Week 13 Rankings: Thanksgiving Hangovers and QB Perfection

Thanksgiving has come and gone and we’re into the home stretch. The first week of what Bill Belichick calls “real football” brought out two distinct types of play from teams jostling for playoff position or draft order. The first was near perfection, courtesy of players like Philip Rivers and Marcus Mariota. The second was like their teams were stuck with a Thanksgiving hangover. The Steelers and 49ers fit this bill nicely. As the season winds down, we’re starting to see who really belongs and who is just playing for draft stock.

Biggest Winner: +5 Broncos

Biggest Loser: -4 Bengals, Steelers

1. (–) New Orleans Saints (10-1)

Week 12: W 31-17 vs. Falcons. We all know how good Drew Brees and the skill players this year. Let’s take a minute and talk about how good the rest of the team is. The offensive line has allowed a league-low 10 sacks on their QB, and the defense is tied for 6th most fumble recoveries in the league. This defense came alive on Thanksgiving against the Falcons, causing 4 turnovers (1 INT, 3 fumbles) and sacking Matt Ryan 6 times. New Orleans is the best team in all of football, and the gap seems to be getting bigger every week.

2. (–) Los Angeles Rams (10-1)

Week 12: Bye. A well-earned victory against the Chiefs meant the Rams could relax and enjoy their Thanksgiving bye week without having to worry about having to make up a loss when they returned to practice. The home stretch of @Lions, @Bears, vs. Eagles, @Cardinals, vs. 49ers separates the Rams and a possible Super Bowl run.

3. (–) Kansas City Chiefs (9-2)

Week 12: Bye. The Chiefs aren’t quite as lucky as the Rams, but they still have a 1-game lead for the #1 seed in the AFC. The cushion might not be enough, since KC’s remaining schedule is a home and away with the Raiders, vs. Ravens, vs. Chargers, and @Seahawks. One slip up could mean the difference between an AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead or in Foxboro.

4. (+1) New England Patriots (8-3)

Week 12: W 27-13 @Jets. Gronk and Sony Michel are back in the lineup. Did this have an effect? Well, Gronkowski caught 3 for 56 yards and a touchdown. Michel tallied 133 yards and a touchdown and averaged 6.3 yards per carry. The run game totalled 215 yards and averaged 6 yards per carry. To cap it all off, Tom Brady (20-31, 283 yds, 2 TD) looked as good as he had all season. Rumors of the King’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

5. (+1) Houston Texans (8-3)

Week 12: W 34-17 vs. Titans. The Texans just keep on rolling, now winning 8 in a row after an 0-3 start. Deshaun Watson (19-24, 210 yds, 3 total TD) was pinpoint accurate in the air and torched Tennessee on the ground, Lamar Miller had one of the best games of his career with 12 carries for 162 yards and a touchdown, an average of an unbelievable 13.5 yards per carry, and deadline acquisition WR Demaryius Thomas caught both of Watson’s touchdown passes. This team is dangerous, and even a defense like Cleveland’s is going to have trouble stopping the Texans streak.

6. (+1) Chicago Bears (8-3)

Week 12: W 23-17 @Lions. Chicago kicked off Thanksgiving with a division win over their rivals in Detroit. QB Mitch Trubisky was ruled out with a shoulder injury, so backup Chase Daniel (27-37, 230 yds, 2 TD) stepped in and balled out. After not throwing a meaningful pass since 2014, Daniel had the best game of his career and kept the Bears in the game all the way to the end. From there, the defense stepped up and did their part with a pick-six by Eddie Jackson to put Chicago ahead. They never gave up the lead, and the Bears were celebrating with plenty of Thanksgiving turkey.

7. (+1) LA Chargers (8-3)

Week 12: W 45-10 vs. Cardinals. After a bad loss to the then 3-6 Broncos, LA started out this week down 10-0 to the middling Cardinals after the 1st quarter. Philip Rivers (28-29, 259 yds, 3 TD) and the Chargers responded with one of the most clinical displays of football you will ever see. Rivers set NFL records for completion percentage (min. 30 attempts) with a 96.55% day and most completions to start a day with 25. He also tied Ryan Tannehill’s mark of 25 straight completions, though Tannehill set the record over the course of 2 games. Melvin Gordon added 2 more touchdowns and the defense completely shut Arizona down after a sloppy 1st quarter. As long as Gordon is back in time for their week 15 matchup with the Chiefs, the Chargers look like they could really spoil the AFC playoff picture.

8. (-4) Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3-1)

Week 12: L 24-17 @Broncos. The Steelers became the second high-profile team to fall victim to Mile High and the Broncos in as many weeks despite a big game from Big Ben (41-56, 462 yds, TD, 2 INT). JuJu Smith-Schuster had a career game, catching 13 for 189 yards and a touchdown, but the rest of the offense was mostly held in check. What really killed the Steelers was the turnovers. 2 fumbles and 2 picks held the offense back all game, and in the end it cost them.

9. (–) Seattle Seahawks (6-5)

Week 12: W 30-27 @Panthers. Down 7 with under 7:00 left to go, Russell Wilson (22-31, 339 yds, 2 TD) led the Seahawks down the field on a 7-play, 75-yard drive to tie the game up, capping it off with a 35-yard touchdown pass to WR David Moore on a 4th and 3. After a missed Carolina field goal, Wilson again led Seattle down the field to kick a game-winning 31-yard field goal. The QB that led Seattle to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances is still alive and well, and the Seahawks are right in the middle of the playoff race as a result.

10. (+1) Minnesota Vikings (6-4-1)

Week 12: W 24-17 vs. Packers. These are the games that Minnesota is paying Kirk Cousins (29-38, 342 yds, 3 TD) all that money for. Tied 14-14 at the half, Cousins lit it up in the 3rd quarter by going 5-6 for 50 yds and a TD on back-to-back drives to give the Vikings a 24-10 lead. From there, the defense shut Aaron Rodgers down and held the Packers to just 3 points the rest of the way. Similar to the Bears, Minnesota’s defense is good enough to win a Super Bowl, but the loss of Xavier Rhodes for any amount of time is cause for concern.

11. (+1) Baltimore Ravens (6-5)

Week 12: W 34-17 vs. Raiders. Lamar Jackson (14-25, 178 yds, TD, 2 INT) still has a long way to go before he is ready to fully take the reigns of an NFL franchise, but he’s shown over the last 2 weeks that he’s got what it takes to make it in the legaue. Jackson added 71 yards and a touchdown on the ground, part of a 242-yard day for the Ravens rushing attack, and has led Baltimore to back-to-back wins, something Joe Flacco hasn’t been able to do since weeks 3 and 4. The question remains if he’ll keep the starting job once Flacco is healthy, but many Ravens fans are taking the path of “if it ain’t broke…”

12. (+1) Indianapolis Colts (6-5)

Week 12: W 27-24 vs. Dolphins. Another game, another dominant performance from Andrew Luck. As good as Adrian Peterson has been for the Redskins, Luck (30-37, 343 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT) is a lock to win comeback player of the year. For the 8th game in a row, he threw 3 touchdowns en route to a huge 4th quarter comeback. Down 10 with less than 9 minutes to go, the Colts stormed down the field on three straight drives to score 13 unanswered points, including a last-second game winner from Adam Vinatieri. The largest win streak for the Colts since 2014 rolls on.

13. (-3) Carolina Panthers (6-5)

Week 12: L 30-27 vs. Seahawks. Cam Newton (25-30, 256 yds, 2 TD, INT, 63 rush yds) was nearly perfect. Christian McCaffrey (237 total yds, 2 total TD) had a career day. The Panthers only punted once. And yet they still lost. An ineffective defense ruined what should have been Carolina’s marquee win of the season, sending them tumbling further and further down into the wildcard hunt. If the Panthers want to get back to the postseason, they need to turn things around this week down in Tampa.

14. (+1) Dallas Cowboys (6-5)

Week 12: W 31-23 vs. Redskins. The second game of Thanksgiving football was an entertaining one, and the Cowboys now find themselves in 1st place in the NFC East. Dak Prescott (22-31, 289 yds, 3 total TD) has looked like a totally different quarterback since WR Amari Cooper came to town, Ezekiel Elliot ran for over 120 yards for the third straight game, and the defense was able to contain backup QB Colt McCoy for most of the game. There’s still plenty of football left to play, but injuries and tough losses for their opponents have given Dallas the keys to the division. All they have to do is keep on winning.

15. (+5) Denver Broncos (5-6)

Week 12: W 24-17 vs. Steelers. Consecutive wins against the Chargers and now Steelers have propelled Denver back into the playoff picture. Case Keenum (15-28, 197 yds, 2 TD) was serviceable, but he’s not showing the talent that flashed last season in Minnesota. What’s really shined in the last few weeks has been the defense. Against the explosive Steelers offense that normally puts up points at will, Denver forced 3 red zone turnovers, including 2 fumbles, and picked off Big Ben twice in the second half to stay in the game and eventually win. Still on the outside looking in, Denver has turned a lost season into an outside chance at a wildcard berth in just 2 short weeks. There isn’t much room for error, but it’s possible, something that didn’t seem true until these last few weeks.

16. (–) Tennessee Titans (5-6)

Week 12: L 34-17 @Texans. Marcus Mariota (22-23, 303 yds, 2 TD) was nearly as perfect as Philip Rivers was the day before, but the Titans were simply outmatched by Houston’s talent. The running game could only total 105 yards between 5 separate rushers, slowing down the seemingly automatic air attack, and the defense just couldn’t slow down Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins enough to catch up. The playoffs are slipping out of Tennessee’s grasp, but their upcoming schedule of vs. Jets, vs. Jaguars, @Giants gives the Titans a chance to get back in the hunt.

17. (-3) Green Bay Packers (4-6-1)

Week 12: L 24-17 @Vikings. Here’s a stat that just blows my mind. Aaron Rodgers (17-28, 198 yds, TD) is 0-37 when trailing by more than 1 point at the start of the 4th quarter against teams with a winning record. Yes that stat is weirdly specific, but it should tell you something that explains the Packers struggles this season. Aaron Rodgers can’t beat good teams when it matters. The Packers now find themselves stuck in a division with 2 other good teams with, more importantly, good defenses. Rodgers still sees a path to the playoffs, but the road is just to slim to consider. The only question now is if coach Mike McCarthy will be in Green Bay next season.

18. (+3) Philadelphia Eagles (5-6)

Week 12: W 25-22 vs. Giants. Many teams endured hangovers of one form or another this season. Jacksonville beat the Patriots before going 1-8 afterwards. Steelers fell this week after an amazing comeback last week. But none have been as extreme as the Eagles. Even with their week 12 win against the Giants, Philly is 5-6 after winning their first Super Bowl and the tram has looked like a shadow of their championship selves. Carson Wentz (20-28, 236 yds, TD) has slowly improved, but he’s nowhere close to his near-MVP form from a year ago. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

19. (-2) Washington Redskins (6-5)

Week 12: L 31-23 @Cowboys. You can’t make this stuff up. The Redskins lost on Columbus Day AND Thanksgiving this season. That’s what I call irony. Still, Colt McCoy (24-38, 268 yds, 2 TD, 3 INT) played fairly well in relief of injured QB Alex Smith. Adrian Peterson couldn’t get things going against the tough front-7 of the Cowboys, taking away their best offensive asset and putting the veteran backup at a severe disadvantage. The division is still open, and McCoy’s play on Thanksgiving should inspire confidence for Redskins fans.

20. (+3) Cleveland Browns (4-6-1)

Week 12: W 35-20 @Bengals. The Browns snapped another streak last week against the Bengals. After snapping a 17-game losing streak, a 19-game winless streak, a 17-game division losing streak, an 18-game division winless streak, and a 36-game Sunday losing streak, Cleveland snapped a 25-game road losing streak. The catalyst to all of this seems to be the dumping of Hue Jackson and the emergence of quarterback Baker Mayfield (19-26, 258 yds, 4 TD). This was still a rebuilding year for the Browns, but if they can manage to attract the right coach to Cleveland, they’ll be on the path back to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

21. (-2) Atlanta Falcons (4-7)

Week 12: L 31-17 @Saints. With their 3rd straight loss after getting back to .500, Atlanta has all but eliminated themselves from the playoffs. Despite one of the best seasons of Matt Ryan’s (35-47, 377 yds, 2 TD, INT) career, the Falcons can’t seem to stop anyone on defense and, as a result, can’t seem to turn points into wins. It doesn’t help when the running backs combine for 6 yards off 12 carries (WRs were 4 yards off 2 carries and Ryan was the team’s leading rusher), but even so, the league’s 5th-worst total defense 4th-worst scoring defense, and 2nd-worst 3rd Down defense is the real problem down in Atlanta.

22. (-4) Cincinnati Bengals (5-6)

Week 12: L 35-20 vs. Browns. Andy Dalton (10-17, 100 yds, TD, INT) is out for the season after the Bengals placed him on IR, and that’s not even the worst of Cincy’s problems. Despite backup QB Jeff Driskel (17-29, 155 yds, TD) being solid in relief, the Bengals couldn’t overcome the massive 28-0 deficit they found themselves in late in the first half. Cincinnati has failed to score more than 21 points and allowed more than 28 points for the 5th time in 6 games since their 4-1 start (scored 27+ points and allowed average of 24 points in each of first 5 games) and show no signs of fixing the problem. To put the cherry on top of a bad Thanksgiving weekend, the Bengals teased fans by leaking that Marvin Lewis might be replaced at the end of the season……by Hue Jackson.

23. (-1) Detroit Lions (4-7)

Week 12: L 23-16 vs. Bears. Another disappointing season for Detroit has been sealed after the Lion’s Thanksgiving loss. Matt Patricia is still implementing a massive culture change and the lockeroom has been slow to adjust, but the real problem in Detroit is that they’ve fallen into mindset of Matthew Stafford (28-38, 236 yds, 2 INT) and then everyone else. When Stafford throws for more than 270 yards, the Lions are 0-5. When they spread the ball around and Stafford throws for less than 270 yards, the Lions are 4-2. Spread the wealth and Detroit will win. That’s the most important lesson.

24. (+2) Buffalo Bills (4-7)

Week 12: W 24-21 vs. Jaguars. Josh Allen (8-19, 160 yds, TD, 99 rush yds) returned just in time to face the trash-talking Jalen Ramsey and the Jags, and he lit it up in the first half. The Bills jumped out to a 14-0 1st quarter lead on the back of Josh Allen airing it out, connecting for 32 and 75 yards with the latter being for a touchdown, then the defense held on long enough to get the win. Allen still has a long way to go, but he’s back, healthy, and giving the offense a spark it hasn’t had since he was injured.

25. (–) New York Giants (3-8)

Week 12: L 25-22 @Eagles. For the second year in a row, the Giants lost a heartbreakrr to Philly at the hands of kicker Jake Elliot. As a result, the talks of winning out and making the playoffs are over in New York. Eli Manning (26-37, 297 yds, TD, INT) threw a bad interception at the end of the first half that cost the Giants 3 points, but the real reason for the loss is the defense. After the Giants got out to a 19-3 lead, the defense imploded and let Carson Wentz throw all over them. Math says the Giants are still alive, but for all intents and purposes New York’s season is over.

26. (+2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7)

Week 12: W 27-9 vs. 49ers. Well, we’re back to Jameis Winston. Winston (29-38, 312 yds, 2 TD) played well in his retaking of the reigns, but it’s tough to judge considering the opposition. Really there’s not much to say about this game for the Bucs. They won, but all that does at this point is hurt Tampa’s draft position.

27. (-3) Miami Dolphins (5-6)

Week 12: L 27-24 @Colts. Despite a quick start via a 33-yard Kenyan Drake touchdown, the Dolphins still lost and put their playoff hopes in jeopardy. Ryan Tannehill (17-25, 204 yds, 2 TD) made his return and did well enough to keep the game close, but the defense couldn’t hold back the relentless aerial assualt of Andrew Luck for all four quarters. 13 unanswered points in the 4th quarter was the nail in the coffin on the game, and quite possibly Miami’s season.

28. (-1) Jacksonville Jaguars (3-8)

Week 12: L 24-21 @Bills. This was not a good week for the Jaguars. Aside from their loss to the “Trash” in Buffalo, total upheaval and many eaten words swirled. CB Jalen Ramsey was forced to face his own smack talk after players he called out by name as trash publicly at the start of the season and live during the game torched his secondary. QB Blake Bortles (12-23, 127 yds, TD, 2 INT) has been benched for Cody Kessler, who looked solid in his week 7 loss to the Texans. Star RB Leonard Fournette was suspended for his fight with Bills DE Shaq Lawson. And to cap it all of, several sources are reporting that Jacksonville is going to blow it all up and start over, losing several of their best players in the process. Is it too late to call one-year wonder?

29. (–) New York Jets (3-8)

Week 12: L 27-13 vs. Patriots. The Jets extended their losing streak to 5 after their latest loss to the Patriots. Sam Darnold was held out due to a foot injury, so veteran Josh McCown (26-45, 276 yds, TD, INT) stepped in. Thanks to New England’s weak secondary, McCown was able to look pretty good, but it didn’t matter as the Jets were simply outmatched by their rivals. A top-5 draft pick and a free agency spending spree are in New York’s future, but the season itself has been lost for some time now.

30. (–) Arizona Cardinals (2-9)

Week 12: L 45-10 @Chargers. Things started so well for the Cardinals. After a tough loss to a struggling Raiders team, Arizona jumped out to a 10-10 lead over the Chargers and there was hope. Reality quickly came crashing down and LA scored 45 unanswered points. Josh Rosen (12-19, 105 yds, TD, INT) couldn’t get much going and David Johnson was held to just 3.7 yards per carry. The only questions now are whether the Cardinals will be picking first and whether or not Larry Fitzgerald will end his stories career like this.

31. (-1) Oakland Raiders (2-9)

Week 12: L 34-17 @Ravens. We asked you who was worse, and you overwhelmingly made your choice. Despite beating the Arizona a week ago, Oakland is still worse after their own blowout loss. The future is uncertain for everyone in the Raiders organization, and at this point it wouldn’t be a surprise if Gruden decides to move on from Derek Carr in the off-season.

32. (-2) San Francisco 49ers (2-9)

Week 12: L 27-9 @Buccaneers. For the first time since these rankings began, we have a new team alone at the bottom of the pile. San Fran has looked awful in recent weeks, and it isn’t just because they’re using a third-string QB. Add to that having to cut star LB Reuben Foster after he was arrested for Domestic Violence, and it’s easy to see who gets the title of worst team in the NFL.

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Photo Credit: Cover, Getty Images, USA Today Sports, Denver Post, Associated Press, IndyStar

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