The top and bottom of the rankings are becoming clearer by the week, but both the NFC and AFC playoff pictures are a disgusting blob of mediocre teams. Some teams have a quarterbacking issue. Others are going through a rash of bad injury luck. These teams can step on the gas and make a deep playoff run, but things must start falling into place.
10. LA Chargers (7-5)
Last weeks game at Cincinnati is not meant to dissolve the Chargers of their … Chargering. They turned the ball over 3 times and blew a 22-point lead. I didn’t know who this team was before this game, and I’m still not sure if I do. I love their offensive potential. I even love their offense as it is, with coordinator Joe Lombardi taking some of the firepower away from Justin Herbert. But LA’s defense is still struggling. They don’t defend the run, and they don’t really have the talent to consistently see good results against the pass. The Chargers have a ton of potential, but I’m not sure if they’re ready to truly compete in the AFC even they’re only one game out of the AFC West. They need to play a good game this week against the Giants to give everyone some confidence moving forward.
9. Buffalo Bills (7-5)
The Bills have been wildly inconsistent on offense all season. Things could have been different for the Bills against the Patriots had it been a normal game day. Ridiculous wind gusts made things anything but that, however, in a 14-10 loss, Buffalo clearly did not have good play in the trenches which is going to hurt them in the long run. The Monday NightFootball game against the Patriots had awful weather and shouldn’t be used for or against either team in an argument about who’s better. Now for the real test as they play Brady and the Bucs.
8. Indianapolis Colts (7-6)
Since October 1, the Colts are 7-3. Their bye week comes at a fantastic time, as they’ll come out of it facing the New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals. After a loss to the Bucs, a close one at that, the Colts got back to winning ways and thrived on both sides of the ball. The Texans stood little chance, getting blown out and shutout, 31-0 as Indy RB Jonathan Taylor had two TDs. An overarching theme for this team is running the ball well and having Carson Wentz avoid unnecessary mistakes. Defensively, they’re full of high-variance playmakers. That could come in handy in the playoffs, as they may be outmatched on paper in the Wild Card round.
7. Dallas Cowboys (8-4)
The Cowboys handled the Saints on Thursday, 27-17. The win came as Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn had to step in for Mike McCarthy as acting head coach due to COVID-19. The Cowboys had some big plays on offense while their defense had four interceptions. Their defense has performed as a top-five unit in the league this season. Dallas’ offense has immense talents everywhere you look, yet they don’t currently seem to have much firepower on that side of the ball. They’re probably one of the more well-rounded teams in the NFL, but they’re not playing like it. The Cowboys haven’t run the ball well in what feels like a lifetime, and the passing attack looks stale in comparison to its early-season output. The offense must figure it out before the playoffs sneak up.
6. Los Angeles Rams (8-4)
The Rams and Matthew Stafford needed a get-right game, and there are few better options than this Monday night playing Arizona. The Rams finally got right against the Jags, taking a huge 37-7 victory. As the score indicates, Los Angeles was in control. WRs Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson and Odell Beckham Jr. caught touchdown passes from QB Matthew Stafford. The Rams defense forced two turnovers as well. But that was against Jacksonville. This week is for all the marbles in the NFC West. The Rams travel to Arizona to try and get revenge on their divisional opponents for handing them an emphatic 17-point loss in Week 4. Maybe the Rams can get respectable with a win as the Rams’ offensive line looked better than it has in weeks.
5. New England Patriots (9-4)
No team has played better over the past month, but I still wonder about the Patriots’ ceiling. They had a particularly difficult matchup on Monday Night Football – they weren’t just facing the Buffalo Bills, but the weather as well. The Patriots essentially gave the Bills their playbook and said we are going to run it every play. They still won. New England took a big step toward locking up the AFC East, but the conference is far from settled.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (8-4)
I believe the Chiefs are most dangerous team in the NFL aside from a Tampa Bay squad getting healthy and a Cardinals club that’s been the most consistent in the league. Since Week 8, Kansas City’s defense ranks third in the NFL in EPA/play against, which is almost inconceivable after watching their start to the season. The Chiefs kept their AFC West lead with a 22-9 win over the Broncos. Was it ever in doubt? KC coach Andy Reid is now 20-3 coming off of a bye. This one wasn’t your typical Kansas City win, though. The defense took center stage as the offense wasn’t anything special. That included S Daniel Sorensen’s 75-yard pick-six interception to put it away. If the defense can continue at the pace they’re on, no team is more terrifying once the playoffs roll around.
3. Green Bay Packers (9-3)
The Packers needed a bye week. They’ve lost integral pieces to their offensive line, and Green Bay must decide how they’ll best combat that. The bye also gets them one week closer to hopefully seeing David Bakhtiari back on the field. Yet, the offense hasn’t necessarily struggled, despite the losses on the front line. Their schedule is not too difficult after the bye, giving them a shot at the top seed in the NFC, with the ability to get key pieces back for a playoff run.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-3)
There are three constants in this life: Death, taxes, and Tom Brady throwing touchdowns to Rob Gronkowski. Is the Tom Brady-Gronk combination back? Sure looks like it in Tampa. The QB and TE connected for two scores while Brady was 39-for-51 passing with four total scores in a 30-17 win over the Falcons. The Bucs might’ve gotten a little cute at the end of the half, but showed they weren’t messing around the rest of the way. It was a bit surprising to see the Falcons have some success on the ground against the Buccaneers, but that isn’t something that should be a worry moving forward. Tampa Bay’s game against the Bills next week might decide whether they can usurp the Cardinals for the top seed in the NFC.
1. Arizona Cardinals (10-2)
The Cardinals came in and took care of business against an inferior team, and they didn’t have to press themselves at all throughout. Playing the Bears allowed Kyler Murray to slowly work his way back into the game after missing four weeks and three games. QB Kyler Murray looks more than back. In his return from injury, Murray had four total touchdowns… but that wasn’t the only four for the Cards. Arizona’s defense came to play as well, notching four interceptions against the Bears in a 33-22 final. This Cardinals team looks for real. The Cardinals have a real game this weekend against their division rival; LA Rams.