Del Pilar’s Diatribe: NFL Power Rankings Week 16 Broken Down

NFL Power Rankings

We’re getting to the point in our NFL power rankings where games now matter. It’s trickier to eat a loss and still see yourself as getting into the playoffs. This upcoming week will be even worse as teams continue to separate themselves from being “in the playoff hunt” to being “officially eliminated”.

Our weekly reminder: no, our final note is that Bye Weeks (weeks 5-14) are over as of this past week. Let’s get to it, people!

Note: Numbers in parentheses by team name; note their ranking last week.

The Elites

1. San Francisco 49ers (1) Record: 11-3 (win vs. Arizona Cardinals 45-29) – Are the Niners human? Yes, and as I’ve stated all season long, they can shut anyone down when healthy. They took care of business and let the MVP debate continue, especially as you’re hearing a few more voices – okay, fanboys – talk about RB Christian McCaffrey, and it’s true. If he goes down, the Niners don’t have a viable replacement that you can fill in and help take them to the Super Bowl. As good as WR Deebo Samuels is, he’s not that guy as it limits the overall passing attack and wears Deebo down, and you can get away with it with lesser teams but not top-tier teams.

The Niners retain their No. 1 NFL power ranking. However, of concern is their rush defense. They were missing two players, precisely two of their top defensive tackles. Over the season, the 49ers ranked No. 1 against the run but gave up 234 rushing yards. Granted, the Cardinals are ranked No. 7 for the season in rushing and No. 6 over their past three games; the Niners must do better than that.

They must learn to shut lesser teams down more than they did this week. Keep an eye out on that as DT Arik Armstead (foot) and Javon Hargrave (hamstring) aren’t guaranteed to come back against the Ravens – the best rushing attack in the league, both for the season and their past three games. Hence, this is a week of worry to figure out how to counter it, especially after the Cardinals gashed them.

The Niners control their fate in the battle for homefield advantage, and we know, “any given Sunday,” but if they can get past the Ravens, they end the season with the Commanders and Rams. Unless they look ahead, they should take care of business.

Elitism is on their Radar!

2. Baltimore Ravens (4) Record: 11-3 (win vs. Jacksonville Jaguars 23-7) – Okay, so once again, the Ravens played down to their opponent, and while the score shows a blowout, it wasn’t until the end. I said the Jaguars infuriated me, considering their talent but how soft mentally they are. They also don’t play with urgency and make mistakes a team with their talent should overcome, but they don’t. That’s not taking anything away from the Ravens, but they play up or down to some of their opponents. They’re still making errors from a new playbook they’re expanding and perfecting. They’re not there yet.

However, what makes QB Lamar Jackson great is that he doesn’t have to post big numbers as much as his mobility creates plays, so as a team, they must stay close, and that magic can pull out a win. He only went 14 of 24 for 171 yards, one touchdown, and a terrible interception, but his legs are where his magic lies.

He posted a line of 12-97-0 rushing yards, which was critical to this victory. What top-tier teams understand and look to the Niners as the only example – you must contain players like Jackson. When you pull a Brian Flores (Vikings defensive coordinator and overall vile human being) and blitz but don’t’ contain, you get quarterbacks that run wild and cost you games. The Jaguars learned that this week, along with other mental errors. Whether it was play calling, on-the-field decisions by the players, or the fact they’re soft, this was a winnable game for them.

Give credit to the Ravens for sticking to who they are, playing their game, and eventually making it a blowout. Over their last three games, they rank No. 4 in overall offense, No. 18 in passing, and No. 1 in rushing. The key to their rushing attack is Lamar, backed up by a mentally tough corps of running backs that play physical football. It’s what you want with your back’s makeup. Lamar may not be the passer he should be, but he’s efficient and can make the hard throw in crunch time. A trait not many possess (see Dak Prescott).

Defensively in that span, they ranked No. 19 overall, which is a far cry from their season rank of No. 1. Against the pass, they ranked No. 22, another far cry from their season rank of No. 7. This team has strong leadership and why the Ravens are ranked as high as they are. They’re the team to beat in the AFC right now, but they’re not the dominant team we see in the Niners. However, they can prove everyone wrong.

They close the schedule with a potential Super Bowl preview against the Niners this week before facing the Dolphins and Steelers. Thus, they can become a battle-tested, seasoned unit entering the playoffs. Their future is bright despite too much hype by analysts right now. They take the No. 2 spot in our NFL power rankings.

3. Buffalo Bills (5) Record: 8-6 (win vs. Dallas Cowboys 31-10) – Last week, I said my ranking of the Bills at No. 5 in these NFL power rankings would be controversial. However, as is the case, most of the time, I’m right, and those who paid more than me are wrong. I also said the Bills implementing a rushing attack for balance, yet allowing QB Josh Allen to play without any leash, is the best approach. They lacked that early on, relying solely on Allen, but now we’ve seen how good this team can be when they implement a rushing attack alongside Allen.

As is typically the case, the weather didn’t help Dallas, which doesn’t play as much in the cold with the AT&T dome. The ‘Boys don’t have to deal with it like other teams do. They faced terrible weather, and the Bills came in with a prepared game plan and took advantage of the Cowboys’ weakness, defending the run (ranked No. 27 the past three games). It was brilliant, and head coach Sean McDermott deserves credit for taking the ball out of his best player’s hands and running with it.

The Bills have looked dominant the past four weeks, including against the Eagles, which they lost. They held the Cowboys to 195 total yards, and the Cowboys have a high-powered offense – the sixth-best in the league for the season. They were on a run the last five games, averaging 40.2 points per game. On the flip side, the Bills’ rushing attack managed 266 rushing yards, which is why the beatdown and favored time of possession was 10 minutes. You rarely see that lopsided dominance.

Over their past three games, the Bills ranked No. 5 in passing and No. 2 in rushing – close to their season ranks. However, the point is that this offense is rolling in both phases and looks dominant against top-tier teams. Defensively, in that span, they ranked No. 8 against the pass and No. 19 against the rush. They can be taken out on the ground, which could be their Achilles heel as Dolphins and Ravens thrive rushing, but I’m getting ahead. The Bills are deserving of this rapid rise in our NFL power rankings.

Overall, this run could become extraordinary if they win out, as they’re playing that well. It’s a different mindset from the lackadaisical and lack of leadership we saw early on when they were struggling. They’ve come together as a team, and when that happens, you still need strong leadership, but the camaraderie of a united group dynamic is also a solid trait to possess. They may find a leader or already have one we’re unaware of. Regardless, they must face the Chargers and Patriots and close out against the Dolphins. Technically, they’re still in the hunt for the division title, but a wild-card slot seems more in line with reality.

4. Dallas Cowboys (2) Record: 10-4 (loss vs. Buffalo Bills 31-10) – What a difference a week makes. We were all finally giving quarterback Dak Prescott his due by beating a top-tier team in the Eagles. The Eagles have been shellacked for two weeks and beaten a third time, and they could be that team like the Niners, who are going through a slump, and the Cowboys caught them at the right time.

This game against the Bills was simply a game of who wanted it more. The Cowboys are in the hunt for the division and possibly homefield advantage or a team with another loss, and they’re likely out of the playoffs. When I talk about will, perseverance, and your backs against the wall, I talk about how boys and young men rise to become men. To break the barrier that separates great players from achieving greatness and to become legends. Prescott and the Cowboys aren’t even close.

