The top of the Power Rankings have stabilized thanks to the consistent form of the Green Bay Packers, who have won five in a row to ensure the NFC's road to the Super Bowl will run through Lambeau Field for the second successive year.
I get that Aaron Rodgers has been very, very good again this season, but when did it become a near-certainty that he is picking up another MVP award? That seems to be the word on the street and that would be very harsh on Tom Brady, Jonathan Taylor and Cooper Kupp.
The Rams’ big names are showing up on a weekly basis and the result is a five-game winning streak that has LA within touching distance of the NFC West crown. But back-to-back three-turnover games from Matthew Stafford have to be a concern. You can’t make that many mistakes in the playoffs.
You can give Tom Brady Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown and he will obviously get the job done. Or you can ask him to make key throws to Cyril Grayson, Tyler Johnson and Cameron Brate. Either way, Brady is getting the job done. That’s what the great ones do.
As these rankings would suggest, I still see the Chiefs as the class of the AFC and it’s encouraging how Patrick Mahomes is now spreading the ball around on offense. But it is an attack that was held to three points in the second half in Cincinnati and the defense is not quite the same when on the road.
The Titans are a win against Houston away from securing the number one seed in the AFC playoffs and Derrick Henry returns to practice this week. I could not be more impressed with how the Titans have continued to prosper with their ground attack during Henry’s absence. D’Onta Foreman, take a bow.
The Bengals are throwing it all over the yard with Joe Burrow working magic with Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. The passing game has been so good in recent weeks that the excellent Joe Mixon has taken something of a back seat. Burrow, Chase, Higgins and Mixon are all 25 or under.
That was a huge win for the Cardinals in Dallas on Sunday and not just because it snapped a three-game losing streak. Arizona had lost some high-profile games played on big stages and they responded very well, particularly on defense where they confused and frustrated Dak Prescott time and again.
There are times when you need to protect your quarterback and make sure he is available for the long term. And then there are occasions where you say, “screw it” and let him go out and make plays. That’s where the Bills are with Josh Allen right now. He is playing a care-free and occasionally-reckless game.
With the exception of a big win over Washington in Week 16, Dak Prescott has looked off for much of the second half of this season. It’s been up and down ever since Prescott returned from his calf injury and it means heading into Week 18, I am asking this question… just how good are the Dallas Cowboys?
The running game is excellent with Jonathan Taylor breaking records all over the place and the defense is opportunistic when it comes to takeaways, but will that be enough for a long playoff run? I remain unconvinced by Carson Wentz and would like to see much more from the Colts quarterback.
Despite a get-right game against Jacksonville, I see the Patriots below the likes of Buffalo and Indy in the AFC. But let’s take a moment to credit Bill Belichick, again! It took just one down season before he got the Pats back into the playoffs. They are stingy on defense and efficient on offense. They will be a tough out.
When the Chargers get all their weapons firing, they are a 30-points-per-game attack. Justin Herbert, Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams and Keenan Allen are more than most defenses can handle. And yet we still never quite know what we are getting with this team from week to week.
The pre-Christmas loss to Tennessee could yet undo San Francisco’s season. They could get pipped to the final playoff spot in the NFC by the New Orleans Saints, who I think would actually make a lot less noise in the post-season. I’m keen to see Trey Lance stay at QB in Week 18. He can make throws Jimmy G can’t.
The Silver and Black looked dead and buried at the start of December, but three straight wins means they are a victory over the Chargers from making the playoffs. Rich Bisaccia has held this team together as the interim coach and, as he has done before, coordinator Gus Bradley has significantly improved the defense.
The doubters will point to the fact that the Eagles are 0-6 this season against teams that currently have a winning record. But six wins out of their last seven is not to be sniffed at and their playoff spot is worth celebrating. The Eagles’ strength is a ground attack averaging an NFL-best 160.4 yards per game.
After beating up on some lesser teams during their seven-game winning run, the Dolphins were reminded of their level when Tennessee hammered them 34-3 on Sunday. Tua Tagovailoa is hardly the only problem on offense, yet he will be the one in the cross-hairs when this season comes to an end on Sunday.
