The Los Angeles Rams became the first team to clinch a playoff berth with their victory this week and that, coupled with the Saints loss to the Cowboys, moved the Rams back to the top of our rankings – leapfrogging the Saints. The Rams have the best record in football with their only defeat came on the road to our no.2 team; the Saints.
The next four teams in our rankings (no.3 – no.6) all won and remain positioned as before.
Three of the bottom four teams lost – the only winner amongst them being the Arizona Cardinals who were previously our no.32 team.
The Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers are the first teams to be officially eliminated from playoff contention.
The biggest risers this week are Tampa Bay (up 6), Miami (up 5) and New York Giants and Arizona (both up 3)
The biggest fallers this week are Atlanta (down 5) and Minnesota, Carolina, Green Bay and Detroit (all down 3)
1. Los Angeles Rams (11-1) (last week’s ranking: 2)
Coming off their bye week, the Rams defeated the Lions 30-16 and clinched the NFC West division title with 4 games still to play. Todd Gurley led the way with 132 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground, whilst Aaron Donald had 2 more sacks. Gurley continues to lead the league in rushing (1,175 yards), whilst Donald does the same in sacks (16.5). Brandin Cooks had just 62 yards receiving but it was enough for him to break the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the season – Cooks now has three consecutive seasons over 1,000-yards…each with a different team (a feat unique in NFL history). Aaron Donald again played a dominant game, notching up 2 more sacks. RB Malcolm Brown (back-up to Todd Gurley) left the game with a shoulder injury. His status going forward wasn’t known at the time of writing. With the win, coupled with the Saints loss to the Cowboys, the Rams move back to the top of our Power Rankings.
Next up: The Rams travel to Chicago to play the Bears in a big Sunday Night Football game, with huge playoff and playoff seeding implications.
2. New Orleans Saints (10-2) (last week’s ranking: 1)
The Saints offense was strangely subdued, as Drew Brees was held to just 127 yards through the air and New Orleans had just 61 total rushing yards as they fell to a surprising 13-10 defeat to the Cowboys on Thursday Night Football. Brees had just 39 yards passing in the first half – the fewest since he came to New Orleans. Brees continues to lead the league with a 123.2 passer rating. The Saints defense possibly played its best game of the season – with 7 sacks (including 3 by David Onyemata and 2 by Cameron Jordan) and they held Ezekiel Elliott to 76 rushing yards – but it was all in vain. With the defeat, the Saints lost for the first time in 11 games.
Next up: The Saints travel to Tampa to play the Bucs. The Saints would clinch the NFC South division title with a win.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (10-2) (last week’s ranking: 3)
In the week that they released Pro Bowl RB Kareem Hunt for an off-the-field incident, the Chiefs will have been glad to get back on the field and get past the Oakland Raiders. Patrick Mahomes passed for 295 yards and 4 touchdowns as Kansas City defeated Oakland 40-33 in a closer than expected battle. Mahomes leads the league with an incredible 41 touchdown passes – 9 ahead of the second place Andrew Luck. The Chiefs had 174 yards on the ground and TE Travis Kelce caught 12 passes for 168 yards and 2 touchdowns in the victory that moves the Chiefs to 10-2 and maintains their position as the current no.1 seed in AFC.
Next up: The Chiefs host the Baltimore Ravens. The Chiefs would secure at least a wild card playoff berth with a victory.
4. New England Patriots (9-3) (last week’s ranking: 4)
Tom Brady threw for 311 yards and a touchdown as the Patriots defeated the Vikings 24-10 to solidify their grasp on the AFC East. Brady’s passes were spread around, including 7 more receptions for James White coming out of the backfield. As an aside, Brady finally went over 1,000 yards rushing for his career. New England’s defense played a strong game, holding the Vikings offense to just 278 yards. The Patriots win was Bill Belichick’s 250th with the franchise (including playoffs).
Next up: The Patriots travel to Miami to play the Dolphins. A Patriots win will give them the AFC East division title. 3 wins out of the last 4 guarantees the Patriots at least the no.2 seed in the AFC.