The talk is that the Cowboys are unbeatable at home (7-0) but sub-.500 away, so their playoff hopes reside on homefield advantage. This loss doesn’t knock them out of the race but does severe damage. A reminder – homefield advantage isn’t what it used to be – about 51% advantage only. The genuine concern is the following – their psyche.

This loss will play mind games with a team struggling to prepare against big-game opponents. This loss, combined with the Niners’ beat down in Week 5 and what they’ll hear from the media, that Prescott isn’t MVP-worthy, could create a weakness in their psyche that affects them moving forward. It’s up to their head coach and veteran leadership to prevent that. The problem is we don’t think they have that type of leadership.

In the past three outings, the Cowboys ranked No. 15 in passing and No. 9 in rushing. This potent passing attack is down from its No. 6 season rank, but that’s no excuse for only posting 194 offensive yards and letting the Bills control the clock with ten more minutes of possession. Defensively, in that span, they ranked No. 14 against the pass and No. 27 against the run. We talk about powerhouses, but trends tell a different story, and this team is beatable if the Cowboys don’t shore up their run defense. Worse – if the ‘Boys falter on offense, this type of game will happen again.

Despite making the playoffs before kickoff, this team must learn how to overcome their lack of mental toughness and realize they can beat anyone and should beat everyone. However, they lack that mindset and must face the Dolphins and Lions before facing the Commanders. The Dolphins and Lions are also battling for homefield advantage and are top-tier or close to top-tier as they come. ‘Da Boys drop in our NFL power rankings this week.  

5. Kansas City Chiefs (6) Record: 9-5 (win vs. New England Patriots 27-17) – Let’s be honest, the big story out of this week is the fact that the Chiefs suffered more drops for a season total of – we don’t know as it’s an unofficial stat, but you’re looking at roughly 30 drops this year across the board (running back, wide receiver, tight end). It continued with the now-humiliated wide receiver Kadarius Toney this week. He talked a lot of trash when he was with the Giants and continued until recently; thus, as hard as it is to feel bad for him, most don’t.

His NFL career is not for long, as he’ll likely bounce around until no one wants him, or maybe he will shock us and grow the **** up! He has the talent to be prolific, as college proved. This year, there’s not enough confidence with the Chiefs to keep going to him despite the fact they have. I don’t see him as part of the playoff roster or at least not starting if he can’t stop dropping passes. It’ll be challenging as it’s a mental game now for him.

Kansas City entered this week on a two-game losing streak and overcame and beat up a team that they’re better than. That’s not always a given (see the Falcons this week). They came in with problems and left with the same issues – receiver woes. In the past three games, the Chiefs rank No. 13 offensively, down from their No. 7 season rank. In passing and rushing in that span, they rank No. 6 and No. 25, but the rushing position should get Isiah Pacheco (shoulder) back in time for the final stretch of games.

Defensively, over the last three outings, they rank No. 11 overall – down from a season rank of No. 4. In that span, they rank No. 11 against the pass and No. 13 against the rush. They’re a beatable team, but these rankings don’t indicate how well they can play when healthy and error-free. However, they’ve got to get it together, or their season will be shorter than most imagine.

This issue boils down to leadership and getting some injuries back. They have three weeks to get the receiving corps on the same page as they face the Raiders, Bengals, Chargers, and every one of those teams they should beat. The Bengals could surprise us, but we must wait and see. Despite their setbacks, the Chiefs are a top-tier team and aren’t going anywhere in our NFL power rankings.

6. Philadelphia Eagles (4) Record: 10-4 (loss vs. Seattle Seahawks 20-17) –So, the league’s other “best” team is going through a tough time with three straight losses. This team is in a funk, and the truth is, we’ve said all season, they look vulnerable, and there’s a reason why. Before this game, the Eagles changed defensive coordinators, but like the Steelers are learning, changing a coordinator doesn’t mean better results. It usually is what it is.

The Eagles were in control for most of the game but let the Seahawks hang around, just as teams did with the Eagles throughout the season. Additionally, QB Jalen Hurts had a subpar game, going 17 of 31 for 143 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions, with the final one ending any potential bid for a comeback. Hurts had tremendous success on the ground, going 13-82-2 rushing, but teams are starting to figure him out, and as I always say, a rushing quarterback will always have their limitations if they don’t learn to be an NFL quarterback. That’s what happened tonight for the Eagles.

They can return from this, but they’ve lost their mojo and may struggle to find it before the playoffs. We’ll have to wait and see. Offensively, they rank No. 14 in passing and rushing over their last three games – in other words, they’re mediocre. Sure, they have the talent to be elite, but right now, mediocrity is a reason for three straight losses. Their season ranks in passing and rushing are No. 16 and No. 8, so they’ve dipped in running but remained about the same with the passing. That’s not a good sign, as the numbers are beginning to show us they are vulnerable.

Defensively, in that span, they rank No. 27 (No. 28 for the season) against the pass and No. 24 against the rush. Against the rush, their season rank is No. 7; thus, this team is trending the wrong way. They’re in the playoffs but may have to go the route of a wild card. That said, they have an effortless three-game stretch, and hence, they have great hopes that they can still win the division. They face the Giants, Cardinals, and Giants again. You can’t ask for a better schedule. The Eagles will drop in our NFL power rankings, but they should move back up.

7. Miami Dolphins (7) Record: 10-4 (win vs. New York Jets 30-0) – Okay, let’s be honest here. This game means nothing. The Dolphins took care of business. However, they’ve yet to beat a team above .500 and have the Jets’ number. They won 34-13 in their first meeting and now blanked them 30-0. They maintain a two-game lead against the Bills heading into the final stretch of games and will likely have a primetime kickoff date as they face off in the season’s last week.

Over the last three games, they’re ranked No. 8 in total offense, a dip from their No. 1 season rank. They’re No. 10 in passing and rushing. That’s outstanding, but realize their season rank in those categories are No. 1 and No. 4, so they’ve come back slightly. Enough to make you understand attrition, weather, and film are a team’s enemy as the season progresses, especially with warm weather teams.

Defensively, in the last three outings, they ranked No. 3 overall, No. 5 against the pass, and No. 3 against the rush. Now that’s some good stuff there with those rankings, and they’re trending up defensively. This team is gelling at the right time and could get WR Tyreek Hill (ankle) back for the big matchup against the Cowboys this week.

The Dolphins have a demanding schedule coming up in the final three weeks. They face the Cowboys, Ravens, and Bills. They could go 0-3, as those are three teams above .500. Okay, I jest a bit, but it’s not unfair to say that, but if they can conquer those teams, that is the best preparation for the playoffs. Yes, the Dolphins remain a top-tier team in our NFL power rankings.

8. Detroit Lions (8) Record 10-4 (win vs. Denver Broncos 42-17) – This was an impressive win, but do we care? Yes and no. The Lions needed this after terrible outings against the Bears (twice), Saints, Packers, and Chargers, regardless of whether they won or lost. This team doesn’t know how to win, as those close games against mediocre to bad teams prove. They need to take the next step, and this week was great. They showed us they could take a better-than-average team, put their foot on their necks, and break it. That’s what they did to the Broncos. That’s what top-tier teams do against their opponents. Regardless, can they do it consistently?

Over the past three games, they ranked No. 9 in overall offense, No. 19 in passing, and No. 3 in rushing. Their numbers are down from their overall offensive rank of No. 3, and their vaunted passing attack is hurting when compared to their season rank of No. 4. However, this game against a team ranked No. 9 in overall defense is the type of game to get them back on track with only three games left. Going 2-2 the past four weeks and likely losing out on the race for homefield advantage can play mind games; this was a great win.

