2021 NFL Power Rankings: Week 18

Let’s get ready for Week 18! That still feels weird to type. Normally, the NFL regular season would be finished and the remaining 12 (now 14 teams) would be preparing for the playoffs. Instead, we have another full slate of action with some major playoff implications.

Before we get there though, let’s look back at Week 17. It was a stunner. Two teams reached 50 points, Antonio Brown left during the middle a game that the Buccaneers nearly lost to the Jets and the Titans somehow reclaimed the top spot in the AFC. Let’s get into everything that happened and how these teams stack up heading into this final week of the regular season.

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1. Green Bay Packers: 13-3 (Last Week: 1)
Won 37-10 vs. Minnesota
Green Bay finally shut down Dalvin Cook. The Vikings running back managed a meager 13 yards on nine rushes. Things were so lopsided, Jordan Love got into the game. There are still small areas where the Packers can undoubtedly improve. They settled for field goals early in the game, with both coming from the red zone. Slow starts against quarterbacks other than Sean Mannion could prove to be the difference when the season is on the line in the postseason.

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2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 12-4 (Last Week: 5)
Won 28-24 at New York
Did something happen to the Buccaneers this week? Antonio Brown’s stunning exit overshadowed a lackluster performance, rescued by Tom Brady’s last-minute heroics. For those pointing to this game and Brown’s departure as to why Tampa Bay is in trouble, I wouldn’t be so sure. Brady has won Super Bowls with less talent around him. This defense should get stronger as it gets healthier and there are still plenty of receiving options, highlighted by Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski. The Jets played really well. The Buccaneers didn’t. Tampa still won.

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3. Cincinnati Bengals: 10-6 (Last Week: 8)
Won 34-31 vs. Kansas City
Cincinnati is hitting its stride in these final few weeks of the regular season. This was a massive statement victory for the Bengals. Joe Burrow looks incredible and his connection with Ja’Marr Chase is paying dividends. The defense had a rough start, but bounced back to hold the Chiefs to just three points in the second half. This does not make the Bengals a Super Bowl favorite, especially with them likely needing to go on the road to Kansas City or Tennessee in order to reach the big game. Far from impossible, but a tough task nonetheless.

Chiefs Logo

4. Kansas City Chiefs: 11-5 (Last Week: 2)
Lost 34-31 at Cincinnati
The streak is over and Kansas City got a wake-up call. Andy Reid pointed out the team’s inability to hold their first half lead. It is a bit concerning, with many of the early-season woes that plagued the defense popping up once again. Ja’Marr Chase ran rampant through the secondary, racking up 266 yards and three touchdowns. What’s more, the Chiefs lost their hold on the No. 1 seed in the AFC, meaning they could have to play an extra playoff game and travel to Tennessee in order to return to the Super Bowl. There is a lot on the line in Week 18.

5. Los Angeles Rams: 11-5 (Last Week: 3)
Won 20-19 at Baltimore
Goodness, it is really hard to trust this team right now. Matthew Stafford threw two interceptions, including a pick-six. Sure, he rebounded and led the team on a fourth-quarter game-winning drive. It should not have been needed though. Baltimore is incredibly banged up on both sides of the ball. Joe Burrow shredded this same secondary for 525 yards. This does not bode well for the Rams’ chances at making a deep playoff run. At the same time, L.A. is still in line to win the division in Week 18.

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6. Arizona Cardinals: 11-5 (Last Week: 7)
Won 25-22 at Dallas
What second-half fade? Arizona bucked the trend it established last season and seemed to be headed again this year with a crucial win in Dallas. The Cardinals shut down the Cowboys’ run game, holding them to just 2.6 yards per carry. Arizona’s own offense was nothing special, but did enough to get the job done. Antoine Wesley stepped up with a pair of touchdown catches. He seems poised to bridge the gap until DeAndre Hopkins returns. If the Cardinals can get healthy, they are going to be tough to beat in the postseason.

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7. Dallas Cowboys: 11-5 (Last Week: 4)
Lost 25-22 vs. Arizona
Seems like that 56-point outburst was just a fluke. The Cowboys continue to struggle offensively and will not have to forge on without Michael Gallup, who reportedly suffered a torn ACL in the loss on Sunday. Dak Prescott played really well, but he was asked to do too much in the absence of a reliable ground game. A costly fumble by Prescott was likely the difference in the game, as Dallas’ defense failed to generate any turnovers. All is not lost, but this is a significant blow.

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8. Buffalo Bills: 10-6 (Last Week: 9)
Won 29-15 vs. Atlanta
Josh Allen turned in one of his worst performances in years, but the Bills finally found a successful ground game to lead the way. Devin Singletary’s 110 yards and two touchdowns helped take the sting out of Allen’s three interceptions. He added 81 yards and two rushing touchdowns of his own, but Buffalo will certainly need more for its passing game in the playoffs. Thankfully, the defense stepped up five sacks as well and clinched a third straight playoff berth.

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9. Tennessee Titans: 11-5 (Last Week: 11)
Won 34-3 vs. Miami
The Titans have very quietly continued to win and reclaimed their No. 1 seed in the AFC following the Chiefs’ loss against the Bengals. This win was a dominant one as well. D’Onta Foreman rumbled for 132 yards and a score, while Dontrell Hilliard added 45 yards and a touchdown of his own. If Tennessee can hold off Houston to secure the top spot in the conference, it would secure home field advantage and a first-round bye. That would be crucial in letting Derrick Henry heal up for a potential postseason run. If he looks anything like his early-season form, look out.

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10. Indianapolis Colts: 9-7 (Last Week: 6)
Lost 23-20 vs. Las Vegas
A costly loss for the Colts puts them in jeopardy of missing the playoffs. Carson Wentz had a fairly underwhelming performance as the offense sputtered down the stretch. The defense did its job for the most part, producing two interceptions. However, an inability to contain Hunter Renfrow and Zay Jones ultimately cost them the game. Thankfully, the Jaguars are all that stand between the Colts and a return to the postseason, but this takes a lot of wind out of Indianapolis’ sails.

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11. New England Patriots: 10-6 (Last Week: 10)
Won 50-10 vs. Jacksonville
If this is not a testament to how much better the Patriots are as a franchise than the Jaguars, then I don’t know what is. Mac Jones was nothing shy of spectacular, which stood out in stark juxtaposition to his fellow rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Jones had plenty of help, whereas Lawrence essentially had none. New England racked up 181 yards and four rushing touchdowns, while the defense came up with three interceptions. The Pats bounced back in a big way following a deflating loss to the Bills, but now they need to continue to build that momentum heading into the postseason, especially with a chance to win the AFC East.