5. Los Angeles Chargers (9-3) (last week’s ranking: 5)
Following on from his record breaking performance last week, Philip Rivers again was outstanding as he led his team from behind to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 33-30 in Pittsburgh. The Chargers trailed 23-7 at the half, but Rivers’ 26 of 26 performance (for 299 yards and 2 touchdowns) coupled with a Desmond King 73-yard punt return for a touchdown in the 4th quarter saw Los Angeles come back and score the victory which could be huge in the AFC playoff picture. Michael Badgley missed the potential game-winning 39-yard field goal as time expired but the Steelers were offside on the kick…he then had a 34-yarder blocked but the Steelers were again offside…Badgley won the game on the third attempt, making the 29-yarder. Keenan Allen caught 14 of Rivers’ passes for 148 yards and a touchdown. The Chargers were without RB Melvin Gordon who was unable to play again this past week due to the MCL sprain he is nursing.
Next up: The Chargers host the Cincinnati Bengals.
6. Houston Texans (9-3) (last week’s ranking: 6)
The Texans burst out to a 23-0 halftime lead against the Browns and held on with relative ease to defeat Cleveland 29-13 – and with the victory, the Texans won their ninth straight game. Houston’s defense had 3 first half interceptions and Lamar Miller had 103 yards on the ground, while Deshaun Watson had an efficient passing day with 224 yards through the air and 1 touchdown. Kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn was perfect on the day hitting 5 of 5 field goal attempts. The Texans are edging closer to the AFC South divisional title.
Next up: The Texans host the Indianapolis Colts.
7. Chicago Bears (8-4) (last week’s ranking: 7)
With an opportunity to move very close to a playoff berth, the Bears were unable to overcome the 3-8 (coming in) Giants – falling to a 30-27 defeat in overtime. Chase Daniel starting his second consecutive game at quarterback, in place of the injured Mitch Trubisky, threw 2 interceptions in the first half. The Bears did get a touchdown pass from Daniel and another from Tarik Cohen to tie the game at the end of regulation. The Bears defense had 3 sacks and 1 interception but it wasn’t quite enough. This was Chicago’s first defeat in 6 games but they remain in the no.3 seed position in the NFC.
Next up: The Bears host the Los Angeles Rams in a big Sunday Night Football match-up.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4-1) (last week’s ranking: 8)
In a battle of two likely playoff teams, the Steelers were unable to hang on to a 16-point halftime lead against the Chargers and went down 33-30 in a classic. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 281 yards and 2 touchdowns, with 1 interception and Antonio Brown had 10 catches for 154 yards but it wasn’t enough for Pittsburgh who fall to 7-4-1 for the season. Roethlisberger now leads the league in passing yards with 3,945. On the downside, he also leads the league with 13 interceptions thrown. The Steelers, who have lost 2 straight, are now just ½ a game ahead of the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North.
Next up: The Steelers travel to Oakland to play the Raiders.
9. Baltimore Ravens (7-5) (last week’s ranking: 10)
Lamar Jackson started again at QB for the Ravens for the third straight game (Joe Flacco was inactive due to his hip injury) and he led Baltimore to another victory (also the Raven’s third straight) – this time over the Falcons 26-16. Jackson threw for just 125 yards but had 75 yards rushing as the Ravens racked up 207 total yards on the ground. Jackson went out of the game for a short period with a possible concussion, but he was able to return. During Jackson’s short absence he was replaced by Robert Griffin III. But the stars of the show were the Ravens’ defense, who held the Falcons to just 131 total yards - including just 97 passing by the one league’s most potent offenses. In an off the field move, the Ravens placed RB Alex Collins on injured reserve (activating Kenneth Dixon) prior to the game. With the win, Baltimore solidified their playoff chances in the AFC.
Next up: The Ravens travel to Kansas City to play the Chiefs.
10. Seattle Seahawks (7-5) (last week’s ranking: 11)
The Seahawks jumped out to a 20-3 halftime lead on the San Francisco 49ers and comfortably eased to a 43-16 victory. With the win, Seattle moved into in the no.1 wild card spot in the NFC. Russell Wilson threw for just 185 yards but had 4 passing touchdowns including 2 to Jaron Brown. The Seahawks racked up 168 yards on the ground. Defensively, Bobby Wagner was outstanding – returning a interception 98 yards for a touchdown, while also notching up 12 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, 2 passes defensed and a sack.
