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Monday, 10 December, 2018

New England at the top after key victory over Pittsburgh

All 32 NFL teams ranked from best to worst

New England should claim the number-one seeding in the AFC
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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 (up one)
Record: 11-3
Last week: Won 27-24 at Pittsburgh
This week: 12-point favourites at home to Buffalo

Last week's victory at the Steelers was key and should ensure the Patriots are the number one seeds in the AFC. Home advantage in the playoffs would be a huge boost for their hopes of a repeat Super Bowl success

2 Minnesota Vikings (up one)
Record: 11-3
Last week: Won 34-7 at home to Cincinnati
This week: Nine-point favourites at Green Bay

The Vikings brushed the Bengals aside to claim their ninth win in ten games. A home Super Bowl appearance could be a real possibility, although they need to be on their guard against the Packers, who will be desperate for them not to win at Lambeau Field.

3 Los Angeles Rams (up two)
Record: 10-4
Last week: Won 42-7 at Seattle
This week: Seven-point favourites at Tennessee

A storming win over the Seahawks was a real signal of intent and no one will doubt now that the Rams are the real deal. With the Titans licking their wounds and their final opponents San Francisco rejuvenated, though, they cannot take their eye off the ball.

4 New Orleans Saints (=)
Record: 10-4
Last week: Won 31-19 at home to New York Jets
This week: 5.5-point favourites at home to Atlanta

The Saints keep ticking along and the pressure from Carolina and Atlanta is unrelenting. They will be in great shape if they beat the Falcons as they have the easiest final task of the three teams chasing NFC South glory as Tampa Bay look weak.

5 Pittsburgh Steelers (down four)
Record: 11-3
Last week: Lost 27-24 at home to New England
This week: Nine-point favourites at Houston

The loss to the Patriots was a blow but not as big as wide receiver Antonio Brown's calf injury, the extent of which remains to be seen. They shouldn't need him for their final two regular-season games - they are at home to winless Cleveland next week - but any sustained absence would harm their chances.

6 Philadelphia Eagles (=)
Record: 12-2
Last week: Won 34-29 at New York Giants
This week: Nine-point favourites at home to Oakland

It was vital that the Eagles won after quarterback Carson Wentz was ruled out for the season and even though the Giants have been poor this season, victory was a shot in the arm for Philadelphia after a difficult week. The NFC's first seeding is still a possibility.

7 Jacksonville Jaguars (up two)
Record: 10-4
Last week: Won 45-7 at home to Houston
This week: Four-point favourites at home to San Francisco

The Jaguars have a firm grip on the AFC South and they shouldn't surrender it. They are looking strong on both sides of the ball and have the potential to go deep into the post-season.

8 Atlanta Falcons (down one)
Record: 9-5
Last week: Won 24-21 at Tampa Bay
This week: 5.5-point underdogs at New Orleans

Atlanta will win the NFC South if they win their next two games - they face Carolina next week - but the pressure has been intense for them to keep up with the pace for weeks. Their hopes will hang by a thread if they fall in New Orleans.

9 Carolina Panthers (up one)
Record: 10-4
Last week: Won 31-24 at home to Green Bay
This week: Ten-point favourites at home to Tampa Bay

The Panthers are fortunate that they will not be able to take things easy as heavy favourites against the Buccaneers. They can sometimes slip up in games they should win but they cannot be distracted by next week's clash against the Falcons. They continue to look strong.

10 Kansas City Chiefs (up two)
Record: 8-6
Last week: Won 30-13 at home to Los Angeles Chargers
This week: 10.5-point favourites at home to Miami

The Chiefs had a massive win against the Chargers last week and should now push on, but their indifferent recent form means they have to remain on the ball as they have a potential bounce fixture this week. Consistency has to be key if they are to make their mark in the new year.

11 Los Angeles Chargers (down three)
Record: 7-7
Last week: Lost 30-13 at Kansas City
This week: Seven-point favourites at New York Jets

If the Chiefs turned their season around, the Chargers suffered a huge blow last week. Remaining games against the Jets and Oakland are winnable but they have ground to make up and a wildcard spot is probably beyond them.

12 Baltimore Ravens (up three)
Record: 8-6
Last week: Won 27-10 at Cleveland
This week: 13.5-point favourites at home to Indianapolis

The AFC North title has been realistically out of the Ravens' grasp for a while, but they have won five of their last seven matches and one of those defeats was by a single-point margin against the Steelers. They are still in the thick of the hunt. 

13 Seattle Seahawks (down two)
Record: 8-6
Last week: Lost 42-7 at home to Los Angeles Rams
This week: Five-point underdogs at Dallas

Seattle's defeat to the Rams was as untimely as it was emphatic and their fate is now out of their hands. A trip to Dallas, who have had some decent results lately and are still in the hunt themselves, is not a good fixture.

14 Oakland Raiders (=)
Record: 6-8
Last week: Lost 20-17 at home to Dallas
This week: Nine-point underdogs at Philadelphia

Oakland need a miracle to get into the playoffs and a trip to Philadelphia still looks daunting even if Carson Wentz is unavailable. The damage has already been done.

15 Tennessee Titans (down two)
Record: 8-6
Last week: Lost 25-23 at San Francisco
This week: Seven-point underdogs at home to Los Angeles Rams

The Titans have allowed Jacksonville to get away and they face a real battle to hold onto their fifth seeding in the AFC, especially as they face the Rams and the Jaguars in their last two matches. Defeat at San Francisco has left them with plenty to think about.

16 Dallas Cowboys (up one)
Record: 8-6
Last week: Won 20-17 at Oakland
This week: Five-point favourites at home to Seattle

The Cowboys have won each of their last three matches but their playoff hopes can hardly be described as a glimmer. Running back Ezekiel Elliott is back from suspension this week but wins against tough opponents in Seattle and Philadelphia may still not be enough.

17 Detroit Lions (down one)
Record: 8-6
Last week: Won 20-10 at home to Chicago
This week: 4.5-point favourites at Cincinnati

The Lions could yet punch their ticket for the playoffs but they need Atlanta to implode. They are the best positioned of the 8-6 teams and neither of their remaining two opponents - they face Green Bay next week - have much to play for.

18 Green Bay Packers (=)
Record: 7-7
Last week: Lost 31-24 at Carolina
This week: Nine-point underdogs at home to Minnesota

Aaron Rodgers's return could not help the Packers to a win over Carolina last week and their playoff hopes are officially over. They can only reflect on what might have been but expect them to be back stronger next term. 

19 Denver Broncos (=)
Record: 5-9
Last week: Won 25-13 at Indianapolis
This week: 3.5-point underdogs at Washington

The Broncos have beaten two poor sides in Indianapolis and the Jets in their last two games and none of the teams they have beaten look likely to make the post season. Priority must be avoiding finishing bottom of the AFC West.

20 Buffalo Bills (up four)
Record: 8-6
Last week: Won 24-16 at home to Miami
This week: 12-point underdogs at New England

Buffalo are still in the hunt to end the longest post-season absence in the game - they haven't featured in a playoff game since 2000. A trip to the Patriots is never easy but another victory over the Dolphins next week would give them a chance.

21 Washington Redskins (up one)
Record: 6-8
Last week: Won 20-15 at home to Arizona
This week: 3.5-point favourites at home to Denver

The Redskins got back on track after two hefty defeats with a win over the Cardinals and there is a decent chance that they will gain the wins over Denver and the Giants that would give them a 0.500 record.

22 Arizona Cardinals (down two)
Record: 6-8
Last week: Lost 20-15 at Washington
This week: 3.5-point favourites at home to New York Giants

The Cardinals have been only able to make up the numbers in the NFC West. Injuries to running back David Johnson and quarterback Carson Palmer have hampered progress but they have not claimed consecutive victories all season.

23 Miami Dolphins (down one)
Record: 6-8
Last week: Lost 24-16 at Buffalo
This week: 10.5-point underdogs at Kansas City

There is unlikely to be a trip to the post-season for the Dolphins this year but there is scope for them to rain on both Kansas City's and Buffalo's parades. They remain dangerous opponents.

24 San Francisco 49ers (up two)
Record: 4-10
Last week: Won 25-23 at home to Tennessee
This week: Four-point underdogs at home to Jacksonville

The Niners have been excellent in the last few weeks since Jimmy Garoppolo took over at quarterback and they should receive a huge boost from beating the Titans. They are not the pushover Jacksonville and the Rams would have anticipated facing a few weeks ago and can continue to progress.

25 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (down two)
Record: 4-10
Last week: Lost 24-21 at home to Atlanta
This week: Ten-point underdogs at Carolina

The Bucs have missed the race for the post-season that is consuming their three NFC South rivals and have lost their last four matches, conceding at least 24 points on each occasion. Their campaign could fade away.

26 New York Jets (down one)
Record: 5-9
Last week: Lost 31-19 at New Orleans
This week: Seven-point underdogs at home to Los Angeles Chargers

The Jets had low expectations at the start of the season and they look to have been living up to them lately, having lost four of their last five matches. They have already done better than many expected, though.

27 Houston Texans (=)
Record: 4-10
Last week: Lost 45-7 at Jacksonville
This week: Nine-point underdogs at home to Pittsburgh

The Texans have had an injury-hit campaign and were blown away by the Jaguars. The sooner the season ends the better.

28 Cincinnati Bengals (=)
Record: 5-9
Last week: Lost 34-7 at Minnesota
This week: 4.5-point underdogs at home to Detroit

The Bengals have struggled virtually from the first kick-off and there looks set to be plenty of change around the organisation in the off-season. It's back to the drawing board time.

29 Chicago Bears (=)
Record: 4-10
Last week: Lost 20-10 at Detroit
This week: 6.5-point favourites at home to Cleveland

The Bears have won more games this season than they did last term, but it has still been a pretty miserable campaign. At least they have a good chance to claim another success against the winless Browns.

30 Indianapolis Colts (=)
Record: 3-11
Last week: Lost 25-13 at home to Indianapolis
This week: 13.5-point underdogs at Baltimore

One win in nine matches is a miserable record and the Colts are another organisation who cannot wait to clear the decks. The size of their handicap against Baltimore shows how far they have fallen.

31 New York Giants (=)
Record: 2-12
Last week: Lost 34-29 at home to Philadelphia
This week: 3.5-point underdogs at Arizona

The Giants have already sacked their head coach and won one of their last eight matches. They will have further issues to address as they reflect on their nightmare of a season.

32 Cleveland Browns (=)
Record: 0-14
Last week: Lost 27-10 at home to Baltimore
This week: 6.5-point underdogs at Chicago

There are two hopes for the Browns. Either they step up against the Bears or Pittsburgh decide to play a back-up team in next week's finale. Either way, Cleveland will be desperate just to get over the line.

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The Jaguars have a firm grip on the AFC South and they shouldn't surrender it.
E.W. Terms
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