Defensively is where they must improve. In the three-game span, they rank No. 18 overall, No. 17 against the pass, and No. 15 against the run. These rankings are why they have shootouts; they struggle to stop high-powered offenses. That’s what they must learn how to do. This team is a year away from dominance, but you can’t count them out this year.

The offensive and defensive output doesn’t matter as much, as we must see them do this consistently. They have three games to prove they can, and they’re all key. They’ve yet to face the Vikings, Cowboys, and Vikings again. Minnesota’s slowly fading, but the Cowboys will be a battle and could have playoff implications. The Lions are a top-ten, top-tier team and remain as such in our NFL power rankings. 

Better than Average but Still has Kinks to Work Out.

9. Cincinnati Bengals (11) Record: 8-6 (win vs. Minnesota Vikings 27-24) – Which AFC North team has more extraordinary luck with the Pigskin Gods, the Browns or Bengals? In their defense, both teams hang around and pull wins out in the last few minutes. QB Jake Browning eventually figured out the blitzing schemes of the Vikings’ defensive coordinator. He may not have figured out the plays, but he realized he could step up to avoid the blitz and find a lane to rush through or buy time to throw. In the end, that’s what beat Flores and the blitz. Give the kid credit as he figured out how to overcome this defense that shut him down for three quarters.

However, they must continue to work with the rushing attack to help Browning out, and they’re lucky they have WR Tee Higgins to take up the slack with WR Ja’Marr Chase (shoulder) going down to injury with a separated shoulder. He’ll likely miss one game, if not more. Higgins stepped up to have a great game with a 4-61-2-8 stat line; they’ll need that to continue. Based on how well Browning’s playing, the Bengals are a legitimate team in the playoff hunt.

Over the last three games, the Bengals ranked No. 2 in passing, up from their No. 13 season rank. They rank No. 13 in rushing, and that’s a massive step up from their No. 31 season rank. This team is gelling at the right time with an improbable player at quarterback. No one predicted this, and to the team’s credit, they’ve battled every game since Browning took over.

Defensively, they rank No. 29 against the pass, and that’s worse than their No. 27 season rank. Still, they rank No. 6 against the rush, and that’s another big jump from their season rank of No. 28. Again, this team is coming together at the right time and is a formidable foe as long as they continue to support Browning and not ask him to carry the team. He likely can, but being so inexperienced, he’s just as apt to make a game-losing mistake as much as a great pass to put the team in a winning position. The Bengals will move up in our NFL power rankings.

10. Cleveland Browns (10) Record: 9-5 (win vs. Chicago Bears 20-17) – The Browns won but won ugly, which shows why this team is not Super Bowl-ready. In their defense, they’ve done well without an actual quarterback playing, and while they could overcome a 5-9 Bears, they won’t have that luxury if they make the playoffs. If anything, they hung around and pulled out the win at the end.

The Browns were facing a team ranked No. 27 in overall offense in their past three games, No. 18 against the pass, and No. 11 in rushing. The No. 11 rank is down from their No. 5 season rank. This team isn’t all that when you listen to how “elite” this Browns defense is. Remember, the Bears are 5-9. In essence, the Browns did their job and defeated a lesser team.

What are the Browns doing? Offensively, in the last three outings, they’re ranked No. 3 in passing, and that’s way up from their 21-season rank and a product of quarterback Joe Flacco. However, they’re No. 30 in rushing – a massive drop from their season rank of No. 10. They have a lot of work to do here because Flacco, despite throwing seven touchdowns in the past three games, also has five interceptions and one fumble. While they have their quarterback for the rest of the season and possibly the playoffs, they’re still trying to put the offense together. 

Defensively is where their strengths are, but in the past three outings, they rank No. 18 against the pass – a far cry from their No. 1 season rank. However, they rank No. 8 in that span against the rush and only allow 88.7 rushing yards to opponents in those games. Yes, in this category, elite indeed. Shutting down the Bears’ rushing attack was key and against a team like the Bears, a necessity if the Browns genuinely believe they’re playoff-capable. They did just that but barely managed to win because of some keystone antics from the offense, namely, three Flacco interceptions.

The defense can only do so much, and coming back against a 5-9 team that’s begun its player evaluations is not the same as coming back against a top-tier playoff-capable team. We still need to see the offense play better, and the defense is working its way back up. However, the Browns have to face the Texans, Jets, and Bengals, and two of those games are against teams in the playoff hunt. While not quite the elite schedule, it’s a good one that they can win out and look at as prepping for a playoff run. The Browns stand pat for the most part in our NFL power rankings.

NFL Power Rankings: Pretenders or Contenders?

11. Indianapolis Colts (13) Record: 8-6 (win vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 30-13) – Tom Brady came out and criticized quarterback Gardner Minshew for ball placement when WR Michael Pittman (concussion) took a vicious hit that knocked him out of the game. Please, in 20 years, the odds are likely 99.99 percent that Brady did the same with one of his wideouts. We live in an era where quarterbacks aren’t as developed as they once were. Sadly, as Brady pretends to walk on water, the reality is he’s right in comparing today’s quarterbacks with those of his generation.

This team shows resiliency, coming back from 13 down to post 30 points and dominate, and that’s even without their No. 1 running back Jonathan Taylor (thumb), who didn’t play, and their No. 2 in Zack Moss (shoulder), who left the game and didn’t return. That wasn’t it; they also lost WR Michael Pittman (concussion) and still won.

Turnovers were vital with three, and they got to the Steelers’ quarterbacks four times. Overall, they took care of a team winning with smoke and mirrors. It was a well-earned victory. It’s a great momentum builder for the Colts to add to the fact they’ve won five of their last six games.

Over the last three games, they rank No. 7 in passing, way up from their season rank of No. 18, but in that span, they only rank No. 26 in rushing. We called a down-year for RB Jonathan Taylor, which is the case, so it’s a big hole they haven’t been able to fill.

Defensively, they rank No. 12 against the pass and No. 22 against the rush. As you can see, they have their issues along with their positives, but in the end, playoffs or not, it’s been a great year despite losing their rookie quarterback and Taylor having a down year. They have a nucleus in place for the short and long-term future. However, the playoffs are still in their plans, and they face the Falcons, Raiders, and Texans. All winnable games, and the final one with the Texans, could decide who goes on to the playoffs and who stays home. They’ll get a bump up in our NFL power rankings this week.

12. Houston Texans (14) Record: 8-6 (win vs. Tennessee Titans 19-16) – This team is resilient and proved it by winning with veteran Case Keenum, who came on in the end just enough to give them the win. Overall, this was a team effort led by the defense, but having a veteran like Keenum, who has been in big games, was instrumental. That allowed him to overcome a horrific pick-six to keep his composure and drive the team into overtime with a big-play 41-yard pass to RB Devin Singletary.

We can’t take this team lightly, as their eight wins prove, but they are beatable. Contrary to perception, Titans RB Derrick Henry isn’t the “King” he used to be. He’s had six games with less than 3.5 yards per attempt and is suffering his worst year as a pro, with an average of 3.8 yards per attempt. Hence, please don’t view the Texans as elite against the run; they are stout.