Next up: The Seahawks host the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football in a game which matches up two playoff contenders in the NFC.
11. Dallas Cowboys (7-5) (last week’s ranking: 13)
The Cowboys defense played a huge game – holding the Saints vaunted offense to just 176 total yards – as they upset New Orleans 13-10 on Thursday night. Rookie LB Leighton Vander Esch again played a big game coming up with 10 tackles. Offensively, Dallas did just enough despite giving up 7 sacks. Dak Prescott threw for 248 yards and completed 24 of his 28 attempts, while the Cowboys as a team had 100 yards rushing – 76 from Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott is second in the league in rushing yards with 1,150. This fourth straight win for the Cowboys is their biggest of the season and keeps them atop the NFC East.
Next up: The Cowboys host the Eagles in game with NFC East title implications.
12. Minnesota Vikings (6-5-1) (last week’s ranking: 9)
The Vikings went down 24-10 to the New England Patriots but remain in the thick of the playoff race in the NFC. They had help in that playoff race thanks to losses by the Bears, Panthers and Packers. Kirk Cousins threw for just 201 yards against the Patriots and had 2 crucial interceptions – adding fuel to the perception that he struggles against the better teams. The vaunted Vikings defensive line was also kept in check – being held without a sack. Adam Thielen continues to lead the league in receptions – he has 98. Despite this week’s loss, Minnesota remains in the second wild card spot in the NFC.
Next up: In another huge game, the Vikings travel to Seattle to play the Seahawks on Monday Night Football.
13. Tennessee Titans (6-6) (last week’s ranking: 15)
The Titans came back from a 16-0 deficit to beat the New York Jets 26-22 and stay in playoff contention in the AFC. Marcus Mariota threw for 282 yards (including 220 in the second half) and 2 touchdowns, including the game winner to Corey Davis with just 36 seconds left in the game. With the win, the Titans snapped a 2-game losing streak.
Next up: The Titans host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday Night Football.
14. Philadelphia Eagles (6-6) (last week’s ranking: 16)
Carson Wentz threw for 306 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Eagles kept their playoff hopes alive with a 28-13 victory over the Redskins on Monday Night Football. A loss to their divisional rivals would likely all but have ended their hopes of returning to the postseason. TE Zach Ertz again had a big game with 9 catches for 83 yards. Two straight divisional wins for the Eagles keeps them on the edge of the playoff race.
Next up: The Eagles travel to Dallas to play the Cowboys – a huge game for both teams.
15. Carolina Panthers (6-6) (last week’s ranking: 12)
Cam Newton threw 4 interceptions (his single game high this season) as the Panthers stumbled to a 24-17 defeat to Tampa Bay – Carolina has now lost 4 straight games and their playoff hopes are now in serious jeopardy. Newton now has a 4-game streak throwing at least 1 pick. Newton did have 300 yards passing and 2 touchdowns, but the 4 picks were too much to overcome. On the plus side, Christian McCaffrey continues to be outstanding with 106 yards on the ground this week (including a 53 yarder). TE Greg Olsen went out of the game with a foot injury and shortly after the game it was announced his season was over. He’ll be badly missed by the Panthers as they struggle to make the postseason. Head Coach Ron Rivera is coming under pressure with regard to his job – in the meantime OL Coach Brady Hoke and DB Coach Jeff Imamura have lost their jobs it was announced Monday.
Next up: The Panthers travel to Cleveland to play the Browns.
16. Washington Redskins (6-6) (last week’s ranking: 14)
The Redskins playoff hopes took a big blow with a 28-13 defeat to the Eagles on Monday Night Football. And Washington’s disappointment didn’t end there…having recently lost starting QB Alex Smith for the season, the Redskins this week lost his back-up, Colt McCoy, who fractured his right fibula in the 2nd quarter – a season ending injury. He was replaced by recently signed veteran Mark Sanchez. The game was close, 14-13, at halftime, in part thanks to Adrian Peterson who had a career long 90-yard touchdown run (and also the longest rushing touchdown in Redskins history) – the 106th rushing touchdown of his career, but the Eagles moved away in the second half for a big win. During the week, the Redskins controversially claimed LB Rueben Foster, who was waived last week by the 49ers.
