By Conor Perrett
This past week’s set of games have shaped up for many anticipated fixtures for the last week of the NFL season that is sure to leave us with final day dramatics. With two spots in the playoffs still up for grabs and a No. 1 pick in the draft to sort out, It’s set up to be a cracking finish.
- Kansas City Chiefs (13-3)
Last Week – 1st
With the current state of the NFL, it’s all about offence and the Chiefs are the best in the league in that department. Patrick Mahomes just became the third player in NFL history to throw for 5k passing yards in multiple seasons, and looks set to win his second MVP trophy. It’s tough to bet against Mahomes and Andy Reid but the defence will need to be better if they want another Super Bowl.
Kansas’ defence is currently 23rd in defensive DVOA and great teams in the playoffs will take advantage of that. It’s also not a great sign that the underwhelming Russell Wilson has had his best two games of the season against the Chiefs’ defence.
Up next: at. Raiders, Saturday 9:30 p.m. GMT
- Buffalo Bills (12-3)
Last Week – 2nd
Buffalo had a juggernaut of a game planned against the Bengals this Monday night, but it was tragically stopped after safety Damar Hamlin collapsed with 5:32 minutes left in the first quarter.
With Hamlin’s health still unknown, out of respect we won’t talk about Bill’s football and send our prayers to him.
Up next: vs. Patriots, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- San Francisco 49ers (12-4)
Last Week – 3rd
It wasn’t a perfect performance for the Niners this week, but they got the job done in the end. Before their game against the Raiders, San Fran would have been jumping at the chance of Jarrett Stidham as the new starting QB, but he showed flaws in their defence.
Brock Purdy struggled to push the ball downfield at times, but he is yet to blow up or look flustered. With the weapons of Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk, they look deadly as ever and are still in the hunt for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. All that’s needed is an Eagles’ loss to the Giants and a win for the 49ers in Arizona to secure a first-round bye.
Up next: vs. Cardinals, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Cincinnati Bengals (11-4)
Last Week – 4th
Similar to the Bills, out of respect for Damar Hamlin, his wellness is more important than what happened in the first quarter of this game.
Up next: vs. Ravens, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Dallas Cowboys (12-4)
Last Week – 6th
The Cowboys find themselves in an interesting position heading into Week 18, with their playoff seed still up in the air. Currently they sit fifth and have done so for the better half of the season. If Philadelphia were to have a late season collapse and results go their way, Dallas could see themselves at either of the top two positions in the NFC.
All that you could ask of this team late in the season is to cut down on the turnovers. Dak Prescott has had some questionable turnovers as of late, but their strong defence has them first in turnover margin in the NFL and by some distance.
Up next: at. Commanders, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)
Last Week – 5th
Philly were the best team in the NFL with Jalen Hurts on the field. But Hurts hasn’t played for the past two weeks, and the Eagles have dropped both games. While their Gardiner Minshew offence looked good against Dallas a week ago, it came up short against the Saints. Philadelphia’s only score came by way of a heroic effort by A.J. Brown, as they cannot afford to wait any longer for Hurts if they want to progress far in the postseason.
Up next: vs. Giants, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Los Angeles Chargers (10-6)
Last Week – 9th
It feels a bit weird having this Chargers team this high after things looked bleak just a month ago, but they’ve carried themselves up here. Suspect contenders falling also helps, but LA have been one of the better teams in the league over the past three weeks. Their defence ranks first in defensive DVOA over that time and Justin Herbert has started to get some weapons back on offence.
Now , the Chargers look set for the No. 5 seed, setting up a game against the winner of Jaguars vs Titans on Wild-Card weekend.
Up next: at. Broncos, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8)
Last Week – 10th
Similar to the Chargers, Jacksonville has been shot out of a cannon the past four weeks to climb this high. The emergence of Trevor Lawrence has been what’s got them to this point, but will their 27th DVOA ranked defence be strong enough to get them any further?
With a Saturday night clash against the Titans setting up a winner-takes-it-all matchup, the Jags will be favourites and if they can get past that, Jacksonville will be hosting a playoff game at a minimum.
