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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Chiefs continue their progress in week of shocks

All NFL teams ranked from best to worst

The Atlanta Falcons need to stay focused
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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.

Here is this week's list:

1 New England Patriots (=)
Record: 2-1
Last week: won 36-33 at home to Houston
This week: Nine-point favourites at home to Carolina

The Patriots needed some Tom Brady magic to get them over the line against the Texans and the offensive line will have to perform better against another good defence this week. However, their ability to get the job done boosts confidence and it keeps them on their toes.

2 Kansas City Chiefs (up one)
Record: 3-0
Last week: Won 24-10 at Los Angeles Chargers
This week: 6.5-point favourites at home to Washington

While some other Super Bowl pretenders had an off week, the Chiefs continued their fine start and were ruthless in closing out the game against the Chargers. Things are coming together nicely on both sides of the ball.

3 Pittsburgh Steelers (down one)
Record: 2-1
Last week: Lost 23-17 at Chicago
This week: Three-point favourites at Baltimore

The Steelers struggled against the run and slipped up against the Bears in overtime. The defeat to a team tipped to struggle should act as a wake-up call for Mike Tomlin's men and a divisional game against arch-rivals Baltimore looks an ideal fixture for them to get back on track.

4 Atlanta Falcons (=)
Record: 3-0
Last week: Won 30-26 at Detroit
This week: Eight-point favourites at home to Buffalo

Matt Ryan and company had a fair share of luck against Detroit, but there they are, 3-0 after also limping over the line against Chicago in their first game. Their scrape at Ford Field should act as a warning and they have a good opportunity to iron out a few rough spots on their bye week after Sunday's game against the Bills.

5 Dallas Cowboys (=)
Record: 2-1
Last week: Won 28-17 at Arizona
This week: 7.5-point favourites at home to Los Angeles Rams

After a miserable defeat at Denver, Arizona proved a much better hunting ground, even though star running back Ezekiel Elliott had another quiet evening. Perhaps they cannot rely on the running game as much as they did last season, but quarterback Dak Prescott is an assured operator.

6 Green Bay Packers (=)
Record: 2-1
Last week: Won 27-24 at home to Cincinnati
This week: Seven-point favourites at home to Chicago

Aaron Rodgers helped the Packers over the line as they were staring at another defeat before triumphing in overtime. The Bears will be charged after their win over the Steelers and, while Green Bay are more than likely to pick up, that air of NFC North invincibility may not be there this year. 

Last week's rankings

7 Minnesota Vikings (up two)
Record: 2-1
Last week: Won 34-17 at home to Tampa Bay
This week: Not yet priced at home to Detroit

The Vikings have their problems with injury to quarterback Sam Bradford but the fact they demonstrated they can win without him will boost what is already a good team. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs is playing out of his boots as well, but three consecutive divisional games could define their season.

8 Oakland Raiders (down one)
Record: 2-1
Last week: Lost 27-10 at Washington
This week: 2.5-point underdogs at Denver

After two impressive wins the Raiders were brought down to earth by a poor performance against the Redskins. The offence did not get going at all and there are big questions for them to answer in a key divisional battle at Denver. They need to bounce back and it won't be easy against the Broncos defence. 

9 Tennessee Titans (up two)
Record: 2-1
Last week: Won 33-27 at home to Seattle
This week: 1.5-point favourites at Houston

Victory over the Seahawks represents a decent scalp for the Titans. Their start has been solid and another divisional victory - they have already beaten the Jaguars - could be a huge stride towards them gaining a stranglehold on the AFC South. 

10 Seattle Seahawks (down two)
Record: 1-2
Last week: Lost 33-27 at Tennessee
This week: 13-point favourites at home to Indianapolis

The offensive line has been earmarked as a reason for Seattle's indifferent start but their lauded defence struggled against Tennessee. They are fortunate that they play in one of the league's weakest divisions as they are just not clicking at the moment.

