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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

New England bounce back but Falcons make a big move

All NFL teams ranked from best to worst

Atlanta gained a valuable win over Green Bay
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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 (=)
Last week: won 36-20 at New Orleans
This week: 13-point favourites at home to Houston

After losing their opener against Kansas City, the Patriots were back to their best with Tom Brady rediscovering his groove against the Saints. With receiver Danny Amendola on the way back and Rob Gronkowski's groin injury not thought to be serious, expect them to push on.

2 Pittsburgh Steelers (=)
Last week: won 26-9 at home to Minnesota
This week: 7.5-point favourites at Chicago

The Steelers were perhaps fortunate that the Vikings had injury issues on Sunday, but they were still efficient in claiming the win. Despite rookie linebacker TJ Watt suffering a groin injury, they are clearly the best team in the AFC North and it would be no surprise if they beat Chicago, Baltimore and Jacksonville before a week six showdown with the Chiefs.

3 Kansas City Chiefs (=)
Last week: won 27-20 at home to Philadelphia
This week: Three-point favourites at Los Angeles Chargers

The Chiefs had to back up their victory at Foxborough and they did. They had to stay patient against the Eagles, who look an up-and-coming side, before big players Travis Kelce and Karrem Hunt came up trumps. It's been an excellent start. 

4 Atlanta Falcons (up two)
Last week: won 34-23 at home to Green Bay
This week: Three-points favourites at Detroit

The Falcons didn't convince against the Bears when they limped over the line but there is no getting away from the fact the Packers are a notable scalp. Sunday's win should convince many that Atlanta are capable of another deep run.

5 Dallas Cowboys (down one)
Last week: lost 42-17 at Denver
This week: Three-point favourites at Arizona

The Cowboys struggled at Mile High and the running game was virtually non-existent, leading to some question running back Ezekiel Elliott's commitment. The offensive line struggled for once against a top defence and there is time for some soul-searching before a big clash on Monday night. 

6 Green Bay Packers (down one)
Last week: lost 34-23 at Atlanta
This week: Nine-point favourites at home to Cincinnati

Aaron Rodgers endured a difficult night against an improving Atlanta defence and the Packers are having to deal with a series of injuries. But it was a defeat to a good team and they should not have similar problems in their next two games against Cincinnati and Chicago as they get back on track.

7 Oakland Raiders (up two)
Last week: won 45-20 at home to New York Jets
This week: Three-point favourites at Washington

Yes, it was only the Jets but the Raiders needed that victory after a good performance at Tennessee in week one. Quarterback Derek Carr is back in the swing of things and they scored six touchdowns. They look strong on both sides of the ball and can build on their fine start.

8 Seattle Seahawks (=)
Last week: won 12-9 at home to San Francisco
This week: 2.5-point underdogs at Tennessee

A three-point victory over a poor team like San Francisco was probably too close for comfort and the offensive line is still a concern. A total of 21 points from their opening two games is not great, but their defence is still solid and the division looks weak, which explains their top-ten standing.

9 Minnesota Vikings (down two)
Last week: lost 26-9 at Pittsburgh
This week: yet to be priced at home to Tampa Bay

The Vikings can push on if quarterback Sam Bradford can get himself fit as he missed the trip to the Steelers. However, the jury has to be out while the situation remains cloudy. Case Keenum will have to show a great improvement on previous efforts if Bradford is not to be missed.

10 Denver Broncos (up two)
Last week: won 42-17 at home to Dallas
This week: three-point favourites at Buffalo

Denver's victory over Dallas was a signal of intent and with six touchdown passes this season, quarterback Trevor Siemian is starting to look the part. Running back CJ Anderson set his level high as well against the Cowboys, so it is now up to the Broncos, still getting used to life under a new head coach, to live up to expectations.

11 Tennessee Titans (=)
Last week: won 37-16 at Jacksonville
This week: 2.5-point favourites at home to Seattle

An opening defeat to Oakland was a setback but it was good for the Titans to get their divisional campaign off to a decent start against the Jaguars. In brushing Jacksonville aside late on, the Titans demonstrated they are the strongest outfit in the AFC South, but this week's game will give a good indication of whether they are Super Bowl contenders.

12 Carolina Panthers (down two)
Last week: won 9-3 at home to Buffalo
This week: six-point favourites at home to New Orleans

The Panthers squeezed past Buffalo and will be delighted to have conceded just six points in their opening two matches, but the loss of tight end Greg Olsen to a broken foot was a bad blow. Hearts were in mouths when Cam Newton looked to have suffered an injury too and the campaign gets tougher from here.

13 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (up one)
Last week: won 29-7 at home to Chicago
This week: yet to be priced at Minnesota

Having had their opening-week game against Miami postponed, Tampa Bay put the Bears to the sword and it is difficult to gauge how far they can go when they beat such poor opposition. The performance could not have harmed confidence levels though.

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Last week's rankings

14 Philadelphia Eagles (down one)
Last week: Lost 27-20 at Kansas City
This week: Five-point favourites at home to New York Giants

The Eagles lost to the better side on Sunday but they gave themselves a chance of beating the Chiefs and that should be encouraging. Quarterback Carson Wentz was mobile and performed well under pressure, so there is cause to be optimistic.

15 Detroit Lions (=)
Last week: won 24-10 at New York Giants
This week: Three-point underdogs at home to Atlanta

The defence were excellent against the Giants and the Lions will be delighted with the start they have made. However, the two offences they have faced - they beat Arizona in week one - have struggled and the Falcons will provide a much tougher test.

16 Baltimore Ravens (=)
Last week: won 24-10 at home to Cleveland
This week: Four-point favourites against Jacksonville at Wembley

The Ravens have claimed two victories, a quarter of the tally they posted last season, but they have not faced any of the league's leading lights and won't at Wembley on Sunday. Week four games against Pittsburgh and Oakland will provide a much better indication of where they are. 

17 Arizona Cardinals (=)
Last week: won 16-13 at Indianapolis
This week: Three-point underdogs at home to Dallas

The Cardinals limped over the line against a poor Colts side having made an interception in the first play of overtime. The loss of running back David Johnson is a massive blow and the defence cannot keep bailing them out.

18 Miami Dolphins (up one)
Last week: won 19-17 at Los Angeles Chargers
This week: Six-point favourites at New York Jets

The Dolphins looked rusty offensively in the first half against the Chargers and claimed victory with a late field goal. Getting over the line will have been the most pleasing aspect of their delayed opener and there is scope for them to hit their stride this week against one of the weakest teams in the league.

19 New York Giants (down one)
Last week: lost 24-10 at home to Detroit
This week: Five-point underdogs at Philadelphia

The Giants offensive line struggled again at home to the Lions on Monday and big improvements are needed if they are to force their way into the NFC East picture. It's no good having Odell Beckham available if they cannot find him as the running game continues to be unreliable.


20 New Orleans Saints (=)
Last week: lost 36-20 at home to New England
This week: Six-point underdogs at Carolina

The Saints defence has struggled for a few seasons and could not cope with a Tom Brady who felt he had a point to prove after the Patriots' opening defeat to Kansas City. Injuries to the offensive line hindered their progress and they face a tough defence this week.  

21 Buffalo Bills (=)
Last week: Lost 9-3 at Carolina
This week: Three-point underdogs at home to Denver

The defence is up there with the best in the league but the Bills had trouble of the other side of the ball and it is difficult to say how far they can go when their only other performance was against the New York Jets. If quarterback Tyrod Taylor and running back LeSean McCoy can be more productive they have a chance, but it looks like being another tough day against the Broncos.

22 Washington Redskins (up one)
Last week: won 27-20 at Los Angeles Rams
This week: Three-point underdogs at home to Oakland

After an error-strewn defeat to Philadelphia in week one, the Redskins were much better against the Rams and with Chris Thompson scoring two touchdowns, there are signs of life in the running game. However, consecutive games against Oakland and Kansas City will be big tests.

23 Houston Texans (up one)
Last week: won 13-9 at Cincinnati
This week: 13-point underdogs at New England

The win over the Bengals helped the Texans get over their dismal opener against Jacksonville, but there is still a way to go. Quarterback DeShaun Watson is exciting - he scored a spectacular touchdown - and while he still needs time to develop, the excellent defence will give them opportunities to win games. It looks better than it did last week.

24 Los Angeles Chargers (=)
Last week: lost 19-17 at home to Miami
This week: Three-point underdogs at home to Kansas City

Another close defeat for the Chargers and both losses this season against decent opposition so it may not be too long before they start making their mark. They are other teams with greater concerns, although this week's divisional game against the Chiefs is massive.

25 Cincinnati Bengals (down three)
Last week: Lost 13-9 at home to Houston
This week: Nine-point underdogs at Green Bay

The Bengals offence is in a mess and nine points in two home games speaks volumes. Bill Lazor has taken over from Ken Zampese as offensive coordinator and they need immediate results if they are to even threaten last season's tally of six victories

26 Indianapolis Colts (=)
Last week: Lost 16-13 at home to Arizona
This week: One-point underdogs at home to Cleveland

With quarterback Andrew Luck still injured, the Colts look to be going nowhere fast. Jacoby Brissett helped them to be competitive at times against Arizona but an overtime interception did for him and the team. It's difficult to see them making rapid progress.

27 Jacksonville Jaguars (=)
Last week: lost 37-16 at home to Tennessee
This week: Four-point underdogs against Baltimore at Wembley

The defence demonstrated against Houston that they are capable of winning matches, but the clock continues to tick for quarterback Blake Bortles. Too many penalties did not help his cause against the Titans but they need change under centre.

28 Cleveland Browns (=)
Last week: lost 24-10 at Baltimore
This week: One-point favourites at Indianapolis

Another defeat for the Browns - that's 27 in their last 29 matches - but they did suffer their share of bad luck against the Ravens with quarterback DeShone Kizer hit by a migraine and receiver Corey Coleman is now injured. However, there is still scope for them to win the odd game, including this week.

29 Los Angeles Rams (=)
Last week: lost 27-20 at home to Washington Redskins
This week: Two-point favourites at San Francisco

The Redskins defeat brought the Rams back down to earth, but at least quarterback Jared Goff looks like he is improving. They still face a huge task to get into the NFC West picture as they take on Dallas and Seattle after Thursday's trip to the 49ers.

30 Chicago Bears (=)
Last week: lost 29-7 at Tampa Bay
This week: 7.5-point underdogs at Pittsburgh

There were signs of life in week one against Atlanta but Mike Glennon was unable to raise his game against his old team in Tampa and the Bears were simply not competitive. That situation could continue for much of the season.

31 San Francisco 49ers (=)
Last week: Lost 12-9 at Seattle
This week: Two-point underdogs at home to Los Angeles Rams

Two games and no touchdowns. Losing by three points to a team considered by many as Super Bowl candidates may be seen by some as a cause for optimism but they won't win many games if they cannot muster ten points.

32 New York Jets (=)
Last week: lost 45-20 at Oakland
This week: Six-point underdogs at home to Miami

A total of 20 points may be a positive sign but the Raiders brushed the Jets aside, scoring six touchdowns. They still have plenty of catching up to do.

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With receiver Danny Amendola on the way back and Rob Gronkowski's groin injury not thought to be serious, expect them to push on
E.W. Terms
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