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Del Pilar's Diatribe: NFL Power Rankings Week 17 Broken Down

As our NFL power rankings continue; it was stunning to see so many teams within the same tiers lose but then again, that's why we love to say, any given Sunday!
Published on December 28, 2023

NFL Power Rankings

As our NFL power rankings continue, I don’t think I’ve seen a week that saw so many within the same tiers lose. I love to say any given Sunday; we saw that this week with upsets, teams shaking the monkeys off their backs, and more. We have two weeks left and are still in the same boat as teams separate themselves from being “in the playoff hunt” to being “officially eliminated.”

Right now, eight teams are eliminated, with four from each conference. Two teams have clinched a playoff spot in the AFC and four in the NFC. Ten are still in the AFC hunt, and eight are in the NFC. It’s fair to say this upcoming week won’t clear the slate, and we’ll watch them battle it out in the final week. These battles are what the NFL is about! Let’s get to it, people!

Legend

  • Numbers in parentheses by team name indicate the previous week’s rank.
  • Bold in the remaining Schedule indicates the home game.

The Elites

1. Baltimore Ravens (2) Record: 12-3 (win vs. San Francisco 49ers 33-19)

I said last week that QB Lamar Jackson’s passing stats don’t have to be as good as others because he can turn the tide of any game in a few plays with his legs. The Ravens have to hang around and hope the big plays come. With their rushing attack, they wear teams down and combined with the Niners’ injuries and in-game injuries, the Ravens took advantage and beat them soundly on all fronts.

It was a well-earned and deserving victory that brought back memories of when the Ravens’ defense was the team’s star. However, it was clear how badly the Ravens wanted this win, as shown by the emotion of their head coach, John Harbaugh, and how often they strutted after big plays – they were riding an emotional high. Regardless, they won handily with a rush attack that gave the 49ers quarterbacks no time to breathe in the fourth quarter, recording four sacks for the game and intercepting the quarterbacks five times.

While Jackson will be seen as the MVP leader when you break down the game, he still makes the same mistakes, but perception trumps reality, and the win alone will propel him to the top. In the end, I view the MVP as the best player in the NFL, and he’s not, but when it came to primetime, he showed how important he is to the team, and that’s what will resonate more than being the best player in the league. Deservedly so in many ways.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 11
    • Season Rank Passing: 21
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 1
    • Season Rank Rushing: 1

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 31
    • Season Rank Opponent Passing: 6
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 17
    • Season Rank Opponent Rushing: 12

Remaining Schedule:

  • Dolphins
  • Steelers

The Ravens are now the best team in my NFL power rankings, but they have two tough tests coming up, and they must not suffer an emotional letdown after such a big win. Luckily, they’re home for their final two games and could remain there until the Super Bowl. They do have some hiccups to fix, such as their secondary; despite the great game against the Niners, they are susceptible, and while Lamar’s passing acumen has dipped recently, he’s becoming a better overall player as a quarterback and picking when to run and when to stay in the pocket.

2. San Francisco 49ers (1) Record: 11-4 (loss vs. Baltimore Ravens 33-19)

Early on, the Niners dominated but couldn’t do anything and didn’t look themselves. Credit the Ravens. They rose to the challenge, and after that first quarter, they took control until towards the end of the game when the Niners began their comeback. Overall, a better team beat them as they came in with greater focus, discipline, and fire and wanted it more. They kept their composure, gained the upper hand, and never let go. The 49ers didn’t respond until it was too late.

For Niners fans, take heart that this is what I would call a good loss. It’ll make them hungry and make them hungry for a rematch. You could tell that head coach John Harbaugh desperately wanted this win when the camera caught him showing intense emotion after securing the lead for good at the end. Take the loss now, but it doesn’t mean anything to anyone except bragging rights. There is a loser – QB Brock Purdy (stinger) and his four interceptions likely knocked him out of the MVP race.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 2
    • Season Rank Passing: 2 
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 8
    • Season Rank Rushing: 4

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 19
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 16
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 28
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 3

Remaining Schedule:

  • Commanders
  • Rams

In looking at the data, they need their injured defensive run-stoppers back as they can’t stop the run right now, and head coach Kyle Shanahan needs to overcome the stigma of being outcoached in a “playoff-atmosphere” game. First and foremost is stopping the run, which includes containing mobile quarterbacks. Their offensive line is also a wreck, so they better figure something out with their depth or hope their injured players return quickly.

Their loss to the Ravens shows how vital their run-stoppers are. Yeah, think back to the Atlanta Falcons debacle that Shanahan created in that game that cost them their Super Bowl and his tenure with the Niners so far. He has to get a grip on crunch time in big games and the postseason. Additionally, when losing at the half this season, they’ve gone on to lose the game.

They end the season against two teams they should beat, and they’re at home in the season finale and could stay at home to the Super Bowl. Regardless, they drop in our NFL power rankings.  

Elitism is on their Radar!

3. Buffalo Bills (3) Record: 9-6 (win vs. Los Angeles Chargers 24-22)

The Bills have been dominant, but they came this week, looking ahead to next week. It was that simple, and that mentality tells me this isn’t a Super Bowl team right now. Veteran leadership and the coaching staff must wrap their heads around discipline and focus because when you lose that focus, you lose games, as they’ve lost this season. The point is they can’t afford to look ahead at anyone.

That said, in their defense, this was the first game for the Chargers’ interim head coach, Giff Smith. Players tend to put out and play harder than your high school’s most remembered cheerleaders. As is the case here, it’s usually to no avail, but the games tend to be more competitive. Then again, when you suffer three turnovers to none, it’s hard to overcome, but their defense stuck to it with five sacks. They persevered, and winning the game is the best way to look at this matchup.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 26
    • Season Rank Passing: 9
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 2
    • Season Rank Rushing: 7

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 5
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 9
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 10
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 16

Remaining Schedule:

  • Patriots
  • Dolphins

It’s too funny to see the three-game rank of this team’s passing offense at 26. Usually, I like to trend out four games, but I haven’t found the software or website that does that. In my previous company, we built that into our statistical software. Why I can’t find it now is beyond me, but if anyone knows of a source, let me know. Regardless, the Bills are trending well, and while others talk about teams you don’t want to face right now, no one mentions the Bills.

