cap space, so big decisions lie ahead.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)

12. Arizona Cardinals
2020 record: 8-8
Key free agents: CB Patrick Peterson, WR Larry Fitzgerald, RB Kenyan Drake, G J.R. Sweezy, DT Corey Peters, OLB Markus Golden, OLB Hassan Reddick, OT Kelvin Beachum
The future still seems bright in Arizona, even after a rough finish to the season. Kyler Murray is clearly the team’s franchise quarterback. The defense had some bright spots. This team is still a few key pieces away from truly contending and the front office has some tough decisions to make regarding Patrick Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald. Finding a new running back will be on the to-do list as well. This offseason is critical for the Cardinals.

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13. Indianapolis Colts
2020 record: 11-5
Key free agents: DE Justin Houston, DE Denico Autry, WR T.Y. Hilton, S Malik Hooker, CB Xavier Rhodes, TE Trey Burton, RB Marlon Mack, WR Zach Pascal, QB Jacoby Brissett
Not included in that list of free agents are Philip Rivers and Anthony Castonzo, both of whom retired. For the third straight year since Andrew Luck retired, the Colts do not have a plan at quarterback. Perhaps Jacob Eason is the answer, but it is hard to feel too strongly about a player who has yet to attempt an NFL pass. Meanwhile, Indy has a bunch of free agents at key positions on defense and several players close to needing extensions. Thankfully, the Colts have nearly $80 million in cap space to reshape this roster.

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14. Pittsburgh Steelers
2020 record: 12-4
Key free agents: WR Juju Smith-Schuster, RB James Conner, OLB Bud Dupree, OT Alejandro Villanueva, DE Tyson Alualu, FS Sean Davis, LB Robert Spillane, CB Mike Hilton, OT Zach Banner
Pittsburgh’s offensive line is in shambles and Ben Roethlisberger is mulling retirement. Big Ben will probably be back, but the Steelers are going to need to rework his contract to avoid a $41 million cap hit. This offense has a number of critical needs and the Steelers have limited cap space to work with. Maurkice Pouncey is gone as well after announcing his retirement. All eyes will be on the draft for Pittsburgh. Don’t be surprised if a couple of big-name players walk away in free agency.

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15. New Orleans Saints
2020 record: 12-4
Key free agents: QB Jameis Winston, DT Sheldon Rankins, FS Marcus Williams, DE Trey Hendrickson, CB P.J. Williams, TE Jared Cook
When you are $70 million over the cap and your future Hall of Fame quarterback is about to retire, you are in for a pretty steep drop. There is still plenty of talent on the roster, but New Orleans has a number of major question marks. With key players on defense headed for free agency and no cap space to re-sign them, the Saints could be headed for a rebuild. I think they will be aggressive in trying to stay competitive, but it is hard to see the path forward right now.

Cowboys logo

16. Dallas Cowboys
2020 record: 6-10
Key free agents: QB Dak Prescott, DE Tyrone Crawford, LB Sean Lee, C Joe Looney, OLB Aldon Smith, S Xavier Woods
This ranking mostly stems from the belief that the Cowboys will bring back Prescott. Before his injury, Dak Prescott was putting up MVP-type numbers. Dallas’ offensive line was decimated by injuries as well and the defense crumbled. Still, with the offensive firepower at Prescott’s disposal and a number of key players returning from injury, this Cowboys team should be in the mix to win the NFC East.

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17. Minnesota Vikings
2020 record: 7-9
Key free agents: FS Anthony Harris, DE Ifeadi Odenigbo, LB Eric Wilson, LB Todd Davis
The Vikings have very few free agents to tend to. Anthony Harris and Ifeadi Odenigbo are quality starters, but Eric Wilson and Todd Davis were rotational players this year and could easily be allowed to walk. Minnesota’s defense needs a huge turn around in 2021 after a very disappointing 2020 season. There is room for improvement on the offensive line as well. This is a make-or-break year for Kirk Cousins and potentially Mike Zimmer.

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18. Carolina Panthers
2020 record: 5-11
Key free agents: OT Russell Okung, G John Miller, RB Mike Davis, LB Tahir Whitehead, WR Curtis Samuel, OT Taylor Morton
Reports have placed the Panthers in the middle of conversations for Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson. It is clear the front office feels it needs to upgrade at quarterback. With a young defense, there is a lot to like in Carolina. One major area for concern is the offensive line. Three of the team’s starting linemen are headed for free agency. Don’t be surprised if the Panthers spend some draft capital to rebuild their offensive front.

Patriots Logo

19. New England Patriots
2020 record: 7-9
Key free agents: QB Cam Newton, G Joe Thuney, CB Jason McCourty, RB James White, DT Lawrence Guy, C David Andrews, DE Adam Butler, RB Rex Burkhead, WR Damiere Byrd, CB J.C. Jackson, DE Deatrich Wise
New England is primed for a makeover this season with tons of cap space, several key free agents and, potentially, a new quarterback on the way. The Patriots will have a bit more talent, specifically on defense, with several players likely to return after opting out of the 2020 season. Bill Belichick has his work cut out for him to overhaul this roster.

20. Los Angeles Chargers
2020 record: 7-9
Key free agents: OLB Melvin Ingram, TE Hunter Henry, C Mike Pouncey, LB Denzel Perryman, G Dan Feeney
Los Angeles is headed in the right direction, but this team still has a long way to go before it is ready to compete for a title. The Chargers are breaking in a first-time head coach in Brandon Staley and have a patchwork offensive line. Mike Pouncey definitely won’t be back either after announcing his retirement. Justin Herbert gives this team a bright future, but there is still a ton of work ahead.

Giants Logo

21. New York Giants
2020 record: 6-10
Key free agents: DT Leonard Williams, OT Cameron Fleming, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, WR Austin Mack, RB Dion Lewis, RB Wayne Gallman
New York had some significant highs in 2020, taking the Bucs to the brink and beating the Seahawks in Seattle. Unfortunately, those were few and far between. Getting Saquon Barkley back will help this offense, but the team is still lacking playmakers. It seems like Joe Judge has reset the culture though and given the team a much brighter outlook. This defense is underrated and is capable of keeping New York in games.

Bears logo

22. Chicago Bears
2020 record: 8-8
Key free agents: WR Allen Robinson, QB Mitchell Trubisky, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, FS Tashaun Gipson, G Germain Ifedi, DE Mario Edwards
Chicago has a big decision to make this offseason. Consensus seems to be that Trubisky is not the answer at quarterback, but the Bears are not well positioned to find his successor. With Robinson unlikely to return, and an uninspiring offensive line, this is not exactly a prime spot for free agents quarterbacks either. How the Bears answer their quarterback question is going to determine their outlook for 2021.

Washington made up logo

23. Washington
2020 record: 7-9
Key free agents: G Brandon Scherff, DE Ryan Kerrigan, CB Ronald Darby, QB Kyle Allen
Washington’s defense is one of the best in the league. Now it needs to invest its resources in building an offense to match. Alex Smith is one of the league’s best comeback stories ever, but he is not the long-term answer at quarterback. He might not even be the short-term solution. With a sizable amount of cap space, Washington could get aggressive in finding some free agent additions, but everything hinges on the quarterback.

