Long waits, strange results, coach firings and COVID calamity – here’s this week’s run down.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-0) Last week: 1
Finally, the unbeaten Steelers got to play the Ravens on Wednesday afternoon (Thursday morning our time). I would love to say that the reason these rankings are late is that we all had to wait for a cracking game, but that was not to be the case.
Baltimore were severely weakened and Pittsburgh actually looked a bit rusty while never really being troubled. The Steelers suffered a big loss with linebacker Bud Dupree now likely out for the year with an ACL injury.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-1) Last week: 2
Against the Bucs, Tyreek Hill piled up 203 receiving yards and two touchdowns – in the first quarter. After an all-time start, Hill and Patrick Mahomes’ pace slowed with Hill finishing on 269 yards and three scores on 13 catches while Mahomes put up 462 yards and four touchdowns. They did hit the snooze button again this week and only held out 27-24 to book their perfect six from six wins on the road this season.
3. New Orleans Saints (9-2) Last week: 3
Taysom Hill is now 2-0 as starting quarterback for the Saints. With Drew Brees still set to be sidelined with a rib injury, Sean Payton and his marching team held little sympathy for the Broncos, who were forced to play the game with a wide receiver from the practice squad as their quarterback. The Saints can only control what they can control and promptly took care of proceedings.
Plus, Payton doesn’t really seem like a sympathetic kind of guy.
4. Buffalo Bills (8-3) Last week: 4
Buffalo moved back into the winners’ circle with a hard-fought win against the Chargers ahead of a tricky little away assignment at the 49ers, even though it’s not technically in San Francisco (but more on that shortly). And perhaps the scariest endorsement is that Tony Romo likes the Bills as a dark horse contender to make a playoff run.
And those of you who’ve seen games commentated by Romo will know that he has a pretty good strike rate at predicting what will happen next. Stay tuned.
5. Green Bay Packers (8-3) Last week: 6
As the Sunday Night Football intro song goes – “I’ve been waiting all day for Sunday night”. And it seemed like we were waiting all week for this game to finish. Seriously this was the game that never ends. It just went on and on, my friend.
It was a good divisional thrashing for the Packers though, with Aaron Rodgers enjoying the return of receiver Allen Lazard from injury as they head towards match-ups against Philly, Detroit and Carolina.
6. Seattle Seahawks (8-3) Last week: 8
The Seahawks got the win in the second primetime stinker of the week. The much-maligned defence sacked Carson Wentz six times and on the offensive side colossal wide receiver DK Metcalf hauled in ten catches for 177 yards. And again, don’t be fooled by the final score – as a late Hail Mary touchdown made the score look closer than it really was.
7. Tennessee Titans (8-3) Last week: 9
A bit of tit-for-tat in the AFC South as a fortnight on from being embarrassed at home by the Colts Tennessee more than returned the favour at Lucas Oil Stadium. Derrick Henry rumbled with the rock, as he put up 178 rushing yards and three touchdowns against one of the league’s top defences.
King Henry now has 20 straight games with at least 18 carries – the second-longest streak since 1948. And they say the running back position is becoming devalued.
8. Cleveland Browns (8-3) Last week: 10
You know when you suddenly see someone out of their usual context – like, say, your school teacher at the mall? Your first reaction can sometimes be to blurt out: “What are you doing here?!” This description seems fitting for the Browns who are sitting at 8-3. Yes, that’s the Cleveland Browns.
We’ll see if that lasts much longer though, as they travel to Tennessee this week followed by a home game against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens.
9. Indianapolis Colts (7-4) Last week: 5
No stirring comeback, buzzer-beater win this week, as the Colts trailed 35-14 at halftime to the Titans. On the surface it doesn’t look great, although Indy were short on some firepower – missing defensive keys DeForest Buckner (one of the best names’s in football), Denico Autry and Bobby Okereke, as well as Jonathan Taylor and Ryan Kelly on the offence.
They’ll want to get healthy quick as they take on a suddenly fun Texans side twice, plus the Raiders and Steelers over the next four weeks.
10. Los Angele Rams (7-4) Last week: 7
They’re a tricky little side to get a handle on, these Rams. One week they’re belting Tampa Bay away, only to come home to SoFi Stadium and get run on by the 49ers. Quarterback Jared Goff had four turnovers in this match and now has 11 over the last four games, so that’s a big work-on as they head to Arizona to try and get things back on track against a similarly desperate Cardinals side.
11. Miami Dolphins (7-4) Last week: 15
The Dolphins took a conservative approach with rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who was close to starting against the Jets. Fins coach Brian Flores admitted they would play it safe and not risk him. And why would you against the Jets?
So Ryan Fitzpatrick jumped back in the pilot’s seat and helped guide Miami to an easy win with touchdown passes to tight ends Mike Gesicki and Adam Shaheen while they also wait for reinforcements to return at the running back position. Next up, Cincinnati.
