Updated: Dec 29, 2022
The Giants are back one spot after their loss to the Vikings. The Giants are in a strange place. I am more sure of what they aren't than what they are. They are clearly not a juggernaut team. We saw that when they faced the Eagles and got destroyed with ease. However, the Giants showed they could hang with top teams this week. The Vikings escaped the Giants with a win thanks to a last-second field goal. However, the Giants showed they had grit and could make things happen on offense when needed. The Giants are arguably the friskiest of the lower-tier teams in the playoffs. They have differentiated themselves as the best 8-win team. What the Giants do in the playoffs will be highly matchup based. If the matchups fall their way, they could go farther than people think.
The Chargers are up one spot after they became the latest team to embarrass the Colts. The Chargers are finally becoming the team everyone thought they could be. They are finally going to get into the playoffs, and the Chargers will get a chance to show the world who they really are. Will the defense hold up? Will Staley make smart decisions under pressure? How will Herbert look when the lights are the brightest they have ever been before?
The Ravens have secured a playoff spot and ensured that Lamar will be able to make a run at the Lombardi trophy. The offense still has question marks and definitely doesn't inspire fear. However, the defense has done a 180 since the Roquan Smith trade, and if they can peak in the playoff with Lamar back in the lineup, I wouldn't count the Ravens out.
The Cowboys returned the favor to the Eagles and beat their backup QB. I have the Cowboys ranked as the worst 11-4 team because I still don't believe in them. Full disclosure, I got drunk on the Cowboys' juice last year. I thought they were different from the teams of the last 25 years. I believed they could make a run at the Super Bowl. They had a stacked defense, and the offense was stacked as well, and Dak had even played like an MVP candidate for part of the season. However, there were little signs I missed along the way before they choked in the playoffs and broke my heart.
I don't intend to miss those signs this year. If the Cowboys are serious, they have to prove it, and they have not. Dak got injured last year, and it was subtle, but he was never quite the same after that calf injury in the Patriots game. Dak was injured again this season. Dak is putting up big numbers, but he is also throwing about a pick-a-game. Last week he threw a pick-six, and a playoff team with their starter will make him pay for that. Last year the Cowboys lost games they shouldn't have. They got blown out by the Broncos. Well, this year, they lost to the Packers and let Christian Watson break out against them. Also, last year the Cowboys weren't mentally strong. They figured they had so much talent that things would just be okay more often than not. This year they lost to the Packers and then turned around and took a worse loss to the Jags the next week. Then instead of tightening up, they nearly lost to the Texans. Lastly, the Dallas defense became spotty last year. They weren't dominant in certain games that they should have been, like the Raiders game. Well, this year, the Cowboys have had some injuries, and now their all-star defense is starting to wind down. They gave up 23 to Mills, then 40 to Lawrence, and then 34 to Garner Minshew. As of now, the Cowboys have shown no indication that they will be different this year.
The 49ers won again, but they have stayed right at six because I'm not ready to go all in on them. The 49ers beat the Dolphins, and I give them credit for that because they truly exposed the Dolphins. However, after that, they beat the Bucs, who had tons of injuries on defense and a terrible offense. Plus, this is the same team that just almost lost to a Cardinals team playing their third-string Qb. Then they beat the Seahawks, who had just lost to Sam Darnold's Panthers. Then they beat a Commanders team that had their Qb knocked out of the game. Purdy has been doing good, but I wonder how much of it is due to the schedule. In the playoffs against the best, the NFC has to offer, I trust the 49er's defense, but I am not so sure about Purdy.
The Bengals are maintaining their spot at five. They made mental errors and allowed the Patriots to play with them when they should have blown them out. However, the Bengals did get up big, and they did rally and get out of New England with a win. The Bengals have taken control of the division, and once again, they are one of the most exciting teams in the playoffs. The Bengals have a good chance to successfully defend their AFC conference title.
The Chiefs played sensational against the Seahawks, but they stayed at the four spot because I think they are superb, but they aren't as good as everyone thinks they are. If you look at this team last year, they had the Steelers in the first round of the playoffs, which was a freebie, and then they were lucky to make it past the Bills, thanks to overtime rules. Then they lost to the Bengals. They lost to the Bengals again this year, and they lost to the Bills again this year. There are going to be some great teams in the playoffs this year, and I don't think the Chief's two-man team will take them as far as people think. This team reminds me of the 2018 Patriots, but they don't have a clear number-one receiver like Edelman.
3. The Vikings
The Vikings are ahead of the Chiefs because they are undefeated in close games. They are undefeated in close games because of their coach but also because they have a lot of talent to fall back on. They have more room for error than other teams. They have already beaten the number one seed Bills, and I think they could be in the conference championship game.
2. The Bills
The Bills added themselves to the list of teams that have struggled to beat the Bears. But they did it, and that's what matters; all's well that ends well. I'm a little worried about the Bills playing down to teams, but I am also impressed with the tools the team has developed to dig themselves out of a hole.
Eagles still have the number-one record in football. They lost to the Cowboys and showed the world just how much they need Jalen Hurts. However, they also showed the world that if they come across the Cowboys with Jalen, it will be lights out for the Cowboys or any other team that gets in their way.