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12. San Francisco 49ers: 9-7 (Last Week: 13)
Won 23-7 vs. Houston
Trey Lance flashed his immense potential, but it is clear that this team’s best chance to win is with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback. At least for now. Lance struggled for much of the first half, but finally came alive in the second half with a pair of touchdowns. Elijah Mitchell led the way on the ground with 119 yards while the defense clamped down on Davis Mills. Despite the positive result, the path to the playoffs is still far from clear. San Francisco controls its own fate, but needs to beat Los Angeles, who needs a win to secure the NFC West title, in order to lock up a postseason spot. A loss opens the door for the Saints to keep the 49ers out.

13. Los Angeles Chargers: 9-7 (Last Week: 14)
Won 34-13 vs. Denver
Los Angeles turned it around after falling flat on its face in Week 16. It wasn’t the prettiest game ever from the offense. The Chargers managed just three yards per carry, but Justin Herbert took care of the football and the offensive line kept him clean. On defense, L.A. bent but rarely broke. They kept Denver out of the end zone until late in the fourth quarter. This sets up a huge showdown with the Raiders in Week 18. The winner earns a playoff berth.

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14. Las Vegas Raiders: 9-7 (Last Week: 17)
Won 23-20 at Indianapolis
Drama continues to follow this team, on and off the field. The Raiders pulled off a dramatic victory over the Colts, kicking a last-second field goal. Unfortunately, rookie cornerback Nate Hobbs was arrested on a misdemeanor DUI charge early Monday morning. Considering everything Las Vegas has already dealt with this season, this might not phase the locker room at all, but it comes just two months after Henry Ruggs’ deadly DUI crash. Needless to say, it is another distraction for a team that is in the mix to reach the playoffs.

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15. Philadelphia Eagles: 9-7 (Last Week: 16)
Won 20-16 at Washington
Philly continued its expectation-defying season by earning a playoff spot. It was far from the most convincing victory for the Eagles, but they made just enough plays to squeeze past Washington. Jalen Hurts is winning over many of his critics in the midst of this late-season surge. Philadelphia is clearly playing with house money. However, it might be best to keep expectations low. The Eagles are 0-6 against teams with a winning record this season.

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16. Baltimore Ravens: 8-8 (Last Week: 12)
Lost 20-19 vs. Los Angeles
Baltimore nearly pulled off a huge upset that would have put them in the driver seat to earn a playoff spot. Chuck Clark sparked a banged up secondary with an early pick-six, but the Ravens never managed to get into a groove offensively, never finding the end zone. Four field goals gave them a lead, but the decimated defense could not hold it in the closing minutes. Somehow, the Ravens still have a chance to make the playoffs, but they need a ton of help.

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17. Pittsburgh Steelers: 8-7-1 (Last Week: 18)
Won 26-14 vs. Cleveland
Big Ben closed out his time at Heinz Field with an incredibly ugly win. The future Hall of Fame quarterback enjoyed a nice send off and leaves behind a legendary legacy on the field and a checkered past off it. What the Steelers do from here is very much unknown. Pittsburgh still has a chance at the postseason, but the path to getting there feels very unlikely. The Colts would need to lose to the Jaguars and the Raiders and Chargers cannot end in a tie. Stranger things have happened, but the Steelers also need to beat the Ravens. After such an emotional win, they feel primed for a let down.

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18. Miami Dolphins: 8-8 (Last Week: 15)
Lost 34-3 at Tennessee
Put a fork in them. Miami rode a seven-game win streak to the cusp of the postseason, but Ryan Tannehill and Tennessee put a stop to all of that. Tua Tagovailoa was awful behind a porous offensive line that gave up four sacks. The Dolphins’ run defense was also horrendous, giving up 198 yards on five yards per carry. Brian Flores has had Miami in the mix twice now, but he needs to find a way to get this team over the hump. It starts with protecting Tagovailoa and shoring up that front seven.

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19. New Orleans Saints: 8-8 (Last Week: 22)
Won 18-10 vs. Carolina
The Saints aren’t done yet. In fact, New Orleans has a pretty reasonable path to that final wildcard spot. If the 49ers lose to the Rams, the Saints can claim the seventh playoff position with a win over the Falcons. Considering all the injuries this team has dealt with this season, most notably at quarterback, this would be an impressive feat. Before we get ahead of ourselves though, Atlanta won the first game between these two teams this season. New Orleans still has a job to do.

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20. Cleveland Browns 7-9 (Last Week: 19)
Lost 26-14 at Pittsburgh
I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a worse performance by an offensive line. Considering that many viewed Cleveland’s front five as one of the best units in the league heading into the season, this was a really surprising collapse. Baker Mayfield was sacked nine times, taking a total of 11 hits. Those would be impressive numbers for a defense over a three game stretch. The Browns have a lot of soul searching to do this offseason. There is a ton of buzz that Baker could be on his way out. Consider this a pivotal few months for this franchise.

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21. Minnesota Vikings: 7-9 (Last Week: 20)
Lost 37-10 at Green Bay
Sean Mannion had no chance. The Packers finally tamed Dalvin Cook, holding him to 13 yards on nine carries. The only way the Vikings were going to win this game was with a big performance from Cook. When that didn’t come, Minnesota’s hopes looked bleak. One meaningless game at the end of the season should not dictate what comes next for this team, but a loss to the divisional-rival Bears could cost Mike Zimmer his job. Questions will certainly be asked about Kirk Cousins’ future as well. There is no way he returns on his current contract. Cutting him before June 1 will save $45 million in cap space. This could be the start of a rebuild for Minnesota.

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22. Denver Broncos: 7-9 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 34-13 at Los Angeles
Denver’s midseason surge appeared to take a lot of pressure off Vic Fangio as the Broncos flirted with playoff contention. Three straight losses knocked them down a peg and ended hopes of reaching the postseason for the first time since their 2015 Super Bowl run. It is clear the team needs to figure out its future at quarterback. As good as Patrick Surtain II has looked, it is hard to wonder what Denver’s outlook would be like had it taken Justin Fields or Mac Jones instead.

