NFL Power Rankings: B/R's Expert Consensus Rank for Every Team Entering Week 14
After 13 weeks of the 2020 regular season, the NFL playoff picture is starting to become both clearer and cloudier at the same time.
The New Orleans Saints and defending champion Kansas City Chiefs both punched their ticket to the postseason with their victories this week. But elsewhere in the bracket, there were shakeups galore.
The Los Angeles Rams slid into first place in the NFC West after the New York Giants upset the Seahawks in Seattle. Tennessee's loss in Cleveland (and a Colts win over the Houston Texans) created a logjam atop the AFC South. And an overtime win by the Minnesota Vikings (and Arizona's loss to the Rams) vaulted the Vikings past the Redbirds into the seventh seed in the NFC.
Never mind the Monday night stunner that knocked the Pittsburgh Steelers from the ranks of the unbeaten.
As has been the case every week this season, Bleacher Report NFL analysts Brent Sobleski, Brad Gagnon and Gary Davenport have gathered to sort through the week that was and slot the league's teams from worst to first.
The winless Jets are still bringing up the rear. The champion Chiefs are still No. 1. But there was plenty of movement in between, including a team just outside the top five that has spent most of the past two decades as a tomato can.
32. New York Jets (0-12)
Last Week: 32
Week 13 Result: Lost 31-28 vs. Las Vegas
Week 13 was an object lesson in one of the starker realities of the NFL in 2020.
No one, and I mean no one, out-Jets the New York Jets.
The defensive gaffe that allowed Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr to hit Henry Ruggs for a deep touchdown in the waning seconds of Sunday's game was a new low point in a season for Gang Green that has been a festival of nadirs.
The all-out blitz that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams called on that play also got Williams fired on Monday.
It was an absolute soul-crusher of a loss. The Jets had played maybe their best game of the season. The game was won. Not only was New York going to get a victory, but they were going to get a win over a team with a winning record.
Then J-E-T-S Jets Jets oh dear God what are they doing?
If there's a silver lining, at least the Jets are still in line to earn the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft,
Because from a glance at the schedule, that may have been New York's best chance to get a win in 2020.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-11)
Last Week: 31
Week 13 Result: Lost 27-24 at Minnesota (OT)
On some level, Sunday's overtime loss might have been the best-case scenario for the Jaguars in Week 13. They fought hard, but they didn't screw up their shot at one of the top quarterback prospects in next year's draft.
However, head coach Doug Marrone told reporters that the Jaguars are tired of losing after dropping their 11th straight game.
"I think it's hard for people that aren't part of it, that aren't going through it, to really understand what happens with these players and these coaches. As long as you keep having these opportunities to compete, the competitiveness that's in you is something that keeps you going or else you're not going to be in this league."
That last part could be ominously prescient. After this catastrophe of a season, there are bound to be major changes. General manager Dave Caldwell has already been fired. Marrone will likely follow after the season.
And then a total rebuild will begin in Jacksonville anew.
30. Cincinnati Bengals (2-9-1)
Last Week: 30
Week 13 Result: Lost 19-7 at Miami
By virtue of Sunday's loss in Miami, the Cincinnati Bengals are officially eliminated from postseason contention.
In reality, the Bengals were eliminated the moment Joe Burrow went down with a season-ending knee injury.
The loss was Cincinnati's fourth straight since the bye week and seventh in eight games. After the game, head coach Zac Taylor admitted that the team's frustration level has increased in recent weeks.
"I mean, the work that we put in and the way we feel when we walk on the field, to start the game, and really quite frankly the way we walked into halftime the last two weeks," Taylor said. "Just it's frustrating when these games, you don't pull them out at the end. It's very frustrating."
The fanbase's frustration level is likely increasing right along with the team. There were teases of progress with Burrow under center, but the Bengals still have only two wins. And given how they've played over the last month, it's getting difficult to envision where they'll get win No. 3.
29. Dallas Cowboys (3-9)
Last Week: 28
Week 13 Result: Lost at Baltimore 34-17
Can we talk about how bad the Dallas defense is?
Heading into Week 13, the Cowboys were allowing a league-high 156.4 yards per game. Against the Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday, that was wishful thinking. The Ravens flirted with 300 rushing yards and averaged an outrageous 7.9 yards per carry.
There's been plenty written about how much the Dak Prescott injury wrecked the 2020 Cowboys. How the injuries along the offensive line contributed to the complete collapse that has occurred ever since.