It’s amazing that a team forced to play four quarterbacks, go lengthy periods without Alvin Kamara and an entire season without Michael Thomas is still alive with one week remaining. Credit Sean Payton’s coaching brilliance and a defense that deserves far more attention than it often receives.
It’s rarely been pretty for the Steelers this season but let’s give Mike Tomlin the credit he deserves as Pittsburgh’s head coach. He is the first head coach in NFL history to open a career with 15 non-losing seasons. That is pretty incredible given the up and down nature of this league.
As evidenced by them giving the Rams all they could handle last Sunday, the fight will never go out of the Baltimore Ravens while John Harbaugh is their head coach. But injuries have proven too much to overcome and five straight losses have ended their dreams. Tyler Huntley has been a nice find, though.
There is real talent on the Vikings and they will look back on this season as one of frustration. Not only will it be the close losses that haunt Minnesota, but also the fact that they lost Kirk Cousins to Covid-19 at the worst possible time of the year. Will Mike Zimmer be around to reflect on what might have been?
Baker Mayfield is heading for shoulder surgery after getting terribly banged up this year. I don’t know what his long-term future is when it comes to the Browns. I get all the talk about him not being the only problem, but first overall picks are supposed to make those around them better, not rely on a lot of help.
Denver slid out of playoff contention with three straight losses and have now registered six consecutive losing seasons since winning Super Bowl 50 at the end of the 2015 campaign. This remains an attractive destination for a proven veteran quarterback, but will Vic Fangio be there to oversee any transition?
It feels like the end of something as Seattle heads into the final week of the regular season with a 6-10 mark that is as disappointing a record as any team in the league. Will Pete Carroll be gone? Will Russell Wilson be gone? Will both of them be gone? The winds of change could be about to blow through Seattle.
I wonder how much longer the Falcons will stick with Matt Ryan at quarterback. He is not been terrible, by any means, but there is a ceiling to his play now. It has been an up-and-down year, but I still believe Arthur Smith will look back on 2021 as a building block. Seven wins to date is impressive, to me.
Robert Quinn recorded his 18th sack of the season against the New York Giants last week and that was significant because it was a new team record for a Bears team steeped in history on the defensive side of the ball. Quinn broke a record previously held by Richard Dent. It was one of this year’s few highlights.
Washington have lost four straight to end any remote playoff hopes and seem more focused on unveiling the team’s new nickname on February 2. Even with that distraction in mind, Washington should have just enough gas left in the tank to get past the moribund Giants this weekend. Then they need to find a QB.
Carolina opening this season 3-0 seems like something from another lifetime. Matt Rhule is in trouble. The head coach is overseeing a six-game losing streak, flips from quarterback to quarterback on a whim and has his owner, David Tepper, describing his lengthy and expensive contract as “embarrassing.”
There are not normally things to feel good when you win just four games in a season, but the Texans have some positives. Davis Mills is worth digging into a little bit more at quarterback and Brandin Cooks is a 1,000-yard receiver no matter who he plays with. These Texans have matched their win total of 2020.
I’m not quite sure why the Jets didn’t kick a field goal at the end of Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay. Tom Brady certainly made them pay for their over-confidence. But I have liked the creativity that has come from the nothing-to-lose Jets in recent weeks. Some of that has to carry over into the 2022 season.
Giants head coach Joe Judge watched his team set a new NFL-low on Sunday with -10 net passing yards in a loss to Chicago – New York’s sixth successive defeat. And yet he insists his team “ain’t no clown show.” He probably uttered those words just as GM Dave Gettleman squirted him with water from a fake flower!
Two wins and a tie doesn’t sound like much, but it probably buys Dan Campbell another year as Detroit’s head coach; especially given the fight shown in some other games. But boy oh boy, does this team ever need an influx of talent! I do like Amon-Ra St. Brown at receiver. The rookie has enjoyed a good campaign.
Jags fans are intending to show up to Sunday’s game wearing clown suits in protest at the apparent retention of general manager Trent Baalke. When you consider how bad some other teams have been at times this year, it’s a depressing to know the Jags are about to secure another first overall pick.