By Conor Perrett
With December soon upon us, things will change down the final stretch of the regular season, but there appear to be about eight real Super Bowl contenders.
The NFL is all starting to heat up with six games remaining to determine the race for playoffs, the draft order and most importantly fantasy leagues around the world.
Let’s get into the rankings for those eight and the rest of the 32.
- Kansas City Chiefs (9-2)
Last Week – 1st
Another week, and another dominant offensive performance from the Chiefs. Kansas look like they’ve reached full gear and at a good time as well. With only two teams with a winning record remaining on their schedule, they can afford to put one eye forward to the playoffs in January, to get in the best position possible for the AFC No. 1 seed.
The job isn’t finished yet and they’ll have a big test this week against the Bengals, but the bottom line is, no other team is able to consistently move the ball on offence as well as the Chiefs right now.
Up next: at Cincinnati, Sunday 9:25 p.m. GMT
- Philadelphia Eagles (10-1)
Last Week – 2nd
After two Eagles-light weeks, the Philly O-line were back to performing at a top level on SNF and dropped 40 points and 363 rushing yards on the Packers. Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders both set career highs for rushing yards in the game, while the rushing total is good for eighth-most for any team in the Super Bowl era.
The Eagles have a two-game lead over the Cowboys atop of the NFC East, but Dallas is likely to hold a tiebreaker, if it wins the rematch. Philly cant afford to slip up if they want that No. 1 seed in the NFC, so i am looking forward to the Christmas Eve matchup between the two.
Up next: vs. Tennessee, Sunday 1 p.m. GMT
- Miami Dolphins (8-3)
Last Week – 3rd
Miami has a perfect 8-0 record in games started and finished by Tua Tagovailoa, but they haven’t beaten a team with a winning record since Week 3. They have one of the three best offences in the league by most measures, but they now may need to prepare for life without left tackle Terron Armstead for the rest of the regular season.
They look the business right now and we’ll find out how real they are in the next few weeks when they travel to San Francisco, LA for the Chargers and to Buffalo. The offence may be able to keep up with all of them, but there’s still work to be done on the other side of the ball.
Up next: at San Francisco, Sunday 9:05 p.m. GMT
- Buffalo Bills (7-3)
Last Week – 4th
The NFL sometimes works like a revolving door, with former All-Pro corner-back Tre’Davious White returning from injury this week, but Buffalo’s biggest defensive star Von Miller went down with an injury. Bills have a deep pass rush that won’t fold with the loss of one player, but boy is he a good one.
Miller’s loss comes at a bad time as well, with three straight AFC East games on the horizon for Buffalo. With a division that looks the closest in football and a 0-2 record, a poor return so far in the AFC East, every game is important if they want to win the division and not try their luck on the road through the playoffs.
Up next: at New England, Friday 1:15 a.m. GMT
- San Francisco 49ers (7-4)
Last Week – 5th
My favourite stat of the week may be the fact the Niners’ defence haven’t allowed a point in the second half since Week 8!
That’s a whole month of football and Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans should start preparing for vacant head coaching jobs sooner rather than later.
The offence did take a hit this week with an MCL injury to Elijah Mitchell, sidelining him for at least four weeks. But looking at their No. 2 running back Christian McCaffrey, you would think there be fine.
There’s a lot of great matches this week but 49ers vs Dolphins might be the one that tops it for me. The Kyle Shanahan vs Mike McDaniel, teacher-student matchup will teach us a lot and lucky for us in Ireland and the UK, its not at stupid o’clock.
Up next: vs. Miami, Sunday 9:05 p.m. GMT
- Dallas Cowboys (8-3)
Last Week – 7th
Since Dak Prescott’s return in Week 7, Dallas ranks third in EPA per offensive drive, behind only the Chiefs and Dolphins. Dallas are looking great right now and it’s not just the offence that’s playing great. In that same stretch, Micah Parsons has continued his campaign for DPOY, leading a Cowboys defence that ranks first in quarterback pressure rate and passing yards allowed per game.
They may have to settle for a wildcard spot if Philly becomes uncatchable, but home or away this team will be a tough matchup for anyone.
Up next: vs. Indianapolis, Monday 1:20 a.m. GMT
- Cincinnati Bengals (7-4)
Last Week – 8th
The top of the NFL is looking more competitive as ever and that’s easy to see when the Bengals are ranked 7th. Their performance on Sunday in Tennessee, was a statement win we needed to see out of them and Joe Burrow said it himself: “This was the type of game that great teams win.”