The coldest of truths is this Dallas team would have been hard-pressed to hit 10 wins even with Prescott and a healthy line in front of him. Dallas is still a top-10 offense (in terms of yardage entering Tuesday's game) with a patchwork line and Andy Dalton under center.
The defense is an abject disaster, and it's why the Cowboys are the last-place team in the NFC (L)East.
28. Los Angeles Chargers (3-9)
Last Week: 25
Week 13 Result: Lost 45-0 vs. New England
For much of the 2020 season, the Chargers have been finding new and inventive ways to lose close games. But they apparently decided that had gotten boring, so they decided to get absolutely blasted instead.
Just about everything that could go wrong did Sunday against the Pats. The offense managed only 258 total yards and turned it over twice. The defense allowed 165 yards on the ground. New England scored twice on special teams, including a blocked field goal at the end of the first half that just about summed up the 2020 Chargers.
As the losses pile up, the future of head coach Anthony Lynn has become a hot topic. But Lynn told reporters after the game that he isn't wasting time worrying about his job prospects beyond this year.
"That's out of my control, my job status. But I talk to Dean (Spanos) all the time," he said. "It's my job to get this team back on track and if I'm here I will."
That's all well and good, but given how the season has imploded in L.A., Lynn isn't likely to return as the Chargers head coach next year.
"Special teams are never a major talking point, unless you're discussing the Chargers," Sobleski said. "Why? Los Angeles currently has one of the worst-performing units the league has ever seen. According to Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz, the Chargers special teams' DVOA through 13 weeks is worse than any team on record since at least 1985. Justin Herbert and Joey Bosa are exciting pieces to build around, but the Chargers aren't a well-coached squad, and it shows."
27. Philadelphia Eagles (3-8-1)
Last Week: 26
Week 13 Result: Lost at Green Bay 30-16
Well, there won't be any shortage of things to talk about on the radio in Philly this week.
After yet another miserable performance, the Eagles made a switch at quarterback Sunday in Green Bay. And given how Jalen Hurts played in relief of Carson Worstz (Wentz, whatever), it's time for a full-blown quarterback controversy in the City of Brotherly Love.
"Maybe Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta were right years ago when the Cleveland Browns passed on the opportunity to select Wentz with the second overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft because they didn't view him as a future top-20 quarterback," Sobleski wrote. "Coming out of Sunday's loss, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson wouldn't name a starter for next week's game against the New Orleans Saints. Things could get worse in Philadelphia before they get better."
Things are most assuredly going to get worse before they get better, especially if the Eagles do decide to start Hurts. At that point, they would be saddled with a massive distraction in the form of the NFL's most expensive backup quarterback.
Moving on from Wentz would result in a dead cap charge of almost $60 million in 2021 and nearly $25 million the following season.
26. Chicago Bears (5-7)
Last Week: 21
Week 13 Result: Lost 34-30 vs. Detroit
Matt Nagy's days in Chicago are numbered.
Frankly, Nagy's fate was probably sealed before Sunday's sixth consecutive defeat. There were already calls for the team's beleaguered head coach to be let go. After the Lions came back to down the Bears and send them into a tie for the NFC North basement, those calls have gotten that much louder.
But Chicago's problems go well past the head coach.
The Bears won't have a top-five pick to spend on a quarterback like the Jets and Jaguars. Nor do they already have a quarterback in place like the Texans and Chargers. When you stack them up against the other teams that already have (or likely will have) head coaching vacancies in 2021, the Bears are not at the top of the list.
They're also projected to have hardly any cap space in 2021.
"Fans hoping for a quick turnaround in Chicago are more likely to realize the franchise hasn't bottomed out yet," Davenport said. "The quarterback situation is a mess. So is the offense as a whole. The defense is good but in decline. And the team doesn't have the cap room or draft capital to spur a quick 180. Of all the head coaching jobs likely to be available next year, this might be the worst one. That's a damning statement for a team with as much history as Chicago."
"I'd just like to take this opportunity to ask where all the Bears fans went," Gagnon added. "They were out in full force with their digital pitchforks when we called their team overrated at 5-1. Now, they're suddenly MIA during a six-game losing streak. I'm having fun with you, Bears fans. I love your passion, and I invite you to keep calling us out when we're wrong. Chicago is solid but not spectacular defensively and a joke offensively. I wouldn't be shocked if the Bears finished this season on a 10-game losing streak."
