As crazy as this sounds, we are only three weeks away from the NFL playoffs and the picture is starting to manifest itself. In this breakdown I’m ranking all 32 teams and I use different tiers to describe how I feel about them. While there are plenty of statistics to support the cases I want to make for them, I tried to limit those to a smaller degree, because at this point of the season it’s all about what I have learned from studying them every week and what my eyes tell me.
Here we go:
These are the four truly complete teams. You can find concerns if you nit-pick, but I don’t think there is an obvious weakness for any of them at this stage. The top three arguably have the three best quarterbacks in the NFL, while the other two have elite offensive play-callers and top five defenses. Football is all about matchups, so they could have a bad draw, but in general I think they are all winning at least one playoff game and have a legitimate shot to go the distance.
You can find those little flaws if you are looking for them, but to me the Chiefs are still clearly the number one team in the league. They can lack some urgency at times and we have seen them let teams hang around for multiple weeks now, with no multiple-score wins since their week ten bye. However, even when they are down in games, you know at some point they will turn it on and make a run, like scoring 30 straight in 18 minutes last week at Miami. And if you give Patrick Mahomes the ball at the end of the game, whether you’re up or down, they will finish the job. Kansas City still number one in point differential for the season (+9.4) and until last week they were tied with Pittsburgh for number one in turnover margin (now +8). I think there’s about two teams in each conference that could make for exciting matchups against them, but I don’t think anybody is beating the Chiefs on a neutral field – and the playoffs will probably go through Arrowhead.
Aaron Rodgers is my choice MVP right now. He has been absolutely phenomenal, with only one blemish to his record and that was the only time the Packers really didn’t show up, back in week six at Tampa Bay. The chemistry between Rodgers and Davante Adams is unbelievable, but that running back duo is phenomenal as well and the offensive line has been one of the most consistent ones in all of football. Plus, Matt LaFleur has turned himself into one of the top offensive play-callers in the game. Defensively, my one big issue was their interior front, which has been vulnerable to the run game, and that’s the one area you can still question, but since Dalvin Cook had that monster game against them, they have held opponents to under 100 yards rushing on average over these past six weeks. You can argue that the Saints are a little more complete in terms of NFC opponents, but the difference in quarterback play is substantial and they are becoming a better all-around squad.
Where are the people who told me Josh Allen will absolutely not be an MVP candidate at the end of the season? After Mahomes and Rodgers there is no quarterback who you can tell me has clearly been better than him. While the run game hasn’t been very consistent, I like the combination of Moss & Singletary, while Allen is a major factor in that area as well, and Brian Daboll understands when he is in matchups where he can utilize it. Their defense has really come along as well, after they had some issues early on – especially defending the run, holding opponents to just 18.7 points since their bye three weeks ago – and I believe that has something to do with Sean McDermott getting more involved in the defensive game-planning. They do a tremendous job of taking away staples of the opposing team’s passing game and over this three-game stretch since their bye they have given up just under 70 yards rushing on average.
This is actually the one team with a real question mark potentially, because we just don’t know for sure where Drew Brees is in his recovery and he hasn’t been great this season either way. However, assuming he is fine for their playoff run and they can win at least one more game to hold on to the division title, they are a very complete team that wins at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Sean Peyton is as good an offensive game-designer and team motivator as we have in the league and while that loss in Philadelphia last Sunday is obviously on our minds, let’s not forget that they had won nine straight before that. Now, you can argue that they have faced some clearly inferior teams, but they have won close and they have blown teams out. Since their week six bye, this past Sunday was their first time of not reaching 100 rushing yards (over 150 on average), while their defense has been phenomenal. What it really comes down to is that until their trip to Philly, their quarterbacks had not been sacked more than the opposing team’s since their early bye and they were recording 2.5 more sacks on a weekly basis. However, they are still the most penalized team in the league (843 yards)
These are all very good teams that have shown the ability to beat anybody in this tier or the one above it, but I don’t quite put them on that same elite level as the top four, because there is one clear weakness with them. Whether it may be a specific part like the pass-rush or skill-position talent, not having a schematic advantage in most weeks (at least on one side of the ball) or even team chemistry.