Over their past three games, they ranked No. 6 in overall defense – a big jump from their No. 16 season rank. They’re No. 9 against the pass and No. 7 against the run, and their pass defense is way up from their No. 24 season rank. They match up against any offense, and their head coach, DeMeco Ryans, was a defensive stud as defensive coordinator with the Niners before taking the Texans’ head coaching gig. It’s not surprising, and it’s also quicker to build a defense than an offense.

That said, in that same span, they rank No. 28 overall offensively, and that’s way down from their No. 10 season rank. However, there’s more film on rookie QB C.J. Stroud, and teams aren’t taking them as lightly. In those outings, they rank No. 29 in passing – a massive drop from their No. 5 season rank and No. 18 in rushing. You have a team that isn’t as good as their record but has coaching and play calling that is better than most of the counterparts they face.

You add a tough-guy mentality directly from head coach Ryans, which is why this team is overachieving. They view anyone they play as beatable and don’t let their errors bring them down. Ryans is arguably the best hire I’ve seen in years. That said, Shane Steichen of the Colts arguably could be doing a better job than Ryans – Steichen lost his starting quarterback.

The Texans also have a favorable three-game final stretch, facing the Seahawks with a quarterback less than 100 percent in Geno Smith (groin), a rematch with the Titans, and the game that could decide the division – they’ll face the pathetically soft Jaguars! They’ve been see-sawing in our NFL power rankings the last few weeks, but it’s a bump up this week.

13. Denver Broncos (9) Record: 7-7 (loss vs. Detroit Lions 42-17) – All you’re hearing is that the Broncos’ head coach, Sean Payton, was mean to QB Russell Wilson on the sidelines. Look, a coach must watch himself and not get caught in these media stories that only help the media create page clicks. Who cares why Payton yelled at Wilson? Wilson owes his rejuvenated career to him. The Seahawks gave up on him, and we knew why when he came to Denver. Wilson had an ego so big that it couldn’t fit through the door and an office on an upper floor away from his teammates. He was a Prima Donna.

To Michael Irvin, who I love as an analyst, who cares if he never yelled at Drew Brees? Brees never put himself in the situation Wilson did. Don’t forget Payton had to save and rejuvenate his career, while Brees was always the same player during Payton’s Saints tenure. That said, if I had been the owner, I would’ve taken Payton aside and done what he did to Wilson to show how embarrassment felt when not warranted. Why? Payton was an idiot in not challenging a couple of plays, and the excuses for not doing so are just that – excuses! I saw nothing wrong with Wilson in this game that would warrant yelling, but some lousy coaching blunders deserved it.

That said, the Broncos were beaten by a better team. Remember, this team is rebuilding and learning a new system and coming together, and you’re seeing it with all its good and bad revelations. The Broncos are still in the playoff hunt, but it won’t be an easy hill to climb despite their upcoming opponents.

In the past three games, they ranked No. 24 in passing and No. 18 in rushing. Defensively, in that span, they rank No. 24 against the pass and No. 18 against the run. On both sides of the ball, that production’s likely not enough to make a serious run if they make the playoffs. That said, they’ve been playing great ball since their atrocious start to the season, and in their case, the numbers don’t matter as much as they would to another team. A veteran quarterback and a proven head coach, who are both Super Bowl winners, are at the helm. However, it does mean they can’t afford mistakes such as costly turnovers, penalties, and sacks.

They head toward their final stretch against the Patriots, Chargers, Raiders, and every one of those games. They should win without question. If they do that, with some help, they could be looking at a wild-card spot unless the Chiefs collapse at the end to lose two of their last three – which is unlikely. Look for them to drop in our NFL power rankings this week, and deservedly so.

14. Jacksonville Jaguars (12) Record: 8-6 (loss vs. Baltimore Ravens 23-7) – The unforced fumble by QB Trevor Lawrence when no one even touched him was a product of stupidity that epitomizes the Jaguars season and recent history – they’re soft. They lack the maturity to get to the next level. They have no leadership in veterans or the coaching staff to make them mentally tough. At some point, you need some tough love to toughen up mentally, mature, and put your foot on an opponent’s neck and make it snap. The Ravens did that to the Jaguars, but the Jags can’t do that to anyone. That’s on head coach Doug Pederson.

Over their past three games – all losses – the Jaguars rank No. 14 offensively, No. 5 in passing, and No. 29 in rushing. Defensively, they rank No. 29 overall, No. 28 against the pass, and No. 31 against the rush. They can’t stop anybody, and yet they can play against anyone. They just don’t know how to win.

It doesn’t matter what the stats are if you don’t have the confidence to put a team away, and when you look at the losses, you can see why: the Texans, Bengals, and Browns are three losses they should’ve won. The first team is in a complete rebuild with a rookie quarterback, and the other two are without their starting quarterbacks. The Niners and Ravens were games to prove the Jags belong, but instead, it showed they don’t.

This team is a year away but must end the season on a high note to create positive momentum moving forward. I’m not sure Jacksonville can do that. They’ve failed every challenge and conclude their season against the Bucs, Panthers, and Titans. They should win all three games, and the fact they still control their destiny toward a division championship should give them the “oomph” they need. But will it? We’ll find out, but we know they’ll drop in our NFL power rankings.

The Rest of the Best or Pretenders

15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (16) Record: 7-7 (win vs. Green Bay Packers 34-20) – Who would have ever thought we would see QB Baker Mayfield and how he looked in college in a professional game? Is Mayfield finally coming into his own after being thrown under the bus by the Cleveland Browns? Maybe. He went 22 of 28 for 381 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. It’s funny when you see no interceptions; game results are more favorable. We live in a free-wheeling NFL, and too many quarterbacks unnecessarily turn the ball over.

The Bucs have won their last three games, are building momentum, and are on a run. In their previous three games, they rank No. 11 in passing, up from their No. 19 season rank, and somehow, they’ve found a rushing attack that ranks No. 8, a massive jump from their No. 29 season ranking and a big reason they’re on a three-game winning streak.

Defensively, in the past three games, they ranked No. 26 against the pass, a slight tick up from their No. 31 season rank. They rank No. 10 in that span against the run. There are some positives, but the bottom line is that Mayfield may save head coach Todd Bowles’s job. He’s not a very good head coach, and if he remains, you’re likely looking at mediocrity from this team.

The Bucs control their destiny in the battle for the NFC South. They face a spiraling Jaguars club next week and then the Saints and Panthers. All three games are winnable, and this team, specifically Mayfield, could make a statement and regain some of the luster that’s dimmed from his formerly energetic persona and reputation. Do we see it happening? If he plays like this against the other three teams, it can happen.

16. Los Angeles Rams (17) Record: 7-7 (win vs. Washington Commanders 28-20) – The Rams won, but we must question some of the play calling, and if not for the fact the Rams were playing the Commanders a better team and close game, some of these calls head coach Sean McVay makes would burn the team. I’ve never been impressed with him – mercenaries and referees gave him his Super Bowl ring; thus, seeing foul play calling is par for the course.

On the positive, what can you say? WR Cooper Kupp is back, and that’s a massive boon and one reason why the Rams are still in the playoff hunt, albeit from the outside looking in. That said, give QB Matthew Stafford credit, as he’s looked sharp and not heavy and slow like in other games. He’s been sharp the past few weeks. Overall, this team seems to be coming together. What does the data say?

Over their past three games, they ranked No. 4 in passing, averaging about 35 more yards per game and up from their No. 11 ranking. In that span, they rank No. 7 in rushing, up from their No. 11 rank, and about 27 more yards per game. They’re trending offensively. Defensively, in that span, they rank No. 28 against the pass and No. 14 against the rush. That pass defense means a potential for some shootouts. However, the overall point is that the offense can likely keep up with anyone, making the Rams dangerous.

