Just four games remain in the NFL regular season. It seems like just yesterday that the Chiefs were all the rage and people couldn’t stop talking about whether Odell Beckham’s injury could hinder the Giants’ playoff hopes. Now, the Chiefs have dropped six of their last seven games, and the Giants are cleaning house and prepping for a future without Eli Manning. Both the Patriots and the Vikings were 2-2, and the NFL community had begun to write them off. Neither squad has lost since, and occupy two of the top three spots in these rankings. The unofficial motto of the NFL is “Not For Long”, and the constant change we have seen this season has added new meaning to the phrase.
- New England Patriots (10-2): Last week: 2
The Patriots cruised into the top spot of the rankings for the first time this season, securing the top spot after dismantling the Bills, a team that has been a thorn in New England’s side in recent years, 23-3 in Buffalo. Rob Gronkowski will be suspended for the Pats’ Monday Night showdown in Miami, but will be able to play in the key matchup against Pittsburgh in Week 15.
- Philadelphia Eagles (10-2): Last week: 1
Suffering their first loss since Week 2, the Eagles finally conceded the top spot in the rankings. While 24-10 is a solid loss, playing Seattle in one of the harshest stadiums for opposing teams in football is forgivable. The Seahawks took away the Eagles run game, and Philly struggled to score when everything was placed on Carson Wentz’s shoulders.
- Minnesota Vikings (10-2): Last week: 3
An impressive 14-9 road win over a streaking Falcons team kept the Vikings’ train rolling, and helped cement their reputation as a contender. Case Keenum continues to be a model of efficiency, as the former backup has compiled a passer rating over 100 in each of his last four games.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2): Last week: 4
Needing a last-second Chris Boswell field goal to secure the win for the second week in a row, the Steelers scored 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to beat the Bengals 23-20. Despite the harsh rivalry between the two teams, evidenced by Juju Smith-Schuster’s cheap shot on Vontaze Burfict, the Steelers can’t continue to play down to lesser opponents.
- Los Angeles Rams (9-3): Last week: 5
Can’t complain about a solid 32-16 divisional win. LA topped Arizona in Glendale behind the versatility of Todd Gurley, who rushed for 74 yards and racked up 84 yards through the air. While a playoff spot is fairly secure, the Rams’ divisional lead could be in trouble as they face Philly, Seattle and Tennessee in the next three weeks.
- New Orleans Saints (9-3): Last week: 6
The Saints’ 31-21 win over Carolina gave New Orleans a one-game lead in the NFC South, as the Panthers were the latest victim to the Saints’ top-ranked rushing offense, nicknamed “Boom and Zoom”. Both Ingram and Kamara totaled over 100 all-purpose yards and had three touchdowns between them against Carolina’s stout D.
- Seattle Seahawks (8-4): Last week: 9
Pete Carroll and Co. nabbed their most impressive win of the season behind a dazzling performance from Russell Wilson. The elusive QB continuously befuddled the Eagles defense, powering Seattle to a crucial win that keeps them right in the midst of a division crown.
- Carolina Panthers (8-4): Last week: 8
Carolina’s four-game win streak ended in the Big Easy on Sunday afternoon, though Atlanta and Detroit losses greatly helped the Panthers’ playoff hopes. A tough test in Minnesota will pay a visit to Charlotte next week, and Carolina could use a statement win on their resume to boost confidence heading into the postseason.
- Atlanta Falcons (7-5): Last week: 7
The Falcons’ win streak came to an end at the hands of the Vikings on Sunday, as Julio Jones was held to two catches and 24 yards by Xavier Rhodes. Atlanta is a game up on the rest of the contenders for the second wild card spot, but two games against the Saints and one against the Panthers remaining will convolute their playoff chances.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4): Last week: 10
In a relatively uneventful 30-10 win for Jacksonville, Blake Bortles got back on track by throwing for 309 yards and two touchdowns without turning the ball over. While Indianapolis doesn’t have a menacing secondary by any means, it has to be comforting to see Bortles perform well after his disastrous game in Arizona last week.
- Tennessee Titans (8-4): Last week: 12
There is not a team currently above .500 that I have been less impressed with than Tennessee. The Titans again registered a win over a bad team by a margin that was too close for comfort, as they beat the Texans 24-13 at home this week. Somehow, Tennessee doesn’t even have a positive point differential, as they are currently -16 on the season.
- Baltimore Ravens (7-5): Last week: 15
Baltimore jumped into sole possession of the second wild card spot with an emphatic 44-20 win over the Lions at home, showing that they may be better than previously thought. According to ESPN, the Ravens have an 87.3 percent chance of making the postseason, though losing top corner Jimmy Smith could be a blow.
- Los Angeles Chargers (6-6): Last week: 13
Despite an 0-4 start, the Bolts are in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC West with momentum on their side after a 19-10 home win over Cleveland. With an away date with Kansas City in primetime and a home matchup against Oakland in the next four weeks, no one in the division has a clear path to the playoffs.
- Oakland Raiders (6-6): Last week: 18
Though they were short their two top receivers, the Silver and Black pulled out a 24-17 win over the Giants behind Marshawn Lynch’s 101 yards, one score performance. Despite being tied for the AFC West division lead, the rest of Oakland’s schedule will be tough; at Chiefs, vs. Cowboys, at Eagles, at Chargers.
- Detroit Lions (6-6): Last week: 11
Detroit was handed a punishing loss in Baltimore this past weekend, as their defense could not stop a Ravens offense that ranks among the worst in the league. With Ameer Abdullah out, undrafted rookie running back Tion Green provided a feel-good story by rushing for 51 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut.