They’re trending in the right direction and need to use their final two games, including the Dolphins, to prep themselves for a playoff run and work out whatever issues you have between now and then. They’re the only team you don’t want to play right now because the odds are, despite their record, they have a better-than-average chance to beat anyone.

4. Miami Dolphins (7) Record: 11-4 (win vs. Dallas Cowboys 22-20)

While you can’t technically argue, I wouldn’t be on the bandwagon stating this was a possible Super Bowl preview. I don’t see it, but “any given Sunday,” people, as we’ve seen some strange playoff games. The “Phins” pulled out a nailbiter to get their first win over a .500 team this year. Did they find an offensive line band-aid that works?

They’ve had to rework that line many times this season, so we’ll see if they stick with this one moving forward. It is critical to note that this team came back in the fourth quarter and put the game away in the closing moments, showing that they cannot only beat a top-tier team but also come back and win it under pressure. That’s huge.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 10
    • Season Rank Passing: 1
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 13
    • Season Rank Rushing: 5 

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 14
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 10
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 3
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 5

Remaining Schedule

  • Ravens
  • Bills

The team finally has the monkey off their back, but some still believe they can’t match up with elite teams. They visit Baltimore and close out at home against the Bills. To secure the confidence they need entering the playoffs, a big win against one of these two will suffice, specifically, the Bills at the end of the season. A blowout loss to the Ravens and a loss to the Bills will send this team spiraling. However, if they can overcome and win, there’s no better preparation for a playoff run.

This team is trending in the right direction, considering the league is one of attrition, and they’re still playing at a high level. The Dolphins have much to prove but are in the driver’s seat to an extent.

5. Detroit Lions (8) Record 11-4 (win vs. Minnesota Vikings 30-24)

Again, the Lions don’t know how to play dominant football consistently, and while they’re 11-4, they play up and down to their opponents. It’s ridiculous, but it is what it is when a team’s still learning to be dominant, put lesser teams down, and win big games. That said, they did win the NFC North division and join the 49ers, Eagles, and Cowboys in securing a berth, and they are still in the hunt for homefield playoff advantage.

However, it’s great to see QB Jared Goff not throw a pick. Remember, he’s tied for seventh with ten picks so far, but in his defense, maybe it’s a higher perception that he throws too many picks than he does. Nah, he’s thrown picks in seven games, and while the Lions can get away with it sometimes, it’s exponentially more arduous in the postseason. However, the rushing attack hasn’t missed a beat, and another great game this week with 143 rushing yards as the duo of running backs Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery are for real as a 1-2 punch and both being positive factors in the passing attack, too.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 15
    • Season Rank Passing: 5
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 5
    • Season Rank Rushing: 3   

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 27
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 23
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 6
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 4  

Remaining Schedule:

  • Cowboys
  • Vikings

Goff has four out of his last five games without an interception, and he’s trending back up the past two. The rushing attack is still top-tier, but the pass defense and getting to the quarterback are significant Achilles’ heels despite getting Vikings QB Nick Mullens to throw four interceptions and four sacks. That game is an anomaly, but can they build momentum off it? We don’t know. At this point, I’m not sure there’s any way to improve their pass defense, but they are one year ahead of schedule.

This team should become dominant next season. Detroit is ahead of schedule but still makes the mistakes inexperienced teams with great talent continually do. Can they learn to avoid mistakes by winning, or will it take losing to help them mature and grow? Usually, it’s losing; however, if that’s the case, it’s better to lose in the regular season than the postseason, and they have to travel to face the Cowboys and then get the Vikings in a rematch. The first game will be a game-of-the-week atmosphere, and if they’re for real, they should take care of the Vikings easier this go-round.

Regardless, they’re one of the league’s better teams and remain a top-tier unit in our NFL power rankings.

6. Philadelphia Eagles (6) Record: 11-4 (win vs. New York Giants 33-25)

Can you believe someone said the Eagles are back? They barely beat a Giants team that is on its third-string quarterback, an undrafted free agent who overcharges for appearances and then benched for the player he replaced. Remember, this team is 5-10, and they’re terrible, so almost sending it into overtime on a final Hail Mary play doesn’t bode well for the statement, “The Eagles are back!”

I get it; a win is a win, and the Eagles were trying to end a three-game skid. They did it against a team whose best statistical category is rushing and ranked No. 15 for the season. No, this game didn’t do anything to change what we think of the Eagles.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 14
    • Season Rank Passing: 14
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 7
    • Season Rank Rushing: 6 

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 13
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 27
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 20
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 8 

Remaining Schedule

  • Cardinals
  • Giants

Philadelphia must use the final two games to rest players, get some experience in for backups before the playoffs, and fine-tune some of the issues they’re lacking, such as timing, reps, etc. They can do that against the Cardinals and Giants, as they’re entirely inferior teams. However, they’re in the hunt for homefield advantage, so they’ll be unable to do any of this. The key is to make sure they stay healthy and try to get some of their “Mojo” back somehow. However, this team needs a shake-up to get itself going again, and the Cardinals and Giants won’t do it.

Better than Average but Still has Kinks to Work Out.

7. Cleveland Browns (10) Record: 10-5 (win vs. Houston Texans 36-22)

What can you say about old man QB Joe Flacco? He’s looking all-pro, averaging about 325 yards and three touchdowns per game. However, he’s also averaging about two interceptions. However, this is the best quarterback production the Browns have seen in a few years. It’s showing as the team has been on a three-game winning streak since he took over the starting job.

This success happens because you have a quarterback who understands the position and wants to win versus “show me the money” Deshaun Watson. He’s already developed a connection with WR Amari Cooper, who went 11-265-2-15 this week. His play keeps the defense off the field and gives them quality rest (fewer plays per game) as the postseason approaches. This defense has already come down from its elite status, but now it can try to regroup and get healthy.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 1
    • Season Rank Passing: 20 
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 32
    • Season Rank Rushing: 22  

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 8
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 1
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 5
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 10 

Remaining Schedule:

  • Jets
  • Bengals

The Browns are lights out in the passing attack, much different from being No. 1 over the last few games with Flacco’s play versus the No. 20 season rank. The same goes for their defense, which was already in the top 10 against the pass and rush and has been in the top five over the last few games.

This team is scary right now, and they close out the season with the Jets – a substantial test for Flacco and the Bengals, a division rival that knows them. You can bet their backup quarterback, Jake Browning, will be back on track with his magic as they’re still in the playoff hunt. Flacco is making the Browns finally look like the team many thought it would with Watson. They are deservedly in the top 10 in our NFL power rankings.