They close out the season with a stretch against the Saints, Giants, and 49ers, and they know the Niners inside and out and always play them tough. When they weren’t playing well, they still posted twenty points in a 30-23 loss. Don’t write them off, as the Saints and Giants are winnable and much easier than most would think, considering how they’re playing right now. The Rams are slowly rising in our NFL power rankings.  

17. New Orleans Saints (20) Record: 7-7 (win vs. New York Giants 24-6) – Let’s be frank here, the Saints were facing a team riding a three-game winning streak but what people forget is those wins came against the Packers, Patriots, and Commanders, a combined 13-29 record and none above .500. However, the good news is that QB Derek Carr finally showed up, going 23 of 28 for 218 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. They operate on a committee approach at running back, and the team went for a paltry 87 yards for 3.1 yards per carry. Not good!

This win shouldn’t be surprising, and the Saints played like the team many thought we would see week in and week out. Carr spread the ball around, targeting ten players, and that’s what this offense is supposed to do. Is this enough to turn their season around? It’s a start after being a competitive team that seems not to want or know how to win. Before anyone thinks they’re turning it around, let me remind you of their last two opponents. The Panthers and Giants are a combined 7-21, so let’s not think they’re playoff-ready, much less playoff-tested.

Over their last three games, they ranked No. 25 overall in offense, a drop from their No. 14 season rank. They’re 23 in passing and No. 22 in rushing. Those aren’t numbers that intimidate opposing defenses. Defensively, they rank No. 7 overall, No. 2 against the pass, and No. 25 against the rush. Despite their ranking, they’re top-notch overall and shut down Saquon Barkley, the No. 14 ranked rusher, and No. 29 ranked player in yards from scrimmage. That’s sarcasm as they shut down a back struggling this season. Regardless, they did their job and shut him down.

This team has yet to face the Rams, Bucs, and Falcons, and all three games have playoff implications, especially the latter two, as they’re all fighting for the division title. Three teams with a combined record of 20-22 and none over .500. The truth is that this division is an embarrassment. The Saints will probably see a bump in this week’s NFL power rankings, but they’ve yet to play consistently at the level some thought they could. Regardless, this is a good start toward the final season stretch.

18. Seattle Seahawks (21) Record: 7-7 (win vs. Philadelphia Eagles 20-17) – What we saw Monday night was the Seahawks of old. Granted, they didn’t show up until the fourth quarter; it consisted of smash-mouth rushing and critical throws. The difference is that it’s an offense where the quarterback isn’t just a game manager but must make the difficult throws. Combine that with a defense that plays physical as well and isn’t afraid to go for the turnover, and you have the Seahawks’ style of play that took them to two Super Bowls and won them one.

Backup QB Drew Locke got the start and had a phenomenal fourth-quarter drive that allowed the team to come back, take the lead, and win. While the numbers didn’t look great for the Seahawks with 197 passing yards and 100 rushing yards, the fourth-quarter drive for 92 yards on 11 plays won them the game. Again, if you let teams like the Seahawks, Browns, or Bengals hang around, they can come back and beat you.

This win was a must to stay in the playoff race, and over their last three games, they ranked No. 6 in passing, up from their No. 15 season rank and No. 27 in rushing, a big hole considering their strength the past years when successful was a robust physical rushing attack. They lack that, and it’s one reason they’re 7-7 but not out of it.

Defensively in that span, they rank No. 29 against the pass and No. 30 against the run, and that’s a more significant reason they’re 7-7 and why it’s unlikely, even if they make a playoff run, they wouldn’t go deep. However, as the Eagles found out, they’re a dangerous team to play. 

In their final three games, they face the Titans, Steelers, and Cardinals, and those games are winnable; thus, the Seahawks are firmly in this playoff hunt, albeit they need help to get in. They’ll see a bump in our power rankings indeed.

NFL Power Rankings: Get it Together and Overachievers

19. Green Bay Packers (15) Record: 6-8 (loss vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34-20) – Okay, so the surging Packers are no longer surging with two losses to two teams with a combined record of 12-16, but it’s not surprising. This team is in a rebuilding year, I keep repeating. Yet, Packers Nation believes they can make the playoffs and make a run. They can’t. To see writers and analysts whine about this Packers’ problem, that Packers’ problem, etc.

Get over yourselves; it was never in the cards this year. However, to deflect from the fact that his teams have never gone deep in the playoffs, head coach Matt LaFleur will make their defensive coordinator the scapegoat for this team. Even though this team always looks to the dregs to prop up their defense and puts their money on offense,

Over the past three games, the Packers ranked No. 21 against the pass, down from their season rank of No. 12. Against the rush in that span, they ranked No. 19, about the same as where they’ve been all season (21). It’s obvious this defense is subpar, and yes, they do suck. Let’s look at the offense during these last few games. They rank No. 9 in passing, up from their No. 17 season rank, but only No. 19 in rushing. The passing attack is growing and building under QB Jordan Love’s first season as the starter.

However, the rushing attack is the same as it’s always been – mediocre to horrific, and if anyone’s responsible for that, it’s the head coach, and he’s never called out on it. That’s why the Packers have had 30 years of Hall of Fame quarterback play with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers and only two Super Bowls. That’s the bigger travesty than their defense, which has always been a stepchild kept healthy with rag-tag players off the streets or over-the-hill veterans. It’s what happens when you put all your money into your quarterback and forsake other areas of need.

Technically, the Packers aren’t out of the playoff race and end the season against the Panthers, Vikings, and Bears – none of those games are easy for them, but they are winnable. Can they get it together in time? It’s unlikely, as they’re snapping at each other in Green Bay and trying to put this season’s dilemmas all on the defense and their coordinator. Terrible, and again, why they only have two Super Bowls in thirty years – piss poor management. Yes, they’re dropping in our NFL power rankings.

20. Minnesota Vikings (18) Record: 7-7 (loss vs. Cincinnati Bengals 27-20) – The run is over, and while the Vikings are still in the playoff hunt, they don’t have the offense to carry this team and the defense is so hit-and-miss because of a lack of quality players as well as a defensive coordinator who loves to blitz but doesn’t know what to do when a team handles it as the Bengals eventually did.

However, they did figure out they’ll likely go with quarterback Nick Mullens for the rest of the season. He had a great game despite the loss. He went 26 of 33 for 303 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Obviously, the two interceptions are always killers, but hopefully, he can work on those with reps. However, that’s likely wishful thinking. He also chipped in 6-10-0 rushing.

That means the Joshua Dobbs era is over. He’s had opportunities with the Titans, Cardinals, and Vikings, but he was never a potential long-term solution. However, I hope he did enough to stick around in the league. He represents everything we should want from a player that young kids can emulate. Regardless of your stance, you don’t determine who’s a role model. Kids do and always will. Why not have a good one like Dobbs?

The rushing attack was outstanding, with Ty Chandler going 23-132-1 for a 5.74 yards per carry average, so maybe they can still make a run. We’ll see, but over the past three games, they ranked No. 26 in passing, a far cry from their No. 7 season rank, and No. 12 in rushing, a big jump from their season rank of 23.