25. Denver Broncos (4-8)
Last Week: 27
Week 13 Result: Lost at Kansas City 22-16
It's been a long time since the Denver Broncos defeated the Kansas City Chiefs. And while that didn't change in Sunday night's nailbiter, the Broncos at least were able to hang with the big, bad bullies of the AFC West.
However, Broncos quarterback Drew Lock wasn't in the mood to hear about moral victories afterward.
"We did play them closer than we have before," Lock told reporters. "But what does that get you? Nothing."
Lock didn't exactly light the Chiefs up, finishing 15-of-28 for 151 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He's followed up last year's 4-1 with arguably the worst numbers of any starting quarterback in the league.
With four games left in the 2020 season, it looks like Broncos general manager John Elway will be handling an all-too-familiar task again in the 2021 offseason: trying to find Denver a long-term answer under center.
24. Detroit Lions (5-7)
Last Week: 29
Week 13 Result: Won 34-30 at Chicago
It's a tale as old as the NFL.
Team plays poorly. Team fires head coach. Team plays better under interim coach.
The latest chapter of that story played out Sunday in the Windy City, where the Detroit Lions upset the Chicago Bears in Darrell Bevell's first game in charge after Matt Patricia was fired.
The Detroit offense played perhaps its best game of the season, gashing a solid Bears defense for 460 yards. The defense was far from perfect, but the Lions made plays when they had to.
"My emotions right now, I can't even think straight," Bevell told reporters after the game. "I'm just trying to wrap my head around this whole thing, what just happened. Like I said, it was a great job by these guys of believing from the moment we started until the end."
The playoffs are a pipe dream for these Lions, and even a .500 season would take three wins over the final four weeks. But at least they showed some fight Sunday while playing shorthanded on offense.
Detroit will now head into the final month of the season with a bit of positive momentum.
23. Atlanta Falcons (4-8)
Last Week: 23
Week 13 Result: Lost 21-16 vs. New Orleans
Ahead of Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan told reporters there's growing support in the Atlanta locker room for the idea of removing the "interim" part from the title of interim head coach Raheem Morris.
"We all support him. I mean, there's no doubt about it. He's been with us; [he's] in his sixth year with our organization. Coached on both sides [of the ball]. So he's got a tremendous amount of respect from everybody in our locker room. We think he's a great coach and he's done a great job the last six weeks."
The Falcons didn't get the win against New Orleans, but it's hard to argue that they haven't played better since they fired Dan Quinn. In seven games at the helm in Atlanta, Morris is 4-3, which is four more wins than Quinn had this season.
However, it won't be easy for Morris to stay above .500 the rest of the way. The Falcons still have two meetings this year with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sandwiched around a Week 16 visit to Kansas City.
22. Houston Texans (4-8)
Last Week: 19
Week 13 Result: Lost 26-20 vs. Indianapolis
The Houston Texans' entire 2020 season can be summed up by one play in Sunday's loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
With less than two minutes remaining in the game, the Texans had driven inside the Colts' 5-yard line. An upset win and fourth victory in five games was within reach.
That is, until a terrible shotgun snap squirted across the ground and the Colts recovered. Just like that, any chance the Texans had for a third straight winning season was gone.
It's 2020 in a nutshell for the Texans: disappointment meets unforced error.
The Texans will have a second chance to play spoiler against their rivals in a few weeks, but that's essentially all that's left for them at this point.
Then comes an offseason filled with looming questions, not the least of which is who will run the Texans both on the field and in the front office in 2021.
21. San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 20
Week 13 Result: Lost vs. Buffalo 34-24
The 2020 season has been a waking nightmare for the defending NFC champions. With Monday's loss to the Buffalo Bills, the San Francisco/Arizona 49ers dropped to 5-7. Barring reversals of fortune all over the conference, the Niners aren't making the playoffs this season.
There have been a staggering level of injuries to key players on both sides of the ball. The 49ers had to move the entire team to Arizona as the result of COVID-19 restrictions in Santa Clara. The team has faced a staggering amount of adversity—and frankly the fact that San Fran has five wins speaks to the team's toughness and Kyle Shanahan's coaching.
"I say this with absolute seriousness," Davenport said. "The best thing that could happen to this team is a losing streak that carries right on through to January. Get that top-15 pick that 5-11 record will elicit, draft an impact player next April, come back healthy in 2021 and put this miserable season in the rearview mirror."
