2022 B/R NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Entering Week 13?
Week 12 of the 2022 NFL season brought with it Thanksgiving. And for some NFL teams, it truly was a time for giving thanks.
The Philadelphia Eagles are thankful for quarterback Jalen Hurts and his record-setting performance against the Green Bay Packers. The Las Vegas Raiders are thankful for running back Josh Jacobs, who had a similarly historic performance in an overtime win in Seattle. The Jacksonville Jaguars are thankful for quarterback Trevor Lawrence and wide receiver Zay Jones, who combined to stun the Baltimore Ravens.
Of course, not every team was so thankful. Seattle's overtime loss was its second straight. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell in similar fashion in Cleveland. Nightmare seasons in Green Bay, Denver and Los Angeles continued.
As is usually the case, Week 12 contained many things we expected and twice as many we didn't—and all that action once again shook up the league's power structure.
Just as they have every week this season, Bleacher Report NFL Analysts Gary Davenport, Maurice Moton and Brent Sobleski have gathered together to review Week 12 and rank the league's teams from No. 32 to No. 1.
That No. 32 team remains the same…but there's another franchise doing its level best to take the title of the league's worst team—and it's one that entered 2022 with Super Bowl aspirations.
32. Houston Texans (1-9-1)
Last Week: 32
Week 12 Result: Lost at Miami 30-15
In an effort to spur one of the league's most lethargic offenses, on Sunday the Houston Texans turned to Kyle Allen over Davis Mills at quarterback.
The signal-caller may have been different. But the results were depressingly familiar. For the game, Houston managed just 210 yards of offense. Most of Allen's 215 passing yards came after the game was already decided. He was sacked five times, fumbled twice and threw a pair of interceptions.
However, despite another miserable offensive showing in another lopsided loss, Allen told reporters after the game that he remains confident in both his ability and his teammates.
“I’m confident,” Allen said. “I’m confident—I know I’m a much better player than what I showed today. Every team is still building, especially us. We have one win. We’re trying to just get a win every week. So, I mean, we’ve just got to keep pushing.”
Apparently he hasn't watched many Texans games.
Dark humor aside, the Texans are barreling toward the first overall pick—a selection that will all but certainly be spent on a quarterback. Houston also has Cleveland's first-rounder—a pick that will quite possibly be inside the top 10
Hitting on those picks is going to be critical. Because teams this bad can't afford to miss.
31. Denver Broncos (3-8)
Last Week: 30
Week 12 Result: Lost at Carolina 23-10
It wasn't supposed to be like this for the Denver Broncos.
With Russell Wilson under center, the Broncos were supposed to field a high-powered offense and challenge the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West. Instead, the Broncos are a last-place team with the league's worst offense that just got embarrassed by one of the worst teams in the NFC.
That latest humiliation led to infighting on the sidelines, with Wilson and defensive lineman Mike Purcell having a heated exchange. While speaking to reporters after the loss, Wilson downplayed the dust-up.
"Mike and I are on the same page," Wilson said. "He came off after they kicked a field goal and he was (upset). He was like, ‘We've got to go.' So me and him are on the same page. There's no animosity at all. We've got to win and have some grit to us and some mentality to us and win some football games."
However, there's been nothing to indicate this team is capable of a winning streak—and Davenport wrote that this year's struggles may not be the worst of it.
"It's not just that Wilson has been awful," he said. "Or that Denver mortgaged its future to trade for him. After extending Wilson in the offseason, Denver is stuck with him until at least 2026—and even then the out would carry a dead cap hit north of $30 million. If Wilson really is washed, then he could drag the entire franchise into a hole that it will take years to claw out of. This could go down as the Herschel Walker trade of the 21st century."
"The Broncos defense has had enough," Sobleski added. "The unit is sick of holding up its end of the bargain, only to see the offense's ineptitude continue unabated. A top-three defense doesn't do much when a squad can't play complementary football. The Broncos offense managed just 263 total yards, including a paltry 125 through the air, and 10 points against the Carolina Panthers. The team's only touchdown came with less than four minutes remaining when already trailing by 20. It's hard to imagine a high-profile trade going any worse for an organization. Wilson's inclusion to the lineup has made the Broncos significantly worse, and the squad now finds itself among the league's bottom-feeders."
30. Chicago Bears (3-9)
Last Week: 27
Week 12 Result: Lost at New York Jets 31-10
The Chicago Bears didn't have electric young quarterback Justin Fields against the New York Jets on Sunday. The team got dominated in just about every facet of the game in a blowout loss. And neither of those depressing developments was the worst thing that happened at Met Life Stadium.
The Bears were blasted by injuries on both sides of the ball in New York. On defense, star safety Eddie Jackson (arguably the best defensive player on the team) was carted to the locker room after suffering a non-contact foot injury. Wide receiver Darnell Mooney also went down with what is believed to be a season-ending ankle injury.
Head coach Matt Eberflus expressed some optimism that Fields will be ready to face the rival Packers next week.
“We think that he’s getting better every single day,” Eberflus said. “He felt better every single day. At the game time today, he wasn’t ready to go to perform and protect himself. I suspect we’ll see how it goes. We’re going to leave it day to day and we’ll decide one day at a time. If he keeps progressing, then he’s got an opportunity to [play against Green Bay].”