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24. Las Vegas Raiders
2020 record: 8-8
Key free agents: DE Jonathan Hankins, DE Takkarist McKinley, WR Nelson Agholor, LB Raekwon McMillan, OLB Vic Beasley
This franchise has been stuck in neutral for the past five years. Since a short-lived playoff run in 2016, the Raiders have been toiling away in obscurity and mediocrity. Derek Carr likely isn’t the answer at quarterback. Las Vegas’ defense is still one of the worst in the league. This team had it’s moment in the sun after stunning the division rival Chiefs, but it feels 8-8 is the ceiling given who the Raiders currently have on their roster.

Denver_Broncos

25. Denver Broncos
2020 record: 5-11
Key free agents: OLB Von Miller, FS Justin Simmons, SS Kareem Jackson, DT Shelby Harris, WR Tim Patrick, A.J. Johnson, RB Phillip Lindsay
Denver’ s offseason is going to be dictated largely by the decision the franchise makes at quarterback. There is some buzz about Deshaun Watson being interested in the Broncos. Drew Lock is still developing, but if the club is going to make a move like that, it would accelerate this team’s timeline significantly. They still have some key pieces on defense to lock up and a major decision looming regarding Von Miller. There is plenty of room for upward mobility.

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26. Atlanta Falcons
2020 record: 4-12
Key free agents: C Alex Mack, RB Todd Gurley, SS Keanu Neal, S Damontae Kazee, DE Charles Harris, K Younghoe Koo
Where in the world is this team headed? They still have Matt Ryan under contract through 2023 with a pretty easy out after 2021. The future of the club is going to be determined with what the Falcons decide to do with the fourth overall pick. Atlanta has a ton of options. They could find a successor to Ryan, pick their favorite non-QB prospect, or trade down and restock the roster. It is a tough call for new general manager Terry Fontenot.

Eagles Logo

27. Philadelphia Eagles
2020 record: 4-11-1
Key free agents: OT Jason Peters, WR DeSean Jackson, DE Vinny Curry, S Jalen Mills, RB Corey Clement, WR Greg Ward
Carson Wentz is in Indianapolis. Zach Ertz is likely to follow. The Eagles are in salary cap hell and headed for something of a rebuild. Philly has an intriguing young quarterback to work with in Jalen Hurts, but there are question marks all over this roster. Not to mention, the Eagles have a first-time head coach who is a relative unknown. This team does not have the cap space to replenish this depleted roster right away. It is going to be two years before we see the Eagles competing in the NFC East again?

Bengals Logo

28. Cincinnati Bengals
2020 record: 4-11-1
Key free agents: CB William Jackson, WR A.J. Green, WR John Ross, DE Carl Lawson, DT Mike Daniels, K Randy Bullock, P Kevin Huber
The key to this offseason will be protecting Joe Burrow. After the former Heisman winner spent much of 2020 running for his life, rebuilding the offensive line is the focal point. Expect the Bengals to be aggressive in the draft and free agency looking for ways to upgrade its current unit. Cincinnati has a few key free agents as well with William Jackson and Carl Lawson. There is a good chance that one of them departs, opening up another need on that Bengals defense. Cincy will need to stay patient, finding long-term solutions instead of short-team patches.

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29. Houston Texans
2020 record: 4-12
Key free agents: DE J.J. Watt, WR Will Fuller, CB Gareon Conley, CB Vernon Hargreaves, DT P.J. Hall, DE Carlos Watkins
Things look bleak in Houston. Franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson wants out. J.J. Watt is gone. The roster has holes at cornerback, edge rusher, running back and wide receiver, just to name a few. Under normal circumstances, the Texans could be well-positioned to land a top prospect to accelerate this rebuild. Instead, Houston does not have a pick in the first or second round. The organization maintains that it wants to keep Watson and rebuild his trust, but it is looking like this team might be headed for a long rebuild.

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30. Jacksonville Jaguars
2020 record: 1-15
Key free agents: OT Cam Robinson, CB Tre Herndon, WR Dede Westbrook, WR Keelan Cole, WR Chris Conley, CB D.J. Hayden, TE Tyler Eifert, P Dustin Colquitt
A new era is coming in Jacksonville. Urban Meyer takes over as head coach and presumptive No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence will be the team’s new franchise quarterback. Things are definitely looking up, but the Jaguars have a lot of work to do still. Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson offer exciting building blocks on defense, but the cupboard is pretty bare in the defensive playmaking department. Jacksonville’s secondary was one of the worst in the league in 2020. With a number of receivers headed for free agency, there is a clear need there as well. Lucky for the Jaguars, no one has more cap space this offseason, so Meyer and new general manager Trent Baalke will have every opportunity to reshape the roster.

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31. New York Jets
2020 record: 2-14
Key free agents: FS Marcus Maye, WR Breshad Perriman, CB Brian Poole, LB Jordan Jenkins, S Bradley McDougald, CB Arthur Maulet, LB Tarell Basham
The Adam Gase experiment ended with a resounding thud as the Jets played their way out of contention for the No. 1 pick. New York now has a huge decision to make about Sam Darnold’s future. It is very possible he is traded this offseason to make way for a new rookie quarterback selected with the second overall pick. The Jets are also still in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, but it is seeming less and less likely they are the winners. At least the organization landed Robert Saleh to be the team’s next coach. His arrival should bring some much needed leadership to the locker room, but also means a scheme change and a likely massive roster turnover. New York is going to be busy this offseason.

Lions Logo

32. Detroit Lions
2020 record: 5-11
Key free agents: WR Kenny Golladay, DE Romeo Okwara, WR Marvin Jones, DE Everson Griffin, WR Danny Amendola, LB Jarrad Davis, S Durron Harmon, K Matt Prater
Welcome to the bottom of the pile, Detroit. With Kenny Golladay headed for free agency and Matt Stafford now in SoCal, the outlook for the Lions is not very inspiring. It is hard to get excited about anyone on this roster at the moment. Jared Goff gives new coach Dan Campbell a reclamation project, albeit an expensive one. The defense needs an overhaul after some poor roster building in recent years. With a ton of future draft capital now available, the future is a bit brighter in Detroit, but 2021 is going to be a year where this team bottoms out, sheds veteran contracts and looks to rebuild the foundation of the franchise.

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2020 NFL Awards: Picking the MVP, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year and more

The NFL regular season is officially over! It was a wild year with elements that no other NFL season has ever faced. Between social justice initiatives (that have very noticeably faded as the year has gone on), COVID-19 and no offseason, there is no question that this season will be remembered forever.

Now that we are headed for the playoffs, it is time to hand out some end of the season awards. This has been one of the most fascinating MVP races in recent memory. Defensive Player of the Year is crazy competitive as well. There could be some history made with the Offensive Player of the Year award as well.

Let’s make this clear, I am not predicting who will win these awards, simply deciding who I would vote for if I had a vote in these types of situations. There were some really tough decisions to make, so I did my best to break down why I chose these players (or coaches) to win in each category. Let’s (hypothetically) hand out some hardware!

Coach of the Year

3. Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland Browns
When you end an 18-year playoff drought, you end up getting some love for Coach of the Year. Kevin Stefanski has turned the Browns around very quickly. A year ago, the Browns were a 6-10 team without much leadership. Now, Cleveland is headed to the playoffs at 11-5 and there is stability in the locker room. Stefanksi deserves a ton of credit for finally getting this team over the hump. The five-game jump they made this year is tied for the biggest turnaround in the league. This team still has some major shortcomings and has gotten blownout a few too many times, but Stefanski has really pushed them further than any coach in recent memory has.

2. Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills
While they did not make the same level of a jump as some of the other teams in the league this past season, it was hard to improve a whole lot from a 10-6 record a year ago. Buffalo still won three more games this year, locking up the No. 2 seed in the AFC and looking incredibly consistent in the process. There were some hiccups in the form of an early-season blowout against the Titans. The defense also unquestionably took a step backwards, but the Bills still competed with some of the top teams in the league and won their first division title since 1995. Sean McDermott did an excellent job leading this group and this team is poised to win its first playoff game in 25 years.

1. Brian Flores, Miami Dolphins
No team outperformed expectations more than the Dolphins this year. Brian Flores deserves so much credit for turning this team around in such a short time. Miami’s roster is full of unheralded names, players looking for a second chance and young players still learning how to acclimate with the NFL. Flores got the most out of that talent, handling a complicated quarterback situation in the process. While the regular-season finale leaves a sour taste in the mouth of Dolphins fans, finishing 10-6, one game out of the playoffs is a massive accomplishment. It bodes well for the future of the franchise and it is clear Miami has a leader in place to build behind.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

3. James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
My third spot came down to James Robinson and Jonathan Taylor. I gave the edge to Robinson in the end for being a more consistent presence on the Jaguars offense throughout the season. Keep in mind, this was a 1-15 team. Jacksonville started three different quarterbacks and none of them were good. His offensive line is not a great one either. Yet, Robinson still finished tied for fifth in rushing yards and scored ten total touchdowns. He provided a ton of stability on an offense that had very little. Is Taylor more talented? Absolutely. But, I think Robinson had a better overall season, where Taylor essentially just got hot in the final six games of the year.

2. Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings
When you are breaking Randy Moss’ records, you are doing something right. Justin Jefferson had an unbelievable rookie year. He finished with 1,400 receiving yards, fourth-most in the league and most by a rookie receiver in the Super Bowl era, and punched in seven touchdowns. Jefferson showed a great ability to stretch the field as well, averaging the ninth-most yards per reception this season. As if that wasn’t enough, Jefferson dropped just two passes on 125 targets this season. In just about any other year, he likely would have won this award. In 2020 though, there was another guy named Justin who broke a bunch of rookie records this year.

1. Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers
This is just what we all expected, right? The third quarterback taken in the 2020 draft and the guy who couldn’t beat out Tyrod Taylor to start the season wins Rookie of the Year. That’s how it goes down in my book this year. Justin Herbert shocked everyone with the level of dominance he displayed this year. He set tons of records for rookie quarterbacks, including most passing touchdowns (31) in a season and most pass completions (396) in a season. He finished 38 yards shy of Andrew Luck’s record for passing yards by a rookie, becoming just the fourth rookie to pass for over 4,000 yards. Herbert actually averaged the most passing yards per game in NFL history, but didn’t start the first game of the season. He also posted the second-best completion percentage by a rookie ever, trailing Dak Prescott. Give Herbert the award. He has earned it.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

3. Trevon Diggs, CB, Dallas Cowboys
This ended up being a less-than-stellar race for Defensive Rookie of the Year, but there have still been some impressive performances. Trevon Diggs had some rough moments, as you would expect most rookie cornerbacks to when they are thrown into a starting job without an offseason or a preseason. Still, Diggs took his lumps and improved over the course of the season. He finished with a top-20 completion percentage allowed at 54.2 percent. He did give up five touchdowns, but also came up with three interceptions. He missed four games in the middle of the year, which knocks him down a bit, but still put together a solid first year.

2. Jeremy Chinn, S, Carolina Panthers
Is a safety, is he a linebacker? I don’t really have the answer to that one, but he is a damn good football player. Jeremy Chinn burst onto the scene for this young Carolina defense. He led the team in tackles this year and made a big impact with his playmaking. He had two forced fumbles, an interception and two defensive touchdowns. He did struggle in pass coverage, which holds him back from ultimately winning this award, but he feels like a Budda Baker or Jordan Poyer-type asset to this Panthers defense.

1. Chase Young, DE, Washington
This was not the forgone conclusion I think many expected coming into the year. Yet, there is no doubt in my mind that Chase Young should win this award. He is a dynamic player on a super talented defensive line. Young finished the year with 7.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. He didn’t just get home either, he knocked the ball loose, tallying four forced fumbles on the season. Young also recovered three fumbles and scored a defensive touchdown. There are few players who have been such a focal point of opponent’s offensive game plans than Young. I think he comfortably wins this award.

Offensive Player of the Year

3. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
In one of my power rankings a few weeks ago, I noted that we probably take Davante Adams for granted way too often. This is me doing my best to not make that same mistake. In 14 games this season, Adams had an NFL-leading 18 touchdown catches to go along with 115 catches, which is tied for second-most and 1,374 receiving yards, which is tied for fifth. Imagine the numbers he could have put up in two additional games! What I think people overlook is Adams’ ability after the catch, where he put up the second most yards in the league, trailing only Alvin Kamara. Adams is a complete receiver and one of, if not the best one in the game right now.

2. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
Whenever you run for over 2,000 yards in a single season, you end up getting consideration for the top offensive player in the league. Derrick Henry, has continued to show that he is the most difficult running back to stop in the league. He had his fair share of ineffective games this season, but his usage is also one of the most impressive in league history. What limits Henry’s claim to the award is his role as a pass-catcher in the Titans’ offense. He finished the season with just 19 receptions. Henry deserves credit for how dominant he can be on any given week, but I don’t think he managed to outshine the next player on this list.

1. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
This award was first handed out in 1972, and never in its history has it been won by a tight end. That should change. Travis Kelce has, almost quietly, put together the most dominant season by a tight end in NFL history. With 1,416 receiving yards, he broke George Kittle’s record for the most by a tight end in a single season and ranked second in the NFL among all players. He finished tied for fifth in receiving yards and receptions among all receivers as well. What shocks me most about Kelce’s season is that he is third in the league in yards after the catch. As if that wasn’t enough, he has only two drops, one of the best marks in the league. Kelce deserves this award after the season he has put together.

Defensive Player of the Year

3. Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams
By far the most difficult award for me to figure out, Aaron Donald narrowly edges out Myles Garrett for the third spot on the list. A fixture in the Defensive Player of the Year by now, Donald put together another stellar year, racking up 13.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. Both rank among the top six in the league. He once again dominated along the interior of every offensive line he faced. Donald is the best interior pass rusher in NFL history and he has shown no signs of slowing down yet.

2. Xavien Howard, CB, Miami Dolphins
Sure, interceptions are a sexy stat. That only tells half the story for Xavien Howard. He has been targeted a ton this year, and I can’t seem to figure out why. Howard has allowed just 51.5 percent of passes thrown his way to be completed. While Howard did allow four touchdown passes this season, he was still one of the best lockdown corners in the league. Opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of 48.3 when he was in coverage, trailing only Bryce Callahan for the best mark in the league. Between leading the league in interceptions and pass break ups, it is easy to see why he is in the running for the award.

1. T.J. Watt, EDGE, Pittsburgh Steelers
No player in the NFL has been more disruptive for opposing offenses this season than T.J. Watt. He led the NFL in sacks with 15 this season in 15 games and racked up 23 tackles for loss, also the best mark in the league. He also was tops in quarterback pressures and quarterback hits. Simply stated, Watt is the hardest player to stop in the league right now. That is evidenced even more so by him having the best pass-rush win rate in the league. ESPN detailed earlier this year how Watt has the fastest pass-rush get off in the league. Teams have had all year to try to figure out how to stop him, and right now, no one has an answer for Watt.

MVP

3. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
A few weeks ago, it seemed like Patrick Mahomes was running away with the award. Then he just kind of slowed down. He still put together a fantastic season. Mahomes finished with an impressive 38 touchdowns to just six interceptions. His 4,740 passing yards ranked second in the NFL, behind his draft mate Deshaun Watson. The biggest knock on Mahomes is his completion percentage, which is still solid at 66 percent. However, that ranks 16th in the league overall. Mahomes absolutely deserves to be an MVP finalist, but I don’t think he did enough to win the award again.

2. Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills
If you asked me at the beginning of the year, I would never have believed Josh Allen would be in the MVP conversation. Yet, here we are. Allen scored 45 total touchdowns in 2020, 37 through the air and eight on the ground. What has really jumped him from fringe starter to elite quarterback though has been his improved accuracy. Allen has always had a rocket for an arm, but he polished his technique. His completion percentage jumped up to 69.2 this year, the fourth-best mark in the league. As a result of all of this, he has the fourth-best passer rating and third-best QBR in the NFL. He has led this Bills offense that is solid, but lacks elite playmakers to a 13-3 record and put together a season that in most years would be enough to win this award. Unfortunately, he had to come up against this next guy.

1. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
It took me a while to recognize just how great Aaron Rodgers has been this year, but I’m not missing it now. With 48 touchdowns, only five interceptions and a passer rating over 120, Rodgers put together one of the greatest seasons by a quarterback in NFL history. His QBR and completion percentage were the best in the league as well. What is even more impressive than any of that though is Rodgers throwing a touchdown on 9.1 percent of his passes this year. Russell Wilson had the second-best mark at 7.2 percent. Only Peyton Manning in 2004 and Ken Stabler in 1976 had better marks in the Super Bowl era. Without a doubt, Rodgers is deserving of the award this year.

2020 NFL Power Rankings: Week 16

The unimaginable happened in Week 15. The Jets won a football game and this time they didn’t blow it in the final seconds either. Of course, there have been tons of jokes about New York not even being able to tank right, but I am happy to see the team avoid an 0-16 finish. I will talk more about that in the Jets’ section.

In other news, the Steelers inexplicably lost a third straight game, this time to the Bengals starting Ryan Finley at quarterback. Drew Brees looked like a man that has not played football in close to a month in his return from injury as the Saints lost their second straight game. Elsewhere, the Bears climbed back into the postseason picture and the NFC East continues to get more interesting. This is where I see each team following 15 weeks of action.

Chiefs Logo

1. Kansas City Chiefs: 13-1 (Last Week: 1)
Won 32-29 at New Orleans
Kansas City continues to weather the regular-season storm. New Orleans kept things close early, but Patrick Mahomes and company stepped up in the second half to close it out. Unfortunately, the Chiefs likely lost Clyde Edwards-Helaire for the rest of the regular season and possibly longer. On the bright side, winning either of their final two games will lock up the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

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2. Green Bay Packers: 11-3 (Last Week: 2)
Won 24-16 vs. Carolina
It wasn’t the prettiest win the Packers have ever had, but they got the job done and extended their lead over the rest of the NFC. Aaron Jones rumbled for 145 yards and a touchdown in the win. Green Bay needs to play a bit more evenly after several offensive lulls in this contest. That won’t fly in the playoffs.

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3. Buffalo Bills: 11-3 (Last Week: 3)
Won 48-19 at Denver
Buffalo beat the doors off Denver behind another masterful performance from Josh Allen. He got plenty of help with 149 yards from the duo of Devin Singletary and Zack Moss. The Bills defense also continued its late-season resurgence with its second defensive touchdown in as many weeks. This version of the Bills is going to be really tough to beat in the playoffs.

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4. New Orleans Saints: 10-4 (Last Week: 4)
Lost 32-29 vs. Kansas City
Drew Brees looked very rusty in his return from injury. He completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes and threw a costly interception in the loss. It was not a great game from the Saints defense either, save a strip sack of Patrick Mahomes. Hopes of winning the NFC have pretty much vanished. New Orleans needs to right the ship over the next two weeks to build some momentum for the postseason.

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5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 9-5 (Last Week: 7)
Won 31-27 at Atlanta
It was a slow start from the Buccaneers, but Tom Brady got the best of the Falcons when it mattered once again. He aired it out for 390 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The offense certainly missed the presence of Ronald Jones. However, it is the defense that had the most concerning performance. Matt Ryan finished with over 350 yards and three touchdowns. After a strong start, the Bucs are 3-3 in their last six and could use a jolt heading into the final stretch.

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6. Miami Dolphins: 9-5 (Last Week: 8)
Won 22-12 vs. New England
Miami officially put New England in its rearview mirror, at least for 2020. The Dolphins ended the Patriots’ 12-year postseason streak with a strong ground game and some stingy defense. It was another lackluster game from Tua Tagovailoa passing the ball, but he punched in two rushing touchdowns to earn the victory. With DeVante Parker and Myles Gaskin potentially returning soon, the offense should get a much-need jolt.

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7. Seattle Seahawks: 10-4 (Last Week: 9)
Won 20-15 at Washington
The Seahawks ground out a crucial victory to reclaim the lead in the NFC West. Washington’s defense posed a number of issues, holding Russell Wilson to 121 yards passing and just one touchdown. Seattle’s defense pulled through with four sacks and a pair of interceptions. It was a gritty win, the type the Seahawks will likely need to pull off at least once in the postseason.

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8. Baltimore Ravens: 9-5 (Last Week: 10)
Won 40-14 vs. Jacksonville
Lighting up the Jaguars is hardly difficult these days, but it is still promising to see this offense continuing to click. Lamar Jackson put together another big performance, this time through the air as well as on the ground. Defensively, Baltimore stuffed James Robinson. He managed just 2.2 yards per carry. Gardner Minshew might have had two touchdowns, but it was too late to matter. The Ravens were in control throughout this one.

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9. Cleveland Browns: 10-4 (Last Week: 12)
Won 20-6 at New York
After weeks of taking a backseat, it was the Browns defense who got top billing in this one. Cleveland kept New York out of the end zone, limiting its scoring to a pair of field goals. The Browns played a lot of bend but don’t break possessions, allowing the Giants to drive into the red zone, but coming up with huge stops when Joe Judge decided to go for it on fourth down. There is still plenty of room for the defense to improve, but they deserve credit for how they handled this game.

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10. Tennessee Titans: 10-4 (Last Week: 13)
Won 46-25 vs. Detroit
Don’t look now, but the Titans are picking up steam. After getting shelled in the first half of its Week 13 game against Cleveland, Tennessee has outscored its opponents 105-41 over the past 10 quarters of play. Ryan Tannehill is spreading the ball around and Derrick Henry is tossing defenders across the field. If the Titans can rediscover their pass rush, this team could be poised for another deep postseason run.

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11. Indianapolis Colts: 10-4 (Last Week: 11)
Won 27-20 vs. Houston
For the second time in three weeks, the Colts stymied the Texans at the goal line with a timely fumble recovery to preserve a victory. It was far from Indianapolis’ best defensive game as it gave up 373 passing yards to Deshaun Watson. However, it made the big play when it mattered and kept pace with the Titans in the AFC South.