20. Carolina Panthers (4-8)
Last Week: 18
Week 13 Result: Bye Week
After losing six of their past seven games, the Carolina Panthers are a 4-8 team playing out the string. As a result, some believe they should just shut down star running back Christian McCaffrey, who has missed most of the season with ankle and shoulder injuries.
However, McCaffrey is expected to return Sunday against the Denver Broncos, according to ESPN's David Newton.
"He's a top-five NFL player," head coach Matt Rhule told reporters last week. "With your best players, you feel great about your chances of winning. ... You add Christian to the mix, he's a fantastic player, he brings a lot to the table, he creates matchups, he allows you to be creative."
There's no question that McCaffrey will make the Panthers a more dangerous spoiler down the stretch. They're averaging 3.6 more points per game, 5.2 more first downs, 82.4 more yards from scrimmage and 0.9 more touchdowns with him, per Newton.
Those numbers make a difference, especially considering Carolina has lost four games by four points or fewer.
19. Minnesota Vikings (6-6)
Last Week: 16
Week 13 Result: Won 27-24 vs. Jacksonville (OT)
When the Minnesota Vikings lost five of their first six games, any hopes they had of making the playoffs appeared to vanish.
However, the Vikings are 5-1 since then, and Sunday's overtime win over the Jacksonville Jaguars (coupled with Arizona's loss) moved them into the seventh and final playoff spot in the NFC.
Although the Vikings won Sunday, it was the second week in a row that they had to come back against a lesser opponent. After the game, head coach Mike Zimmer wasn't pleased about that fact.
"The whole football team needs to get better," he told reporters. "... I know (players) understand, and I continue to preach it, that we have to stop doing these things (or) it's going to cost us games down the road."
"I just can't buy the Vikings as any kind of real contender in the NFC," Davenport said. "Not after sloppy wins over Carolina and Jacksonville. Not with the 27th-ranked scoring defense entering Week 13. And not with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints still on the schedule."
"Don't be fooled by the Vikings," Gagnon agreed. "Yes, they're technically tied for the last playoff spot right now, but Minnesota just outscored the Cowboys, Panthers and Jaguars—who have a combined eight wins this season—by a grand total of one point during a three-game homestand. Look for the Buccaneers and Saints to put them back in their place down the stretch."
18. Washington Football Team (5-7)
Last Week: 24
Week 13 Result: Won at Pittsburgh 23-17
As it turns out, maybe the NFC East isn't quite as terrible as we thought.
One day after the New York Giants stunned the Seahawks in Seattle, the Washington Football Team pulled off an even bigger upset, knocking off the undefeated Steelers in Pittsburgh.
It was a win made all the more unlikely by the fact that rookie running back Antonio Gibson left the game early, and wide receiver Terry McLaurin was a non-factor.
Instead of Gibson, it was J.D. McKissic who stepped up in the backfield, reeling in a career-best 10 passes for 70 yards. With McLaurin quiet, tight end Logan Thomas went off, hauling in nine passes for 98 yards and a score.
The Washington defense played a huge part as well, limiting the Steelers to 21 rushing yards on 14 carries, pressuring Ben Roethlisberger with regularity and securing the interception that sealed the game.
Washington still faces an uphill climb since the Giants own the head-to-head tiebreaker and the WFT has two straight coming up against the NFC West.
But it was still an impressive win for a Washington squad that has shown a lot of toughness in 2020.
17. New England Patriots (6-6)
Last Week: 17
Week 13 Result: Won 45-0 at Los Angeles Chargers
When the New England Patriots lost by three points at Buffalo in Week 8, they were 2-5 and headed nowhere fast. But after destroying the Chargers in Los Angeles in Week 13, the Patriots have peeled off four wins in five games to get back to .500 and keep their postseason hopes alive.
The victory was easily New England's most dominant of the season. The Patriots piled up two special teams touchdowns—one on a punt return, and the other on a return of a blocked field goal just before the half. The Patriots also locked down Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, holding the rookie to only 209 passing yards and picking him off twice.
Making a 12th straight trip to the playoffs will still be quite the uphill climb. The Pats are two games off the pace for a postseason berth, and starting with this week's road tilt with the Rams, three of their last four games come against teams with winning records.
But with a month left in the regular season, the Patriots at least have a pulse. That's something few would have predicted after that Nov. 1 game in Western New York.
"The Patriots aren't a good team, but bad teams can do damage if they're well-coached and experienced like New England," Gagnon said. "And we saw that Sunday when Bill Belichick's squad put together the most lopsided win the NFL has seen in more than a half-decade on the road against a talented Chargers team. If they can sneak into the playoffs, I wouldn't want to see 'em."
