- Arizona Cardinals (9-2)
Last Week: 1
We’ll see if the bye week was helpful in getting Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins back from injury. They need to be more than able to play; they need to be healthy for the stretch run. With both at full strength, the Cards can run the NFC playoffs through Arizona. Without both feeling their best, this team will be done early in the playoffs.
- Green Bay Packers (9-3)
Last Week: 2
The Packers kept themselves in the race for home field and dealt a major blow to the Rams in the process on Sunday. The Packers committed to the ground game and held onto the ball nearly twice as long as Los Angeles. The Packers need someone from the group of Cobb, Lazard, and Valdez-Scantling to step forward into the number two wideout spot beside Davante Adams to separate from the NFC pack.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-3)
Last Week: 3
Tampa is lurking just off the pace for home field in the playoffs. Their schedule sets up very nicely down the stretch. Other than a matchup with the Bills in two weeks, Tampa may be over a touchdown favorite each of their remaining games.
- New England Patriots (8-4)
Last Week: 5
The Patriots are a living example of just how well things can go for a team if they master the fundamentals of the game. The Pats do nothing flashy and yet they are within striking distance of the AFC’s top spot. It will not be an easy task to win in New England in January.
- Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
Last Week: 6
All eyes will be on the Chiefs defense down the stretch. If the defense can continue to play as it has over the last several weeks, the Chiefs can reign as champs again. The return of Clyde Edwards-Helaire will be a major boost for the offense. He continues to lead the team in rushing yards despite only appearing in six games. He gives KC a dimension the rest of their backs can’t reach.
- Los Angeles Rams (7-4)
Last Week: 4
The Rams are winless since adding Odell Beckham and Von Miller. Three straight losses have Los Angeles closer to home for the playoffs than securing home field. Things should get back to good for the Rams this week against the Jags. Beyond that lies a trip to Arizona to see if the Rams are still going to be a factor or just another talent-laden disappointment.
- Buffalo Bills (7-4)
Last Week: 10
The Bills put forth a dominant performance Sunday against the Saints. It was exactly what the doctor ordered going into this week’s showdown against the Patriots. This is really a must-win for the Bills from a mental perspective. A loss would cede superiority back to New England a send the Bills into a struggle for a playoff berth. It would be an amazing and possibly unrecoverable failure considering where they stood just a few weeks ago.
- Baltimore Ravens (8-3)
Last Week: Unranked
The Ravens have won two straight games despite only scoring 16 points in each contest. They will need more productivity this week in Pittsburgh as the Steelers will be playing to save their season. The Ravens have the league’s 4th-rated offense, and rank in the bottom third of the league in defense. Things have flipped for Baltimore of late. They will need that defense to continue its strong play as the remaining schedule is brutal.
- Cincinnati Bengals (7-4)
Last Week: Unranked
The Bengals have won two straight in blowout fashion after the inexplicable loss to the Jets and the flop against the Browns. Cincy gets four of their last six at home with two very winnable games in Cleveland and Denver to finish the season. There is no reason this team can’t take the division if they figure out how to play more consistent football.
- Dallas Cowboys (7-4)
Last Week: 9
The Cowboys face three straight games on the road after back-to-back losses. Dallas should be favored in each of the three matchups, but they have shown an ability to lose to anyone in the last few weeks. Running and stopping the run will need to be a focus. In the three games Dallas dropped over their last four, they have been outrushed and allowed more than 120 yards on the ground.