Written By: Peter Vandeventer | @PeteVandeventer
Ranked By: The Blitz Team | @Blitzalytics
How does the NFL shakeup while heading into the last quarter of the season?
We move into the last quarter of the regular season. Teams have begun to make moves regarding their future, while others are fighting to stay alive in the playoff hunt. This last quarter has been helpful for several teams while others hope to leave it in the past. How does the NFL shakeup going into December?
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-0) | Prev: 1
The Steelers remain the only undefeated team in the NFL. Despite a couple of close encounters since the midseason mark against both the Cowboys and Ravens, the Steelers are still the team to beat in the NFL. They have a stout defense with solid depth with a combination of youth and experience alongside an offense with the firepower to beat you in multiple ways. Games against the Bills, Colts, and Browns highlight their last month of the season.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-1) | Prev: 2
Despite their blip against the Raiders, the Chiefs have recovered and pushed forward. They haven’t been finishing their games and putting games out of each, as seen with one-score games against the Panthers, Chiefs, and Bucs. But they have certainly looked dominant and remain the league’s favorite to win the SB despite the Steelers record. They’ll be visiting the Dolphins and Saints and will have to play some of their best ball if they want to stay within striking distance of the Steelers for the 1st round bye.
3. New Orleans Saints (9-2) | Prev: 10
The Saints have continued to find ways to win despite no Drew Brees but they still have an elite signal-caller and playmakers to cope. They haven’t been challenged since their dominant victory over the Bucs but have taken care of their opponents, whoever it might be. The Chiefs are the most notable team on their schedule and will be a real test for the Saints. But they remain as the top team in the NFC and have a commanding victory over the south.
4. Seattle Seahawks (8-3) | Prev: 4
The Seahawks offense has faced a bit of a decline in recent weeks. But their inefficiency has been matched by an uptick in play by the defense. The improvement on defense has them as less of a punchline than earlier in the year but still needs more work. This is coming during a stretch where they beat the Rams, Cardinals, and Eagles. After their loss to the Bills, they may have turned a corner. With a schedule that includes the Giants, WFT, and Jets, the Seahawks have time to distance themselves from the uber-competitive NFC West.
5. Green Bay Packers (8-3) | Prev: 5
The Packers have a firm hold on the NFC North after the Bears’ stumble. But still, they’ve continued to put up great numbers during A-Rod’s renaissance season. With the Titans as the only notable game, the Packers have solidified their spot at the top of the NFC as we push towards the playoffs. A tough loss to Colts put their defense at center stang. Regardless though, the offense continues to move along despite all the pieces around Rodgers seemingly hurt or unreliable (minus Davante Adams).
6. Buffalo Bills (8-3) | Prev: 6
Buffalo continues to be a bit of an ‘under the radar’ type of team. They were one play away from beating the Cardinals and being 9-2. Josh Allen has proved to be a difference-maker. He’ll need to be just that with a schedule that has them playing the healthy 49ers, Steelers, and Dolphins. They can solidify their standing in the AFC.
7. Tennessee Titans (8-3) | Prev: 8
The Titans have had a rollercoaster of a season the last month but they’re going in the right direction. With wins against the Ravens and Colts, they’ve moved on past their losses to the Colts and the Bengals. This offense is reliant on Derrick Henry and will move as he does, as it should. The defense just needs to crank up the heat and get home. The Titans are meant for December football. They have a tough mentality that they’ll need against the Browns and Packers. After splitting their series with the Colts, they have to keep pushing and build on their lead.
8.Cleveland Browns (8-3) | Prev: 13
The Browns have caught on and are on the verge of breaking their playoff drought. They have playmakers on offense and seem to be clicking at the right time as they take on the Titans, Ravens, and Steelers to close out the year. The Browns have had some physical and sloppy play in recent weeks against the Texans, Eagles, and Jaguars but a win is a win. They’ve shown that they will find a way to win and capitalize off on suspect opposing offenses.
9. Indianapolis Colts (7-4) | Prev: 9
The Colts, like the Titans, have been up and down over the last month. After their win against the Packers, they put the league on notice as a serious contender but took a step back after they played the Titans again. With one of the league’s best defenses, the Colts still are one of the premier teams in the league and have a shot at the fellow wildcard hopeful--Las Vegas Raiders-- and the undefeated Steelers. Rivers just has to play the rest of the way as a game-manager and limit his turnovers, unlike how he has played recently.
