1. New England Patriots (11-2) defeated Baltimore 30-23. Previously: 2
Maybe it was Tom Brady’s suspension, maybe the ascendancy of teams like the Cowboys or Raiders, but this seems like a quieter Patriots season than most. That shouldn’t be the case when they’re taking the field against the (now former) No. 1 defense in the NFL and dropping 500 yards (406 courtesy of one Tom Brady) on them. Did you know LeGarrette Blount is fifth in the league in rushing yards (1,029) and leads the league with 14 touchdowns?
2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-3) defeated Oakland 21-13. Previously: 5
After two victories against the Raiders and a 4-0 record in the AFC West, there’s no question about who the cream of the division is. And of course, the Chiefs have now risen to the top. It’s by no means a safe perch, but they can set their eyes on home field advantage if the Patriots slip up. The eventual winner of the AFC West is almost already assured a first round bye.
3. Dallas Cowboys (11-2) lost to New York Giants 10-7. Previously: 1
Is it concerning or promising that Dallas’ defense has been outplaying their offense the past few weeks? Hopefully they can avoid a matchup with the Giants in the playoffs, but the offense won’t face easier opponents the next couple weeks with games against Tampa Bay and Detroit. If the passing game continues to struggle, are Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett really ready to start a quarterback controversy on the doorstep of the playoffs?
4. Oakland Raiders (10-3) lost to Kansas City 21-13. Previously: 3
Just throw the two games the Raiders and Chiefs have played on the table for anyone saying offense is now the premiere side of the ball in the NFL. In two games against the Chiefs, the NFL’s 24th ranked offense, the Raiders have been outscored 47-23 and outvictoried 2-0. Pretty sad showing for the sixth ranked offense in the league. But this really shouldn’t take the shine off the Raiders season.
5. Detroit Lions (9-4) defeated Chicago 20-17. Previously: 7
Last week we said Matthew Stafford would get his accolades, and here they are: Wow! That touchdown run. Seems like Detroit didn’t like the idea of winning comfortably, as they got back in the comfortable groove of trailing in the fourth quarter this week. If you take issue with Detroit being ranked ahead of the Giants, that will sort itself out Sunday, when the two teams play in the Meadowlands.
6. New York Giants (9-4) defeated Dallas 10-7. Previously: 8
Of course the Giants, coming off their worst showing and first loss in months, hand the Cowboys their first loss since opening weekend. Of course that one also came at the hands of the Giants. There’s no time for New York to feel good about their bragging rights over the Cowboys: They have a potential playoff preview matchup with Detroit this weekend. They may have the inside track on the wild card for now, but it’s far from a done deal.
7. Seattle Seahawks (8-4-1) lost to Green Bay 38-10. Previously: 4
This was a weird game, and not just because of the result, which shouldn’t be that shocking. But how about Russell Wilson doubling his season touchdown total by tossing five picks? When you consider that maybe half those picks were half Wilson’s fault, the more troubling issue by far was Aaron Rodgers smashing the Packers offense through Seattle’s defense for his best game of the season. I wouldn’t want to be the Rams on Thursday night in Seattle.
8. Atlanta Falcons (8-5) defeated Los Angeles 42-14. Previously: 10
No Julio Jones? No Mohamed Sanu? Barely any Devonta Freeman? No problem for Matt Ryan and the Falcons defense, who stepped up big in dismantling the Rams. They didn’t just dismantle them on the field either. They literally took apart the Los Angeles Rams, defeating them in such style that L.A. fired Jeff Fisher three days before they were about to take the field again.
9. Green Bay Packers (7-6) defeated Seattle 38-10. Previously: 13
Three in a row and a date with the Bears that could make it four. If the Packers can get to their Week 17 matchup with Detroit within one game of the Lions, they’ll be playing for the division. With their 34-27 September victory over the Lions in hand, a win in the season finale would ensure any tiebreaker went the Packers’ way.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) defeated Buffalo 27-20. Previously: 12
First place in the division all alone, it’s been awhile since the Steelers had this position, somewhat shockingly. But they also own the AFC’s longest win streak, in a tie with New England. With a game lead and a game against the Ravens upcoming (and a game against Cleveland in Week 17) a victory against Baltimore in Week 16 likely gives Pittsburgh the division.
