The NFL playoff picture is nearly complete as we move toward the final days of the 2020 regular season. Several spots are still up for grabs and the seeding has yet to be nailed down, so there’s plenty to play for in the last couple of weeks. Some teams have only gotten tougher-looking in the final quarter of the schedule, while plenty of others have totally collapsed.
Here’s our look at every team in the NFL right now, ranked from the most dreadful to the likely Super Bowl champions.
Updated: Dec. 22, 2020
32. Jacksonville Jaguars
We didn’t think anyone would replace the Jets at the bottom of our NFL power rankings this season but the Jaguars have pulled it off. It’s still unclear which team will end up with the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft but Jacksonville looks like the front runner as of this writing because their strength of schedule is worse than New York’s. This team has just looked lost since the beginning, losing 13 straight games and getting blown out in about half of them.
“Tanking” is still a dirty word in NFL circles but it appears to be exactly what this franchise has been trying to do since they held a fire sale of some of their best players in the offseason.
31. New York Jets
Jets fans had to be torn when the team won its first game of 2020 after starting 0-13. It’s always exciting to see your team get a victory, especially against a legitimate championship contender like the Rams, but it likely cost them the first pick in the draft. They’ve already been eliminated from playoff contention, so the win meant little more than a pride boost for the guys on the roster despite potentially killing their chances to draft can’t-miss quarterback prospect Trevor Lawrence from Clemson.
30. Detroit Lions
The Lions are in the middle of restructuring their entire organization from the top down after the firing of head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn in the middle of this season. Heck, even the special teams coordinator was canned after he allegedly went rogue on a fake punt call! As a franchise, Detroit has only made the playoffs three times since 2000 and this will mark yet another season where they are sitting at home watching other teams play meaningful games.
29. Denver Broncos
After coming into 2020 with a decent amount of hype, mostly thanks to a talented defense, the Broncos were swiftly eliminated from playoff contention. The team’s problems are myriad and begin with their woeful offense, which ranks in the bottom five for production in terms of both yards and points per game. They’ve also been terrible at taking care of the football and have the worst turnover differential in the NFL this year. It looks like Denver may be back on the hunt for a franchise quarterback after a full year of the Drew Lock experience.
28. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals are destined for a high draft pick yet again in 2021 but the prognosis is at least somewhat positive for this long-suffering franchise. They looked more fired up than they have in years in their late-season upset of the Steelers that had to feel like an early Christmas gift for everyone wearing orange and black. Star quarterback Joe Burrow is expected to return in 2021 from the knee injury that sidelined him for the second half of this season and rusher Joe Mixon will hopefully be back to full power as well.
The biggest question is whether the front office will stick with unproven head coach Zac Taylor for another year.
27. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers took a major tumble from our last batch of power rankings as they were officially eliminated from playoff contention. However, this team doesn’t look nearly as lost as the other teams around them in the standings. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has them ranked in the top half of the league for passing yards per game and he ranks in the top five for completion percentage. But the team has looked toothless without Christian McCaffrey, as the All-Pro rusher has missed much of the season with injuries.
26. Houston Texans
Texan’s quarterback Deshaun Watson has been having a remarkable season but it’s a shame that it’s gone to waste. The young star is putting up the best numbers of his career and is playing virtually neck and neck with Patrick Mahomes in terms of output, despite having a much less talented offense around him. He’s getting absolutely no help, however, as Houston’s rushing attack ranks dead last. Their defense is also one of just three in the league that’s giving up more than 400 yards per game.
25. Atlanta Falcons
The NFC South is full of great passers and that’s been bad news for the Falcons this season. Their defense ranks next to last in the NFL against the pass, surrendering nearly 290 yards through the air every week. On the plus side, no quarterback in that division is averaging more yards per game this year than Matt Ryan. The team has looked a little better since they fired head coach Dan Quinn after an 0-5 start but this will go down as Atlanta’s worst season in nearly a decade and their third consecutive losing year.
24. San Francisco 49ers
This year has been a total disaster for the 49ers. From injuries that have decimated their talented roster to COVID-19 restrictions in Northern California forcing them to play their home games in Arizona, there hasn’t been much for their fans to be excited about. They’ve already been axed from playoff contention, just a year after having the best record in the NFC and playing in the Super Bowl. It’s tough to believe this squad went 1-3 against teams from the dreadful NFC East this year but that’s just 2020 in a nutshell.
23. New England Patriots
For the first time in more than 10 years, the Patriots won’t be in the playoffs this season. This always looked like it would be a transition year but it’s still tough to believe when Bill Belichick has always coached his way out of any issues the team has faced. Cam Newton has been wildly inconsistent under center, proving to still be great at running the ball but awful at throwing it, as his sub-80 passer rating will attest. All eyes will be on his position this offseason as the franchise decides where to go next in its effort to replace Tom Brady.
22. Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers were among the first teams eliminated from playoff contention in 2020 but there’s plenty of reason for optimism heading forward. Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert has been a blast to watch and looks poised to set the all-time record for passing touchdowns from a first-year player. On top of having answered their franchise quarterback question, the Bolts rank in the top 10 for total offense and defense this season. It’s tough to imagine the wins won’t soon follow.
21. New York Giants
The only reason the Giants aren’t ranked lower in this edition of the rankings is because they were still alive in the playoff hunt as of this writing. Every team in the NFC East is still hanging around despite it being impossible for anyone in that division to finish with a winning record. After breaking off an impressive four-game winning streak late in the year, the Giants failed to score more than seven points against either the Cardinals or Browns.
That latter game, a 20-6 home loss in prime time, was particularly uninspiring and showed just how much work this team needs to be competitive.
20. Dallas Cowboys
When the 2020-21 Pro Bowl rosters were announced toward the end of the season, the Cowboys didn’t have a single player on the list. It was the first time since 1989 that the league’s most popular team failed to have a player invited to the NFL’s annual all-star game. The news was par for the course for Dallas this season, as they’ve looked inconsequential ever since Dak Prescott’s season ended in early October. As of this writing, they were still in the playoff hunt but we were expecting a 10-win season from this talent-loaded roster coming into the year.
19. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings are another team that we expected to be contending for a division title but they’ve been a disappointment all season. Eight wins will be the most they can earn this season and that’s the same number of victories they’ve had in two of the last four seasons. It’s tough to understand when Dalvin Cook has been as good as any running back in the league this year, picking up more than 114 rushing yards per game and sharing the lead in rushing touchdowns. Their offense has been very good overall; it’s the defense, which ranks third-worst in the NFC, that has held them back.
18. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have looked totally listless for most of this season though they got a major shot in the arm recently. The team’s decision to bench Carson Wentz for Jalen Hurts was a sage one, as the rookie quarterback immediately looked like a star. In his first career start against the Cardinals, he accounted for nearly 400 yards of total offense and four touchdowns, including one on the ground. They lost the game by a touchdown but it was the kind of performance that can immediately reinvigorate a locker room.
17. Las Vegas Raiders
After needing a last-second touchdown pass to beat the woeful Jets, the Raiders lost two consecutive games and made themselves a long shot for the playoffs. A late-season injury to Derek Carr, who had been having a fantastic year throwing the ball, makes a winning season now seem unlikely. To finish strong, their defense will need to tighten up, as it’s one of only four units in the league allowing more than 30 points per game.
16. Chicago Bears
For most of this season, the Bears had one of the worst rushing attacks in the entire league and were struggling to get more than 80 yards on the ground per game. That has shifted in the last few weeks, as David Montgomery has suddenly looked like Walter Payton, putting together three 100-yard rushing games in four weeks. Those performances have elevated the entire team and kept their playoff hopes alive, albeit faintly.
15. Washington Football Team
As we mentioned before, none of the four teams in the NFC East can finish the regular season with a winning record but the Washington Football Team can at least get to .500. As of this writing, the team is 4-1 in its last five, including a win over the Steelers that put the whole league on notice. They’ve turned into a legitimate-looking playoff contender, thanks to a defense that’s allowing just 15.4 points per game over those last five games, making up for an offense that struggles to find any points.
14. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals are clinging to an NFC wild card spot right now but they’ve been mired in a bit of a rough patch, winning just two of their last five games. They’ve struggled to beat the contending teams they’ve played this season but have at least kept it close every week. In fact, none of their losses have been by more than 10 points and three of them have been by a field goal. Their bid for a berth might come down to the final weekend of the season, when they meet the Rams in Los Angeles.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After throwing seven interceptions in a four-game stretch that saw the Bucs go 1-3, Tom Brady cleaned up his act and didn’t throw a single pick in the next two. Thanks to a favorable schedule in the final couple weeks of the regular season, Tampa Bay looks like a lock for a wild card berth. They’ve been steadily putting up big numbers on offense down the stretch and are in the top 10 for points per game. Whether they are legitimate title contenders is another question, as Brady’s boys have gone 2-5 this season against teams that are still in the playoff hunt.
12. Baltimore Ravens
Following a three-game losing streak that had their season looking lost, the Ravens snapped back into contender mode by winning three in a row. Those victories included blowouts of the Cowboys and Jaguars and a three-point thriller over the Browns in what could go down as the best game of the entire regular season. They don’t control their own playoff destiny but will face a pair of winnable games with the Giants and Bengals to close the year and hopefully avenge last season’s catastrophic postseason letdown.
11. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins look like a lock for only their third playoff bid since the 2002 season but they’ve still got some work to do. Road games against the Raiders and Bills, both of whom are jockeying for postseason position, will present some real tests to close the schedule. They’ve already secured just their second winning season of the past decade, which should be seen as a massive success for their rebuilding effort from the past few years. Since rookie Tua Tagovailoa took over as starter, Miami is 5-2 and he’s been responsible for 12 touchdowns to just two interceptions. Meanwhile, cornerback Xavien Howard could be considered the frontrunner for NFL defensive player of the year.
10. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams losing to the Jets at home in Week 15 will likely go down as the biggest upset of the 2020-21 season. This team has looked like the best squad in the NFC at times and one of the most complete in the league but that loss showed they still have some major vulnerabilities. Perhaps it was an issue of overconfidence and will give them a wake-up call before the playoffs, provided they clinch a spot. Tough divisional games with the Seahawks and Cardinals, both of whom are playing for plenty right now, will end their schedule.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers
We had the Steelers ranked atop this list a month ago but they’ve looked like a totally different team since then. After starting the year 11-0, they lost three consecutive games, including games against the Redskins and Bengals where they were outplayed from start to finish. Much of the problem lies with their offense, especially the rushing game, as they are one of only two teams in the NFL picking up less than 90 yards on the ground per game. Ben Roethlisberger also looks like he’s aged 20 years in the past few weeks, completing just 57% of his passes for a dismal passer rating of 71.8 in those three losses.
Still, they’ve already clinched a playoff spot and control the top of the AFC North for the time being.
8. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks look like the favorites to win the NFC West, which has emerged as one of the toughest divisions in football this season. They were the first squad in that division to clinch a playoff spot and did it by winning four of five games from mid-November to late December. Still, some detractors have called them “fake good” because they are 2-3 against teams with a winning record. Russell Wilson’s mind-blowing numbers at the beginning of the season have certainly softened recently but it’s still tough to pick against the firepower he and his world-class receiving corps are capable of.
7. Cleveland Browns
Despite the Steelers having the advantage over the Browns in the race for the AFC North title as of this writing, we think Cleveland has done more to impress everyone lately. This is the highest we’ve had them ranked in our list all year and it shows that they are playing their best football at the most important part of the year. The Browns have only lost two of their last eight games and both of those games were by thin margins. Their heartbreaking five-point loss to the Ravens saw Baker Mayfield go off for a season-high 343 passing yards and made the entire nation take the team more seriously.
6. New Orleans Saints
It’s tough to know what to expect from the Saints right now. They are undoubtedly one of the most balanced and talent-laden teams in football but an injury to Drew Brees has them looking a little shaky. After a nine-game winning streak that saw them looking like the best team in the NFC, they lost two in a row, including an ugly one to the Eagles. They’ve already clinched a playoff berth and are likely to win the NFC South but they need to clean some things up before the playoffs.
5. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts look like they’re going to be a very tough out in the playoffs this season. Much has been written about their outstanding defense, which ranks second in the AFC for yards allowed per game, but their offense has really come alive in recent weeks. Indy is 5-1 in their last six games, with wins over playoff favorites in the Titans and Packers, averaging more than 38 points per game in that stretch. Rookie running back Jonathan Taylor has averaged more than 103 rushing yards per game in the team’s most recent four contests, giving them yet more dimension.
4. Tennessee Titans
Lopsided wins over good teams like the Bills, Ravens and Colts have given the Titans one of the most impressive resumes in the league this season. Derrick Henry is obviously the best running back in the game right now but he’s only one reason why this team should be feared. Tennessee has taken better care of the ball than any team in 2020 and they also rank at the top of the league in turnover differential. They are also the highest-scoring team in the NFL, which means any opponent will have to play a near-perfect game to knock them off in the playoffs.
3. Buffalo Bills
Few players have improved as much in the span of a year as Bills quarterback Josh Allen. After a couple of seasons of mediocrity, he’s emerged as one of the great playmakers in the game in 2020, accounting for more total touchdowns than anyone aside from Aaron Rodgers. He’s a major reason why they are a top-five scoring offense in the league and have clinched their first AFC East title since 1995, before he was even born. Their defense has also helped by producing the fourth-most turnovers in the NFL.
2. Green Bay Packers
The Packers, who’ve already clinched another NFC North title, are one of just two teams in the league that turned the ball over less than 10 times in their first 14 games of 2020. It’s been another one of those brilliant years from Aaron Rodgers that makes every other quarterback in the league jealous of his efficiency. The future Hall of Famer leads the league in passer rating with a mind-blowing grade of 118.0 on the year and no one has thrown more touchdowns than him this season. He’s leading the highest-scoring offense in the NFC as the playoffs approach.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
During their nine-game winning streak, the Chiefs have looked tremendous but have caught a few lucky breaks as well. As of this writing, their last six games were decided by six points or less, with three of them decided by a field goal or less. No offense is playing better than theirs and it’s really not even close, as the Chiefs are racking up nearly 430 yards per game, including a league-best 311 rushing yards per game. Patrick Mahomes is making a case for his second league MVP award in three seasons and Kansas City looks like they have a legitimate shot at repeating as Super Bowl champions.