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5) | Prev: 3
The Bucs are a lot better than the record shows but that means nothing when talking about the playoffs. Losses to the Saints, Rams, and Chiefs over the last quarter of the season has led to a lot of questions on all levels. Coaching and schematic concerns with instability on the offensive line have made Tom Brady less scary. The offense had shots at beating the Rams and Chiefs late in the 4th but fell short. Despite all that, the Bucs are in line to make waves in the playoffs. They have an offense that can be potent while their defense has flashed how suffocating it can be. They play no projected wildcard team the rest of the way so they control their destiny and just need a shot to make up for their recent woes.
11. Los Angeles Rams (7-4) | Prev: 12
The Rams followed their win against both the Seahawks and Bucs with a loss to the 49ers. I think that’s just a testament to how well the 49ers matchup with the Rams, but they still fell out of the lead of the NFC West. The Rams have shown to be a real threat will have to play the part as they face the Seahawks as well as the Cardinals twice.
12. Miami Dolphins (7-4) | Prev: 16
I don’t think anyone saw the Dolphins taking on the Rams and Cardinals the way they did but they have yet to flash offensively. When their defense isn’t forcing turnovers or scores, this offense hasn’t been able to score in bunches to win, as seen in their loss to the Broncos. They are in line to make the playoffs and get to choose their fate as they play the Chiefs, Patriots, Raiders, and Bills the rest of the way. A very difficult stretch but will be more than enough to give an insight into how the playoffs might go.
13. Baltimore Ravens (6-5) | Prev: 7
The Ravens have made headlines over the last couple of weeks and for the wrong reasons. The offense has faltered and a bit of a scheduling mixup due to Covid issues. After three straight losses, they haven’t dealt with adversity as well as they could. Their 6-5 record is far from where they want to be but they have an easy remaining schedule. The Ravens will need a little help to make a playoff push.
14. Las Vegas Raiders (6-5) | Prev: 14
Are the Raiders contenders or pretenders? Before last week, most would say that they are contenders but who knows now. The Raiders are in a difficult situation after losses against the Chiefs and Falcons. One thing is for sure, and that’s that they have to involve Josh Jacobs early and often.
15. Arizona Cardinals (6-5) | Prev: 11
The Cardinals are another head-scratcher. They play excellent one week but can barely move the ball the next. If the ‘Hail Murray’ didn’t connect, then the Cardinals would have lost four straight. It’s clear that in their latest loss to the Patriots, Murray wasn’t 100%. He is too much of a playmaker and is a huge loss to the young roster. With a game against the 49ers and a pair against the Rams, the Cardinals are in a peculiar situation. They will have to fight to keep the final playoff spot.
16. San Francisco 49ers (6-5) | Prev: 17
The 49ers seemed dead in the water a few weeks ago after losing to the Packers and Saints. But after returning some talent from IR, they grabbed a win over the Rams. More help is on the way but the 49ers are one of the teams trending in the right direction. All this despite having a generally horrible last quarter of the season, having only beat the Rams. They’ll be tested by having to take on the Bills, Cardinals, and Seahawks. We’ll find out if they’re legit or not very soon. As of the 3rd quarter, the 49ers just miss out on the playoffs.
17. Minnesota Vikings (5-6) | Prev: 26
The Vikings shot themselves in the foot a bit over the last month after losing to the Cowboys. They now are in a difficult situation sitting outside of the playoffs, looking in. Close victories over the Panthers and Bears don’t instill a lot of confidence but they still have the Bucs and Saints on their schedule which can do just that.
18. New England Patriots (5-6) | Prev: 20
This post-apocalyptic Patriot squad without Tom Brady is still in the hunt! They won’t wow you, but they’ll find a way to stay in games. They’ve played in several close games, including the Bills, Texans, Ravens, and Cardinals. They have to hope for a lot of movement above them for a chance at the playoffs. Replacing Brady and numerous opt-outs due to covid had them backed against the wall since the start but have done a good job fighting back.
19. Washington Football Team (4-7) | Prev: 25
The WFT is the first team in the NFC East to make a landing in the power rankings which shows just how hilariously bad this division is. But still, the WFT is fighting for a playoff spot. Alex Smith being on an active roster in 2020, let alone starting for a team contending for a playoff spot should be the story of the year. They’re trending in the right direction and hitting a stride on offense to take the lead on the East.
20. Carolina Panthers (4-8) | Prev: 18
The Panthers started hot but have fizzled since. They’ve shown a clear divide between being able to beat bad/ok teams and tough teams. Not being able to close on the Vikings put a close to whatever hopes they had at the playoffs. That’s nothing to be sad about because the Panthers took a step this year that nobody expected to see. With games against the Packers, Saints, and Redskins, they could be facing three straight division winners to finish the year. The Panthers can play a little spoil with how well they’ve challenged teams this year.