Pittsburgh_Steelers logo

12. Pittsburgh Steelers: 11-3 (Last Week: 5)
Lost 27-17 at Cincinnati
Now the sky is falling in Pittsburgh. This team has completely forgotten how to run its offense. Ben Roethlisberger is missing open receivers, players are not on the same page and these mistakes are putting the defense in impossible situations. All of Cincinnati’s first-half points came off turnovers. Mike Tomlin needs to get this team back to basics, and fast. The Steelers are in danger of blowing the division lead.

13. Los Angeles Rams: 9-5 (Last Week: 6)
Lost 24-21 vs. New York
I still don’t know what happened. If this was not the most embarrassing loss in franchise history, it has to be close to the top. New York was fresh off a 40-3 beatdown against Seattle. Los Angeles didn’t even have to travel! As has been the issue all season, the offense was out of rhythm and that cost the Rams a winnable game. L.A. is now facing a potential road playoff game.

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14. Arizona Cardinals: 8-6 (Last Week: 14)
Won 33-26 vs. Philadelphia
In one of the most exciting games of the weekend, Kyler Murray outdueled the man who followed him at Oklahoma. The Cardinals’ defense made life difficult on Jalen Hurts though with six sacks, bringing their total over the past two weeks up to 14! On offense, it was one of Murray’s best games of his young NFL career. He finished with 406 passing yards and four total touchdowns. He has still not looked quite the same running the ball since he suffered that shoulder injury, but this was a big win for the Cardinals as they continue to fight for the NFC’s final wildcard spot.

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15. Chicago Bears: 7-7 (Last Week 23)
Won 33-27 at Minnesota
After looking like they were dead in the water, the Bears have roared back into the playoff chase, sitting one game back of the Cardinals. Mitchell Trubisky continues to show signs of his 2018-level of play while David Montgomery is quietly having one of the best second halves of any running back in the league. This team seems to have found its footing at the right time.

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16. Washington: 6-8 (Last Week: 15)
Lost 20-15 vs. Seattle
Washington holds onto its lead in the NFC East, but that cushion shrunk as the Cowboys are now just one game back in the division as well. Dwayne Haskins’ continued ball-security problems showed up again with two more interceptions. In a five-point game where the defense limits one of the best quarterbacks in the league to just 121 passing yards, those are back-breaking mistakes. Now, Haskins’ status for Week 16 is in doubt due to some off-the-field issues with Washington’s season hanging in the balance.

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17. Dallas Cowboys: 5-9 (Last Week: 25)
Won 41-33 vs. San Francisco
Could the Cowboys really run the table? Dallas picked up another win, this time without Ezekiel Elliott. The defense is still one of the worst, if not the worst in the league, but it has been opportunistic. Two forced fumbles gave the offense a big boost. CeeDee Lamb’s return touchdown on the onsides kick sealed it. Dallas is winning the turnover battle and making plays on special teams. That is a recipe for success.

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18. San Francisco 49ers: 5-9 (Last Week: 17)
Lost 41-33 at Dallas
Another tough loss for the short-handed 49ers eliminates them from postseason contention. No team has had to adapt more in 2020 than San Francisco, who is now playing home games in Arizona. This team is not going to need a rebuild as much as it needs a refresh and to get healthy. A new quarterback and a few extra pieces on defense could get the Niners back in Super Bowl contention.

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19. Minnesota Vikings: 6-8 (Last Week: 18)
Lost 33-27 vs. Chicago
Minnesota’s playoff hopes took another massive blow. The defense could not slow down David Montgomery, who racked up 146 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Kirk Cousins played well enough, but once again, the Vikings came up short. They are still in contention for the final wildcard spot, but the path looks extremely unlikely at this stage.

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20. Philadelphia Eagles: 4-9-1 (Last Week: 24)
Lost 33-26 at Arizona
The Jalen Hurts show went on the road and nearly picked up a crucial win. Unfortunately, the offensive line fell apart and Hurts was sacked six times in the contest. Meanwhile, the Eagles stay alive in the division race with a Washington loss. Philly now needs to win out to reach the playoffs. With games against Washington and Dallas coming up, the NFC East is going to go down to the wire. Of every team in the division, the Eagles somehow seem to have the best quarterback situation all of a sudden.

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21. New England Patriots: 6-8 (Last Week: 16)
Lost 22-12 at Miami
It is time for the Patriots to take a long look in the mirror. After years of lording over the NFL, New England has quickly sunk to mediocre. Now, the team will get reinforcements with players returning from opt outs in 2021, but this roster desperately needs to be turned over. It will start with figuring out a new direction at quarterback. Cam Newton continues to show he is not “the guy,” and it seems like the organization is not trusting Jarrett Stidham. A big offseason awaits the Pats.

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22. New York Giants: 5-9 (Last Week: 19)
Lost 20-6 at Cleveland
Colt McCoy couldn’t work his magic to pull off another stunning upset. You have to give Joe Judge credit for playing to win and stay aggressive throughout the game. Unfortunately, this is a young Giants team struggling to compete with tons of injuries at key positions. Not to mention, the team lost a pair of coaches and their star corner this week before playing. New York’s postseason hopes look rather bleak though with a trip to Baltimore up next.

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23. Carolina Panthers: 4-10 (Last Week: 22)
Lost 24-16 at Green Bay
Carolina did its best to slow down Aaron Rodgers. It forgot to plan for the other Aaron though. Aaron Jones gashed the Panthers defense for 145 yards and a score. This team is still rebuilding, which became even more evident on Monday when general manager Marty Hurney was fired. As the Panthers head for a top-five pick, it will be interesting to see if this team decides to take a young quarterback to take over, or will the front office build around Teddy Bridgewater. Carolina is an interesting team to watch this offseason.

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24. Las Vegas Raiders: 7-7 (Last Week: 20)
Lost 30-27 vs. Los Angeles
Don’t let the record fool you, the Raiders are terrible right now. Las Vegas has now lost four of five, and the one game they did win in that stretch came on a Hail Mary against the Jets. It is clear that this defense is not talented enough to compete. The Raiders will need to invest some serious resources to rebuild it this offseason and potentially search for a new quarterback.

25. Los Angeles Chargers: 5-9 (Last Week: 28)
Won 30-27 at Las Vegas
Make that back-to-back wins for the Chargers, who continue to show grit following their 45-0 drubbing against the Patriots. Despite the improved play of late, Anthony Lynn’s job should still be under scrutiny. Los Angeles seems to have its quarterback of the future on the roster and a solid young group around him. The team’s leadership needs to be sure Lynn is who they want to head into the future with. This offseason would be the time to make the change if there are any doubts within that organization.

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26. Houston Texans: 4-10 (Last Week: 26)
Lost 27-20 at Indianapolis
Another close divisional loss sinks the Texans lower and lower into the misery that is their future. This team has a few talented players and one of the best young quarterbacks in the league. However, it doesn’t have a permanent coach or general manager and has very little draft capital to rebuild a talent-deprived roster. It is a long road ahead for the Texans.

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27. Denver Broncos: 5-9 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 48-19 vs. Buffalo
Drew Lock’s play of late is raising more questions than it answers. After a strong performance in Week 14, he regressed again, managing a pedestrian 4.1 yards per attempt as he finished with just 132 passing yards. That doesn’t even account for the strip sack returned for a Bills’ touchdown. Lock got very little help from his defense though, as Denver let Josh Allen do whatever he wanted to. While it might be tempting to tear it down and star over, there are a lot more holes on this roster.

