We are entering the final month of the NFL regular season. While there remains a clear delineation between the top teams and the remainder of the league, there remains much to be decided. Races for the final playoff spots will only intensify in the coming weeks, and it shapes up to be a fascinating dash to the finish line.
Let’s take a look at where we see all 32 teams in the league at the three-quarter pole.
1. Los Angeles Rams, 11-1
Last week rank: 2
The Rams became the first team in the league to clinch their division with a win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday. One big item is now off of the to-do list, and the club can now set its sights on home field advantage for the NFC playoffs.
2. New Orleans Saints, 10-2
Last week rank: 1
The Saints were touchdown favorites heading into Thursday night’s contest with the Dallas Cowboys, but the football gods quickly brought the club back to earth. It’s a speed bump in the grand scheme of things, as the Saints are very much alive for the #1 seed in the NFC – and they hold the tiebreaking advantage over the Rams due to their head-to-head win to boot.
3. Kansas City Chiefs, 10-2
Last week rank: 3
The Chiefs were expected to roll to a road victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, but the hosts came to play and made things interesting. Regardless, the Chiefs picked up their 10th win and remain in excellent shape for a first-round bye.
4. New England Patriots, 9-3
Last week rank: 4
The Minnesota Vikings were efficiently handled by the Patriots on Sunday afternoon in Foxboro. The remaining schedule is friendly to the defending AFC champs, so they will have plenty to say about how the #1 seed in the AFC shakes out.
5. Los Angeles Chargers, 9-3
Last week rank: 5
The Chargers received a wake-up call at the hands of the Denver Broncos two weeks back, but they have recovered with two big wins. Sunday’s victory over the Steelers was a huge one for a squad that seems to be locked into a wild-card berth at a minimum.
6. Houston Texans, 9-3
Last week rank: 7
The hottest team in the league picked up its ninth straight win this week while cruising past the Cleveland Browns. The Chiefs and Patriots would be wise to keep an eye on the Texans, who are poised to pounce if either of them slips up.
7. Chicago Bears, 8-4
Last week rank: 6
Sunday’s road tilt with the New York Giants had the makings of a trap game for a hot Bears team, and the visitors became ensnared in it. It’s merely a pothole in what has been a solid season for the Bears, who remain in control of the NFC North.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers, 7-4-1
Last week rank: 8
The Steelers were looking like legitimate Super Bowl contenders a few weeks back, but two straight losses points to a potential dogfight for the division with the Baltimore Ravens. On the bright side, perhaps the club is getting a rough patch out of the way before a big run through the final month.
9. Seattle Seahawks, 7-5
Last week rank: 10
It’s looking like the Seahawks have the inside track on a wild-card spot in the NFC, and the club will be an incredibly tough out if they make it to the dance. Russell Wilson is playing phenomenal and the defense is rounding into form. What rebuild?
10. Dallas Cowboys, 7-5
Last week rank: 11
On Thursday night, the Cowboys demonstrated there is still a place for strong defense in a league which is heavily skewed towards offense. If the Cowboys successfully take down the NFC East, they will be another team that no one wants to face in the playoffs.
11. Minnesota Vikings, 6-5-1
Last week rank: 9
The clock is ticking on the Vikings to kick it into gear. While they still have a shot at a playoff spot, it’s far from a lock at this point in time. Barring a turnaround, it looks like 2018 will do down as an awfully disappointing one for Minnesota.
12. Baltimore Ravens, 7-5
Last week rank: 12
It looked like the Ravens were falling out of the race just a few weeks ago. Three wins later, and the club is back in the thick of the playoff hunt. Rookie signal-caller Lamar Jackson is performing well enough, and the Ravens defensive unit points to them being a dangerous team in the postseason.
13. Philadelphia Eagles, 6-6
Last week rank: 16
Don’t look now, but the defending Super Bowl champions have won two in a row. Does that mean the team is finally awake and ready to make a run? Your guess is as good as ours, but the club has an incredibly tough stretch of games over the final month.
14. Denver Broncos, 6-6
Last week rank: 18
Those who had their eyes on Vance Joseph’s gig in the offseason may want to readjust their focus. The Broncos have won three in a row and are very much a wildcard contender in the AFC. The final month includes several winnable games, so it’ll be an interesting race in the Mile High City.
15. Indianapolis Colts, 6-6
Last week rank: 13
Despite their shutout loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Colts should have something to say about the final wild-card spot in the AFC. If the Colts make it that far, they will have certainly earned it, as their final four games are looking pretty tough.
16. Tennessee Titans, 6-6
Last week rank: 19
Down 16-0, the Titans were well on their way to an embarrassing home loss to the New York Jets. Then the team woke up. Tennessee has kept their playoff hopes alive, but they also face a tough month of December.
17. Washington Redskins, 6-6
Last week rank: 14
The Redskins are officially one of 2018’s snakebit squads. Losing Alex Smith to a devastating leg injury was brutal enough, but now new starter Colt McCoy has gone down for the count with a broken leg as well. The keys have been handed over to Mark Sanchez, and it could be a rough final four games for Washington.
18. Carolina Panthers, 6-6
Last week rank: 15
Quite simply, the Panthers have fallen on incredibly hard times. Since starting off the season with a bang at 6-2, the club has dropped four straight. A pair of assistant coaches were let go after Sunday’s loss, but we’ll have to wait and see if that’s enough to right the ship.
19. Green Bay Packers, 4-7-1
Last week rank: 17
Sunday’s home loss to the Arizona Cardinals was the last straw for head coach Mike McCarthy’s tenure. Joe Philbin has been installed on an interim basis, and he’ll be tasked with holding it together for the final month. The Aaron Rodgers factor will make this one of the most sought-after jobs in the offseason.
20. Miami Dolphins, 6-6
Last week rank: 20
The Dolphins snapped a two-game skid with this week’s victory over the Buffalo Bills, but it’s still tough to consider this inconsistent squad a legitimate wild-card contender. The final four games are pretty tough, so we’ll know soon if Miami is anything more than a .500 squad.
21. Cleveland Browns, 4-7-1
Last week rank: 21
After winning two straight and looking like a team on the rise while doing so, the Browns hit rough surf in the form of the Texans. The final four are a mixed bag, so seven wins would be a solid accomplishment for Cleveland.
22. Atlanta Falcons, 4-8
Last week rank: 22
The basement of the NFC South is not where the Falcons expected to be when they entered the 2018 season. While injuries have certainly been a factor, the club’s overall inconsistency isn’t helping the situation by any stretch of the imagination.
23. Cincinnati Bengals, 5-7
Last week rank: 23
The injuries keep piling up in Cincinnati. Superstar wideout A.J. Green has now been lost for the season as well. Head coach Marvin Lewis’ seat is getting warmer by the week. Barring a sudden turnaround, the Bengals job could be open come January.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars, 4-8
Last week rank: 25
The Jaguars defense finally delivered the performance they are capable of in Sunday’s shutout victory over the Colts. While it’s too late for the club to make a run, they can certainly make life difficult for opponents the rest of the way if they hit the same notes.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4-8
Last week rank: 26
Two wins in a row have served as a much-needed bright spot for the Buccaneers, but it doesn’t change the fact that this has been a trying season in Tampa Bay. That said, continued strong play over the final four will provide some optimism for 2019.
26. Detroit Lions, 4-8
Last week rank: 24
The Lions remain the fourth wheel in the NFC North. It could be a long offseason in Detroit if things don’t turn around over the final month. That’s far from a given, as the club simply isn’t built for any guaranteed victories.
27. New York Giants, 4-8
Last week rank: 28
Head coach Pat Shurmur deserves kudos for his team continuing to fight in what has turned out to be a lost season. Sunday’s win over the Bears was a big positive in a disappointing 2018. However, 4-8 is not a good look for a team that was projected to be one of the year’s turnaround stories.
28. Buffalo Bills, 4-8
Last week rank: 27
The Bills are another squad that continues to fight in the face of adversity. Rookie signal caller Josh Allen is coming along nicely, so the future could be bright. We’ll see what they do in the offseason, but many more pieces are needed for the Bills to return to relevancy.
29. New York Jets, 3-9
Last week rank: 29
The Jets stormed the gates in Tennessee and broke out to a 16-0 lead. As has often been the case throughout the annals of Jets lore, the team collapsed from that point and dropped a game they clearly should have won. Todd Bowles looks like another coach that will be served his walking papers after the final whistle of 2018 blows.
30. Arizona Cardinals, 3-9
Last week rank: 32
It has been an incredibly challenging season for a poorly-constructed Cardinals squad, but they came to play on Sunday at Lambeau Field. The victory was enough for the Packers to can their coach, and it serves as a sign that the club may just be competitive over the final month.
31. Oakland Raiders, 2-10
Last week rank: 31
The Raiders are another troubled squad that came to play on Sunday, as they pushed the Chiefs to the limit. It was a very positive sign for a club that looked like it had flat out quit in recent times, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the team is a mess.
32. San Francisco 49ers, 2-10
Last week rank: 30
As expected, the 49ers were steamrolled on the road in Seattle this week. The club’s final four games are brutal, so a 14-loss season is looking like a distinct possibility for a team that entered 2018 with high hopes.