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5) Last week: 11
Coach Bruce Arians is never one to shy away from using choice language when his team isn’t performing and, well, one can only imagine what that must sound like around the halls of Bucs HQ. Don’t let the three-point losing margin fool you – Kansas City was like a cat who had completely depowered a mouse. When the cat realised the mouse was still breathing, it eventually finished things off. So cruel.
13. Baltimore Ravens (6-5) Last week: 1
With all the changes to the line-up, this was always going to be a bit of a farce. Remember Robert Griffin III? RG3? Seems like only yesterday that he was the face of the NFL’s new breed, leading an inspiring playoff run in his rookie year, then wrecking his knee and then flaming out to obscurity. Anyways, he was the starting quarterback for the Ravens in this one, throwing for the first touchdown (albeit to Steelers cornerback Joe Haden).
Probably best to move on from this experience and get right for Dallas, when Lamar Jackson should be back under centre (COVID willing).
14. Arizona Cardinals (6-5) Last week: 13
I’ve got a bit of a problem with how the Cardinals lost against New England. Just before halftime, they went for a fourth-and-goal attempt from the one-yard line instead of taking a field goal. They rushed with Kenyan Drake who got stuffed and that was the end of the half.
In winning time, they had a third-and-two at New England’s 28-yard line and again tried to run with Drake. My question is, if you’ve got Kyler Murray at quarterback, why not put the ball in his hands in those big moments? Next, they host the Rams in a must-win game.
15. Las Vegas Raiders (6-5) Last week: 14
What the hell happened here? Heading to Atlanta, these Raiders rolled the dice and came up snake eyes. Actually, is snake eyes a good or bad thing? I can only remember the Nicholas Cage movie of the same name. And if I’m mentioning Nicholas Cage, you know this is a bad performance.
Okay, everyone just take a breath and compose yourselves, because next week is a get-right game against the Jets. Phew.
16. New England Patriots (5-6) Last week: 18
Bill Belichick’s boys got the win despite Cam Newton having a dour day at the office. Newton threw for 84 yards and two picks, completing just 9/18 throws. Good thing you got the crafty James White at running back (Falcons fans will remember him forever) and also a defence that can come up with Belichick plays in those Belichick moments.
Gotta give them credit, they are staying in the fight, somehow.
17. Minnesota Vikings (5-6) Last week: 19
Don’t look now, but the Vikings are at one game under .500 and host the Jags this week. They did make very tough work of it against Carolina, though. They nearly fumbled the game away, having given up two touchdowns off fumble returns and also muffing a punt return. Thankfully the last drop was not punished by a touchdown, leaving the Vikes just enough time for receiver Chad Beebe to redeem himself for dropping the punt by snaring the clutch touchdown catch for a one-point win.
They reckon Dalvin Cook is all good with his injury too.
18. San Francisco 49ers (5-6) Last week: 20
Another sparkling job by Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers coaching staff as they masterminded a season sweep of the division rival Rams. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel returned from injury and was an absolute beast with 133 receiving yards, including big plays which lead to crucial scores. Not sure if this counts as a Super Bowl hangover or not, but the 49ers have also had to relocate their next two home games to State Farm Stadium (Arizona’s home ground), due to all contact sports being banned in their actual home of Santa Clara County.
19. Chicago Bears (5-6) Last week: 16
We knew things were bad offensively for the Bears. But it wasn’t until last Monday that I realised quite how bad it is. My fiancé, who is a very casual observer of the NFL games I watch, remarked “Wow. Is this guy really bad or something?” She was talking about Mitch Trubisky.
So, that’s someone taking just a quick look at the screen to recognise how dire things are in Chi-Town. On the upside, they play the Lions next week. Can’t wait.
20. New York Giants (4-7) Last week: 24
It’s a close-run battle, but these Giants are still leading the NFC East after holding off the Joe Burrow-less Bengals. There are stormy seas ahead though, with quarterback Daniel Jones assessing a hamstring injury and the next few weeks lining up as follows: at Seahawks, versus Cardinals, versus Browns and at Ravens.
They’ll finish up the schedule at home against the Cowboys, so could 5-11 be good enough to win the NFC East? We’ll see.
21. Washington Football Team (4-7) Last week: 27
Good thing it was Thanksgiving, as the game against Dallas ended up being a carve-up. Rookie running back Antonio Gibson rammed in three touchdown passes, Alex Smith was tidy enough at quarterback and the Team’s defensive line made life a misery for Andy Dalton and company.
This team may be starting to get hot at just the right time, although in the NFC East, you only need to really get to room temperature – if you catch my drift.
22. Detroit Lions (4-7) Last week: 17
And we have completed our ‘fired coaches’ podium’ for the season with the Lions’ Matt Patricia claiming the bronze medal behind the Falcons’ Dan Quinn and the Texans’ Bill O’Brien. It seemed a necessary and also popular move too, as a number of former and current Lions players vaguely voiced their approval for the head coach’s demise.
Now the big question swirling around Motown is what happens next with quarterback Matthew Stafford?