However, they built their defense around the blitz, and with today’s mobile quarterback, the blitz has a massive Achilles heel – over-pursuing, which opens lanes that allow the quarterback to throw it or run it with 2-3 defenders behind you, having to chase him down. Some big plays happened for the Bengals because of that. It’s risky and has cost the Vikings a few games.

They end the season facing the following opponents: Lions, Packers, and Lions again, and that’s a brutal schedule. The best they can likely hope for outside of winning is seeing some development with their offense and rushing attack and evaluating what they have for next season defensively and in the trenches on both sides of the ball. They have a big quarterback decision to make, but it’s also clear how vital Kirk Cousins (Achilles) is to the position. They’ll be moving down in our NFL power rankings, which may not be their final move.

21. Atlanta Falcons (19) Record: 6-8 (loss vs. Carolina Panthers 9-7) – How pathetic can you be to lose to the league’s worst team when you’re in the middle of a hunt for a division title? This game is a game any team in the playoff hunt would have loved to have had on their schedule. The brunt of this loss is on QB Desmond Ridder, RB Bijan Robinson, and head coach Arthur Smith.

Robinson had a critical fumble, and Ridder had a horrific interception, and both led to points that gave the Panthers the lead and the win. Smith’s play-calling and lack of ability to get his young team up for their most important game is not what makes a great coach. It was the most important because they must win out to take the NFC South; thus, every game becomes their most important in this scenario.

Ridder is streaky, so for Smith to call a pass, and Ridder’s horrific execution to cause a turnover inside the Panthers’ twenty is beyond words. If no touchdown came, a field goal would’ve put the score at 10-6, forcing a touchdown for a win. Instead, the Panthers took the ball downfield and kicked a winning field goal.

Look, I keep saying Ridder is a young quarterback who needs time to develop, but he remains the same inconsistent player he’s been all year. He’s not maturing and understanding the nuances of the position and when to try to make a challenging play versus throwing the ball away. Then again, the league no longer takes the time to develop quarterbacks, and this happens a lot now to young quarterbacks – poor decision-making and not maturing fast enough. The Falcons have a huge decision to make this offseason.

However, Smith should be on the hot seat from a coaching perspective. They took running back Bijan Robinson in the top-ten overall, and he only ranks No. 19 for the season in rushing attempts – 12.6 per game. Despite his fumble, the weather should’ve meant focusing on the rushing attack with some play action, but something to take the pressure off Ridder and play to your team’s strength. Robinson went 7-11-0, and his only impact was a fumble that put the Panthers back in the game.

Offensively, this offense ranks No. 20 in passing and No. 27 in rushing over the past three outings. Defensively, in that span, they rank No. 4 against the pass and No. 16 against the run. They’re still in the playoff hunt and face the Colts, Bears, and Saints, and this game is an indicator every matchup is a monumental challenge, but they are winnable. They do have the opportunity to turn their season around heading into the offseason if they win out. They could even possibly make the playoffs. They’ll take a drop in our NFL power rankings, and deservedly so.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers (22) Record: 7-7 (loss vs. Indianapolis Colts 30-13) – Technically, the Steelers are still in the playoff hunt, but realistically they’re done. Their offense is in shambles and has been all season. The irony is that this is the Mike Tomlin era. Post-season, his last bits of success were with the Bill Cowher regime players and management, including Big Ben Roethlisberger. However, since that last Super Bowl, it’s been a slow trek to mediocrity. It may be time for Tomlin to head elsewhere, but this year, this team’s run is likely over.

The Steelers’ current starter started with the Chicago Bears. However, the Bears destroyed any hope of QB Mitch Trubisky being something. He has happy feet and is unsure and inaccurate as a quarterback – a far cry from his first couple of seasons in the NFL. From there, they have No. 3 quarterback Mason Rudolph. That said, there’s a chance they could get starter Kenny Pickett (knee) back next week. Regardless, they’ve lost four of their last five and have no answer or quarterback to get back on track.

Over the past three games, they ranked No. 28 in passing and No. 23 in rushing – not the statistic you want to see from a team that thinks it’s playoff–caliber. They’re not. Defensively, they’re No. 7 against the pass in that span, a big jump from their No. 20 rank, but their last three opponents were the Colts, Patriots, and Cardinals – not exactly top-tier elite offensive powerhouses.

They’re No. 24 against the rush, and outside of a strong pass defense, they lack anything else offensively or defensively. It doesn’t bode well for this team, and they still must face the Bengals, Seahawks, and Ravens. They likely don’t have the muscle or firepower to go 3-0 down the stretch. They’ll drop in our NFL power rankings and may continue that in the coming weeks.

NFL Power Rankings: Rebuild and Retool Teams

23. Las Vegas Raiders (30) Record: 6-8 (win vs. Los Angeles Chargers 63-7) – Really? Do you think the Raiders are back on track after beating up on a team that quit and was playing with a backup quarterback? This win was great for the Raiders and interim head coach Antonio Pierce, who wants the head coaching gig to become official.

Likely not, as he’s not owner Mark Davis’s guy as much as he had to pick someone from the staff to lead the team after firing McDaniels. The team got on a run and decided to run up the score against a team that quit – the trick plays they ran prove that. It’s as simple as Pierce wants to make Davis’s decision as difficult as possible.

Sure, you’ll get comparisons to how the Raiders posted a goose egg last week, but that’s easily explained. QB Aidan O’Connell couldn’t handle the blitz, had no time to make reads, and folded under pressure. Again, it’s that simple. The Chargers’ defense surprised by quitting as they did, but they’re the Chargers, and history shows they do this. Coming in at 5-8, three games behind the Chiefs, and no virtual path to the playoffs without jumping through hoops with the help they need, some players are looking towards 2024 and staying healthy. Others didn’t like Brandon Staley and maybe quit because why play for a pompous ass? The point is they looked like a team that quit.

The Raiders close out against the Chiefs, Colts, and Broncos with all three teams in the playoff hunt – that will tell us more about this team and where they stand than this game did. Pierce needs a big win here against either the Chiefs or Broncos in the hope of changing his interim tag. If anything, most fans are saying thank you for getting the Chargers’ head coach, Brandon Staley, and general manager Tom Telesco!

24. Chicago Bears (23) Record: 5-9 (loss vs. Cleveland Browns 20-17) – It’s hard to believe there are still analysts who believe the Bears are determining if quarterback Justin Fields is the future. Of course, he is, and now the Bears must build around him and learn how to win. This matchup is their second game in the bag, only to lose – the first being the Lions. They were facing a supposedly elite defense but weren’t.

Entering this game, over their previous three outings, the Browns’ defense ranked No. 14 against the pass, a freefall from their No. 1 season rank, and ranked No. 19 against the run, another negative bump from their No. 11 season rank. The fact the Bears were competitive is no surprise despite their lack of offensive statistics. That’s because the Browns have elite talent and were able to shut down a team just now beginning to learn how to play together. That said, the Bears are still making dumb mistakes, including Fields, which lends itself to wondering if he’s the future. View this year as his “Year One” because management and coaches were QB-killers before this.

The most discussed issue of the game was the incredible, almost Hail Mary completion, which epitomizes some of the Bears’ close games – close, but no cigar.

The Bears must continue to try to grow their offense and defense with the three remaining games and begin heavy evaluation as they will have two high draft picks and can look toward a rebuild with quality depth. Logic dictates to trade down at least one pick to stockpile young talent. Outside of that, this team’s season is over. However, they still must face the Cardinals, Falcons, and Packers – all games they can use to evaluate.