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23. Chicago Bears: 6-10 (Last Week: 25)
Won 29-3 vs. New York
This won’t save Matt Nagy’s job, but it certainly points to a brighter future in Chicago. At the very least, it shows the importance of the Bears’ depth at quarterback. Both teams were without their starters due to injury. Andy Dalton is clearly a step up from Mike Glennon. It helped that the defense put together a dominant performance, holding New York to -6 passing yards to go along with four forced turnovers and a safety. Glennon had a QBR of zero. The Bears can overtake the Vikings in the standings with a win on Sunday.

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24. Washington: 6-10 (Last Week: 24)
Lost 20-16 vs. Washington
This was a much more competitive showing than the drubbing Washington took a week ago. However, it is clear that this team is already focused on its future with the front office announcing it will unveil a new team name on February 2. It is fair to wonder about the future though without a clear plan at quarterback and some massive regression on the defensive side of the ball. Ron Rivera is going to be facing a lot more pressure to fix things in 2022.

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25. Atlanta Falcons: 7-9 (Last Week: 23)
Lost 29-15 at Buffalo
On one hand, the Falcons intercepted Josh Allen three times and held him without a passing touchdown. That feels like a formula to beat the Bills, especially given their well-documented struggles to run the ball. Well, Buffalo racked up 233 yards rushing and four scores. So much for that narrative. Matt Ryan had another lackluster game, failing to top 200 yards passing while taking five sacks and losing a fumble. It is unclear the direction this team is headed right now.

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26. Seattle Seahawks: 5-11 (Last Week: 27)
Won 51-29 vs. Detroit
Russ is finally cooking again. It is way too little too late for Seattle, but it was a good sign that Wilson is finally nearing full strength again. He completed 21-of-29 passes for 236 yards and four touchdowns. Three went to D.K. Metcalf en route to a 50-point performance. Rashaad Penny’s emergence has been significant as well, 170 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. The Lions are far from a good benchmark to measure yourself against, but executing at a high level is never a bad thing.

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27. Houston Texans: 4-12 (Last Week: 28)
Lost 23-7 at San Francisco
The win streak is over and the optimism for the Davis Mills-led offense is clearly dampened. Houston stood strong early, holding San Francisco to just three points in the first half. Unfortunately, the Texans only managed seven points themselves. If we are being honest though, this team has been playing with house money all year long. There were no expectations for this team with a massive hole at quarterback given Deshaun Watson’s legal issues and trade demands. Not to mention a first-time head coach. At least the Texans can finally start to rebuild after paying the price for the ill-advised Laremy Tunsil trade.

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28. New York Jets: 4-12 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 28-24 vs. Tampa Bay
What a brutal way to lose a game. It was all too familiar for Jets fans, knowing all too well that Tom Brady was going to engineer a game-winning drive as soon as that head-scratching fourth-down attempt failed. Still, there are a lot of positives to take away, even in a loss. Zach Wilson played the best game of his young career. The combination of Austin Walter, Michael Carter and Ty Johnson moved the ball well against a stout Buccaneers run defense. Plus, it seems like the Jets might have their No. 2 and No. 3 corners on the roster in Bryce Hall and Michael Carter II. This might have honestly been the best-case scenario, as the Jets still preserve their high draft pick with the confidence-inspiring loss.

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29. Carolina Panthers: 5-11 (Last Week: 26)
Lost 18-10 at New Orleans
How did this offense fall apart so quickly? Sure, injuries played a significant role, but Sam Darnold looked like a capable starting quarterback to open the season. Now he looks like a deer in the headlights behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league. The Panthers are also incredibly undisciplined, tallying the eighth-most penalties and second most drops in the NFL. It raises some questions about Matt Rhule’s future. He should get another year to try to turn this around, but this is a critical offseason for Carolina.

Lions Logo

30. Detroit Lions: 2-13-1 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 51-29 at Seattle
Just in case anyone needed reminding, the Lions need a lot of help on defense. Russell Wilson carved up their secondary and the front seven were bowled over by Rashaad Penny. Starting Tim Boyle likely didn’t help matters much. He did toss two touchdowns, but he also had three interceptions. On the bright side, Amon-Ra St. Brown looks fantastic!

Giants Logo

31. New York Giants: 4-12 (Last Week: 31)
Lost 29-3 at Chicago
It is getting harder and harder to understand how Joe Judge is still the head coach of the Giants. He seems to have lost the locker room, he is constantly clashing with the media and the team’s play on the field does nothing to inspire confidence in his leadership. This was one of the worst offensive showings I can remember, at least from a passing perspective. Saquon Barkley did account for 100 yards on the ground, but that was rendered meaningless by the negative passing yards posted by the offense. It feels like this team desperately needs to clean house.

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32. Jacksonville Jaguars: 2-14 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 50-10 at New England
Seriously, how did this team beat the Bills? At least Trevor Lawrence finally threw a touchdown pass. Unfortunately, he also threw three more interceptions, bringing his season total to 17. This team desperately needs to get this coaching hire right this offseason and find a way to surround its franchise quarterback with more talent, fast.

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2021 NFL Power Rankings: Week 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2021 NFL Power Rankings: Week 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2021 NFL Power Rankings: Week 14

Let’s take a look at the longest win streaks in the NFL right now. The Patriots (guess they are officially back) have won seven straight. The Chiefs (turns out they aren’t out of title contention yet) are winners of five in a row. As are the Dolphins (wait, is that right?) Washington (is this a typo) has won *checks notes* four straight games.

As the old saying goes, it’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish. Surely, all of those teams would have preferred stronger starts to the year, but New England is now the top seed in the AFC while Kansas City leads the AFC West. Washington is currently in a wildcard spot and Miami is 1.5 games back of one. Just a reminder it is important not to overreact to September football. This is setting up a very interesting final few weeks of the NFL season.

Elsewhere, we had the Lions finally winning a game and the return of Minshew Mania! Here is how all 32 teams stack up through 13 weeks.

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1. Arizona Cardinals: 10-2 (Last Week: 1)
Won 33-22 at Chicago
One of the quietest 10-win teams in recent memory. Arizona welcomed Kyler Murray back to the starting lineup. He marked the occasion with four touchdowns in a comfortable win for the Cardinals. Not to be outdone, the defense came up with four interceptions of Andy Dalton to set the offense up for success. This team still has to prove itself in the postseason, but it is very possible the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC could run through the desert.

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2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 9-3 (Last Week: 2)
Won 30-17 at Atlanta
Tom Brady stays undefeated against the Falcons in his career. The Patriots did not play them very often, but that is still wildly impressive. Brady put up some huge numbers, marred only by a pick-six that kept the Falcons in the game just before halftime. Thankfully, the defense stepped up in the second half and shut out Atlanta over the final 30 minutes of action. Tampa still feels like it is ironing out some kinks. It is certainly scary to think they could get even better, but maybe a little worrying that we still see some uneven play in December.