16. Arizona Cardinals (6-6)
Last Week: 14
Week 13 Result: Lost 38-28 vs. Los Angeles Rams
The Arizona Cardinals are in trouble.
When the Cardinals hit their Week 8 bye, they were 5-2 and looked the part of a legitimate contender in the NFC West. But since then, the Redbirds have won only one game, and that victory came courtesy of a Hail Mary pass at the end of their Week 10 tilt with the Buffalo Bills.
Sunday's 10-point loss to the rival Rams was the Cardinals' third straight defeat, and it did more than just drop them two games back in the division. It dropped them out of the NFC playoffs altogether (for now).
If there's a bright side for the Cardinals, it's that they have only one more game against a team with a winning record—the regular-season finale in Los Angeles against the Rams. But if Arizona can't get untracked soon, the playoffs may be a pipe dream by the time that game rolls around.
"Opposing defenses are taking away Kyler Murray's ability to peel off long scrambles and are forcing the young quarterback to throw to beat them, and it's working," Davenport said, "Add in a defense that has surrendered at least 28 points in five of the last six games, and the Cardinals have quite a bit to fix and not a lot of time in which to do it."
"Arizona is fading from the playoff picture as quickly as the sun sets on a short winter's day," Sobleski added. "The next month won't be easy. The New York Giants defense is playing extremely well. Plus, Arizona finishes its season against the division-rival San Francisco 49ers and Rams. Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray better rekindle some of their magic from earlier this year or the current campaign will quickly spiral out of control."
15. Las Vegas Raiders (7-5)
Last Week: 15
Week 13 Result: Won 31-28 at New York Jets
The good news for the Las Vegas Raiders is that Sunday's comeback win over the New York Jets ended their two-game skid and kept them in the hunt for a wild-card spot in the AFC.
The bad news is that the word "comeback" even came into play against the winless Jets.
With running back Josh Jacobs sidelined by an injury, the Raiders ground game mustered only 72 yards on 25 carries. Tight end Darren Waller hauled in a career-high 13 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns, and Derek Carr passed for 381 yards, but the Raiders needed every bit of that because their defense surrendered 376 yards to a Jets offense that usually slots somewhere between dismal and nonexistent.
The Jets' baffling defense bailed out the Raiders late, and while a win is a win, it's becoming increasingly difficult to imagine this Raiders team going deep in the playoffs.
14. New York Giants (5-7)
Last Week: 22
Week 13 Result: Won 17-12 at Seattle
For most of the 2020 season, the NFC East has been a four-team laughingstock of bad football.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the laugh factory: The New York Giants started playing well.
Spurred on by a strong defense, the Giants have now peeled off four straight wins to assume control of the division. And on Sunday in Seattle, the G-Men did something that no team in the division had all season long: beat a team with a winning record.
Although the Seahawks were favored by 11.0 points, Giants safety Jabrill Peppers said his teammates weren't surprised by the upset.
"We walked in here confident, I'm not going to lie to you," Peppers told reporters. "The team had a different swagger about them, a different juice … because we knew if we played our brand of football we could shock a lot of people."
"At 5-7, the Giants still aren't a great team by any stretch," Davenport wrote. "But New York is playing excellent defense and running the ball well. Doing those things keeps the Giants in games, and they're becoming the pushover that won't be so easy to push over in the Wild Card Round."
"Regardless of the fact their division is horrible, Joe Judge is getting results out of a team that lacks talent," Gagnon added. "The Giants haven't lost a game by more than one score since September, they haven't fallen by more than a field goal since early October, and their only two losses dating back to Week 6 came by a combined total of three points. At home in the playoffs, with Daniel Jones back under center, they could cause problems."
13. Indianapolis Colts (8-4)
Last Week: 13
Week 13 Result: Won 26-20 at Houston
It took everything the Indianapolis Colts had to hang on for a six-point win against the Houston Texans that moved them into a virtual tie with the Tennessee Titans atop the AFC South. Head coach Frank Reich lauded his team's effort in his postgame presser.
"Wow—60-minute game. Really proud of the guys hanging in there. Great team win. We knew coming on the road against a division opponent who was hot, who could score some points, who has a special player at quarterback, it was going to require all three phases and we hung in there and did what we needed to do to win the game."
