We are 12 weeks through the 2023 NFL season and it is becoming a little easier to determine who is for real and who is not. With six weeks to go before the playoffs, wins are now more crucial than ever.
The AFC, with a lot of teams fighting for playoff spots, especially those lower seeds. As the postseason picture starts to take shape, the teams with a real chance and those who may have just been skating by beating easy teams will begin to separate from each other.
Sure, wins and losses are a good indication of who's a contender and who's not, but they don't tell the whole story. Looking at all the teams with a winning record, we pulled out some that may not be playing as well as their record indicates. On the flip side, we looked at the teams .500 or under and identified which ones are actually on the rise and should be taken more seriously than their record reflects.
There are 14 teams with a losing record right now, 10 of which have four wins or fewer. The AFC North is the only division where each of the four teams have at least over wins.
Best teams .500 or under
Las Vegas Raiders (5-7)
The Raiders won two straight games after firing head coach Josh McDaniels. However, Las Vegas is currently on a two-game losing streak since, so it may be surprising to see them listed as one of the best teams .500 and under. Still, this list is all about looking deeper into the losses and the record of teams.
In Week 11, they lost 20-13 to the Dolphins, who have the second-best record in the AFC and the fifth-highest point differential in the league (+88). Rookie quarterback Aiden O'Connell certainly did not have the best showing, throwing three picks, but the team as a whole managed to keep up with an AFC powerhouse, and the defense picked off Tua Tagovailoa and didn't let him explode.
This week, the Raiders stayed in the game against the Chiefs for three quarters, leading the defending Super Bowl champions for all but 25 seconds of the first half, when K.C. tied things up at 14 apiece. The Chiefs went on to win 31-17.
O'Connell also kept up with Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs quarterback went 27 for 34 with 298 and two touchdowns, while the Raiders QB was pretty close, going 23 for 33 with 248 yards and one touchdown.
Cincinnati Bengals (5-6)
The Bengals are another team on this list coming off a loss, but when we are talking about teams under .500, we are going to see a lot of losses. A few weeks ago, the Bengals' new starting quarterback had never completed a pass in the NFL. A team going from the highest-paid quarterback in Joe Burrow to someone who has no experience in the league would understandably be a mess, but they showed a lot of fight against the Steelers in Week 12. Jake Browning went a respectable 19-for-26 with 227 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
At the very least, Bengals fans should feel pretty good considering what their team is going through.
Los Angeles Rams (5-6)
The Rams have found a lot of success scoring on the ground, with 11 rushing touchdowns, which is among the top half in the league.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford is coming off a four-touchdown game. The Rams offensive line has done a good job protecting the quarterback this season, whether it was Stafford or Brett Rypien as they are tied for the fifth-fewest sacks allowed this season (22).
Worst teams .500 and over
Detroit Lions (8-3)
The Lions are 8-3, which is tied for the third-best record in the league. They are behind only the defending 10-1 Eagles for the top seed in the NFC, and other than Philly, the 9-3 Ravens are the only other team with a better winning percentage.
So why did they make the cut here? I'm so glad you asked.
Detroit should and, barring anything wild, will, make the playoffs. However, among the teams at 8-3, the Lions wins are just not as impressive.
Their first win of the season, a 21-20 victory over the defending Super Bowl champions, remains their signature win of the season. They also defeated the Falcons, who are now 5-6, the Packers, who currently stand at 5-6, the Panthers, who have the worst record in the league at 1-10, the Buccaneers, who are 4-7, the Raiders, who are 5-7, the Chargers, who are 4-7 and the Bears, who sit at 3-8. Not one win, other than against the Chiefs, is against a team that currently has a winning record.
The Lions were in the best spot they have been in over 60 years heading into last week's Thanksgiving game, but as seems to be tradition, they once again lost on the holiday. This time it was a 29-22 defeat to the Packers, who were 4-6 heading into the matchup.
Cleveland Browns (7-4)
The Browns have an excellent defense, but unfortunately, it takes more than that to win games.
Rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson got his first NFL win in Week 11 in a close 13-10 win over the Steelers, and there was some hope that even without starting QB Deshaun Watson, the team could make a deep playoff run.
That became less likely this week, when the team lost 29-12 to the Broncos, who were .500 heading into the game. Cleveland's offensive line allowed four sacks in the loss and there were three fumbles lost by the Browns.
Cleveland is still at a respectable 7-4, sitting at the No. 6 seed and some very winnable games down the stretch, but the Browns offense needs to do more if they want to make a splash in the playoffs -- if they do qualify.
The Browns have the lowest completion percentage as a team in the league (55.5%), the second-fewest yards per pass attempt (5.7), they're 28th in passing yards (2,218), 31st in first-down percentage in passing (26.3%) and their quarterbacks have been sacked for a loss of 225 yards, 24th in the NFL.
Their rushing game is strong, but their passing game is miles behind. They only have nine receiving touchdowns, tied for second fewest in the league.
Minnesota Vikings (6-6)
The Vikings took on the Bears on "Monday Night Football" and it was a rough showing, by both teams. The Vikings were 6-5 heading into the game, while the Bears were 3-8. Neither team looked like it wanted to win, but the Bears eventually kicked a game-winning field goal to prevail 12-10.
Quarterback Josh Dobbs threw four interceptions in the loss, with just one touchdown and was sacked twice. No Minnesota player had over 100 yards, with the top receiver T.J. Hockenson finishing with just 50 yards and Alexander Mattison rushing for 52 yards.
The loss comes after the Vikings barely beat the Broncos, them 21-20 in Week 11.