This morning we’ve taken the liberty to list them all, from 1 to 32, along with a few thoughts on each one; as all of the League’s teams have now played 13 of their previously-scheduled 16 regular season games.
Starting with the League’s #1 team:
1. New Orleans Saints (11-2)
The Saints gave their Who Dat Nation fan-base some anxious moments this past Sunday, as they essentially sleep-walked through most of the first half and part of the 3rd Quarter on a damp field at Tampa against the Buccaneers. But then jack-of-all-trades and 3rd string quarterback Taysom Hill made one of the biggest plays of the entire year with a blocked punt on special teams, giving the Saints a much-needed “wake up call” as they scored 25 unanswered points en route to a 28-14 come-from-behind victory.
The win clinched a 2nd straight NFC South Division Championship for New Orleans and allowed them to reclaim the #1 playoff seed over the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC, with three games still left to play.
Up Next: a date with division rivals the Carolina Panthers on ESPN Monday Night Football
2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-2)
The Chiefs were in serious danger of being beaten this past Sunday by a tough Baltimore Ravens team with only four minutes remaining. That’s when 2nd year superstar and League MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes shook off a rough start and eventually found his rhythm late as K.C. escaped with a 27-24 win in overtime. The win clinched a spot in the playoffs for the Chiefs, who next will face the (10-3) Los Angeles Chargers this coming Thursday night in what should be an epic showdown for the AFC West Division title. The Chiefs beat the Chargers back in the season-opening game by a score of 38-28.
A win would also allow the Chiefs to essentially wrap up home-field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs, which they’ve all but already done anyway. That means teams in the AFC will have to win at Arrowhead Stadium, a venue that, other than the Superdome, is likely the toughest place for visiting teams to play in the NFL.
Up Next: vs. the Los Angeles Chargers
3. Los Angeles Rams (11-2)
The Rams were in our top spot last week, but fall a few spots after their 15-6 loss on the road at Chicago to a tough Bears team that played with a major-league chip on their shoulders. Third year Rams QB Jared Goff had his worst performance of the year as he threw four interceptions, and the six total points scored were their fewest since 2016. The Rams also had their fewest net yards (98, tied), first downs (6), and points (6) in the 1st half for this season.
But perhaps more disconcerting for L.A. was the fact that their defense struggled as well, at least against the Bears running game. The Bears rushed for nearly 200 total yards (194) and averaged 5.5 yards per carry, which could be a sign that the Rams do in fact have a weakness that teams might seek to exploit come playoff time.
Up Next: vs. Philadelphia Eagles
4. Los Angeles Chargers (10-3)
We said this last week, but it’s worth repeating again: there might not be a more underrated team in the NFL than the Los Angeles Chargers, who somehow just keep finding ways to win games every single week. Yesterday’s 26-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals was the Chargers’ ninth win in their last 10 games. As of right now, the Chargers have the 2nd-best record in the AFC, but because they’re in the same division with the Chiefs if the season ended right now, Los Angeles would be the #4 seed and a Wild Card team, and not the #2 seed.
Of course, as it was mentioned up above, the Chargers will play the Chiefs this Thursday night, and they’ll have a golden opportunity to take matters into their own hands regarding their playoff status, with a win at the venerable Arrowhead Stadium.
Up Next: vs. the Chiefs
5. Chicago Bears (9-4)
The Bears (as it was mentioned previously) went out this past Sunday night in Chicago and completely shut down the high-powered Rams offensive attack. They made life miserable in general for Los Angeles all night long. Among the impressive feats by the Bears defense: they limited the Rams — who averaged 440 yards per game going into that contest — to only 214 total yards, and limited the NFL’s leading runner Todd Gurley, to only 28 yards rushing.
As of this moment: the Bears remain solidly entrenched as the #3 playoff seed, and likely will get to host a Wild Card playoff game during the opening weekend of the NFL playoffs.
Up Next: vs. the Green Bay Packers
That was our Top 5. Now here are the “best of the rest”…
6. New England Patriots (9-4): The Patriots were upset this past week and fell out of our Top 5, when they were beaten on the game’s final play at Miami vs. the Dolphins on a series of laterals that allowed RB Kenyan Drake to race past New England All-Pro TE Rob Gronkowski for the winning score and a stunning victory.
KENYAN DRAKE. FOR THE WIN. pic.twitter.com/mWcSQQ9GPP
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) December 9, 2018
7. Houston Texans (9-4): The Texans saw their nine game winning streak finally come to an end on Sunday when they were somewhat surprisingly beaten at home by Indianapolis. But they still remain in control of the AFC South Division with three games remaining.
8. Dallas Cowboys (8-5): The Cowboys’ impressive showing of the past few weeks continues, and they’ve now won five straight games in a row. After upsetting the League’s top-rated team (the Saints) two weeks ago, Dallas beat the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday to take full control of the NFC East Division.
9. Seattle Seahawks (8-5): The Seahawks rolled to an easy win last night on ESPN Monday Night Football over the Vikings, and have now solidly entrenched themselves as the #5 Playoff seed within the NFC.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5-1): The Steelers lost for the 3rd consecutive week in a stunning 24-21 upset at the hands of the lowly Oakland Raiders, who had only won two games all year coming into this past weekend. As a direct result (as you might have guessed) of that, it’s now full-time panic mode in the Steel City.
11. Baltimore Ravens (7-6): Baltimore just narrowly missed pulling off a monumental win on the road over Kansas City but fell just a bit short, But with the Steelers faltering so badly recently, a shot at winning the AFC North Division title still remains very firmly within their grasp.