The Bengals’ defence held Derrick Henry to 38 rushing yards on 17 carries, his second-fewest yards per attempt over the past three seasons. After a bad month on that side of the ball, they came back with a statement to stop the Titans.
They look like Super Bowl contenders, if they can just make it through their late season gantlet of games against a host of fellow contenders.
Up next: vs. Kansas City, Sunday 9:25 p.m. GMT
- Baltimore Ravens (7-4)
Last Week – 6th
After a good few weeks for this Baltimore side, they fell back to their usual fourth quarter self this Sunday, with a late defeat to the Jaguars.
Using ESPN’S win probability model, the Ravens had at least a 70% to win in all four of their losses during the fourth quarter. As talented as Lamar Jackson is, none of it will matter if the Ravens can’t play good football and close out games in the playoffs.
Up next: vs. Denver, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Minnesota Vikings (9-2)
Last Week – 11th
The Vikings had highs and lows on both sides of the ball during their win on Thanksgiving, leaving many questions to be answered about them still. We’ll start at the highs: The Vikings scored 33 points on Thursday against the No. 1 defence in football. New England has been dominant, especially in the pass game, as they got Zach Wilson benched. But Vikings won in that area, as Belichick had no answers to the weapons of Jefferson, Thielen and Hockenson.
But what comes up must come down, as the Patriots have been horrible on offence yet Mac Jones looked like Tom Brady against the Vikes on Thanksgiving. Even at 9-2 the Vikings are still an unknown quantity and are opening as just three-point favourites at home against Mike White and the Jets.
Up next: vs. New York Jets, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Tennessee Titans (7-4)
Last Week – 9th
The Titans are a real physically tough team but they tend to go as their defence goes because the offence just isn’t the type to get into shootouts. As seen in their 1-4 record in games where they’ve allowed 20 or more points.
Treylon Burks has been a pleasant surprise of late with 181 receiving yards over the last two weeks, good for best in the league among rookies. But they need more weapons to be more explosive.
Overall Tennessee are a good football team that looks likely to host a playoff game. Such game will not be easy for most teams, but if they are to make a deep run into the postseason the offence will need more about it. Sadly, it’s kind of the reason why they have failed to consistently do that in past seasons as well.
Up next: at Philadelphia, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Seattle Seahawks (6-5)
Last Week – 10th
The Seahawks had reality hit them this week after a pretty disappointing team performance. In a 40-34 overtime loss to the Raiders, they were out-gained by 204 yards, as the defence showed their early-season selves.
Despite playing a Raiders defence that ranks 32nd in DVOA, Kenneth Walker was held to just 26 rushing yards on 14 carries. With two winning games up next in the Rams and Panthers, Seattle will need to be on their A-game if they hope to keep up with the rest of the teams fighting for a wild-card spot.
Up next: at Los Angeles Rams, Sunday 9:05 p.m. GMT
- New York Jets (7-4)
Last Week – 14th
Zach Wilson was benched this week and taking his place, Mike White showed what the Jets can really do. White completed 22 of 28 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns in the Jets 31-10 win. By EPA per drive, it was the best offensive performance in the league during Week 12 and the Jets best offensive performance since 2020.
How long Wilson’s benching goes on will be telling to his future in New York, but it seems for now he will continue to stay there.
Up next: at Minnesota, Sunday 6 p.m GMT
- Washington Commanders (7-5)
Last Week – 15th
Washington has been quietly climbing the rankings over the last couple of months with a sneaky 6-1 record across their last seven games. The results have put them in Playoff contention along with the rest of the NFC East. With two games against division rivals Giants over the next three weeks, it will determine the fate of both teams’ seasons, but the Commanders should open as favourites.
Up next: at New York Giants, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- New England Patriots (6-5)
Last Week – 13th
Much to what we wrote about the Vikings you could reserve that and it would apply to New England. It was great to see Mac Jones set up, but the defence looked nowhere near its usual self. Despite a record over .500 in a tough conference and division nothing is certain for the Patriots. They do have an elite defence going for them, but until Jones shows some consistency they may continue to look from outside into the playoff picture.