25. New York Giants (24) Record: 5-9 (loss vs. New Orleans Saints 24-6) – This game was inevitable because, despite the three-game winning streak the Giants were riding, they beat the Commanders, Patriots, and Packers. Three teams with a combined 13-29 record and none above .500. The Saints aren’t intimidating opponents, and most will agree they’re underachievers. However, this game had division and playoff consequences, and they came in and took care of business.

That said, QB Tommy DeVito was thrown around, hurt, came back, then hurt again, and showed he’s a warrior. However, he got no help from the offensive line that allowed seven sacks. The real question is the rushing attack. This season is a make-or-break year for RB Saquon Barkley, and while I always say he carried the team and QB Daniel Jones last year, Jones was more important than we realized in helping to get Barkley some running room.

Over the last three games, the Giants rushing attack ranks No. 20, and that’s up from their season rank of No. 29. Let’s add intrigue to this – the Saints, over their last three games, are ranked No. 25 against the run, allowing an average of 135.3 yards per game. Yet, Barkley could do nothing. That epitomizes the Giants this year – sad sack losers who can’t take advantage of what the opponent gives them to exploit it. The Giants can’t afford him next year, and he’s likely gone as they have pressing needs to build a foundation along both lines and go from there.

That said, this year’s issue is a porous offensive line; his starting quarterback is out, and he can’t carry the team as he did last season. He needs a competent quarterback to take pressure off the rushing attack. Most important is the line that’s allowed 69 sacks this season, 4.9 per game, and people want to chastise and blame the quarterback’s play. Those who do are telling you they’re clueless about understanding football.

This team may not have the salary cap to fulfill a rebuild this offseason, so you’ll likely see another patchwork team in place, but hopefully, it will be better than this season. This team doesn’t seem as if it’ll quit on head coach Brian Daboll, but if any do, don’t look for them to come back next season. The Giants have yet to face the Eagles, Rams, and Eagles again. OUCH! This loss was terrible, but they’re already in the worst tier of our NFL power rankings, so how much lower can they go?

26. Tennessee Titans (25) Record: 5-9 (loss vs. Houston Texans 19-16) – The Titans are officially out of playoff contention, but I know many thought they already were after the season they’re having. The big takeaway outside the loss is the fact the team needed RB Derrick Henry, who went 16-9-0 rushing, a 0.56 yards per carry, and got nothing out of him. He’s no longer the cowbell back he used to be and is not an effective receiver. Thus, he’ll play for much less money moving forward, regardless of where he goes.

That said, this offensive line is terrible, allowing 50 sacks so far this season, 3.6 per game, and you can’t blame all of King Henry’s issues on his age and wear and tear when your o-line can’t even help you get back to the line of scrimmage on some running plays. Some fans blame the schemes, and they have a point, as the offensive coordinator didn’t adjust, which likely cost them the win.

This team is on the verge of quitting after an outing like this, but head coach Mike Vrabel is tough and has built a loyal team that understands why you play hard. That said, a player like WR DeAndre “Show Me the Money” Hopkins could make a disappearing act as some claim he did in Arizona. For the most part, this team will play hard, and ownership will evaluate management, and they’ll evaluate the coaching staff who will evaluate the players. It could all be for naught if a regime change comes, but that said, this team will play hard, and if Vrabel isn’t part of the Titans next season, he’ll be somewhere.

The Titans still must face the Seahawks, Texans, and Jaguars, and it’ll be interesting to see how the rematch with the Texans goes, as they were the better team this past week. The problem is that the Texans wanted it more.

Playing for Draft Positions: NFL Power Rankings Worst of the Worst

27. Arizona Cardinals (28) Record: 3-11 (loss vs. San Francisco 49ers 45-29) – Let’s give the little man credit. Quarterback Kyler Murray’s showing life, but then again, it would only be the first third of his season, based on when he came back to the team, and he tends to look great early on with his mobility and arm strength.

What happens is that QB Kyler Murray fades because 2 feet 5 inches tall and can’t handle the wear and tear. However, the problem with these young quarterbacks is a lack of development, as teams now demand immediate results. The team can’t figure out if he’s a franchise quarterback – he’s not. Regardless, this team hasn’t quit on their rookie head coach, Jonathan Gannon, and that’s a great sign that there’s veteran leadership and respect for the coaching staff.

The team does have a blueprint to build on – a solid rushing attack as they rank No. 7 in the past three outings and No. 6 for the season. They amassed 234 rushing yards amongst six players against the No. 2 ranked rush defense this season, the Niners. Granted, the Niners, over the past three games, are now ranked No. 17 against the rush, but the Cardinals had a hand in that.

This young team is in rebuild mode, and the question remains: What to do with the quarterback position? That’s what’s holding this team back from beginning an offensive rebuild. No, Murray’s not a little man, but at 5 feet 10 inches, he’s at a massive disadvantage as an NFL quarterback. The odds he succeeds long-term are slim to none based on his style of play, size, and lack of want to become an elite quarterback.

A quarterback who doesn’t care much for film study and already has his deficiencies won’t last long, and a player who admires and talks about Bruce Lee. Well, he’s learning nothing from the man who said,

  • “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times,”

For the dimwitted fanboys – the ones who refuse to see reality – that means practice makes perfect and Lee was also about studying and understanding. Murray doesn’t seem to care about that. The Cardinals reside in the lowest tier in our NFL power rankings but play hard for their coach. They close out the season against the Bears, Eagles and Seahawks. Three challenging and excellent tests as they continue to evaluate and plan for 2024.

28. New England Patriots (31) Record: 3-11 (loss vs. Kansas City Chiefs 27-17) – Here’s another team that hasn’t quit on their coach but keeps losing, and part of it is from miscues, whether it’s a horrific kicking game, terrible decisions by the quarterback, or even questionable play calling. The Patriots’ season is over, and now, it’s about evaluating players and determining the future. That includes head coach Bill Belichick. Back to the games – the Patriots are a team that can’t overcome turnovers or bad decisions. You combine that with an inability to pressure quarterbacks with their No. 29 ranking in sacks (29) and turnovers (14), and it’s easy to see why they’re so terrible.

Combine that with poor play calling, and who knows why QB Mac Jones regressed so severely he was benched, but his future isn’t in New England, and he should be happy. They’ve destroyed his career, and he needs to go somewhere with a quarterback mentor. However, how many teams can say they have that outside the Niners and a few others? Not many.

For the season, the Patriots currently rank No. 18 overall in team defense, No. 16 against the pass, and No. 2 against the rush. Regardless, they’re not good enough to cover for a pathetic offense, but they have something to build on here. The real work comes with the offense: for the season, they rank dead last at No. 32 overall, No. 26 in passing, and No. 25 in rushing.

RB Ezekiel Elliott and the receiving corp aren’t what they used to be. The receivers need an upgrade, as JuJu Smith-Schuster is not what they thought he would be. Most of us saw that, and why the Patriots didn’t is beyond me. They’re in the hunt for a new quarterback, too. A word of warning – you draft Caleb Williams, and the losing will continue. The season ends with them facing the Broncos, Bills, and Jets, and a couple of those games could get ugly.

Now, we come to Bill Belichick and his future. Word on the street is that he’s out, and let’s be honest, we all know he has a losing record without quarterback Tom Brady, and since Brady’s left, he’s done nothing to change that image as he’s currently 28-36 with one playoff appearance in those four years (counting this year). Whether he leaves or not, this team will have to go through a rebuild, and even then, a new quarterback means another 2-3 years of building a competitive franchise to compete for a Super Bowl. The Patriots are as close to rock bottom as you can get in our NFL rankings and will remain as such.

