Once again, our top 4 teams remain the same as last week – wins for our no.1 (Saints) and no.4 teams (Patriots), whilst the no.2 (Rams) and no.3 (Chiefs) teams were on their bye week.
Our bottom 4 teams also remain the same – all of them losing this week.
The biggest risers this week are Denver and Cleveland (both up 4) and Seattle and Dallas (both up 3)
The biggest fallers this week are Pittsburgh, Carolina, Washington, Green Bay and Jacksonville (all down 3)
1. New Orleans Saints (10-1) (last week’s ranking: 1)
The Saints beat the Falcons 31-17 on Thanksgiving night and in doing so, took their record to an NFL-tying best 10-1 (tied with the Rams, who the Saints have already beaten). After losing their season opener, New Orleans have won 10 straight games. Drew Brees threw 4 more touchdown passes (and also threw just his second interception of the season) as New Orleans moved closer to securing a playoff spot. Despite giving up chunks of passing yardage, the Saints defense starred this week forcing 4 turnovers, 6 sacks and holding the Falcons to just 26 yards rushing.
Next up: The Saints travel to Dallas to play the Cowboys in a Thursday Night Football match-up which has big playoff implications.
2. Los Angeles Rams (10-1) (last week’s ranking: 2)
The Rams had their bye this past week. A well needed break following their Monday Night exploits against the Chiefs in week 11. The Rams would have clinched the NFC West title had the Seahawks lost this week…they didn’t. The Rams will clinch the division with a win or a Seahawks loss this coming week. The Rams currently hold the no.2 seed position in the NFC.
Next up: The Rams travel to Detroit to play the Lions.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2) (last week’s ranking: 3)
The Chiefs had their bye this past week. The Chiefs currently hold the no.1 seed position in the AFC.
Next up: The Chiefs travel to Oakland to play the Raiders.
4. New England Patriots (8-3) (last week’s ranking: 4)
Coming off their bye week, the Patriots travelled to New York to play the Jets and came away with the 27-13 victory in a hard-fought game. Rookie RB Sony Michel led the way for the Patriots with 133 yards rushing, as the team had over 200 yards on the ground. Tom Brady threw for 283 yards and in the process went passed the 3,000-yard passing mark for the 16th straight season (trailing only Brett Favre who did it 18 consecutive times). The Patriots move to 8-3 with the win – now the equal 2nd best record in the AFC...it also marks the 18th consecutive season in which New England will finish .500 or better – second to the Cowboys who had a 21 season stretch from 1965 to 1985.
Next up: The Patriots host the Vikings.
5. Los Angeles Chargers (8-3) (last week’s ranking: 6)
In defeating the Arizona Cardinals 45-10, Philip Rivers had one the most efficient outings ever for an NFL QB – going 19 for 19 for 187 yards and 2 touchdowns in the first half and completing his first 25 passes to equal the NFL record (tied with Ryan Tannehill). Rivers finished completing 28 passes from 29 attempts – an NFL record completion % of 96.6%. He had 259 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. Is Rivers an outside candidate for the NFL MVP award this year? On the defensive side of the ball, Joey Bosa, who has missed most of the season, had 2 sacks. With the win, the Chargers solidified their position as the no.5 seed in the AFC and are just 1 game behind the Chiefs in the AFC West.
Next up: The Chargers travel to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers on Sunday Night Football.
6. Houston Texans (8-3) (last week’s ranking: 7)
The Texans won their 8th straight game, defeating the Tennessee Titans 34-17 on Monday Night football. Houston trailed 10-0 early in this game but came back to win thanks to 162-yard rushing day from Lamar Miller and a team total of 281 yards on the ground. Miller’s night included a 97-yard touchdown run…in the process, he became the first player in NFL history to have multiple runs of 97+ yards in his career. Defensively they had 6 sacks including 2.5 from Christian Covington. With the win, the Texans are tied for the 2nd best record in the AFC and currently hold the no.3 seed.
Next up: The Texans host the Cleveland Browns.
7. Chicago Bears (8-3) (last week’s ranking: 8)
Overcoming an extremely short time span between games, the Bears defeated the Lions 23-16 on Thanksgiving Day. The victory moved the Bears closer to a playoff spot in the NFC and a possible division title. With starter Mitch Trubisky missing, back-up Chase Daniels had a solid game completing 27 of 37 passes for 230 yards and 2 touchdowns – and crucially, no interceptions. The Bears defense continues to play strong, this week intercepting Matthew Stafford twice. The Bears have now won 5 straight games.
