Patrick Mahomes makes so many off-script plays that he is becoming close to impossible to defend. These Chiefs have now won 22 of their last 23 games and the defense also made plenty of plays to make Drew Brees uncomfortable in last Sunday’s win in New Orleans. This is clearly the NFL’s best team.
The Packers had a poor second half in their victory over Carolina in Week 15, gaining just 49 yards and scoring three points after the break. But the re-emergence of Aaron Jones at running back was very promising as the playoffs approach. He rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
The Bills are champions of the AFC East for the first time since 1995 and fully deserve that top spot. They are a growing force because red-hot quarterback Josh Allen is now supported by a defense that has allowed just 18.8 points per game over its last four outings.
The Saints have lost two in a row but I think they can get back on track and be a true contender in the playoffs. That will require Drew Brees to get up to speed quickly at quarterback and for Michael Thomas to make a full return to health at receiver. Brees is currently throwing to a collection of parts.
The long-sought-after balance was found at Washington last week as Seattle ran the ball 26 times for 181 yards and a touchdown against a very good defense. When you consider that Russell Wilson only dropped back to pass on 27 occasions, that was much more of a balanced attack from Pete Carroll’s guys.
The Browns are doing in 2020 what we expected from them in 2019 – they are taking care of business and avoiding embarrassing or damaging defeats against lesser opposition. That professional approach has resulted in a 10-4 record and back-to-back dazzling displays from Baker Mayfield on a national stage.
They have their defensive flaws, but these Titans are going to be dangerous in the playoffs. They have now set an NFL record with five straight games of at least 30 points and 420 yards of total offense. Derrick Henry remains the star attraction but plenty of guys contribute to the offensive success in 2020.
A defense that can make timely big plays – as Darius Leonard did with his forced fumble against Houston on Sunday – is the driving force behind the Colts’ 10 wins. That said, the offense is also playing its part with Jonathan Taylor emerging as a rookie runner and receiver T.Y. Hilton hitting top form.
The Ravens have won three games in a row and have the opportunity to stretch that to five as they finish against the Giants and Bengals. Lamar Jackson has his mojo back and Baltimore have scored more than 30 in each of those three wins. They will be a tough out if they can squeeze into the playoffs.
That was a punch in the gut for Sean McVay and his players. One week after masterminding victory over Bill Belichick and the Patriots, McVay had to deal with being schooled by Adam Gase and the New York Jets. Too often on Sunday, Jared Goff was left wanting at quarterback. That is a problem.
This was supposed to be the offense that took the NFL by storm in 2020. For what it’s worth, neither Tom Brady or any of his offensive skill position players made this year’s Pro Bowl. That said, the big names showed up when needed the most in last week’s come-from-behind win at Atlanta.
The Steelers have now lost three in a row and look very ordinary indeed after their 11-0 start. Given how inconsistent the receiver play has been in recent weeks, maybe JuJu Smith-Schuster should spend more time inspiring his teammates and less time dancing on the opposing team’s logos in pregame warmups.
You have to applaud the coaching job being done by Brian Flores in Miami. With passing game targets DeVante Parker, Jakeem Grant and Mike Gesicki out through injury, the Dolphins rushed for 250 yards in defeating New England. Even if they don’t make the playoffs, this has been a huge step forward in 2020.
Kyler Murray looked back to his best on Sunday as he threw for more than 400 yards and three scores in a big win over Philadelphia. DeAndre Hopkins caught passes to the tune of 169 yards and reeled in a dazzling touchdown, as did veteran Larry Fitzgerald – for the first time this season.
The Bears have been won of the NFL’s streakiest teams this season. They opened 5-1, then lost six in a row before winning their last two. If they can eke out wins at Jacksonville and home to a Green Bay team that could be resting its starters, Chicago could yet sneak into the playoffs. But they need Arizona to slip.
