1. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0) | Last week’s rank: 1
Rookie WR Chase Claypool just kept scoring TDs, and the Steelers made it about as routine as expected in Jacksonville. Now comes a quick turnaround for the Thanksgiving night matchup with the Ravens in Pittsburgh. The Steelers have no margin for error, with the Chiefs right on their heels for the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) | Last week’s rank: 2
Patrick Mahomes pulled out a win Sunday night in Las Vegas with a late touchdown pass to Travis Kelce. The Chiefs were fortunate. They couldn’t have afforded another misstep against the Raiders with road games remaining against the Buccaneers, Dolphins and Saints.
3. New Orleans Saints (8-2) | Last week’s rank: 3
Coach Sean Payton made things work with Taysom Hill at quarterback after making the interesting choice to go with Hill, not Jameis Winston, as the fill-in starter with Drew Brees sidelined. There’s no question that Payton is an offensive genius and Hill is a unique talent. But can Hill win as a starting QB week after week, with opposing defenses game-planning to take away his strengths and exploit his limitations as a passer? That remains to be seen.
4. Indianapolis Colts (7-3) | Last week’s rank: 11
The defense regrouped and held the Packers to three points after halftime following an uncharacteristically bad showing in Green Bay’s 28-point first half. The Colts cashed in on an OT turnover to beat the Packers. They are absolutely for real. But, seriously, nine holding penalties in a game? That issue must be cleaned up by the offensive line.
5. Tennessee Titans (7-3) | Last week’s rank: 12
A win in Baltimore should put some bounce back in the Titans’ step. Now comes a rematch with the Colts, 17 days after a loss that was marked by special teams gaffes.
6. Green Bay Packers (7-3) | Last week’s rank: 4
The offense stopped scoring after halftime, and the defense couldn’t hold the lead in Indianapolis. It’s not time to panic, no. But it is time to be concerned.
7. Los Angeles Rams (7-3) | Last week’s rank: 13
The Rams weren’t exactly dominant on defense Monday night in Tampa. But they made the big plays when it mattered, with two key interceptions of Tom Brady. Jared Goff made mistakes but also teamed with WRs Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods to put up big numbers in the passing game.
8. Seattle Seahawks (7-3) | Last week’s rank: 14
The defense was much improved during a big victory Thursday night over the Cardinals. Given what Russell Wilson and the offense can do, it’s not like the defense has to be great. It just can’t be as dreadful as it has been for most of the season.
9. Buffalo Bills (7-3) | Last week’s rank: 9
The Dolphins’ loss made it a successful bye week for the Bills, who lead the AFC East by a game. The division title is there for the taking for Buffalo. The Bills-Dolphins game in Week 17 continues to loom large.
10. Cleveland Browns (7-3) | Last week’s rank: 15
The Browns won on another bad-weather day in Cleveland. Are there any good-weather days in Cleveland? QB Baker Mayfield was relatively steady, and the Browns again leaned on their running game.
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-4) | Last week’s rank: 5
It was all set up for Tom Brady to direct a game-winning drive Monday night against the Rams. But he couldn’t deliver, and the Buccaneers are looking less and less like a Super Bowl team.
12. Arizona Cardinals (6-4) | Last week’s rank: 7
There was no miracle this time; QB Kyler Murray ran out of late-game magic in the loss Thursday night at Seattle. The shoulder injury with which Murray played in that game is worrisome moving forward. How much will it affect him?
13. Baltimore Ravens (6-4) | Last week’s rank: 8
The Ravens are reeling, and now they will be shorthanded at running back, because of coronavirus issues, for Thursday night’s matchup with the Steelers in Pittsburgh. It’s time for the Ravens to pull things together, and Thanksgiving night would be a good time to start.
14. Las Vegas Raiders (6-4) | Last week’s rank: 10
The Raiders are a good team that is close to being a really good team. They pushed the Chiefs to the limit Sunday night after beating them earlier this season. The Raiders won’t reach the AFC’s upper tier this season. But clearly, Coach Jon Gruden has them headed in the right direction.
15. Miami Dolphins (6-4) | Last week’s rank: 6
Coach Brian Flores’s benching of Tua Tagovailoa in Sunday’s loss at Denver was interesting. Flores said the move was performance-related but Tagovailoa remains the starter. The guess here is that Tagovailoa is not fragile and can handle such treatment. But it’s a risky thing to do with a young franchise QB.
16. Denver Broncos (4-6) | Last week’s rank: 25
The win over the Dolphins was surprising. Coach Vic Fangio has done a nice job of holding things together each time it seemed like the season was slipping away from the Broncos.