Up next: vs. Titans, Sunday 1:15 a.m. GMT
- Detroit Lions (8-8)
Last Week – 12th
After getting absolutely dominated by the Panthers just a week ago, Detroit returned the favour to the Bears in a beatdown on Sunday. I mentioned last week that this young team can’t let all the work they have done over the past two months get undone because of one bad game, and they took that to heart.
Granted it was against the Bears, but apart from one big run, this defence contained the ‘new’ Justin Fields better than anyone else this season. Sacking him seven times on the day, Fields had just 30 net passing yards on the day, with five of Chicago’s six second half possessions being three-and-outs. When you then put that with an offence that is 5th in points per game, they are very dangerous.
Detroit could also have an early playoff game this week when they take the trip to Lambeau field on Sunday Night. If the Rams can return the favour for Matthew Stafford and their Super Bowl by beating the Seahawks, it would mean the winner of Lions vs Packers would take the last wild card spot in the NFC.
Up next: at. Packers, Monday 1:20 a.m. GMT
- Green Bay Packers (8-8)
Last Week – 13th
Five weeks ago when Green Bay had a record of 4-8, it looked to be an unfamiliar lost season. But a second half of a season resurgence, that has seen them takedown playoff contenders Miami and Minnesota over the past two weeks, has got them back to what they know best.
Entering the last week of the season, the Packers know their destiny. Win against Detroit and they are in the playoffs, while losing would mean they’re going to be watching it from the comfort of their home.
Up next: vs. Lions, Monday 1 :20 a.m. GMT
- Baltimore Ravens (10-5)
Last Week – 8th
Baltimore was one of the suspect contenders I mentioned earlier in the rankings. It feels wrong for them to be this low with the turnaround they have had on defence, but without Lamar Jackson at quarterback, it’s bad.
First half of the season the offence was carrying the defence, but during the second half, it’s been the other way round. Here’s to hoping they get a healthy Jackson back and can compete as one just in time for the playoffs.
Up next: at. Bengals, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Minnesota Vikings (12-4)
Last Week – 7th
With a 12-4 record and the NFC North wrapped up many weeks ago, the Vikings are probably the most wanted team to face in the playoffs. Their 20th ranked, -19 point differential on the season tells the story. Let me explain; despite winning eight more games than they have lost. When adding up having many points Minnesota have won or lost by, it tallies to -19 points.
They’ve feasted on one-score games, using some sort of dark magic to come out on top every time. But when faced with a true challenge, apart from their miraculous win in Buffalo, they have been stepped on like a piece of gum on the streets of London. When you look at their three losses to fellow NFC teams they could meet in the postseason. The Eagles, Cowboys and Packers have beaten the Vikings by a combined 78 whooping points.
Up next: at. Bears, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- New York Giants (9-6-1)
Last Week – 14th
The Giants punched themselves a ticket to the playoffs this week, when they took down the Colts 38-10 in dominant fashion. Completing this goal in the first year of their rebuild is a great accomplishment for Brain Daboll and his staff. They are turning this ship around quicker than anyone would have thought.
Reports are also starting to come out with New York looking to extend both Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley. Extending Jones may be a risk with this being the first season where we’ve seen adequate play from him, but Daboll seems to have a skill in turning risky QB’s into greatness.
Up next: at. Eagles, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- New England Patriots (8-8)
Last Week – 17th
The Patriot’s offence may be concerning, but if their defence continues to not only stop teams but score for them as well. It’s been an up and down season for New England in that sense, but it can end on a high if they beat Buffalo this Sunday. A win against the Bills would guarantee the Patriots the 7th seed in the AFC and book themselves into the playoffs. However, will the NFL let this game go ahead after the trauma faced by the Bills players on Monday night?
Up next: at. Bills, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8)
Last Week – 18th
Once again, it looked like Tom Brady and the Buccaneers’ offence was going to keep shooting themselves in the foot early on. However, they found a mismatch with Mike Evans late on and it resulted in them winning the NFC South division.
