The Cardinals have gone out of their way to hang on to the top spot in the NFC, but there is some logic in seeing the Packers and Buccaneers overtake them with four weeks to go, between their current level of play and their experience. That said, in the two conferences, everything can still completely change.
In the NFC, behind the division leaders, the battle of the Wildcards concerns another 9 teams and five of them have exactly the same record. In the AFC, the situation is even more tense, because from the Patriots (leaders) to the Broncos (10th), the gap is only two wins. The end of the regular season promises to be literally explosive.
Here are my Power Rankings before heading into week 15:
1 (2) – GREEN BAY PACKERS (10-3) week 14: W 45-30 vs Bears
Aaron Rodgers once again dominates the Bears and the Packers take advantage of the Cardinals’ misstep to steal 1st place in the NFC. Green Bay takes the lead, but must aim for flawlessness against the threat of the Buccaneers, starting with a perilous trip to Baltimore.
The Packers take the lead!
2 (3) – TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (10-3) W 33-27 (OT) vs Bills
The Buccaneers win in overtime thanks to the 700th Touchdown pass of Tom Brady’s career and pass the biggest obstacle of their end of the course. On a par with the Packers and the Cardinals, the reigning champions have the most favorable schedule to win this triangular.
3 (1) – ARIZONA CARDINALS (10-3) L 23-30 vs Rams
The Cardinals performed below their standards and lost at home to their main division rival. A less incisive defense and unusual mistakes cost them the seat of conference leaders and the end of the season is likely to shake, because after a visit to Detroit, they will host the Colts, go to Dallas and finish their season against Seattle.
4 (4) – NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (9-4) Bye
Method, discipline and composure have helped the Patriots win 7 straight games and take the lead in the AFC. To keep it, they’ll have to beat the Colts at Foxboro on Saturday night. The two teams are coming out of their week of rest before a duel which promises to be absolutely captivating.
5 (5) – KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (9-4) W 48-9 vs Raiders
Attack and defense in tune, the Chiefs inflict a real correction on the Raiders. The last finalists surf a series of six victories by adding form. It remains to be seen whether this type of service will become the norm. If so, there won’t be many people to stop them.
6 (10) – TENNESSEE TITANS (9-4) W 20-0 vs Jaguars
Without making as strong an impression as the Patriots and Chiefs, the Titans come back to the level of the other two leaders, hoping that their schedule will benefit them by the end of the season. Being exempt from Wildcard, would optimize their chances of recovering Derrick Henry in form and to go far in the playoffs.
7 (7) – LOS ANGELES RAMS (9-4) W 30-23 @ Cardinals
Deprived of five incumbents because of Covid, The Rams sign a very determined match in Arizona and recall that they will have to be counted on in the playoffs. Sean McVay emphasizes the importance of the running game in his game plan and the defense twists Kyler Murray. the result is impressive.
8 (8) – DALLAS COWBOYS (9-4) W 27-20 @ Washington
The Cowboys’ lead melted like snow in the sun until the fumble Randy Gregory picked up definitively delivered them. Dallas is taking a big step towards the NFC East crown, and much of it owes its defense, propelled by sensational rookie Micah Parsons.
9 (11) – LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (8-5) W 37-21 vs Giants
When Justin Herbert pulls out all the stops, few teams can afford the Chargers’ firepower. Another big performance from their young Quarterback would be welcome in the duel against Patrick Mahomes for 1st place in the AFC West. Los Angeles Shootout Alert!
10 (6) – BALTIMORE RAVENS (8-5) M 22-24 @ Browns
The pseudo-comeback of the 4th Quarter hides the reality of the moment. The Ravens are going through a troubled time. Injury, hesitation, tactical choices are all factors that endanger their position as leaders of AFC North. The arrival of the Packers does not announce anything reassuring, especially as the presence of Lamar Jackson is not guaranteed.
11 (9) – BUFFALO BILLS (7-6) L 27-33 (OT) @ Buccaneers
Seen as one of the favorites for the title at the start of the season, the Bills have lost four of their last six games and are reduced to saving their place in the playoff race. In Tampa, They clear a delay of 21 points, before losing the big game too much in overtime, still undermined by their inconstancy.
12 (12) – INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (7-6) Bye
Without playing, the Colts carry out the big operation of the week and climb to 6th qualifying place in the AFC by taking advantage of the defeat of the Bills and Bengals. The Colts are playing much better than their record suggests and will have the opportunity to prove it when they travel to New England.
13 (15) – SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (7-6) W 26-23 (OT) @ Bengals
San Francisco heals its visit to Ohio and regains 6th place in the NFC, with a victory ahead of Washington. Realizing the importance of the result, the Niners lifted their guard in overtime and took advantage of another major performance from George Kittle and the return of Deebo Samuel.
14 (13) – CINCINNATI BENGALS (7-6) L 23-26 (OT) vs 49ers
The Bengals lost at home and found themselves stuck among the teams with 7 wins and 6 losses of the AFC. Two poorly controlled punts and costly penalties add to a long list of approximations that often make the difference between losing and winning. Perhaps also the sign of a lack of maturity.