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28. Detroit Lions: 5-9 (Last Week: 27)
Lost 46-25 at Tennessee
Another week, another dismal defensive performance. Lions defenders are out here getting tossed around the field by Derrick Henry and letting Ryan Tannehill spout off for a nearly perfect day passing the ball. In yet another lost season for Detroit, this team is now officially back to square one. There are questions about Matt Stafford’s durability and the team is once again looking for a new coach. There is a reason why this franchise has not won a playoff game since 1991.

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29. Atlanta Falcons: 4-10 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 31-27 vs. Tampa Bay
2020 has been a really hard year for everyone for some really serious, real-world reasons. If you want to focus on sports though, no one has had it worst than fans in Atlanta. Between the Braves 3-1 collapse and the Falcons blowing at least one three-score lead per month, it has been brutal supporting the local teams. On the bright side, Matt Ryan looked much better. Unfortunately, the team is trending toward a top-five pick with more questions than it has answers.

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30. Cincinnati Bengals: 3-10-1 (Last Week: 30)
Won 27-17 vs. Pittsburgh
Bengals fans rejoice! Your team knocked off the Steelers and kept your hold on the No. 3 pick in the draft! Cincinnati played its best defensive game of the year, frustrating Pittsburgh’s offense all night long. It was opportunistic and made some clutch plays to secure a very exciting victory. These final few games will be great for the front office to continue to evaluate the roster while planning for its future with Joe Burrow.

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31. Jacksonville Jaguars: 1-13 (Last Week: 31)
Lost 40-14 at Baltimore
Congratulations Jaguars fans! Your team is now two losses away from landing Trevor Lawrence! With Jacksonville losing it’s 13th straight game and the Jets somehow knocking off the Rams, the Jags are in line to land the first overall pick. It hasn’t really been a fun season, but the outlook for the team under a new general manager with the best quarterback prospect to come out since Andrew Luck is incredibly exciting.

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32. New York Jets: 1-13 (Last Week: 32)
Won 24-21 at Los Angeles
This was easily the most disappointed I’ve ever been after a Jets win in my life. I am thrilled the team will not finish 0-16. I really wanted them to avoid making that type of history. However, it is bittersweet, because I know how much of a difference Trevor Lawrence could make to this franchise. However, this could also open up a world of possibilities for the offseason. What the Jets decide to do with the No. 2 pick will be one of the biggest talking points of the offseason. For the next two weeks though, I will be rooting for the Bears and the Colts to slip up big time against the Jaguars and open the door for the Jets to reclaim the top spot in the draft.

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2020 NFL Power Rankings: Week 15

For the second time this year, I am going to use this space to encourage everyone reading to vote. And this time, it is for something far less important.

Voting for the 2020 NFL Pro Bowl closes on Thursday. I still do not really understand why the league closes voting with three weeks left to play in the season, but that’s a different argument to make.

We are given the power to help decide who reaches the NFL’s All-Star game! Granted, there is no football game being played this year, but a Pro Bowl appearance makes a huge difference in players’ careers. Often times when players are being considered for the Hall of Fame, voters will look at how many Pro Bowl appearances they made during their NFL career. Some players have specific bonuses and salary elevators attached to Pro Bowl appearances.

You can cast your votes at https://www.nfl.com/pro-bowl/ballot/. Have some fun shaping the future of the NFL and rewarding these players with some well-earned recognition!

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1. Kansas City Chiefs: 12-1 (Last Week: 1)
Won 33-27 at Miami
It was far from Patrick Mahomes’ best game as a pro, but the Chiefs ground out a tough victory over the Dolphins. After a rocky start, Kansas City’s defense stood strong. As a unit, it sacked Tua Tagovailoa four times and held Miami to just 3.3 yards per carry. Mahomes, despite his three interceptions, did finish with close to 400 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns. If there is one concern surrounding this team right now, it is the ground game. Clyde Edwards-Helaire averaged just two yards per carry throughout the game. As they get deeper into the season and play in some bad weather games, establishing the run is going to become important.

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2. Green Bay Packers: 10-3 (Last Week: 4)
Won 31-24 at Detroit
If the Packers drafted Jordan Love for the purpose of firing up Aaron Rodgers, mission accomplished. Rodgers leads the league in passing touchdowns and has just four interceptions so far this season. This is supposedly without much of a supporting cast. At least that was the chatter about Green Bay all offseason. Rodgers needed another receiver other than Davante Adams to rely on. Turns out, he has plenty of other options to work with, namely Robert Tonyan and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. With the Saints losing this weekend, the Packers are now in line to earn a first-round bye. They have no margin for error right now, but hold the tiebreaker over the Saints.

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3. Buffalo Bills: 10-3 (Last Week: 5)
Won 26-15 vs. Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh has been struggling of late, but this is a huge win for Buffalo. The Bills won the AFC East for the first time since 1995 (good year, by the way). So yes, huge. What might be more significant though was the resurgence of Buffalo’s defense. Leslie Frazier’s unit held the Steelers under 250 yards of offense and gave up just two scoring drives all game. It also scored a touchdown of its own when Taron Johnson returned an interception 51 yards to the end zone. Ugly as it might have been at times, winning is all that really matters this time of year and the Bills did so in convincing fashion.

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4. New Orleans Saints: 10-3 (Last Week: 2)
Lost 24-21 at Philadelphia
New Orleans was in the driver seat to take the top spot in NFC heading into the weekend. Dropping a crucial game to a rookie quarterback making his first start in the NFL is a problem. The Saints’ defense had no answer for the Eagles’ rushing attack. After 55 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher, both Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders went over the century mark. This is a major red flag for the defense and an indictment of the offense. Philly’s defense has struggled all year and was missing multiple starters in the secondary. A late touchdown made the score line look more respectable, but the Saints need to step it up down the stretch.

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5. Pittsburgh Steelers: 11-2 (Last Week: 3)
Lost 26-15 at Buffalo
The sky isn’t falling in Pittsburgh, but things are not looking good. Ben Roethlisberger and this whole offense is struggling. The Steelers were unable to crack 250 yards of offense against. I talked about it last week in these rankings as well, this Bills’ defense is not as good as it was last season. Roethlisberger threw two interceptions, including a pick-six. This loss costs Pittsburgh control of the AFC. The Steelers now need the Chiefs to drop a game to have any shot at earning the No. 1 seed in the conference and the first-round bye that comes with it. At this point though, Mike Tomlin just need to rework the approach across the board. Pittsburgh had a great start to the year, but that means nothing if the team collapses down the stretch, there are going to be some serious questions asked in the offseason.

6. Los Angeles Rams: 9-4 (Last Week: 8)
Won 24-3 vs. New England
Los Angeles’ defense is for real. Led by Aaron Donald, the Rams accounted for six sacks and chased Cam Newton from the game. The Patriots finished with 220 yards of offense. Los Angeles now leads the lead in yards allowed per game. The Rams also rank third in sacks and scoring defense. Another huge talking point here has to be Cam Akers’ breakout game. The rookie from Florida State accounted for 194 yards from scrimmage, most of it coming on the ground. Jared Goff didn’t really do much and had an interception, but all he needs to be is average if the Rams can run the ball like this and the defense keeps playing lights out.