Next up: The Redskins host the New Yok Giants.
17. Denver Broncos (6-6) (last week’s ranking: 19)
The Broncos rushed for 218 yards, including 157 yards from Philip Lindsay, which led Denver to a solid 24-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Case Keenum threw for just 151 yards and 1 touchdown but didn’t throw an interception in an efficient performance. With the victory, the Broncos third straight, the Broncos stay thick in the middle of the wild card race in the AFC. Sadly, CB Chris Harris broke his right fibula during the game and he’ll likely miss the rest of the regular season, but he could be ready to go if the Broncos make the playoffs.
Next up: The Broncos travel to San Francisco to play the 49ers.
18. Indianapolis Colts (6-6) (last week’s ranking: 17)
Andrew Luck was shut out for the first time in his career – and the first time he has been held without a touchdown pass this season – as the Colts fell to a surprising 6-0 defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Colts had won 5 straight coming into this one, while their opponents had lost 7 straight, so the defeat for Indianapolis was a bit of a shocker. Luck was sacked 3 times and intercepted once as the Jacksonville defense was in his face all day. Rookie LB Darius Leonard continues to lead the NFL with 122 tackles. Despite the defeat, the Colts remain in the thick of the wild card race in the AFC.
Next up: Indianapolis travels to Houston to play the Texans.
19. Miami Dolphins (6-6) (last week’s ranking: 24)
The Dolphins had only 175 total yards of offense but were able to take advantage of opportunities (including 3 Buffalo turnovers) to beat the Bills 21-17 and remain right on the edge of playoff contention in the AFC. For the Dolphins, Xavien Howard had 2 more interceptions - he now has a league leading 7 for the season. Ryan Tannehill had just 137 yards passing but he did throw 3 touchdown passes.
Next up: The Dolphins host the New England Patriots. If the Dolphins lose, then the Patriots will win the AFC East division title.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-7) (last week’s ranking: 26)
It’s not often we start a team write up with the safety position – especially when it’s the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - but it was that spot that dominated the Bucs 24-17 victory over the Panthers this past week. Starting with the positive, safety Andrew Adams had a huge day with 3 big interceptions of Cam Newton. Adams had only 1 career interception prior to this game. On the downside, the Bucs lost two safeties during the game - in his first game back after missing a couple of games, Justin Evans went out with a re-aggravation of his toe injury and did not return, then Isaiah Johnson went out with a possible concussion. In addition to Adams’ interceptions, Tampa Bay’s defense came up with a further interception and 4 sacks of Newton. QB Jameis Winston threw 2 touchdowns and, in the process, broke the Bucs franchise record for career touchdown passes.
Next up: The Bucs host the New Orleans Saints.
21. Green Bay Packers (4-7-1) (last week’s ranking: 18)
The Packers disappointing season slumped to perhaps new depths with a catastrophic 20-17 upset defeat to the worst team (coming into this week) in the NFL. As everybody will know by now, it proved to be a defeat too far for Head Coach Mike McCarthy who was fired almost immediately after the game. Offensive co-ordinator Joe Philbin named as interim head coach for the rest of the season.
In the game itself, The Packers gave up 182 yards on the ground to the Cardinals, whilst only managing 98 themselves. Aaron Rodgers threw often (50 attempts) and completed 31 passes but for just 233 yards and 1 touchdown. He did have the consolation of breaking the franchise record (previously held by Bart Starr at 294) for consecutive passes without an interception – he is now just 23 short of breaking the NFL record. Rodgers led the team down the field on a 95-yard drive in the 4th quarter to tie the score, but the defense allowed Arizona to drive for the go-ahead score and then Mason Crosby missed a 49-yard field goal attempt as time expired. The Packers continued with their penalty woes on special teams despite Jaire Alexander having the Packers longest punt return of the season – 24 yards.
