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NFL Weekly Power Rankings: Week 13

I’ve never seen the NFL with this much parody before. I’ve been ranking these teams every week since before Week 1 (except for last week) and I must say that this season has been up-and-down for so many teams that it’s really hard to know who’s really good (outside of the Cowboys, Patriots, and Raiders). I honestly think that any team ranked from 4-26 can beat any other team in that frame. I think that most of these teams have a lot of talent, but it takes a lot more than that to win in today’s NFL. It takes great coaching, great chemistry, a good quarterback, for sure, and a winning atmosphere.  Some teams have playoff spots pretty much locked in, but with so many teams so close together in the standings, it should be a very exciting final stretch. I’ll continue to do my best to determine the “contenders” and the “pretenders” each week. Here we go:

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars 2-9 (last week’s ranking: 30th) – Some people had high expectations for the Jaguars coming into this season. I’ll admit, I was one of those people. I didn’t think they would make the playoffs, but I thought they would at least win seven to nine games. This team has potential. They’ve got plenty of young players with a ton of upside, but their inexperience (and possibly their coaching staff) is really holding them back. In a couple years, this team should be good. The one thing they need to figure out is if Blake Bortles is really their franchise quarterback. He looked really good last year, but this year, he’s regressed and there’s really no one to blame but himself. He has great receivers and a good pair of runningbacks. Their offensive line isn’t bad either. They’ve only allowed 23 sacks so far, which is certainly good enough to win with. Their defense has plenty of playmakers and there’s a lot to be excited about, but they haven’t really come together as a unit. After a couple years of gaining experience and chemistry, this defense will be fierce. Right now, this team is just nowhere near contention. They’re certainly a long shot to win over the Broncos next week.
  2. Los Angeles Rams 4-7 (last week’s ranking: 28th) – I knew that the Rams’ hot start wasn’t legit. They were 3-1, but they weren’t winning in convincing enough fashion for me to believe that Jeff Fisher’s team was anything more than the usual 7-9 or 8-8 team that they’ve been in recent years. Since then, the Rams have lost six of their last seven and, in some games, they’ve looked absolutely awful. They finally made the right move putting Jared Goff in at quarterback, but that clearly isn’t enough to turn this team around. They need a lot more pieces around him. They have a terrible offensive line and no trust-worthy, consistent receivers. Their defense has been pretty good for the most part, but they need to do a better job in coverage and stopping the run. They were horrendous against the Saints on Sunday, allowing 49 points and 555 yards. Another key for this team is getting Todd Gurley’s season turned around. He hasn’t been the same runningback he was as a rookie. Part of it is because everyone knows what he can do and defenses are stacking the box against him, forcing Goff to beat them. If the Rams can assemble some type of passing game, it’ll open up lanes for Gurley and he can start running all over people again. Until that happens, this offense will remain one of the league’s worst and this team will remain out of the playoff hunt. I surely wouldn’t expect them to win next week in New England.
  3. Carolina Panthers 4-7 (last week’s ranking: 24th) – Oh, the Panthers. What happened to this team? Back in February, they were playing in the Superbowl and now, they sit at 4-7 and last place in the NFC South. That’s quite a drop-off. After an awful and unimaginable 1-5 start. The Panthers have gone 3-2 over their last five, but it just hasn’t been enough. I think there are two main causes for their struggles. The first is their offensive line. They’ve been horrible this season, letting Cam Newton get sacked and pressured way more than last season. They also haven’t gotten much of a push in the run game either. The other problem the Panthers have is their secondary. Week in and week out, the back end of their defense is getting lit up. There’s nothing they can do about it. The loss of Josh Norman has been too much for them to overcome. This team still has the talent to compete, but it looks like they’ll have to wait until next year. I wouldn’t count on them winning in Seattle this week.