15 (19) – CLEVELAND BROWNS (7-6) W 24-22 vs Ravens
The Browns resist the Ravens’ comeback and win a momentous victory for the playoffs. Recharged by their week of rest, they impose themselves physically in all areas of the game. Special mention to Myles Garrett who perfectly assumes his role as leader and scores his first touchdown in the NFL.
16 (14) – WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM (6-7) L 20-27 vs Cowboys
Washington has almost given up hope of winning its division, but still clings to 7th place in the NFC ahead of the Vikings and Eagles. 4 division duels will determine the fate of the football team, starting with a visit to Philadelphia this Sunday.
17 (17) – DENVER BRONCOS (7-6) W 38-10 vs Lions
Mourning the loss of Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos honor their former star by dominating the Lions in all areas of the game. Denver returns to the positive and joins the debate for a place in the Wildcard, on a par with Buffalo, Indianapolis, Cleveland and Cincinnati, their next opponent.
18 (22) – MINNESOTA VIKINGS (6-7) W 36-28 vs Steelers
The Vikings deserve an award for their ability to reinvent the notion of suspense every week. Geniuses of the scenario, even when they lead 29 to 0 at the end of the 3rd quarter, the danger is still very present. It’s no wonder, then, to see them stagnate among the most fickle teams in the NFC, despite great potential.
A fright but victory for the Vikings!
19 (21) – PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (6-7) Bye
The Eagles benefited from a week of rest to mobilize and try to get their ticket to the finals. They welcome Washington, in the first of four divisional matches that will define their end of the season.
20 (16) – PITTSBURGH STEELERS (6-6-1) L 28-36 @ Vikings
The Steelers receive the Titans, move to the Chiefs, receive the Browns, and move onto the Ravens field. Suffice to say that their qualification is now a miracle.
21 (23) – NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (6-7) W 30-9 @ Jets
The return of Alvin Kamara resuscitates the Saints. The running Back finishes with 145 yards and his presence frees Taysom Hill. The quarterback is more efficient in the passing game and completes Kamara’s ground effort by 73 yards and 2 touchdowns. The victory gives the Saints a much needed dose of oxygen after the longest losing streak since Sean Payton took office (5).
22 (20) – MIAMI DOLPHINS (6-7) Bye
Still concerned with the playoffs, the Dolphins must aim for flawlessness if they want to have a chance. The Jets are within reach this Sunday. It will then take up the challenge in New Orleans and Tennessee, before welcoming the Patriots at the conclusion of the regular season. Miami starts from far away.
23 (26) – ATLANTA FALCONS (6-7) W 29-21 @ Panthers
The Falcons fight for their coach Arthur Smith and win a crucial division duel. The defense is illustrated by causing three losses of balls and the touchdown of Mykal Walker makes the difference. Next stop in San Francisco.
24 (24) – SEATTLE SEAHWKS (5-8) W 33-13 @ Texans
The defense slammed the door in the face of the Texans in the 2nd Half and the Seahawks survived one more week in the NFC. Russell Wilson’s teammates continue to believe in it, even if their margin for error is very small. They will travel to the Rams this Sunday.
25 (18) – LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (6-7) L 9-48 @ Chiefs
The raiders wanted to show bravery by making their pre-game speech on the Chiefs logo. They leave Kansas City having conceded 48 points. Both attack and defense are completely dilapidated and their next meeting promises to be delicate, Saturday night in Cleveland.
26 (25) – CAROLINA PANTHERS (5-8) L 21-29 vs Falcons
Between the interception relaunched until the touchdown and the fumble which allows the Falcons to score a second, the Cam Newton experience turns into a horror film. Matt Rhule loses control and alternates his Quarterbacks as if he was still coaching in the NCAA. The Panthers are in panic mode.
27 (27) – CHICAGO BEARS (4-9) M 30-45 @ Packers
The Bears have led twice by 10 points without really giving the impression of taking control in Green Bay. In the 2nd Half, reality jumped out at them and the match was cut short. Big plays are one thing, taking care of drives is another.
28 (28) – NEW YORK GIANTS (4-9) L 21-37 @ Chargers
Two Touchdowns entered in the « Garbage time » distort the score. Before that, the Giants had offered absolutely nothing convincing in Los Angeles, just like the week before in Miami. Like a never-ending story.
29 (29) – NEW YORK JETS (3-10) L 9-30 vs Saints
Three trips to the red zone without registering any Touchdown. Zach Wilson only completed 42% of his passes and the defense couldn’t go the distance against repeated assaults from Taysom Hill and Alvin Kamara. Logical result.
30 (30) – DETROIT LIONS (1-11-1) L 10-38 @ Broncos
Five disastrous possessions kill the Lions’ hopes in the 2nd Half. Defensively Detroit fails to keep up with the pace imposed by Denver.
31 (32) – HOUSTON TEXANS (2-11) L 13-33 vs Seahawks
Davis Mills completes his first 14 passes and lets the Texans believe it until the offense abruptly disappears from the radar screens.
32 (31) – JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (2-11) L 0-20 @ Titans
Nightmarish day, zero effort, never in a position to score, the Jaguars disintegrate in Nashville. Tension mounts between Urban Meyer and his players, and even his staff are starting to turn their backs on him. The experience will probably not go beyond year 1.