Green Bay activated WR Jake Kumerow from injured reserve and elevated FB Danny Vitale from the practice squad to the active roster prior to the game. In order to make room for Kumerow and Vitale, the Packers placed both Mike Daniels and Trevor Davis onto injured reserve – ending their seasons. But the Packers struggled with more injuries suffered during the game, as Bryan Bulaga and Byron Bell both went out with knee injuries.
With the loss, the Packers are not yet officially eliminated from the playoffs, and the defeats by the Panthers, Vikings and Bears all help them, but in all honesty this season is now done for Green Bay.
The Packers are now 8th in offense (6th in passing, 21st in rushing) and 16th in scoring offense
The Packers are now 13th in defense (6th in passing, 25th in rushing) and 17th in scoring defense
Next up: The Packers host the Atlanta Falcons.
Packers Play-off Watch:
The Packers will be eliminated from contention for the NFC North Divisional title if of the following occur over the last 4 games –
1 Packers loss, or
1 Bears win, or
2 Vikings wins
The Packers are almost eliminated from wild card playoff contention. There are too many scenarios to list here – a combination of various results including the Bears, Vikings, Seahawks, Panthers, Cowboys, Redskins, Eagles and Buccaneers will eliminate the Packers.
According to the New York Times Playoff Scenario Calculator, the Packers only make the playoffs in about 25% of scenarios even if they win all 4 of their remaining games.
The best results for the Packers playoff chances this weekend are:-
Packers over Falcons
Browns over Panthers
Saints over Buccaneers
Giants over Redskins
Rams over Bears
Cowboys over Eagles
Seahawks over Vikings
22. Cleveland Browns (4-7-1) (last week’s ranking: 20)
The Browns slumped to a 23-0 halftime deficit and despite a second half rally, Cleveland fell to a 29-13 defeat and with the loss, dropped to the verge of playoff elimination. Baker Mayfield had a real game of two halves - completing just 6 of 13 for only 61 yards with 3 interceptions in the first half, while completing 23 of 30 for 336 yards and a touchdown in the second half. His interceptions in the first half were Mayfield’s first in 3 games. Jarvis Landry had 103 yards receiving for Cleveland. The Browns lost star rookie Denzel Ward during this week’s game with a concussion. He enters the concussion protocol – his status re returning was not known at the time of writing. They also lost DT Larry Ogunjobi with a bicep injury.
Next up: Cleveland hosts the Carolina Panthers.
23. Cincinnati Bengals (5-7) (last week’s ranking: 21)
Jeff Driskel started in place of the injured Andy Dalton (out for the season) and played an efficient game but it wasn’t enough for the Bengals to beat the Denver Broncos – Cincinnati going down 24-10. Driskel completed 25 of 38 passes for 236 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. The offense turned the ball over 3 times in total and gave up 218 yards on the ground to Denver, which proved too much to overcome. This was Cincinnati’s fourth straight defeat and they are almost out of playoff contention.
Next up: Cincinnati travels to Los Angeles to play the Chargers.
24. New York Giants (4-8) (last week’s ranking: 27)
The Giants upset the high-flying Bears with a 30-27 overtime victory thanks to a game winning field goal from Aldrick Rosas. LB Alec Ogletree had 2 interceptions, including 1 returned for a touchdown and star wideout Odell Beckham threw his second touchdown pass of the season – a 49 yarder to Russell Shepherd. Rookie RB Saquon Barkley had 125 yards on the ground and Olivier Vernon had 2 sacks in an outstanding team performance.
Next up: The Giants travel to Washington to play the Redskins.
25. Detroit Lions (4-8) (last week’s ranking: 22)
The Lions dropped to a 30-16 defeat to the Rams, and with it, any outside hopes they may have harboured of making the playoffs were surely extinguished. Detroit’s defense played well for much of this game, but their offense was ineffective for much of it – scoring just 1 touchdown and settling for 3 field goals.