If we’re being honest this team doesn’t belong in the playoffs discussion, but with how the NFC works they are. Now, Tom Brady gets to host a playoff game and no matter how bad his team is, it’s hard to bet against the GOAT.
Up next: at. Falcons, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Miami Dolphins (8-8)
Last Week – 11th
When we talk about a rollercoaster of a season, this Miami team should be the definition of that. After winning their first three games, the Dolphins followed that up with three losses. Things got back on track when they won five games straight, but now they are currently on a five game losing streak. On that run they have flown up and down our rankings and now find themselves slap bang middle.
A playoff appearance is still viable, but they will need to beat a Jets team without their starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Up next: vs. Jets, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)
Last Week – 19th
If you’ve been reading these rankings weekly, you would have known we have been following the Steelers streak of .500 season for the past few weeks. That streak is still alive after a late win against the Ravens on Sunday. Now, if Pittsburgh wins next week and the Dolphins and Patriots lose, not only will they have a winning record, they’ll also make the playoffs after a 2-6 start.
Up next: vs. Browns, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Seattle Seahawks (8-8)
Last Week – 22nd
Seattle’s win against the Jets this Sunday was huge and keeps their hopes of the play-offs alive. Their rushing attack averaged 5.2 yards per carry against a strong Jets defence, after many weeks of that department being underwhelming.
Despite currently sitting in the No. 7 seed, the Seahawks will need a few results to go their way to progress. A win against the Rams will be a good starter and then a Packers loss will cement their placing.
Up next: vs. Rams, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Carolina Panthers (6-10)
Last Week – 20th
Carolina had a chance to extend their hopes for the division title to next week, but slipped up against the Buccaneers. The loss eliminated them from playoff contention, but don’t let that take away the credit interim head coach Steve Wilks deserves. The job he has done over the last 11 weeks could earn him the permanent head coach job, after turning around Carolina’s 1-4 start. However, it has emerged they are one of the teams along with the Broncos who have talked with Jim Harbaugh about the position of head coach.
Up next: at. Saints, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- New Orleans Saints (7-9)
Last Week – 23rd
The Saints got their most impressive win of the season when they took down the Eagles. Cowboys and 49ers fans will probably be more happy about the result, but New Orleans have started to look better after a rough start. With people in the NFL media starting to think a Sean Payton return could happen, it might mark the only good news the Saints will have this season.
Up next: vs. Panthers, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- New York Jets (7-9)
Last Week – 15th
The Jets were one of the more exciting teams in the NFL early in the season, however, their inability to find consistent production at QB position has been their downfall. It led them to miss the playoffs for a 12th consecutive year.
A healthy Jets team in 2023 with competent QB play could be dangerous, but GM Joe Douglas must be smart about this decision or he could fall into the same trap Chris Ballard did in Indianapolis.
Up next: at. Jets, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Tennessee Titans (7-9)
Last Week – 21st
Tennessee still has a shot to win the AFC South division after a horrible last month of football. They will be beaten up going into the game, but a win against the Jaguars will be enough to host a playoff game. Their identity has almost solely been Derrick Henry and the NFL is built on the passing game. The Titans don’t have the quality at the wide-receiver position to be like that and unfortunately they will need a retune in the off-season to fix that.
Up next: at. Jaguars, Sunday 1:15 a.m. GMT
- Cleveland Browns (7-9)
Last Week – 24th
Deshaun Watson only threw the ball 18 times on Sunday, but in that time, he threw three touchdowns and finally started showing why the Browns decided to hand him a lucrative guaranteed deal.
The Browns’ defence in the recent weeks has also seen improvement. Their defence has jumped from 21st to 13th in defensive DVOA over that span, with it feeling better late than never.
Up next: at. Steelers, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Washington Commanders (7-8-1)
Last Week – 16th
It may feel rational but the decision to start Carson Wentz this past Sunday could be a fire-able offence for head coach Ron Rivera. Just three weeks ago Washington were in pole position for one of the last two wild-card spots in the NFC and now they’ve been eliminated – Rivera didn’t even know the Commanders could have been eliminated until it was brought up during his post-game press conference.
