The Kansas City Chiefs (+430, according to FanDuel) are new Super Bowl favorites in the AFC after 12 consecutive weeks behind the Buffalo Bills (+450), and no other team in the AFC has better than 15-to-1 odds to win the Lombardi. But we’re bucking the Vegas trend and sticking with the Eagles as our top team through 12 weeks, though the NFC race is narrowing. The rest of the league is playing catch-up as we enter Week 13. Now, on to the rankings.
Best of the Best
1. Philadelphia Eagles (10-1 | last week’s ranking: 1)
I considered dropping the Eagles from the top spot last week, but in Week 12 they proved they deserve to remain here. Jalen Hurts, Miles Sanders, and the Philadelphia offensive line bullied a pillow-soft Packers defense en route to 363 rushing yards, 40 points, and a win on Sunday Night Football. Knocking off the Eagles as the NFC’s top Super Bowl contender will require matching their physicality up front and slowing the run game down.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2 | last week: 2)
The Chiefs can do whatever they want offensively. They’re averaging an NFL-high 1.23 expected points added (EPA) per offensive drive; no other team is above 0.52. For context, the Chiefs were at 1.22 in that same metric in Patrick Mahomes’s MVP season in 2018. They’ll have a big test this week against the Bengals, but the bottom line is that no team is able to consistently move the ball as well as the Chiefs right now.
3. Buffalo Bills (8-3 | last week: 3)
Josh Allen threw for 253 yards, including a 36-yard strike to Stefon Diggs that helped set up the game-winning field goal, and led his team in rushing in the Bills’ come-from-behind victory over the Lions on Thanksgiving. Even as he’s dealt with a nagging elbow issue, it’s clear that Allen elevates his teammates and he’s one of the primary reasons Buffalo holds one of the top records in the AFC despite an onslaught of injuries on defense. That injured list now includes star pass rusher Von Miller, who is expected to miss significant time, if not the rest of the season, with a knee injury.
Deep Postseason Contenders
4. Dallas Cowboys (8-3 | last week: 7)
The Cowboys have all the makings of a legitimate NFL juggernaut and are easily the team best positioned to join the “Best of the Best” tier above before season’s end. Since QB Dak Prescott’s return in Week 7, Dallas ranks third in EPA per offensive drive, behind only the Chiefs and Dolphins. But it’s not just the offense that’s playing well of late—in that same stretch, LB Micah Parsons and CB Trevon Diggs have led a Cowboys defense that ranks first in quarterback pressure rate and passing yards allowed per game.
5. San Francisco 49ers (7-4 | last week: 5)
The 49ers enter Week 13 with the league lead in points allowed per game and yards allowed per play. They haven’t allowed a point in the second half since Week 8; the next-best team, the Jets, have allowed 26 in that span. Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans should be a hot commodity for head coach vacancies after the 49ers’ playoff run.
6. Miami Dolphins (8-3 | last week: 4)
We’re going to learn a lot about the Dolphins over the next three weeks as they play road games against the 49ers, Chargers, and Bills. The first game of that stretch will be particularly revealing, with Mike McDaniel pitted against his former mentor Kyle Shanahan as a 3.5-point underdog. All of the confidence in McDaniel, Tua Tagovailoa, and the offense will come to a halt if they can’t keep the party going against some of the league’s top teams.
Flawed Postseason Contenders
7. Minnesota Vikings (9-2 | last week: 8)
Minnesota beat the Patriots on Thanksgiving night, but a national audience got to see what is potentially a fatal flaw—a porous pass defense that allowed Pats QB Mac Jones, who entered Week 12 ranked 33rd in EPA per dropback, to throw for a career-high 382 passing yards, along with two touchdowns. Minnesota currently ranks last in passing yards allowed per attempt and 31st in completion percentage allowed—and that puts Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense in a very difficult spot week after week.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4 | last week: 12)
When defensive tackles D.J. Reader and B.J. Hill are both healthy, the Bengals run defense is as good as it gets. Both were standout performers in the team’s 20-16 win over the Titans on Sunday, as Derrick Henry averaged just 2.2 yards per carry on 17 attempts. Cincinnati is getting hot on both sides of the ball, even with Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Mixon missing games, which bodes well for the team as they set their sights on another deep postseason run.
9. Baltimore Ravens (7-4 | last week: 6)
Lamar Jackson is rightfully frustrated. Much of the Ravens’ roster is injury-plagued and lacking talent. Like Jackson, OC Greg Roman doesn’t have a ton of options to work with, but he is struggling to maximize Jackson in the dropback passing game. ESPN’s win probability model had the Ravens at 70 percent or higher to win in the fourth quarter in all four games they’ve lost this season, including Sunday’s game in Jacksonville. As talented as Jackson is, none of it will matter if the Ravens can’t play more complementary football and close out games in the playoffs.
10. Tennessee Titans (7-4 | last week: 9)
The Titans are 1-4 in games where they’ve allowed 20 or more points; they’ve won every game in which they’ve allowed fewer. And Tennessee is somehow 3-4 in games where Derrick Henry doesn’t have 100 or more yards because the Titans defense has been lights-out. The Titans go as their defense goes because the offense just isn’t good enough to get into shootouts with the league’s best.
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6 | last week: 10)
The Bucs are a postseason contender simply because the rest of the division is, somehow, worse. But the Bucs remain a flawed team because the coaching staff isn’t maximizing the team’s talent, as no team has done less with more. Head coach Todd Bowles and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich both have left a lot to be desired in terms of game management, creativity, and aggressiveness; Bowles’s rationale for not calling a timeout late in the fourth quarter in Sunday’s loss to the Browns isn’t good enough, and Leftwich’s lack of understanding of when to leverage play-action isn’t good enough.
On the Bubble
12. Seattle Seahawks (6-5 | last week: 11)
The Chiefs, Bills, and Eagles are the only teams with more points scored than the Seahawks this season. Geno Smith has done his part as the captain of the offense, as he ranks 11th among starting QBs in EPA per dropback. The problem is the Seattle defense has floundered whenever they play even decent offenses. The Seahawks have allowed 21 or more points to every offense except the Broncos, Cardinals (twice), and Giants—all three of those teams rank outside the top half of the league in offensive points per game.
13. New England Patriots (6-5 | last week: 14)
There is volatility to the Patriots defense, which is ranked first in defensive EPA per game. In games against quarterbacks Lamar Jackson, Tua Tagovailoa, Aaron Rodgers, Justin Fields, and now Kirk Cousins, the Patriots have allowed 27.2 offensive points per game. In their other six games, when they’ve gotten to face Zach Wilson (twice), Sam Ehlinger, Kenny Pickett, Jared Goff, and Jacoby Brissett, they’ve allowed just 8.7 points per game. Next, they’ll face an MVP candidate in Josh Allen on Thursday Night Football. For the Patriots to keep their playoff hopes alive, they’ll need to play better against the better QBs on their schedule.
14. New York Jets (7-4 | last week: 15)
Every simple or advanced metric from the Jets’ win over the Bears on Sunday tells the same story: Mike White was phenomenal and a clear QB upgrade for the offense. He completed 22-of-28 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns en route to the best EPA per dropback of any starter in Week 12. He pushed the ball downfield with accuracy from clean pockets and often avoided pressure altogether with his ability to be quick and decisive. Continuing to keep the offense on schedule and avoid mistakes is all White has to do to keep Zach Wilson on the bench and maybe even propel the Jets into the playoffs.
15. Los Angeles Chargers (6-5 | last week: 17)
The Chargers currently have a 41 percent chance to make the postseason, according to FiveThirtyEight. However, those odds could jump to 62 percent if they beat the Raiders next week. The offensive line and receiver groups are still ravaged by injuries, and the defense is still among the league’s worst. But as we saw in the fourth quarter against Arizona, Justin Herbert always gives the Chargers a chance.
16. Washington Commanders (7-5 | last week: 16)
The Commanders are 6-1 in their last seven games, including five wins with QB Taylor Heinicke as the starter. But while Heinicke has provided a much-needed spark since replacing Carson Wentz, it’s been the defense that has truly led the way for Washington recently. Since Week 6, the Commanders rank second in offensive points allowed per game (14.4) and first in turnovers forced with 13. Adding Chase Young back from injury will only raise the ceiling for Washington’s defense as they look to secure a playoff berth with two games against their division rival Giants over the next three weeks.
17. New York Giants (7-4 | last week: 13)
The Giants are on the ropes after losing three of their last four games and need to battle back to secure a wild-card spot in the NFC. While opposing defenses have sold out to stop RB Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones and the team’s no-name receiving corps have been unable to pick up the slack. Additionally, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s inherently aggressive, volatile defensive strategy, predicated on blitzes and man coverage, has caught the wrong side of variance in recent weeks. Since their Week 8 loss to the Seahawks, the Giants rank 28th in points allowed per game. Sunday’s game against the Commanders is a borderline must-win game: The Giants’ postseason odds will sink below 30 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight’s model, if they lose to Washington.
Long-Shot Playoff Hopefuls
18. Atlanta Falcons (5-7 | last week: 19)
Offensive tackle Kaleb McGary should be a priority re-sign target for the Falcons regardless of whether they’re able to survive their deflating loss to the Commanders in Week 12 to make the playoffs. The no. 31 pick in the 2019 NFL draft, McGary has quietly been one of the league’s top right tackles and a surprising anchor to the Falcons’ highly successful rushing attack. He ranks third behind Trent Williams and Christian Darrisaw in Pro Football Focus’s run-blocking grade, and he’s allowed just 12 total pressures all season. Though Atlanta declined to pick up his fifth-year option last offseason, the team can right that wrong by signing the 27-year-old McGary to an extension before he tests free agency in March.
19. Detroit Lions (4-7 | last week: 21)
Detroit’s defense is reaching new levels of bad. In this season alone, the Lions rank 31st in points allowed per game and defensive success rate, and over the last two seasons, no team in the NFL has allowed more points (777). While rookies Aidan Hutchinson, Kerby Joseph, and Malcolm Rodriguez have all had flashes of success, glaring holes remain at every level of the defense. The Lions simply can’t afford to go into next season banking on the development of the younger players; they need to add significant upgrades at multiple defensive positions to turn their competitive against-the-spread record into actual wins in 2023.
20. New Orleans Saints (4-8 | last week: 22)
The good news for New Orleans is that rookie receiver Chris Olave has been fantastic. The bad news? Nearly everything else. Quarterback Andy Dalton is hot and cold (lately, mostly cold). The defense can’t create pressure on opposing quarterbacks or force turnovers. Hell, even star running back Alvin Kamara has underwhelmed for most of this season. And there’s no bright light at the end of the tunnel, as the Saints go into the 2023 offseason with few resources to quickly right the ship.
21. Cleveland Browns (4-7 | last week: 24)
Put some respect on Jacoby Brissett’s name. Cast in an unwinnable situation after the Browns traded for and paid Deshaun Watson, Brissett capped off his 11-game stint as Cleveland’s starting QB with a comeback win against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. Through the first 12 weeks of the season, Brissett ranked 12th in EPA per dropback and the Browns overall ranked fifth in offensive EPA.
We’re Onto 2023
22. Indianapolis Colts (4-7-1 | last week: 18)
Matt Ryan is an obvious upgrade over Sam Ehlinger, and there’s reason to believe interim head coach Jeff Saturday has provided at least a small spark for the team. But the Colts offense is still among the league’s worst. In the two weeks Ehlinger was the starter, the Colts ranked 32nd in EPA per drive. In the three weeks with Saturday and Ryan at the helm, the Colts have improved just slightly, to 26th. It’s too little, too late for Indianapolis to survive such inefficiency offensively and Saturday’s questionable clock management.
23. Las Vegas Raiders (4-7 | last week: 25)
Josh Jacobs is going to get PAID this offseason. Now in a contract year because the Raiders declined his fifth-year option, the former first-round pick had an impressive 86-yard walk-off touchdown run in overtime to beat Seattle and now leads the league in rushing yards with 1,159. Spending big on multi-year running back contracts can be a fool’s errand in today’s NFL, but expect the Raiders (and others) to have significant interest in signing Jacobs to a hefty contract this offseason.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7 | last week: 28)
What Trevor Lawrence showed in the fourth quarter of the Jags’ comeback win over the Ravens is what should have fans excited for the future in Jacksonville. His arm talent, accuracy, and decisiveness was on full display as he completed 15-of-19 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns (and a game-winning two-point conversion) in the fourth quarter. The Jags improved to 11th in point differential (+12), and Lawrence is now seventh in EPA per dropback among starters. With so many one-score losses, a talented quarterback, and Doug Pederson in just his first season coaching the team, the Jaguars are a prime positive-regression candidate in 2023.
25. Arizona Cardinals (4-8 | last week: 20)
Let’s check in on the Cardinals offense after their loss to the Chargers on Sunday: Spoiler alert—It’s not good. “Schematically, we were kinda fucked,” Cardinals QB Kyler Murray said of the fourth-down play against the Chargers on Sunday when he threw an interception. The same could be said for much of the Arizona offense since Murray and Kliff Kingsbury arrived in 2019. The Cardinals tied for 17th in EPA per pass play over the last four seasons, and Murray currently ranks 20th among QBs by that metric this season.
26. Green Bay Packers (4-8 | last week: 23)
The Packers’ season is over. Aaron Rodgers has played with an injured thumb for much of the season and left Sunday’s loss to the Eagles with a rib injury. Rodgers has indicated he’d like to try to play this week against Chicago, but the truth is Rodgers nor backup Jordan Love can resurrect things in time for the playoffs. The best-case scenario for Green Bay moving forward is to evaluate Love as the starter for the rest of the season to better prepare themselves to make the decision on whether to pick up his fifth-year option next spring.
27. Carolina Panthers (4-8 | last week: 31)
There are stars to build around in Carolina. Wide receiver D.J. Moore and right tackle Taylor Moton are legitimate high-end starters that haven’t had the spotlight because the quarterback situation has been downright awful. Defensively, Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, Jaycee Horn, Jeremy Chinn, and Frankie Luvu are all pieces to be excited about and under contract in 2023. Even an average starting quarterback could have the Panthers competing for a playoff spot next season.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-7 | last week: 29)
While he didn’t push the ball downfield much, rookie QB Kenny Pickett threw the ball with confidence and avoided mistakes in what was arguably his best start this season against the Colts on Monday Night Football. It was the first game he finished with a positive EPA per dropback average since his NFL debut against the Jets in Week 4. At the very least, it was a step in the right direction for a young quarterback that hasn’t had a lot of success on the year.
29. Denver Broncos (3-8 | last week: 26)
I’m shocked Nathaniel Hackett even boarded the plane back to Carolina after his Broncos managed just 10 points in a loss to Sam Freaking Darnold and the Panthers on Sunday. The Broncos, who were -140 to make the playoffs prior to the season, are a three-win team going into December and desperate for a reset offensively. This season is over, but the trade for Russell Wilson goes from disastrous to catastrophic if new Broncos ownership can’t right the ship with what should be a new coaching staff in 2023.
30. Los Angeles Rams (3-8 | last week: 27)
To recap the Rams’ day in Kansas City on Sunday: Sean McVay took a shoulder pad to the face; Aaron Donald suffered what is believed to be a high ankle sprain; and Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and Allen Robinson II didn’t play because of injuries. The end of the season can’t come soon enough.
31. Chicago Bears (3-9 | last week: 30)
The Bears are a mess even when Justin Fields is healthy. Unsurprisingly, they’re even worse without him. Led by Trevor Siemian, who started in place of Fields and was nearly pulled before kickoff due to an oblique injury he suffered during warmups, the Bears scored just 10 points. Siemian threw for 179 yards, ran for eight yards, and was 27th among starting QBs last week in EPA per play. As if it weren’t abundantly clear that the Bears need Fields, it is now.
Eyeing No. 1 Pick
32. Houston Texans (1-9-1 | last week: 32)
The Texans were bad but still fun to watch when rookie RB Dameon Pierce was having success running the football; now they’re just bad. Pierce has just 33 total yards on 20 touches in the last two weeks, including his eight-touch, 16-yard performance in Houston’s 30-15 loss to Miami on Sunday. Opposing defenses have essentially begged QBs Davis Mills and Kyle Allen to beat them through the air by prioritizing run defense and stacking the box in the last two weeks. As a result, Pierce is the only back in the NFL with 15 or more carries who averaged negative yards before first contact per attempt in weeks 11 and 12.