23. Atlanta Falcons (4-7) Last week: 25
I’ve decided that following the 2020 Atlanta Falcons is a bit like owning a wild animal. They’ll mostly lie in their cage doing nothing and then out of nowhere, they’ll maul one of your dinner guests. A 43-6 obliteration of the otherwise good Raiders was a real surprise. Matty Ice threw a pair of touchdowns, but it was Raheem Morris’ defence that really won the accolades, with outstanding linebacker Deion Jones returning an interception for a 67-yard touchdown.
If anyone has any idea what to expect next, please let me know.
24. Denver Broncos (4-7) Last week: 21
Really not sure how the NFL can justify their treatment of the Broncos. On the one hand, the Ravens vs Steelers game was postponed four times due to Lamar Jackson and more than 20 players falling on to the COVID reserve list, while Denver had all four rostered quarterbacks scratched from their game but were forced to go ahead with a practice squad member trying to imitate a quarterback.
In NRL terms, Baltimore are the Melbourne Storm, while Denver are the New Zealand Warriors. Yeah, I said it.
25. Houston Texans (4-7) Last week: 28
That’s more like it. These Texans are starting to become fun again. Deshaun Watson is back making highlight plays and he threw four touchdowns against a hapless Detroit team. They’ve now won three out of their last four games under the guidance of interim coach Romeo Crennel. This side could become a major spoiler, with upcoming games against Indy (twice) and Tennessee.
However, they will also have to deal with key suspensions to wide receiver Will Fuller and cornerback Bradley Roby. Ouch.
26. Carolina Panthers (4-8) Last week: 22
The one-point defeat to Minnesota is now the eighth game for the Panthers this year that has been decided by a touchdown or less. It brings back memories of the ‘Cardiac Cats’ who made it to the 2004 Super Bowl. Except that this team isn’t winning or going to the Super Bowl.
It was a hell of a day for rookie safety Jeremy Chinn though, who grabbed two fumble returns for touchdowns – becoming just the third player in NFL history to do so. That’s not to mention his 13 tackles for the game. Nice work, rookie.
27. Philadelphia Eagles (3-7-1) Last week: 23
Let’s go with the positives. Tight end Richard Rodgers is possibly the premier hail mary tight end in the NFL, having hauled another one this week. The Eagles defence was stout against the Seahawks’ usually efficient offence. The last time Philly and Green Bay played in prime time at Lambeau Field, the Eagles won. And let’s not forget they are still in the NFC East hunt.
But that’s about it. People are piling on Carson Wentz and the stuttering offence, but they did actually play with their tenth different offensive line combination of the season. Stability much? Not at all.
28. Los Angeles Chargers (3-8) Last week: 26
The Chargers had not trailed the Buffalo Bills at any time in a game since 2008. But as we know it’s 2020 and the Chargers trailed early and often in this week’s encounter. The Bolts’ offence struggled to get a lot going, with rookie quarterback Justin Herbert restricted to just one touchdown on 52 pass attempts (yikes) and returning running back Austin Ekeler led a rushing attack that only put up 3.1 yards per carry.
That ain’t going to get it done, I’m afraid. They did look good again in the navy-on-navy uniforms though.
29. Dallas Cowboys (3-8) Last week: 29
The Cowboys were playing with a heavy heart following the death of their well-liked strength coach Markus Paul. But far from uniting the team to perform, it saw them sink like a stone in the second half.
There was a big moment in the third quarter as Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith intercepted an Alex Smith pass and set off for the end zone. If not for the desperate chase by Washington receiver Terry McLaurin, they would’ve tied the game up. Dallas had to settle for a field goal to trail by four and then proceeded to fall apart after that.
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30. Cincinnati Bengals (2-8-1) Last week: 30
After having their teeth and claws removed in recent weeks with injuries to Joe Burrow and Joe Mixon, the Bengals nearly gummed and pawed their way to a victory against the Giants. Brandon Allen got the nod at quarterback and struggled for most of the day, but did makes things interesting by finding impressive rookie wide receiver Tee Higgins for a touchdown to get within two points. It was as close as they would come, though.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10) Last week: 31
Another hard-fought loss for this side. Letting Cleveland running back Nick Chubb put up 144 yards and a touchdown on just 19 carries set them behind (as per the norm). However, (also as per the norm), undrafted rookie running back James Robinson rushed for 128 yards and a touch of his own to keep the Jags squarely in the contest – even with Mike Glennon as the starting quarterback.
If they could have pulled off a two-point conversion, this could’ve been a different story. But it wasn’t.
32. New York Jets (0-11) Last week: 32
When your future is on the line, you can’t come out at quarterback and throw a touchdown-less game with poor interceptions. That’s just what Sam Darnold did, as he returned from his shoulder injury. Not a good sign when your team is zeroing in on the number one draft pick and there’s a guy called Trevor Lawrence waiting there.
The defence did play pretty well though, led by Quinnen Williams who grabbed a sack, forced fumble and three quarterback hits.