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Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Chargers soar up the charts after demolishing Dallas

Rampaging Rams on the rise too

Hunter Henry is a big threat for the Los Angeles Chargers
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Each week, we will rank the 32 NFL teams from the best to worst based on their prospects for the rest of the season, so we can see who is looking stronger as the campaign progresses and who is falling down the ladder.

Last week's rankings

1 New England Patriots (=)
Record: 9-2
Last week: Won 35-17 at home to Miami
This week: 8.5-point favourites at Buffalo

It should be smooth sailing to the top seeding in the AFC for the Patriots if Tom Brady remains upright. With four AFC East games left, their only serious test should come against Pittsburgh in Week 15.

2 Philadelphia Eagles (=)
Record: 10-1
Last week: Won 31-3 at home to Chicago
This week: 5.5-point favourites at Seattle

Another week, another crushing victory for the Eagles. They have been enjoying a relatively soft schedule but face a tougher test of their character and quality in the next two weeks with trips to NFC West hotshots Seattle and the LA Rams.

3 Pittsburgh Steelers (=)
Record: 9-2
Last week: Won 31-28 at home to Green Bay
This week: Three-point favourites at Cincinnati

The Steelers were not convincing against the Packers but they were able to rely on moments of magic from running back Le'Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown, who continue to make them a hard side to beat. Injuries have made them look more vulnerable defensively, however. 

4 Minnesota Vikings (=)
Record: 9-2
Last week: Won 30-23 at Detroit
This week: Three-point underdogs at Atlanta

The Vikings were giving thanks for the form of back-up quarterback Case Keenum and wide receiver Adam Thielen again after their Thanksgiving Day win in Detroit. They are on course for a high seeding in the NFC, something few would have banked on when QB Sam Bradford was injured.

5 New Orleans Saints (=)
Record: 8-3
Last week: Lost 26-20 at Los Angeles Rams
This week: Four-point favourites at home to Carolina

The Saints saw their eight-game winning streak ended but that was no disgrace after an entertaining battle in California. Running back Alvin Kamara will be giving opposing coaches nightmares for a long time.

6 Atlanta Falcons (=)
Record: 7-4
Last week: Won 34-20 at at home to Tampa Bay
This week: Three-point favourites at home to Minnesota

Wide receiver Julio Jones found his mojo at just the right time for the Falcons but they are up in grade again this week with a severe test of their resolve against Minnesota.

7 Los Angeles Rams (up three)
Record: 8-3
Last week: Won 23-20 at home to New Orleans
This week: Seven-point favourites at Arizona

The Rams answered questions about their quality by ending the Saints' run and deserve a move up the board. If they can win in Arizona this week they may be tempted to start looking towards the playoffs. 

8 Seattle Seahawks (down one)
Record: 7-4
Last week: Won 24-13 at San Francisco
This week: 5.5-point underdogs at home to Philadelphia

The Seahawks made no mistake against the 49ers but their defensive injuries continue to pile up. Quarterback Russell Wilson may have to be at his mercurial best against the fierce Eagles defence, but the Seahawks' famously loud crowd will provide a tough test for visiting quarterback Carson Wentz.

9 Carolina Panthers (=)
Record: 8-3
Last week: Won 35-27 at New York Jets
This week: Four-point underdogs at New Orleans

The Panthers made it four wins in a row after their late bye week but they face a tougher test in New Orleans this week.

10 Kansas City Chiefs (down two)
Record: 6-5
Last week: Lost 16-10 at home to Buffalo
This week: 3.5-point favourites at New York Jets

The Chiefs are clinging on to the lead of the AFC West but they are treending towards after being beaten at home as double-figure favourites by Buffalo. Another slip-up against the Jets would surely spark a major panic and there are already calls for rookie QB Patrick Mahomes to replace Alex Smith. However, that would appear to be a major overreaction given they are still in the playoff hunt. Talking of hunts, if you were wondering what's happened to rookie running back Kareem Hunt, he had just 17 rushing yards from 11 attempts against the Bills.

11 Tennessee Titans (=)
Record: 7-4
Last week: Won 20-17 at Indianapolis
This week: Seven-point favourites at home to Houston

The AFC South title scrap now looks a straight battle between the Titans and Jacksonville. Tennessee made heavy weather of it in Indianapolis but they emerged with the win and another divisional battle against the ailing Texans awaits.

12 Los Angeles Chargers (up 11)
Record: 5-6
Last week: Won 28-6 at Dallas
This week: 13.5-point favourites at home to Cleveland

Enough is enough. After five wins in their last seven games and thumping Dallas on the road, the slow-starting Chargers have proved their worth and get a major jump up the board. They are huge favourites at home to winless Cleveland but, hang on a minute, coincidence backers might remember that the only game the Browns won last season was against ... the Chargers.

13 Detroit Lions (=)
Record: 6-5
Last week: Lost 23-30 at home to Minnesota
This week: Three-point underdogs at Baltimore

The Lions showed again that they are capable of giving anyone a game even though they lost to the Vikings on Thanksgiving. Expect another spirited show against the Ravens.

14 Jacksonville Jaguars (down two)
Record: 7-4
Last week: Lost 27-24 at Arizona
This week: 9.5-point favourites at home to Indianapolis

The Jags had been doing a decent job of masking the questionable traits of quarterback Blake Bortles, but they reared their ugly head against the Cardinals in a disappointing defeat. The Colts offer a perfect opportunity for them to get back on track, however, even though their defence may need to lead the way.

15 Oakland Raiders (up one)
Record: 5-6
Last week: Won 21-14 at home to Denver
This week: Seven-point favourites at home to New York Giants

The Raiders bounced back from their Mexican hiding from the Patriots with a crucial victory in a feisty derby against the Broncos. The Giants give them a chance to level up their record although wide receiver Michael Crabtree is suspended this week for his wild fight with Aqib Talib.