At this point, given that the 3-9 Bears are headed nowhere fast and have Week 14 off, the bigger question may be whether he should play.
29. Carolina Panthers (4-8)
Last Week: 31
Week 12 Result: Won vs. Denver 23-10
Good news has been in short supply in Carolina this season. The Panthers have struggles in just about every area, and quarterback has been no exception—Baker Mayfield gave way to PJ Walker who gave way to Mayfield again who gave way to Sam Darnold.
Darnold didn't light up the scoreboard Sunday against a stout Denver defense—164 passing yards and one touchdown. But interim head coach Steve Wilks told reporters after the Panthers walloped the reeling Broncos that Darnold did enough to earn the start in two weeks when the team returns from the bye.
“We talk about that all the time, just really trying to manage the game,” Wilks said. “When I say manage the game, I’m talking about being smart, not forcing it in there, always ready to take your checkdown. Particularly when we get in field-goal range, not taking a sack, throwing the ball away, just being aware of the situations. I thought he did a good job of that today.”
One win hardly salvages a miserable season in Carolina. And Darnold will all but certainly be playing elsewhere in 2023.
But if nothing else, the final five games of the 2022 campaign afford him an opportunity to audition for a new team.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-7)
Last Week: 28
Week 12 Result: Won at Indianapolis 24-17
Credit where it's due: The Pittsburgh Steelers don't quit.
There's no salvaging what is shaping up to be the worst season of Mike Tomlin's tenure as head coach in Pittsburgh. It would take five wins in Pittsburgh's last six games to prevent Pittsburgh from having its first losing season under his stewardship, and this Steelers team isn't peeling off that sort of hot streak.
But these Steelers continue to at least try to battle through adversity. Despite the absence of T.J. Watt for a big chunk of the season, Pittsburgh's defense kept the team in games. Despite losing running back Najee Harris partway through Monday night's win over the Indianapolis Colts and already being without top backup Jaylen Warren, the Steelers still managed to grind out 172 yards on the ground.
This doesn't mean that the Steelers are a good team—they are not. The offense continues to be inconsistent, although that's to be expected with a rookie quarterback calling the shots. The pass defense is an issue, entering Monday's action last in the AFC.
But the Steelers aren't really a terrible team, either. Of course, that may be as much a curse as it is a blessing. Bottoming out for one season (and earning a high pick) is typically more advantageous than winning six games three years in a row.
And six or seven wins is where this team is headed.
27. Los Angeles Rams (3-8)
Last Week: 26
Week 12 Result: Lost at Kansas City 26-10
The 2021 season was a dream for the Los Angeles Rams.
The 2022 campaign has been a nightmare.
That the Rams lost to the Kansas City Chiefs was hardly surprising—Los Angeles was without star receiver Cooper Kupp and quarterback Matthew Stafford, and head coach Sean McVay told reporters that the offense was hobbled under backup Bryce Perkins.
"It's hard to say that you're running anything that resembles anything close to your offense and what you envisioned it to be," McVay said. "There's a lot of challenges based on what guys know and their skill sets."
The question now is whether the Rams should just wave the white flag. At 3-8, the Rams are already on the short list to be the worst defending Super Bowl champion in NFL history. They are going to be the seventh defending champ to post a losing record. There will be no playoff trip.
Given those harsh realities, it's fair to ask whether an injured Matthew Stafford should just be shut down for the year. If the Rams are going to rebound from this mess in 2023, they will need a healthy Stafford.
The bigger problem may be the inability to add pieces around him. The Rams are projected to have less than $6 million in cap space next year, and the high draft pick the Rams will receive for this awful season belongs to the Lions.
26. Las Vegas Raiders (4-7)
Last Week: 29
Week 12 Result: Won at Seattle 40-34 (OT)
The 2022 season has been a massive disappointment for the Las Vegas Raiders. But for one week at least, they have something to smile about—and no one is grinning more widely than running back Josh Jacobs.
Despite entering the game with a questionable tag due to a calf injury, Jacobs had the best game of his career. In fact, he had the best game any Raiders running back ever has, setting franchise records in both rushing yards and scrimmage yards. The 24-year-old told reporters he was glad to be able to give the team a jolt.
"It's kind of crazy, coming in and not knowing if I was going to play, looking the guys in the eyes and telling them they're going to get everything they've got in me," Jacobs said.
For Moton, it’s a glimpse of what these Raiders could be. What some expected them to be in 2022.
"With back-to-back overtime wins," he said, "the Raiders have shown some fight. They’ll need to do a lot more for a significant move up the power rankings, but new head coach Josh McDaniels may have found the winning formula for this team with tight end Darren Waller (hamstring) and wideout Hunter Renfrow (oblique) on the sideline. In Week 12 against the Seahawks, running back Josh Jacobs racked up 303 yards from scrimmage and scored twice. He leads the NFL in rushing with a single-season career-high 1,159 yards. The Silver and Black can jumble the power rankings with a Week 13 win over the Los Angeles Chargers, who field one of the league’s worst run defenses. Perhaps the Raiders go on a late-season surge to provide tangible optimism for McDaniels’ second head coaching stint."