The only way you can make this team look bad is if you can mostly take away the run game, the boots and screens that mask Jared Goff, because we have seen that if you force him to be a drop-back passer and read the field, there are some issues. But just go back two weeks ago, when they played in Arizona – Sean McVay finds ways to move the pocket and he has become more diverse this season with his run schemes, rather than being a zone-only run team. The Rams have two of the most underrated receivers in the league, I like how they have used much more 12 personnel this season and making rookie Cam Akers their featured back is already paying big dividends. The star of the show however has been the defense, holding opponents to a league-low 4.6 yards per play and just 31 plays of 20+ yards. They have the best defensive lineman and the top corner in all of football, but it really has been the lesser-known commodities that have made the difference for them. Darious Williams as a phenomenal across Jalen Ramsey, rookie Jordan Fuller is a ball magnet and former first-round pick Leonard Floyd is turning his career around in L.A.
The Russell Wilson MVP run has completely disappeared when you look at the Vegas odds, but he is still having an excellent season, as he is on pace to complete 70 percent of his passes for the first time in his career and he has already reached a personal best 36 passing TDs. We have seen the turnovers ramp up and Seattle’s four losses have come in the games he has given it away multiple times, because they didn’t have much room for error because of their defense. The reason I have them this high is because they have seen more balance from them offensively, with an average of 124.6 rushing yards since their week six bye, and their defense has really made some strides. I know the two New York teams are in there, but since they got lit up by Josh Allen back in week nine, they have held opponents to just 16.2 points, without those major mess-ups and coming together as a unit. They are top ten in sacks (36) and make their opponents one-dimensional, holding them to just 3.9 yards per carry.
When I was referencing team chemistry in the intro for this tier, this is the squad that primarily made me mention it. Tampa Bay beat the Panthers and Raiders by over 20 points since then, but most of that came in the fourth quarter until which those games had been very pretty competitive, so their last truly complete performance came against the Packers all the way back in week six. They have questions about their offensive identity (no matter how much Bruce Arians is puffing his chest out after last week’s win), they have gone away from the run game in their losses and when they go really shotgun-heavy, their O-line has not looked the same in those one-on-ones. Their defense has shown moments of dominance, with a very dangerous pass-rush (second-highest pressure percentage at 27.8%) and two linebackers that can really fly around, but their corners have gotten torched at times and the really good offensive play-callers have been able to take advantage of some of the tendencies they have shown.
So many people said the Ravens were dead three weeks ago – they had the biggest COVID outbreak in the league, Lamar Jackson was getting criticized by the media and the defense was getting banged up. Now all of a sudden they are on track for a Wildcard spot, if they can just win out with a pretty soft schedule ahead and all they need is for one of the three other contenders in the AFC to lose at least one game. Things have not come as easy for Lamar as they did in his MVP season, but the real issue for this time is a lack of play-making outside the numbers and not enough creativity in the drop-back pass game altogether. They have gotten back to punching people in the mouth with the run game and I’m glad to see them make rookie J.K. Dobbins their top option out of the backfield. We have seen defenses give them trouble when they crowd the middle of the field, but if they can evolve a little bit in their perimeter passing attack and open up the field, they can create a lot of problems. Baltimore’s defense just gave up 42 points, but when that group is healthy, they have the potential to be a top-five unit, with an elite secondary.
This is obviously a lot lower than where they would have been two weeks ago, when they were still the only undefeated team in the league and other than Kansas City, you probably couldn’t have put anybody else above them. However, they have now lost back-to-back games – in fairness those two teams will likely go to the playoffs – and their offense has been highly concerning. Over the second half of their season, they have reached 100 rushing yards just once and average just 54.3 yards on the ground over that stretch, plus through the air everybody is all over the quick game and the Steelers rarely attack beyond the sticks, other than trying to draw some pass interference calls on shots outside the numbers. With that being said, while drops have been a major issue recently, they have a dynamic receiving corp and while they have lost a couple of pieces to injury, their defense is still number one in points allowed, sacks (45) and pressure percentage (33.5%) , takeaways (25) and therefore also turnover differential (+11).
