As we head into Week 17 in the National Football League, it's a good time to take a look around the league at all 32echelon teams. With some ups and downs from a lot of the NFL's top echelon of teams, things are less stable than ever before.
The Baltimore Ravens won big against the San Francisco 49ers and now they have the top spot. We will start there and finish up with the Carolina Panthers.
1. Baltimore Ravens (12-3)
Last Week: 2 (+1)
In a twist of events, the Ravens put the NFL on notice. In a dominant showing of defense, the Ravens single-handedly knocked Brock Purdy out of the MVP discussion and simultaneously elevated Lamar Jackson into the conversation. Baltimore has been one of the best teams in the NFL all season and with a big win over the 49ers, they have earned our top spot.
2. San Francisco 49ers (11-4)
Last week: 1 (-1)
Two things can be true: The 49ers have the best cast of characters in the NFL and their quarterback is an above-average player. Unfortunately for the 49ers, Brock Purdy has shown a little bit of a struggle when faced with adversity. This might be a problem for San Francisco in the playoffs, but if they can get up early on an opponent, it may not matter.
3. Miami Dolphins (11-4)
Last Week: 3 (-)
Miami was able to show that they are, indeed capable of winning against a winning football team. Their win over the Cowboys in the final seconds of the game was impressive, even if it was against the Cowboys when they weren't at home. Tua might not be elite, but he could be the game manager that the Dolphins need to win a few games in the playoffs. With that supporting cast, anything is possible.
4. Buffalo Bills (9-6)
Last Week: 4 (-)
Buffalo continues to be a real threat to the AFC picture. Although a tight win over the Chargers is nothing to ride home about, they have been winning in ways that they could not earlier in the season. They are playing tough defense and running the ball as well as anyone. The Bills are a team to keep an eye on down the stretch.
5. Philadelphia Eagles (11-4)
Last Week: 6 (+1)
Jalen Hurts has not looked particularly sharp in recent weeks throwing the football. Luckily for the Eagles, they have a good rushing attack that can be capped off with the "tush push" into the end zone. It is difficult to say whether the Eagles can return to their dominant ways or whether they will be an early exit in the playoffs.
6. Detroit Lions (11-4)
Last Week: 8 (+2)
No one has the Lions circled as a Super Bowl contender as it stands. They have not been a good defensive team down the stretch or really at any point in the season. By notching a bunch of wins against below-average teams, the Lions have made themselves a viable candidate for one of the NFC's top seeds in the playoffs. The Lions are a team to keep an eye on, but it would be a shock if they made a Super Bowl run this season.
7. Dallas Cowboys (10-5)
Last Week: 5 (-2)
Dallas will have a difficult task when they face the Lions at home this week. On one hand, it's not a chance to exercise their road demons, but it is a high-power matchup that would allow Jerry Jones to declare the Cowboys "America's Team" before the playoffs begin. With a nice confidence boost, perhaps a run in the playoffs would be possible. If they were to lose to Detroit, however, the sky might start falling over Dallas.
8. Cleveland Browns (10-5)
Last Week: 9 (+1)
Have the Browns caught lightning in a bottle? That defense is very good and Joe Flacco looks the best that he has looked since he was leading a Ravens team to a Super Bowl. Now to think of it, that Ravens team was similar to what the Browns are this year. A poetic end for Flacco regardless of how the team finishes.