25. Indianapolis Colts (4-7-1)
Last Week: 23
Week 12 Result: Lost vs. Pittsburgh 24-17
Colts interim head coach Jeff Saturday coached high school, but he had never run a team at the collegiate or NFL level before a few weeks ago, and it showed in a big way on Monday night.
With a minute left and a full complement of timeouts, the Colts let precious seconds tick off the clock while lining up to run a play on a crucial third down in Steelers territory.
The clock stopped when Indy failed to convert on fourth down, but at that point, there were only 24 seconds left in the game. Any hope of getting the ball back was gone.
After the loss, Saturday deflected criticisms of his clock management while speaking to reporters.
"I thought we had plenty of time, I wasn't really concerned, we still had timeouts," Saturday said. "I wasn't too concerned. "I expected us to get on the ball and have another play a little quicker than that, but again, this wasn't a 'pressed for time,' we just didn't make enough plays."
To be fair, that gaffe wasn't the reason that Matt Ryan looked like the quarterback Frank Reich benched Monday night. It also wasn't the reason that Indy gave up over 170 yards on the ground.
But mediocre teams without a margin for error can't make mental mistakes and expect to win.
And whether he wants to admit it or not, Saturday made one against the Steelers.
24. New Orleans Saints (4-8)
Last Week: 21
Week 12 Result: Lost at San Francisco 13-0
It has been a long while since the New Orleans Saints were shut out—in fact, it hadn't happened since 2001.
Until Sunday, that is.
It's not like the Saints didn't have opportunities against the San Francisco 49ers. Twice in the second half, the Saints drove deep into San Francisco territory only to be turned away. Five times, the Saints made it inside the San Francisco 45-yard-line, only to come up short each time. After the loss, an exasperated Dennis Allen made no excuses about his team's Week 12 performance.
"We had some opportunities, and you're not going to beat a good team unless you make plays that are there to be made," the Saints coach said. "If you turn the football over, you're not going to beat a good team."
Now at 4-8 and in last place, any hope the Saints had on making the postseason is gone.
Or at least, it should be. The Saints play in the NFL's worst division, so while they are a bad team with no real shot at the playoffs, they are still mathematically alive.
But let's be real. This isn't a good team. And with no first-rounder in 2023 and the worst salary-cap situation in the NFL, it's not easy to see how things are going to get better.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7)
Last Week: 24
Week 12 Result: Won vs. Baltimore 28-27
For most of the past two seasons, the Jaguars have been waiting for Trevor Lawrence to arrive. Waiting for the first overall pick in the 2021 draft to show that he is well and truly the franchise quarterback the Jaguars hoped they were getting.
Lawrence's star status remains uncertain. But Sunday's comeback win over the AFC North-leading Ravens was arguably his best game as a pro. Lawrence completed 29 of 37 pass attempts for 321 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. His passer rating of 129.8 was a franchise record for a game with that many pass attempts.
Lawrence admitted to reporters that it felt really good to finally seal the deal in a big game.
"It feels good. I'm really, really proud of this group. I'm proud of myself. We've been through a lot here in the past two years and just battled through the adversity," Lawrence said. "It's a good feeling. We've been on the wrong side of these a lot. To win games like this, it's awesome. Nothing like it."
This victory isn't going to get the Jaguars in the playoffs. Or erase all the frustrations of losses past. But in sliding past the Ravens on a two-point conversion, the Jaguars showed something they haven't in a while.
They showed that they can win.
And that matters.
22. Green Bay Packers (4-8)
Last Week: 20
Week 12 Result: Lost at Philadelphia 40-33
Things just keep getting better and better for the Green Bay Packers.
After falling in Philadelphia, the Packers have eight losses in 2022 alone. This is a franchise that lost 10 games total over the past three seasons. A team that has won the NFC North each of the past three years. A team that hasn't lost 10 games in a season since 2008.
And now a team that could be without its MVP quarterback moving forward.
Aaron Rodgers was already banged up entering the game—the two-time defending MVP has an avulsion fracture in his right thumb. Now Rodgers has an oblique injury, leading many to speculate that he should be shut down at the back end of a lost season.
For his part, Rodgers told reporters that he wants to play as long as there's any hope of making the playoffs.
“As long as we’re mathematically alive, I’d like to be out there,” Rodgers said. “There’s obviously a lot of other conversations that come into play once you’re eliminated. I’ll be open to those conversations.”
It's the trickiest of situations. On one hand, the Packers need to see what they have in Jordan Love ahead of a decision on his fifth-year option. On the other, if Rodgers wants to play in Week 13 against the Bears and the Packers shut him down, they risk the relationship between player and team becoming acrimonious—again.
21. Detroit Lions (4-7)
Last Week: 22
Week 12 Result: Lost vs. Buffalo 28-25
There are no moral victories in the NFL. And fresh on the heels of a three-game winning streak, falling in last-second fashion to the Buffalo Bills was a reminder that the Detroit Lions still have a ways to go. However, head coach Dan Campbell told reporters that while the loss was frustrating, it also demonstrates that the franchise is headed in the right direction.