  4. Philadelphia Eagles 5-6 (last week’s ranking: 17th) – After starting the season with three straight wins, the Eagles have gone just 2-6 over their last eight games. Carson Wentz has gone from being a rookie sensation to a rookie who is struggling to complete anything other than check downs. Many people were comparing him to Andrew Luck around the time of the draft and those comparisons continued into early in the season, but I think he looks more like Alex Smith. He throws the ball short and is very accurate, but he can’t get the ball downfield. His athleticism also compares more favorably to Smith as they’re both very quick, but not very strong. Other than Wentz, this team has a lot of problems offensively. They don’t run the ball very well and their receivers are the most inexperienced unit in football. Defensively, the Eagles have a great front seven, especially when it comes to rushing the passer, but their secondary isn’t great and as a unit, they don’t stop the run very well. In their loss to the Packers, they were lit up by Aaron Rodgers and their offense simply couldn’t keep up. This team finds themselves in last place in the incredibly tough NFC East and I don’t see them getting themselves out of the cellar. They absolutely must win against the Bengals next week.
  5. Cincinnati Bengals 3-7-1 (last week’s ranking: 22nd) – Disappointment seems to be the theme of this part of the rankings. Honestly, the Bengals’ placement may be too high based on their record, but this is still a decent team. Things really haven’t gone their way this season. They’ve played teams with winning records all year and they’ve been losing close contests as well. The Bengals are certainly a solid, competitive team. Andy Dalton hasn’t really played well this season, especially in clutch situations, and it has hurt them a lot. They’ll have to beat the Eagles this week to still have a chance.
  6. Green Bay Packers 5-6 (last week’s ranking: 21st) – The Packers are one of those disappointing teams this season. They were the sure favorite in the NFC North coming into the year, but they’ve really faltered. Part of it is because of injury, but some players who are healthy are underperforming as well. The offense has struggled. It hasn’t been because of the offensive line and it’s definitely not because of Aaron Rodgers, but their biggest issues have been a lack of run game as well as receivers struggling to get open. The Packers’ defense has struggled as well. The defense has suffered a lot of injuries, but overall, it’s a unit that lacks talent. Aaron Rodgers will certainly keep the Packers in a lot of games as well as keeping them in play for the division, but this team has really underperformed this season. They’ll need to win against the Texans next week if they want to stay alive.
  7. Tennessee Titans 6-6 (last week’s ranking: 19th) – The Titans beat the Bears by a score of 27-21. However, the Titans definitely should not have won that game. They deserved to lose, but instead, they let the Bears beat themselves. Two drops in the end zone late allowed the Titans to escape with the win, but they probably didn’t feel great about it. This team has been pretty good this year. They’re young and exciting, but with youth comes inexperience. The Titans aren’t far from being a playoff team, but I don’t think it happens this year. They simply make too many mistakes and their easy schedule has allowed them to face teams that can’t capitalize on those mistakes. One really good sign for them has been the midseason improvement of Marcus Mariota. His play over the last few weeks has been fantastic. They’re one of the two teams on bye this week.
  8. Houston Texans 6-5 (last week’s ranking: 11th) – If only the Texans didn’t sign Brock Osweiler. Things might be different had they actually gotten a good quarterback. This team has a lot of talent. They’ve got a good offensive line, great runningback with Lamar Miller, talented receivers, and really strong defense, but Osweiler is dragging them down. He’s been one of the league’s worst starting quarterbacks and until he figures out a way to play better, the Texans will continue to lose to good teams. Next week’s match up with the Packers should be a good one.
  9. Minnesota Vikings 6-5 (last week’s ranking: 14th) – After a 5-0 start, the Vikings have been absolutely horrible. They’re 1-5 since then and a big reason for that is their offense. Sam Bradford got off to a great start, but it was simply too good to be true. He has regressed mightily over the last six games. To be fair, it’s not all his fault. Their offensive line is one of the worst in football and they have no running game without Adrian Peterson. They don’t really have good receivers either, so the offense is just completely devoid of playmakers. Defensively, they’re still one of the best in the league, but they can’t win if their offense can’t score. Even though they’re at home, I wouldn’t expect them to win over the Cowboys.
  10. Pittsburgh Steelers 6-5 (last week’s ranking: 15th) – This hasn’t been the type of season that the Steelers were hoping for, but they still look like the front-runners for the AFC North. Fortunately, the rest of their division has been awful outside of the Ravens (who still aren’t great). The problem for the Steelers is that they are really just a three man team right now. Ben Roethlisberger, LeVeon Bell, and Antonio Brown are the best “triplets” in football, but outside of those three, there just isn’t much to be excited about with this team. Their defense is not very good and they were fortunate that Andrew Luck was out for their Thanksgiving night game in Indy. This team has a good enough offense to win them the division and maybe even get far into the playoffs, but this team was supposed to be one of the elite teams in the NFL. Now, they have a tough match up with the red hot Giants.