21. Chicago Bears (5-6) | Prev: 15
The Bears started 5-1 but have since gone 0-5. Despite their start to the year, no one saw them as a contender, mostly because of their offense. A lackluster offensive line and a lack of consistency at QB have hampered any shot at the playoffs. They’ve been on a slide that everyone, including Bears fans, saw happening. Notably, they have a pair of rivals with the Vikings and Packers who they hope to upset and get revenge for their previous losses.
22. Houston Texans (4-7) | Prev: 29
The Texans finally got the ball rolling after the Bill O’Brien firing, but too late. The offense has been able to click at times but it all got more difficult after Will Fuller’s suspension. They remain down this far in the rankings because they have more holes than bandages on their roster.
23. New York Giants (4-7) | Prev: 31
The Giants at 4-7 is the NFC East’s leader. They have a solid defense and receivers who can minimize Daniel Jones’s negative plays. Despite some recent success, they have a very challenging remaining schedule that includes the Seahawks, Cardinals, Browns, and Ravens. This spells bad news for Big Blue but all they have to do is lose less than the rest of the east.
24. Atlanta Falcons (4-7) | Prev: 28
The Falcons are still the most unpredictable team in the NFL. They just beat the Raiders 43-6 and are now 3-1 in their last 4. That still isn’t enough to make any major waves in the power rankings. They have the Chiefs, Saints, and Bucs the rest of the way which gives them a shot to build off this momentum they’ve made the last couple of weeks.
25. Denver Broncos (4-7) | Prev: 21
What happened last week was a travesty but that doesn’t do much overall with the broncos standing in the NFL. Many entered the year thinking Lock was on target to be one of the risers at his position (myself included) but that just never happened. They’ve gone 2-2 over the last quarter of the season but this shows just how bland they’ve played this year.
26. Los Angeles Chargers (3-8) | Prev: 25
The Chargers are probably one of the scariest 3 win teams in recent memory. The issue with them hasn’t been the players but rather the coaching, or lack thereof. The Chargers have been on the losing end of seven one-score games this year and their latest blunder was against the Bills. They have a relatively light remaining schedule and could finish on a hot streak if Anthony Lynn allows them to.
27. Detroit Lions (4-7) | Prev: 22
The Lions became the 3rd team to relieve their HC of their duties. They started the season well but have completely collapsed since and the midway point, and losing 4 of their last 5. Another year near the bottom of the league.
28. Philadelphia Eagles (3-7-1) | Prev: 19
While the Giants and the WFT are starting to hit a groove, the Eagles are heading in the opposite direction. With three straight losses, the Eagles have given up the lead on the division and momentum from the midseason mark. The Eagles aren’t acting like a cohesive team anymore and they’ll have to do a lot to reverse course with games against the Packers, Eagles, and Cardinals.
29. Dallas Cowboys (3-8) | Prev: 27
After Dak went down, the hopes and goals for the Cowboys went too. Despite their 3-8 record, they’re fighting for a playoff spot. It’s wide-open and they have an easier schedule ahead of them compared to the Giants, so maybe the Red Rifle will strike again. Over the last month, they lost a close game to the Steelers and beat the Vikings. But after their dismantling at the hands of the WFT, the Cowboys are showing themselves as one of the worst teams in the league.
30. Cincinnati Bengals (2-8-1) | Prev: 24
Before Joe Burrow’s season-ending injury, the Bengals had a shot at stealing a playoff spot if they caught on, but that has since gone south. A very porous defense, a suspect offensive line, and no Burrow is bad news for the Bengals. They still have to play both Texas teams and the Dolphins, Ravens, and Steelers. They could steal a game or two but they will finish this season near and around the bottom of the league, regardless.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10) | Prev: 30
The Jaguars got off to a great start, beating the Colts and narrowly losing to the Titans. But times have changed and over the last quarter of the season, they’ve played a vicious series of games that includes the Texans, Packers, Steelers, and Browns. They got swept by teams that have a combined record of 31-13. This team is just destined to finish near the bottom of the league. The Jaguars have no clear future at QB and no clear direction of the franchise.
32. New York Jets (0-11) | Prev: 32
Anyone surprised? The Jets have played in a few close games but still are winless and have some stout competition through the end of the year that includes the Raiders, Seahawks, Rams, Browns, and Patriots. These Jets are seriously in line to finish 0-16.