"I told them this one should sting," Campbell said. "We had a chance to win and we didn't make it, but I don't think this was a step backward. I'm frustrated, but we're getting better."
In fairness, the Lions gave the Bills all they could handle. Jared Goff played every bit as well as Josh Allen—if not better. Amon-Ra St. Brown had a huge game, hauling in nine passes for 122 yards and a touchdown. But Detroit's league-worst defense faltered once again, allowing Allen to drive the Bills into field-goal range in less than 30 seconds for the game-winning kick.
"The Lions aren't a good team," Davenport said. "But they have improved and are at least putting up a fight every week. Campbell has likely done enough to get a third season as the team's head coach, but the offseason has to be about fixing the defense. No NFL team is going to win consistently when allowing almost 415 yards of offense per game."
20. Cleveland Browns (4-7)
Last Week: 25
Week 12 Result: Won vs. Tampa Bay 23-17 (OT)
Sunday likely brought with it the end of the Jacoby Brissett era in Cleveland. In Week 13, Deshaun Watson will be eligible to play for the first time this season. And the Browns didn't give Watson a $230 million fully guaranteed contract to watch Brissett play.
But while Brissett's time as the Browns' starting quarterback may be over, the journeyman backup deserves considerable credit—not only for beating Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, but also for playing about as well as anyone could have reasonably expected.
After the comeback win, Brissett was all about thanking his teammates and the organization, both for helping get arguably Cleveland's biggest win of the year but also for the chance to see extended action under center again.
"I mean this in no disrespect," Brissett told reporters. "But in the words of Tom Brady, that was f--king awesome. That was f--king awesome. I'm obviously grateful for this opportunity and grateful for those men in that room. This was a great game to kind of end it on, but we have to stack them."
The Browns all but certainly aren't going to the playoffs this year. But Brissett has played a substantial role in what success Cleveland has had in 2022.
That should be recognized.
19. Arizona Cardinals (4-8)
Last Week: 19
Week 12 Result: Lost vs. Los Angeles Chargers 25-24
It's all far too familiar in Arizona.
The Cardinals show flashes of explosiveness. Glimpses of what they might be capable of. But they just can't put together a 60-minute effort and beat good teams. So instead, you get the seemingly weekly ritual of embattled head coach Kliff Kingsbury talking about this loss doesn't hurt any more than the last one and better times are ahead and insert platitudes here.
“You lose in this league, they’re all tough, week in and week out. Give them a lot of credit. They hung in there and that call at the end was big-time," Kingsbury told reporters after Sunday's last-second loss to the Chargers. "It’s all about trying to get better at this point. I still think our best football is in front of us.”
The biggest difference between 2022 and Kingsbury's first two years in the desert is that this year the Cardinals didn't wait until the end of the season to collapse. Arizona heads into the bye losers of four of five and six of eight. The Cardinals led for much of Sunday's game but just couldn't close the deal. Their last 11 plays on Sunday generated 16 yards.
The Cardinals are circling the drain. And unless they come out of the week off on fire, Kingsbury's days as head coach are numbered.
18. Atlanta Falcons (5-7)
Last Week: 18
Week 12 Result: Lost at Washington 19-13
Sunday was an opportunity missed for the Atlanta Falcons. With the first-place Buccaneers faltering in Cleveland, the Falcons had a chance to get back to .500 and take hold of first place in the NFC South.
Instead, the same thing happened that has so many times this season—the Falcons came up just short, with a potential game-winning drive ending in a Marcus Mariota interception. While speaking to reporters after the game, Mariota admitted that he and the Falcons have to stop letting games slip away.
"It is tough," Mariota said. "These games as you're progressing through the season get bigger and bigger. Unfortunately, we didn't pull this one out, but at the same time we've got to bounce back and get ready for Pittsburgh."
Sobleski believes that Atlanta's struggles are emblematic of the division as a whole—a division that the Falcons could still win.
"The NFC South is a disaster," he said. "All four teams are currently under .500, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers holding a half-game lead in the division thanks to their 5-6 record. The Falcons are still very much in the mix despite losing three of their last four contests. The schedule takes a favorable turn in the coming weeks with matchups against the Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints wrapped around Atlanta's bye. From there, the Baltimore Ravens are the only remaining opponent with a winning record. As long as Arthur Smith keeps his team playing physical, sound football, it is very much in the mix for a division title."
17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6)
Last Week: 13
Week 12 Result: Lost at Cleveland 23-17 (OT)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers entered their bye with a head of steam. They had peeled off back-to-back wins to get back to .500. Against a moribund Browns team in Week 12, Tampa could have strengthened its hold over the NFC South.
Well, the Buccaneers are still in first place in arguably the league's weakest division. But Tampa's offense once again struggled in an overtime loss, and the Bucs are once again below .500.
After the loss, a visibly frustrated Tom Brady made it clear to reporters that the Buccaneers offense just hasn't gotten it done this season.
"Seventeen points isn't going to do it," Brady said. "It's been the same thing all year. We're not scoring enough points. Every play is an individual win or loss, and we're losing too many. There were too many plays where we were not on the right page, and we've got to correct that."