  11. Washington Redskins 6-4-1 (last week’s ranking: 9th) – The Redskins are another team that I’m surprised to see doing so well this season. I think the biggest reason for their success has been the play of Kirk Cousins. He’s been lights out in recent weeks. His last five games, he’s thrown for 1,845 yards, 11 touchdowns, and just one interception, all while completing 72% of his passes and averaging 8.8 yards per attempt. His excellent play makes this offense so much more dangerous, especially with the emergence of Rob Kelley at runningback. Defensively, the Redskins are playing pretty well. They struggled against the Cowboys, but who doesn’t? Against the Packers they were excellent. I wasn’t sold on the ‘Skins before, but with Cousins playing so well, they’re looking like a top team. This upcoming match up with the Cardinals is crucial.
  12. New York Giants 8-3 (last week’s ranking: 8th) – The score of 27-13 that the Giants beat the Browns by wasn’t very indicative of how the game really went. The game seemed a lot closer than that. The Giants’ offense struggled for much of the day and a lot of their offense came on two drives. On two of their three touchdown drives, they managed 142 of their 296 total yards. This has been a theme for much of the season. They seem to put together long drives and they’re very efficient in the end zone, but when they’re not scoring, they’re going three-and-out. Eli Manning has had an inconsistent and up and down season. This team has no run game. Outside of Odell Beckham they have no real playmakers. Offensively, this team has just been a disappointment. Where they shine is on defense. Jason Pierre-Paul’s fumble recovery touchdown was huge in this game, as it boosted the Giants’ lead from eight to 14 (Robbie Gould missed the PAT). The Browns would answer with a touchdown of their own, but Odell Beckham’s second touchdown of the day pretty much iced the game with just over five minutes left.
  13. Kansas City Chiefs 8-3 (last week’s ranking: 6th) – In the most exciting game of the week, the Chiefs topped the Broncos 30-27 in overtime as Cairo Santos put through a game-winning field goal that actually bounced off the upright and went in. This game was a defensive battle for most of the way, as the score was just 9-10 with a minute left in the third quarter. However, both offenses came alive late in the game. They would trade scores, leading to a 17-16 Broncos lead late in the fourth. Then, the Chiefs allowed Trevor Siemian to hit Bennie Fowler for a 76 yard touchdown and take a 24-16 lead. The Chiefs had three minutes to get down the field and not only score a touchdown, but to also get a two-point conversion. With just 12 seconds left in the game, Alex Smith hit Tyreke Hill for a three yard score. They would get the two-point conversion and send the game to overtime. It was an incredibly gutsy win for the Chiefs and it gave them a huge upper hand in the battle for one of the two Wildcard spots (they are also still in play for the division). Tyreke Hill was huge in this game, as he scored three touchdowns, all in different categories (kickoff return, rushing, and receiving). Justin Houston also made his presence felt in just his second game back from a torn ACL, registering 10 tackles, three sacks, five tackles for losses, a pass deflection, and a forced fumble that resulted in a safety. He was all over the place and his return makes this Chiefs’ defense a whole lot more terrifying. Their next game with the Falcons is a great “strength on strength” match up.
  14. Oakland Raiders 9-2 (last week’s ranking: 4th) – Coming into the season, I never would’ve thought that the Raiders and the Patriots would have the same record after 11 games. While I knew the Raiders had potential, this was not the type of season I expected from them. Derek Carr has become a legitimate MVP candidate this season, leading these young Raiders to a first place spot in the incredibly tough AFC West. In their matchup with the Panthers this week, Derek Carr really showed his toughness. The Raiders got out to a 24-7 lead by halftime, but the Panthers would rally and take a 32-24 lead. One of the plays that led to this deficit for the Raiders was a Derek Carr fumble, during which his dislocated his pinky. Carr wouldn’t just quit, though. He went back into the game and led the Raiders to a fourth quarter comeback and they won the game 35-32. It was a very gutsy performance for Carr and this Raiders team as a whole. They look destined to go far in the playoffs this season. Their next matchup is a tough one, as they host the Bills.