If the Browns at least win two of their final three games – a two-week trip to face the New York teams and hosting the Steelers, who could have nothing to play for in the season finale – they are pretty much guaranteed to make the playoffs (as long as BAL, MIA, TEN & IND don’t all win out). I know they actually have a point differential of -20 on the season, but those 63 combined points they lost by in blowout fashion against the Ravens and Steelers early on are a major factor in that and if you look at their three matchups before this, they were actually winning big until opposing teams somehow added points late. Cleveland has the number three rushing offense (156.2 yards per game) with the premiere RB duo in the league, but they are still tied for fifth-most plays of 20+ yards (55) and Baker Mayfield arguably just played the two best games of his pro career these last couple of weeks. They can go 22 personnel and pound you with the run, but then also take play-action shots off it and then also create issues from empty sets. And until they had their number one corner Denzel Ward in the lineup, they were at least average in every meaningful statistical category, with a phenomenal D-line.
I brought this up in my week 14 recap – Derrick Henry has a chance to break the single-season rushing record, if he can average 191 yards on the ground over these last three games, which all feature bottom-five run defenses arguably (DET, GB & HOU). Of course Henry is the heartbeat of the Tennessee offense, but also big plays, as only five teams have recorded more plays of 20+ yards (53), despite also only five teams having thrown the ball less. No team is better at getting chunks off play-action, with A.J. Brown and Corey Davis routinely catching deep crossers and in-breaking routes behind the linebackers. And Ryan Tannehill is having an excellent season in general, while we have seen him execute at a really high level with little time on the clock and make things happen when they needed to put the ball in his hands. The Titans are tied with Green Bay for the fewest turnovers committed in the league at nine – and a third of those came against Cleveland, where they got steamrolled in the first half before ultimately cutting the lead to one touchdown. The defense is concerning part, with a league-low 14 sacks on the season and the highest third-down percentage allowed (52.2%), while they have had some bad performances from their special teams.
The Colts surprisingly are just outside the top ten in scoring defense (23.0 points per game), but by far their worst performance came without their best defensive player DeForest Buckner against the Titans a couple of weeks ago, and they are outstanding in second halves, surrendering just 7.8 points on average. Their front-seven if phenomenal and they have guys in the secondary who can take away the ball, while having missed just 62 tackles all season long (second-fewest) and scored four touchdowns themselves (most). What I really like about the Colts is how much they improved in the run game, where they have gone from a surprisingly bad start to now have rookie Jonathan Taylor really becoming their workhorse, averaging 110 yards and six yards per carry over these last three games. And with Philip Rivers taking better care of the ball and delivering big throws on third downs, they have now had their best three-game scoring run (34.7) and they are tied for second in turnover differential on the season at +10. And only two teams have a better difference between their starting drives and the ones of their opponents at +5.
Fringe playoff teams:
None of these teams have a playoff spot secured and if my calculations are correct, only two of them control their own destiny, in terms of making the cut if they win out, regardless of what else happens around the league. And only two of them will ultimately make it most likely. None of these squads blow you away. They all have bad losses on their resume and there are multiple areas that has disappointed at times.
The Dolphins came a little short from pulling off a comeback against the Chiefs this past Sunday after KC had that big run, and that most likely takes them out of the race for the AFC East, but they still control their own playoff destiny as far as I can tell. The Miami defense has been incredible. They are either first or second in points allowed (18.8), takeaways (25) and third-down percentage (33.1). Their coaching staff does an excellent job of teaching and game-planning for specific matchups. Offensively, injuries have been a story for them pretty much all season long, while the switch to Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback has certainly been in character with the horizontal passing attack from OC Chan Gailey. The big issue for them is the lack of explosive plays – only the Bengals (32) have less than their 34 plays of 20+ yards. And while they do run the ball at an middle-of-the-pack rate, they are averaging a league-low 3.6 yards per carry. That’s why they can’t really control the pace of games but also not be as dynamic scoring to keep up with the high-flying offenses. Still, before their loss to Kansas City on Sunday, they had won seven of their last eight and they are sixth in point differential with +6.5.
This team is a little tough to figure out where to put. Everybody loved them when they were 6-3, but then then were a Hail Mary against Buffalo away from losing five straight and then they completely dominate the Giants, who were getting hyped up a week ago. In theory, they have one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league, they have shown the ability to run the ball effectively, I like some of the things Vance Joseph does schematically on defense and some of their young players on that side of that ball have really come in their own. Unfortunately, Kliff Kingsbury’s offense leaves me wanting to see more, with opposing teams being able to just man up and anticipate passing concepts, while their 13th-ranked scoring defense only looks as good on paper as they do because they have feasted in their matchup versus three NFC East teams and the Jets (10.5 PPG in those matchups). They control their own destiny and could be lucky if their one true remaining test comes against the Rams in week 17, when those guys have nothing to play for potentially, but if they make it, I’m worried about what happens when the really well-coached NFC teams can solely focus on them.