"The reality is that the Buccaneers will probably win the NFC South, even with just eight wins," Davenport said. "But the notion that these Buccaneers can do any real damage in the playoffs gets harder to buy into by the week. The offense is inconsistent. The defense isn't what it was a couple of years ago. And even Brady isn't great enough to drag this team on a deep playoff run—not at 45 years old."
"We should forget about the Buccaneers as a team capable of stringing together victories on a post-Thanksgiving hot streak," Moton countered. "They could lose All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs for an extended period after he left last Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns on a cart with a leg injury. Furthermore, Tampa Bay’s run defense has had one too many leaks this season, giving up 151-plus yards in five out of 11 games. The unit allowed 189 rushing yards to the Browns in Week 12. Opponents with an effective run game and an aggressive pass rush will have success against the Buccaneers as Tampa Bay fights to keep the Atlanta Falcons (5-7) at bay in the NFC South."
16. Los Angeles Chargers (6-5)
Last Week: 15
Week 12 Result: Won at Arizona 25-24
If the Los Angeles Chargers work their way into the postseason, we'll look back on Week 12 as the turning point.
The Chargers trailed for much of Sunday's matchup and faced a seven-point deficit with less than two minutes to play. But quarterback Justin Herbert rallied the Bolts, leading them on a 38-yard touchdown drive before throwing a game-winning two-point conversion pass to tight end Gerald Everett.
After the late-game heroics, Chargers head coach Brandon Staley raved about his quarterback while speaking to reporters.
"That's what it's like when you're a quarterback in the NFL," Staley said. "You're not going to make every two-minute drive, but the thing he has going for him is that our entire organization believes he's going to make it. He brought us back. Game ball for him. Big-time performance. We couldn't have won without him."
"The Chargers certainly aren't without issues," Davenport wrote. "The run defense continues to struggle mightily, allowing 181 yards on the ground against the Redbirds. The Chargers also managed just 65 yards of their own on the ground. But Herbert and the Chargers found a way to win a game they needed to avoid falling any farther behind in the postseason race. Now comes a rematch with the rival Raiders, followed by home dates with the first-place Titans and Dolphins. Herbert's going to have to keep up the high-end play over the stretch—because the Chargers need at least two wins in those three games to stay in the hunt."
15. Seattle Seahawks (6-5)
Last Week: 11
Week 12 Result: Lost vs. Las Vegas 40-34 (OT)
For most of the season, the Seattle Seahawks were one of the better stories in the NFL. Quarterback Geno Smith is having the best year of his career. The Seattle defense struggled early on but stiffened. Nine games in, the Seahawks were 6-3 and in first place in the NFC West.
But after falling to Tampa Bay in Munich heading into their bye week, the Seahawks got shredded by the Raiders to the tune of 40 points and a staggering 576 yards of offense.
Both Tampa and Las Vegas pounded away at Seattle's soft run defense. After the loss to the Raiders, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll admitted to reporters that the team was outmuscled in the trenches.
“What’s different in the last two games, they stayed in regular personnel, used the fullback. More unique than other games we played.,” Carroll said. “That was a problem for us again. “It’s old-style ball. There’s nothing new about that, at all. It’s just that it’s different and we didn’t adjust to it in either of the last two weeks.”
Seattle should have a chance to get back on track over the next two weeks against the Los Angeles Rams and Carolina Panthers before a tough stretch run. But given Carolina's affinity for running the ball, even that game might not be a cakewalk.
14. New England Patriots (6-5)
Last Week: 14
Week 12 Result: Lost at Minnesota 33-26
The New England Patriots had an opportunity to make a statement in Week 12. If they went on the road and beat a two-loss Vikings team, they would have to be taken seriously as a player in the AFC East.
Instead, the Patriots came up short—largely because they couldn't get out of their own way.
A number of plays could have potentially swung the game in New England's favor, including a touchdown catch by tight end Hunter Henry that was overturned on review. But after the loss, quarterback Mac Jones told reporters that New England sealed its own fate with miscues and poor execution.
"We have to move on from that [overturned] play and play the rest of the game. There was plenty of time left," Jones said. "There were other times we could have punched it in and that wouldn't have been an issue. One call can't determine the outcome. We have to be able to do better, so it's not even close."
Jones can't be blamed for the loss after he threw for a career-high 382 yards. But New England's usually stout defense was carved up by a Vikings team that went 8-of-15 on third down.
Thursday's home date with the Buffalo Bills has now taken on something of a must-win vibe.
13. Washington Commanders (7-5)
Last Week: 17
Week 12 Result: Won vs. Atlanta 19-13
Where there's a will, there's a Washington.
After surviving against the Atlanta Falcons in the nation's capital, the Commanders have done more than just win six of their last seven games. They're now two games above .500 for the first time since 2018. The Commanders are also a half-game up on the Seattle Seahawks for the seventh and final playoff spot in the NFC.
As has been the case so many times during this winning streak, there was a different hero in Sunday's win. In Week 12, it was rookie running back Brian Robinson Jr., who logged 18 carries for a career-high 105 yards.
After the victory, Robinson credited the players in front of him for opening rushing lanes.
"Today was a good day on the ground," Robinson said. "Probably because of the wet ball, we handed the ball off a lot more. I felt like the offensive line did a great job getting movement up front, moving on to the second level and just allowing me to get up on 'backers and finish."