  15. Dallas Cowboys 10-1 (last week’s ranking: 1st) – As long as the Cowboys continue to roll like this, they’ll remain the top team in the NFL. I don’t really see them slowing down either. Their last two wins over the Ravens and Redskins were just as impressive as any other wins they’ve had this season. This team seems to be the least “flaky” of any team in the league right now. They never look unprepared or sloppy. It’s truly incredible that this team has a rookie quarterback and a rookie runningback who both have looked like veterans in their inaugural seasons. A lot of credit certainly deserves to go to their offensive line, though. Their ability to open up running lanes for Ezekiel Elliot as well as keep Dak Prescott upright has been the primary reason for this offense’s success. Also, their ability to control the ball offensively has helped their defense immensely. Their defense isn’t the most talented, but they’ve played well this season and a big reason for that is that they spend the least time on the field. It doesn’t seem likely that the Cowboys will lose another game this season and, until they do, they’ll remain atop the rankings. They’ll travel to Minnesota to face the struggling Vikings on Thursday night.
  16. New England Patriots 9-2 (last week’s ranking: 2nd) – Is anyone surprised that the Patriots beat both the 49ers and the Jets? Not at all. Even on the road and dealing with a couple injuries, the Pats had no problem handling these two lowly teams. While the game against the Jets was actually rather close, it was never really in doubt for New England. While the Patriots have been pretty dominant for most of the season, their schedule has gotten very easy over the last couple weeks. That doesn’t change this week, as they face the Rams.
  17. Seattle Seahawks 7-3-1 (last week’s ranking: 3rd) – Could the Seahawks have suffered an uglier loss at this point in the season? Just when they looked to be hitting their mid-season stride (after pounding the Eagles), they fell completely flat against the Bucs. Russell Wilson looked awful, at least when throwing the ball, and the run game was virtually non-existent. Outside of Wilson’s eight carries for 80 yards, the Seahawks managed just 47 yards on 14 carries. It gets worse, though. The ‘Hawks passing game was absolutely horrendous. Wilson completed just 17 of his 33 pass attempts, he was sacked six times, he also threw two picks, and he only had 151 yards, which on 33 attempts is only 4.6 yards per attempt. The managed just three points offensively, as their other two points came by safety. Their defense was fine in this game. Considering they were on the road against a pretty good offense, their performance was more than good enough for them to win. They allowed 14 points on the Bucs first two possessions, but they settled down after that, shutting them out the rest of the game. If the Seahawks offense wasn’t so bad in this one, they probably would’ve won, but their passing game has shown cause for concern. They can’t afford to have another performance like that against the Panthers next week.
  18. Atlanta Falcons 7-4 (last week’s ranking: 7th) – Speaking of the Falcons, they’re coming off a nice win over the Cardinals. They cruised to a 38-19 victory, once again proving they have the best offense in football right now. Putting up 38 points on the Cardinals is incredibly impressive, especially considering they did it on the road. Matt Ryan is another quarterback who is having an MVP-level season and his sidekick Julio Jones should get consideration for Offensive Player of the Year. Those two have proven tough to stop and the Falcons also have a great running game and offensive line, giving them the most balanced and high-powered offense in the NFL. Their defense has actually played pretty well in recent weeks, although they suffered a big loss when Desmond Trufant underwent season-ending pectoral surgery. However, their front seven has been the strength of the defense, as their run defense and pass rush have both improved significantly from a year ago. I was never really sure about the Falcons and they always seemed like the shakiest team among the top 10, but they look to be legit. Next week’s match up with the Chiefs is huge for them.
  19. Denver Broncos 7-4 (last week’s ranking: 5th) – That was a tough loss the Broncos suffered on Sunday night. Hosting the Chiefs, the Broncos had a good opportunity to gain more control in the division, and they choked. Their defense couldn’t hold an eight point lead with just three minutes left and they lost in overtime. One play that I thought was key in the game was Bennie Fowler’s 76-yard touchdown. He caught the ball down the sideline and decided to go all the way to the end zone. The Broncos were up by just a point at the time, so getting seven still kept it a one possession game and they left the Chiefs with plenty of time. If he just gave himself up inside field goal range, the Broncos could’ve ran more clock and kicked a field goal, giving themselves a four point lead. I understand getting the points, but sometimes, it seems better to just keep the ball as long as you can. Another key play was Gary Kubiak’s decision to send out Brandon McManus to kick a 62-yard field goal with 1:02 remaining in overtime. It was a very tough decision, as they had fourth and 10, so going for a first down would’ve been even riskier. If they punted, they essentially would’ve been playing for a tie. Kicking the field goal showed they were playing to win, but the kick was short and wide left. The Chiefs followed up with a field goal of their own with just two seconds left. The Broncos still have an elite defense led by Von Miller, but this was not their best game. Offensively, Trevor Siemian looked pretty good, but I still don’t trust him to take this team far into the playoffs. They’re still one of the best teams in the AFC, but they need to step it up a bit if they want to be taken seriously as Superbowl contenders. They should have no problem beating the Jags next week.