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3. Green Bay Packers: 9-3 (Last Week: 3)
Bye Week
Few teams needed a bye week as badly as the Packers did. David Bahktiari, Jaire Alexander and Za’Darius Smith are in line to practice this week. Those are the three high-impact players that will only raise the ceiling for a Green Bay team that is 9-2 with Aaron Rodgers in the starting lineup. Speaking of Rodgers, a week off likely gave him some time to rest his fractured toe. Same goes for Aaron Jones, who played in limited action against the Rams in Week 12. If this team can get healthy, look out.

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4. New England Patriots: 9-4 (Last Week: 4)
Won 14-10 at Buffalo
That was about as ugly as it gets, but the Patriots put on a masterclass in 1940s football. Mac Jones attempted just three passes in a slugfest that featured a lot of bend, don’t break defensive possessions. With gusting winds that made kicking and throwing very difficult, Bill Belichick leaned into his run game. The plan very nearly fell apart, but great red zone defense and a missed field goal in the fourth quarter saw New England keep its top seed in the AFC.

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5. Kansas City Chiefs: 8-4 (Last Week: 5)
Won 22-9 vs. Denver
Defense wins championships and it really looks like the Chiefs have a great defense right now. Kansas City held Denver out of the end zone for the first 55 minutes of action. Daniel Sorenson even got on the board with a defensive touchdown. Patrick Mahomes is still struggling to get on track, managing just 184 passing yards, no touchdown passes and an interception. He did punch in a rushing touchdown, but these are not the performances we have become accustomed to seeing from Mahomes.

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6. Dallas Cowboys: 8-4 (Last Week: 8)
Won 27-17 at New Orleans
Dallas picked up an important win to maintain a two-game lead in the NFC East. Following three losses in a four-game stretch, this felt like a must-win for the Cowboys. It certainly wasn’t the cleanest game we’ve ever seen from the offense. Dak Prescott threw a costly pick and the team went 2-for-13 on third down conversion opportunities. The defense covered up any issues though with four interceptions. Dan Quinn is running away with the Assistant Coach of the Year award given the turnaround for Dallas’ defense this season.

7. Los Angeles Rams: 8-4 (Last Week: 9)
Won 37-7 vs. Jacksonville
Nothing like a get-right game against the Jaguars to help ease the pain. Los Angeles dominated Jacksonville in all three phases. Odell Beckham Jr. looked much more comfortable in the offense and got in the end zone again. The only concern was a brutal hit Matt Stafford took that briefly knocked him out the game. Rumors have persisted that Stafford has not been healthy for weeks. Seeing him take shots like the one Roy Robertson-Harris laid on him is worrying. If Stafford goes down, this team can kiss its already questionable championship hopes goodbye.

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8. Indianapolis Colts: 7-6 (Last Week: 10)
Won 31-0 at Houston
For the second straight week, the Colts scored 31 points. However, this time around, they didn’t give up any points. Beating the Texans is far from something to highlight on your resume, unless you are the Jets. Credit Indianapolis for not playing down to the competition. While winning games is the most important thing, it would be good to see Frank Reich conserve Jonathan Taylor a bit more, especially in blowouts. He had 32 carries, playing well into the fourth quarter despite a three-score lead. Deon Jackson and Nyheim Hines eventually took over in the backfield, but keeping Taylor fresh for the stretch run would be a very wise move.

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9. Baltimore Ravens: 8-4 (Last Week: 6)
Lost 20-19 at Pittsburgh
If that ball was six inches closer to Mark Andrews, we would be talking about what a great decision this was from John Harbaugh to go for the win rather than play for overtime. I think it was the right move. Heading to overtime is literally a coin flip. It was a tough break. However, there are still some red flags. Pittsburgh sacked Lamar Jackson seven times. Comparatively, the Ravens managed just one sack of their own. This offense has a lot that needs resolving.

10. Los Angeles Chargers: 7-5 (Last Week: 12)
Won 41-22 at Cincinnati
Los Angeles put the struggles from Week 12 behind them with a big bounce-back win over the Bengals. Justin Herbert looked sharp with over 300 passing yards and three passing touchdowns. Meanwhile, the defense was very opportunistic, forcing four turnovers, including a scoop and score from Tevaughn Campbell. Ball security was an issue for the Chargers as well though. Herbert threw an interception while Austin Ekeler coughed it up twice. Still, this was an important win to keep pace in the AFC West and the playoff race.

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11. Cincinnati Bengals: 7-5 (Last Week: 7)
Lost 41-22 vs. Los Angeles
Will they or won’t they? Cincinnati continues to struggle with consistency. The Bengals have yet to win more than two games in a row. Every time it feels like they are beginning to build momentum, a somewhat surprising result brings them back down to Earth. Turnovers were a major issue as was pass protection. Joe Burrow was sacked six times and was clearly pressing throughout the game. All in all, it was not a good enough performance from the Bengals, who missed out on a chance to go atop the AFC North.

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12. Buffalo Bills: 7-5 (Last Week: 11)
Lost 14-10 vs. New England
New England ran it down Buffalo’s throat and the Bills could not reciprocate. Josh Allen was the team’s leading rusher with 39 of the team’s 99 yards. Meanwhile, the Patriots racked up 222 yards on the ground. While that is far from ideal, the more concerning aspect was the offense’s inability to convert in the red zone. A missed field goal and a failed fourth-down play limited Buffalo to just three points on three trips inside the 20 in the second half. A daunting trip to Tampa Bay is up next.

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13. Tennessee Titans: 8-4 (Last Week: 13)
Bye Week
Did the Titans find a way to reinvent themselves during their bye week? Without Derrick Henry and a pair of banged up star receivers, Tennessee struggled mightily heading into its week off. Julio Jones could be back, but Ryan Tannehill cannot carry this team. His four-interception performance against the Texans proved that. All that said, Tennessee has one of the easiest closing schedules. The Jaguars, Steelers, 49ers, Dolphins and Texans remain. Just beating the Jaguars and Texans should get the Titans into the postseason.

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14. Pittsburgh Steelers: 6-5-1 (Last Week: 18)
Won 20-19 vs. Baltimore
This feels like a big move up for a one-point win, but everyone around the Steelers seemingly lost this weekend. Pittsburgh did just enough to pull off the victory. It might have been a bit of a lucky break that saw them hold on, but they did a lot to create that luck, if you will. The Steelers had seven sacks and nine tackles for loss. They also scored the go-ahead touchdown and converted on the all-important two-point conversion that put them up by seven with less than two minutes to play. Take the wins however you can get them.

