I’ve talked until the cows come home about how good the Chiefs are on offense and you know all about Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce by now. But let’s focus on the defense for a moment – it is not an elite group, but they have held opponents to 17 or fewer points in five games this season.
The Saints are a complete team, as evidenced by their nine wins in a row. Taysom Hill is 3-0 in relief of injured quarterback Drew Brees – who could return from broken ribs this weekend – and the defense has held the opposition under 20 points in each of the last five games.
The Steelers have finally been knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten and you have to say that has been coming. Now, the Steelers’ priority must be to hold top spot in the AFC to secure a first-round bye. It won’t be easy – three of their last four are against playoff contenders in Buffalo, Indianapolis and Cleveland.
The Packers continue to score points for fun and lead the NFL with 31.6 per game in 2020. Patrick Mahomes gets a lot of MVP talk but let’s not overlook Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay’s superstar passer leads the NFL with 36 touchdown passes and a quarterback rating of 118.5.
Josh Allen played brilliantly to beat San Francisco in Arizona on Monday and he remains the driving force of this team. His growth and development has been spectacular. At his current pace, Allen is going to come close to amassing 5,000 yards of offense with his arm and legs, and scoring 40+ touchdowns.
If Jared Goff can avoid some of the mistakes that crept into his game prior to Sunday’s polished and tidy performance at Arizona, the Rams are going to be a dangerous playoff team. The defense is elite across the board but especially against the pass – bad news for Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Drew Brees.
That was a very worrying defeat at home to the New York Giants on Sunday. Wilson was under too much pressure and much of it was of his own making as he held the ball for too long, waiting for receivers to get open downfield. Seattle also shipped 191 rushing yards on the defensive side of the ball.
The Browns have been driven by running back Nick Chubb for much of the past month, but Sunday’s big win at Tennessee saw a couple of other areas of the team come to the fore. Baker Mayfield was opportunistic and dynamic at quarterback, while the run defense shut down the threat of Derrick Henry.
The Colts looked fearsome on defense against the Texans, recording five sacks as DeForest Buckner made a welcome return to the line-up. He is the key to that excellent defense. Philip Rivers is battling a toe injury that will need an operation after the season – he has been helped by a productive-again T.Y. Hilton.
The Ravens looked a lot like their 2019 edition in Tuesday’s 34-17 win over Dallas. They rushed for 294 yards, Lamar Jackson made some big throws off play-action and the defense forced a timely turnover. Jackson looked in his element – he only threw for 107 yards but he rushed for 94 and a touchdown.
Coming off their bye week, it’s time for the Bucs to stop talking about being on the same page (surely, they’ve had long enough now?) and time to find some consistency. Tampa have enjoyed three-game winning streaks twice in 2020 but have lost three of their last four. They need wins down the stretch.
Miami continue to impress on the defensive side of the ball and Brian Flores remains one of the leading candidates for the NFL’s Coach of the Year. With the D playing so well, the offense just needs to avoid major mistakes and Tua Tagovailoa has started his NFL career with 136 straight passes without a pick.
I’m not worried that Derrick Henry was held to 60 rushing yards against Cleveland. He will get going again. What concerns me more is that this team can be as streaky as hell from one quarter to the next. And the pass rush is not just poor, it is absolutely non-existent and one of the most putrid in the whole league.
With the wildcard-chasing teams ahead of them continuing to play well and win, it’s going to be hard for New England to crash into the playoffs. But them winning four of the last five has been a credit to Bill Belichick’s greatness, especially with his quarterback Cam Newton throwing for just 69 yards in Week 13.
Don’t get fooled or distracted by the last-gasp, game-winning touchdown pass from Derek Carr to Henry Ruggs last weekend. But for that play, the playoff-chasing Raiders would have lost back to back games to the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets. Josh Jacobs is a big miss at running back for this team.