12. Minnesota Vikings (6-6-1): The Vikings barely remain as the 6th and final team from the NFC that would make the Playoffs, in spite of their loss last night on ESPN Monday Night Football. But for them to make it, it means that they will likely have to beat the Bears in the Season Finale, which seems like a long shot at best.
13. Indianapolis Colts (7-6): The Colts continued their rise back to prominence with a healthy Andrew Luck under center. With an impressive divisional win on the road in Houston over the Texans, The Colts remain firmly in the AFC Playoff hunt but will need to beat Dallas this coming Sunday to have a legitimate shot in the final 2 weeks.
— NFL (@NFL) December 9, 2018
14. Miami Dolphins (7-6): The Dolphins, as it was noted above, stunned the Patriots on the last play of the game and now have a winning record. They too remain alive and well for a possible Playoff spot. After a tough game on the road next week vs. Minnesota, they close the season with games against Buffalo and Jacksonville.
15. Tennessee Titans (7-6): The Titans are the 3rd of three AFC teams currently clumped together in the AFC Playoff chase. They might have the best shot of them all thanks to a relatively easy schedule (Giants, Colts, Redskins) that would seemingly work in their favor.
16. Washington Redskins (6-7): Speaking of the Redskins, Washington got completely embarrassed this past Sunday in a humiliating loss to their division rivals the Giants, and are all but eliminated from Playoff competition. Not at all surprising for a team that lost not one but two of their quarterbacks for the rest of the season.
17. Carolina Panthers (6-7): The Panthers lost for the 5th straight time in their game at Cleveland, and although they still remain mathematically alive for a Playoff spot, they’ll literally need a miracle to get into the post-season at this point. Having to face the Saints twice in the last three weeks of the season likely won’t help their efforts.
18. Denver Broncos (6-7): After they evened their win-loss record two weeks ago, the Broncos came crashing back down to earth after they were beaten this past week by the 49ers. With only three games remaining and both the Chiefs and Chargers firmly ahead of them within the division, the Broncos are playing for pride at this point.
19. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7): The defending champs appeared to be on the verge of beating the Cowboys at Dallas, but were done in by some rather questionable officiating on a few head-scratching calls at the end of the game. Philly’s luck won’t get any better this week, as they travel to Los Angeles to face the Rams.
20. Green Bay Packers (5-7-1): After they fired former head coach Mike McCarthy last week, this past Sunday the Packers seemed to be fully re-energized under interim head coach Joe Philbin. The Packers put a 34-20 whipping on the Falcons, and will likely play out the string of three remaining games with much enthusiasm.
21. Cleveland Browns (5-7-1): The Browns won once again this past Sunday on the strength of their passing attack led by rookie QB Baker Mayfield. He torched the Panthers’ secondary on several long bombs in Cleveland’s 26-20 victory. Kudos to the entire Browns organization for finally making things exciting once again for their fans.
Baker Mayfield is 6/6 today, and the Browns are all knotted up with the Panthers (-1), 14-14 halfway through Q2pic.twitter.com/6nqdJX2k5S
— FanDuel Sportsbook (@FDSportsbook) December 9, 2018
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-8): What else can be said except that the Bucs clearly had the Saints on the ropes this past Sunday at Tampa and had every opportunity to pull off the upset? Instead, they woke up a sleeping giant in the Saints’ offense and were fortunate to have only lost by 14 points in what should have been a blowout.
23. Cincinnati Bengals (5-8): The Bengals played hard in their loss to the Chargers but in the end, they weren’t able to overcome the loss of their two top stars on offense in QB Andy Dalton and WR AJ Green, both of whom are on inured reserve. Now the Bengals will try to win their remaining three games in an effort to save head coach Marvin Lewis’ job after the season ends.
24. Detroit Lions (5-8): The Lions won their 5th game of the season with a 17-3 win over Arizona, but are merely playing for pride at this point, with a shot at the Playoffs nowhere to be found.
25. New York Giants (5-8): You absolutely need to give all the credit in the world to the G-Men, who have continued to play hard and have now won 2 straight games including their 40-16 drubbing yesterday of their division rivals, the Washington Redskins.
26. Buffalo Bills (4-9): The Bills lost to the Jets this past Sunday, but at least are still exhibiting signs of life for a team that’s in the middle of a full-scale rebuild. They just can’t seem to win the close ones, even against opponents who are inferior to themselves.
27. Atlanta Falcons (4-9): Wow, are the Falcons just totally reeling or what? The Saints’ hated arch-rivals lost for the 5th game in a row this past Sunday, getting waxed by the Green Bay Packers. And as most Saints’ fans will quickly tell you: what a shame that really is.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9): The Jaguars lost for the 8th time in their past nine games when they were beaten by the Titans, and it will be a very interesting off-season for a team that once had Super Bowl aspirations.
29. New York Jets (4-9): The Jets won for only the 4th time yesterday against the Bills, but it likely won’t be enough to save head coach Todd Bowles’ job after the season.
30. Arizona Cardinals (3-10): A week removed from a nice win over Green Bay, the Cardinals reverted back to their previous form and got beaten soundly by the Lions.
31. San Francisco 49ers (3-10): The 49ers pulled off the upset of the week, beating a heavily-favored Broncos team that had Playoff aspirations and thought they had an easy win on their hands. So much for that.
32. Oakland Raiders (3-10): Make no mistake about it: the Raiders are still the NFL’s very worst team, and even their shocking upset over the Steelers won’t change that.
Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. You can view the rest of his Saints coverage and several feature articles here.