  20. Detroit Lions 7-4 (last week’s ranking: 12th) – There are two teams in the NFL who have trailed in the fourth quarter in every game this season: the 0-12 Browns and the 7-4 Detroit Lions. That is an absolutely unbelievable stat. The Lions’ ability to win close games is uncanny. Matt Stafford is yet another quarterback who I think deserves consideration for MVP this season. He’s been great this season and he doesn’t have a lot of talent around him either. I’m honestly shocked at how well the Lions have played this season, but after seeing how close all their games have been, it becomes less shocking. They certainly have a good offense, even if it hasn’t shown in recent weeks. But it seems like when their offense doesn’t play well, their defense picks them up. When the defense doesn’t play well, the offense does. This team is just built for close games. When it comes down to it, their winning more close games then they’re losing. That’s why they’re a top 10 team right now. I’d expect to see a shootout against the Saints next week.
  21. Buffalo Bills 6-5 (last week’s ranking: 10th) – It’s been a roller coaster season for the Bills. They’ve been the streakiest team in football, starting the season 0-2, and then winning four straight games, followed by a three game losing streak, and now they’ve won their last two games. While the Bills have been very hot and cold, I feel like they are the best 6-5 team right now. Their offense is so dynamic. Between LeSean McCoy and Tyrod Taylor, they have the best rushing attack in football. They also just got Sammy Watkins back from injury, so their offense just got even more explosive. On the other side of the ball, the Bills have been a bit inconsistent, but the talent is certainly there. They have a great secondary and a good pass rush, but their run defense could use some work. They’ve had some injuries on that side of the ball as well, so that isn’t really helping. It’s going to be tough for the Bills to make the playoffs because the Patriots are clearly going to win that division and the AFC West will likely have two Wildcard teams, but anything can happen. We’ll see if the Bills have what it takes to make a push. Their next game with the Raiders is a big one.
  22. Miami Dolphins 7-4 (last week’s ranking: 18th) – I cannot believe the Dolphins are 7-4 right now. Especially considering they started the season 1-4. That’s right. They’ve won their last six games. They currently have the second longest winning streak in the NFL after the Cowboys. The biggest key to their success has been their run game. Jay Ajayi has broken out in a big way and a lot of his success can be attributed to the offensive line. Early in the season, their line was banged up, but now that they’re healthy, it is helping the team immensely. Their defense has played well too, but that may be more because of their schedule than anything else. The Dolphins have faced bad teams over the last few weeks, including the 49ers, Rams, and Jets. Also, Ryan Tannehill has been playing better now that he is getting better pass protection. He isn’t turning the ball over as much and he’s been allowing his talented receivers to make plays by getting the ball in their hands. Now, while the Dolphins have been hot, their schedule has been pretty easy and I think against better teams, they would probably struggle. We’ll see how they fare against the Ravens next Sunday.
  23. Baltimore Ravens 6-5 (last week’s ranking: 20th) – The Ravens have had a very up-and-down season so far. For the most part, I see them as a middle-of-the-road team. They have a really good front seven, leading to the league’s best run defense, but their secondary is vulnerable. Against good quarterbacks, they usually get lit up. Their offense is where they need to do a lot of rebuilding. They’ve lost a couple pieces on their offensive line, so they are very young up front. They haven’t had the type of run game we’re used to seeing from them and Joe Flacco is having one of the worst seasons of his career. This team is solid, so this is the perfect spot for them, but I don’t see much room for improvement here. They need to win next Sunday against the Dolphins to keep their hopes of winning the AFC North alive.