Up next: vs. Buffalo, Friday 1:15 a.m. GMT
- Los Angeles Chargers (6-5)
Last Week – 16th
After back-to-back weeks with a failed attempt at a late game-winning drive, Justin Herbert finally came through in Sunday’s 25-24 win. Scoring a 1-yard touchdown with 15 seconds remaining put them in an opportunity to tie but Brandon Staley had other ideas. Known for his aggressiveness, Staley went for a 2-point conversion and it paid off.
With five teams fighting for three spots in the AFC wild-card spots, it will come down to the end, but one thing for sure, Staley and the Chargers can’t afford to be one of the two teams that miss out or he may be looking for another job.
Up next: at Las Vegas, Sunday 9:25 p.m. GMT
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6)
Last Week – 12th
Tampa has not had the season we expected and Sunday’s late game collapse against Cleveland has been an all too familiar sight. The good thing though is this team still leads its division and just has to take care of its divisional games if they want to host a playoff game.
Up next: vs. New Orleans, Monday 1:15 a.m. GMT
- Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7)
Last Week – 19th
Trevor Lawrence finally looked like the Trevor Lawrence we knew with a game winning drive performance.
Trailing by seven points with just over two minutes remaining, Lawrence completed 7 of 7 passes (spikes not included) for 91 yards, a touchdown and the winning two point conversion. The stats looked good and the throws were even better with three perfect dimes during the drive.
Up next: at Detroit, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Detroit Lions (4-7)
Last Week – 17th
Detroit went head-to-head with Buffalo for Thanksgiving but unfortunately came up short. This team is steadily improving, but are still finding ways to lose. Playoffs seem like a slim chance but with an ideal schedule down the stretch nothing is impossible in this league.
One thing for sure though, is the long-term future for the quarterback position may need to be figured out and they have the perfect opportunity to do it this off-season, with two potential top-10 picks in the draft.
Up next: vs. Jacksonville, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- New York Giants (7-4)
Last Week – 18th
We mentioned earlier about how competitive the NFC East has been this year, but there’s potential for it to be the best division since 2002. All four teams are in the playoffs and have at least 7 wins. They currently have a non-division record of 26-7 and if they can keep it up, the NFC East will be the best division since 2002.
Up next: vs. Washington, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Cleveland Browns (4-7)
Last Week – 23rd
What a way for quarterback Jacoby Brissett to go out with the Browns this season. Brissett threw a touchdown to Njoku to force overtime and has led Cleveland to a top-five offence by EPA per drive. It’s been a pleasant surprise to how well he has played and if his defence could hold their own he would be in the comeback conversation with Geno Smith.
Now though, Cleveland begins a new era with Deshaun Watson, who is set to make his first start in 700 days. Coincidentally it happens to be against Houston as well. The NFL just loves scripting these storylines don’t they?
Up next: at Houston, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Green Bay Packers (4-8)
Last Week – 20th
In what might become a familiar sight in the next few years, we saw a Aaron Rodgers-less Packers against the Eagles late on. Rodgers left with a rib injury but it might be a blessing in disguise to get game experience for Jordan Love.
Think of it, this season is already done for the Packers and they need to start looking towards the future. If Rodgers does retire, then Love will be your new QB, so see what you got with him in an actual game like situation.
But if Rodgers does stay, maybe Love impresses and you can get some sort of trade value for him. Basically Love’s stock is at rock bottom, so if he impresses you either have your future QB or some trade value at least. Better than sitting on the bench like he has done for three seasons.
Up next: at Chicago, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Atlanta Falcons (5-7)
Last Week – 21st
The NFC South is the prime example for why division winners shouldn’t automatically be granted a home playoff game. At 5-7, the Falcons are just a half-game behind the Bucs for the NFC South, with the Panthers and Saints only a game behind them. All teams have been below average and there’s a realistic world where one of these teams get in with seven wins, while another NFC team will miss out with perhaps nine wins.
Up next: vs. Pittsburgh, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Las Vegas Raiders (4-7)
Last Week – 28th
Josh Jacobs has been one of the breakout stars this season and if you didn’t know him before Sunday, you will now when he totaled 303 yards from scrimmage, while playing through a calf injury. Jacobs averaged almost seven yards per carry on 33 touches with an offensive line in front of him that’s the weakest unit on their offence.