Over their current four-game winning streak (second-longest active one to Kansas City), Washington leads all teams in point differential at +12.5 and the only teams that are actually close are the Saints and Seahawks, who had blowout wins over the QB-less Broncos and winless Jets respectively during that stretch. They have to hope that rookie RB Antonio Gibson can return without much of an issue from his turf toe, because the offense is really all about him and their one stud receiver Terry McLaurin. They are certainly limited in the pass game, with by far their best option at quarterback being somebody who couldn’t even walk properly at the start of the calendar year, who doesn’t really create out of structure anyway. At the same time, they just scored 23 points and won a game without an offensive touchdown this past Sunday. Their defensive line is absolutely loaded with first-round talent and they have no fear of attacking patterns and trying to take away easy yardage against the pass. That’s why they are tied for third-fewest yards allowed per play (5.0) and they are sixth in points allowed despite their bad start to the season (21.2).
These Patriots are holding on for dear life here. They are not very talented. Cam Newton has not looked the same since missing time with COVID early on in the season, with more than 180 passing yards just three times on the year, none of their receivers would be more than a WR3 on teams with average pass-catching groups and if we can agree that Miami wasn’t who they are now in the season-opener, the only good defense they have score over 20 points against all season was the Ravens – and they were really banged up coming into that matchup. They still have one of the top secondaries in the league and are incredibly well-coached of course on that side of the ball, but they lack beef on the defensive interior, which has them as a bottom-ten run defense, and they have suffered blowout losses to elite offensive play-callers like Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay. They are once again the least penalized team in the league (just 442 yards against) and they destroyed the Chargers 45-0 just two weeks ago, in large part because their special teams were so amazing and how much better their coaching was, but that’s not enough against great teams.
This might be surprising to some people, but the Raiders are the only team in the league to score on at least half of their offensive drives. We have seen them beat opposing teams up with the run game, with a couple of 200-yard performances already this season, but they have almost gone 2-0 in shootouts against the Chiefs and Derek Carr has had his best season since making a run at the MVP award several years ago. Unfortunately, their defense has really only had a couple of good games. They are one of only three units to allow 30 points per game – and the other two are the Cowboys and Jets. And they also allow opponents to convert exactly half of their third downs (tied for third-highest). In college football-fashion, they have a few quality wins on their resume over the Saints, Chiefs and Browns – but they have fallen off dramatically recently. Over the last three weeks they have now lost by 37 to the Falcons, 17 to the Colts and they needed a miracle touchdown (and a really bad defensive call) to beat the winless Jets.
When you look at the numbers from Minnesota’s game against the Bucs, it almost doesn’t make sense that they lost by 12 points – ten first downs more and 18 minutes more time of possession. Their kicker Dan Bailey had a horrible showing, but special teams have been an issue all season long – only making a league-low two third of their FG attempts, untimely muffs and returns suffered. On paper the offense should be one of the best in the league, with a superstar running back, an outstanding receiver duo and Kirk Cousins capable of making big throws with the right pieces around him. Yet, if you take away the season-opener against Green Bay when most of it came in garbage time, they have only scored more than 30 points twice this season and their 22 giveaways are tied for fifth in the league. The defense has shown some improvement from their horrible 1-5 start, but they have nobody on the roster with more than 3.5 sacks at this point and their young corners have been taken advantage of routinely. I could see them win out potentially, but they still need some help to sneak into the playoffs.
Striving to reach .500:
While I believe about half of these teams have the potential to put together complete games and there is potential to good all-around, none of them have been able to actually do it for an extended stretch. For me one side of the ball has clearly held them back for most of the season and only one of them actually still has a chance to earn a winning record, while another one at best could finish a half game below .500 – but still somehow has an outside shot of winning their division
One of the biggest disappointments of this 2020 season has been the 49ers. And it’s not really about their players messing up or anything like that, they have just been unlucky. No other team has put more players on injured reserve than San Francisco and it happened to key pieces. As brilliant as Kyle Shanahan I believe is and as well as that defense has played for the most part, somebody has to deliver the ball in the passing game and at some points those injuries will catch up to you. Nick Mullens has been rough to watch ever since taking over as the starter. They have gone 1-4 over that stretch and they have turned the ball over more than three times per game. Now only the Broncos have turned the ball over more than the Niners (25) on the season. And defensively I know elite quarterbacks like Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers and Josh Allen carved them up, but when you look at the rest of the schedule, it was their offensive turnovers and their special teams in one matchup in particular that has set put their own guys in a bad position.
