Another wacky week of NFL action has come to a close, and they playoff race is heating up. We try to get the league figured out once again in the TSW NFL Power Rankings: Week Fourteen.
1: () Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-3)
Tampa’s first-half dominance against the Bills was only outmatched by their second-half collapse. They floundered in all phases but ultimately lucked into a win at the end when the result was taken out of the hands of the players and put in the hands of the officials. Not to say their fearsome defensive line couldn’t have stopped the Bills if the blatant uncalled PI had placed the ball on the goal line in the closing minute of regulation, but neither team got the chance to prove they should win it due to mistakes by the people in black and white. Cases for full-time referees are getting stronger and stronger all the time.
2: (1) Green Bay Packers (10-3)
The Packers are one of the NFL’s best, no doubt about it. Aaron Rodgers decimated the Bears, leaning on his playmakers when his offensive line failed, and carved their opponent to pieces. What more is there to say?
3: (1) Arizona Cardinals (10-3)
So, the NFC gets that much more confusing. The only team that was able to truly lead their conference so far this season has fallen short again, and they did it in such a mismatched, disorganized, and undisciplined manner that some may lose faith. Worry not, the Cardinals are able to beat any team in the NFL, but their struggles are the kind that can cost you against playoff-calibre opponents. Their ability to thrive should remain unquestioned, but the faith that they will? That’s another question entirely.
4: (2) Los Angeles Rams (8-4)
The Rams looked like they did to start the season, and have surged right back into the NFC title race. In an elite night from all areas of the team, on a day they were missing star CB Jalen Ramsey, they beat the formerly league-leading Arizona Cardinals. The race is a close one at the top, but there are few teams as hot as the Rams right now.
5: (1) Los Angeles Chargers (8-5)
Justin Herbert may not excel under pressure, but when he has time to throw he can beat out the best of them. As the young star gains more NFL experience he looks to be one of the best QBs in the league for a long time to come.
6: (1) New England Patriots (9-4)
New England play visitor to the Colts after a mutual bye week. Who comes out on top? We don’t know, but we’re sure excited to find out.
7: (1) Dallas Cowboys (9-4)
The Cowboys looked good, mostly, and though their offense stalled their defense won the day, with Micah Parsons making a case for not only Defensive Rookie of the Year, but Defensive Player of the Year. He’s been electric, and so fun to watch. It may be fashionable to hate Dallas, but they’re back, for real this time.
8: (1) Tennessee Titans (9-4)
Tennessee didn’t so anything impressive against the Jaguars, because they didn’t have to. Probably the least impressive shutout of the season, the Titans are getting healthier and can finally get back to the way they want to play soon. As A.J. Brown and Derrick Henry near their returns, things can heat up in the south.
9: (2) Kansas City Chiefs (9-4)
Kansas City, we never doubted you, we swear. In reality, just about everyone out there was wondering if the Chiefs still had it, or if their restructure of the roster was a failure after their Superbowl loss, but those worries can be put to bed. They may not be as consistently dominant as they were over the past three seasons, but they’re still arguably one of the NFL’s best. Their defense needed midseason improvement and they appear to have got it. So far, anyway.
10: (1) Buffalo Bills (7-6)
The Buffalo Bills are in the final Wild Card spot in the AFC right now, and they have plenty of valid reasons for criticism, but their quarterback is not one of them. In one of the most remarkable single-man efforts of the last 5 seasons, Allen dug his way out of a 21-point second-half defect to force overtime, where his defense ultimately let him down. If not for some fishy officiating, this game probably ends differently, but we tragically don’t get to find out. Perhaps leave the game in the hands of the players?
11: (1) Indianapolis Colts (7-6)
The Colts were on a bye ahead of their big matchups against the New England Patriots; One of the best games of the week and also a pivotal game for both franchises in the AFC playoff race.
12: () San Francisco 49ers (7-6)
The 49ers nearly blew their lead, and it would have been heartbreaking. Instead, they managed to squeak out an overtime win against one of the NFL’s better teams to keep themselves in good position for a playoff spot, and George Kittle is a huge reason why. He’s exploded in recent weeks, and has proven to be crucial to his team’s success moving forward.
13: (1) Cleveland Browns (7-6)
The Browns inconsistent and unwieldy offense was the reason they started out hot, and it was the reason they almost lost too. Baker Mayfield and friends might have had a rough day in the end, but their defense bailed them out effectively. As the team’s Covid issues worsen in dramatic fashion, we don’t know how many players can even take the field on their Saturday game against the Raiders.
14: (1) Baltimore Ravens (8-5)
The Ravens almost figured it out, even with their backup QB in the game, but no-one cares about the loss right now. All eyes are on one story: Lamar Jackson. His injury might cost them their season if they’re unlucky, as no other QB brings his level of dynamic rushing ability to this offense. Hoping for the best, we’re all in wait-and-see mode.
15: (2) New Orleans Saints (6-7)
New Orleans has finally stopped their skid with a blowout win against the Jets, but is it too late? The team holds a bevy of problems, but on a good day they’ve proven capable of beating the NFL’s elites. This time, they just had to beat New York. Taysom Hill wasn’t great, unless you had him in fantasy football, so Alvin Kamara carried the offense in his usual manner.
