With the top teams in the rankings seemingly entrenched now, the attention of the football world will shift towards the wild card playoff races, especially in the AFC. Currently, the Titans and the Ravens occupy the two spots, despite showing little to no signs of actually being a contender this season. The Ravens have one of the league’s worst offenses, while Tennessee has played the AFC’s easiest schedule to this point. With the 5-5 Bills on a three-game losing streak and a motley crew of six 4-6 teams, the race is still wide-open. The opposite is the case on the NFC side, where there are fewer teams in contention, but there will be at least one true contender left out of the postseason. Currently, the Panthers and the Falcons are in playoff position, with the Seahawks and the Lions on the outside looking in. As the postseason nears, much is sure to change.
- Philadelphia Eagles (9-1, 1st NFC East): Last week: 1
Another week, another dominant win for Philly. The Eagles rolled into Dallas and dominated their longtime rivals 37-9 as they totaled 215 yards and two scores on the ground. Despite heading into halftime down 9-7, the Eagles turned it up in the second half by scoring 30 unanswered points and went three for four on two-point conversions after losing K Jake Elliott to a head injury.
- New England Patriots (8-2, 1st AFC East): Last week: 3
Tom Brady had no trouble in Mexico City this Sunday, as the Patriots dispatched the Raiders easily 33-8 behind the GOAT’s 30 for 37, 339 yard and three touchdown performance. After a much-maligned start to the season, the Patriots defense has improved greatly and hasn’t allowed 20 points in a game since Week 4 against the Panthers.
- Minnesota Vikings (8-2, 1st NFC North): Last week: 6
An emphatic 24-7 win at home over the explosive Rams entrenched the Vikings among the league’s best teams. Case Keenum has not gotten his due this year, as the career backup is second-best QBR in the league (the injured Deshaun Watson is first). Keenum’s connection with Adam Thielen is really heating up, as the young wideout has racked up 387 yards and three touchdowns in the last three weeks.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (8-2, 1st AFC North): Last week: 4
The Steelers coasted by the Titans on Thursday Night Football 40-17 as Antonio Brown built up his dark-horse MVP case by catching 10 balls for 144 yards and three touchdowns. While much ado is made about the Pittsburgh offense, it’s been the D that has been the team’s X-factor in 2017. Their 16.5 points are the second-best in the league, and the Steelers’ two losses have come in the only games they let up more than 20 points.
- New Orleans Saints (8-2, 1st NFC South): Last week: 5
Despite being down 15 points with three minutes to go, the Saints scored two late touchdowns and converted a two-point conversion to force overtime, where a Will Lutz field goal sealed their 34-31 win over the Redskins. While the Saints have been one of the pleasant surprises of the season, we will find out if they are for real as they face the Rams, Panthers and the Falcons twice in their next five games.
- Los Angeles Rams (7-3, 1st NFC West): Last week: 2
While the Rams contest with the Vikings was a 7-7 defensive struggle until Minnesota’s fourth-quarter outburst, LA’s lack of offense was discouraging. While the Vikings do have one of the league’s best defensive units, the Rams’ second-ranked offense should have been able to muster more than just one score and 45 yards on the ground.
- Carolina Panthers (7-3, 2nd NFC South): Last week: 8
- Jacksonville Jaguars (7-3, 1st AFC South): Last week: 9
Despite scoring just one offensive touchdown in the Jags’ 19-7 win over the Browns in Cleveland, Jacksonville’s game plan of letting their defense win them games has worked out thus far in 2017. The Jaguars’ old-school style has them leading the league in defense by allowing a minuscule 14.1 points per game, as well as the NFL’s top rushing offense.
- Atlanta Falcons (6-4, 3rd NFC South): Last week: 12
If it weren’t for a curious failed fake field goal attempt and a Blair Walsh kick that fell just short of the goalposts, the outcome of the Falcons-Seahawks game on Monday night could have turned out quite differently. However, the Falcons never trailed in the game, and their back-to-back impressive wins have gotten them into playoff position.