  24. Indianapolis Colts 5-6 (last week’s ranking: 16th) – Playing without Andrew Luck, the Colts may as well have been the Browns on Thanksgiving night. Not to mention, they also lost their only other two star players, T.Y. Hilton and Vontae Davis, during the game. This team clearly lacks talent, but they’ve been in nearly every game this season. A lot of people want to blame Chuck Pagano for their struggles, but he has this team fighting and playing hard. Even without Luck, they had their chances to win, despite the final score of 28-7 not being close. They were down inside the Steelers’ five-yard-line twice and both times came away with no points. The defense wasn’t great, but holding the Steelers to 28 without their best player isn’t the worst they’ve been this season. With Luck expected to return this week, this team still has a shot at the division title. I certainly have my doubts about the talent around him, but as long as he’s playing, this team is dangerous. While their match up with the Jets on Monday Night Football looks like in easy win, it’s not a great match up for this team that struggles to protect their quarterback.
  25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6-5 (last week’s ranking: 25th) – What an impressive pair of wins for the Tampa Bay Bucs. First, they go into Kansas City and knock of the Chiefs, and then they host the Seahawks and beat them down. I never really thought the Bucs were that good, but over the last few weeks, they’ve proven me wrong. Now, they’re 6-5 and still in play for the NFC South. Their offense has been good this season and Jameis Winston has been a big reason why. His ability to make any throw can leave defenses on their heels, especially with Mike Evans as his top target. Evans has been a monster this season and deserves just as much credit as Winston for this offense’s success. In their game against the Seahawks, however, it was their defense that won them the game. They allowed just three points and 245 total yards. Their defensive line was dominant, sacking Russell Wilson six times. Gerald McCoy is having a monster season and the pass rush duo of Robert Ayers and rookie Noah Spence has been stepping up as of late. The secondary has been playing really well, too. This team is starting to put it together. I don’t know if they’re good enough to make a playoff push this season, but it won’t be long before they’re perennial playoff contenders. Against the Chargers next week, they should have a good opportunity for another win.
  26. Arizona Cardinals 4-6-1 (last week’s ranking: 13th) – Yet another disappointing team, this can’t be the type of season the Cardinals imagined at the start of the year. This team was so good last season, they have one of the more talented and balanced rosters in the league, and they have a great coaching staff, yet, this team is not looking like a playoff contender by any means. To be fair, their schedule has been tough, but that’s really no excuse for a team that was supposed to be Superbowl contenders. Carson Palmer is one guy who has clearly regressed this season. His play has brought the team down a bit. There’s still a lot to be excited about on this team. David Johnson would be an MVP candidate if they had a winning record. Their defense has loads of talent, featuring guys like Patrick Peterson, Calais Campbell, Tyrann Matheiu, and Chandler Jones. They could still put a run together to reach the postseason with the talent they have, but they’ll surely have to win out and get some help from other teams. They’ll have to get their winning streak started with a tough match up against the Redskins.
  27. San Diego Chargers 5-6 (last week’s ranking: 23rd) – While Philip Rivers has struggled in recent weeks, the rest of the Chargers’ team has been picking him up. Despite losing their top two receivers (Stevie Johnson and Keenan Allen) before Week 2, their replacements have stepped up big time. Tyrell Williams and Dontrelle Inman have been making big plays all year. Melvin Gordon is also having a breakout year, as he’s been one of the best runningbacks in football this season. The Chargers’ defense has gotten better too. Their pass rush got a surprisingly huge boost from the return of Joey Bosa. He has been phenomenal as a rookie and he’ll surely get paid the money he wants if he keeps playing like this. They’ve also been much better stopping the run since he started playing as well. I think the Chargers could make a push for the playoffs. They’ve looked pretty good in recent weeks, but they need to start finishing games. They have a big game against the Bucs next week.
  28. New Orleans Saints 5-6 (last week’s ranking: 26th) – Where would the Saints be without Drew Brees? For a guy who is about to turn 38, he’s playing some incredible football. Similarly to the Packers and the Colts, the Saints are really a one-man team right now. As long as Brees plays well, this team can beat or at least compete with anyone. If Brees has a bad game, though, this team doesn’t have the talent around him to pick him up. The Saints’ defense is still awful, even if they aren’t as historically bad as they were the last two seasons. For example, they allowed 21 first half points, at home, to the Rams. Fortunately for the Saints, their offense went toe-to-toe with the Rams in the first half, leading to a halftime tie at 21. In the second half, though, the Saints’ defense stepped up while their offense kept their foot on the gas. The Saints would go on to win 49-21. Brees had five total touchdowns (four passing and one rushing). This offense is elite once again, but until their defense starts playing better, this team will remain subpar. Next week’s match up with the Lions should be an incredibly exciting shootout.