16: (1) Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6-1)
Two different Steelers teams showed up on Thursday Night Football, and we’d all love to see more of the second one. Physical defensively, and willing to take risks with the ball, the desperate comeback attempt could have been entirely avoided by simply doing what they inevitably resorted to all along. They fall to 6-6-1, but after a total collapse they almost build a win back up again.
17: (1) Cincinnati Bengals (7-6)
The Bengals are great, but not always. Some late-game heroics from Burrow and company brought them back into it, and they managed to overcome a late deficit to force overtime, and score a field goal once they got there, but they ultimately crumbled to a now-fearsome 49ers offense in the hands of Kittle.
18: () Washington Football Team (6-7)
Washington needed a win for their realistic playoff hopes, but they’re not dead yet. With four weeks left to play their fate is still very much in their own hands. The question remains valid; Can they do anything once they make the playoffs? This team almost knocked off last year’s eventual champion Buccaneers in the Wild Card round, so they might have what it takes to do it again.
19: () Las Vegas Raiders (6-7)
Well, the Raiders just got executed on live television. Kansas City dominated them in every phase of the game and there aren’t any positives to take away. Pray they can comeback and compete after this soul-destroying late-season loss.
20: (2) Minnesota Vikings (6-7)
The Vikings are tough, and despite a whole mess of injuries they managed to lean on Dalvin Cook to power them to victory. His historic first half should have been enough to earn himself some rest, but his team’s defensive collapse nearly cost them anyway. Kirk Cousins was inconsistent despite a few splash plays, and this game marred an otherwise stellar season from the veteran. Still, one of the best Thursday Night Football games of the season, was won with a desperate final-second pass breakup in the endzone, which may have forced overtime.
21: (1) Miami Dolphins (6-7)
The Dolphins are expected to handle the Jets with no sense of civility in Sunday’s early window. They’re hot, rested, and ready to become an absolute pain for any playoff contenders.
22: (1) Seattle Seahawks (5-8)
Criticism of Seattle is legitimate and understandable, but they came to play on Sunday. Wilson appears to have rediscovered his deep ball, which was such an important aspect of his game for most of his career so far, and with it he brings the ability to catch any defense in the NFL sleeping.
23: (1) Denver Broncos (7-6)
This one was for #88. To say that Demaryius Thomas was in the building on Sunday might be the understatement of the year, as the Broncos dominated the Lions in a game they dedicated to his memory. We’d elaborate more on this one, but it’s not always about what happens on the field. Rest in peace.
24: (3) Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)
Philly visits the heartbroken WFT in a now-crucial divisional matchup after their bye week.
25: (2) Atlanta Falcons (6-7)
The Falcons still aren’t great, but they have enough bright spots to cause problems for other teams under the right circumstances. They take advantage of turnovers and Matt Ryan still has those veteran moments of unimaginable clarity, where time stands still and a touch pass hits his target perfectly in stride. If they had a few more playmakers on offense we could be looking at a playoff team.
26: (1) Carolina Panthers (5-8)
Matt Rhule is panicking, and rightfully so, but it’s only working to the detriment of this team. If he settled down and tried to find some consistency, they probably don’t lose this game. Instead, the once-hot team can’t rely on their terrifying secondary because they’re giving the ball back on every possession. Somehow, they need to strike some balance. Not firing their offensive coordinator would have been a good start.
27: (1) New York Giants (4-9)
The Giants lost this one badly, but they might have finally sorted out their running game, only about 6-10 games too late. If they’d been able to manufacture this kind of production for most of the season, they could have been in the thick of the playoff race, but alas. Onto the offseason, it seems.
28: () New York Jets (3-10)
Blown out by the Taysom Hill-led Saints, the Jets can officially start planning for the offseason. Zach Wilson has struggled immensely in his rookie season, and with the quality of draft picks they have already, they could easily try to secure some top prospects. The question: do they want to give him more time or have they seen enough already?
29: () Chicago Bears (4-9)
Jakeem Grant was on fire. We won’t criticize the Bears for blowing their 3rd quarter lead, after all they are the Bears and their season is all but over, but they might have a real contributor in Grant. His ability to zip past defenders on both the offense and special teams gives this team some real credibility, every now and then.
30: (1) Detroit Lions (1-11-1)
The Lions are not very good, and on a day where they took on a competent opponent inspired by the loss of their friend, they didn’t stand a chance. Finally, they’re officially eliminated from playoff contention. Still, they looked better than a lot of the teams around them, and so they rise.
31: (1) Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11)
Jacksonville were shut out 20-0, and they hardly played a snap. Nearly every man on the field looked disinterested as the new most dysfunctional team in the NFL completely implodes before our very eyes. Urban Meyer might have had the single-worst NFL debut season a coach has ever had, so don’t be surprised if the team doesn’t retain him into next season.
32: () Houston Texans (2-11)
Seattle is better than their record, sure, but there’s no excuse to get dominated like the Texans did. Mills looked decent, but that’s all they had going for them in this one-sided affair.
Don’t forget to check out last week, and come back next time to see how another week of NFL action changes the board.