8. Kansas City Chiefs (5) Record: 9-6 (loss vs. Las Vegas Raiders 20-14)

The drops continue for the Chiefs, and you can include fantasy football stud TE Travis Kelce in that, but what was odd was seeing QB Patrick Mahomes work his magic to failure. His gun-slinging ability is shooting blanks. His jump-ups and throws aren’t working. In essence, all the low-success throws he would make aren’t successful now. He’s human, and that’s a product of a team aging, losing players to free agency, and a salary cap hampered by a quarterback’s massive contract (see Tyreek Hill).

The team got back RB Isiah Pacheco to no avail (11-26-1 rushing, 4-0-0-4 receiving) as Mahomes led the team in rushing. Worse, they lost to an inferior team at home (fourth home loss). Sure, division games don’t care about records because the teams know one another like the back of their hands, but the Chiefs had to have this win and couldn’t get it done. It wasn’t like they gave the game away; the Raiders beat them.

The puzzling statistic of the day is that the Raiders didn’t complete one pass after the first quarter. Who would’ve “thunk” it?

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 5
    • Season Rank Passing: 4
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 29
    • Season Rank Rushing: 20 

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 2
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 3
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 18
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 18 

Remaining Schedule

  • Bengals
  • Chargers

Their rushing attack can improve as that’s their biggest weakness that they can fix. However, the rest of it is getting in sync. This team is frustrated – whether the quarterback at players, the receivers at themselves, or a head coach of decades who’s never gone through this with a quarterback this good but who can’t win it all by himself anymore. The truth is, he doesn’t look like the same player from just two years ago, and don’t forget he’s in his seventh season and is now a veteran with more film on him than ever before, and teams are figuring them out.

You combine that with age and lesser players and see why they’re 9-6. They also don’t have the chops to go for it on fourth downs as much as they have and continue to do so. Put your defense in a terrible spot in the playoffs, and you could go home early. They close the season out against two teams they should beat, but at this point, it wouldn’t be shocking to see them lose both games. The Bengals do seem to own them, having won three of their last four meetings, and the Chargers are a division game, but the Chiefs have taken them out the previous four games.

NFL Power Rankings: Pretenders or Contenders?

9. Dallas Cowboys (4) Record: 10-5 (loss vs. Miami Dolphins 22-20)

What can you say? Well, the Dak Prescott MVP sweepstakes are likely over, and the Dallas Cowboys are, again, the joke of the league. They may be America’s team, but they’re not very well respected as they can’t seem to win big games. The Eagles turned out to be a mirage as they caught them during their three-game losing streak. They got crushed by the Bills and beaten by the Dolphins, who couldn’t beat a team over .500 until the Boys came riding into town. They struggled to run the ball and allowed Prescott to get sacked four times and lose a fumble. While not dominated, they got beat in many facets this week.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 21
    • Season Rank Passing: 6
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 15
    • Season Rank Rushing: 12 

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 9
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 5
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 29
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 19

Remaining Schedule:

  • Lions
  • Commanders

What’s wrong with the Cowboys is focus and discipline. They have the talent but, for years, can’t put it together. That begs the question, can they do this year? The passing game is in a bit of a funk, and the rush defense must step it up, as it’s an evident weakness. What you have here is a team that may be playing above its record (10-5) but one that has yet to reach its ceiling. Ironically, they tend to be their own worst enemy in trying to become an elite franchise.

They close out with the Lions and Commanders, and the Lions is an excellent test for them, but the Commanders is the game they can work on aspects of their execution versus against a team like the Lions. The Cowboys are also 7-0 at home but 3-5 on the road, and they’re not likely to win the division; thus, a wild card is the best they can hope for unless the Eagles collapse against two sub-500 teams (Cardinals and Giants). Even then, history shows they’re likely facing an early playoff exit.

10. Los Angeles Rams (16) Record: 8-7 (win vs. New Orleans Saints 30-22)  

This team is rolling right now and put up 458 offensive yards, and 304 were passing against a top-10 secondary. However, having lapses against teams like the Saints and holding on to win is one thing, but you can’t do that against the Niners in two weeks. However, they’re working their way through these issues. That’s playcalling and execution, as they’re letting too many opportunities slip away, and what about their kicker? He’s 2 for 6 in between the 40s, and that’s unacceptable. Regardless, right now, they appear to be able to compete and upset anyone despite glaring issues. They’re a team you don’t want to face.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 4
    • Season Rank Passing: 10
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 6
    • Season Rank Rushing: 10    

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 30
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 22
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 7
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 13  

Remaining Schedule:

  • Giants
  • 49ers

They have a warmup game this week against the Giants, but that said, they’re traveling to the East Coast. West Coast teams have a history of struggling, and maybe that happens if they’re looking ahead toward the Niners matchup, but unlikely. They have work to do, which boils down to getting chemistry and timing back on the field and a head coach improving his play calling. The former can happen and will because Stafford’s a veteran who understands what he needs to do to make that happen. He makes the Rams extremely dangerous.

11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (15) Record: 8-7 (win vs. Jacksonville Jaguars 30-12)

I read a report from a writer stating how shocked he is that quarterback Baker Mayfield is playing “tough” and has a “never-give-up attitude.” I got news for this fool; that’s always been his way since he got drafted by the Cleveland Browns. The Browns threw him under the bus after he played an entire season hurt with a torn labrum because of this style. People, at least, pretend to know what you’re writing about. Then again, the NFL is notorious for underpaying their non-football on-air talent. They’re nasty people. I remember some staff telling me such things.

Right now, Mayfield has the passing offense ranked No. 7 over the past three games, but it comes with the help of WR Mike Evans, who caught a couple of touchdowns and had another vertical leap that belongs on his “sizzle reel.”

The defense did their part, too, with four sacks and four turnovers, and the Bucs made what many thought would be a solid game with the Jaguars winning as a blowout, cementing Mayfield as back!

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 7
    • Season Rank Passing: 17
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 17
    • Season Rank Rushing: 30   

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 32
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 32
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 1
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 7 

Remaining Schedule:

  • Saints
  • Panthers

Baker’s completion percentage is at 64.3% is the highest of his career, and he’s one shy of tying his touchdown for a season (26) while on the verge of having his best TD: INT ratio; all translates into being a wanted man in the 2024 season. He’s on a one-year $8.5 million deal. He faces the Saints and Panthers in two winnable games and has the chance to save head coach Todd Bowles’s job and a new big fat contract for himself.