The Colts got big outings from running back Jonathan Taylor, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and edge-rusher Justin Houston, but the game easily could have gone the other way had Houston not turned it over late deep in Colts territory.
If the season ended today, the Titans would win the division, but there are still four games left for each team. For Indy, that means a fairly tough three-week stretch: at Las Vegas, at home against these same Texans and then a trip to Pittsburgh to face the undefeated Steelers.
12. Baltimore Ravens (7-5)
Last Week: 12
Week 13 Result: Won 34-17 vs. Dallas
The Baltimore Ravens needed a win in the worst way Tuesday against the Dallas Cowboys.
The bigger question now is what (if anything) that win meant.
The Ravens did what they do well—run the football. They had three players gain over 70 yards on the ground. They finished the game with 294 rushing yards and a 7.9 yards-per-carry average.
But that success came against an overmatched Dallas defense that has turned not defending the run into performance art in 2020. Lamar Jackson attempted only 17 passes and completed 12 for 107 yards. And while the Baltimore defense made some timely plays, it also allowed 388 total yards and 29 first downs.
The Ravens had to win this game. They need the next one in Cleveland exponentially more, though.
11. Miami Dolphins (8-4)
Last Week: 9
Week 13 Result: Won 19-7 vs. Cincinnati
With Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback, the Miami Dolphins haven't piled up style points. They scored only one touchdown and four field goals during Sunday's win in Cincinnati.
But for the fourth time in Tagovailoa's five starts, the Dolphins got a victory Sunday. And at 8-4, they continue to be one of the most surprising success stories of the 2020 campaign.
Sunday's win was marred by an ugly brawl after Bengals wide receiver Michael Thomas cheap-shotted punt returner Jakeem Grant. Dolphins head coach Brian Flores was right in the middle of it, and he admitted after the game that he needs to keep his cool even in situations like that.
"I have to do a better job, I have to, to not hurt the team," Flores told reporters. "My emotions got the best of me there. You see somebody you care about get hit like that twice, but I have to do a better job and keep my poise better. We have to do a better job of keeping poise as a team."
"You can't have coaches mixing it up with players," Davenport said. "But the fact that Flores was willing to do so likely didn't go unnoticed by his players. There's no lack of fight in these Dolphins, and they can't be counted out in the AFC East race."
10. Tennessee Titans (8-4)
Last Week: 7
Week 13 Result: Lost 41-35 vs. Cleveland
It isn't reflected in the final score, but the Tennessee Titans got their hats handed to them in Week 13.
The Titans mounted a furious second-half deficit, but they entered halftime down 38-7. Their offense was inconsistent and mistake-prone early, while their defense allowed 458 yards of offense and four first-half touchdown passes to Baker Mayfield.
The loss caps a four-game span of games against teams with winning records. It began and ended in disappointing fashion, but sandwiched between those losses were wins over the Colts and Ravens.
The Colts and Titans are each now 8-4 with four to play and one head-to-head win apiece. Both teams also face big challenges in Week 16, with Tennessee's coming in the form of a trip to Green Bay.
It's going to be an interesting final month in the AFC South.
"The Browns gave the Titans a clear wake-up call in Sunday's 41-35 loss," Sobleski said. "Cleveland's defense came out in a bear front and bottled up Derrick Henry, and the Browns offense torched the Titans' undermanned secondary. Mayfield posted the best game of his young career. Tennessee looked better in the second half thanks to Cleveland's conservative approach and soft defense to milk a huge lead. One squad came into this game with something to prove, and it wasn't the Titans."
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 8
Week 13 Result: Bye Week
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a lot to think about over their bye week.
A month ago, the Buccaneers were 6-2 and considered one of the best teams in the NFC. But then came a blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints, followed shortly thereafter by three-point losses to the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs.
The losing streak led to some criticism of quarterback Tom Brady from head coach Bruce Arians, which led some to question the relationship between player and coach. But former Buccaneers great Jimmie Giles said on the Eye Test for Two podcast that the friction may be manufactured (via NESN's Logan Mullen):
"He's taking the heat off Tom Brady, because if he didn't take the heat, they would go after Tom Brady. And he's the kind of coach who's going to get on whoever to make his team better. If everybody sees that coach can get on Tom Brady, that means if you don't do your job, he's going to get on you, too."
There's one thing that would assuredly lead to smiles and back-slaps all around in Tampa: a strong final month of the regular season. The schedule will help in that regard as the Buccaneers don't play another game against a team with a winning record.