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15. San Francisco 49ers: 6-6 (Last Week: 14)
Lost 30-23 at Seattle
The 49ers hit a speed bump. Maybe they were a little guilty of underestimating the Seahawks after Russell Wilson and company had floundered leading into this game. Jimmy Garoppolo tossed two interceptions while the offense managed just 2.8 yards per carry. Seattle gave San Francisco plenty of chances to win this game. The 49ers held a 23-14 lead at halftime, but their second half drives ended in a fumble, a safety, an interception, two punts and a turnover on downs. That is not a winning formula.

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16. Cleveland Browns 6-6 (Last Week: 19)
Bye Week
Suddenly, the outlook for the Browns does not seem so bleak. Losses by the Ravens and Bengals keep Cleveland within striking distance in the division. Plus, losses by the Bills, Raiders and Broncos keeps them firmly in the wildcard chase. With Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt hopefully back at full strength and Baker Mayfield rested up, the Browns’ offense should be much more competitive. A rematch with the Ravens awaits.

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17. Miami Dolphins: 6-7 (Last Week: 20)
Won 20-9 vs. New York
As I talked about earlier, this is quite the turnaround from Miami. Tua Tagovailoa is settling in nicely to the offense and taking care of the football. It certainly helped to face Mike Glennon instead of Daniel Jones, but this was still a pretty strong showing by the ‘Fins defense. Now if only Miami could run the ball consistently. The Dolphins get a week off before looking to continue their hot streak in a matchup with the Jets.

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18. Philadelphia Eagles: 6-7 (Last Week: 21)
Won 33-18 at New York
Minshew Mania is back! Gardner Minshew made his first start for the Eagles and did not disappoint. Granted, it was against the Jets, but the former Jaguars quarterback was hyper efficient and provided a different element to the Eagles offense. He got tons of help from Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell, who combined for 229 yards of offense and a touchdown. Dallas Goedert was heavily involved in the offense as well. Nick Sirianni has already said that Jalen Hurts is still the starter. Hurts could return following the bye week, but if he struggles, Philly fans will be clamoring for Minshew to see more action.

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19. Washington: 6-6 (Last Week: 23)
Won 17-15 at Las Vegas
I don’t know if winning 17-15 games is very sustainable, but Washington repeated the feat this week. Hometown hero Brian Johnson won it with a go-ahead 48-yard field goal in the final minute. It hasn’t been too pretty, but Washington is finding ways to win. It is far from likely, but with five divisional games remaining on the schedule, Washington controls its own fate.

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20. Las Vegas Raiders: 6-6 (Last Week: 15)
Lost 17-15 vs. Washington
Another winnable game blown by the Raiders. Las Vegas now has losses to Washington, Chicago and the New York Giants. All three have felt like missed opportunities. Winning even two of them would have the Raiders tied atop the AFC West. Instead, Vegas is tied with Cleveland and Denver for 10th in the conference. Unfortunately, the Chiefs are next on the schedule.

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21. Denver Broncos: 6-6 (Last Week: 17)
Lost 22-9 at Kansas City
Fresh off a win over the Chargers, the Broncos absolutely fell flat against the Chiefs. Maybe a road win was too much to hope for, but three points through the first three and a half quarters is a disappointing output from the offense. Costly turnovers from Teddy Bridgewater were the difference in the game. If nothing else, this offered a clear reminder that the Broncos will be in the market for a quarterback this offseason.

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22. Minnesota Vikings: 5-7 (Last Week: 16)
Lost 29-27 at Detroit
It was bound to happen to someone eventually, but being the first team to lose to the Lions this year still stings quite a bit. Keep in mind, this team beat a mostly full-strength Packers side just two weeks ago. The offense got off to a sluggish start to life without Dalvin Cook, managing just six points in the first half. Minnesota stormed back to lead 27-23, but the defense wilted in the critical moments, giving up a walk-off touchdown. Turn back up the heat on Mike Zimmer’s seat.

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23. New Orleans Saints: 5-7 (Last Week: 22)
Lost 27-17 vs. Dallas
Things look rough for the Saints right now. Taysom Hill finally got back on the field at quarterback and provided a spark with his mobility. Unfortunately, he suffered a similar injury to Russell Wilson, who missed a month with a torn ligament in his finger. Hill threw four interceptions, ending any hopes of upending the Cowboys. New Orleans has now lost five straight and show little sign of turning things around. It will be interesting to see if Sean Payton looks to bring in a free-agent quarterback.

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24. New York Giants: 4-8 (Last Week: 24)
Lost 20-9 at Miami
So maybe the quarterback isn’t the root cause of all the issues for the Giants offense. Mike Glennon looked mediocre, but didn’t get much protection either. He took eight hits and will begin this week in the concussion protocol. Now, it looks like New York will be starting Jake Fromm against the Chargers in Week 14. On the bright side, the Giants seem to be capable of running the ball. New York averaged 5.4 yards per carry. If Freddie Kitchens can establish the run early in the game and stay within reach, that will take a lot of pressure off the young quarterback.

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25. Atlanta Falcons: 5-7 (Last Week: 25)
Lost 30-17 vs. Tampa Bay
Stat to know: Atlanta has a point differential of -113 this season. Detroit has a point differential of -116. That is the sort of company the Falcons are keeping. Matt Ryan and the offense moved the ball up and down the field, but consistently stalled when it mattered most. Atlanta scored a touchdown on its first drive and then managed a field goal the rest of the game. This team is technically not far out of the playoff picture, but the Falcons do not feel anywhere near the playoff conversation.

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26. Carolina Panthers: 5-7 (Last Week: 26)
Bye Week
In perhaps some of the most shocking and under the radar news of the weekend, the Panthers fired offensive coordinator Joe Brady. Sure, the Panthers offense has not lit the world on fire, but he is working with Sam Darnold, P.J. Walker and Cam Newton. Christian McCaffrey has played in just seven of the team’s 12 games so far. Carolina has also dropped 22 passes this year, second most in the NFL. Brady was considered one of the brightest young offensive minds in football. He was the architect behind LSU’s record-setting attack in 2019, when the Tigers won a national championship. If this was a reaction to Newton’s 5-of-21 passing performance against the Dolphins in Week 12, I think that is a huge mistake. Trying to find someone to build an offense around Newton is incredibly shortsighted. Brady will likely land on his feet. He will be a highly sought after offensive coordinator in the league and could be in the mix for a return to the college ranks.

