The Cleveland Browns had a great opportunity to win their first game of the season. But, in a so-Cleveland way, squandered that opportunity against Green Bay. Now, it’s hard to see where they will get such another chance to win their first game of the season in the final three weeks with Baltimore, Chicago, and Pittsburgh remaining on the schedule. With or without Eli Manning, the New York Giants are headed to an interesting off-season. They played tough last week against the Cowboys for three quarters. Then, their lack of talent was simply too hard to overcome in the second half.
The Indianapolis Colts get the fun luxury of playing through a snowstorm in Buffalo on Sunday, then play on Thursday Night Football. Good luck with that with a team struggling already. The Denver Broncos defense was finally able to dictate the flow of a game, overcoming inefficiency at quarterback. Now they face a golden opportunity to get two wins in a row as they play the Colts on TNF.
Reeling from the physicality of their Week 13 matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cincinnati Bengals never put up a fight against Chicago on Sunday. As the season concludes, Cincinnati is facing a series of questions regarding the long-term stability of the franchise. It starts with head coach and starting quarterback. The Chicago Bears got a rare win behind its 1-2 backfield combo. Still, the development of Mitchell Trubisky outweighs wins now for their long-term growth.
If not for the Giants, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may be the league’s most disappointing team. A season of promise has turned into a season of scrutiny. Has the relationship changed between QB Jameis Winston and head coach Dirk Koetter? The answer may determine if the Buccaneers have new leadership next season. The Houston Texans season got uglier than it already has been with the concussion to Tom Savage and the list of events the occurred afterwards.
The San Francisco 49ers were 1-10 without Jimmy Garoppolo as the starting QB. They are now 2-0 with him as the starter. That’s a promising enough start to merit him being the long-term answer for the 49ers. The Washington Redskins are one of the best 10 teams in the NFL when healthy. Unfortunately, they are the most banged up team in the NFL this year. Injuries have finally gotten to their quality of play, with back-to-back blowout losses. A long and program-altering off-season lays ahead.
The Miami Dolphins did what they usually do, disrupt Tom Brady. The Dolphins are 9-7 in the 16 career games against Brady in Miami. Right now, the Dolphins would trade that record to be this year’s record. The Arizona Cardinals still have a glimmer of hope to their postseason goals. They pulled out a tough win against a good Tennessee team. But, they need a whole lot to happen to make the playoffs.
The Oakland Raiders laid an egg on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders, my pre-season pick to win the AFC West, has been a shell of the team it was last season. As their future in Oakland draws to a close, maybe the window for this team is as well, already. The New York Jets still are best team with a losing record. Unfortunately, that “title” may not last too much longer with QB Josh McCown suffering a broken hand that effectively ended his season.
Finally, Dak Prescott showed he can guide the Dallas Cowboys to a win without Ezekiel Elliott. After four subpar performances during Elliott’s six-game suspension, Prescott had a great quarter. It was against the hopeless Giants, so how much of that can be measured fairly? Sunday’s clash against the Raiders may serve an answer.
The Detroit Lions are a team of purgatory. They beat the teams they should. But, they do not have enough firepower to outlast the top-tier teams on a consistent basis. Until they manage to do so, I’ll be reserved on how special Matthew Stafford really is.
Brett Hundley has proven he can be a serviceable NFL QB. In his last three games he has turned the corner, completing 69.1 percent of his passes for six touchdowns and one interception. His yardage is mediocre at 594 yards during the span, but he has shown strides. The Green Bay Packers are 2-1 in those three games. But, it’s Christmas in Green Bay early, as their savior Aaron Rodgers will return Sunday with the playoff in sight.
The Kansas City Chiefs have finally awakened from their mid-season nap. The Chiefs picked up a huge win over the Raiders, who themselves appear sleeping though the season. Rookie RB Kareem Hunt finally broke through with his first 100-yard rushing game since Oct. 8. Now they must get ready for another AFC West showdown, as they face the Los Angeles Chargers, who may be the league’s hottest team.