Dwayne Haskins is not the answer and Alex Smith needs to return at quarterback as soon as possible. Getting Antonio Gibson into the offensive backfield would also be huge and would alleviate some pressure on what remains one of the best defenses in the league, even following an off day against Seattle.
The Vikings have lost two straight after looking set to get back in the NFC playoff race. And Mike Zimmer’s defense continues to be a huge disappointment. That side of the ball needs addressing in the offseason. The offense has a couple of Pro Bowlers to build around in Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson.
The Raiders are going in the wrong direction at the business end of the season for the second year in a row. That is a big disappointment because Jon Gruden will know only too well that life in the NFL is not about how you start but about where you finish.
Don’t look now but in this most disappointing of seasons, the Dallas Cowboys could win the NFC East. They are one game back on the Washington Football Team with two to play and need Ron Rivera’s men to drop both contests the rest of the way. It’s a long shot but it’s amazing the Cowboys are even alive.
The Eagles are done in the NFC East title race, but Jalen Hurts has lit a fire under this team and how the young quarterback performs over the next fortnight is going to be vital. If he serves up a couple of more games like the outstanding one last Sunday, Hurts will be the guy and Carson Wentz will be on the move.
While the quarterback play has fallen off a cliff this season, you could always will rely on the Patriots to play tough week in and week out. But they got manhandled by the Dolphins last Sunday – a loss that consigned the Patriots to a season without the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.
Joe Judge got his team into the redzone three times in the first half on Sunday night and chose to kick a field goal just once. He left six points on the field in a 20-6 loss to Cleveland. It was not totally decisive, but it was an indication that the Giants were desperately clinging to the season. Now, it’s on to 2021.
The Chargers continue to find ways to mess around in games and flirt with losses through some baffling decisions from head coach Anthony Lynn. But the outstanding talents of Justin Herbert are – and have been – enough to offer hope for 2021 and beyond. He just may be playing for a new head coach by then.
The injury-hit 49ers display their depth by playing tough each week and their coaching allows them to stay in games where they should be blown off the field. But also consistent are the mistakes from quarterback Nick Mullens and those errors undermine everything else I just mentioned.
The Falcons are regularly feisty in the passing game and can scare the best of NFL opponents with that part of their attack. But where is the running game? That inability to get anything going on the ground has regularly contributed to this team not being able to protect leads this season.
Denver suffered their worst loss of the season at home to Buffalo on Saturday night, but there were just a few flashes of promise from Drew Lock in the first half. There were just not enough of them and while I would like to see him back in 2021, that is by no means a certainty. An interesting offseason beckons.
Another week and another brave and gutsy display from Deshaun Watson, who is definitely making those around him look better than they really are. It was not enough against the Colts, though, and this franchise needs a very good sort out in the upcoming offseason… from top to bottom.
How about the season being put forth by our British defensive end Efe Obada? He has four and a half sacks on the season and has taken down Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers – that is not a bad quartet to have on your ‘Quarterback Sack List.’
I have nothing but total respect for Matthew Stafford and the way he puts his body on the line year after year… for a franchise that lets him down year after year. I wonder if the Lions will do the humane thing and set Stafford free during this coming offseason? I highly doubt they will want to part from him though.
I have written here for the past few weeks that I’m not that fussed about what the Bengals do until Joe Burrow is back at quarterback. But I have to admit that they made me sit up and take notice with their win over Pittsburgh. Cincy rushed for more than 150 yards and were hitting hard all night long.
It is the most Jets thing ever that even when they win, they lose. That victory over the Rams was well deserved and just reward for the current players and coaches. But for the franchise as a whole, it was a result that could see a generational, fortune-changing talent playing elsewhere for the next 15 years.
The Jags can hand Trevor Lawrence back to the Jets if they win one of their final two games of the year. I cannot see it happening and nor should it. The Jags have a chance to energize their franchise like never before with the drafting of Clemson’s quarterback. Right or wrong, that has to be the priority now.