Just a week ago it felt like EVERYBODY was jumping on the Giants bandwagon and it’s like everybody has gotten off even quicker. Daniel Jones could not move because of his hamstrings and the Cardinals were able to completely out for the run, while recording eight total sacks once they got Big Blue in obvious passing situations and turnovers setting Arizona up in the red-zone twice. New York still has a top-ten defense in my opinion, where they throw a lot of different looks at opponents and only the Rams have surrendered less plays of 20+ yards (39). Their offense is certainly more troubling to me, but unless Jalen Hurts looks like he did in his first career start going forward, Daniel Jones is the best quarterback in that division and until this past Sunday, the G-Men had gone for over 100 rushing yards in eight games and averaged 148.9 yards over that stretch. They are still the second-worst scoring offense in the league (18.3 points per game), but those numbers are heavily influenced by their 0-5 start. Joe Judge and his coaching staff have these guy on the right track and they have the season-sweep over Washington. So if they can win one more game than the Football Team over these final three weeks, they host a playoff game – but they have a tough finish ahead.
I think I would have originally had the Eagles five or six spots lower and in the tier below this one had I put out these rankings a week ago. So I’m glad I didn’t and waited to see what Jalen Hurts looked like in his first career start – and he was awesome. I didn’t understand the Saints’ defensive gameplan, but that team certainly had some juice with the switch under center, whether it’s the defense playing with their hair on fire or people like Alshon Jeffery even making big catches. Once again Philly has suffered a ton of injuries, especially on the O-line, but Hurts’ mobility can help out with that, if Miles Sanders has some space, he can be a dynamic player and all of a sudden Doug Pederson actually had a gameplan. Outside of their trip to Green Bay, the Eagles defense has been playing very well in recent weeks, with a hungry pass-rush and the back-seven aggressively coming upfield and punishing guys for touching the ball. At best, Philly can now finish 7-8-1, but as crazy as that sounds, if they win out, while Washington and the Giants at least lose one other game, the Eagles are your division champs. And what would be more NFC East or 2020 than that.
This is another tricky one. The Broncos started their season 0-3 with really tough games against the Titans, Steelers and Buccaneers. Since then they have gone 5-5 and played some really good football at times – wins over New England and Miami, a crazy comeback against the Chargers and playing the Chiefs close, plus one of those losses came when they didn’t have an actual quarterback on the roster. However, they also got blown their doors blow off by the Chiefs the first time around, the Raiders and the Saints (in that QB-less matchup). The big theme for this squad has been turnovers. They have given the ball away a league-high 29 times and they have forced the second-fewest turnovers (11), which makes their differential of -18 eight worse than any other team in the league. When you don’t convert your third downs offensively (only 37.6%) and allow big plays on defense (53 plays of 20+ yards), that is a problem. However, Drew Lock just played his best game as a pro and he has a lot of young talent around him catching passes, while they have averaged 127 rushing yards a game since their 0-3 start. And the defense has been getting after opposing quarterbacks – 32 sacks since then as well.
I don’t really like talking about the Bears anymore. When they started the season 5-1, I was among many to say they are not nearly as good as their record indicates – they lost six straight. When I put out my rankings of the top ten defenses about a month ago, I said they were the second-best unit in the league – they lay a complete egg and give up 41 points against the Packers and then pull a miracle in the wrong way to give away the Lions game and allow them to score 34. And then when I’m finally ready to fully write them off, they hold one of the hottest quarterbacks in football in Deshaun Watson to seven points and the offense finally wakes up in a get-right matchup against the Texans. I know they have faced poor defenses and he made some bad mistakes at Green Bay, but since Mitch Trubisky was inserted back into the lineup following their bye, they have averaged just over 30 points. And we know that defense can ball. When Akiem Hicks has been in the lineup, they have been elite or close to it in all areas. They could easily win at Minnesota and at Jacksonville and then we don’t know if the Packers have anything to play for when they come to Soldier Field in the season finale. So if that happens and Arizona just loses one game, they are most likely in the playoffs. Crazy.