Next up: The Lions travels to Arizona to play the Cardinals.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8) (last week’s ranking: 28)
Starting for the benched Blake Bortles, Cody Kessler picked up his first career win in the starting role – having previously been 0-8 – as the Jags shut out the Indianapolis Colts 6-0, thanks to an outstanding defensive performance. Bizarrely, Jacksonville’s last shutout victory also came against the Colts – during the 2017 season. Jacksonville’s defense came up with 3 sacks and 1 interception and they held the Colts to just 41 yards rushing. The Jaguars had lost 7 straight games coming into this one
Next up: Jacksonville travels to Nashville to play the Tennessee Titans on Thursday Night Football.
27. Buffalo Bills (4-8) (last week’s ranking: 25)
Buffalo played tough against the Dolphins – and perhaps should have won – but ultimately slipped to a 21-17 defeat. After rushing for 99 yards last week, QB Josh Allen went even further than this week with an incredible 135 yards on the ground – the sixth most in a single game by a quarterback since 1970. On the passing front, Allen threw for 231 yards and 2 touchdowns but also threw 2 key interceptions. The Bills defense played to its usual high standard, holding Miami to just 175 total yards in a losing effort. Starting center Russell Bodine left the game with a leg injury – he did not return. His status going forward wasn’t known at the time of writing.
Next up: Buffalo hosts the New York Jets.
28. Atlanta Falcons (4-8) (last week’s ranking: 23)
The Falcons offense played its worst game of the season, being held to just 131 total yards, as Atlanta went down to the Baltimore Ravens 26-16. Matt Ryan had just 131 yards passing and a net of just 97 (with 34 yards lost on 3 sacks). The ground game was no better – racking up just 34 yards whilst the defense gave up 207 rushing yards to the Ravens. This is a team that surely is looking for a disappointing season to come to an end as quickly as possible. One positive is Julio Jones who continues to lead the league in receiving yards with 1,323.
Next up: Atlanta travels to Green Bay to play the Packers.
29. Arizona Cardinals (3-9) (last week’s ranking: 32)
In a stunning upset, the Cardinals all but knocked the Packers out of playoff contention with a 20-17 victory at Lambeau Field. Josh Rosen completed just 11 of 26 passes for only 149 yards but the Cardinals racked up 182 yards on the ground to defeat the sinking Packers. With his first catch of the game, Arizona standout WR Larry Fitzgerald now has 223 consecutive games with at least 1 reception. The win was the Cardinals first in Green Bay since 1949. In 1949, the Cardinals franchise was in Chicago.
Next up: The Cardinals host the Detroit Lions.
30. New York Jets(3-9) (last week’s ranking: 29)
With Josh McCown starting again at QB (Sam Darnold is still out because of a foot injury), the Jets blew a 16-0 lead in losing to the Tennessee Titans 26-22. On the day McCown completed just 17 of 30 passes for 128 yards and an interception which clinched the game for the Titans. The Jets only touchdown on an offensively miserable day came on a Trumaine Johnson 31-yard interception return. The Jets have now lost 6 straight games, but it does look like Darnold will be ready to return this coming Sunday.
Next up: The Jets travel to Buffalo to play the Bills.
31. Oakland Raiders (2-10) (last week’s ranking: 30)
Derek Carr played perhaps his best game of the season, completing 29 of 38 passes for 285 yards and 3 touchdowns (with no interceptions) as the Raiders played tough against the Kansas City Chiefs before going down 40-33. Former Packers TE Jared Cook caught 7 of Carr’s passes for 100 yards in the loss that drops Oakland to 2-10.
Next up: The Raiders host the Pittsburgh Steelers.
32. San Francisco 49ers (2-10) (last week’s ranking: 31)
The 49ers drop to the bottom of our rankings following a 43-16 defeat this week to the Seattle Seahawks. Nick Mullens threw for 414 yards and 2 touchdowns but threw a critical interception (which was returned for a touchdown) and the 49ers lost 2 fumbles on offense as they remain in pole position for the no.1 pick in the 2019 NFL draft.
Next up: The 49ers host the Denver Broncos.
Find Peter on twitter here: @The_IT_Hedgehog