Each week of the NFL season, The Baltimore Sun will rank all 32 NFL teams. The rankings will take into account not just weekly performance, injuries and roster depth, but how well each team measures up as Super Bowl contenders.
Here are the rankings heading into Week 13:
Super Bowl favorites
1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2, No. 1 last week)
2. Philadelphia Eagles (10-1, No. 2)
In an unpredictable season, the top contenders are clear. The Chiefs rolled to a 26-10 win over the hapless Rams on Sunday, while the Eagles became the first team to reach 10 wins by holding off the Packers, 40-33. Kansas City and Philadelphia took advantage of injuries to star quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers, but that’s what good teams do.
As long as quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce are healthy, the Chiefs are pretty much unstoppable. Mahomes threw for 320 yards and a touchdown while Kelce had four catches for 57 yards, including a 39-yard score to open the game. The Kansas City defense also showed its strength, intercepting backup quarterback Bryce Perkins twice and limiting the Rams to 3.6 yards per play. Even though the Chiefs scored a touchdown just once in six trips inside the red zone, with Mahomes throwing an interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter, they remained in total control. That’s a testament to their quality on both sides of the ball.
For Philadelphia, the win Sunday night showed just how dominant they can be on offense. Behind one of the league’s best offensive lines, the Eagles piled up 363 rushing yards, their most since they had a franchise-record 376 in 1948 against Washington. Quarterback Jalen Hurts bolstered his case to be the league’s Most Valuable Player, becoming the first player since at least 1950 with at least 150 rushing yards, 150 passing yards and multiple touchdown passes in the same game. Hurts and running back Miles Sanders also became the first teammates to run for at least 125 yards apiece since San Francisco’s Frank Gore (158) and Colin Kaepernick (151) on Dec. 20, 2014. The defense is a bit of a concern, especially if safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson’s rib injury is serious, but the offense is good enough to carry the Eagles to the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
The flawed contenders
3. Buffalo Bills (8-3, No. 3)
4. Dallas Cowboys (8-3, No. 4)
5. Miami Dolphins (8-3, No. 5)
6. Minnesota Vikings (9-2, No. 8)
7. San Francisco 49ers (7-4, No. 7)
The Bills, Cowboys and Vikings all won on Thanksgiving Day, proving in front of a national television audience that they’re legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
On the surface, Buffalo’s 28-25 win over the Lions on a 45-yard field goal by Tyler Bass in the final seconds doesn’t look very impressive, but this was a Detroit team coming off three straight wins. Quarterback Josh Allen led an impressive game-winning drive, connecting with wide receiver Stefon Diggs for a 36-yard pass and running twice for 12 yards to finish with a team-leading 78 rushing yards. There are some lingering concerns about the offense, however, as Allen threw another interception near the goal line to end a promising drive to begin the second half. It was the sixth turnover for Buffalo in the red zone this year, surpassing the total it had the previous three seasons.
The Cowboys looked sloppy at times in a 28-20 win over the Giants, turning the ball over twice and committing 13 penalties, but they dominated the second half. Quarterback Dak Prescott threw two touchdown passes to tight end Dalton Schultz in the third quarter to put Dallas up for good, and running back Ezekiel Elliott looked like his old self with 92 rushing yards and a touchdown. The defense remains the backbone of the team, limiting running back Saquon Barkley to 3.5 yards per carry and consistently pressuring quarterback Daniel Jones to the tune of three sacks and seven hits. It’s a well-balanced team that should push the Eagles for the top spot in the NFC.
After getting crushed by the Cowboys a week ago, there were some lingering questions about whether Minnesota was a legitimate contender in the NFC. A thrilling 33-26 win over the Patriots reaffirmed that the Vikings’ record is not a fluke. With Dalvin Cook and the rushing attack limited, quarterback Kirk Cousins put together one of his best performances of the season, completing 30 of 37 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns. Justin Jefferson cemented his status as one of the best young wide receivers in NFL history, catching nine passes for 139 yards to break Randy Moss’ league record for the most receiving yards in a player’s first three seasons. Facing one of the league’s easiest remaining schedules, Minnesota can not only build confidence for the postseason but perhaps overtake Philadelphia to secure a first-round bye.