It’s great to see Jacobs break out, but the front office in Vegas will be kicking themselves after declinding his fifth-year option in the pre-season. They made the effort to extend Derek Carr, Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller but are letting the biggest play-maker be a free agent in this upcoming off-season. Jacobs won’t mind though with the offers he will receive at least.
Up next: at Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday 9:25 p.m. GMT
- Arizona Cardinals (4-8)
Last Week – 22nd
Things are starting to turn ugly in Arizona and it feels like it’s only going to end one way. We have seen all the spats on the sideline between players and coaches, but now Kyler Murray came out publicly to say they lost this Sunday due to “Schematically.”
With Marquise Brown back to pair with DeAndre Hopkins for the first time, maybe they can bring it back down the stretch, but things will have to change. Murray and Kingsbury, both got big new contracts, but cutting the head coach won’t affect their salary cap.
Up next: Bye
- Pittsburgh Steelers (4-7)
Last Week – 27th
Kenny Pickett has shown real improvement over the last three weeks and played the best game of his young career as a starter in the Steelers’ 24-17 win over the Colts on MNF.
Pickett was decisive and threw accurate balls to each of his top three receivers. He’s limiting turnovers as well, as he and George Pickens look like a great rookie pair for Pittsburgh.
Up next: at Atlanta, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Indianapolis Colts (4-7-1)
Last Week – 24th
Jeff Saturday got this team playing well in his first couple of games in charge, but his lack of experience showed towards the end against Pittsburgh.
Rumours have started to grow on the vines of Michigan head coach and former Colt, Jim Harbaugh making the move back to the NFL for Indy. But this offence needs revamping all over and it isn’t as simple as in college where a few transfers and recruits come easy.
Up next: at Dallas, Monday 1:20 a.m. GMT
- Carolina Panthers (4-8)
Last Week – 30th
Sam Darnold got the nod this week and it paid off with a win over Denver. Steve Wilks has made the most of his interim head coaching job and it’s worth debating whether he will get the job permanently. I’m sure he’ll get a go at interviewing and Carolina will conduct a wide search but it’s been a good signing to get this team back on track.
Up next: Bye
- New Orleans Saints (4-7)
Last Week – 25th
The Saints have been up and down this year more than one of those whack-a-mole games. Both offence and defence can look completely different each week, but if there’s been one consistency about this team it’s Chris Olave.
The rookie receiver has been fantastic and stepped up as veterans Micheal Thomas and Alvin Kamara have underwhelmed. At the moment Olave is the brightest light at the end of the tunnel of a dark tunnel.
Up next: at Tampa Bay, Tuesday 1:15 a.m. GMT
- Chicago Bears (3-9)
Last Week – 26th
The Bears were a fun team a few weeks ago, but injuries have now derailed their season towards the end. First, all the running caught up with Justin Fields as his season is on hold. Now against the Jets, Chicago lost both Darnell Mooney and Eddie Jackson for the rest of the season. A lot less of a fun team to watch with those guys missing.
Up next: vs. Green Bay, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Los Angeles Rams (3-8)
Last Week – 31st
The Rams are currently going down as the worst defending Super Bowl champions of all time, and their season could get summed up with the clip of a player running into Sean McVay this Sunday, dropping the shoulder nicely on his jaw. With all of the injuries this team has faced, the end of the season can’t come soon enough as they try to understand what the future holds for their players and head coach.
Up next: vs. Seattle, Sunday 9:05 p.m. GMT
- Houston Texans (1-9-1)
Last Week – 32nd
Houston rallied back from a 30-0 start against Miami, it just so happened to be against their backups. Now the Texans have their Super Bowl this week when they take on the Browns and Watson. Expect a feisty crowd that will be going full force at Watson, as maybe the pressure will get to him and Houston can win the first bout of their trade bragging rights.
Up next: vs. Cleveland, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Denver Broncos (3-8)
Last Week – 29th
Denver deserves being ranked at the bottom here as they might be the franchise in the most crisis right now. The Russell Wilson trade is looking like the worst trade in league history, with players on his own team getting in his face and yelling.
In a life comparison, the Broncos dumped everything to be with a supermodel, but are now slowly finding out it’s not quite the lifestyle they wanted. Nathaniel Hackett seems likely to be one-and-done, but they’re stuck with Wilson for the long haul.
Up next: at Baltimore, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT