*Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Week 12 featured only a few games between playoff-bound teams. However, these few games allowed fans to see which teams are the true contenders and which are the pretenders.
No. 1: Philadelphia Eagles: 10-1
Last Week: No. 1
The Eagles’ dominance continued as they steamrolled the Bears 31-3. Despite losing three fumbles, the Eagles only allowed 140 total yards to the Bears offense while giving up only three points. Philadelphia’s offense amassed a whopping 420 yards, with 176 of those coming on the ground. This team shows no signs of slowing down as they head to Seattle for a Week 13 matchup with the injury-ridden Seahawks.
No. 2: New England Patriots: 9-2
Last Week: No. 2
The Patriots did not play as well as the score shows in their 35-17 win over the Dolphins. Although they outscored Miami by 18 points, stupid mistakes, such as an early snap that was fumbled and returned for a touchdown, prevented the Patriots from winning this game by a larger margin. The defense continues to look better each week for this team, but if they want to make it back to the Super Bowl, they’ll have to be even better than they’ve looked the last three weeks.
No. 3: Los Angeles Rams: 8-3
Last Week: No. 6
The Rams got a statement win over a tough New Orleans Saints team in Week 12. An early touchdown gave the Rams a lead that they never gave up throughout this game. Jared Goff continued his excellence, throwing for 354 yards and two touchdowns against a solid Saints defense. This win over the Saints shows that the Rams are a serious threat to win the NFC.
No. 4: Pittsburgh Steelers: 9-2
Last Week: No. 3
The Steelers once again played down to their competition as they have throughout the year. However, they were able to pull out a win on a last-second, 53-yard Chris Boswell field goal. The defense blew coverages multiple times and allowed passing touchdowns of 39, 54 and 55 yards. Making mistakes like this in the playoffs is a sure way to make an early exit. The Steelers need to figure out how to prevent this if they want a shot at playing for the Lombardi trophy.
No. 5: Minnesota Vikings: 9-2
Last Week: No. 5
The Vikings won the first of the three Thanksgiving games, beating the Lions 30-23. This win puts the Vikings three games ahead of the Lions for the NFC North lead. Minnesota must now travel to Atlanta to play the Falcons in a Week 13 game that will have significant implications for the NFC playoff picture.
No. 6: New Orleans Saints: 8-3
Last Week: No. 4
The Saints trailed early and were never able to gain a lead in their loss to the Rams that ended their eight game winning streak. Star QB Drew Brees threw for less than 250 yards, and outside of a 74 yard rushing touchdown by Alvin Kamara, the rushing game only mustered 49 yards. The defense that has been so good for this team was exposed by second-year quarterback Jared Goff. The Saints are sure to learn from this and make corrections quickly, as they have a very important game against the Panthers in Week 13.
No. 7: Atlanta Falcons: 7-4
Last Week: No. 8
The Falcons offense had an incredible game, putting up 513 yards and 34 points, despite missing running back Devonta Freeman. Julio Jones had one of the best games by a receiver this season with 12 catches for 253 yards and two touchdowns. Tevin Coleman also had two touchdowns on the ground. If the offense can play this well again, this team could be able to pull off a win against the 9-2 Vikings and their stout defense this week.
No. 8: Carolina Panthers: 8-3
Last Week: No. 9
The Panthers were able to overcome a two-point deficit in the fourth quarter on touchdowns from both the special teams and the defense to win 35-27. This comeback win puts the Panthers in position to take sole possession of first within their division with a win over the Saints in Week 13. However, this offense will have to play much better than they did against a struggling Jets team if they want to beat a tough Saints team.
No. 9: Seattle Seahawks: 7-4
Last Week: No. 10
The Seahawks were able to bounce back from a slow start and get a win against the 49ers. Late in the third quarter the Seahawks only led by a point, but two touchdowns and a field goal put them up by 18 points before a garbage time touchdown by the 49ers. Before the injuries to their secondary, the Seahawks looked like they could challenge the Rams in the NFC West. Now, it looks to be the Rams’ division to lose.