Next up: The Bears travel to New York to play the Giants.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3-1)(last week’s ranking: 5)
Despite completing 41 of 56 passes for 462 yards, Ben Roethlisberger couldn’t lead his team from behind to beat the Broncos – Denver winning 24-17 in an upset. Roethlisberger led his team down the field in the final two minutes, but he threw an interception on a goal to go situation sealing the fate of his team. Standout WR Juju Smith-Schuster had a 97-yard touchdown reception from Ben Roethlisberger – the longest play from scrimmage this season – and becoming just the second player in NFL history to have two 97+ yard touchdown catches in a career. He finished the day with 13 receptions for 189 yards. With the loss, Pittsburgh fell to the no.4 seed position in the AFC (behind the Chiefs, Patriots and Texans).
Next up: The Steelers host the Los Angeles Chargers in a big AFC Sunday Night Football game.
9. Minnesota Vikings (6-4-1) (last week’s ranking: 10)
In a huge game, the Vikings beat the Packers 24-17 on Sunday Night Football and with the win, Minnesota took a big step towards the playoffs. The Vikings now hold the 5thseed spot in the NFC. Kirk Cousins threw for 342 yards and 3 touchdowns, while completing 29 of 38 passes, while Adam Thielen had 125 yards receiving. The Vikes are now 1½ games behind the Bears in the race for the NFC North title.
Next up: In a big game, the Vikings travel to New England to play the Patriots.
10. Baltimore Ravens (6-5) (last week’s ranking: 12)
Lamar Jackson started at quarterback again for the Ravens (Joe Flacco is still out with a hip injury) and he led the Ravens to a 34-17 victory over the Raiders – Jackson’s second win in as many starts. After rushing for more than 100 yards last week, Jackson had 71 more this week and with the help of their defense and special teams, Baltimore were able to overcome 2 interceptions thrown by Jackson. Cyrus Jones had a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown – Baltimore’s first special teams touchdown of the season, whilst Terrell Suggs returned a fumble recovery 43 yards for a touchdown. Ravens LB Matt Judon recorded sacks on 3 consecutive plays. The Ravens remain in playoff position in the AFC. Head coach John Harbaugh was reportedly a candidate to be the next head coach at USC – although USC have decided that they will stay with incumbent Clay Helton.
Next up: The Ravens travel to Atlanta to play the Falcons.
11. Seattle Seahawks (6-5) (last week’s ranking: 14)
In a crucial match-up of NFC wild card contenders, the Seahawks beat the Carolina Panthers 30-27 on a last second 31-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski. Russell Wilson threw for 339 yards and 2 touchdowns while receivers Tyler Lockett and David Moore each had 100-yard receiving days. The Seahawks are now in pole position for a wild card spot in the NFC.
Next up: The Seahawks host the San Francisco 49ers.
12. Carolina Panthers (6-5) (last week’s ranking: 9)
The Panthers went down 30-27 to the Seahawks on a last second field goal, meaning that Carolina has now lost 3 straight. From once being secure in the no.1 wild card position in the NFC, the Panthers are now in the thick of just trying to get into the playoffs at all. A loss to fellow NFC wild card contenders Seattle is therefore a double blow. RB Christian McCaffrey became the first player this season to have 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving in the same game – it was also the first time the feat had been achieved in the history of the Panthers. Cam Newton had a perfect first half (going 14 for 14) and yet the Panthers managed to let this one slip away…not helped by a Graham Gano field goal miss in the final 2 minutes. Bizarrely, the Panthers fumbled 5 times during the game but recovered all 5. CB Donte Jackson suffered an injury on the first play of the game – he did not return and his status going forward was unknown at the time of writing. The Panthers need to start winning immediately, as they still have two games to play against the Saints, or their season is in danger of crumbling.
Next up: The Panthers travel to Tampa Bay to play the Buccaneers.
13. Dallas Cowboys (6-5) (last week’s ranking: 16)
The Cowboys, in their traditional Thanksgiving Day game, overcame their divisional rival Redskins 31-23, to move into a tie with Washington at 6-5. The Cowboys are on a roll, led by another 100-yard rushing day from Ezekiel Elliott (121 yards) and a good outing from Dak Prescott (289 passing yards and 2 touchdown passes) – but perhaps the real star this week was recently picked up receiver Amari Cooper who had 180 yards receiving (including a 90-yarder) with 2 touchdowns. The Dallas defense also came up big with 3 interceptions of Colt McCoy. The Cowboys have now won 3 straight games.