The Baltimore Ravens were minutes away from a huge momentum-lifting win against Pittsburgh. But in the words of the late Dennis Green, the Ravens “let them off the hook.”
Now they are surfing to get back on track and need help to reclaim their spot in the AFC postseason. The Buffalo Bills survived a snowstorm against the Colts. Now they will try to keep focus towards being a playoff team. They will need QB Tyrod Taylor healthy to do so.
Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans took a huge step back in their loss to the Cardinals. Now they sit back one game to the Jaguars. Can Mariota get back on track? If they win out they win the AFC South division. So, it’s not all that bad. The Seattle Seahawks were punched in the mouth with their own medicine in Jacksonville. Russell Wilson tried his best to bring them back and steal a win, but the comeback fell short. Now they are on the outside looking in the playoffs. With three tough opponents (LAR, DAL, ARI) remaining, they may face an uphill battle.
The Los Angeles Chargers are rolling. Winners of 7 of their last 9, the Chargers are in primed position to win the division and make the playoffs. But all their winning boils down to Saturday night against Kansas City. The Atlanta Falcons got a huge win and some help to their postseason cause. Deion Jones made an excellent play to intercept Drew Brees to clinch a win in New Orleans for Atlanta. But with three divisional contests remaining, the Falcons still have work to do.
The Carolina Panthers got a much-needed win against Minnesota. Cam Newton pulled off a clutch 62-yard run that set up the winning score. Now the Panthers are firm in the NFC South division race. But, the ante has been upped to Sunday’s game against the Packers with Rodgers returning. The New Orleans Saints cushion in the NFC South has dwindled. But, they are getting healthy again and have a favorable remaining schedule with the Jets (without McCown) and the Falcons at home before finishing against the disappointing Bucs on the road.
The Los Angeles Rams have had mixed results against top-tier teams this season. After dropping a golden opportunity against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Rams are 2-3 against the top 12 teams from this week’s Power Rankings. They maintain a one-game lead in the NFC West standings over the Seahawks, but they have trips to Tennessee (No. 12) and Seattle (No. 11) in back-to-back weeks. A lot will be learned about them before the regular season closes.
All hope has sailed out of Philadelphia after QB Carson Wentz went on injured reserved after tearing his ACL in Sunday’s win over the Rams. But, before the bandwagon completely leaves, Nick Foles is a serviceable QB who knows the system and has won as a starter before. There is enough talent in Philadelphia that Super Bowl hopes should not be completely vanished.
The rest of the NFC is breathing a sigh of relief. The Minnesota Vikings‘ loss to Carolina now means the road to the Super Bowl in Minnesota does not go through Minnesota for the NFC. But with Wentz out, the tide can reverse back. This Vikings offense is superb and flying under the radar of its offense. But, Case Keenum cannot turn over the football like he did against Carolina.
The New England Patriots haters are ready to write off Tom Brady after one bad game. That’s fool’s gold. Even at 40 years of age, Brady is still the best QB in the NFL, and as long as No. 12 on the field, the Patriots are a threat to win it all. The Pittsburgh Steelers, the Patriots next opponent, are rolling and collecting wins. They’ve been close and hard fought in large due to the many holes on its defense. But, the Steelers offense is the most talented offensive group in the NFL. They are never out of a game no matter the score. They may need to continue to click on cylinders as their depleted defense will face the G.O.A.T. on Sunday.
All the attention this week (and most of the season) has been on the Steelers and Patriots, but the best team in the NFL right now is… The Jacksonville Jaguars. Let’s argue.
They have the scariest secondary in the NFL and right now are on pace to do something no other defense has done since the Super Bowl era. That’s lead the NFL in points allowed, takeaways, and sacks. The Jaguars are first right now in all three categories. By the way, they have a 30-9 Week 5 win over at the Steelers in their back pocket. Remember the game Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions?
When Blake Bortles is just average, there are not many teams that can take down this team in large due to its light’s out defense.