No. 10: Los Angeles Chargers: 5-6
Last Week: No. 14
The Chargers, despite currently having a losing record, look to be the new favorites to win the AFC West. After easily beating the Cowboys on Thanksgiving and seeing the Chiefs lose once again, the Chargers are now only one game behind Kansas City for the division lead. After starting 0-4, this team has since gone 5-2 with losses to only the Patriots and the Jaguars, who are both likely to be playoff teams. It will be interesting to see how things play out for the Chargers within their division.
No. 11: Jacksonville Jaguars: 7-4
Last Week: No. 7
The Jaguars lost to the Cardinals on a 57 yard field goal with one second remaining, leading to their slide in this week’s rankings. The Jaguars defense that has looked excellent so far gave up 344 yards to a Cardinals offense led by Blaine Gabbert. The Achilles’ heel for this team continues to be the offense, which was only able to put up 219 yards while turning the ball over three times. They say “defense wins championships,” but to get there, you need to be able to score points and take care of the ball. I’m not sold on the Jaguars being a serious threat to AFC frontrunners Pittsburgh and New England.
No. 12: Detroit Lions: 6-5
Last Week: No. 13
The Lions’ one spot rise comes thanks to another loss by the Chiefs. A win on Thanksgiving over the Vikings would have put the Lions only a game behind Minnesota within their division. However, the 30-23 loss now has them three games behind in their division and on the outside looking in at a crowded NFC wild card chase.
No. 13: Washington Redskins: 5-6
Last Week: No. 12
The Redskins, much like the Lions, have their one spot increase courtesy of the Chiefs and their loss to the Bills. The Redskins were able to get a win in the primetime Thanksgiving game over the struggling Giants, but it was not a pretty one. A pick-six by the Giants’ Janoris Jenkins tied the game late in the third quarter before the Redskins rattled off 10 points in the fourth to win. The Redskins are still capable of getting a wild card spot, but they have their work cut out for them as they have multiple teams they must climb over for one.
No. 14: Baltimore Ravens: 6-5
Last Week: No. 16
The Ravens were able to get a win thanks to a solid game by their defense. After giving up a touchdown in the first quarter, the Ravens defense did not allow another throughout the rest of the game. Their takeaway-machine defense was also able to add three more to its season total. The Ravens look to be a possible wild-card team, as they still trail Pittsburgh by three games.
No. 15: Tennessee Titans: 7-4
Last Week: No. 18
The Titans were able to pull out a comeback win on two late touchdowns after trailing 16-6 late in the third quarter. This win, combined with the Jaguars’ loss, puts the Titans in a tie for first place within their division. The winner of this division will get a home game in the wild-card round, meaning the Week 17 matchup between the Titans and Jaguars could be critical to getting a playoff win.
No. 16: Kansas City Chiefs: 6-5
Last Week: No. 11
The Chiefs continued to struggle and lost 16-10 against the Bills. This loss marks the fifth in the last six games for this team that once looked like not only the AFC favorite, but the favorite for the entire league. Adding an aging Darrelle Revis to this team isn’t the answer. With the Chargers hot on their tail, the Chiefs have no more room for error if they want to win their division or even simply make the playoffs.
No. 17: Buffalo Bills: 6-5
Last Week: No. 19
When the struggling Bills and Chiefs played each other, you knew one team had to come out with their first win in a few weeks. That team happened to be Buffalo, who pulled out a 16-10 win. Things aren’t going to get any easier for the Bills, however, as they host their division rival New England Patriots in Week 13 and travel to Foxborough Week 16.
No. 18: Cincinnati Bengals: 5-6
Last Week: No. 17
The Bengals played their cross-state rival, the Cleveland Browns, in Week 12. A 30-16 win over the Browns puts the Bengals only one game under .500. However, with 4 of their final 5 games coming against possible playoff teams, a .500 season doesn’t look to be in the cards for the Bengals.
No. 19: Oakland Raiders: 5-6
Last Week: No. 20
The Raiders got a 21-14 win over the Broncos in a battle that looked like a hockey game at times. Raiders’ receiver Michael Crabtree was suspended for one game after getting into a fight with Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib, who stole Crabtree’s necklace for the second year in a row. Missing one of their best weapons on offense is not good for a team that has their backs against the wall for a playoff spot.