Next up: Dallas hosts the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football.
14. Washington Redskins (6-5) (last week’s ranking: 11)
Back-up Colt McCoy threw 3 interceptions as the Redskins lost to the Cowboys 31-23 in a crucial intra-divisional match-up. In fairness to McCoy, he did also throw 2 touchdown passes and have 268 passing yards but those interceptions were critical in the loss. With the defeat, the Redskins fall into a tie with the Cowboys for the division lead in the NFC East.
Next up: The Redskins travel to play the Eagles on Monday Night Football.
15. Tennessee Titans (5-6) (last week’s ranking: 13)
After 2 consecutive wins, the Titans have now fallen to 2 consecutive defeats following their 34-17 defeat to the Texans. With the loss, Tennessee falls 3 games behind Houston in the race for the AFC South title. Marcus Mariota threw for 303 yards and 2 touchdowns, but the Titans couldn’t overcome a potent Texans ground game. The Titans now look like they are in battle for a wild card spot in the AFC.
Next up: The Titans host the New York Jets.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (5-6) (last week’s ranking: 17)
The Eagles kicked a 43-yard field goal in the last minute to defeat the Giants 25-22 and despite being 5-6, Philadelphia is just a single game behind joint division leaders the Cowboys and the Redskins. The Eagles trailed by 16 points in this one, and may have been helped by some poor officiating, but they are back in the thick of the playoff race.
Next up: Philadelphia host the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football. This is a huge game that will go a long way towards determining where the NFC East divisional title will end up.
17. Indianapolis Colts (6-5)(last week’s ranking: 18)
The Indianapolis Colts won their fifth straight game, beating the Miami Dolphins 27-24 on a last second field goal by Adam Vinatieri. Andrew Luck had 343 yards passing and 3 touchdowns - although he also had 2 interceptions on consecutive plays late in the 1st half. T.Y. Hilton caught 7 of Luck’s passes for 125 yards. The Colts are now 1 slot out of a wild card place in the AFC.
Next up: Indianapolis travels to Jacksonville to play the Jags.
18. Green Bay Packers (4-6-1) (last week’s ranking: 15)
The Packers season hangs by a thread following their 24-17 defeat on Sunday night to the Minnesota Vikings. To have a chance of sneaking into the playoffs, it’s likely that the Packers will need to win all of their remaining 5 games and also get help from teams around them. The Packers started well in this week’s game, but offensively stalled from midway through the second quarter and never came back after falling behind 17-14 in the third quarter, following a controversial call to go for it on 4th and inches (they didn’t convert). Aaron Rodgers was held under 200 yards passing and the Packers had an average 82 yards rushing as a team.
As the week’s go by, Green Bay becomes more banged up – this week, star OT David Bakhtiari went down with a knee injury – his status for next week is not known at the time of writing. Randall Cobb was on the inactive list again (hamstring injury) – meaning that he has now missed 6 games this season. The Packers placed LB Nick Perry on injured reserve and activated James Looney from the Practice Squad. Looney provides much needed help on the defensive line, following the foot injury to Mike Daniels. There is no return date scheduled for Daniels at the time of writing.
In another transaction, the Packers designated WR Jake Kumerow to return – meaning that they can activate him in the next couple of weeks if they so choose.
The Packers are now 10th in offense (8th in passing, 21st in rushing)
The Packers are now 12th in defense (9th in passing, 23rd in rushing)
Next up: The Packers host the Arizona Cardinals.
Packers Play-off Watch:
The Packers are eliminated from contention for the NFC North Divisional title if any of the following occur over the last 5 games –
There are many potential scenarios for the Packers to qualify for the playoffs via a Wild Card berth. We’ll take a closer look at those next assuming the Packers win this week. In the meantime, we should hope for any or all of the following:
49ers to beat Seahawks
Saints to beat Cowboys
Patriots to beat Vikings
Giants to beat Bears
Eagles v Redskins – a loss for either team helps the Packers. An Eagles win probably helps more, as they still have the Cowboys, Rams, Texans and Redskins (again). The Packers are looking for just a single loss by the Eagles in those games, whereas 2 losses by the Redskins over the remainder of the season is extremely helpful to the Packers.
