Because I don’t do enough stuff that hurts my brain, I’ll be whipping up this inevitably flawed house of cards for everyone to complain about every other week. I’m ranking these teams with a proprietary algorithm that spits out the likelihood that they can win it all at the end of the year. By “proprietary algorithm” I mean my brain after one too many cups of coffee. Tell me why I’m wrong in the comments or hit me up on twitter @tomcapo57.
1. Saints (13-2)
They’ve clinched homefield throughout the NFC playoffs and handled a Steelers team that had everything to play for in week 16. They’ll be extremely tough to beat in January.
2. Chargers (11-4)
Yes, they’re a wildcard based on the tiebreaker with the Chiefs. Yes, they lost to a really good Ravens team. They’re still (probably) the class of the AFC.
3. Bears (11-4)
Oh, man do I like the Bears this year. Nobody wants a piece of that defense. Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson are both in the top three in interceptions this year. Also, Khalil Mack.
4. Rams (12-3)
Does going 1-1 over a two-week period count as scuffling into the playoffs? Sean McVay’s team relaxed before the playoffs last season and came out flat. I don’t expect that again this year.
5. Patriots (10-5)
If there’s one thing I know, it’s this. The Patriots are deadly at home, and more deadly with a bye week. Houston’s loss to the Eagles just gave them the inside track to both. They’ll need to adjust without Gordon, but we all knew that might happen. Does anyone think that the Hoodie didn’t have a backup plan for his backup plan?
6. Ravens (9-6)
Taking down the Chargers when Rivers and company could have snatched the number one seed from Houston is a BIG win. Taking control of the AFC North is even bigger. That run game will go far in the playoffs.
7. Chiefs (11-4)
It’s simple, really. If they win in week 17, they’re the number one seed in the AFC. They have the Raiders. It should be a cakewalk. Should be. But with two straight losses in a late-season swoon, the Chiefs have looked really vulnerable.
8. Texans (10-5)
They take a little dip here for losing the number two seed, but the Eagles have rediscovered their identity late, so I won’t crush them. It’s a scary defense again, ranking sixth in points allowed and fourth in rushing yards. J.J. Watt is looking like himself again. They can make a run.
9. Colts (9-6)
Oooooh, boy. They’ve clawed their way to a wildcard slot with one game to play. They’ll need to beat the Titans this weekend to keep it. Don’t look now, but the only team in the AFC South that’s NOT in contention is the Jaguars…weird.
10. Seahawks (9-6)
I honestly don’t know how exactly the Seahawks are in contention. Let’s give Pete Carroll the Coach of the Year award already. I had him on the hot seat before the season. Mea Culpa.
11. Cowboys (9-6)
Someone in the NFC East needed to step up. Might as well be these guys. Defense is good, especially on the front. Amari Cooper is a difference maker. I’m still kinda…meh about the masters of mediocrity.
12. Eagles (8-7)
Swagger, thy name is Nick Foles. Not really, but they won the Super Bowl with the guy, so why can’t they sneak into a wildcard berth with him as well.
13. Titans (9-6)
The Titans are on the outside looking in right now, but they have the game’s longest winning streak going fun schedule fact, they host the #6 seeded Colts on Sunday night for all the marbles.
14. Steelers (8-6-1)
You had to know that despite their midseason form, the Steelers would suffer from playing salary cap chicken with one of the league’s top players. It’s cost them a playoff spot unless week 17 gets really, really weird.
15. Vikings (8-6-1)
I said it before the season started. Kirk Cousins was a bad idea. They have a very tenuous grasp on the NFC’s sixth seed. How tenuous? They have to play the Bears this weekend. The Eagles lurk.
16. Browns (7-7-1)
You’re third in the division Browns. Stop celebrating. You’re embarrassing yourselves.
17. Dolphins (7-8)
Miami is just dangerous enough to shoot themselves in the foot. They’re not close, but three games per year convince fans and management alike that they are. It’s sad, really.
18. Packers (6-8-1)
The Packers are wasting Aaron Rodgers career, and he should seriously consider his options. He needs more titles to be taken seriously, and I don’t think he’s going to get them at this rate. I can think of three teams right off the bat that would contend if somehow, someway, Rodgers ended up there. Redskins, Jags, Bills. Think about it. On the other hand, maybe a new head coach is enough?
19. Washington (7-8)
The loss of Alex Smith is pretty tragic here, because Washington was somewhat interesting to watch when they were playing well.
20. Broncos (6-9)
Man, this team is infuriating. They beat the Chargers, Steelers and Seahawks, but lost to the Raiders and Niners. Call them the high-elevation Bills.
21. Panthers (6-9)
Seven straight losses. It’s time to clean house.
22. Bills (5-10)
I’m pretty certain that there’s a decent football team hiding in there somewhere. That playoff run last year showed some grit, and that defense is still good, allowing the second-fewest total YPG in football. They allow the fewest passing yards, period. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Football is weird.
23. Giants (5-10)
They have to fire someone, right? Still a lot of talent at the skill positions, though.
24. 49ers (4-11)
In the last two weeks, the Niners have beaten a playoff-bound Seattle team and banged heads with a Bears team that looks like a serious threat to the NFC title. They may only be one win better than Arizona, but being 120 points better in point differential is telling.
25. Falcons (6-9)
Yeah. I’m sensing a coaching change here, too. I really didn’t think that Sean Payton would be the only safe head coach in the NFC South, but here we are.
26. Bengals (6-9)
Yeah, Bengals gonna Bungle. It’s what they do. Andy Dalton is on pace for his lowest career passing total. But not by much. The guy just isn’t that great.
27. Lions (5-10)
Matthew Stafford is wildly overpaid. They need other pieces to contend but can’t afford any. I’m just going to keep repeating that until it sinks in.
28. Buccaneers (5-10)
The Buccs have won a few too many games to grab a top QB prospect in the draft (Thanks, Fitz-Magic). Who wants to bet they’re gonna be “active” in the trade market before the draft?
29. Raiders (4-11)
Every few weeks, Derek Carr looks a little like the guy that was on his way to an MVP season before getting injured. If Gruden’s master plan is to rebuild around him, why did they go out and sign Nathan Peterman? Is Jon Gruden a genius? Or just a weird little dude who likes football. A lot. If he ships off Carr and gives Peterman the job, we’ll know it’s the latter.
30. Jaguars (5-10)
It’s been fun Blake Bortles. It really has. I’m not sure where that Jags will pick in this year’s draft, but spoiler alert, they won’t be taking “best available player” when the time comes. Still a playoff-caliber defense.
31. Jets (4-11)
Chaotic might be the best way to describe a team that can beat the Colts and lose to the Bills in the same season. And Todd Bowles is out here criticizing refs. That’s not exactly the type of leadership that’s going to move the needle.
32. Cardinals (3-12)
The worst point differential in the league, and it isn’t close. The Raiders are fifty points better than Arizona, and they’re the second-worst. I’m not sure where Arizona is headed but being last in the league in passing yards and points scored wasn’t the plan when they took Josh Rosen.
Image Source: USA Today