Week 12 of the NFL season saw the contenders separate themselves with impressive wins while the tank race ramped up with the calendar flipping to December.
In Las Vegas, the Kansas City Chiefs bounced back from their Week 11 loss by continuing their ownership of the Raiders. In Los Angeles, the Baltimore Ravens put together an impressive performance against Justin Herbert and a Chargers team that is out of answers.
On the other end of the spectrum, the New England Patriots put together a “give us a top-two pick” masterpiece with an inexplicable loss to the New York Giants. In Tennessee, the Bears got a much-needed win as the Panthers once again looked inept in a loss to the Tennessee Titans.
On Monday night, the Bears’ defense dominated the Minnesota Vikings and Justin Fields delivered a game-winning drive to give Matt Eberflus his first NFC North win as Bears head coach.
Philadelphia Eagles (10-1): The Birds just know how to win. But their top-ranked run defense gave up over 150 yards on the ground to the Bills. That has to get cleaned up before next week’s tilt with the No. 2 ranked team in these rankings.
San Francisco 49ers (8-3): The Niners’ pass rush has found its teeth over the past three games, notching 15 sacks, including six against the Seahawks on Thanksgiving. It’s a matter of when, not if, the Niners once again wear the NFC West crown.
Kansas City Chiefs (8-3): Rookie wide receiver Rashee Rice broke out Sunday, catching eight passes for 107 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders. That kind of production needs to continue for the Chiefs to have a chance of defending their crown.
Baltimore Ravens (9-3): Baltimore’s defense gave Justin Herbert fits, and Lamar Jackson and Co. continue to show they have an explosive side that makes them perhaps the only real threat to the Chiefs in the AFC.
Dallas Cowboys (8-3): The Cowboys’ next five games will tell us if this Dallas team is different than the ones in years past. The Cowboys have lost their two games against teams with winning records and hammered everyone else. Their next five games are against the Seahawks, Eagles, Dolphins, Bills, and Lions.
Miami Dolphins (8-3): The Dolphins’ defense will have to find a way to survive without their co-leader in sacks, Jaelan Phillips, who suffered an Achilles injury on Friday in New York. The Phillips-Bradley Chubb combo had found its groove over the past month, and now Andrew van Ginkel and Emmanuel Ogbah will have to fill the void left by Phillips.
Jacksonville Jaguars (8-3): Trevor Lawrence got his groove back. The Jags QB has had a quarterback rating of 90 or better in seven of his last eight games and gave Jacksonville a two-game lead in the AFC South with Sunday’s win over the Texans. The run game needs to pick up the slack, but Lawrence is playing his best ball as the calendar turns to December.
Detroit Lions (8-3): The Lions might be in trouble. One week after throwing three interceptions against the Bears, Jared Goff turned it over three times Thursday in a loss to the Packers. The Lions QB was pressured on 45% of his dropbacks in the first half as Green Bay jumped out to a massive lead. Two weeks after being dubbed legitimate Super Bowl contenders, the Lions are now staring at the fraud tag if they can’t find a quick remedy for their issues.
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4): In their first game since firing offensive coordinator Matt Canada, the Steelers put up their first 400-yard game in almost three years. Sometimes the answer is staring you right in the face.
Buffalo Bills (6-6): It was a loss, but the Bills’ performance against the Eagles was a sign that the real Josh Allen might be back. In two games since the Bills fired offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey, Allen has looked more comfortable than during his early-season woes. But at 6-6, is it too late for the Bills?
Houston Texans (6-5): The Texans lost ground in the AFC South on Sunday but can still make a wild-card push in the crowded AFC. Rookie cornerback Derek Stingley notched an interception in his second straight game. The young Texans have all the pieces in place to be a tough out come January, but they have to get there first.
Cleveland Browns (7-4): Dorian Thompson-Robinson was playing well against the Broncos until he was forced to exit with a head injury. Myles Garrett also sustained a shoulder injury and left the stadium wearing a sling. It might be too much for the Browns to overcome at this point.
Denver Broncos (6-5): After giving up 70 points to the Dolphins, the Broncos’ defense has given up just 80 points total during its current five-game winning streak. Denver has gone from riding to the dump to legitimate playoff contention in a month. Tip your cap to Sean Payton.
Indianapolis Colts (6-5): The Colts have bounced back from a three-game losing streak and now have a real shot at making the playoffs in the log-jammed AFC. Indianapolis has the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL, but the third-down offense has to be better than it was Sunday (2-for-11) to capitalize on that opportunity.
Los Angeles Rams (5-6): Running back Kyren Williams returned and rushed for 143 yards on 16 carries while also catching six passes for 61 yards and two touchdowns. LA’s offense looked different with Williams back, and the Rams are now just one game out of the playoff race after dismantling the Cardinals.
Seattle Seahawks (6-5): The Seahawks are 6-5, but they might be cooked. Seattle’s next three games are against the Cowboys, 49ers, and Eagles. After just getting bulldozed by the Niners, it’s not unrealistic to think the Seahawks will be 6-8 entering the final week of December.
Minnesota Vikings (6-6): I think the Josh Dobbs magic has officially run out.
Atlanta Falcons (5-6): If you get the ball to Bijan Robinson, good things happen. It’s not rocket science.
Green Bay Packers (5-6): The Packers have been patient with Jordan Love, and it’s paying off. Green Bay is still a game under .500, but the Packers only have two games left against teams with a winning record, and Love has looked the part over the past three games. They might have done it again.
New Orleans Saints (5-6): Just play Jameis.
Las Vegas Raiders (5-7): Antonio Pierce, Josh McDaniels, Rich Bisaccia, Jon Gruden, Jack Del Rio – it doesn’t matter who the Raiders’ coach is, the Chiefs own the Silver and Black. Have for more than a decade now.
Los Angeles Chargers (4-7): It’s over for Brandon Staley in L.A. We’re just playing out the string at this point.
Cincinnati Bengals (5-6): This will always be a “what could have been?” season for Cincy.
Chicago Bears (4-8): Justin Fields finally delivered a game-winning drive, and Chicago’s defense is playing like the best unit in the NFL over the past two weeks. Can a suddenly dominant defense lead the Bears on a late playoff push in a down NFC?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7): The Bucs aren’t dead but their NFC South chances are on life support after another dispiriting loss to a team they had a realistic chance to beat.
New York Jets (4-7): If the Jets let Aaron Rodgers come back and he gets hurt again, everyone should be fired on the spot. This season is over. Focus on 2024 and what might be Rodgers’ last ride.
Tennessee Titans (4-7): The Titans are now 4-0 at home after beating the Panthers. With four of their final six games in Nashville, Mike Vrabel’s club might be able to scrap together a respectable season.
New York Giants (4-8): Tommy DeVito has officially cost the Giants a shot at a top-two pick. So, this season could, in fact, get worse for Brian Daboll and Joe Schoen.
Washington Commanders (4-8): Jack Del Rio was ejected from the Commanders’ coaching staff after Washington was torched by Dak Prescott on Thanksgiving. It’s an understandable move, but it’s too little, too late for paddle boat Ron and the Commanders.
Arizona Cardinals (2-10): The Cardinals just have to avoid accidentally winning a game down the stretch to ensure themselves a top-three pick and potential franchise-changing player.
New England Patriots (2-9): Are we sure Bill Belichick isn’t tanking?
Carolina Panthers (1-10): Frank Reich’s seat is scolding hot. Owner David Tepper would write a blank check to make it hotter if he could.