1. New Orleans Saints (12-2; won 12-9 vs CAR) (- No change from last week)
It was not pretty but the Saints got the job done in Charlotte. Drew Brees had another down day but the defense picked up the slack. Sheldon Rankins and New Orleans’ defensive line took over this game and never really gave the Panthers offense a chance. Barring disaster, the NFC playoffs should run through New Orleans and that should drive fear into the other NFC teams.
2. Los Angeles Chargers (11-3; won 29-28 vs KC) (+2)
Los Angeles may be for real this time around. They made up a 14-point deficit in the final minutes of the fourth quarter and won the game on a last second two-point conversion. The defense held up well against the Chiefs offense that has been running teams over. They will still need another Chiefs slip up to host the entirety of the AFC playoffs, but they look like the strongest team in their conference at the moment.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (11-3; lost 29-28 vs LAC) (-1)
Kansas City was minutes away from locking up the AFC West, but the defense could not hold as they gave up 15 late points to allow a win to slip away. The offense had a quiet day by their standards—Patrick Mahomes only threw for 242 yards and a pair of scores. Despite the loss they are still in the driver's seat for the AFC’s top seed, but they did show that they are beatable at home.
4. Chicago Bears (10-4; won 24-17 vs GB) (+1)
The Bears avoided getting swept by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. The defense had another good game, holding Green Bay to only 17 points. The offense was not particularly great but they did enough as well. Mitchell Trubisky threw for a pair of scores and even Jordan Howard found the end zone. With the Rams on a skid, Chicago has their sites set on a first-round bye.
5. Los Angeles Rams (11-3; lost 30-23 vs PHI) (-2)
Los Angeles has lost itself. Jared Goff had another down day, and the Rams offense was held stagnant for much of the day. The offensive line failed to keep him upright, and had Todd Gurley not put together a pair of scores, then this could have been a blowout. A team that looked destined for the Super Bowl has hit a serious road bump.
6. Houston Texans (10-4; won 29-22 vs NYJ) (+2)
The Texans bounced right back after their win streak was ended at the hands of the Colts last week. DeAndre Hopkins had 170 receiving yards and two touchdowns as he led the team to another key victory. Houston is on pace to sit out the first round of the AFC playoffs, and unexpected situation to be in after their rough start to the season.
7. New England Patriots (9-5; lost 17-10 vs PIT) (-1)
New England’s offense could not find their stride as they lost a huge game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. After a coverage bust allowed Chris Hogan to waltz into the endzone for a 63-yard score early, the Patriots were shut down. They scored 3 points in the last 50 minutes of the game, and Tom Brady was sloppy as the team fell apart. A team that looked set for the Super Bowl has now lost two straight and fallen out of a first-round bye slot.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1; won 17-10 vs NE) (+4)
Pittsburgh’s season looked to be on life support after a short skid the past few weeks. They bounced back big time, though, with a victory over their long time rival New England Patriots. The defense was incredible, and if they can avoid another disaster, they are on the trail to another division title.
9. Indianapolis Colts (8-6; won 23-0 vs DAL) (+1)
Marlon Mack had yet another huge day with 139 yards and a pair of scores against one of the league’s top rush defenses as the Colts kept pace in the wild card race. The defense was incredible as well as rookie Darius Leonard led a shut out effort. While they still do need some help to get there, if the Colts can make the playoffs then they will be a tough out.
10. Baltimore Ravens (8-6; won 20-12 vs TB) (+1)
Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards led another strong effort on the ground for the Ravens as they knocked off the Bucs to stay in the playoff race. They combined for 199 yards and the defense held an explosive Tampa Bay offense in check. They have a tough road ahead, but both the AFC North title and wild card spot are still up for grabs if the Ravens can stay perfect.
11. Dallas Cowboys (8-6; lost 23-0 vs IND) (-2)
Everything went wrong for the Cowboys this week. They had a field goal blocked, a crucial fumble and two failed fourth downs conversions as they couldn’t draw blood against the Colts this week. The offense did not even look particularly bad, they just made bad mistakes when it mattered the most. With the Eagles heating up, they still are not in the clear in the NFC East, but barring a disaster the playoffs look to be in the cards for them.
12. Seattle Seahawks (8-6; lost 26-23 vs SF) (-5)
A Seattle team that was on top of the world just a week ago crashed back down to earth. They allowed a bad 49ers team to have a big day through the air and fell short in overtime against their long-time rival. Both Chris Carson and Doug Baldwin had big days, though, and this small slip up should not have any long-term downside for them as they should be playoff bound anyways.
13. Minnesota Vikings (7-6-1; won 41-17 vs MIA) (-)
Dalvin Cook and the Vikings offense exploded this week. They put up 41 points as Minnesota got back on track in their hunt for the postseason. Cook had 136 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. The Vikings offense got everything together just in time for them to keep the inside track to the NFC playoffs.