  29. Chicago Bears 2-9 (last week’s ranking: 27th) – I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. The Bears are not that bad. They’re still one of the NFL’s lesser teams, but that’s mostly because they desperately need a quarterback. If they can somehow get a franchise quarterback, whether it be in free agency or the draft (which seems way more likely), they would be playoff contenders. They could also stand to improve their secondary. With a few additions on the back end, their defense could be a top 10 unit. Their front seven is already loaded with talent, including guys like Parnell McPhee, Jerrell Freeman, Leonard Floyd, Danny Trevathan, Eddie Goldman, and Willie Young. They’re really just a few pieces away from being one of the better teams in the NFC, but nothing will change this season and they are nowhere near a playoff spot. They might be able to win this week, though, as they face off against the pathetic 49ers.
  30. New York Jets 3-8 (last week’s ranking: 29th) – The Jets nearly upset the Patriots on Sunday, but a couple costly fumbles hurt their chances of winning. The first fumble was committed by Robby Anderson. Instead of having a 25-yard catch to midfield, he fumbled the ball, giving the Pats a short field. The Patriots capitalized and scored a touchdown to tie the game in the first half. The other costly fumble was committed by Ryan Fitzpatrick, as the Jets were trying to drive for a game-winning touchdown. He was stripped by Chris Long and the Patriots recovered to ice the game. The Jets had a 17-16 lead with about five minutes remaining, when they punted and allowed the Patriots to score a touchdown, taking a 22-17 lead. The Jets did a good job of making Tom Brady look human and their defensive line was a big part of that. While the rest of their defense is pretty bad, this team can win if they get consistent pressure. The fact is, though, this team is 3-8 and it’s because of their offense. Ryan Fitzpatrick demanded a big contract this offseason and the Jets were smart not to give it to him. He’s been awful this year and the Jets will be better once they move on. They could stand to add a couple offensive lineman and play makers, but they aren’t too far off from bouncing back. Their pass rush alone should give them a chance to win against the Colts next Monday night.
  31. San Francisco 49ers 1-10 (last week’s ranking: 31st) – Remember a couple years ago when the 49ers were reaching the NFC Championship game every year and they also made the Superbowl in 2013? Yeah, this team is a far cry from that one. Back then, they had a great coach in Jim Harbaugh. They had one of the league’s top defenses. Their offense was explosive, with great receivers and Colin Kaepernick looking like a franchise quarterback. They also had a dominant offensive line and a great run game with Frank Gore. Now, this team has next to nothing. They’ve got a couple good defensive lineman in the two guys they drafted from Oregon, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead, and they have a few good, young safeties, but outside of that, there’s isn’t much to be excited about with this team. They have no offense, except when it’s their first possession of the game. They always seem to score early, then struggle to move the ball afterwards. I really think they need to just move on from Chip Kelly and Kaepernick and rebuild. Their 10 game losing streak might grow to 11 against the Bears next week.
  32. Cleveland Browns 0-12 (last week’s ranking: 32nd) – Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think I had the Browns in this spot before Week 1 and they’ve remained here ever since. Probably because they have yet to win a game and have never really stood a chance. This team has such a bad front office. They are horrible at drafting and making decisions in free agency. They let all their good players go without bringing in any decent replacements. They’ve started 26 different quarterbacks since 1999, when they took Tim Couch in the first round. It’s almost as if that horrible pick has resulted in years of first round busts for the Browns. Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden, and Johnny Manziel were all first rounders that are now out of the league. Charlie Frye, Colt McCoy and Cody Kessler were all third round picks as well, but Kessler may be good, they just need to put a competent team around him. Some people have questioned whether the Browns are good enough to beat Alabama. While I think the Browns are still good enough to beat a college team, I don’t think it’s by much. The good news for Browns fans is that they get a break from losing as they have their bye this week.

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