Tampa Bay controls their fate and should become NFC South champions. However, they can’t escape that their rushing attack and secondary are on milk cartons, aka missing in action. They both ranked dead last the past three games and are bottom dwellers in their season rank. This team won’t go deep even if it makes it to the playoffs. However, they’re moving up in our NFL power rankings.

12. Cincinnati Bengals (9) Record: 8-7 (loss vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 34-11)

Look, just like QB Josh Dobbs of the Vikings, the dream had to end. QB Jake Browning threw three interceptions, failed to get a touchdown inside the five-yard line, and may have ended the Bengals’ playoff hopes. To make it worse, this team faced the Steelers No. 3 quarterback and an offense that hadn’t scored over 20 points in its past five games. They destroyed the Bengals and kept their playoff hopes alive. It was a forgettable but eventually an expected game for Browning. Remember, he was also missing WR Ja’Marr Chase (shoulder). However, they’re not out of it yet.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 3
    • Season Rank Passing: 11
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 26
    • Season Rank Rushing: 32  

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 28
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 28
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 12
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 26

Remaining Schedule:

  • Chiefs
  • Browns

For this team to function as a balanced offense or at least keep the defense honest with a rushing attack as they’ve done for most of Browning’s starts, they must get back to RB Joe Mixon. In the Bengals’ defense last week, they were in the hole by halftime, 24-0, thus effectively removing him from making an impact. That said, they also refused to use him out of the backfield. It’ll be a quick exit until this changes, even if they backdoor their way into the playoffs. Their Super Bowl year is arguably the last time you saw the team use the running back position effectively and in true West Coast fashion.

There’s a reason their statistical ranks in that area genuinely suck! Defensively, their rushing attack was doing outstanding and well above their season rank, but they can’t stop anyone passing. Third-string quarterback Mason Rudolph proved that by throwing for nearly 300 yards and two touchdowns.

The Bengals will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs, facing the Chiefs and Browns. The Browns are still in the hunt for homefield playoff advantage, and the Chiefs have yet to clinch a playoff spot and are battling for the division crown. We don’t see the Bengals getting in, but “any given Sunday!”

13. Seattle Seahawks (18) Record: 8-7 (win vs. Tennessee Titans 20-17) –  

QB Geno Smith came back this week from a groin injury and was able to engineer a comeback. This team’s overall talent isn’t what it used to be, especially their secondary and rushing attack. In fact, the running game only generated 58 yards, but there was a bright spot in that the pass rush got to Ryan Tannehill six times. The Seahawks must take care of teams like this more effortlessly than having to stage a comeback. A win is a win, and they’re still in the playoff hunt – that’s all that matters.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 13
    • Season Rank Passing: 15
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 27
    • Season Rank Rushing: 29    

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 12
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 19
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 31
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 27

Remaining Schedule:

  • Steelers
  • Cardinals

This team can’t run the ball nor stop anyone through the air. They’re looking at shootouts, and the past two weeks have shown backup Drew Lockhart, and Geno can play well enough under pressure, but do they have the firepower to stick with top-tier teams offensively? Not likely. They close the season out with two games they can win. The Cardinals should be challenging but very winnable for a team fighting for a playoff spot, but the rejuvenated Steelers are in the playoff hunt, too. That game will be a good one as the two battle to determine who the better mediocre team is.

14. Indianapolis Colts (11) Record: 8-7 (loss vs. Atlanta Falcons 29-10)

No one saw this coming. Sure, the Colts are tricky, but the Falcons were 6-8 before the upset and are known for losing games in the end by sheer stupidity, whether it’s from the quarterback or playcaller. This week, they faced Taylor Heinecke, and while streaky, when he’s on, he looks and plays like a veteran. It showed.

Even with the return of RB Jonathan Taylor, who wasn’t impressive with a 2.39 yards per carry average on 18 rush attempts, the offense couldn’t hang, especially with their offensive line allowing six sacks. The defense wasn’t much better, allowing Atlanta to roll with 406 offensive yards, including 177 on the ground. WR Michael Pittman Jr.’s loss (concussion) also affected the team, and they need him back, but he may not be back for a while.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 22
    • Season Rank Passing: 19
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 19
    • Season Rank Rushing: 13    

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 15
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 14
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 21
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 28

Remaining Schedule:

  • Raiders
  • Texans

When this team isn’t on its game, it looks like it can’t tackle defensively and is out of sync offensively. Indianapolis has been playing above their heads with a streaky backup quarterback and a running back who is not the player he was as he returns from a long-term ankle injury. Defensively, they’ve got to get back to fundamentals, specifically tackling. They are a mediocre team at best on both sides of the ball.

It’s also obvious coaching has been outstanding to get them eight wins with the players coming together, but they may not be good enough to take their division. Nonetheless, as with the Texans, it’s been a phenomenal rebuilding year. The only thing lacking is their franchise quarterback, who went down early in the season and is losing valuable experience. They face the Raiders and Texans; both games are winnable but not a given with this team. They’ll drop in our NFL power rankings but are still in the playoff hunt.

15. Jacksonville Jaguars (14) Record: 8-7 (loss vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-12)

Talk about a collapse! The Jaguars have lost four in a row and are now in a three-way tie for the AFC South. However, in this four-game skid, they’re regressing and weren’t even competitive against Tampa Bay. Lawrence has many injuries, and they ask him to carry the team. Their rushing attack is dead last over their last three games, and it has been most of the year. They could only muster 37 rushing yards this week. Sure, they were in the hole, but it’s a skill set no defense fears from the Jaguars.

Combine that with a defense that can’t stop anyone through the air or on the ground during this nightmare run, and you know why they’re losing. Let’s be honest; it’s not like Lawrence is playing lights-out football with 12 interceptions this season (tied for fifth most) and 12 fumbles, losing seven of them. That means he’s turned the ball over 19 times. You can’t win like that.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 6
    • Season Rank Passing: 8  
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 26
    • Season Rank Rushing: 31  

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 23
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 29
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 26
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 11

Remaining Schedule:

  • Panthers
  • Titans

No defense, no rushing attack, and a quarterback who’s not 100 percent with 19 turnovers so far this season, and there’s no question why they’re cratering! I first noticed last season (I returned as an NFL analyst in 2022) that Jacksonville has no physical rushing attack. I don’t care that they want to run and have succeeded. When you hit the postseason, you better have a back that can be successful in short-yardage situations, and they don’t have one. To make it worse, one reason they ran the T-formation in their big play against the Chargers – where we saw RB Travis Etienne get to the outside is because he can’t get in between the tackles!