16 Baltimore Ravens (up two)
Record: 6-5
Last week: Won 23-16 at home to Houston
This week: Three-point favourites at home to Detroit

The Ravens weren't as convincing as they might have been against the ailing Texans, but they got the job done. A wildcard place looks the best they can hope for now with Pittsburgh showing no signs of stopping.

17 Washington Redskins (up two)
Record: 5-6
Last week: Won 20-10 at home to New York Giants
This week: 1.5-point underdogs at Dallas

Washington are finding young players to step up to the plate even though they have been hit hard by injuries, with running back Semaje Perine the latest to catch the eye, while receivers Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson are keeping QB Kirk Cousins in business.

18 Dallas Cowboys (down four)
Record: 5-6
Last week: Lost 28-6 at home to Los Angeles Chargers
This week: 1.5-point favourites at home to Washington

The Cowboys have lost by an aggregate 92-22 in their three games without suspended running back Ezekiel Elliott and have yet to reach a double-figure score. Their problems must lie deeper than the absence of one player.

19 Green Bay Packers (down two)
Record: 5-6
Last week: Lost 31-28 at Pittsburgh
This week: n/a at home to Tampa Bay

The Packers put in a fine performance against the Steelers without getting over the line but they are four wins behind the Vikings now.

20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (down four)
Record: 4-7
Last week: Lost 34-20 at Atlanta
This week: n/a at Green Bay

It's pretty much game over now for the Buccaneers who have dropped off the pace in the tough NFC South. Their defence may not be up to the task in Green Bay this week either.

21 Denver Broncos (down one)
Record: 3-8
Last week: Lost 21-14 at Oakland
This week: One-point favourites at Miami

Say it quietly but the Broncos may have a worse quarterback situation than Cleveland. Original starter Trevor Siemian was benched for Brock Osweiler, who lasted one game before he was benched for Paxton Lynch, who was injured in the defeat to the Raiders. Siemian gets the gig again this week.

22 Arizona Cardinals (up one)
Record: 5-6
Last week: Won 27-24 at home to Jacksonville
This week: Seven-point underdogs at home to LA Rams

The Cardinals conjured up their best victory of the season against the Jaguars but things don't get any easier with the red-hot Rams in town this week.

23 Houston Texans (down two)
Record: 4-7
Last week: Lost 23-16 at Baltimore
This week: Seven-point underdogs at Tennessee

The Texans put in a fighting display at Baltimore but their first- and second-round picks in next year's draft, both of which they traded to Cleveland, are looking set to be in the top ten.

24 Buffalo Bills (=)
Record: 6-5
Last week: Won 16-10 at Kansas City
This week: 8.5-point underdogs at home to New England

The Bills produced the upset of the week against the Chiefs, albeit in a week when favourites dominated. They are clearly far better off with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback but the odds are against them again when the Patriots visit.

25 Cincinnati Bengals (up two)
Record: 5-6
Last week: Won 30-16 at home to Cleveland
This week: 5.5-point underdogs at home to Pittsburgh

The Bengals ensured that the Browns remain winless thanks to running back Joe Mixon and wide receiver AJ Green but they face a tougher test this week with the Steelers in town.

26 Indianapolis Colts (=)
Record: 3-8
Last week: Lost 20-16 at home to Tennessee
This week: 9.5-point underdogs at Jacksonville

The Colts showed up well enough in defeat to the Titans but their season is pretty much over now.

27 New York Jets (up two)
Record: 4-7
Last week: Lost 35-27 at home to Carolina
This week: 3.5-point underdogs at home to Kansas City

The Jets get a small bump for a feisty performance in defeat against a strong Panthers side. Their overachievement this season is highlighted by them being about ten points higher in the handicap against the Chiefs that they would have been ten weeks ago.

28 Miami Dolphins (down three)
Record: 4-7
Last week: Lost 35-17 at New England
This week: One-point underdogs at home to Denver

The Dolphins are sliding towards oblivion and whatever you do this Sunday, make sure you don't watch their game against Denver, which could be the worst viewing of the season.

29 New York Giants (down one)
Record: 2-9
Last week: Lost 20-10 at Washington
This week: Seven-point underdogs at Oakland

The Giants were not hammered in Washington but their win over the Chiefs the previous week doesn't look as special any more and they have another long trip to California this week. They made the shock move on Tuesday to bench quarterback Eli Manning, who steered them to two Super Bowl wins. Geno Smith is set to start this week.

30 Chicago Bears (=)
Record: 3-7
Last week: Lost 31-3 at Philadelphia
This week: 3.5-point favourites at home to San Francisco

The Bears were obliterated by the Eagles but bookmakers have them as favourites this week. It's all pretty moot except in terms of next year's draft position.

31 San Francisco 49ers (=)
Record: 1-10
Last week: Lost 24-13 at home to Seattle
This week: 3.5-point underdogs at Chicago

The 49ers had seen some hope with rookie CJ Beathard at quarterback and the injury he suffered against Seattle is not as serious as was first feared. It has been confirmed that Jimmy Garoppolo will start at quarterback this week.

32 Cleveland Browns (=)
Record: 0-11
Last week: Lost 30-16 at Cincinnati
This week: 13.5-point underdogs at LA Chargers

The Browns are only five losses (some would say five fixtures) away from a 0-16 record but the big news this week is the return after a long suspension of wide receiver Josh Gordon, who led the league in receiving yards in 2013 but has not played since the following season. He makes a dangerous tandem with Corey Coleman but the Browns are not currently playing at the same level as the Chargers, the only team they managed to beat last season.

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The Bills are clearly far better off with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback
E.W. Terms
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