A 5-8 record is not horrible and if they don’t blow that big lead to Chicago in the season-opener, they are well alive in the hunt for the NFC’s seven seed, with a win over Arizona and a chance to tie season-series with Minnesota. However, they are just looking to finish the year on a high note and make this look like a more desirable head coaching job. There is just nothing that really impresses you about the football team. They are bottom four in run offense and defense – so their opponents can always control the pace of the game. They are tied for the third-most yards per play allowed (6.0) and they have forced the third-fewest takeaways (12) – so there’s a heavy imbalance in big plays made between their defense and the opposing offense. And they are losing all the crucial situations when you compare their percentages with the ones of their opponents – minus 5.2% on third downs, 4.2% on fourth downs and 6.8% in red-zone scoring. Matt Stafford and Matt Prater have had moments of brilliance late in games, but as a team they just brought it enough on a weekly basis.
Already out of it:
The teams in this group have all been eliminated from playoff contention and show multiple issues. A couple of them have top ten quarterbacks this season in my book and I wouldn’t say any of them can’t win with who they have under center, but all five of them field bottom-half defenses and a couple of them just don’t know how to manage and win game at a high rate.
This might be the best 4-9 team I have ever seen. Of course you can go back and look at times that have gotten hurt – and the Panthers have missed their best player in Christian McCaffrey – but in general they have been pretty healthy. Teddy Bridgewater has played the best football of his career under OC Joe Brady, they have a dangerous receiver trio, some of these young studs on defense have really shown up, like Brian Burns and Jeremy Chinn, and they have hung tough in pretty much every game all season long. They just haven’t been able to actually pull it off, with all but two of their nine losses being by one possession and those couple of matchups with the Bucs were competitive until the fourth quarter too. Matt Rhule has built a foundation in Carolina that will win him a lot of games sooner than rather and when you look at the rest of the NFC South, none of them have a long-term solution at quarterback and they will all face significant cap problems in the future. So bite the bullet here and maybe give it another year, because then this team is ready to take over that division.
Man, I feel so bad for Deshaun Watson. That guy is an elite quarterback and with the way Bill O’Brien and the entire organization have conducted business, they probably cost him a chance to go to a Super Bowl potentially during his rookie contract. Hopefully this season is as bad as it’s going to get, because he has been the only real bright spot. The two obvious problems with this team – they can’t run the ball and their defense has been absolutely atrocious. They only have two runs of 20+ yards all season long and if you take their quarterback out of it, they are averaging a miniscule 3.5 yards per carry (would be worst in the league). And their defense is the only one that ranks bottom three in average yards allowed per pass (7.9) and run (5.0), while they are also the only unit with single-digit takeaways (eight) – and six of those came against the Jaguars and Lions. The only two times they have allowed less than 20 points came against Jacksonville in one of their matchups and then at Cleveland in the rain, when the final score was 10-7 for the Browns. So because of that, only the Jets have less time of possession (27:10). When you look at their four wins on the season, it was all about Deshaun – and he almost got them one each over the top two teams in the AFC South, but he never touched the ball against the Titans and a bad snap from the opposing two-yard line cost them the Colts game.
I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a team with worse coaching than this one. When it comes to a lack of adjustments being made, disgusting time management, the amount of big leads this time has surrendered and so many other things. It has just been a joke. And I feel bad for the players, because Justin Herbert is having a phenomenal rookie season, most likely setting new marks in all the major categories, Keenan Allen has been incredible and Joey Bosa has been terrorizing opposing backfields when healthy. Yet, the only reason they lost last week is because they faced another team that has no freaking idea of how to win a game late and Matt Ryan gifted them a chance to pull it off in the end. When you look at total yards, explosive plays all kinds of statistics, it almost makes no sense. The craziest number I can bring up for this team is that if you take out their embarrassing 45-0 debacle against the Patriots, they have scored just 1.5 less than their opponents – and they are 4-9. I’m so annoyed that Herbert’s rookie season will be kind of forgotten because of how bad the team was, but I just hope they put a competent coaching staff around him and they can finally break this curse they have been under as a franchise.