Finally, for some reason, quarterback Trevor Lawrence (shoulder) doesn’t look elite and can’t win a big game. However, when you see him play, you see someone with all the tools to be that guy. However, we’re closing in on the end of his third season, and all we have is just “another guy.” Can he become that player? Of course! His career took a big hit as a rookie with Urban Meyer and Darrell Bevell as his head coach. He’s in year two of his new offense, so he’s trending well, but he has dealt with many injuries and, combined with a lack of a rushing attack, makes me realize he can’t put this team on his back yet. 

They face the Panthers and Titans, two games they should win, but there’s no guarantee right now. However, it’s also the chance to look at themselves and use these two games to win the division and right the ship before the postseason.

16. Houston Texans (12) Record: 8-7 (loss vs. Cleveland Browns 36-22)

If the offense isn’t on track, the defense will struggle to overcome as this team isn’t there yet. Remember, they’re rebuilding. Last week, the offense started slow and was able to come back and win, but the Browns’ offensive firepower was too much here to try to keep up and come back. Regardless, that quarterback Casey Keenum is a veteran and experienced in big games, they need C.J. Stroud back. Although he’s a rookie, he commands the offense and respects his players. They never feel they’re out of it when he’s behind center.

Then again, you’re facing edge rusher Myles Garrett, an elite among the elites at pass rushing. The Texans’ pass rush couldn’t pressure Flacco, especially when their edge rusher, Jonathan Greenard, went down in the first quarter. This loss is the type that both the coaching staff and players can and should learn from.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 32
    • Season Rank Passing: 7 
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 20
    • Season Rank Rushing: 23  

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 26
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 26
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 2
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 6

Remaining Schedule

  • Titans
  • Colts

They need Stroud or to give the big arm of David Mills a shot this week. Nevertheless, whoever comes in must improve their dead-last rank over the last few games. Defensively, they are what they are against the pass, as porous as can be. However, Houston can still stop the run, and they’ll need that strength to face the Titans and King Henry at home before ending their season at Indianapolis, themselves in the race for the division title. This team is young, and even if they lose out, it’s a phenomenal rebuilding year; they’re having passing all expectations. However, they will drop in our NFL power rankings.

The Rest of the Best or Pretenders

17. Atlanta Falcons (21) Record: 7-8 (win vs. Indianapolis Colts 29-10) –  

I’ve been saying all season long that QB Desmond Ridder needs time to develop and make mistakes. The problem is that his mistakes create losses; thus, the team sent him to the bench in favor of Taylor Heinicke, who engineered an offensive output of 406 yards and had no interceptions – a big reason for the win, as turnovers have cost them games this season. Defensively, they got to QB Gardner Minshew six times and an interception. They were brilliant, going to their strength, the rushing attack, and the high-percentage throws you would expect a veteran to make. Taking the lead helped them stick to this game plan.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 9
    • Season Rank Passing: 22
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 14
    • Season Rank Rushing: 8  

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 3
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 8
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 23
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 15  

Remaining Schedule:

  • Bears
  • Saints

Heinicke gives this team hope, which uplifts team morale and improves emotional strength on any given Sunday. Translation, the will to want to win increases during tough times. In essence, we don’t know how far these Falcons can go. They’re a young team in a rebuild that should already be beginning to show fruit. Offensively, if Heineke can minimize turnovers, this team can technically compete against most opponents. Thus, their final two away games are winnable but challenging tests.

They need help to take the division, but they’re still alive. That’s what counts. They’ll move up in my NFL power rankings and, with solid quarterback play, are as good as any mid-tier team in the league. However, that doesn’t mean they’re better; they’re just competitive. The brutal loss to the Panthers last week may be too much to overcome, but it could save head coach Arthur Smith’s job. However, they still may have a long-term problem with the quarterback. For now, they’re still in the playoff hunt.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers (22) Record: 8-7 (win vs. Cincinnati Bengals 34-11)

The Steelers had a game for the ages and shocked the world with their offensive output. They posted 34 points after not posting over 20 in their past five outings. Look, QB Mason Rudolph, their third-string quarterback, threw for two touchdowns and almost 300 yards. It was in a game they weren’t favored to win. The dilemma now is who they start. Rudolph or Kenny Pickett (knee), who’s been struggling all season? Rudolph brought life to WR George Pickens with three bombs of 86, 66, and 44 yards. Right now, it appears as if Rudolph gets the start this upcoming week.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 19
    • Season Rank Passing: 27
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 23
    • Season Rank Rushing: 16  

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 24
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 21
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 14
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 20  

Remaining Schedule:

  • Seahawks
  • Ravens

The positive with the Steelers is head coach Mike Tomlin. His run may be over, and he has yet to win with his regime (coaching staff and front office) now that former head coach Bill Cowher’s players have moved on or aged out of the NFL. No one talks about that, but it’s true, and it’s made me wonder how good of a coach he is. He is excellent at keeping his team motivated and one of the best at improving his team’s play as the season progresses. In contrast, there are no questions about his ability to motivate the team.

He faces two tough challenges in the Seahawks and Ravens and likely needs to win out for any playoff hope. I don’t think they can get past the Ravens, but that’ll be determined by how much of last week’s momentum they can keep going. As you can see by the data, they’re, at best, a medicore team and, at worst, a lower-tier team.

NFL Power Rankings: Get it Together and Overachievers

19. New Orleans Saints (17) Record: 7-8 (loss vs. Los Angeles Rams 30-22)   

This offense stinks – that’s all to it. The irony is that Derek Carr has never been on a top-tier team. His Raiders’ squads and now this Saints team are mediocre at best. Because of that, he’s seen in the same light as he’s unable to carry a team. Despite that, he gets paid a lot of money for being average.

However, it was the defense that failed them. Their highly-ranked secondary allowed Rams QB Matthew Stafford to throw for 328 yards and two touchdowns. That’s their strength. They can’t stop the run, and it’s no surprise they allowed 133 yards on the ground. Then you add subpar playcalling and a head coach that’s not very good (22-46), and you have the New Orleans Saints. In their defense, they’re still in the playoff hunt despite being a terrible team with a losing record, an overpaid quarterback, and a coaching regime that will bring back the “bagheads.”

