Tier 1: The Super Bowl Contenders
1: Arizona Cardinals (Last Week: 1)
2: Kansas City Chiefs (Last Week: 6)
The Chiefs are back! Well, almost back to #1. I’m keeping the Cardinals at the top for now simply because they’ve somehow managed to go 2-1 with Colt McCoy, including an impressive win over the 49ers. That, in my mind, means they’re probably the best team when Murray finally gets back.
But for the Chiefs, I’m convinced this sudden improvement is real. For one, they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt after playing at such an extraordinarily high level for the past couple years. For two, everybody (not just Chiefs homers like myself) pointed out at the time that the Chiefs’ struggles early were due to things that tend to be quite fluky, and their recent success is based on things that tend to be more consistent.
For example, even against the Cowboys the Chiefs suffered from fluke (i.e. things that aren’t predictive of future results) plays like absurd unsportsmanlike penalties, and that tipped interception, while not getting any in their direction.
So they’re back near the top. If Murray returns and the Cardinals falter, and the Chiefs continue playing at a high level, they could quickly see themselves return to the top of the rankings.
3: Green Bay Packers (Last Week: 3)
4: Los Angeles Rams (Last Week: 4)
5: Tennessee Titans (Last Week: 5)
6: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Last Week: 7)
7: Dallas Cowboys (Last Week: 8)
It’s really hard to know what to do with these teams. All of them have terrible marks on their resumes. This might be the most wide-open the NFL has been in years.
Tier 2: The Playoff Contenders
8: Buffalo Bills (Last Week: 2)
9: Baltimore Ravens (Last Week: 10)
10: Pittsburgh Steelers (Last Week: 11)
11: Los Angeles Chargers (Last Week: 14)
The Bills got demoted because, outside of beating the Chiefs back when they were struggling, they haven’t done hardly anything impressive, but have managed to accumulate a handful of embarrassing losses. If they get an impressive win (like perhaps a convincing win over the Patriots on Monday Night Football in a couple of weeks?) they can quickly work their way back up a tier. But for now, they just haven’t earned the benefit of the doubt the way the Chiefs have.
12: New Orleans Saints (Last Week: 13)
13: Philadelphia Eagles (Last Week: 15)
14: Cincinnati Bengals (Last Week: 16)
15: San Francisco 49ers (Last Week: 17)
16: New England Patriots (Last Week: 18)
17: Cleveland Browns (Last Week: 12)
Everybody’s excited about the Patriots, but I’m cautiously optimistic about them. Sure, it’d be nice to be able to brag that I was one of the few to pick them to win the division before the season started, but they just haven’t been as good as I expected to be. Their wins have been almost entirely against bad teams, and their strength of schedule is the 2nd worst of any team currently in the AFC playoffs (only Cincinnati is worse). Their schedule gets much harder the rest of the way, as their next 4 games are against teams with winning records. I don’t think they’ll completely fall off, but I do expect them to land around 10 wins by the end of the season.
Tier 3: The Less-Than-Good Teams
18: Minnesota Vikings (Last Week: 19)
19: Indianapolis Colts (Last Week: 23)
20: Las Vegas Raiders (Last Week: 20)
21: Seattle Seahawks (Last Week: 9)
22: Denver Broncos (Last Week: 24)
23: Carolina Panthers (Last Week: 25)
24: Atlanta Falcons (Last Week: 22)
So much for the Seahawks improving with the return of Russell Wilson. I could excuse losing to the Packers in his first game back, but losing by double digits to Colt McCoy? That’s not a good look. I’d say it might be best for them to tank the rest of the way, but they don’t even own their own 1st round pick (they gave it to the Jets as part of the Jamal Adams trade). Things are about to get really bad in Seattle.
Tier 4: The Terrible Teams
25: Chicago Bears (Last Week: 21)
26: New York Giants (Last Week: 26)
27: Washington Football Team (Last Week: 27)
28: Detroit Lions (Last Week: 28)
29: Houston Texans (Last Week: 29)
In a move that’s long overdue, the Bears have dropped down to the terrible tier. They have looked terrible all season, and worst of all, Justin Fields has not impressed as a rookie. Matt Nagy looks to be on the hot seat and will probably be looking for a new job before Valentine’s Day.
Tier 5: The Rookie Quarterbacks
30: Miami Dolphins (Last Week: 30)
31: New York Jets (Last Week: 31)
32: Jacksonville Jaguars (Last Week: 32)
Miami won the Toilet Bowl over the Jets, but winning the Toilet Bowl is actually a loss, as the Jets gained something far more valuable than a win: draft position. As it currently stands, the Jets would have 2 top 5 picks (thanks to the Seahawks’ struggles). The Dolphins at least don’t own their own pick, so it’s the Eagles who are most frustrated at their win.