No. 20: Arizona Cardinals: 5-6
Last Week: No. 29
The Cardinals saw the biggest rise in this week’s rankings thanks to their upset win over the Jaguars. After losing Carson Palmer to injury, most people thought the Cardinals’ hopes of a winning record were gone. Blaine Gabbert, however, thought otherwise, as he had an impressive game against an excellent defense and led his team to a win.
No. 21: Dallas Cowboys: 5-6
Last Week: No. 15
The Cowboys were absolutely dominated by the Chargers on Thanksgiving Day. The offense for this team, without Ezekiel Elliott, has been completely inept at producing points. At the current rate, by the time Elliott returns in Week 16, this team will be out of playoff contention if they don’t turn it around soon.
No. 22: New York Jets: 4-7
Last Week: No. 22
The Jets blew a second half lead in their loss to the Panthers. A Jets fumble that was returned for a touchdown and a punt return touchdown by the Panthers allowed Carolina to come from behind and get a win. The one bright spot for the Jets was the solid game that journeyman quarterback Josh McCown played, who has been more than adequate in the absence of a franchise signal-caller.
No. 23: Green Bay Packers: 5-6
Last Week: No. 27
The Packers are not usually under .500 this late in the season, but after losing Aaron Rodgers, that is the case this year. Even with the possibility of Rodgers returning soon, it is likely too little too late for this team, as the NFC playoff picture is crowded with many solid teams.
No. 24: Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 4-7
Last Week: No. 21
The Buccaneers’ struggles have continued in Week 12, giving up over 500 yards to the Falcons offense. With all three divisional opponents looking at playoff spots, the Buccaneers can consider their playoff chances to be gone. However, this young team can be a contender in a year or two if they strengthen their porous defense and build around young pieces.
No. 25: Miami Dolphins: 4-7
Last Week: No. 23
The Dolphins had their work cut out for them in Week 12, as they had to play the powerhouse New England Patriots. However, a rather mediocre game by New England kept the Dolphins from getting completely embarrassed. Miami’s best hope is next season when Ryan Tannehill returns from injury, because neither Matt Moore nor Jay Cutler is a long-term option at QB.
No. 26: Houston Texans: 4-7
Last Week: No. 24
For a team that once looked like the AFC South favorite, this season has been a lost cause after injuries to multiple key starters derailed their season. The Texans did keep it close against Baltimore, but three turnovers by Houston allowed the Ravens to come out with the win. The focus for this team should be getting and keeping everyone healthy for next season.
No. 27: Indianapolis Colts: 3-8
Last Week: No. 26
The Colts blew a 10 point second half lead to lose to the Titans in Week 12. This is a team that looks like a shadow of its former self without Andrew Luck leading the offense. The Colts’ focus should be finding linemen, whether through the draft or in free agency, to keep their franchise quarterback healthy. If ever there were a time to tank, it would be now for this team.
No. 28: Chicago Bears: 3-8
Last Week: No. 25
Despite having three takeaways, the Bears got blown out by the Eagles 31-3. The development of the young talent on this team is crucial if the Bears want out of the basement of the NFC anytime soon.
No. 29: New York Giants: 2-9
Last Week: No. 28
With the news that Geno Smith will start at quarterback in Week 13 and that rookie Davis Webb will see playing time, the Giants seem to be fully embracing the tank while also giving their young guys some game experience. Everything about this team has been a disappointment this season.
No. 30: San Francisco 49ers: 1-10
Last Week: No. 30
After trading a second round pick for Jimmy Garoppolo, the team finally played him when C.J. Beathard was injured in their loss to the Seahawks. He has also now been named the starter for the team and will make his first start as a 49er. It’ll be interesting to see if he can lead this team to any more wins or if they’ll finish the season with only one.
No. 31: Denver Broncos: 3-8
Last Week: No. 31
As if this team hasn’t been struggling enough, quarterback Paxton Lynch is now out for 2-4 weeks and cornerback Aqib Talib is suspended for the next game for his fight with Michael Crabtree. The Broncos are another team that has done pretty much nothing except disappoint this season.
No. 32: Cleveland Browns: 0-11
Last Week: No. 32
The last team in the power rankings is once again the winless Cleveland Browns. It seems that the only hope for a win this season could come in Week 17 against the Steelers if they rest their starters for the playoffs. However, even then, a win still isn’t a given for this putrid team.