Behind Chiefs and Bills, Ravens have work to do – The Denver Post


Each week of the NFL season, The Baltimore Sun will rank all 32 NFL teams. The rankings will take into account not just weekly performance, injuries and roster depth, but how well each team measures up as Super Bowl contenders.

Here are the rankings heading into Week 12:

Super Bowl favorites

1. Kansas City Chiefs (8-2, No. 1 last week)

2. Philadelphia Eagles (9-1, No. 2)

The Most Valuable Player race might already be decided, and it’s not even Thanksgiving. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes put together another incredible performance Sunday night, throwing for 329 yards and three touchdowns in the Chiefs’ 30-27 comeback win over the Chargers. After Los Angeles took the lead with 1:46 to go, Mahomes needed just six plays to cover 75 yards by himself, hitting tight end Travis Kelce for the go-ahead touchdown with 31 seconds left. With JuJu Smith-Schuster sidelined by a concussion and Kadarius Toney exiting with a hamstring injury, Mahomes’ top pass-catchers behind Kelce were tight end Justin Watson and rookie wide receiver Skyy Moore. It didn’t matter. Kelce deserves just as much credit, catching six passes for 115 yards and three touchdowns to break the NFL record for the most 100-yard receiving games by a tight end in NFL history (33). With that connection thriving, the Chiefs are the clear team to beat.

The flawed contenders

3. Buffalo Bills (7-3, No. 3)

4. Dallas Cowboys (7-3, No. 8)

5. Miami Dolphins (7-3, No. 6)

6. Baltimore Ravens (7-3, No. 5)

After letting a late lead slip away in a loss to the Vikings and having their home game moved to Detroit because of a snowstorm in Buffalo, the Bills could have had a major letdown this week. Instead, they limited one of the league’s best rushing teams to 3.1 yards per carry in a 31-23 win over the Browns. The biggest concern is the offense, as quarterback Josh Allen looked out of sync again as he battles through a right elbow injury. He started 4-for-10 for 27 yards but ended the first half with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs to give the Bills the lead for good. Buffalo won’t be happy with settling for six field goals, but it pulled out a much-needed victory that keeps it in position to grab the top seed in the AFC.

The Cowboys made the biggest statement of the week, rolling to a 40-3 win over a Vikings team that entered with one loss and had just taken down the vaunted Bills. It was the kind of performance that puts Dallas squarely in the Super Bowl conversation, given how dominant it looked on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Dak Prescott had one of the most efficient games of his career, completing 22 of 25 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Tony Pollard dazzled, becoming the first Cowboys running back with at least 100 receiving yards and 50 rushing yards in the same game since Emmitt Smith in 1993. Micah Parsons had two more sacks to lead a defense that finished with seven. This is one of the best teams in the league, and the numbers prove it. Dallas has risen to No. 2 in overall efficiency and now has a 13.7% chance to win the Super Bowl, according to Football Outsiders. It could finally be the Cowboys’ year.

What do we make of the Ravens’ 13-3 win over the Panthers? On one hand, the defense looked dominant, forcing three turnovers in the fourth quarter and allowing just 2.1 yards per carry. On the other, quarterback Lamar Jackson and the offense struggled mightily, scoring just one touchdown on 11 meaningful drives thanks to a Panthers fumble deep in their own territory. While Jackson has been without several of his top playmakers for much of the season, including wide receiver Rashod Bateman and running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, his performance has been disappointing. According to ESPN, Jackson’s 49.3 QBR since Week 4 ranks 19th in the league. When excluding rushes, it drops to 36.8, which ranks 26th of 30 qualifying passers in that span. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman is not without blame, as some of the route concepts in Sunday’s game were puzzling, to say the least. The Ravens have seven more games to figure out the best version of this offense to keep up with the top contenders in the AFC.