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5) defeated New Orleans 16-11. Previously: 11
With all the other division races coming down to head-to-head matchups, it’s a shame the NFC South won’t be one of them. The Buccaneers and Falcons have already split two games this season. Week 15 doesn’t line up in Tampa Bay’s favor. While they’re dealing with the team with the best record in the NFC, Dallas, the Falcons will be facing off against the one with the worst: San Francisco.
12. Baltimore Ravens (7-6) lost to New England 30-23. Previously: 9
Baltimore actually acquitted themselves pretty darn well against New England, but they’re in a precarious position now. While they will still take their division if they win out, and they have a nice one-up over the Dolphins for any wild-card tiebreakers, there are a lot of teams with eight and seven wins in the AFC. There can’t be any Monday night hangover against the Eagles this week.
13. Denver Broncos (8-5) lost to Tennessee 13-10. Previously: 6
Don’t look now, but Denver has three games remaining: New England, at Kansas City and Oakland. They aren’t likely to be favored in any of those, and while they sit in a wild-card spot right now, if they don’t make the playoffs they’ll be the first defending champion not to since the 2012-13 Ravens. The running game in Denver is a disaster: Running backs combined for nine carries for 18 yards against the Titans.
14. Washington (7-5-1) defeated Philadelphia 27-22. Previously: 14
They’re two wins behind the Giants and a win behind the Falcons and Buccaneers in the NFC wild-card race, but Washington has two very winnable games upcoming against the Panthers and the Bears before a season finale against the Giants.
15. Miami Dolphins (8-5) defeated Arizona 26-23. Previously: 16
Miami’s weekend was one of those love-hate things. They got a huge win and watched the Broncos and Ravens lose, weakening their competition for the AFC wild card. But they lost Ryan Tannehill for the remainder of the season. There’s some good news for Matt Moore, who sure did a fine job leading the comeback Sunday: He gets to break into the groove against the Jets.
16. Tennessee Titans (7-6) defeated Denver 13-10. Previously: 18
The Titans had the best weekend imaginable: watching the Texans beat the Colts and pipping the Broncos themselves to stay tied atop the division. Unfortunately, this week they’re in a similar spot to Tampa Bay: taking on the Chiefs themselves while Houston plays Jacksonville. Here’s hoping Week 17 has a meaningful Titans-Texans matchup.
17. Houston Texans (7-6) defeated Indianapolis 22-17. Previously: 17
On the back of a three-game losing streak, the Texans manned up and did what they had to: stopped the Colts for the second time this season and made the division a likely two-team race between themselves and the Titans. If they just take care of the division the rest of the way, as their current 4-0 record suggests they can, they’ll be the playoff team from the AFC South. Which means something.
18. Minnesota Vikings (7-6) defeated Jacksonville 25-16. Previously: 19
The Vikings offense just had their best game since they announced themselves by torching the Packers at the start of the season. Beating the Jaguars won’t make anyone forget that you’ve just gone 1-6 in the previous seven games though, least of all Adrian Peterson, who is watching the team carefully while determining if he should risk returning this regular season.
19. Indianapolis Colts (6-7) lost to Houston 22-17. Previously: 15
At least the Colts are improving at fourth down play selection. Seriously, that miserable screen was a big step up from what is still either the worst fake punt or the worst quarterback sneak of all time. After their second loss this season (and fourth in a row) to Houston, the Colts have likely surrendered their chance at a playoff berth in 2016.