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 16
    • Season Rank Passing: 12
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 28
    • Season Rank Rushing: 21  

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 7
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 7
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 25
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 25  

Remaining Schedule:

  • Buccaneers
  • Falcons

The Saints are one game behind the Bucs but face them next week; thus, they still have a hand in making the playoffs. They’re lucky their strength is the secondary because the Bucs’ passing game is red hot right now. They will be competitive and have the guns to pull off an upset, but can they?

Sometimes, the talent doesn’t matter as much as those guiding it (offensive coordinator), and the Saints are at a disadvantage with, “Why does he still have a job?” Pete Carmichael. The Saints close out with another division foe in the Falcons, so they have two crucial contests. However, they’re 7-8 for a reason. To see them pull off two wins, regardless of the opponent, with this much pressure – it’s unlikely they can.

20. Minnesota Vikings (20) Record: 7-8 (loss vs. Detroit Lions 30-24)

The importance of the quarterback position is sometimes too quickly forgotten. The story is that the Vikings will move on from quarterback Kirk Cousins this offseason, but do they want to? Since he fell to injury, they’ve gone through Josh Dobbs, Nick Mullens, and Jaren Hall to no success. Mullens threw four interceptions and fumbled twice, and that’s tough for a mediocre team like the Vikings to overcome. However, it doesn’t help when the referees make bad calls. They also lost TE T.J. Hockenson (knee), and we’re still looking for their rushing attack that went for only 17 rushing yards! Who can play quarterback without turning it over or being a liability?

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 8
    • Season Rank Passing: 3
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 21
    • Season Rank Rushing: 27 

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 18
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 17
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 11
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 9

Remaining Schedule:

  • Packers
  • Lions

This team is technically still in the playoff hunt but must win out as they face familiar NFC North opponents. The positive is that they know these teams’ weaknesses, but they know theirs, too. The key to both games will be the quarterback. However, in my opinion, they don’t have enough to win out. Back to Kirk Cousins – Vikings Nation, do you really want to let him walk?

21. Green Bay Packers (19) Record: 7-8 (win vs. Carolina Panthers 33-30)

This game is a great one for the Packers’ development of quarterback Jordan Love. He was without his top wideouts and had a solid game, but more importantly, no turnovers. Ironically, the team won this one, pounding the rock, something you never saw previously. Well, I rarely saw it. They pounded the Panthers for 162 yards, led by RB Aaron Jones 21-127-0, which comes out to 6.05 yards per carry. Defensively, their defense is a sieve, and it showed.

While they won’t, Green Bay needs to spend quality dollars to rebuild their defense, but they don’t believe in putting money out for that side of the ball. They allowed the Panthers to gain 394 offensive yards, and that’s not out of the realm of what I would call normal for this defense. Regardless, they took home the win.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 12
    • Season Rank Passing: 18 
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 11
    • Season Rank Rushing: 18   

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 29
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 13
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 27
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 30

Remaining Schedule:

  • Vikings
  • Bears

The offense is trending in the right direction as the season ends. Chemistry is developing, but the defense needs an overhaul that’ll never come. Nevertheless, Green Bay closes the season with two tough divisional opponents and two games that can propel the offseason if they win and possibly attract quality free agents. Believe it or not, the Packers have a lot riding on the final two weeks with their mini-rebuild, as it could give the team the offseason momentum boost it hasn’t had in the last couple of years because of the Aaron Rodgers drama. Development success with a win helps with momentum into next season.

22. Las Vegas Raiders (23) Record: 7-8 (win vs. Kansas City Chiefs 20-14)

Who would’ve said and even bet on a team winning an NFL game without completing one pass after the first quarter? No one, absolutely no one! The defense won this game with a recovered fumble taken in for a touchdown and a pick-six from a Patrick Mahomes pass. That sealed the deal with the 20-14 win. The defense held firm, and it was a hard-earned and deserving victory. It wasn’t a game the Chiefs gave away; they lost it fair and square, beaten by the better team that day.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 31
    • Season Rank Passing: 23   
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 12
    • Season Rank Rushing: 31  

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 6
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 11
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 13
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 22

Remaining Schedule:

  • Colts
  • Broncos

Technically, the Raiders are still in the playoff hunt but need help. However, this offense isn’t going to take them anywhere. Statistically, they’re terrible overall outside aspects of their defense. With this victory, the real story here is that interim head coach Antonio Pierce makes it very hard not to be given the head coaching job. I don’t think he’ll get the job as he’s not Mark Davis’s man, and every owner and general manager wants their guy in as head coach. It’s not even unfair, but if you’re going to get fired by a struggling coach, it’s better to make it the one you picked than someone else’s.

You’re also hearing the fan-ho’s talking about this combined with the Chargers win, as he deserves the job. Those are legit takes, but for the simple fact, they purposely ran up the score against a team that quit, who are 5-10. There is not much honor in that, as much as desperation from an interim head coach to get a permanent job. We can’t fault him for that. I think he’s earned the job, but is he the guy they want? There are a lot of assistants deserving of a head coaching gig.

If the Raiders can beat the Colts and Broncos at home, two teams still in the playoff hunt, then you really must take the “interim” tag off and give him the job. It’s that simple, but again, billionaire owners tend not to act in their best interests in the NFL but do what they please, regardless of the outcome.