On the cusp of contention

7. San Francisco 49ers (6-4, No. 7)

8. Minnesota Vikings (8-2, No. 3)

9. Tennessee Titans (7-3, No. 10)

10. Cincinnati Bengals (6-4, No. 11)

11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5, No. 12)

In a year full of worthy candidates for Coach of the Year, Mike Vrabel deserves a look. Since starting 0-2, the Titans have won seven of their past eight games, with the one loss in overtime to the Chiefs while playing their backup rookie quarterback. Thursday night’s 27-17 win over the Packers was yet another strong showing, with quarterback Ryan Tannehill throwing for 333 yards and two touchdowns and first-round draft pick Treylon Burks catching a career-high seven passes for 111 yards on a night running back Derrick Henry was held in check. Nothing about the Titans screams Super Bowl contender, but this is a deep roster that hardly ever makes mistakes. They’re going to be an extremely tough matchup in the postseason.

The wild cards

12. Seattle Seahawks (6-4, No. 14)

13. New York Giants (7-3, No. 9)

14. Washington Commanders (6-5, No. 16)

15. Los Angeles Chargers (5-5, No. 15)

16. New England Patriots (6-4, No. 17)

Is it time to take the Commanders seriously? Despite all the drama off the field, this team is emerging as one of the hottest in the NFL. Since quarterback Taylor Heinicke took the starting job in Week 7, the Commanders are 4-1, including a 23-10 victory over the Texans on Sunday. While Heinicke has helped the offense take off in recent weeks, it’s the defense, specifically a defensive line led by tackles Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen, that’s leading the way. Houston is far from an offensive juggernaut, but it only mustered 2.7 yards per play against Washington. That defense should only get better with the return of star defensive end Chase Young, who was activated to the 53-man roster on Monday. The Commanders have the misfortune of playing in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL, but there’s a clear path to the postseason, especially if the Giants continue to slide.

Not done yet

17. New York Jets (6-4, No. 13)

18. Detroit Lions (4-6, No. 27)

19. Atlanta Falcons (5-6, No. 22)

20. Arizona Cardinals (4-7, No. 19)

21. Green Bay Packers (4-7, No. 18)

22. Indianapolis Colts (4-6-1, No. 20)

23. New Orleans Saints (4-7, No. 29)

This is the Lions team everyone wanted to see. After a 1-6 start, Detroit has won three games in a row, including a dominant 31-18 victory over the Giants on Sunday. It’s the franchise’s first three-game winning streak since 2017, and it might vault it into the playoff hunt. No. 2 overall draft pick Aidan Hutchinson is coming into his own, recording an interception Sunday to become the first rookie with at least two interceptions and five sacks in a season since Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard in 2018. With three more touchdown runs, running back Jamaal Williams leads the NFL with 12. Rookie wide receiver Jameson Williams, the 12th overall pick in the draft, returned to practice Monday and could make his NFL debut soon. This is one of the most exciting young teams in the NFL, and it’s finally starting to show some of that potential.

The basement

24. Las Vegas Raiders (3-7, No. 31)

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7, No. 26)

26. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-7, No. 25)

27. Denver Broncos (3-7, No. 24)

28. Cleveland Browns (3-7, No. 21)

29. Los Angeles Rams (3-7, No. 23)

30. Chicago Bears (3-8, No. 28)

31. Carolina Panthers (3-8, No. 30)

32. Houston Texans (1-8-1, No. 32)

Mike Tomlin is headed for his first losing season as Steelers coach, but there were some positive signs in Sunday’s 37-30 loss to the Bengals. The defense intercepted Joe Burrow twice and bottled up running back Joe Mixon before he exited with a concussion, while the offense finally showed signs of life behind rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett. The first-round pick threw for 265 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown to standout rookie wide receiver George Pickens. Running back Najee Harris also got back on track with 90 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The defense still isn’t playing up to its high standards, but the return of star pass rusher T.J. Watt and an emerging offense should make Pittsburgh a tough team to play down the stretch.



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