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27. Seattle Seahawks: 4-8 (Last Week: 28)
Won 30-23 vs. San Francisco
While it might be too little too late for this season, this felt like a crucial win for the Seahawks. Ideally, this allows Russell Wilson to build some momentum and get this team trending in the right direction. Seattle still has a host of problems that need solving, namely its run game. Travis Homer ripped off a huge touchdown run on a fake punt, but that one play accounted for half of the team’s rushing yards on the afternoon. Neither Rashaad Penny nor Adrian Peterson could really get rolling. Shane Waldron has a chance to prove he can scheme some ways to spark the ground game.

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28. Chicago Bears: 4-8 (Last Week: 27)
Lost 33-22 vs. Arizona
QB1 had a rough day. Andy Dalton threw four interceptions in an embarrassing performance for the Bears offense. Somehow, Chicago did manage 22 points, but the defense simply could not overcome that many turnovers and short-field situations. Matt Nagy’s days in the Windy City are numbered.

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29. New York Jets: 3-9 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 33-18 vs. Philadelphia
For one fleeting moment, it felt like the Jets were turning the corner. New York scored three touchdowns in the first half (even if they missed two field goals and failed on a two-point conversion attempt). There were some special teams miscues away from being tied at halftime. Instead, the Jets were shut out in the second half. Their four drives in the half resulted in a punt, an interception, a turnover on downs and the end of the game. Focusing on the positive is that Zach Wilson looked a bit better this week. As long as he continues to improve, results do not matter.

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30. Detroit Lions: 1-10-1 (Last Week: 32)
Won 29-27 vs. Minnesota
When is the ticker tape parade??? Detroit reacted a bit like it had won the Super Bowl. While winning one meaningless regular season game is not really cause for celebration usually, this a huge weight off Dan Campbell and his entire team. The Lions had come agonizingly close on several occasions this year. This ensures that this Detroit side will not join the infamous group of winless teams. Who knows, maybe Campbell can even build off this. I wouldn’t consider it likely, but I also wouldn’t want to be the Broncos this week.

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31. Houston Texans: 2-10 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 31-0 vs. Indianapolis
Congratulations to the Texans for being the first team to be eliminated from playoff contention! Houston managed 141 yards of offense on an ungodly 2.8 yards per play. Tyrod Taylor suffered another injury as well, which means Davis Mills takes the reins again. Things are going to get much worse in Houston before they get better.

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32. Jacksonville Jaguars: 2-10 (Last Week: 31)
Lost 37-7 at Los Angeles
It’s days like Sunday where I am left to sit around and wonder how on Earth the Jaguars managed to beat the Bills.

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2021 NFL Power Rankings: Week 13

For the first time in what feels like forever, there is a bit of stability at the top of the NFL hierarchy. The top five teams in my power rankings all stay the same. After that, it is the typical chaos we’ve become accustomed to this season. Losses by the Rams and Cowboys shakeup the top 10 while wins by the 49ers, Raiders and Broncos completely change the middle of the pack.

We are now through 12 weeks of action and the playoff picture is starting to crystalize. The push for the playoffs starts now with December football set to begin. Here is how the league stacks up at this point.

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1. Arizona Cardinals: 9-2 (Last Week: 1)
Bye Week
For the first time in a while, there is no change atop the power rankings. Arizona had the week off and used it to get Kyler Murray healthy. The Cardinals QB let everyone know he was ready to return with a quick Marvel-themed tweet on Sunday. There is a lot of speculation as to what the tweet meant given that it was on the heels of his former college coach heading to USC and rumors that his current coach could be his replacement in Norman. Either way, Murray should be back in Week 13 for a matchup with the Bears.

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2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 8-3 (Last Week: 2)
Won 38-31 at Indianapolis
It is tough to know which side of this game to focus on. On one hand, Leonard Fournette offered a preview of Playoff Lenny much earlier than expected with four touchdowns and Rob Gronkowski looked fantastic in his return to the lineup. However, Tampa also gave up 31 points and needed a late drive from the offense to win the game. Even with those defensive struggles, the Buccaneers racked up five takeaways, which was the difference in the game.

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3. Green Bay Packers: 9-3 (Last Week: 3)
Won 36-28 vs. Los Angeles
The Packers continue to impress despite significant injury issues on both sides of the ball. Yosh Nijman took over at left tackle with Elgton Jenkins lost for the season. Rasul Butler continues to make huge plays for a secondary missing Jaire Alexander. It certainly helps to have Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams and A.J. Dillon to power the offense while Rashan Gary, Darnell Savage and Eric Stokes continue to improve on defense. Green Bay is incredibly talented and should only get better as key players get healthy down the stretch.

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4. New England Patriots: 8-4 (Last Week: 4)
Won 36-13 vs. Tennessee
Remember the good old days when the Patriots were 2-4? That feels like a lifetime ago now as New England has ripped off six straight wins since then. Mac Jones is playing very well and the run game is delivering consistently. Tennessee looked lost on offense for the majority of this game, which is a testament to how well the Pats defense has fared during this stretch. Even though the Titans rumbled for 270 yards on 6.9 yards per carry, Bill Belichick’s side forced four turnovers to make the majority of that yardage all for naught. A massive meeting with the Bills on Monday Night Football awaits.

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5. Kansas City Chiefs: 7-4 (Last Week: 5)
Bye Week
It was a good week for the Chiefs. Getting a chance to rest up is always nice. The Chargers losing to the Broncos to ensure KC stays atop the AFC West is a nice bonus. While it certainly feels like this team is back on track, it has been the defense doing most of the heavy lifting. Kansas City has scored more than 20 points just once since Week 6. Patrick Mahomes has settled down a bit, but has yet to reclaim his MVP form. Maybe Clyde Edwards-Helaire will provide a jolt after getting the bye week to fully recover from his injury.

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6. Baltimore Ravens: 8-3 (Last Week: 10)
Won 16-10 vs. Cleveland
It is a miracle Baltimore won this game. Lamar Jackson threw four interceptions and the Ravens managed just 3.1 yards per carry. The offense was clearly not at its best. Thankfully, the Browns offense wasn’t either. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 36 yards on the ground while Baker Mayfield continued to hobble around the field. Baltimore’s defense made his life miserable all night long, holding Cleveland to just 262 yards of offense. It would be reassuring to see the Ravens find their offensive spark again, but it is important to win even ugly sometimes, too.