8. Los Angeles Rams (8-4)
Last Week: 14
Week 13 Result: Won 38-28 at Arizona
Over the first half of the 2020 season, the Los Angeles Rams appeared to be a good team—but not a great one. They were 5-3 heading into their bye week, but those three losses came against the best teams on the slate.
But since returning from their Week 9 bye, the Rams have turned it up a notch. Los Angeles is 3-1 over that span with wins over the Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and now the Arizona Cardinals.
The Rams got past Arizona with a well-rounded effort. Jared Goff threw for 351 yards and posted a passer rating north of 100. Running backs Darrell Henderson Jr. and Cam Akers both found the end zone. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey limited star wideout DeAndre Hopkins to just 52 yards. And Aaron Donald notched his league-leading 11th sack of the season.
The win (and Seattle's loss to the Giants) puts the Rams in first place in the NFC West and sets up a four-game race to the finish line that includes a Week 16 tilt in Seattle.
7. Seattle Seahawks (8-4)
Last Week: 6
Week 13 Result: Lost 17-12 vs. New York Giants
If the Seattle Seahawks fail to win the NFC West in 2020, the team will likely look back to Week 13 as the game in which it all went askew.
Seattle entered Sunday's matchup as a heavy favorite and shut out the Giants in the first half. But the Seahawks held just a 5-0 lead at intermission and never got on track offensively. Their beleaguered defense faltered in the second half, and when the final whistle blew, they had been upset by a team with one of the most anemic offenses in the game that was being led by its backup quarterback.
Seattle head coach Pete Carroll admitted he was surprised by how much the team struggled to move the ball against New York: "It's just an uncharacteristic feeling that we're not putting any points on the board. I need to look at the film to figure out what the heck happened and why it was like that. It just isn't like that. None of us have seen us play like that. So it was very difficult."
The loss dropped the Seahawks past the Rams in the division and made the Week 16 meeting between the two teams in the Pacific Northwest loom that much larger on the schedule.
"The Giants exposed Seattle for what the Seahawks really are," Sobleski said. "If the offense can't hold up its end of the bargain, the defense isn't nearly good enough to win games. Seattle allowed nearly 200 yards on the ground to a group of running backs featuring Alfred Morris, Wayne Gallman and Elijhaa Penny. They remain tied atop the NFC West, but the Seahawks are seriously flawed."
6. Cleveland Browns (9-3)
Last Week: 10
Week 13 Result: Won 41-35 at Tennessee
The Cleveland Browns were rather the Rodney Dangerfield of the NFL entering Week 13. Yes, they were 8-3, but they were 7-0 against losing teams and 1-3 against winning ones.
Given their long history of futility, there was a possibility the Browns were overrated.
Sunday's win over a very good Titans team should address at least some of those criticisms.
Yes, the Browns took their foot off the gas and let Tennessee back into the game in the second half. But this was a game in which Cleveland set a franchise record for the most points ever scored in the first half. And a game in which Baker Mayfield topped 300 passing yards and threw four touchdown passes in a half for the second time this season.
"I'm still not entirely sold on the Browns as a contender," Davenport said. "The defense isn't great, and the secondary was shredded in the second half by the Titans. But the Browns can run the ball as well as any team in the NFL. They can get after the quarterback with Myles Garrett. And as they showed emphatically in the first half, when Mayfield is playing well, they can hang with just about any team in the NFL."
If Cleveland can avenge a blowout season-opening loss to the Ravens next Monday night, it's going to be a lot easier to look at it as a legitimate threat in the AFC.
And there's a sentence you don't see every day.
5. Buffalo Bills (9-3)
Last Week: 5
Week 13 Result: Won at San Francisco 34-24
It's been a long time since the Buffalo Bills posted back-to-back winning seasons. Or won the AFC East.
On Monday night in Arizona, they crossed one of those goals off the list and moved one step closer to accomplishing the second.
It's not hard to pinpoint how the Bills defeated the San Francisco 49ers. Just as he has more than once this season, quarterback Josh Allen went off. For the game, he completed 80 percent of his 40 passing attempts for 375 yards and four scores. His passer rating was a robust 139.1.
It was an impressive performance. But it also came in a game the Bills were supposed to win. Buffalo's next matchup will afford the team another opportunity to make a real statement ahead of the AFC playoffs.
If the Bills can down a wounded Pittsburgh Steelers team Sunday in Buffalo, it will go a long way toward legitimizing the team as a threat to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LV.