However, Sobleski believes the young bruiser deserves some credit, too.
"The Commanders have quietly become ultra-competitive on the field," he said. "Even though they're still in last place in the loaded NFC East, a postseason berth is very much in play. Robinson's emergence as the lead back has been particularly gratifying considering he was shot twice in the leg during an attempted robbery in August."
12. New York Giants (7-4)
Last Week: 12
Week 12 Result: Lost at Dallas 28-20
For most of the 2022 season, the Giants have been one of the NFL's feel-good stories. In Brian Daboll's first year as head coach, they outperformed expectations and then sone.
However, after falling in Dallas on Thanksgiving, the Giants have dropped two in a row. And the whispers about this team's shortcomings are growing louder.
The Giants managed only 300 yards of offense against the stout Dallas defense. Star running back Saquon Barkley was shut down, finishing with only 11 carries for 39 yards. And without Barkley to lean on, New York's passing-game shortcomings were laid bare for all to see.
New York struggled against the run for the second straight game, allowing almost 170 rushing yards. The Cowboys amassed 430 yards of offense and went 7-of-11 on third down.
Despite a second straight setback, Giants quarterback Daniel Jones expressed confidence that this team remains capable of accomplishing big things this season.
"It's a divisional game and we didn't play our best. That's always disappointing," Jones told reporters. "We've got a really good opportunity with big games down the stretch. We've put ourselves in a good position. We're still confident."
The Giants still have a good shot at making the playoffs. But making noise once they get there is becoming another matter altogether.
"The Giants have a narrow pathway to win games," Moton cautioned. "They must play a nearly mistake-free contest, and Barkley has to find some daylight on the ground or as a pass-catcher in space. Big Blue doesn’t have the offensive firepower to beat opponents in scoring shootouts, and a fluky turnover or two could put the club in a deep hole.
"Jones has one reliable perimeter pass-catching option in wideout Darius Slayton. Over the last two weeks, Barkley has rushed for only 61 yards and a touchdown and caught six passes for just 26 yards. If he continues to struggle, the Giants won’t be able to put a stop to their two-game skid anytime soon."
11. New York Jets (7-4)
Last Week: 16
Week 12 Result: Won vs. Chicago 31-10
The New York Jets may have found a quarterback—and that could make all the difference in the world.
After 10 games mostly spent trying to win despite the play of their quarterback, the Jets blew out the Chicago Bears on Sunday largely because of Mike White, who made his first start of the season.
White was essentially flawless—he missed on just six of 28 attempts, throwing for 315 yards and three touchdowns. Head coach Robert Saleh lauded his ability to play within himself while speaking to reporters.
"He didn't need to be anybody but Mike White," he said. "He didn't need to turn it into 'The Greatest Show on Turf.' ... He made the easy look easy, and I thought he did a really good job with that."
For his part, White credited the defense, which held the Bears under 300 yards.
"Today was a complete team win," White said. "Our defense did what they always do and they dominated."
It was a demonstration of just how good this team can be. And with trips to Minnesota and Buffalo in the next two weeks, it couldn't have come at a better time.
"The Mike White show is off to a great start," Moton said. "He unlocked playmakers in Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore, who had no idea what to do when he scored a touchdown. Gang Green has a playoff-caliber defense, and White gives them balance with his ability to push the ball downfield. If the Jets can stack wins with a revitalized aerial attack, Zach Wilson will likely have to watch White from the sideline for the remainder of the season. For the second-year signal-caller, that'd be a tough pill to swallow. But New York must play its best quarterback to keep its playoff hopes alive."
10. Tennessee Titans (7-4)
Last Week: 8
Week 12 Result: Lost vs. Cincinnati 20-16
The Tennessee Titans are probably sick and tired of seeing the Bengals in Nashville—or anywhere else, for that matter. Just as they did in the divisional round last year, the Bengals on Sunday rolled into Nissan Stadium and beat the Titans. It was Cincinnati's third consecutive victory over Tennessee and fifth in six meetings.
The Titans never got their running game untracked. Derrick Henry did pile up 117 total yards, but 69 of those came on one reception. And after being held to just 2.2 yards per carry, Henry told reporters the Bengals won the battle in the trenches.
"We just couldn't get nothing started in the run game, and I mean they executed," Henry said. "They played better than we did."
On one hand, the loss isn't a huge deal for the Titans—they have a comfortable lead in the AFC South and have already swept the season series with the second-place Colts. Barring one of the most epic collapses in league history, Tennessee will win the division for the third straight season and make the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.
But Sunday's loss made the Titans 1-4 against winning teams, including 0-3 against three of the AFC's other contenders. With a trip to 10-1 Philadelphia next up, Tennessee needs to show it can do more than beat up on bottom feeders.
Because right now, this team looks like it's headed for a third straight one-and-done playoff trip.
9. Baltimore Ravens (7-4)
Last Week: 7
Week 12 Result: Lost at Jacksonville 28-27
The Baltimore Ravens have aspirations of making it all the way to Super Bowl LVII.
To realize those aspirations, though, the Ravens can't lose games like this. They can't blow fourth-quarter leads against bad teams. Can't allow well over 300 passing yards to Trevor Lawrence.