11 Denver Broncos (down one)
Record: 2-1
Last week: Lost 26-16 at Buffalo
This week: 2.5-point favourites at home to Oakland

After a dominant display against Dallas, the Broncos took their eye off the ball in Buffalo. A visit from Oakland should help them regain focus and with a defence as good as theirs, they always have a great chance of bouncing back.

12 Philadelphia Eagles (up two)
Record: 2-1
Last week: Won 27-24 at home to New York Giants
This week: Pick game at Los Angeles Chargers

The Eagles have two valuable NFC East victories in their pocket and they came through after withstanding a late charge from the Giants. That should aid the young team's confidence and they are right to have ambitions of winning the division.

13 Carolina Panthers (down one)
Record: 2-1
Last week: Lost 34-13 at home to New Orleans
This week: Nine-point underdogs at New England

Cam Newton had a day to forget against the Saints and the Panthers just don't seem to be getting much going on the offensive side of the ball. Until they do, it is difficult to see them making much of an impression in pursuit of Atlanta in the NFC South.

14 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (down one)
Record: 1-1
Last week: Lost 34-17 at Minnesota
This week: Three-point favourites at home to New York Giants

It's been a weird start to the season for Tampa Bay after missing the opening week and then cruising against Chicago. It was a poor day against the Vikings, but they have a talented team and it may not be long before they discover their groove.

15 Detroit Lions (=)
Record: 2-1
Last week: Lost 30-26 at home to Atlanta
This week: Not yet priced at Minnesota

The Lions were unlucky in losing to Atlanta and they have demonstrated over the last couple of seasons that they are a team who fight to the bitter end. That should stand them in good stead and they are capable of making a strong challenge in the NFC North.

16 Baltimore Ravens (=)
Record: 2-1
Last week: Lost 44-7 to Jacksonville at Wembley
This week: Three-point underdogs at home to Pittsburgh

The trip to Wembley was a nightmare and quarterback Joe Flacco won't want to dwell on a miserable performance. Maybe they were due a bounce after two divisional wins, but you can bank on them being charged for a game against the Steelers, who they should still provide with their strongest challenge in the AFC North.

17 Arizona Cardinals (=)
Record: 1-2
Last week: lost 28-17 at home to Dallas
This week: Seven-point favourites at home to San Francisco

Another loss after a strong start. There are few offensive options for quarterback Carson Palmer, who still looks like he is not going to get any better at the age of 37. They will have plenty of work to do to make the post-season.

18 New Orleans Saints (up two)
Record: 1-2
Last week: Won 34-13 at Carolina
This week: 2.5-point favourites against Miami at Wembley

The defence has been the problem for a while in New Orleans, but they provided Cam Newton with plenty of problems and the win in Carolina was a big bonus before the trip to London. A successful visit could see them push on, with three home games in their next four matches.

19 Miami Dolphins (down one)
Record: 1-1
Last week: Lost 20-6 at New York Jets
This week: 2.5-point underdogs against New Orleans at Wembley

Any loss is a disappointment but Miami will be particularly peeved to have fallen to the Jets. Maybe London will be a poor distraction for them but after a stuttering start, they need to get up and running if they are to provide the Patriots with any meaningful divisional opposition.

20 New York Giants (down one)
Record: 0-3
Last week: Lost 27-24 at Philadelphia
This week: Three-point underdogs at Tampa Bay

The Giants offence finally woke up in the fourth quarter against Philadelphia, but they are having to rely too much on wide receiver Odell Beckham as the running game remains poor. They need to consolidate quickly if they are not to fall too far behind in the NFC East.

21 Buffalo Bills (=)
Record: 2-1
Last week: Won 26-16 at home to Denver
This week: Eight-point underdogs at Atlanta

The defence demonstrated their strength in a 9-3 loss to Carolina and Tyrod Taylor had a solid performance in their win over the Broncos. However, it will take more than one good showing to suggest the league's longest run without a playoff appearance is about to end.

22 Washington Redskins (=)
Record: 2-1
Last week: Won 27-10 at home to Oakland
This week: 6.5-point underdogs at Kansas City

Perhaps it's a bit harsh that the Redskins did not climb the rankings after keeping the Raiders defence under close wraps in front of the Sunday Night Football cameras, but they had a long way to climb from the start of the season and are moving in the right direction.

23 Houston Texans (=)
Record: 1-2
Last week: Lost 36-33 at New England
This week: 1.5-point underdogs at home to Tennessee

Could the Texans have finally found the quarterback they have been searching for? DeShaun Watson's performance at New England suggests they might and a win over Tennessee would put them right back in the picture. This is a team with scope to improve.

24 Jacksonville Jaguars (up three)
Record: 2-1
Last week: Won 44-7 against Baltimore at Wembley
This week: 3.5-point favourites at home to New York Jets

The same could be said for the Jags after their dominant display at Wembley. The defence is still an excellent unit but the key to progression will be limiting the number of off-days suffered by quarterback Blake Bortles.

25 Indianapolis Colts (up one)
Record: 1-2
Last week: Won 31-28 at home to Cleveland
This week: 13-point underdogs at Seattle

The Colts are just waiting for Andrew Luck to return to fitness. Claiming a victory without their star quarterback was perhaps a bonus, but the fact it came against the winless Browns should perhaps offer some perspective. It's about damage limitation for now.

26 Los Angeles Chargers (down two)
Record: 0-3
Last week: Lost 24-10 at home to Kansas City
This week: Pick game at home to Philadelphia

Having suffered two agonising losses, the Chargers just found the Chiefs too tough for them. The same will probably be said of the AFC West as a whole and the lack of atmosphere at home games cannot help. They probably have to get something in their next two games against Philly and the Giants as those clashes are followed by Oakland, Denver and New England.

27 Cincinnati Bengals (down two)
Record: 0-3
Last week: Lost 27-24 at Green Bay
This week: Three-point favourites at Cleveland

The Bengals were better against the Packers but surprise victories for others saw them slip down the list. Their winless start points to a disappointing season and victory over their Ohio neighbours is really a must.

28 Los Angeles Rams (up one)
Record: 2-1
Last week: Won 41-39 at home to San Francisco
This week: 7.5-point underdogs at Dallas

Quarterback Jared Goff is beginning to flourish and Todd Gurley will be boosted by his three-touchdown performance in the win over the 49ers. But they have played three average teams. If they turn it on at Dallas this week, we can all sit up and take notice.

29 Chicago Bears (up one)
Record: 1-2
Last week: Won 23-17 at home to Pittsburgh
This week: Seven-point underdogs at Green Bay

Maybe the Bears are going to be one of those teams who make life hard for good teams but fail to turn up when they are expected to gain positive results. They are inconsistent and could be playing in the league's hottest division, but they may start to rise sooner rather than later.

30 Cleveland Browns (down two)
Record: 0-3
Last week: Lost 31-28 at Indianapolis
This week: Three-point underdogs at home to Cincinnati

The Browns seem to be getting better but some bad luck with injuries is hindering their progress. It is going to be difficult to keep the here-we-go-again feelings at bay if their winless run stretches much further, although they have another good victory opportunity against the Bengals. 

31 San Francisco 49ers (=)
Record: 0-3
Last week: Lost 41-39 to Los Angeles Rams
This week: Seven-point underdogs at Arizona

The reconstruction continues in north California and the 49ers must be wondering what they have to do to win after scoring 39 points and still falling short. With three straight away games, life doesn't get much easier.

32 New York Jets (=)
Record: 1-2
Last week: Won 20-6 at home to Miami
This week: 3.5-point underdogs at home to Jacksonville

The favourites to go 0-16 won their first game of the season on Sunday, but the fact some fans are concerned they may win enough matches not to get the first pick in next year's draft shows the level of expectation. Don't rule out some progress though.

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The defeat to a team tipped to struggle should act as a wake-up call for Mike Tomlin's men and a divisional game against Baltimore looks ideal
E.W. Terms
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