NFL Power Rankings: Rebuild and Retool Teams

23. Chicago Bears (24) Record: 6-9 (win vs. Arizona Cardinals 27-16)

This team has focused on rushing the ball and excelling at it. It’s a significant strength despite the focus being on the quarterback position. Justin Fields isn’t posting big passing numbers, but he’s passing, improving, and making big plays through the air. This game was of one team on the upswing and improving in the Bears and a team that’s merely treading water in the Cardinals.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 28
    • Season Rank Passing: 28
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 2
    • Season Rank Rushing: 3  

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 17
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 25
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 9
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 1  

Remaining Schedule:

  • Falcons
  • Packers

This team is in rebuild mode and will have two high first-round picks. However, they may not and likely don’t need a new quarterback. Like Lamar Jackson, Justin Fields can combine his passing game with his legs to find balance and make a difference. At the same time, he can throw for 170 yards while rushing for 97 yards, and he’s effective. The problem is if he doesn’t continue to develop his passing skills, but he is. This team is evaluating and will have the opportunity

24. New England Patriots (28) Record: 4-11 (win vs. Denver Broncos 26-23)

Backup Bailey Zappe came to play, going 25 of 33 for 256 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. That final stat is the difference maker. The defense outside the fourth quarter and a couple of drives came through. This team hasn’t quit, and wins against the Bills, Steelers, and Broncos prove that. The defense came out with five sacks on quarterback Russell Wilson and recovering two fumbles while holding the strength of the offense, the rushing attack to 83 yards, and a 3.6 yards per carry average. It was a team victory; we should’ve seen more of them this year.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 20
    • Season Rank Passing: 24 
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 30
    • Season Rank Rushing: 25   

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 16
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 15
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 4
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 2

Remaining Schedule:

  • Bills
  • Jets

The Patriots’ issues go back to last season, as well as pathetic playcalling and schemes. There have been questionable playcalling this year, but coaching itself has come under fire, and deservedly so after last season’s debacle at the coordinator position and putting a defensive specialist in place to call offensive plays. That’s resulted in the merry-go-round we’ve seen with the quarterback position and its play.

This team hasn’t quit on head coach Bill Belichick, and if he wins out his final two games, a big if, he could have enough momentum to convince the team to give him one more year. Defensively, they’re stout against the rush and average against the pass, but that’s their strength. The real problems are on offense, and they’ll be looking for a new quarterback this offseason.

Look for Mac Jones to be released or traded; some teams believe he needs a change of scenery. Wherever he goes, he needs a quarterback coach who understands what it takes to bring a player in who’s lost in the wilderness and needs some guidance and mentorship. That’s something the Patriots failed to do the past two seasons.

25. New York Jets (29) Record: 5-10 (win vs. Washington Commanders 30-28)

The New York Jets showed dominance against the Commanders. They rose to the challenge for the greatness, wisdom, and all-knowing head coach Robert Saleh and his Arch Angel, offensive coordinator Nathanial Hackett. These Jets came looking to beat up on anyone. Then, they found the Commanders who couldn’t stop the pass or rush. The stories you’re hearing regarding the Jets and this game are pathetic. Look, two bad teams were playing, and that’s that. The Jets didn’t show anything except they could beat a bad team after hanging on for dear life.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 24
    • Season Rank Passing: 31
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 25
    • Season Rank Rushing: 28   

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 1
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 2
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 8
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 24

Remaining Schedule

  • Browns
  • Patriots

The Jets’ future remains bleak. They close out with the Browns and Patriots, two teams they can hang with defensively, but who knows offensively. The Browns are the actual test, but the Patriots are a division team, so records don’t matter as much. That said, Jets owner Woody Johnson continues to show himself to be a buffoon as an NFL owner. He’s keeping Saley and Hackett. Trust me, in his prime, quarterback Aaron Rodgers could barely get past the first round of the playoffs, and with Hackett calling the plays for him, well, Jets Nation – you’re used to losing already as it is. For those that don’t know, Hackett never called the plays as offensive coordinator of the Packers.

26. Denver Broncos (13) Record: 7-8 (loss vs. New England Patriots 26-23)

You don’t lose to the Patriots when you’re in a playoff hunt. This loss fell on some terrible play calling by Sean Payton and veterans not stepping up. That includes quarterback Russell Wilson. However, you won’t hear much about that and more of the same soap opera drama with quarterback Russell Wilson.

He had no turnovers but wasn’t able to rally the team. The Broncos didn’t sign him to $245 million to manage games but to put a team on his back and win it. In that, he failed. This loss is on Payton, Wilson, a porous offensive line that allowed five sacks, and a wilting rushing attack. It’s a team in a rebuild still finding out how to compete consistently, much less win.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 18
    • Season Rank Passing: 25 
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 22
    • Season Rank Rushing: 14  

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 20
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 24
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 16
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 31  

Remaining Schedule:

  • Chargers
  • Raiders

The word is that the team is benching Wilson, and it’s not a playing decision but a business decision to protect themselves from a guaranteed contract in 2025 if he gets hurt now. They could take a massive hit ($37 million) if he gets injured. The truth is, Wilson’s improving, and as we’ve seen, the Browns, Vikings, Steelers, Jets, Patriots, Raiders, Giants, Falcons, and others know what happens if you don’t have a quality quarterback. Denver’s decision to keep Wilson will depend on the availability of free agents. A rookie will doom Payton; whether he knows it or not, he should stick with Wilson.

The team will close the season with backup Jarrett Stidham at home against the Chargers and then the Raiders. Two winnable games with Wilson, but we have no clue with Stidham. Also, look for some players to be more concerned about renting U-hauls and flights out of Denver than playing. They won’t give it their all because ownership, management, and the coaching staff have quit on them. They know this because they’re still in the playoff hunt and are benching their starting quarterback for business.

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

27. New York Giants (25) Record: 5-10 (loss vs. Philadelphia Eagles 33-25)

Is the Tommy DeVito dream over? After stating DeVito “earned it” about the starting job, head coach Brian Daboll benched him during halftime for a veteran journeyman but awesome dude, Tyrod Taylor. It almost worked, but the Giants are an inferior team this year, with some players looking like they’re going through the motions. We don’t know who’ll start next week, but it doesn’t matter. That’s unfair, as this team has five wins and can play the spoiler this week.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 29
    • Season Rank Passing: 32
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 10
    • Season Rank Rushing: 15 

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 22
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 20
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 24
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 29 

Remaining Schedule:

  • Rams
  • Eagles

The Giants can play spoiler for both the Rams and Eagles. They can keep the Rams from making the playoffs, keep the Eagles from homefield advantage, and even keep them from winning their division – if the Eagles falter this week and the Cowboys win out. But again, outside of their rushing attack, led by the likely soon-to-be-former-former-Giant RB Saquon Barkley, they have holes on both sides of the ball and likely do not have the salary cap to fix it effectively.

This team is more than likely in a 2-3 year rebuild, which means Barkley’s likely gone if he has any smarts. Both players and coaches are playing for their jobs, so don’t look for this team to fold like the Chargers did a couple of weeks ago. They won’t quit.

