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Monday, 21 January, 2019

Patriots continue to mount a strong defence

All 32 NFL teams ranked from best to worst

The Patriots won their eighth game of the season against the Raiders
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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: 8-2
Last week: Won 33-8 v Oakland in Mexico City
This week: 16.5-point favourites at home to Miami

A change of country did little to knock the Patriots out of their stride. Five of their remaining six matches are all-AFC East clashes but the form of their divisional rivals suggests this is probably an advantage.

2 Philadelphia Eagles (=)
Record: 9-1
Last week: Won 37-9 at Dallas
This week: 13.5-point favourites at home to Chicago

The Eagles took a massive leap forward by beating the Cowboys in emphatic fashion. The race for the NFC number-one seeding could still be close so expect them to remain focused, especially with visits to the Rams and Seattle on the horizon.

3 Pittsburgh Steelers (=)
Record: 8-2
Last week: Won 40-17 at home to Tennessee
This week: 14-point favourites at home to Green Bay

Their success over the Titans was the Steelers' sixth win on the bounce and there looks as if there is little to stop them in the AFC North. Like the Patriots, the remainder of their schedule looks straightforward, even though the pair meet at Heinz Field in Week 15. 

4 Minnesota Vikings (=)
Record: 8-2
Last week: Won 24-7 at home to Los Angeles Rams
This week: Three-point favourites at Detroit

The Rams were nipped in the bud and the Vikings continue to go from strength to strength. Their defence is as good as any in the league and they are turning into a genuine force, although we will get further insight into their character as they now attack three away matches.

5 New Orleans Saints (=)
Record: 8-2
Last week: Won 34-31 at home to Washington
This week: 2.5-point underdogs at Los Angeles Rams

Eight straight wins have put the Saints right in the mix and they are in what is the most hotly contested division in the game. Staging a comeback and beating the Redskins in overtime will only boost their confidence.

6 Atlanta Falcons (up two)
Record: 6-4
Last week: Won 34-31 at Seattle
This week: Ten-point favourites at home to Tampa Bay

It seemed as if the Falcons had lost their way and would struggle to reach the playoffs but impressive wins over Dallas and Seattle have put them back in the picture. They have five divisional games remaining so there is everything to play for.

7 Seattle Seahawks (down one)
Record: 6-4
Last week: Lost 34-31 at home to Atlanta
This week: Seven-point favourites at San Francisco

The Seahawks missed the opportunity to take a grip of the NFC West after the Rams lost to the Vikings and defensive injuries have to be a concern. All eyes will be on their clash with the Rams in Week 15.

8 Kansas City Chiefs (down one)
Record: 6-4
Last week: Lost 12-9 at New York Giants
This week: Ten-point favourites at home to Buffalo

After opening the season with five wins, the Chiefs have gone right off the boil and losing as double-figure favourites to the Giants will provoke plenty of soul-searching. Even though their divisional opposition don't seem to be up to much, they still face a fight to get over the line.

9 Carolina Panthers (=)
Record: 7-3
Last week: Bye
This week: 4.5-point favourites at New York Jets

Having had the week off, the Panthers need to extend their run of three straight wins to ensure they stay on the Saints' tail and keep the Falcons' wings clipped. They look to be on the right path.

10 Los Angeles Rams (=)
Record: 7-3
Last week: Lost 24-7 at Minnesota
This week: 2.5-point favourites at home to New Orleans 

The Rams have made enormous progress this term, but Sunday's loss to the Vikings was a key setback as it left many questioning just how far they had come. This week's game against the Saints will go a long way towards us understanding if they are the real deal. 

11 Tennessee Titans (=)
Record: 6-4
Last week: Lost 40-17 at Pittsburgh
This week: 3.5-point favourites at Indianapolis

The Titans were left licking their wounds against Pittsburgh as Marcus Mariota threw four interceptions. Expect him to bounce back, though. With Jacksonville due to visit Nashville on the final day, the AFC South battle looks set to go right to the wire.

12 Jacksonville Jaguars (up two)
Record: 7-3
Last week: Won 19-7 at Cleveland
This week: 4.5-point favourites at Arizona

The Jags defence is probably the best in the league, which puts a lot of pressure on quarterback Blake Bortles, whose play has been erratic to say the least. If he raises his game, they have a great chance of being a factor in the playoffs.

13 Detroit Lions (up two)
Record: 6-4
Last week: Won 27-24 at Chciago
This week: Three-point underdogs at home to Minnesota

The Lions are doing well to try and stay relevant in the NFC North and their Thanksgiving match-up with the Vikings is huge. The spirit they show consistently to get the job done means they should not be ruled out.

14 Dallas Cowboys (down two)
Record: 5-5
Last week: Lost 37-9 at home to Philadelphia
This week: One-point favourites at home to Los Angeles Chargers

The Cowboys have lost all their offensive emphasis in the two matches they have been without suspended running back Ezekiel Elliott. They have failed to score double figures in each of those outings and could be out of the running by the time he comes back in Week 16.

15 Oakland Raiders (down two)
Record: 4-6
Last week: Lost 33-8 v New England in Mexico City
This week: Five-point favourites at home to Denver

The Raiders' defence could not live with the Patriots in Mexico and they are not getting much going on the other side of the ball either. It is remarkable that they have not claimed a single interception all season.

16 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (up one)
Record: 4-6
Last week: Won 30-20 at Miami
This week: Ten-point underdogs at Atlanta

The Buccaneers have claimed two victories with Ryan Fitzpatrick filling in for the injured Jameis Winston at quarterback and while beating the Jets and Miami may not be much to crow about, they have to start somewhere. Their campaign is beginning to look respectable.

17 Green Bay Packers (down one)
Record: 5-5
Last week: Lost 23-0 at home to Baltimore
This week: 14-point underdogs at Pittsburgh

The joy at winning in Chicago last week was muted when they failed to score a point at home to the Ravens. It has been a case of just getting through the season ever since star quarterback Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone.

18 Baltimore Ravens (up four)
Record: 5-5
Last week: Won 23-0 at Green Bay
This week: Seven-point favourites at home to Houston

The Ravens have struggled with inconsistency this season but will have been delighted to have won in such fashion after coming off their bye week. However, it's hard to see them giving Pittsburgh much to think about in the AFC North.

19 Washington Redskins (=)
Record: 4-6
Last week: Lost 34-31 at New Orleans
This week: Seven-point favourites at home to New York Giants

The Redskins have conceded an average of 26.6 points per game this season which goes a long way to explaining why they are not a factor in the NFC East. Their playoff chances look to have gone.

20 Denver Broncos (down two)
Record: 3-7
Last week: Lost 20-17 at home to Cincinnati
This week: Five-point underdogs at Oakland

The Broncos' season has collapsed with six successive defeats. Their offence has struggled for most of the campaign and their defence have not been able to bail them out this term. It looks like being a case of starting again for 2018.  

21 Houston Texans (up three)
Record: 4-6
Last week: Won 31-21 at home to Arizona
This week: Seven-point underdogs at Baltimore

The Texans received a tonic with a victory under quarterback Tom Savage, but it is still difficult to see them challenging the Titans and Jaguars in the AFC South without the dynamic DeShaun Watson. A 8-8 season would now be a great acheivement.

22 Arizona Cardinals (down one)
Record: 4-6
Last week: Lost 31-21 at Houston
This week: 4.5-point underdogs at home to Jacksonville

None of the Cardinals' four victories have come against teams with winning records and it is difficult to see them making strides when four of their remaining games are against teams in the thick of the playoff race - Jacksonville, the LA Rams, Tennessee and Seattle.

23 Los Angeles Chargers (up two)
Record: 4-6
Last week: Won 54-24 at home to Buffalo
This week: One-point underdogs at Dallas

The Chargers benefited from Buffalo quarterback Nathan Peterman's nightmare debut on Sunday to post a convincing win and, with the Chiefs wobbling and both Denver and Oakland struggling, it is not inconceivable that they can still be a factor in the AFC West.

24 Buffalo Bills (down four)
Record: 5-5
Last week: Lost 54-24 at Los Angeles Chargers
This week: Ten-point underdogs at Kansas City

Throwing five interceptions in the first half of your NFL debut is about as bad as it gets for Nathan Peterman and Tyrod Taylor will surely return to the fray. However, after three straight defeats when they have conceded 135 points, the damage has already been done.

25 Miami Dolphins (down two)
Record: 4-6
Last week: Lost 30-20 at home to Tampa Bay
This week: 16.5-point underdogs at New England

The Dolphins have suffered four straight defeats and with two games against the Patriots to come, it is going to take a huge change of fortune for them to extend their season. Their campaign is petering out.

26 Indianapolis Colts (=)
Record: 3-7
Last week: Bye
This week: 3.5-point underdogs at home to Tennessee

The Colts have had a few weeks to reflect on the fact they gave Pittsburgh a run for their money in their last outing. However, no team have conceded more points and they have scored more than 23 points just twice, so don't expect them to barge into the post-season.

27 Cincinnati Bengals (up two)
Record: 4-6
Last week: Won 20-17 at Denver
This week: 8.5-point favourites at home to Cleveland

The Bengals showed their mettle to claim a win at Mile High, but everyone is beating the Broncos at the moment. They haven't beaten anyone with a winning record and they can't afford to take it easy against the winless Browns.

28 New York Giants (up two)
Record: 2-8
Last week: Won 12-9 at home to Kansas City
This week: Seven-point underdogs at Washington

It has been a miserable season for the Giants, but they should enjoy their moment having beaten the Chiefs, who looked the best team in the league a few weeks ago. The team who have averaged just 16.2 points per match just got over the line and that should be a boost.

29 New York Jets (down two)
Record: 4-6
Last week: Bye
This week: 4.5-point underdogs at home to Carolina

The Jets had their feet up last week and have already exceeded expectations having claimed four victories. A trip to Denver looks their only appetising remaining fixture so they could be weighed in.

30 Chicago Bears (down two)
Record: 3-7
Last week: Lost 27-24 at home to Detroit
This week: 13.5-point underdogs at Philadelphia

The Bears could not get over the line in fell down the list due to the Bengals and the Giants claiming victories. However, they have matched last year's tally of wins and there is scope for improvement with games against San Francisco and Cleveland to come.

31 San Francisco 49ers (=)
Record: 1-9
Last week: Bye
This week: Seven-point underdogs at home to Seattle

There were joyous scenes when the 49ers beat the Giants before their week's break. Claiming a victory will have come as a huge relief as their remaining matches - they still have Seattle, the Rams, Tennessee and Jacksonville to face - do not look that appetising.

32 Cleveland Browns (=)
Record: 0-10
Last week: Lost 19-7 at home to Jacksonville
This week: 8.5-point underdogs at Cincinnati

The Browns contributed to their own downfall against the Jaguars and right now just any win will do. This week's game against the Bengals is one of their best remaining opportunity to finally get off the mark.

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The Falcons had lost their way but impressive wins over Dallas and Seattle have put them back in the picture
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