The loss led at least one angry fan to criticize quarterback Lamar Jackson on Twitter—and Jackson responded with a vulgar tweet he later deleted. But as Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports noted, Jackson's alleged fourth-quarter struggles are largely overblown.
"Jackson's fourth-quarter stats are nothing to write home about, as he's 41-of-64 for 502 yards with two touchdowns to four interceptions with a 72.5 passer rating," he wrote. "In Sunday's loss to the Jaguars, Jackson completed three of his five passes for 86 yards with a touchdown and a 143.8 passer rating to go along with two carries for 14 yards. His performance Sunday wasn't the reason the Ravens collapsed—that's on the defense."
By virtue of Baltimore's Week 5 win over Cincinnati, the Ravens are still in first place in the AFC North. And they have a soft schedule with just one more game against a winning team.
But the contest against the Jaguars was supposed to be part of that soft schedule—and we see how that turned out.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4)
Last Week: 10
Week 12 Result: Won at Tennessee 20-16
The Cincinnati Bengals were short-handed for Sunday's meeting with the red-hot Titans. Cincinnati was without starting running back Joe Mixon and No. 1 wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase.
But thanks to a 7/114/1 stat line from Tee Higgins and 93 total yards and a touchdown from reserve tailback Samaje Perine, the Bengals squeaked past the Titans. And thanks to Jacksonville's upset win against Baltimore, the AFC North is a new ballgame.
While talking to the media after the game, quarterback Joe Burrow applauded his team's perseverance in the face of adversity.
"This is the kind of game that great teams win," Burrow said. "It's not always going to be pretty. This is the NFL. You're playing really, really good teams on the opposing end. You've got to find ways to win, and we're starting to do that."
Sobleski said: "The swag is back in Cincinnati. Even without Chase (hip), the Bengals have won three in a row and five of six. More importantly, they didn't beat up an inferior team. They found a way to win against AFC South-leading Tennessee. The eventual return of Chase and Mixon (concussion) will make Cincinnati one of the league's most dangerous teams down the stretch."
7. San Francisco 49ers (7-4)
Last Week: 9
Week 12 Result: Won vs. New Orleans 13-0
The San Francisco 49ers are rolling.
On a day when the offense wasn't exactly on fire and running back Elijah Mitchell went down with another knee injury, the defense came up big, allowing just 260 yards, forcing two turnovers and logging the franchise's first shutout since 2019.
That included a pair of second-half goal-line stands, and star linebacker Fred Warner told reporters that the defense was on a mission.
"This one was really special because the way we had to get it," Warner said. "It's not like they were just behind the 50-yard line all game. They were right there sniffing the goal line multiple times. Time kind of slows down in those moments where you're looking teammates in the eyes and saying, 'We have to pull this off.' These are the ones you remember forever."
Davenport, however, noted injuries are becoming a concern for the Niners.
"Wide receiver Deebo Samuel has a bad hamstring, and now Mitchell is set for another multiweek absence," he said. "But the defense hasn't allowed a point in more than 94 minutes of game action and has gone four straight games without allowing a second-half point. With the Seahawks coming back to earth, the Cardinals continuing to struggle and the Rams in a free fall, the 49ers are clearly the team to beat in the NFC West."
Moton added: "They can win in so many ways. Last week, they blew out the Cardinals 38-10. While the 49ers don't provide offensive fireworks every week–even with notable playmakers such as Samuel, Christian McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle—they can certainly keep pace with high-scoring teams because of their talent on offense and a top-tier defense that can slow down the opponent's attack."
6. Minnesota Vikings (9-2)
Last Week: 5
Week 12 Result: Won vs. New England 33-26
There wasn't a team in the league in bigger need of a bounce-back performance in Week 12 than the Minnesota Vikings. In Week 11, the Vikings were embarrassed at home by the Cowboys in the franchise's second-worst home loss in six decades. On Thanksgiving night, Minnesota faced another playoff contender in the Patriots.
The Vikings got that rebound victory—and Kirk Cousins exorcised a few primetime demons in the process.
Long excoriated for his performances on big stages, Cousins was sharp against an excellent defense, throwing for 299 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. After the win, Cousins made a point to thank his teammates and head coach Kevin O'Connell for placing him in position to succeed.
"Kevin has empowered me so much. This team has empowered me so much," Cousins said. "At times, it almost brings me to tears the way these guys support me."
After what was undoubtedly Minnesota's worst loss of the season, the Vikings responded with a big win on a short week against a quality opponent.
It didn't eliminate the doubts about the team's viability as a Super Bowl contender. But it was a step in the right direction, and now the Vikes have had extra time to prepare for another challenging matchup against the Jets.
5. Dallas Cowboys (8-3)
Last Week: 6
Week 12 Result: Won vs. New York Giants 28-20
In many respects, the Dallas Cowboys have been rolling for weeks. If they have had a weak spot of late, it was run defense. That cost them a victory in Green Bay a few weeks ago.
Against the Giants on Thursday, that run defense clamped down on Saquon Barkley in the most-watched regular-season game in NFL history. And as star linebacker Micah Parsons told reporters after a rivalry win that wasn't as close as the score, when the Cowboys play like that, they are hard to beat.