28. Tennessee Titans (26) Record: 5-10 (loss vs. Seattle Seahawks 20-17)  

There was a pause this week with this team’s quarterback evaluation as former starter “Big Contract No Results” Ryan Tannehill started in place of the injured Will Levis (ankle), and as is typical of Tannehill, he can’t win a game even for pride with botched plays, bad throws and not even looking like that veteran you can count on to come off the bench and not lose the game for you. Also, don’t look toward RB Derrick Henry and his two touchdowns and 88 yards rushing as a positive, and the fan-hos will show this as a reason to bring him back – he faced the league’s worst run defenses.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 23
    • Season Rank Passing: 26
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 18
    • Season Rank Rushing: 17    

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 10
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 18
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 22
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 14  

Remaining Schedule:

  • Texans
  • Jaguars

This team needs to change direction this offseason. It’s an ugly team with no identity anymore. Tennessee needs help in the passing attack and their rushing attack, which has been mediocre at best. Their only recent highlight is their secondary; they can barely stop anyone. Once management knows what type of offense it wants moving forward, you determine if head coach Mike Vrabel should remain or listen to his thoughts of the future. Regardless, this team needs an overhaul this offseason. Until then, they can play spoiler to two teams as part of a three-way tie in the AFC South. They do have something to play for, but will they?

29. Arizona Cardinals (27) Record: 3-12 (loss vs. Chicago Bears 27-16) – Look, the Bears are improving, and the Cardinals are playing hard, but they’re just not very good and allowed the Bears to rack up 420 offensive yards, and out of that, 250 were rushing yards. The Bears have a potent rushing attack they couldn’t stop. That coincides with their No. 32 season rank against the run. This matchup is a classic case of one team’s strength being another’s weakness, and the Bears exploited it. The offense isn’t good enough to come back when down. At least not this year.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 26
    • Season Rank Passing: 29
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 4
    • Season Rank Rushing: 9

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 11
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 12
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 32
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 32

Remaining Schedule:

  • Eagles
  • Seahawks

The team has two tough matchups coming up and can keep the Eagles from securing the division (at least for one more week) and play a spoiler to the Seahawks. This team is currently in evaluation mode, and they’ve got to rebuild the defense, at least the run-stopping portions, and get some quality receivers in, too. Regarding quarterbacks, Kyler Murray always starts strong, but being a little man always fades and will continue. The team must decide what to do with him, but likely, they’ll keep him. This decision is a management decision. One where they’ll likely pucker up again, make the coward’s choice, and keep him. Thus, you know why this franchise is a perennial loser.

30. Los Angeles Chargers (30) Record: 5-10 (loss vs. Buffalo Bills 24-22) – Give the Chargers credit, as they came out and played hard for their interim head coach, Giff Smith. While they quit on the fired bum, former head coach Brandon Staley, they showed life this week. Will it continue?

Who knows, and who cares as their season’s over, and they play out the string? The only positive is the play of QB Easton Stick, who didn’t turn the ball over. On the other hand, his getting sacked five times didn’t help, and with two games left, whether they improve or not isn’t something to evaluate as a whole as much as the individual players lining up on both sides of the ball.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 17
    • Season Rank Passing: 13
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 24
    • Season Rank Rushing: 24

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 21
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 30
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 19
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 17

Remaining Schedule

  • Broncos
  • Chiefs

It’s evaluation time, but looking back on their rushing attack, it’s hard to believe RB Austin Ekeler was adamant about his raise. The Chargers gave him a little incentive, but the truth is, his time in San Diego may be ending, and the defense needs an overhaul – not necessarily a complete overhaul, but they need bodies that can stop the pass. The Chargers are on their way to concluding another “disappointing season.”

31. Washington Commanders (31) Record: 4-11 (loss vs. New York Jets 30-28)

This team has quit, or at least some have. Before anyone even thinks it, no, Jacoby Brissett isn’t the answer at quarterback. A phenomenal backup, he has had a couple of shots at the starting job in other cities and was never able to hold on to it. The problem here is QB Sam Howell, who is regressing, but remember, Howell’s on a team where they’ve allowed 60 sacks.

The kid may be so beaten down and, with nothing on the line is too beat up to get out there and get beat up some more. As far as Brissett, he has everything to play for, so when looking at this scenario, the Commanders would be foolish to part ways with Howell, but if I’m Howell, a change of scenery would be better. Howell will find a home, considering the talent out there and the fact there are about 6-8 teams that don’t have viable quarterbacks right now.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 30
    • Season Rank Passing: 16
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 16
    • Season Rank Rushing: 21

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 25
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 31
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 30
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 23  

Remaining Schedule

  • 49ers
  • Cowboys

The team closes against the 49ers and Cowboys, two top-tier teams. These games will get ugly as both are coming off losses and will take it out on the commanders. Over the next two weeks, more players will quit on their team, and the Cowboys could blow them out. The 49ers? That’s a given!

32. Carolina Panthers (32) Record: 2-13 (loss vs. Green Bay Packers 33-30)

The rebuilding Panthers lost to the rebuilding Packers in what turned out to be an outstanding game with an offensive barn burner. However, despite continual rookie mistakes even through the past two weeks, we’re seeing improvements in rookie and overall No. 1 pick QB Bryce Young, and that’s what matters now.

Offense – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Passing: 25
    • Season Rank Passing: 30
  • 3-Game-Trend Rushing: 9
    • Season Rank Rushing: 19  

Defense (vs) – Trend vs. Season Rank

  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Passing: 4
    • Season Rank vs. Passing: 4
  • 3-Game-Trend Opponent Rushing: 15
    • Season Rank vs. Rushing: 21  

Remaining Schedule:

  • Jaguars
  • Buccaneers

While Young’s development is improving, the other younger players at the receiver positions and elsewhere (defense and special teams) own growth will continue along with Young’s. For those stating there are no worries regarding Young’s development, you’re mistaken. The Packers’ pass defense is mediocre at best, a bottom dweller normally. Where he’s at and where he’s supposed to be are two different markers, and the Panthers are behind schedule. Fair or not, that’s today’s NFL, and he’ll have to show more significant gains early next season, or the “wasted pick” or “bust” label will begin to emerge. He should be okay, but we won’t know until then.

The team closes out with the potential to be spoilers as they face the dying Jaguars and then host the Buccaneers. Both are in the hunt for their division titles, and with the Bucs, the Panthers know them well enough to make it a competitive matchup.