19. Denver Broncos (5-6) (last week’s ranking: 23)
Denver pulled off an upset for the second straight week (last week they beat the Chargers) by holding on to defeat the Steelers 24-17. The Broncos sealed the win when DT Shelby Harris intercepted a last gasp Ben Roethlisberger pass in the end zone. Talented rookie RB continues to shine – he had 110 yards on the ground this week. Denver’s win broke a 6-game winning streak for the Steelers and keeps the Broncos on the edge of a play-off spot.
Next up: The Broncos travel to Cincinnati to play the Bengals.
20. Cleveland Browns (4-6-1) (last week’s ranking: 24)
The Browns came off their bye week and played perhaps their most complete game of the season in beating the Bengals in Cincinnati by a 35-20 scoreline. With the victory, the Browns won consecutive games for the first time in 4 years and broke a 25-game road losing streak (the second longest in NFL history). Rookie QB Baker Mayfield threw for 258 yards and 4 touchdowns and now has 5 straight multiple touchdown passing games – 1 game short of the Franchise record (held by Frank Ryan). It was also the first 4 touchdown day of Mayfield’s fledgling NFL career.
Next up: Cleveland travels to Houston to play the Texans.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (5-6) (last week’s ranking: 19)
The Bengals had an extremely poor outing this past week and went down to the Cleveland Browns 35-20 – a defeat which hampers their playoff chances. Starting QB Andy Dalton left the game in the 3rd quarter with a thumb injury. He was replaced by Jeff Driskel. But Dalton was not having a good day even before the injury – completing only 10 of 17 passes for 100 yards (with 1 touchdown and 1 interception). Dalton was placed on injured reserve on Monday, ending his season. The Bengals have now lost 3 straight games.
Next up: Cincinnati hosts the Denver Broncos.
22. Detroit Lions (4-7) (last week’s ranking: 20)
The Lions lost to the Bears 23-16 on Thanksgiving Day and with the defeat, they almost certainly fell out of any chance of playoff contention in the NFC. The Lions offense struggled against the tough Bears defense, with Matthew Stafford throwing 2 interceptions, while Detroit’s defense could not get enough pressure on Bears’ back-up Chase Daniels. Running back Kerryon Johnson missed the game for Detroit – it’s not clear when he’ll be back.
Next up: The Lions host the Los Angeles Rams.
23. Atlanta Falcons (4-7) (last week’s ranking: 21)
On Thanksgiving night, the Falcons dropped a 31-17 decision to the high-flying New Orleans Saints and with the loss, their third straight, any hopes the Falcons had of making the playoffs were surely extinguished. Despite 377 yards passing by Matt Ryan, Atlanta’s offense imploded – turning the ball over 4 times (3 of them on fumbles) and managing just 26 yards rushing. The Falcons defense did hold Drew Brees to under 200 yards passing, but still give up 4 passing touchdowns to the MVP candidate.
Next up: Atlanta hosts the Baltimore Ravens.
24. Miami Dolphins (5-6)(last week’s ranking: 22)
Coming off their bye week, the Dolphins travelled to Indianapolis to play the Colts with Ryan Tannehill restored to the starting QB position (coming back from injury). But despite running Indianapolis close, Miami went down 27-24 in a hammer blow to their wild card playoff chances. Tannehill had an efficient day on his return – throwing for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns and Xavien Howard had 2 interceptions – picking off Andrew Luck twice in 14 seconds. Howard now has 9 interceptions in his last 16 games.
Next up: The Dolphins host the Buffalo Bills.
25. Buffalo Bills (4-7) (last week’s ranking: 26)
Coming off their bye week, the Bills travelled to Jacksonville to play the Jags with rookie QB Josh Allen returning to start after injury and Allen delivered with a 99-yard rushing game (plus 1 rushing touchdown) and 160 yards passing. Shaq Lawson was ejected in the 3rd quarter after fighting with Leonard Fournette. The Bills defense put up another strong performance with 3 sacks and 2 interceptions.
Next up: Buffalo travels to Miami to play the Dolphins.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7) (last week’s ranking: 28)
Starting again, Jameis Winston threw for 312 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Bucs defeated the 49ers 27-9 this week. Mike Evans had 116 yards receiving and Tampa Bay’s defense came up with 4 sacks and 2 interceptions in the easy victory. Bucs CB Ryan Smith had an interception in the 4th quarter…how significant was that? It was the first turnover the Bucs defense had forced in 8 games and just their second interception of the entire season. CB Carlton Davis left the game with a knee injury and did not return. His status going forwards was not known at the time of writing.