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7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 8-5 (Last Week: 6)
Won 26-14 vs. Minnesota
Tampa Bay got a bit of a boost from Dan Bailey missing four different kicks, but this was a complete victory. The defense racked up six sacks and while the offensive line kept Tom Brady clean. Brady, in turn, took care of the football, even if the passing game was not as potent as we have seen it this season. 13 games into the season, it still feels like this Buccaneers team is trying to get on the same page. On paper, they are one of the most talented teams in the league. They just haven’t shown it on a consistent basis.

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8. Miami Dolphins: 8-5 (Last Week: 7)
Lost 33-27 vs. Kansas City
The door is opening for Brian Flores to steal the Coach of the Year award with Pittsburgh slipping in recent weeks. Despite the Dolphins ultimately losing, Miami pressed Kansas City and made life very difficult on Patrick Mahomes. The defense continues to excel this season, even against top-end competition. Tua Tagovailoa is slowly improving. He still makes the mistakes you would expect of an inexperienced quarterback. When you consider how well he performed without any of his top three running backs, the Dolphins can feel good about how close they were. At full strength, it seems like Miami could be very dangerous in the playoffs.

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9. Seattle Seahawks: 9-4 (Last Week: 9)
Won 40-3 vs. New York
Looking for the cure to losing to an NFC East team at home. The Seahawks found it in the form of the team that shares a stadium with the side that handed them their worst loss of the season. Playing the Jets just makes everyone look better (except the Raiders). Russell Wilson had four touchdown passes and the Seahawks rumbled for 175 yards on the ground. Defensively, Seattle had three sacks and held the Jets to just 185 yards of offense. Geno Smith even got some playing time. It does not erase the issues that showed up the week before, but a 37-point win makes it a bit easier to swallow.

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10. Baltimore Ravens: 8-5 (Last Week: 13)
Won 47-42 at Cleveland
While he might not totally be back in his 2019 form, Lamar Jackson is starting to show shades of the play that made him the league’s MVP. He racked up a Monday Night Football record 124 rushing yards and looked electric in the open field. It was the second straight week where the Ravens’ running game looked nearly unstoppable. Now, the defense might need to pull itself together after surrendering 42 points, but it sure seems like Baltimore is headed in the right direction again.

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11. Indianapolis Colts: 9-4 (Last Week: 11)
Won 44-27 at Las Vegas
I think it is safe to say that Jonathan Taylor is finally healthy again. Indianapolis’ rookie running back rumbled for 150 yards and two touchdowns, including a 62-yard scamper. T.Y. Hilton continues his revival as well. He hauled in two more scores and clearly seems to be clicking with Philip Rivers right now. The secondary struggled again, giving up 345 yards through the air, but did intercept Derek Carr twice. The Colts are tricky to figure out, but right now this simply feels like a good, but not great team.

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12. Cleveland Browns: 9-4 (Last Week: 10)
Lost 47-42 vs. Baltimore
It was a loss, but Cleveland proved a lot to the rest of the NFL with this performance. The Browns hung 42 points and pushed the Ravens to the brink on Monday Night Football. Unfortunately, their defense decided to get a head start on the holiday break. The Browns defense surrendered 231 yards on the ground and gave up some big passing plays down the stretch that ultimately cost them. That was also with Lamar Jackson missing almost an entire quarter of action. This is a huge improvement from the 38-6 drubbing they took in Week 1 though and a sign the Browns are a playoff-caliber team.

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13. Tennessee Titans: 9-4 (Last Week: 12)
Won 31-10 at Jacksonville
Tennessee did not let their debacle in Cleveland carry over to their matchup with Jacksonville. The Titans took care of business in convincing fashion. It helps when you have Derrick Henry running over the entire defense. Henry racked up 215 yards rushing and two touchdowns. While many think of Henry as a power back, he has proven throughout his NFL career that he is an effective outside runner as well. The Titans might have another budding superstar as well. A.J. Brown made one of the best catches of the season with one-handed touchdown grab. He went over 100 yards receiving as well. Tennessee benefitted from facing some terrible quarterback play, so it is hard to truly evaluate how the defense fared. Just know that the Titans’ defense is going to need to step up against better competition as well.

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14. Arizona Cardinals: 7-6 (Last Week: 16)
Won 26-7 at New York
Where did that pass rush come from? Arizona entered the weekend with solid production from its pass rush, ranking in the top half of the league. Sunday took that to a whole new level. The Cardinals sacked Giants’ quarterbacks eight times, including a franchise-record five takedowns from Hasson Reddick. New York clearly had its struggles and this level of dominance is unlikely to be sustainable, but it is a positive sign for the defense. Kyler Murray has not been as electric since he sustained a shoulder injury against the Patriots. The defense is going to need to step up down the stretch for Arizona to reach the postseason.

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15. Washington: 6-7 (Last Week: 19)
Won 23-15 at San Francisco
This is exactly what we all expected, right? Washington leads the NFC East with a 6-7 record after reeling off back-to-back wins over the Steelers and 49ers. Ron Rivera’s crew also managed to win without scoring an offensive touchdown. In 2020, this is pretty much par for the course, especially for this division. Unfortunately, Alex Smith is dealing with a calf injury and could miss this week’s game against Seattle. That’s a really tough matchup at full strength, which means Washington’s outlook is rather bleak. However, Washington seems to find a way to win, even when it doesn’t make sense.

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16. New England Patriots: 6-7 (Last Week: 14)
Lost 24-3 at Los Angeles
For the first time since 2008, the Patriots will not win the AFC East. With their dismal loss to the Rams and the Bills’ victory over the Steelers, New England now has to hope for a miracle run at a wildcard spot. Those prospects are looking pretty slim as well. While the Patriots defense has actually held up pretty well despite all the absences this year, it is clear the offense needs some major turnover. The offensive line struggled on Thursday night and the Pats clearly have a need at quarterback as well. That doesn’t even cover the clear lack of talent at receiver. This is going to be a critical offseason for the Patriots as they truly looked to begin the post-Tom Brady era.

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17. San Francisco 49ers: 5-8 (Last Week: 15)
Lost 23-15 vs. Washington
This was a really tough loss for the 49ers. The defense managed to force Alex Smith out of the game, bringing out Dwayne Haskins. Washington managed a meager 95 yards passing and did not score an offensive touchdown. Sounds like a recipe for a San Francisco victory, but instead the 49ers lost by eight. Two defensive scores for Washington made the difference. It was a matter of the offense not being able to get out of its own way. If the 49ers had just taken care of the football, they would have won this game easily. That is much easier said than done, but this was a frustrating outcome that all but ends the 49ers’ playoff hopes.

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18. Minnesota Vikings: 6-7 (Last Week: 17)
Lost 26-14 at Tampa Bay
This was a tall task, but still a blow to the Vikings’ playoff chances nonetheless. Minnesota should have been a little closer if Dan Bailey could have made a few more kicks, he missed four, but even if he had made all of them, the Vikings still would have lost. While Bailey will take a lot of flack, the offensive line deserves a lot of blame as well. Minnesota actually moved the ball decently well, but had too many drives stall after costly sacks. The Vikings allowed Kirk Cousins to go down six times. It was a lackluster performance from a group that is on the fringes of the playoff conversation.

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19. New York Giants: 5-8 (Last Week: 18)
Lost 26-7 vs. Arizona
The high of knocking off the Seahawks wore off quickly. Daniel Jones played through a hamstring injury and probably wishes he spent the game on the bench instead. He was sacked six times and struggled as a passer. It was clear his lack of mobility limited him throughout the game. Colt McCoy finally came in, but it was far too late. The Giants managed just one scoring drive and fell behind Washington in the division race. The offensive line was atrocious on a day where it really could not afford to be. New York now faces a huge uphill climb.