- Seattle Seahawks (6-4, 2nd NFC South): Last week: 10
While they outgained Atlanta, the Seahawks lost by the smallest of margins on Monday night at home. While the 52-yard kick was not easy by any means, Walsh’s struggles have set this team back. However, Pete Carroll deciding to fake a field goal with seven seconds left in the first half is far more inexcusable.
- Kansas City Chiefs (6-4, 1st AFC West): Last week: 7
Remember when the Chiefs were the top team in these Power Rankings? For the first time this year, Kansas City has dropped out of the top ten, as their embarrassing 12-9 overtime loss to the previously 1-8 Giants showed they are not the team we thought they were. However, the unexpected weakness of the AFC West means KC still has a strong playoff shot.
- Detroit Lions (6-4, 2nd NFC North): Last week: 13
Escaping a trap game in Chicago with a 27-24 win, the Lions kept themselves squarely in the playoff hunt. Matthew Stafford continues to have a quietly sterling season, as the veteran signal-caller threw for 299 yards and two scores against an underrated Bears D. Taking on NFC North-leading Minnesota on Thanksgiving could put the Lions back into the divisional race.
- Tennessee Titans (6-4, 2nd AFC South): Last week: 11
Tennessee was thoroughly blown out by the Steelers on Thursday night, as they couldn’t keep pace with the Pittsburgh offense. Marcus Mariota threw four picks, while the vaunted Titans rushing offense gained just 52 yards. However, the Titans are still a game up on the rest of the wild-card contenders and face four teams with losing records in their last six games.
- Washington Redskins (4-6, 3rd NFC East): Last week: 14
The Redskins have been cursed with the league’s hardest schedule, and Washington has nearly come out of many of those games with a win. Luckily for them, they don’t face a single team with a winning record the rest of the way. Unluckily for them, they will have to do it without breakout running back Chris Thompson, who was placed on IR after breaking his fibula.
- Los Angeles Chargers (4-6, T-2nd AFC West): Last week: 17
Finding themselves up 47-10 heading into the fourth quarter against the Bills, the Chargers coasted to an easy 54-24 win that keeps their playoff hopes alive. LA was helped by Buffalo’s questionable decision to start Nathan Peterman at quarterback, as the rookie fifth-rounder threw five interceptions in the first half. The Bolts’ offense did its part as well, with Keenan Allen catching 12 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns.
- Baltimore Ravens (5-5, 2nd AFC North): Last week: 19
While the Ravens offense is among the worst in the NFL, the defense is the reason this team is surprisingly in wild-card position. Baltimore’s 23-0 win at Lambeau Field was the third shutout of the season, and the Ravens defense hounded Brett Hundley as they sacked the inexperienced quarterback six times and forced five turnovers.
- Dallas Cowboys (5-5, 2nd NFC East): Last week: 15
Without Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith, Dallas is a different team. Dak Prescott threw three picks on Sunday Night Football while being held to 145 yards passing and no touchdowns. However, the entire blame can’t fall on the offense. Dallas’ defensive unit let up 37 points while failing to record one sack or turnover.
- Houston Texans (4-6, 3rd AFC South): Last week: 27
No Deshaun, no problem? Not exactly, but the Texans proved the doubters wrong and won a game without their star rookie quarterback. Using a fourth-quarter comeback to top the Cardinals 31-21 at home, hope began to emerge as rookie running back D’Onta Foreman converted 13 touches into 80 all-purpose yards and two scores. However, the Texans’ bad-luck season continued, as Foreman ruptured his Achilles during his second touchdown.
- Cincinnati Bengals (4-6, 3rd AFC North): Last week: 23
In a back-and-forth game that no one who wasn’t a diehard fan of either team watched, the Bengals topped the Broncos in Denver 20-17 as Andy Dalton threw for three touchdowns. Somehow the Bengals are just one game back of the wild-card, though their offensive struggles make postseason football unlikely for Cincinnati.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-6, 4th NFC South): Last week: 24
In a turn of events that few saw, the Bucs have won two games in a row since taking caution with Jameis Winston’s injury. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns without turning the ball over in a 30-20 road win over Miami. Fitz spread the love as well, as nine receivers had multiple targets.