20. Buffalo Bills (6-7) lost to Pittsburgh 27-20. Previously: 20
Ugly loss in an ugly game for the Bills. Conditions can’t be an excuse for a defense that just let Le’Veon Bell run literally through them for 298 total yards. Not when LeSean McCoy couldn’t break 30 on the same field. Similar to Week 2, we’re not sure why Tyrod Taylor and the offense are suddenly scapegoats for a defense that just got embarrassed.
21. Arizona Cardinals (5-7-1) lost to Miami 26-23. Previously: 21
Now firmly out of the playoff conversation they haven’t been contributing to for months, it’s unclear where the Cardinals go from here. They’re a mix of veterans that seem to be fading (Carson Palmer), veterans that seem like they could play forever (Larry Fitzgerald) and young stars whose fantastic seasons are being wasted (David Johnson).
22. Cincinnati Bengals (5-7-1) defeated Cleveland 23-10. Previously: 23
For the first time this season the Bengals have won back-to-back games. Not exactly the 2016 they were imagining on the heels of 2015’s fireworks. But this game had a bit of it: Jeremy Hill finally had the outing people were expecting without Giovani Bernard around to share carries, and Tyler Eifert found the end zone twice.
23. New Orleans Saints (5-8) lost to Tampa Bay 16-11. Previously: 25
Drew Brees over the last two games: zero touchdowns, six interceptions. Go ahead, search. You won’t find a worse two-game stretch in the future hall-of-famers career. The bizarre part, and the reason the Saints actually rise a spot, is how well they fought while the offense struggled: this defense held the Bucs to 270 yards.
24. Philadelphia Eagles (5-8) lost to Washington 27-22. Previously: 24
For the first time during their four game losing streak, the Eagles were in the game in the fourth quarter. For a season that held a lot of surprising promise at 3-0, games remaining against the Ravens, Giants and Cowboys sure make a 5-11 ending look possible.
25. Carolina Panthers (5-8) defeated San Diego 28-16. Previously: 27
Nice rebound for the Panthers, but if the Broncos miss the playoffs, and when the Panthers do, it will be the first time since 2003 that both Super Bowl opponents missed the playoffs. In surprisingly similar fashion too: the champion Buccaneers struggled offensively and rode their defense to 7-9, while the runner-up Raiders flamed out spectacularly, finishing 4-12.
26. San Diego Chargers (5-8) lost to Carolina 28-16. Previously: 22
San Diego has lost three of four almost entirely due to turnovers. Philip Rivers has 10 interceptions in those four games (nine in the three losses) after throwing just seven through the first nine games of the season.
27. Chicago Bears (3-10) lost to Detroit 20-17 Previously: 28
The Bears’ play since Matt Barkley took over has firmly cemented them as the best of the worst in the NFL. They won’t be in the playoffs, but they can say a lot about who is with games left against the Packers, Washington and Vikings.
28. Los Angeles Rams (4-9) lost to Atlanta 42-14. Previously: 26
Yes, the Rams did just fire Jeff Fisher a week after announcing his extension and three days before they kick off on Thursday night. Yes, it was a smart, albeit ridiculously timed decision.
29. New York Jets (4-9) defeated San Francisco 23-17. Previously: 29
And people say only Ryan Fitzpatrick can motivate the Jets. Assuming there are any valid reasons the pack it in, the Jets had them: down 14-0 almost instantly, on a cross-country road trip against a bad team and 3-9 on the season. They sure didn’t.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) lost to Minnesota 25-16. Previously: 30
The Jaguars don’t play San Francisco, Cleveland or the Jets the rest of the way, so they won’t be favored to win any games. But they can impact that division race they’re five games out of, what with games left against Houston, Tennessee and Indianapolis.
31. San Francisco 49ers (1-12) lost to New York Jets 23-17. Previously: 31
Sorry Carlos Hyde, you’re going to need to do a lot better than 13.5 yards per carry if you want more than 17 carries in a game your team spent most of the afternoon with the lead for. Apparently.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-13) Lost to Cincinnati 23-10. Previously: 32
That flea-flicker is looking dangerously likely to be the way the Robert Griffin III era in Cleveland is remembered.