17. Carolina Panthers (4-7) | Last week’s rank: 26
The Panthers kept Teddy Bridgewater sidelined with a knee injury and won with P.J. Walker starting at QB. That says plenty about Matt Rhule’s potential as an NFL coach. If only the Panthers could keep Bridgewater and RB Christian McCaffrey on the field together, they’d be interesting to watch.
18. Houston Texans (3-7) | Last week’s rank: 27
J.J. Watt was knocking down passes. Deshaun Watson was putting up big numbers on offense. The Texans managed to spread some of the misery of their season to the Patriots.
19. New England Patriots (4-6) | Last week’s rank: 17
So much for the Patriots putting their season back together. The loss in Houston probably extinguishes any hope of the Patriots going on a run to make the AFC playoffs.
20. New York Giants (3-7) | Last week’s rank: 20
The Giants return from their bye with a very viable chance to be in first place at the end of Week 12. If they beat the Bengals, Washington wins at Dallas and the Eagles lose to the Seahawks, the Giants will be the NFC East leader. That’s remarkable.
21. Chicago Bears (5-5) | Last week’s rank: 21
The Bears emerge from their bye needing to assess the health of Nick Foles and Mitchell Trubisky. Coach Matt Nagy could have a QB choice to make. At this point, does it really matter? Neither seems to be the answer.
22. San Francisco 49ers (4-6) | Last week’s rank: 22
The 49ers return from their bye trying to figure out how to salvage something from this injury-marred, disappointing season. It’s difficult to envision them being anything more than a potential spoiler in the NFC West. And even then, how are they going to find a way to beat the Rams, Cardinals or Seahawks with the lineup they’re putting on the field?
23. Atlanta Falcons (3-7) | Last week’s rank: 19
The Falcons had their chance, facing the Saints without Drew Brees. They failed to capitalize and are back to being irrelevant.
24. Detroit Lions (4-6) | Last week’s rank: 18
The Lions were shut out for the first time with Matthew Stafford as their starting quarterback. It’s fair to wonder how much of a factor Stafford’s thumb injury was in the loss at Carolina and how limiting it will be moving forward. The job security of Coach Matt Patricia also is being scrutinized again entering the Thanksgiving game.
25. Los Angeles Chargers (3-7) | Last week’s rank: 28
With Joe Burrow’s season-ending knee injury and Tua Tagovailoa’s benching, Justin Herbert now clearly stands at the head of the NFL’s rookie-QB class. He put up big numbers yet again Sunday against the Jets and the Chargers even got a win. Of course, it was only against the Jets.
26. Washington Football Team (3-7) | Last week’s rank: 29
The Thursday afternoon game at Dallas gives the nation an opportunity to be thankful that it doesn’t have to watch the NFC East all the time.
27. Dallas Cowboys (3-7) | Last week’s rank: 30
Andy Dalton returned to the lineup, and the Cowboys built their offense around the running of Ezekiel Elliott. That’s the approach that many thought the Cowboys would take when Dalton first took over for Dak Prescott. Putting Zack Martin at right tackle was a major move that paid off handsomely.
28. Minnesota Vikings (4-6) | Last week’s rank: 16
Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen all had good performances. And the Vikings still found a way to lose at home to the Cowboys. That’s not easy to do.
29. Philadelphia Eagles (3-6-1) | Last week’s rank: 23
This isn’t amusing anymore. The Eagles are going to find a way to lose this dreadful division, aren’t they? Carson Wentz rarely resembles a franchise quarterback any longer, and the interceptions continue to mount. That pick-six Sunday in Cleveland was about as feeble as it gets. The public debate over whether he should be benched is underway. It’s a valid consideration but, really, would Jalen Hurts fare any better with such an unimpressive team around him?
30. Cincinnati Bengals (2-7-1) | Last week’s rank: 24
It feels like time to cancel the rest of the Bengals’ season and just send them home. The season-ending knee injury suffered by rookie QB Joe Burrow was about as deflating as it gets. With Burrow, the Bengals were getting better. Without him, playing out the string seems pointless.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9) | Last week’s rank: 31
The four-interception performance by rookie QB Jake Luton in the loss to the Steelers was ugly. Should Coach Doug Marrone go back to Gardner Minshew II? Does it even matter at this point?
32. New York Jets (0-10) | Last week’s rank: 32
Sam Darnold could be nearing his return from his shoulder injury. That’s a good thing, presumably. It could be the beginning of his final stretch of games with the Jets, who could replace Darnold on draft night.