On the cusp of contention
8. Baltimore Ravens (7-4, No. 6)
9. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4, No. 10)
10. Tennessee Titans (7-4, No. 9)
11. Los Angeles Chargers (6-5, No. 15)
12. New York Jets (7-4, No. 17)
Just when it felt like the Ravens had put their fourth-quarter troubles behind them and were gearing up to go on a long winning streak, they fell apart in a 28-27 loss to the Jaguars. In allowing the most spectacular comeback in Jacksonville franchise history — the Jaguars were previously 0-183 when trailing in the final minute of regulation — the Ravens suffered their third loss when leading by multiple scores in the fourth quarter, tied for the most in a season in NFL history. It’s one thing to lose, but the manner in which the Ravens have blown late leads is alarming. Behind quarterback Trevor Lawrence and wide receivers Marvin Jones Jr. and Zay Jones, the Jaguars put together two touchdown drives of 75 yards in the fourth quarter, converting a fourth-and-8 and a fourth-and-5 to keep their hopes alive. For as imposing as the Ravens’ defense appears at times, it struggles to make stops in key moments. The offense remains the biggest concern, going just 2-for-5 in the red zone against Jacksonville after a 1-for-4 showing against Carolina. Lamar Jackson still flashes moments of brilliance, including a 62-yard pass to DeSean Jackson that set up the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, but the Ravens need more consistency from their star quarterback to be a legitimate AFC contender.
The two teams that could push the Ravens in the postseason met Sunday, with the Bengals securing a 20-16 win over the Titans to keep pace with Baltimore in the AFC North. With top wideout Ja’Marr Chase sidelined for a fourth straight game by a hip injury and running back Joe Mixon out with a concussion, quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver Tee Higgins led the way, connecting for a go-ahead 27-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. It was the kind of grind-it-out game the Titans normally win, which makes Cincinnati’s performance all the more impressive. The Bengals have won three straight and five of their past six, putting themselves back in contention to not only repeat as division champions but return to the Super Bowl.
The wild cards
13. Washington Commanders (7-5, No. 14)
14. Seattle Seahawks (6-5, No. 12)
15. New York Giants (7-4, No. 13)
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6, No. 11)
17. New England Patriots (6-5, No. 16)
It’s a crowded race for the three wild-card spots in the NFC, with the Giants and Commanders holding a slim lead over the Seahawks. With each passing week, Washington looks more and more like a postseason contender, defeating the Falcons, 19-13, on Sunday for its sixth win in seven games. It was fitting that the defense sealed the win, as cornerback Kendall Fuller intercepted Marcus Mariota in the end zone with 58 seconds left after the pass was tipped by defensive tackle Daron Payne. The offense has been meeting the moment, too, with quarterback Taylor Heinicke throwing two more touchdown passes to move to 5-1 as the starter and running back Brian Robinson Jr. rushing for a career-high 105 yards. With back-to-back games against the Giants sandwiched around a Week 14 bye, the Commanders are in prime position to secure a playoff spot.
Not done yet
18. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7, No. 25)
19. Las Vegas Raiders (4-7, No. 24)
20. Detroit Lions (4-7, No. 18)
21. Atlanta Falcons (5-7, No. 19)
22. Cleveland Browns (4-7, No. 28)
23. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-7, No. 26)
Sunday showed that even teams with terrible records need to be taken seriously. The Jaguars, Raiders and Browns all pulled off upsets, and the Falcons and Lions had a chance to win in the final seconds.
The Raiders remain the most puzzling team in the NFL this season, storming back to beat the Seahawks, 40-34, in overtime for their second straight win. After a 5-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Derek Carr to tight end Foster Moreau with 1:54 left forced overtime, running back Josh Jacobs secured the win with an 86-yard touchdown run. It was a performance for the ages for Jacobs, who became the only player since at least 1950 with at least 225 rushing yards and 70 receiving yards in a single game. Las Vegas will almost certainly need to win all of its remaining games to be in postseason contention, but Sunday proved that’s possible given all the talent it has on offense.
24. Green Bay Packers (4-8, No. 21)
25. Arizona Cardinals (4-8, No. 20)
26. Indianapolis Colts (4-7-1, No. 22)
27. Carolina Panthers (4-8, No. 31)
28. New Orleans Saints (4-8, No. 23)
29. Los Angeles Rams (3-8, No. 29)
30. Denver Broncos (3-8, No. 27)
31. Chicago Bears (3-9, No. 30)
32. Houston Texans (1-9-1, No. 32)
It’s hard to overstate just how bad things have gone for Denver. The pairing of quarterback Russell Wilson and first-year coach Nathaniel Hackett has been a disaster, and there’s no clear way out after Sunday’s 23-10 loss to the Panthers. Wilson signed a five-year contract extension with $165 million guaranteed, making a cut or a trade nearly impossible. Firing a coach after one season is an admission of failure most franchises are unwilling to make. Tensions boiled over Sunday with defensive lineman Mike Purcell yelling in Wilson’s face on the sideline, and Hackett had to sidestep questions about his job security after the game. Injuries at left tackle, center and wide receiver have left the Broncos short-handed, but Wilson and Hackett should be able to make the necessary adjustments to field a respectable offense. They haven’t, and it might only get worse from here.