29. New York Jets (26) Record: 5-9 (loss vs. New York Jets 30-0) – The Jets have not quit, officially. Don’t forget, the first time they played, the Dolphins beat them 34-13. That’s a combined 64-13 beatdown. Their head coach, Robert Saleh, is like a broken record every week, saying anything but what the actual problems are – specifically, offensive coordinator Nathanial Hackett.

QB Zach Wilson bears much responsibility, but not as much as so-called analysts want to say. I have an upcoming article and podcast to focus on how bad offensive coordinator Nathanial Hackett is. Then there’s the team allowing six sacks and four turnovers this week. No matter what anyone says, no quarterback will succeed if you don’t have an offensive line.

The Jets offensive line has allowed 61 sacks so far this season – 4.4 sacks per game. They’re on pace for a new record of 74 sacks, surpassing 72 in a season. Much of this comes from flawed schemes, poor play calling, and no adjustments. From what I see, a young quarterback in Wilson is beginning to panic and make bad throws, desperate to make anything happen.

Despite their offensive output last week, the Jets rank No. 32 overall offensively over the previous three games, No. 26 in passing, and No. 32 in rushing. Between running backs Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook, that should be their strength. What many fail to realize that every Packers fan can tell you is that Hackett struggles to remember to get running plays into the weekly game plan. He’s one of these coordinators that’s happy just passing. The Jets rank dead last, No. 32, in rushing attempts with 289 attempts, 20.6 per game; remember, those include quarterback runs, too. Remember, that’s with two quality backs on the roster!

The elite defense in the past three games? They rank No. 1 overall against the pass and No. 4 against the run. They’re playing lights out, but a combination of the Dolphins being a division rival, knowing them as well as anyone can, and yes, some players likely quit this game, and that number could increase in the final three weeks. In that span, they face the Commanders, Browns, and Patriots.

Saleh is playing for his job – there’s no doubt. Sadly, this team will likely be stuck with Hackett because Rodgers will cry, whine, go home, pretend he has no cell service, and screw the Jets over by forcing them to keep one of the worst offensive coordinators we’ve come across in decades.

30. Los Angeles Chargers (27) Record: 5-9 (loss vs. Las Vegas Raiders 63-7) – The good news is that head coach Brandon Staley is now former head coach Brandon Staley. This team, on paper, underachieves and always has. Whenever analysts think they’re Super Bowl contenders, I remind the league and prognosticators that they’re soft. Sadly, it’s brushed aside for the most part.

This team has always been soft, and this past week showed they quit, too. Why do I say they quit? Before the game, the Chargers ranked No. 4 over their last three games in stopping the pass and No. 12 against the run. By all accounts, this should’ve been a close, low-scoring game. It wasn’t. Even LB Khalil Mack, who has been feasting on bad teams’ quarterbacks, did nothing.

They allowed the Raiders QB Aidan O’Connell to go 20 of 34 for 248 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. They also allowed WR Jakobi Meyers to get in on the fun as he went 2 of 2 for 12 yards and one touchdown. Let’s not forget this sad sack of a unit allowed the Raiders to score a franchise-high 63 points. I thought they were going for the record of 72 points to surpass it. The Chargers also fumbled five times, turning it over four times and with an interception that makes five turnovers, while also allowing the sacking of their quarterback three times. It was just brutal all around.

Look for the team to clean house this offseason. They have many areas they’re already great in but need quality depth and a head coach. They have a passing attack but must build a more physical rushing attack that can run in-between the tackles. The salary cap will play a significant role.

Still, they can finally compete if they can land a veteran head coach who pushes discipline, being physical and meaner than their opponents. Kevin Gilbride was the only coach like that, but he was unproven and not very good – he didn’t last past two seasons. Trust me, there are quality disciplinarians out there if the Chargers try to win versus going on the cheap, which is what they usually do.

The Chargers still have three games to go, but players are probably already making calls to movers, renting U-hauls, etc., as they now care more about the offseason than the rest of the NFL season. They still must face the Bills, Broncos, and Chiefs, and I can’t see anyone putting any money on the Bolts. What an embarrassment of an organization this team is, and despite being near the bottom of the NFL power rankings, they could drop more. After all, they’re a team that’s quit.

31. Washington Commanders (29) Record: 4-10 (loss vs. Los Angeles Rams 28-20) – What a game, and can you believe analysts are now wondering if QB Sam Howell is part of the Commanders’ future? The kid is great, considering the team he plays for. A team that has allowed him to go down 59 times (sacked) and is on pace for 71.6  total, on pace to tie the NFL record (72). The Commanders are dreadful, from ownership (former) to management, coaching staff, and even players who are there to collect checks. The moment this team traded edge rushers Chase Young and Montez Sweat, they quit on their team. While Ron Rivera deserves his eventual firing, that trade numbered his days as a head coach. How can you compete to win and keep your job when you trade two top-tier players away? You can’t.

The Commanders are officially out of the playoff race, so look for some players to quit if they already haven’t. It’s that type of culture that Dan Snyder built into this team, and the stink remained the year after the sale. This team performs poorly yet thinks Howell’s the problem this week. They benched Howell and brought in one of the best backups in the past eight years, Jacoby Brissett, but a proven failure as a starter.

He did squat! Howell’s the future; if not, he’ll shock the Commanders wherever he goes, as he’ll likely thrive. There would be many takers for him. Think about it: Cleveland, Atlanta, Minnesota, Las Vegas, Denver, Pittsburgh, the Jets, and the Patriots. That’s quite a boatload of teams that could use a starter now or a year or two from now.

The rest of the season will be ownership deciding what to do. Management will tell the coaching staff that player evaluations are underway, but even that may be lackadaisical as the coaching staff knows the team plans on letting them go at the end of the season. The team formerly known as the “Redskins” face the Jets, 49ers, and Cowboys, and those final two games could get ugly. They can’t go much lower in our NFL power rankings, and the Panthers haven’t quit while they likely have. Nevertheless, let’s take another week to evaluate!

32. Carolina Panthers (32) Record: 2-12 (win vs. Atlanta Falcons 9-7) – Isn’t this precious? You’ll be hearing how QB Bryce Young looked like an overall No. 1 pick, and this game is a turnaround and beginning of good things. It’s not like they played against a top-tier or even middling offense. While the data may look great, with the Falcons ranking No. 5 against opposing offenses in the past three outings, they played the inconsistent Buccaneers and Saints and the no-quarterback Jets before facing the Panthers. However, the Panthers won because they made fewer mistakes than the Falcons, who had every opportunity to win this game.

This team will go through a massive rebuild on offense this offseason, and right now, we saw improvement in Young’s game. Still, he’s at the end of season one, and his current grade is an “F.” While premature, he has another season upcoming to prove he is franchise-worthy.

Defensively, they have some bright spots here. They rank No. 3 for the season and the last three games against the pass and No. 20 for the season against the rush but No. 9 over their last three. This data point is important because the salary cap and draft will likely move toward finding Young help as the defense is trending in the right direction despite some significant injuries.

The one thing we can say is this team hasn’t quit on their interim head coach, but then again, they didn’t quit on Frank Reich either, so it’s not a product of a new regime as much as the foundations of a potentially solid culture. A cellar-dweller for much of the season, is this win enough to move them up the NFL power rankings? No.

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