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20. Las Vegas Raiders: 7-6 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 44-27 vs. Indianapolis
It was another week where the Raiders looked like pretenders, getting blown out for the second time in three weeks. Derek Carr did not have his best game as the offense sputtered. Las Vegas averaged just 3.6 yards per carry and committed three turnovers. The Raiders kept it close into the second half, but went down 44-20 in the fourth quarter after Khari Willis’ pick-six of Carr. A meaningless late touchdown made it look a bit more respectable. If Vegas does somehow limp into the postseason, don’t expect a deep run. This team has some major holes to fill and might need to consider a new direction starting in 2021.

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21. Denver Broncos: 5-8 (Last Week: 23)
Won 32-27 at Carolina
Drew Lock finally looked like the promising passer we saw at the end of last season. He tore up the Panthers for four touchdowns and 280 passing yards. He needed to be on fire as well with the defense giving up six yards per carry and three touchdowns. Strangely, the secondary held up despite missing its top three cornerbacks. It helped that the front seven came up with four sacks, but still an impressive showing under the circumstances.

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22. Carolina Panthers: 4-9 (Last Week: 20)
Lost 32-27 vs. Denver
This is not the type of post-bye week performance you would’ve hoped for from the Panthers. Carolina came out a little flat, finally coming alive in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, 17 fourth-quarter points were not enough to overcome the deficit. Most of the issues started on the defensive side of the ball though. Drew Lock carved up the Panthers’ secondary for four touchdowns and an average of 10.4 yards per attempt. Meanwhile, Teddy Bridgewater did his best to carry the offense without DJ Moore and Christian McCaffrey. There is not much else to play for this season, but Carolina still has chances to gain meaningful experience in these final few games. For such a young team with a new coaching staff, there are still chances to grow.

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23. Chicago Bears: 6-7 (Last Week 26)
Won 36-7 vs. Houston
Chicago bounced back and kept its playoff hopes alive with a crucial win. Perhaps even more importantly, the Bears snapped a six-game losing streak. The pressure that comes to end a skid like that is enormous, so this should provide some immediate relief. Beyond that, Chicago dominated this game. David Montgomery’s 80-yard touchdown run on the Bears’ offensive play was a sign of things to come. Mitchell Trubisky tossed three touchdown passes and the defense wreaked havoc all game long. Seven sacks, a safety and two forced fumbles is the type of outing we have been waiting for all season from this unit. Things just got way more interesting for the Bears heading into the final three weeks.

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24. Philadelphia Eagles: 4-8-1 (Last Week: 27)
Won 24-21 vs. New Orleans
Talk about a spark! Jalen Hurts took the keys to the offense and ran it really well, quite literally. Hurts’ running ability opened up so much for the Eagles, including an 82-yard touchdown run by Miles Sanders. Both finished with more than 100 yards on the ground. Hurts made a few key plays through the air and the defense played one of its best games of the season. While the playoffs are now a longshot for Philly, this is a good sign and makes the team much more fun to watch. Now, what to do about Carson Wentz’s contract….

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25. Dallas Cowboys: 4-9 (Last Week: 28)
Won 30-7 at Cincinnati
Andy Dalton had to feel pretty good about his return to Cincinnati. He tossed two touchdowns and protected the football en route to a big win. He got a ton of assistance from his defense. Dallas forced three fumbles in the contest and Aldon Smith even returned one for a touchdown. This team is still a mess, but it is nice to see the Cowboys play a complete game. Unfortunately, it might be too little, too late if this team is planning on making a run at the playoffs.

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26. Houston Texans: 4-9 (Last Week: 24)
Lost 36-7 at Chicago
This one stings a bit. The one thing Houston could hang its hat on was that they had the right quarterback to lead it into the future. That is absolutely still the case, but it turns out having a good supporting cast can make all the difference. Mitchell Trubisky clearly outplayed Deshaun Watson in this one, turning down the heat on Bears general manager Ryan Pace just a notch for the decision he made back in 2017. Without question, Watson still would’ve been the right pick, but the Bears made life very difficult for him. Watson was sacked six times and watched his teammates cough up the football twice. Needless to say, Watson some help.

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27. Detroit Lions: 5-8 (Last Week: 25)
Lost 31-24 vs. Green Bay
Reality set in for Darrell Bevell as his team came up short against Green Bay. Matt Stafford looked solid if unspectacular. He got very little help from his running game or defense. Aaron Rodgers had all day to pick apart the Detroit secondary. Meanwhile, the Lions finished with just 51 yards of rushing. Detroit is headed for one of the toughest offseasons of any team in the league. With a middling roster, no coach and an aging quarterback, this team could use an overhaul. On the bright side, they aren’t the Jets or Texans.

28. Los Angeles Chargers: 4-9 (Last Week: 29)
Won 20-17 vs. Atlanta
Los Angeles bounced back in a big way from the drubbing it took from New England the week before. The Chargers ground out a hard-fought victory, thanks in large part to the key takeaways on defense. Austin Ekeler looked like the lead back L.A. was hoping for all season, finishing with 148 yards from scrimmage. Anthony Lynn might have saved his job for another week with this win. It is not totally safe yet, but he is still employed right now.

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29. Atlanta Falcons: 4-9 (Last Week: 22)
Lost 20-17 at Los Angeles
Matt Ryan took another step closer to ending his tenure in Atlanta. Ryan cost the Falcons a chance to win this game on several occasions with three interceptions against the Chargers on Sunday. While it is pretty easy to just pin all the blame on Ryan for a disappointing loss, the lack of a run game is pretty significant as well. Atlanta has the third worst yards per carry average in the league after Week 14. Overall, the early magic that seemed to come from Raheem Morris taking over as the coach seems to have faded. The Falcons are still only two weeks removed from a 43-6 romp, but the 4-9 record speaks for itself. Keep in mind the Chargers were coming off a 45-0 loss the week before.

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30. Cincinnati Bengals: 2-10-1 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 30-7 vs. Dallas
Bengals fans might just want to stop watching games on Sundays and go watch Joe Burrow highlights for the rest of the season. For one, Burrow had an exciting start to his Bengals career and is a fun player to watch. Also, the Bengals stink without him. Brandon Allen did manage a touchdown, but it was a brutal game for the Cincinnati offense. Three lost fumbles and a 23-point blow out is always tough. Just remember that things will get better.

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31. Jacksonville Jaguars: 1-12 (Last Week: 31)
Lost 31-10 vs. Tennessee
After a few weeks of competitive losses, the Jaguars resumed the roll of AFC South doormat. Derrick Henry quite literally ran over the Jacksonville defense for 200-plus yards. Even if the defense had shown up, it would not have mattered. The offense was lifeless, failing to get any real traction going. Facing a Titans’ defense that gave up 38 points in one half just a week ago, managed 10 total points in the game. On the bright side, Gardner Minshew and his fantastic mustache are back starting at quarterback starting next week.

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32. New York Jets: 0-13 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 40-3 at Seattle
Did you guys see that Marcus Maye interception? What a play! Oh yeah, the Jets lost by 37, but at least they had one positive highlight and didn’t get shutout! The bar is set sooooooo low for this team right now. Still waiting on that simulate to end of season button.

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