14. Philadelphia Eagles (7-7; won 30-23 vs LAR) (+2)
The Eagles looked doomed once a injury sidelined Carson Wentz, but just like last season Nick Foles stepped in and got the job done. The defensive front never allowed Jared Goff to feel comfortable and kept a dominant Rams offense in check. Foles and the offense did just enough to secure the win. The Super Bowl champs are only a half game out of the playoffs and will be hoping that Foles can work his magic once again.
15. Tennessee Titans (8-6; won 17-0 vs NYG) (-1)
Derrick Henry had another huge day as the Titans won another big game in the AFC playoff race. Marcus Mariota only threw for 88 yards, but he did not even need that many as the Giants never really stood a chance.
16. Miami Dolphins (7-7; lost 41-17 vs MIN) (-1)
The Dolphins terrible rush defense cost them once again as the Vikings ran all over them in a Week 15 loss. They allowed Dalvin Cook to run all over them and the Dolphins offense could not do enough to keep up. They are still technically involved in the AFC playoff race but it is hard to see this team as a serious contender.
17. Cleveland Browns (6-7-1; won 17-16 vs DEN) (+3)
Cleveland pulled out a huge victory on Thursday night to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Rookie Nick Chubb had another big day, and the defense held the Broncos ground attack in check. The Browns season is effectively over, but the fact that they have outlasted so many other teams this season is a huge step in the right direction for a franchise that was in the depths of despair only months ago.
18. Green Bay Packers (5-8-1; lost 24-17 vs CHI) (-1)
The Packers lost, again. Aaron Rodgers had another bad day at the office. If not for a good game by running back Jamaal Williams this would have been a blowout. The Packers are officially eliminated from the playoffs, and a season that started with so much promise is officially dead.
19. Denver Broncos (6-8; lost 17-16 vs CLE) (-1)
Denver’s long-shot playoff run is officially dead. Their ground game was stopped cold by the Browns defense, and Case Keenum could not do enough with his arm to make up the difference. A two-game skid has played a promising team out of the playoff race.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-9; lost 20-12 vs BAL) (-1)
Jameis Winston had another horrible game as the Bucs fell to the Ravens and ended their season. The defense held up surprisingly well, but that may be more a case of Lamar Jackson still not being a great passer this early in his career. Their season is effectively over but five wins this season does triumph any expectations this team had entering this season.
21. Washington (7-7; won 16-13 vs JAX) (+4)
Washington started a quarterback from the Alliance of American Football this week and somehow won. Josh Johnson threw for 151 yards and a score as his team knocked off the Jaguars to somehow keep their playoff hopes alive. This team is not going anywhere, though, and this victory falls more on the Jags failings than Washington’s successes.
22. Cincinnati Bengals (6-8; won 30-16 vs OAK) (+2)
Joe Mixon went off against the Raiders. The second-year back had 129 yards and two scores. Jeff Driskel was terrible but it did not matter as the Raiders are worse. The Bengals got a win to boost their pride late in a lost season.
23. Carolina Panthers (6-8; lost 12-9 vs NO) (-)
Cam Newton is clearly going through a serious shoulder injury but Carolina refuses to sit him. The quarterback was under throwing almost every ball and it doomed the Panthers against the Saints. The defense played a great game, holding a dominant Saints offense to only 12 points, but it was all in vain.
24. Atlanta Falcons (5-9; won 40-14 vs ARI) (+2)
A talented Falcons offense destroyed a bad Cardinals team. This is the kind of performance even a below average team should have against a team as bad as the Cardinals.
25. New York Giants (5-9; lost 17-0 vs TEN) (-4)
Eli Manning should not be on a football field.
26. Buffalo Bills (5-9; won 14-13 vs DET) (+3)
The defense had a few troubles early but shut down the Lions in the second half as the Bills pulled out another victory this week. The offense was ineffective for much of the day but they did enough to take advantage of mistakes Detroit made.
27. New York Jets (4-10; lost 29-22 vs HOU) (-)
Sam Darnold showed a few flashes but the defense could not contain the Texans. It was an impressive showing from a weak team but their upset bid fell just short down the line.
28. Detroit Lions (5-9; lost 14-13 vs BUF) (-6)
If you're on Team Tank, it was a good game.— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) December 16, 2018
For the rest of us, not so much.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10; lost 16-13 vs WAS) (-1)
They lost to a quarterback from the San Diego Fleet.
30. San Francisco 49ers (4-10; won 26-23 vs SEA) (+1)
Nick Mullens is not a great quarterback but he occasionally has a huge game. One of those games was this week against Seattle. He threw for 275 yards and a score and carried his team to an unlikely victory. This game will probably remove them from the race for the top draft pick, but a win over a long time rival is always great.
31. Oakland Raiders (3-11; lost 30-16 vs CIN) (-1)
Derek Carr actually had a great game but an under-powered Raiders team lost once again.
32. Arizona Cardinals (3-11; lost 40-14 vs ATL) (-)
Nick Bosa would be a pretty good compliment to Chandler Jones.