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7. Cincinnati Bengals: 7-4 (Last Week: 14)
Won 41-10 vs. Pittsburgh
For the second time this season, Cincinnati dispatched Pittsburgh with relative ease. Joe Mixon quite literally ran all over the Steelers to the tune of 165 yards and a pair of scores. It was a showcase game for Tee Higgins as well. Forcing three Ben Roethlisberger turnovers and holding the team to just 54 yards rushing also helps. The Bengals remain one game back of the Ravens for the top spot in the AFC North.

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8. Dallas Cowboys: 7-4 (Last Week: 6)
Lost 36-33 vs. Las Vegas
Dallas is officially in trouble. Losing three of four is a worrying sign for a team that cannot seem to string together complete performances. It wasn’t the offense that struggled despite missing Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. Instead, the defense surrendered over 500 yards of offense. Prescott didn’t get a ton of help from the run game either, which averaged 3.2 yards per carry. The Cowboys have gone from thinking about earning a first-round bye to ensuring they can win the NFC East.

9. Los Angeles Rams: 7-4 (Last Week: 7)
Lost 36-28 at Green Bay
Turns out the week off did not accomplish much. Los Angeles still looked disjointed on offense and overwhelmed on defense. Matt Stafford once again looked outmatched against a quality opponent. I’ve been questioning Stafford since 2015. All of the same issues I had with him as a player then continue to show up now. It is starting to become clear that the Rams cannot rely on him to carry them in big moments. Sean McVay is going to need to find a way to take some pressure off his big offseason acquisition.

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10. Indianapolis Colts: 6-6 (Last Week: 9)
Lost 38-31 vs. Tampa Bay
There was a lot to like about how the Colts played against the Buccaneers. The offense moved the ball down the field with ease, both on the ground and through the air. Tom Brady had a fairly quiet day, at least by his standards. The defense even forced two turnovers. Unfortunately, Indianapolis coughed it up five times, gave up four touchdowns to Leonard Fournette and struggled to protect Carson Wentz. This team is closer to truly competing for a title than it has been in a few years, but there are still some major holes left to patch.

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11. Buffalo Bills: 7-4 (Last Week: 12)
Won 31-6 at New Orleans
Buffalo picked up an important win to get things back on track. Granted, it was against a Saints team that is headed in the wrong direction, but you have to win the games on your schedule. Plus, the Bills did it convincingly. Unfortunately, it came at a high cost. Tre’Davious White tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. One of the best cover corners in the league, Buffalo’s defense looks significantly worse heading into Week 13 than it did Week 12.

12. Los Angeles Chargers: 6-5 (Last Week: 11)
Lost 28-13 at Denver
Los Angeles keeps taking one step forward only to take one step back. This team is stuck in neutral following another lackluster showing in a winnable game. Perhaps it is the byproduct of having a young team with a rookie head coach. A big step to getting back on track will be rediscovering the run game. Austin Ekeler only had 31 rushing yards on 12 carries. That is not a recipe for success in the NFL.

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13. Tennessee Titans: 8-4 (Last Week: 8)
Lost 36-13 at New England
The tailspin in Nashville continues. Tennessee is simply too banged up to compete with the league’s elite teams right now. Ryan Tannehill looked pedestrian at best in a rocky performance. That might actually be underselling how bad Tannehill’s numbers were in this one, as he finished with 93 passing yards and 11 of his 21 passes completed. He got a huge boost from the ground game, which racked up 270 yards. Unfortunately, four turnovers and poor tackling on defense made any hopes of halting the Patriots obsolete. A much-need bye week is up next.

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14. San Francisco 49ers: 6-5 (Last Week: 19)
Won 34-26 vs. Minnesota
This was a litmus test for the 49ers. After an impressive upset of the Rams, it was hard to feel like the 49ers did much to prove themselves in a lopsided win over the Jaguars. Handling the Vikings, who were fresh off a win over the Packers, inspires a lot more confidence. With four wins in its past five games led by a resurgent ground attack, San Francisco deserves to be in the playoff conversation.

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15. Las Vegas Raiders: 6-5 (Last Week: 20)
Won 36-33 at Dallas
This changes things considerably. Following an underwhelming loss to the Bengals coming off a bye week, the Raiders seemed poised for another second-half fade. Instead, Las Vegas rebounds in spectacular fashion with a road win in Dallas on Thanksgiving. Derek Carr played very well and Josh Jacobs picked up some important yards, including a touchdown. Suddenly the Raiders are back in the mix for a wildcard spot and the AFC West title.

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16. Minnesota Vikings: 5-6 (Last Week: 13)
Lost 34-26 at San Francisco
Not quite how you want to follow up a statement win. Kirk Cousins did not play well and the running game struggled before Dalvin Cook exited with what seems to be a serious injury. Minnesota’s defense also had no answer for Elijah Mitchell or Deebo Samuel. The Vikings missed a golden opportunity to make up some ground in the wildcard race. Instead, Minnesota now finds itself in a log jam and with one of its best players, Patrick Peterson, on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

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17. Denver Broncos: 6-5 (Last Week: 22)
Won 28-13 vs. Los Angeles
The AFC West just got very interesting. A win by the Broncos creates a three-way tie for second, as the Raiders and Chargers are also one game back of the Chiefs for the division lead. Denver has a two-headed monster in the backfield with Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams combining for 199 yards in this one. Pat Surtain II helped seal things with a pick-six of Justin Herbert. Something to watch though will be the health of Teddy Bridgewater. He battled through a shin injury in Week 12. If he can’t suit up in Week 13, the Broncos could be in a lot of trouble.

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18. Pittsburgh Steelers: 5-5-1 (Last Week: 15)
Lost 41-10 at Cincinnati
For the second straight week, the Steelers allowed 41 points. That is already a problem. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh also scored 27 fewer points in this loss. Ben Roethlisberger was under pressure too often and compounded that issue with three turnovers, including a pick-six. What the Steelers desperately need to do is run the football. Unfortunately, they won’t commit to running the ball consistently, and even when they do, it is not effective. Najee Harris finished with 2.9 yards per carry in Cincinnati. The playoffs are not out of reach, but it is hard to imagine this team making it there without a serious turnaround in play.

