Kansas City Chiefs
All-Pro quarterback Patrick Mahomes and speedster wide receiver Tyreek Hill are on a record-setting pace, with Hill and tight end Travis Kelce currently holding the second and third most receiving yards in the league. Hill and Mahomes torched the Buccaneers’ defense in the first quarter last week on seven catches, racking up 203 yards and two touchdowns while outrunning Tampa Bay’s defense that attempted to single cover him on several instances throughout the first half. With an offense this potent, and rookie running back Clyde Edwards Helaire banging the ball between and outside of the tackles, Kansas City can keep itself in any contest and score points at will. Consistency from quarter to quarter remains an issue, but if anybody can figure that out, it’s head coach Andy Reid.
New Orleans Saints
With future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees still sidelined for the foreseeable future, swiss army knife Taysom Hill has taken over duties under center, and converted the Saints offense into an even more short-range attack. Whether it’s running back Alvin Kamara eluding defenders with his start-and-stop capabilities or Hill running the ball up the center of the line due to excellent blocking from a top-five offensive line, New Orleans is getting it done. Granted, playing against a Broncos team that started a practice squad wide receiver at quarterback this past week due to a COVID-19 ravaged quarterback room isn’t much to hang your hat on, but it proved once again that the Saints will be formidable opponents regardless of who is under center or who they are facing.
Green Bay Packers
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is on a tear this season, posting a league-leading 33 touchdowns against just four interceptions and pacing the league in highest passer rating as well, holding a 117.6 rating, just barely holding a lead over Mahomes at 115.5. Although the old man recently turned 37 years old, has had a few subpar performances, his efficiency in the majority of his games keeps this Packers offense in every contest they’re in. Wide receiver Davante Adams has been neck and neck with Tyreek Hill for the league lead in touchdown grabs, currently accounting for 11 touchdown receptions to Hill’s 13, and the two continue to battle for the title of league’s best receiver. Green Bay’s defense, which has been a bit undermanned against the run, has locked down its passing defense, led by stud cornerback Jaire Alexander.
What an absolute dud of a game on Wednesday against the severely undermanned Baltimore Ravens. With reigning MVP and starting quarterback Lamar Jackson out due to having COVID-19, former offensive rookie of the year Robert Griffin III started under center for the Ravens. Griffin III had a rough outing against a tough Steelers front seven, which only got slightly better due to an injury to linebacker Bud Dupree that knocked him out of the contest. Griffin III popped off the longest run of his career since his rookie season and then suffered a strained hamstring on the following play. Linebacker T.J. Watt, who is in talks for the defensive
player of the year award this year, continuously screams off the edge at the quarterback and leads a true Steel Curtain defense, but aging quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the offense have continuously sputtered at times. With incredibly inconsistent offensive play, the talented defense is getting overworked at times, reducing their effectiveness. This is the strangest undefeated team I’ve ever seen through 12 weeks of NFL action, as any of the teams above them on this list could easily hand the Steelers their first loss of the season.
After a few weeks of poor decision making with the ball in his hands, quarterback Russell Wilson went to the podium and told the sports press that the Seahawks needed him to play better and that he’s committed to making smarter choices on each and every play. Midseason trade acquisition Carlos Dunlap has been a major factor on the Seattle front seven, generating consistent pass rush for a team that has struggled to get after the quarterback outside of safety Jamal Adams. With seasoned veteran linebacker Bobby Wagner still commanding this defense, and Wilson orchestrating the offense with dimes to receivers D.K Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, the Seahawks are geared to keep pace with the highest-flying offenses in the league. Wilson’s elusiveness remains prominent, but a team with a true pass rush may overwhelm the crafty signal-caller as the weather starts to worsen heading into the final quarter of the season.
This is easily the team that nobody wants to play in the cold. Running back Derrick Henry, self-proclaimed as “The King,” paces the league in rushing yards and regularly makes jaw-dropping plays. He’s as massive as a standard linebacker and hits like one too, all while being able to get to the outside and outrun defensive backs. Though the Titans are sorely missing stud left tackle Taylor Lewan, who is out for the season with a torn ACL suffered in an October contest against the Houston Texans, teams cannot commit to heavily rushing quarterback Ryan Tannehill without fear of Henry bursting through the middle and tearing down the field for a score. One gaping hole in the Titans’ game is a lack of pass rush, as they sit 29th in the league in recorded sacks and give plenty of time to opposing signal-callers to progress through their reads in the pocket. A sturdy secondary typically covers this up, especially when opponents are attempting to catch up in garbage time, but Tennessee needs to hit the drawing board if they intend to ruffle Mahomes’ feathers come January.
The Bills turned the ball over three times in the span of seven offensive plays during Sunday’s fourth quarter and lived to tell the tale. Guess that’s karma paying it back to them after their last–second loss to the Cardinals two weeks ago off of a hail mary. Let’s also give credit to Buffalo’s defense, which allowed just three points total in the three Chargers possessions that followed those turnovers, finally showing up rather than being the complementary aspect to the Bills’ offense. Buffalo talked during the bye week about getting their running game going, and we saw that on Sunday against Los Angeles: Buffalo rushed for 172 yards at 5.7 yards per carry. Running backs Devin Singletary (82) and Zack Moss (59) combined to go over 100 yards for just the second time this year. The Bills are 8-3 in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1995-1996.
Los Angeles Rams
After looking so dominant at the point of attack on both sides of the ball against Tampa Bay in Week 11, Los Angeles got manhandled by a San Francisco team facing injuries up and down
their roster on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Jared Goff threw a pick six to close out the first half, fumbled deep in 49ers territory in the second half, and threw another interception to close out the contest. Though the score was close, in part due to the behemoths on defense in defensive tackle Aaron Donald and lockdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey, this game seemed to be over by halftime. Head coach Sean McVay was quite frank after the loss, stating that Goff needed to protect the football better moving forward. Goff is tied for the league lead in turnovers this season, throwing 10 interceptions and losing four fumbles, which may derail any hopes that Los Angeles has of making a deep playoff push against a talented NFC.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Poor cornerback Carlton Davis. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles had so much faith in his young cornerback that he crafted a game plan that left Davis one-on-one covering Tyreek Hill. It did not work out, as Davis was torched on a historic level by the end of the first quarter. The Buccaneers mounted an admirable fourth-quarter comeback, led by ageless quarterback Tom Brady, but the 27-24 loss showed a considerable gap between the Buccaneers and the defending Super Bowl champions. Back-to-back losses to the Rams and Chiefs make you wonder where the Buccaneers truly stand amongst the league’s elite teams, but a favorable schedule keeps a path to the postseason open for Tampa Bay. A contest against Buffalo precedes games against Washington and Dallas, which should be easy wins and confidence boosters for a squad that appears to still be trying to find its rhythm on both sides of the ball.
Playing against Henry and the Titans without their best defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, who is out with COVID-19, the Colts front seven was pushed around by Tennessee’s rushing attack, as Henry amassed 140 rushing yards and three scores by halftime. One of the league’s top defenses through the first half of the season, the Colts gave up 35 points to the Titans in one half after giving up 28 points to the Packers in the week prior. Without the defense firing on all cylinders, aging quarterback Philip Rivers was forced to sling the ball all over the yard, and his accuracy issues remained prominent. A major blow for the Colts came with left tackle Anthony Castonzo going down with an MCL sprain, derailing the Indianapolis offense. Without Castonzo guarding his blindside, Rivers is likely not to be as productive and will probably see increased pocket pressure in the coming weeks. If Indianapolis wants to maintain their lead on a wild card spot, they need to tighten up their defense and shift some pieces on the offense to protect Rivers until Castonzo gets back in the lineup.