Next up: The Bucs host the Carolina Panthers.
27. New York Giants (3-8) (last week’s ranking: 27)
The Giants led by 16 against the Eagles but couldn’t withstand a furious Philadelphia comeback and went down 25-22 in a defeat that surely ends their hopes of a sneaking a division title in the NFC East. They are already out of the wildcard hunt. Eli Manning threw for 297 yards and Saquon Barkley rushed for 101 yards in the defeat. The Giants currently own the no.5 pick in the 2019 NFL draft.
Next up: The Giants host the Chicago Bears.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-8) (last week’s ranking: 25)
In a battle of bottom-ten teams, the Jaguars went down to a 24-21 defeat to the Bills. A loss which just adds further disappointment to an already miserable season. Blake Bortles threw for just 127 yards and had 2 interceptions – and it was announced after the game, that he has lost his starting job, for this week at least, to Cody Kessler. Leonard Fournette was ejected in the 3rd quarter after fighting with the Bills’ Shaq Lawson – what makes it even worse, is that Fournette was not even in the game on the play in which the fight occurred….to add further insult to injury, Fournette has been suspended for next week’s game against the Colts. G Andrew Norwell left the game with an ankle injury in the 4th quarter and did not return. His prognosis going forward was not known at the time of writing. The Jaguars are moving from Offensive Co-ordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who was fired shortly after this week’s loss. Scott Milanovich (QB Coach) steps up to be the interim OC. The Jaguars currently own the no.6 pick in the NFL draft. Jacksonville have now lost 7 straight games.
Next up: Jacksonville hosts the Indianapolis Colts.
29. New York Jets(3-8) (last week’s ranking: 29)
Coming off their bye week, the Jets hosted the Patriots without their star rookie QB Sam Darnold. Darnold has a foot injury which will probably keep him out for another couple of weeks. Replacing Darnold was Josh McCown. Whoever was at quarterback didn’t stop the Jets slipping to another defeat, 27-13, meaning that they have now lost 5 straight games. The Jets defense continues its season of mediocrity – this week giving up 498 total yards. The Jets currently own the no.4 pick in the 2019 NFL draft.
Next up: The Jets travel to Nashville to play the Tennessee Titans.
30. Oakland Raiders (2-9) (last week’s ranking: 30)
The Raiders were unable to overcome touchdowns given up on offense (a fumble return) and on special teams (a punt return) as they fell 34-17 to the Baltimore Ravens. The Raiders offense remains mediocre as Derek Carr completed less than 50% of his passes for less than 200 yards, while they also managed just 67 yards on the ground. Oakland’s defense did have 2 interceptions of rookie Lamar Jackson. The Raiders currently hold the no.3 pick in the 2019 NFL draft.
Next up: The Raiders host the Kansas City Chiefs.
31. San Francisco 49ers (2-9)(last week’s ranking: 31)
Coming off their bye week, the 49ers travelled to Tampa Bay to play the Bucs and came away with a disappointing 27-9 loss, as they were picked apart by a rejuvenated Jameis Winston. For San Francisco, QB Nick Mullens was harassed for much of the day and was intercepted twice. The 49ers released LB Rueben Foster after he was arrested on a misdemeanour domestic violence charge on Saturday evening. The 49ers remain in pole position for the no.1 pick in the 2019 NFL draft.
Next up: The 49ers travel to Seattle to play the Seahawks.
32. Arizona Cardinals (2-9) (last week’s ranking: 32)
The Cardinals jumped out to 10-0 lead early…and then it went rapidly downhill from there, as they ended up losing 45-10 to the Los Angeles Chargers. The Cardinals performance was poor all-round as the defense allowed Philip Rivers to have a record breaking day whilst Josh Rosen only managed 105 yards passing. In fact, Arizona only had 149 yards of total offense while giving up 414 yards. The one bright spot for the Cardinals was Robert Nkemdiche who had 2.5 sacks. It’s difficult to see where Arizona’s next win is coming from. They have now lost 3 straight games.
Next up: The Cardinals travel to Green Bay to play the Packers.
Find Peter on twitter here: @The_IT_Hedgehog