- Oakland Raiders (4-6, T-2nd AFC West): Last week: 16
While technically playing at a neutral site in Mexico City, the Raiders failed to come through for the largely Silver-and-Black crowd as the Patriots shredded their embattled defense in a 33-8 loss. Marshawn Lynch’s standing for the Mexican national anthem while sitting for the United States’ drew headlines, but there is little to say about the actual play of this team.
- Buffalo Bills (5-5, 2nd AFC East): Last week: 20
The Nathan Peterman experiment was over quickly, but the results were clear as day. The rookie threw five interceptions in one half against the Chargers in the blowout loss, as the Bills’ free fall continues. Tyrod Taylor is almost certainly the Bills’ starter the rest of the way, but with their next two games against the Chiefs and the Patriots, expect Buffalo’s losing streak to continue.
- Green Bay Packers (5-5, 3rd NFC North): Last week: 18
Without Aaron Rodgers and now without their top two running backs, the Packers are in dire straits. Failing to score a point at home against the Ravens, Brett Hundley’s stat line gave him a lowly 13.6 QBR, while the running game averaged just 3.0 yards per carry in Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery’s absence.
- New York Jets (4-6, T-3rd AFC East): Last week: 25
- Chicago Bears (3-7, 4th NFC North): Last week: 28
Despite Jordan Howard’s 125-yard day, the Bears were unable to secure a home win against the Lions. Mitch Trubisky did enough to keep the matchup close, but Connor Barth missed a game-tying field goal late in the game. Barth is 11-for-16 on the season, but every one of those misses has come from beyond 40 yards.
- Arizona Cardinals (4-6, 3rd NFC West): Last week: 21
With Blaine Gabbert inserted at quarterback, the Cardinals faltered late as they lost to Houston 31-21. Adrian Peterson struggled again, toting the rock 14 times for 26 yards. Overshadowed by the injuries to Carson Palmer and David Johnson, the 34-year-old Larry Fitzgerald is quietly putting up numbers reminiscent of his glory days despite the quarterback carousel.
- Miami Dolphins (4-6, T-3rd AFC East): Last week: 22
Jay Cutler received the start in the Dolphins’ loss to Tampa Bay, though after a 6-for-12, three interception start, Adam Gase pulled him in favor of Matt Moore. Moore was significantly better, throwing for 282 yards and a touchdown, but the Dolphins coaching staff hasn’t named the starter for next week’s matchup against New England.
- Indianapolis Colts (3-7, 4th AFC South): Last week: 26
- New York Giants (2-8, 4th NFC East): Last week: 31
The Giants won their second game of the season in overtime over the reeling Chiefs in a contest that saw just one touchdown. The Giants’ O-line was strong, as they didn’t give up a single sack to a formidable Kansas City front. Landon Collins was a one-man wrecking crew, as the star safety notched 15 tackles, 11 of which were solo.
- Denver Broncos (3-7, 4th AFC West): Last week: 29
Brock Osweiler has shown time and time again that he has no place as a starting quarterback in the NFL, and Denver has finally realized that and will start Paxton Lynch next week against the Raiders. However, if there is any comparison for the former first-rounder Lynch in the NFL, it is Osweiler.
- San Francisco 49ers (1-9, 4th NFC West): Last week: 30
- Cleveland Browns (0-10, 4th AFC North): Last week: 32
There is still a 1 in 19,649,922,085,696,900,000 chance for the Browns to make the playoffs according to Fivethirtyeight, which is encouraging. Cleveland has a nearly 75 percent chance to nab the first overall pick, according to FPI, and with the league’s worst offense and 27th-ranked defense, that is unsurprising.