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19. Cleveland Browns 6-6 (Last Week: 16)
Lost 16-10 at Baltimore
Some serious questions need to be asked of Kevin Stefanski. The Browns forced four turnovers, yet failed to generate basically anything positive on offense and lost the time of possession battle by a wide margin. That is almost an unfathomable combination. Stefanski abandoned the run game too soon, as Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for just 15 carries. The fact that Cleveland could not find a way to win this game despite such a strong defensive performance is a huge indictment of this offense.

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20. Miami Dolphins: 5-7 (Last Week: 23)
Won 33-10 vs. Carolina
Miami has quietly won four straight and Tua Tagovailoa seems to be rounding into form. He was outrageously efficient against the Panthers, completing 27-of-31 passes 236 yards and a touchdown. Phillip Lindsay also provided an instant boost to the ground game in tandem with Myles Gaskin. Following a seven-game losing streak, the Dolphins are squarely back in the wildcard conversation. Their next four games are against the Giants, Jets, Saints and Titans. Miami’s hot streak may yet continue.

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21. Philadelphia Eagles: 5-7 (Last Week: 17)
Lost 13-7 at New York
This was a game the Eagles really needed to win. A win would get them back to .500 and would have put them into the final wildcard spot at the moment given the other results of Week 12. Instead, Jalen Hurts threw the game away, literally. Three interceptions and a completion percentage south of 50 is tough to overcome, even when you run for over 200 yards as a team. Also, if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 1,000 times: the Eagles should have drafted Justin Jefferson over Jalen Reagor.

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22. New Orleans Saints: 5-6 (Last Week: 18)
Lost 31-6 vs. Buffalo
The Saints offense has ground to a halt. No Michael Thomas. No Alvin Kamara. No Jameis Winston. This unit is about as underwhelming as could be at this point. Taysom Hill is apparently still not healthy enough to play quarterback despite being on the active roster for the past few games. Sean Payton has been able to make it work over the previous two seasons when Drew Brees went down for stretches. He is going to need to conjure some magic down the stretch to get the Saints into the postseason.

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23. Washington: 5-6 (Last Week: 24)
Won 17-15 vs. Seattle
The list of teams heating up after a poor start is beginning to grow. Washington has now won three in a row. This was far from the most convincing victory of all time, but Taylor Heinicke and company toughed it out in a gritty performance. A heavy dose of the run game while shutting down Seattle’s offense for the majority of the game is a repeatable formula with the talent Ron Rivera’s side has. Things will get very interesting with five of their final six games coming against NFC East opponents.

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24. New York Giants: 4-7 (Last Week: 25)
Won 13-7 vs. Philadelphia
Firing Jason Garrett led to a win, although there was not much of an improvement on the offensive side of the ball. New York stumbled for a paltry 2.6 yards per carry while Daniel Jones barely eclipsed. However, the Giants did hang onto the ball while Jalen Hurts imploded with three interceptions. It would have been good to see Jones and company put the game away instead of relying on a Jalen Reagor drop. The red-hot Dolphins are next.

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25. Atlanta Falcons: 5-6 (Last Week: 26)
Won 21-14 at Jacksonville
How on Earth do the Falcons have five wins? Atlanta has a point differential of -103. Only the Jets, Texans and Jaguars are worse. Yet, the Falcons sit tied with Washington for the final wildcard spot in the NFC. That is simply ridiculous. Cordarelle Patterson put the team on his back to hold off Jacksonville and the defense played well enough against one of the worst offenses in the league. Things will get significantly tougher with a visit from the Buccaneers up next.

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26. Carolina Panthers: 5-7 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 33-10 at Miami
So, the Panthers offense has collapsed. Cam Newton played one of the worst games by a quarterback in NFL history while Carolina lost Christian McCaffrey for the season once again. Newton completed five of his 21 passes and posted a passer rating of 5.8. He was benched for P.J. Walker. On the flip side, Tua Tagovailoa picked apart the Panthers defense and this game was never even close. Things need to turn around quickly to save playoff hopes for the season.

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27. Chicago Bears: 4-7 (Last Week: 28)
Won 16-14 at Detroit
It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was really ugly most of the way. Andy Dalton was average at best. The run game managed a paltry 2.3 yards per carry. The under hit comfortably. In short, it was an early afternoon snooze fest. It would have been much better if this had been the second game so everyone could have gone into their food comas during this game instead. Still, it was a win, which likely saved Matt Nagy’s job for at least another week.

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28. Seattle Seahawks: 3-8 (Last Week: 27)
Lost 17-15 at Washington
It might be time to blow up this Seahawks team. It is hard to believe Seattle was in the postseason a year ago, winning 12 games and the NFC West. Right now, this team is getting dragged by some of the league’s basement dwellers. Russell Wilson looks nothing like the perennial Pro Bowler we are accustomed to watching. The Seahawks cannot run the ball either. Pete Carroll’s seat has to be getting very warm.

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29. New York Jets: 3-8 (Last Week: 31)
Won 21-14 at Houston
Picking up a road win is nice, but as a Jets fan, I would rather see this team lose while Zach Wilson impresses. New York’s rookie quarterback has been nothing short of horrible this season. Sure, his protection has not been great and his weapons are average at best, but his numbers are concerning. He is worst in the league in EPA per play, completion percentage over expected and success rate, which measure what percentage of plays finish with an EPA above zero. Results do not matter at this point for New York. Getting Wilson up to speed in the NFL and helping him grow over these final six games is what this year is all about.

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30. Houston Texans: 2-9 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 21-14 vs. New York
I cannot believe I’m about to write this, but I think the Texans defense played well enough to win this game. They sacked Zach Wilson four times and forced an interception. On the flip side though, Houston barely eclipsed 200 yards of offense, allowing five sacks of their own. It was an ugly game and one that the Texans likely could have won. Let’s be honest though. You didn’t miss anything. This game was terrible.

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31. Jacksonville Jaguars: 2-9 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 21-14 vs. Atlanta
Jacksonville’s defense seems to be steadily improving. The Jags made Matt Ryan look subpar. Then again, he does that all on his own pretty frequently these days. However, the offense continues to be underwhelming at best. Trevor Lawrence is struggling week in and week out. The Jaguars have also yet to score more than 23 points this season. Urban Meyer might need to consider some offensive staffing changes if he wants to get the best out of his young quarterback.

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32. Detroit Lions: 0-10-1 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 16-14 vs. Chicago
Kayvon Thibodeaux is going to look great in a Lions jersey. Detroit moves one step closer to securing his services with another heartbreaking loss. This team is not good, but there is no way that the Lions deserve to be 0-10-1. They could easily be 3-7-1 with a couple of breaks in their favor.

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