The Vikings can consider themselves fortunate to have escaped with wins against Carolina and Jacksonville in the last two weeks. They needed a last-second Joey Slye missed field goal to beat the Panthers and an overtime kick from Dan Bailey to squeak past the Jags. But they are in the playoff spots now.
The Cardinals are on a three-game slide and have lost four of their last five. They would have lost five straight but for that Hail Murray touchdown pass from Kyler to DeAndre Hopkins in Week 10. Getting Murray going again is the priority because the defense is not up to the task of helping out all that much.
The Giants are riding a four-game winning streak and are suddenly playoff relevant behind a strong running game – led by the unlikely pairing of Wayne Gallman and Alfred Morris – and a defense that was considered a laughing stock heading into this season but has just dominated Russell Wilson in Seattle.
The defense continues to allow Washington’s offense time to get going in games. Antonio Gibson will be a miss if he is sidelined from the running back position, but Alex Smith has enough veteran smarts to keep this attack ticking over. Logan Thomas is emerging at tight end, as is young receiver Cam Sims.
The 49ers have done well to hang around given the devastating injuries they have suffered, but Monday’s loss to Buffalo seriously damaged their playoff dreams. That said, this team should be approached with caution for the remainder of 2020. Then they have quarterback issues to address in 2021.
Deshaun Watson is on pace to set a unique and unwanted record, through no fault of his own. If the Texans hold their current form, Watson is going to become the first quarterback in NFL history to post a quarterback rating of 100 or above while losing 10 or more games in the same campaign.
The Panthers are coming off a bye and right into a Covid-19 storm that threatens to deplete their roster ahead of Sunday’s clash with Denver. That’s not good news for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who is looking to snap a six-game losing streak under center. The return of Christian McCaffrey is a positive.
The Falcons are always going to be dangerous with Matt Ryan slinging passes to Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, but they are also always finding ways to be inconsistent and make big mistakes at key times. Can they take advantage of the Los Angeles Chargers, who are coming off a 45-point shellacking in Week 13?
I like Anthony Lynn as a person but surely he is on borrowed time as head coach of the Chargers? The offense was shut down against New England and the special teams was a disaster. And there have been too many situational errors and close losses this season. Change is coming in LA.
Change is also likely to be coming in Chicago, as well. And it could be across the board with general manager Ryan Pace, head coach Matt Nagy and first-round quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. The Bears have lost six straight and this proud franchise needs a completely fresh start to find success.
Matthew Stafford is all the Detroit Lions have to write home about right now. Take him out of this team and they are a complete non-factor. But with him in the line-up, they have a shot at scoring points week in and week out.
Drew Lock needs to stop looking at the framed photos of John Elway around the Broncos’ facility and thinking he can replicate number seven’s gunslinging style. Lock’s brain is writing cheques that his right arm simply cannot cash. He takes way too many chances and could be throwing himself out of a job.
The Cowboys were a ‘get right’ game for Baltimore and Tuesday and that has been the case far too many times against far too many opponents in 2020. At 3-9, Dallas are two back from the NFC East leaders with four to play – they are still alive in the NFC playoff race but it feels like they are miles off the pace.
The Jalen Hurts era begins with one pressing question threatening to distract from the remainder of this season… what is to be done with Carson Wentz? The Eagles have a great deal of money tied up in their floundering quarterback. Do they stick or twist in 2021? Hurts will decide some of that with his play.
The Jags are now up to 11 losses in a row this season yet they continue to play hard for head coach Doug Marrone and they are showing just enough to make us wonder what they will be like in 2021 with either Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields at the helm. Brighter days are ahead for this team.
The Bengals have lost four in a row and have not scored more than 17 points in a game since November 1. This is a return to the struggling world before Joe Burrow donned the orange and black. His return to full health in 2021 is absolutely vital for this lost franchise.
Good teams find ways to win with games on the line. Bad teams find different ways each week to stub their toe and lose. That said, I think the Jets are getting feistier and they will pick up a one or two down the stretch, most likely doing the most Jets thing of all and playing themselves out of drafting Lawrence.