"I thought we did pretty good," Parsons said. "[Barkley] might have had one, maybe two explosive runs. But, for the most part, we contained him and made sure everything was short. They passed way more than we expected. I think we did a pretty good job for the way he's been playing this year."
To Parsons' point, the Cowboys limited the NFC's leading rusher to just 39 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. And in one analyst's opinion, a team that can stop the run has to be considered the primary challenger to the Eagles in the NFC.
"Dallas will have a hard time catching Philly in the NFC East," Davenport said. "But the Cowboys are every bit as dangerous. The two-headed ground game is humming. That's opening up the vertical passing game. The pass rush is the best in the league. This team is good enough to make Jerry Jones a very happy man—by getting him a fourth Super Bowl win."
4. Buffalo Bills (8-3)
Last Week: 4
Week 12 Result: Won at Detroit 28-25
The Buffalo Bills are back in first place in the AFC East after outlasting the Lions in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day. But that victory may have come at a high price.
Veteran edge-rusher Von Miller was carted to the locker room with a right knee injury. Per Alaina Getzenberg of ESPN, Miller didn't tear his ACL, but the severity of the injury has yet to be determined, and head coach Sean McDermott has already ruled Miller out for Week 13.
Losing Miller for any amount of time would be a big blow to a team already thin on the edge. Miller ranks third in the league in pressures behind Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons and Patriots edge-rusher Matthew Judon, per Getzenberg. No other Bills player has more than 12 pressures. Buffalo's next three games are intradivision, and the Bills are 0-2 in the AFC East.
McDermott said the team will just have to find a way.
"[Miller's] a future Hall of Famer for a reason," he said. "That said, we've got to move forward this week. And the person or the people responsible to step in and step up have got to do the job, and that's the way it goes."
3. Miami Dolphins (8-3)
Last Week: 3
Week 12 Result: Won vs. Houston 30-15
In some respects, last week's bye came at a bad time for the Miami Dolphins. They were as hot as any team in the league, and sure enough there was some rust Sunday against the Texans.
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa told reporters that Miami left plays on the field.
"We could have finished a lot of drives better ... but that's always tough when your team is hot and then you go into a bye week," Tagovailoa said. "You try to come back on a week like this to find whatever that feeling was that you guys had with that momentum."
Of course, Tagovailoa said that after he was pulled in the third quarter when the Dolphins had built a 30-0 lead.
The win, however, may have come at a sizable cost. Thre-time Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead left in the second quarter with a pectoral injury and did not return. He reportedly avoided major injury, but the Miami offensive line looked very different once he left—and not in a good way.
Given that the expectations for these Dolphins grow with every win, losing their best offensive lineman for any period of time would be a huge loss.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (10-1)
Last Week: 2
Week 12 Result: Won vs. Green Bay 40-33
The Philadelphia Eagles have a long history of mobile quarterbacks, whether it was Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb or Michael Vick. But on Sunday night, Jalen Hurts became the best the Eagles have had—at least in one category.
Against the Packers, Hurts set a franchise record for rushing yards by a quarterback, racking up 157 in a win that kept Philadelphia well out in front in the NFC East. After the record-setting performance, Hurts gave thanks to all the greats who came before him.
"I have a ton of respect for them and their support," Hurts said. "They don't even know how they've affected me, impacted me in my time here. It's an understatement to say how I appreciate them, because I do. They guided me in more ways than they even know."
The win, however, said less about Eagles history than their future—and their dominance at the point of attack.
"Philadelphia is the league's most dangerous team for the least sexiest reason ever," Sobleski said. "The Eagles are dominant in the trenches. Their offensive line is the best in the game. They control the point of attack, pass block at a high level and have the talent to excel in numerous blocking schemes. Granted, a mobile Hurts helps. Yet their 363 rushing yards against the Packers were staggering, even for an elite rushing attack.
"On the other side of the ball, the Philadelphia defensive line took a hit when first-round tackle Jordan Davis (ankle) went on injured reserve. But the group hasn't missed a beat after bringing in veterans Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh."
1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2)
Last Week: 1
Week 12 Result: Won vs. Los Angeles Rams 26-10
It appeared that the Kansas City Chiefs rolled to victory against the overmatched Rams. But while speaking to reporters, head coach Andy Reid made it clear he wasn't especially pleased with his team's execution.
"Got to do a little better in the red zone. That's a place where we're normally pretty good," Reid said. "We were off a tick tonight. We'll get back to the drawing board and take care of that."
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw for 320 yards, but he also said he makes "one dumb play ... every game."
So it goes for Kansas City. Its standard is just higher. One touchdown pass and a passer rating of 85.4 wasn't good enough for Mahomes. One touchdown in six trips to the red zone wasn't good enough for Reid. Less than four yards per carry on the ground almost assuredly wasn't acceptable.
Those shortcomings mattered not against a bad team. But the Chiefs will have to do better next week against the Bengals in Cincinnati. After that, Kansas City will have a five-game stretch with just one matchup against a winning team to prepare for the playoffs. To smooth out the rough spots and iron out the kinks.
Because anything less than a win in Super Bowl LVII won't be acceptable, either.