- Dallas Cowboys (6-6): Last week: 22
Dak Prescott only threw for 102 yards against the Redskins last week, but that was all the ‘Boys needed as they broke a three-game losing streak with a 38-14 stomping of their rivals. With Ezekiel Elliott set to return in two weeks, Alfred Morris stepped up and rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown to power Dallas to the win.
- Buffalo Bills (6-6): Last week: 16
The quarterback situation in Buffalo is only getting uglier. Tyrod Taylor found himself benched once again after completing nine of his 18 passes for 65 yards and a pick, though Nathan Peterman was equally as bad in relief. The scary thing is that the Bills still have a decent shot at securing a wild card berth, as they face the Colts once and the Dolphins twice in their remaining games.
- Green Bay Packers (6-6): Last week: 19
The Packers are scraping by without Aaron Rodgers, nabbing a 26-20 overtime win over Tampa Bay at Lambeau. With the bad man set to return in two weeks, Green Bay still has a chance to make the postseason, but being two games back with four to go may be insurmountable, especially with the Panthers, Vikings and Lions still on the schedule.
- New York Jets (5-7): Last week: 23
You can’t overlook the Jets. Pulling out a 38-31 win over the Chiefs at home was surprising enough, but the fact that Gang Green scored 38 points with Josh McCown at the helm is a shocker itself. With the Jets still below .500, McCown isn’t getting the recognition he deserves. The 37-year-old, who spent 2010 playing for the Hartford Colonials of the UFL, currently has a better passer rating than Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton.
- Kansas City Chiefs (6-6): Last week: 17
Despite Alex Smith’s best efforts (366 yards, four TD’s), the Chiefs stretch of misery continued. After starting the year with a seemingly-insurmountable division lead, Kansas City is now tied with Los Angeles and Oakland and is trending downwards. Facing the Raiders and the Chargers in the next two weeks, the Chiefs could control their own destiny.
- Miami Dolphins (5-7): Last week: 27
After the trade of Jay Ajayi, fantasy owners scrambled to figure out which Dolphin rusher would take over as the team’s primary back. With Damien Williams sidelined, Kenyan Drake staked his claim to the role, rushing 23 times for 120 yards and a touchdown to lead Miami to a 35-9 blowout of Denver.
- Cincinnati Bengals (5-7): Last week: 20
Blowing a 17 point lead to your fierce rival is never fun, especially when the loss dooms your playoff hopes as your rival pads their division lead. The loss was not just seen in the game’s result, unfortunately, as Joe Mixon, Adam Jones and Vontaze Burfict were all injured on Monday night.
- Washington Redskins (5-7): Last week: 14
The ‘Skins actually outgained the Cowboys in their humiliating blowout loss on Thursday Night Football, but their four turnovers were costly. The loss effectively put an end to Washington’s season, which frequently consisted of hanging tight to good teams but failing to come up with wins.
- Arizona Cardinals (5-7): Last week: 21
An Adrian Peterson injury opened the door for Kerwynn Williams to test himself, and the young running back toted the rock 16 times for 97 yards against a very tough Rams front. While overshadowed due to the Cardinals struggles this season, the Chandler Jones trade paid off in a big way for Arizona as he is second in the league in sacks with 13.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8): Last week: 25
The return of Jameis Winston wasn’t enough for the Bucs to grab a win in a tough environment, as Tampa fell in overtime. Peyton Barber played well in the injury absence of Doug Martin, but Martin will likely take over his duties as the primary ball-carrier this week.
- Houston Texans (4-8): Last week: 24
Bill O’Brien finally turned Tom Savage loose and received mixed results. Savage threw the ball nearly 50 times against a weak Tennessee secondary, racking up 349 yards and a touchdown, but also threw a critical interception late in the game. The blame can’t be placed entirely on the backup’s shoulders’ however, as Lamar Miller did little to help in the run game.
- Indianapolis Colts (3-9): Last week: 28
Evidenced by the Colts 30-10 loss to Jacksonville, Indy is one of the weakest teams in the league on both sides of the ball. Their 27.5 average points against is the worst in the league, while their 17.1 average points for ranks 28th. Even when Andrew Luck comes back, the Colts will struggle in a revitalized AFC South.
- San Francisco 49ers (2-10): Last week: 31
The 49ers secured their second win of the season in a low-scoring road contest with the Bears, topping the Munchkins of the Midway 15-14 in Jimmy Garoppolo’s first career start for the team. While the 49ers offense was unable to hit paydirt, Garoppolo’s 293-yard day against a rising Bears secondary was an encouraging sign for San Francisco fans.
- Chicago Bears (3-9): Last week: 26
Da Bears accumulated just 147 yards of total offense as they fell to the hapless 49ers at home, showing that despite their occasional flashes, there is still a lot of work to be done. Tarik Cohen re-entered the spotlight for the first time since his hot start to the season, as the rookie running back returned a punt for a touchdown in electrifying fashion to keep Chicago in the game.
- New York Giants (2-10): Last week: 30
The Giants dominated headlines this past week, first starting universally recognized bust Geno Smith over two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning in their 24-17 loss in Oakland, then firing the tandem of head coach Ben McAdoo and GM Jerry Reese. While the Giants are clearly in overhaul mode, Manning will be back under center this week and his days in blue could be numbered.
- Denver Broncos (3-9): Last week: 29
Major change needs to come to Mile High, and it needs to come this offseason. The Broncos have dropped eight games in a row, with an embarrassing 35-9 defeat to the Dolphins being the latest. Their once-fearsome defense is 31st in the league in points against, and the offense isn’t doing its part either.
- Cleveland Browns (0-12): Last week: 32
To no one’s surprise, the Browns lost again. However, Josh Gordon played his first football game since 2014, catching four passes for 85 yards. That stat line looks strong for a rust-busting game, but the oft-suspended wideout was targeted a whopping 11 times. At least, DeShone Kizer has a legitimate receiving threat now.