I just talked about how the Falcons should have won that Chargers game last week – they had the ball twice in scoring range over the last four minutes and they blew it. Just like they did when they held a 15-point lead until five minutes left against the Cowboys in week two or when Todd Gurley fell into the end-zone when you were basically guaranteed a win if your kicker can just hit a 20-yard field goal at the end. Interim head coach Raheem Morris gave them some life in the middle of the season, but they disqualified themselves from any outside shot of somehow being in the playoff conversation with these last two losses, after they had a 43-6 blowout win over the Raiders. The defense has shown a lot of improvement since their 0-5 start, but the defense has not been able to get stops when they really needed it for the most part. And while the offense has a lot of firepower in theory, but Julio Jones has been banged up all season long, they are 25th in rushing offense and they have not scored enough points when they were put in those situations. Atlanta is one of only two teams in the league – to go along with the Jets – to not convert more than half of their red-zone trips into touchdowns.
Don’t let their 30-7 win over the Bengals fool you – this is not a good team. The Cowboys were 2-7 coming out of their bye week and then when pulled off the upset over the Vikings, everybody was like “Could they still win the NFC East?”, which is more an indictment on that division than where they were as a team. They went on to get embarrassed (again) on Thanksgiving by Washington and then Baltimore ran for almost 300 yards on them over the following two weeks. They have allowed the most points all season long (400) and they have allowed four different teams to go for over 200 rushing yards this season. That doesn’t mix well with turning the ball over at the third-highest rate league-wide (24 total) and your defense allowing opponents to convert half of their third-down attempts. Andy Dalton has played fairly well when available, but Zeke has been a major disappointment, the O-line has been devastated with injuries and I think I have said enough about their defense.
The very bottom:
I think these are clearly the three worst teams in the league. None of them has a quarterback they actually trust at the helm – at least right now – they show inconsistencies at different areas of the football team on a weekly basis and nothing they do is actually above-average. I’d be willing to bet they are picking one, two and three in reverse order of these rankings come next April.
A month ago there was no way you find the Bengals down here. Joe Burrow looked like everything advertised and then some as the number one overall pick, they had won at Tennessee by double-digit and with the schedule ahead, they could been flirting with picking outside the top ten in the 2021 draft possibly. From that moment Burrow suffered that knee injury, Cincinnati has been outscored 44-81 and one of their touchdowns came on a kick return. Their defense has surprisingly been better over the second half of the season, because if you take off those 10 points that came directly off their own turnovers, they have held all of their opponents to 20 or less since that Washington game. However, on the season they are bottom five in turnovers forced (12) and surrendered (25), and with any QB other than their promising rookie, they have been two versus nine in that department. You pretty much secured yourself the number three pick in the upcoming draft with this loss. So get that young man Penei Sewell from Oregon, grab another offensive lineman on day two and sign one in free agency. He should never have to take as many shots at any point of his career.
The Jaguars have been bad and to win their season-opener against the Colts before losing 12 games has to be tough to swallow for Jacksonville fans (feeling bad for you London). However, there is a big difference between this team and the on at number 32 – and I will bring up another number to make that clear in my notes for them. Even since that week one win, half of their games have been decided by a single possession. Yeah, they just got blown out by the Titans again, but they also had a chance to win or tie on their final drives against the Packers, Browns and Vikings before that. Their defense has made some plays at times, but when it comes down to it, you can run or pass at will of them, being bottom-five in both and allowing a league-worst 6.3 yards per play. They have now three different quarterbacks before coming back to Gardner Minshew now, who I thought all along would give them the best chance to win – even though I’m not sure that is their objective right now anyway, when they will most likely end up with one of the top two QBs. The one true bright spot – running back James Robinson has already set a new record for most scrimmage yards by an undrafted rookie. Feeling pretty good right now about having him as a top ten RB in this past draft.
It always looks great at the start of games actually for the Jets, since they are surprisingly number one in percentage of opening drives ending in points offensively. Unfortunately, they have still scored 55 points less than any other team in the league and only the Cowboys have given up more. Therefore, their point differential of -16.2 is pretty much a touchdown worse than the next-closest team in the league (Jacksonville at -9.4). There are stretches in games where they can’t pick up a first down in 20+ minutes offensively, the defense has had his moments, but also gave up 30 points to the Patriots with extremely limited skill-position talent, and last week their kicker missed three consecutive field goals of under 45 yards. Now they just need to finish the job. Get Trevor Lawrence, put together a coaching staff that will support him to an optimum, spend your money to keep him happy and let GM Joe Douglas try to turn this thing around.