And given how the two teams looked in Week 13, it's not a stretch to imagine the Bills doing just that.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-1)
Last Week: 2
Week 13 Result: Lost vs. Washington 23-17
First off, it's hardly time to panic in regard to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Yes, the team lost Monday night. But it was the first time the Steelers had tasted defeat this season.
But while it may not be time to freak out, there is cause for some concern.
For starters, with James Conner (COVID-19) on the shelf, the Steelers couldn't run the ball even a little. Pittsburgh gained 21 yards on the ground for the game on 14 carries.
For the second straight week, the passing game was out of sync, as well. There was an alarming number of drops by Pittsburgh pass-catchers, miscues that killed drives and gave Washington a chance to mount a comeback.
The defense wasn't its usual stellar self, either. It's almost unheard of for Pittsburgh to blow a 14-point lead at home, and with Bud Dupree (ACL) sidelined, the Pittsburgh pass rush wasn't quite as ferocious.
The injuries continue to mount, as well, with inside linebacker Robert Spillane (knee) and cornerback Joe Haden (concussion) joining a list of walking wounded in the Steel City that is becoming alarmingly long.
Add it all together and there's unease in Pittsburgh for the first time this season ahead of a big Week 14 matchup with the Buffalo Bills.
3. New Orleans Saints (10-2)
Last Week: 4
Week 13 Result: Won 21-16 at Atlanta
For the third time in as many starts, Taysom Hill led the New Orleans Saints to a win in Week 13. For the second time over that three-week span, that victory came at the expense of the Atlanta Falcons.
It wasn't a one-man show. Both Alvin Kamara and Hill eclipsed 80 rushing yards, keying a ground game that racked up 207 yards and 5.8 yards per carry. Wide receiver Michael Thomas had a big game, hauling in nine passes for 105 yards. The New Orleans defense notched three sacks and a turnover while holding the Falcons to 332 total yards.
Add it all together and the Saints maintained their hold on the top seed in the NFC playoffs while locking up a postseason berth.
On Monday, Saints head coach Sean Payton indicated there is no definitive timetable for the return of Drew Brees from his rib injury. Given how well Hill has played, he'll likely start this week in Philadelphia against the floundering Eagles.
But with the Kansas City Chiefs coming to town for a Super Bowl preview in Week 15, you can bet the rent that the timetable Payton allegedly doesn't have involves Brees being out there in two weeks.
2. Green Bay Packers (9-3)
Last Week: 3
Week 13 Result: Won 30-16 vs. Philadelphia
The Green Bay Packers are rolling.
Granted, the Packers were absolutely expected to take care of a reeling Eagles team in Week 14. And for just a moment, it appeared Philly might make a game of it. But when Aaron Jones raced into the end zone on a 77-yard scamper in the fourth quarter, it punctuated a decisive win that keeps the Pack hot on the heels of the New Orleans Saints in the NFC.
Aaron Rodgers is playing at an MVP level. Jones and Davante Adams are as good a combo at running back and wide receiver as there is in the NFL. And the defense has improved in recent weeks. Add it all together and at least one analyst believes Green Bay (and not New Orleans) is the class of the NFC.
"In many ways, the Saints and Packers are mirror-images of one another," Davemport wrote. But while the Saints have to wait and see how Drew Brees and his fractured ribs look once he returns, the Packers have Rodgers playing as well as he ever has. If Green Bay can get the No. 1 seed in the NFC, it is going to be awfully hard to beat."
1. Kansas City Chiefs (11-1)
Last Week: 1
Week 13 Result: Won vs Denver 22-16
Even the best NFL teams have "off" games where the offense can't quite get going and/or the defense is a bit soft. Oftentimes, the difference between good teams and great teams is that the latter find a way to win even when they have one of those down outings.
That's what happened to the Chiefs on Sunday night against the rival Broncos.
The Chiefs moved the ball well, racking up 447 yards of offense. But they misfired multiple times in the red zone, managing only one touchdown and going 0-for-4 on red-zone opportunities.
The win gets the Chiefs into the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season and was their 11th straight victory over the Broncos. But quarterback Patrick Mahomes said they have their sights set much higher than just making the playoffs.
"It's the first step," Mahomes told reporters after the game. "You want to find a way to get into the playoffs. But we have bigger goals."
The Chiefs now tied with Pittsburgh for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. But with tough matchups looming against Miami and New Orleans over the next two weeks, Kansas City will need to be more efficient offensively than what we saw in Week 13.