Rivera made the decision to return Wentz to the lineup, and in a must win game he threw three interceptions to zero touchdowns. The consequences were missing out on the playoffs and just a few days later Washington dropped Wentz for the last game of the season.
Up next: vs. Cowboys, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Las Vegas Raiders (6-10)
Last Week – 25th
The Las Vegas Raiders weren’t supposed to have a chance against the 49ers but they at least put up a fight. With a new look Vegas side that had Jarrett Stidham taking Derek Carr’s place at quarterback, the offence scored 34 points against a Niners defence that felt impenetrable.
But still Josh McDaniel’s side blew a 10 point lead and found a way to lose games they stand a chance of winning. Fans will look at this game as a moral victory, but with pre-season expectations of playoffs at a minimum, the Raiders season has been nothing short of a failure.
Up next: vs. Chiefs, Saturday 9:30 p.m. GMT
- Atlanta Falcons (6-10)
Last Week – 27th
Atlanta ended a five-game losing streak this week with a 20-19 win against the Cardinals. The Falcons are in an interesting spot with Desmond Ridder. Ridder hasn’t been disastrous, but he also shouldn’t be the reason Atlanta pulls their hat out of the QB ring for the upcoming draft.
Going into their third season under this regime, they will need to start competing more next season. With a Tampa team that is undecided at the QB position and the Saints about to experience cap hell, the division will be wide open for them.
Up next: vs. Buccaneers, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Los Angeles Rams (5-11)
Last Week – 26th
After their dominating win against the Broncos on Christmas, they came back down to reality this past Sunday. They suffered a 31-10 defeat where the Chargers ran over them. On the offensive side the Rams continued to try to run the rock and actually had some success. Akers topped the 100-yard mark on 19 carries at a 6.5 yard per carry pace.
But the Rams season was lost many weeks ago and the big decisions that will need to be taken now, is what happens with the future of their superstar players and coach after an injury riddled season.
Up next: at. Seahawks , Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Denver Broncos (4-12)
Last Week – 30th
Denver have had an underwhelming season by all means this year, but their two most impressive games have come against our No. 1 ranked team in this rankings. In those two games Russell Wilson turned back the clocks and used his legs as a weapon more. It seems that is the way to get the best out of Wilson and something the next head coach of the Denver Broncos will need to consider.
Up next: vs. Chargers, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Arizona Cardinals (4-12)
Last Week – 28th
If there was a sim button for the Cardinals to skip the end of this season, they would be pressing it over and over again until it blew up. It feels the front office and head coach could be gone by this time next week with them needing to construct their roster again. Arizona does have what they think to be a franchise QB, but he will be needing another offensive-minded head coach to try and get the best out of him. What makes it harder is Kyler Murray looks set to miss the majority of his next season with his ACL injury.
Up next: at. 49ers , Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Chicago Bears (3-13)
Last Week – 29th
This Bears team right now may be the worst team on paper in the league. They can easily make an argument to have the worst offensive-line, wide-receivers and defence in the league. They do happen to have a game changing weapon in Justin Fields, but without any help it will be pointless having him. Chicago will hold a top-two pick in the draft but there doesn’t seem to be any offensive weapons viable for that pick. That may not be the end of the world though, as they can trade the pick for a king’s ransom.
Up next: vs. Vikings , Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Houston Texans (2-13-1)
Last Week – 31st
While the team is likely still some way away from contending, drafting a quarterback with the top pick in the draft should inject some life into a currently lifeless franchise. Head coach Lovie Smith has done some nice things with this team, but with an unpredictable front office, there’s a realistic chance this team could be looking for their fourth head coach in four years.
Up next: at. Colts , Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Indianapolis Colts (4-11-1)
Last Week – 32nd
No team’s futures look as dull if owner Jim Irsay is being serious when he gave a vote of confidence for head coach and general manager, Jeff Saturday and Chris Ballard. It is worth taking what owners say with a pinch of salt, but it seems he genuinely believes it. The Colts should have a top-6 pick in the upcoming draft and they must hit on that pick if they want to turn things around.
Up next: vs. Texans, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT