Down the Regular Season Stretch: All NFL Teams Ranked 1-32

NFL Dec 09, 2020

With just four games to go in what's been the most unusual NFL season ever, teams are jockeying for position.  What follows are my NFL rankings 1-32 based on which teams would be favoured on neutral fields if they were to play under current conditions, along with a comment or two about each franchise.

To see the actual odds of teams winning divisions, conferences, or the Super Bowl, check out the numbers at SPREADS.CA.

Here we go:

[1]  Kansas City – The defending Super Bowl champions are clearly a consensus pick as the NFL's best team, both by virtue of their pedigree as champions, but also their 11-1 record.  The Chiefs have not always played well this season, sometimes stumbling to wins they may not have deserved.  However, everyone can see this team is complete in all phases, probably better all-around than last season, and remains the team to beat in what's been a wildly unpredictable season.  It's a scary prospect that Kansas City has not really played to their full potential, but would still be at least a field goal favourite versus any other team in the NFL at the moment.  It's Kansas City #1, and then a gap.  And then, everyone else.

[2]  Buffalo – Does Buffalo really deserve to be ranked this high?  I think so.  Reason:  The Bills are peaking at the perfect time.  They've won five of their last six games and covered the spread in five straight.  So, they are still widely undervalued.  What should scare opponents, however, especially their AFC rivals, is the Buffalo offense, which has begun to click and has produced 34 points-per-game on average the last five contests.  The Bills defence was already considered a Top Five unit, and now with the offense producing points, this team becomes very dangerous.  If Buffalo hammers the overrated Steelers in Week 13, that should be the rallying cry that the major threat to the Chiefs reign rests in Buffalo.

[3]  New Orleans – It's tough to rank the Saints, given their lingering questions at QB.  All backup Hill has done is win games as the replacement, but he's not anywhere close to the passing threat of the great Drew Brees.  So then, where do we rank the Saints, which always seem to win 12 or 13 games and then collapse come playoff time?  Let's assume Brees returns in Week 14, as expected, gets a few games under his belt with the division title wrapped up, and is full strength in January.  I make them top seed in the NFC, though it's close.  I also see New Orleans as a hypothetical one- or two-point underdog to Buffalo and probably a 4-point dog versus Kansas City.

[4]  Green Bay – The Packers seemed to have the NFC North division wrapped up in October, and they've been on cruise control ever since.  In fact, none of their games has been a "must win," so they really haven't been tested.  Ranking Green Bay against New Orleans is tough – home field certainly determines which team would be the favourite.  But on a neutral field, I'd give a slight edge to the Saints, with Brees healthy.  Reason: A slightly better running game.  

[5]  Seattle – The Seahawks are always dangerous, but after an inexplicable home loss to the NY Giants last week, they're now in a real dogfight to win the NFC West, tied with the Rams.  Seattle's problem is on defence, which statistically is awful.  But somehow, the Seahawks do just enough to win most games.  I'd favour Seattle over all but four teams at the moment, despite these very valid concerns.  

[6]  Pittsburgh – This is the worst 11-1 team in NFL history.  READ MORE HERE.  Don't be fooled by the Steelers' misleading W-L record, including several cheap wins versus injured, outclassed opponents (5 with backup QBs).  Look for Pittsburgh, which was exposed the previous two weeks, to stumble down the stretch.  The Steelers running game has become non-existent.  That will hurt them come January.  

[7]  Cleveland – The Browns will be a sentimental pick as a wild card team, finally making the playoffs after many years of misery and futility.  With a solid running game, a grind-it-out power attack that burns lots of clock might be just what the Browns need to pull off some upsets come January.  The Browns are likely to split their final four games and end up 11-5.  That's like a Super Bowl win for the Browns.

[8]  Indianapolis – At 8-4, the Colts may be under the radar and get lost in the mix of the Chiefs-Bills-Steelers conversation.  That's something bettors should be looking at.  With a veteran QB, legitimate star-power around him, and a Top-Five defence, the Colts are likely to have value in the coming weeks, and in the playoffs.

[9]  Tennessee – Before getting thrashed by the Browns at home last week, the Titans might have been ranked higher.  But this porous Tennessee defence has major holes and will probably be the downfall of an otherwise strong team that can compete on offense with anyone.  In the NFC, the Titans might be a top team.  But in the brutally-tough AFC, there are perhaps 4 or 5 teams which are better.

[10]  LA Rams – Just when everyone was about to write-off the Rams heading into 2020, they're now in first place in mid-December.  There's lots of talent on both sides of the ball, and Jared Goff has as good a W-L record as any starting QB in his first four seasons.  The Rams aren't at the level of the Packers or Saints at full strength, but they could also upset anyone and repeat their 2018 run to the Super Bowl if things break right.

[11]  Miami – Lost in the shuffle of the Dolphins surprising turnaround has been the defence, allowing just 17 points-per-game, an NFL best.  Tua is returning to the QB position in Week 13, with journeyman Fitzpatrick ready to step in at a moment's notice.  It's been quite an interesting year in Miami, which deserves major accolades for such a quick rise, especially given where they were a year ago (the NFL's worst team at mid-season in 2019).  Credit Brian Flores, a certain Coach of the Year candidate.

[12]  Tampa Bay – At 7-5, the Buccaneers are likely headed to the playoffs as a wild card.  This is a team no one wants to play for obvious reasons – first, legend Tom Brady and second, a well-coached Bruce Arians team that is capable of beating anyone on its best day.  There are concerns that Tampa Bay was exposed badly in a home loss to the Rams a few weeks ago, but that could be just the swift kick in the ass this team needed to make a run and be dangerous heading into the playoffs.

[13]  Baltimore – The Ravens were clearly among the Top Five early in the season but didn't look good in big games versus quality competition.  And so, they've been severely downgraded to a middle of the pack, wild-card team, which will likely be a dog when looking ahead into January.  The Ravens' defence will have to play much better, but there remain too many question marks about Baltimore and their ability to beat the AFC's best teams.

[14]  New England – Somehow, the Patriots are sticking around and could make things interesting.  Their ass-kicking 45-0 win last Sunday in LA was a wake-up call to the rest of the league that Bill Belichick's coaching career might still have a little more shelf life remaining.  New England could struggle to make the playoffs in the log-jam that is the stacked AFC this season, but they're definitely a team to worry about down the stretch.

[15]  Arizona – One of the NFL's most frustrating teams, week to week, from both the perspective of the fan and bettor.  This high-powered offense should be able to match up with any opponent, but they're also too inconsistent to be taken seriously, come January.  The Cardinals aren't playing well when they need to, and there's no longer any excuses for a better performance.  Arizona has lost 4 of 5 games and dropped five straight against-the-spread.  After a great start, they're collapsing at the worst possible time.

[16]  Minnesota – Normally, a 6-6 record wouldn't be any reason to celebrate but given the Vikings were burned toast a month ago, they now have the final playoff spot – if the season ended today.  Nonetheless, can we really trust a team that lost to the miserable Cowboys and needed comeback wins versus Jacksonville and Carolina?  Seems that Minnesota is missing way too many pieces, but if things come together down the stretch they could also be a dark horse and repeat their surprising appearance in the conference championship game.

[17]  Las Vegas – Credit the Raiders for occasional flashes of brilliance (beating New Orleans and Kansas City), but then don't get fooled by this painfully inconsistent, poorly-coached team that often plays down to its level of competition.  They needed a miracle to beat the winless Jets last Sunday, and have been thoroughly dominated multiple times by weaker opponents this season.  This team is going nowhere despite a very deceptive 7-5 record.

[18]  San Francisco – The 49ers were plagued by numerous injuries on both sides of the ball and can be forgiven for regressing back to the .500 mark after their Super Bowl appearance last January.  There's still lots of talent on this team, and a hungry head coach with most of the pieces in place.  But this won't be the season for San Francisco to make another deep run.

[19]  NY Giants – The Giants' shocking upset win at Seattle in Week 13 was a stunner.  Incredibly, that was with a backup QB (Colt McCoy) who hadn't played a significant game in five years.  What a comeback season for the G-Men.  Sure, they got lucky to be in a terrible division with four below-average teams, but these Giants rose to the occasion and are in the hunt.  And to think, they lost their star player (RB Barkley) in September.  

[20]  Washington – Ron Rivera deserves serious consideration for Coach of the Year.  And is there a better story in the NFL in 2020 than Alex Smith?  It doesn't matter what you think of the Washington Football Team and fan loyalties.  This is a great turnaround and an inspiration that such a gutsy team with so many deficiencies is tied for first place in December.  The defence is pretty good, also – which will keep this team in games down the stretch.

[21]  Detroit – The Lions will likely stumble their way to another 7-9 season, hire a new head coach in the off-season, and be right back in this spot again a year from now, and the year after, and so on.  Is there any QB with more worthless padded stats who can't ever win in the clutch than Matt Stafford?  Dump him for a draft pick and rebuild.  This team needs electric shock therapy.

[22]  Chicago – Has any NFL team looked worse over the last two months than the Bears?  Incredibly, this team roared off to a 5-1 start by mid-October.  Now, they're 5-7 – losers of six straight.  It's not just the offense's fault with bad quarterback play and receivers that can't get open.  The Bears defence stinks, too.

[23]  Atlanta – The Falcons were a train wreck since September, losing games they should have won, and then finally just throwing in the towel with a series of lifeless efforts in mid-season.  It's time to shop QB Matt Ryan, who still might bring in a high draft choice, and replace some dead roster spots.

[24]  Denver – An above-average defence has kept Denver from the bottom of the NFL barrel, but as another losing season winds to a close it's time to see someone take control and lead this team – from general manager, to coaching, to quarterbacking.  This offense continues to sputter along as one of the league's worst units.  Someone should pay for these monumental mistakes, and his name is John Elway.

[25]  Carolina – The Panthers have nothing to be ashamed of for this Bottom-Eight ranking.  Preseason, they were forecast as a last-place team with major holes to fill, yet have managed to be competitive in several games.  Case in point – a 7-5 record against-the-spread.    

[26]  Houston – The Texans should have been much better than this, but got off to a horrible start, fired their head coach, and now are wallowing in a rebuilding phase.  Look up "underachievers" in the dictionary, and there should be a team photo of the Houston Texans.  A disgraceful effort and season.    

[27]  Philadelphia – What a fall by the team that won the Super Bowl three years ago and won the NFC East last season and should have repeated, simply by default given that this is arguably the worst division in NFL history.  There are no excuses for how badly the team has performed in every phase of coaching and on-the-field execution.  Time for QB Carson Wentz to hit the trade block, who might not get even a second-round draft pick at this point.

[28]  Dallas – Everything's gone wrong for the miserable Cowboys this season, which can't end soon enough.  Sure, Dallas has some valid excuses for such a poor record (3-9), most notably QB Dak Prescott's injury.  But RB E. Elliot's effort has been gutless all season, even with an offensive line which has fallen apart.  What nobody expected, however, was how horrific the defence would perform, allowing and NFL-worst 32 points-per-game.  Nice job, Jerry Jones – three playoff wins in 25 years.  He's a joke.

[29]  LA Chargers – The stepchild sports franchise of Southern California should be a much better team given they have some talent.  The Chargers have shown flashes of improvement, but has under-performed badly with just 3 wins in 12 games.  The defence is above average on paper, but has played poorly all season.

[30]  Cincinnati – It's really too bad for the Bengals that QB Joe Burrow went down with a season-ending injury.  This team looked to be headed in the right direction.  Still, there's lots of holes to fill on this putrid team.  

[31]  Jacksonville – After starting out in Week 1 with a shocking win over the Colts, the gutless Jaguars have dropped 11 straight.  Statistically speaking, yards-per-game, this is the NFL's worst defence.

[32]  NY Jets – I'm trying to find something positive to write about the woeful Jets.  Give me a few more weeks, and I might be able to come up with something.  Oh yeah – here's one positive:  Jets punter Braden Mann is having one helluva' season!