In gaming, the first use case for blockchain was ICOs. With cryptocurrencies being volatile and with so much money at stake in this space, it’s no surprise that many gamers are following their investments closely to see how they profit from them. However, there are still a lot of questions surrounding cryptocurrency games that need answers before we can truly talk about whether crypto will be integrated into mainstream gaming culture as quickly as some people hope./
6:35 a.m. Eastern Time
ESPN’s NFL Nation
As the season nears its conclusion, every iteration of the NFL Power Rankings becomes more relevant. But the homestretch is vital for athletes as well, as it helps them prepare for the next phase of their careers.
December is when reputations are formed and preserved, whether you’re a young man attempting to make a legacy or a seasoned veteran seeking to protect what has already been established. On that topic, we asked our NFL Nation writers to choose one player from each of the teams they cover who is most crucial in the last month of the season. The quarterback position is well-represented here, with rookies trying to break in (see New York), veterans trying to close out in style (see Pittsburgh Steelers fans), and current stars looking to reach the next level (see the guy in charge of America’s Team) — but there are also non-quarterbacks on the list.
The following is how we rate our Power Rankings: Our power panel, which includes over 80 writers, editors, and TV personalities, assesses how teams perform during the season.
Previous rankings: 13 | 12 | 11 | 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 3 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | Preseason
ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN CLE | DAL | DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND JAX | KC | LV | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN NE | NO | PHI | PIT | SF SEA | TB | TEN | WSH
Previous position: 2
Josh Jones, offensive lineman, is a player that has to step up.
During a season in which he should have been starting at one of the two positions, the former third-round selection is a backup at both right guard and right tackle. There’s a possibility Jones won’t be in the mix next year if he doesn’t show himself this season, particularly given how well both RG Max Garcia and RT Kelvin Beachum have performed. Given how important quarterback Kyler Murray is, Jones must be at his best in order to keep Murray healthy. Josh Weinfuss (@JoshWeinfuss)
1st place previously
K Mason Crosby is a player that has to step up.
Crosby isn’t to blame for all of the field goal unit’s missteps; he acquired a new holder immediately before the season began and a new long-snapper nine games in. But it all comes down to the kicker, and Crosby is tied for 35th in the league in field goal percentage this season (66.7 percent , 18-of-27). In 2012, he went through a slump, but the Packers persevered with him. In 2013, he replied with one of his greatest years. Crosby, who is 37 years old and has a $3.4 million salary and $4.735 million cap hit for next season, may need a good finish to ensure his future with the team. Demovsky, Rob
3rd place before.
Breshad Perriman, wide receiver, is a player that has to step up.
Given that Perriman was only brought up from the practice squad, this one could come as a surprise. But against the Falcons on Sunday, the Bucs’ third wide receiver, a 2015 first-round draft selection out of UCF, played 83.3 percent of offensive plays, compared to 13.2 percent for Tyler Johnson and 5.9 percent for Scotty Miller. Perriman has a chance to rebuild his career after being cut twice this year (by the Lions and Bears) and truly assist the Bucs in their quest for another Super Bowl with Antonio Brown out for two more weeks due to his suspension and the uncertainty surrounding Brown’s future with the Bucs. Jenna Laine is a writer who lives in New York City.
Previous position: 5
TE Jonnu Smith is a player that has to step up.
The big-money free-agent acquisition has 25 receptions for 259 yards and one score entering Monday night’s game against the Bills. This is a foundational year for Smith and all newcomers, according to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Simultaneously, when the club signed Smith to a four-year, $50 million deal in free agency, with $31.25 million guaranteed, it set a bar that Smith is still attempting to meet. — Reiss, Mike
Previous position: 6
WR Mecole Hardman is a player that needs to step up.
With Sammy Watkins gone and the Chiefs in need of a second receiving threat, Hardman needed to show he could be counted on as an every-down receiver this season. It hasn’t occurred. While Hardman has the third most receptions on the squad, he has just one touchdown and a 10.1 yard per catch average. If Hardman does not make a move before the end of the season, the Chiefs will have to look for assistance in the summer. Adam Teicher’s remark
Previous position: 4
QB Lamar Jackson is a player who has to step up.
Jackson wants to re-establish his worth ahead of the summer, when he might sign his big-money agreement. With a 34.4 Total QBR, he has lost two of his last three starts and has struggled to produce (22nd in the NFL). He threw a career-high four interceptions in one game and was sacked a career-high seven times in the other in the last two weeks. Jackson will eventually become one of the NFL’s highest-paid players. However, a good finish to the season, particularly in the playoffs, would explain Jackson earning $45 million per year like Patrick Mahomes. Jamison Hensley (Jamison Hensley)
Previous position: 10
QB Dak Prescott is a player who has to step up.
Prescott hasn’t performed badly, but he hasn’t been as productive as he was in the first seven games of the season before sustaining a calf issue against the Patriots. He has seven touchdown passes and four interceptions in his last five games. He’d benefit from a stronger rushing game and better protection, but that’s why the Cowboys spent $160 million on Prescott in March. Prescott has Dallas in position to win the NFC East for the third time, but the club needs more from him if it wants to be considered one of the best in the league again. Todd Archer is a writer.
Previous position: 7
QB Josh Allen is a player that has to step up.
The Bills’ ability to secure a top playoff seed and potentially reach the Super Bowl is contingent on the entire team performing well, but Allen’s performance down the stretch will be crucial. Allen has had a turnover problem recently, with seven interceptions and two fumbles in the last five games. While this isn’t entirely his fault, he has to make better choices with the ball. Allen has had a good season overall, but he and the offense must improve to bring the Bills where they want to go. Alaina Getzenberg is a writer who lives in New York City.
This week’s essentials include: • Check out the full schedule » | Check out the standings » • Every team’s depth chart » • Injuries » | Transactions » • Rankings of the Football Power Index » Additional NFL coverage »
Previous position: 11
WR Odell Beckham Jr. is a player that has to step up.
Given the strange circumstances surrounding Beckham’s release from the Browns, which included a video his father shared of quarterback Baker Mayfield not throwing him the ball, the eighth-year wideout must demonstrate that he not only still has big-play potential, but that he can also contribute consistently. Beckham’s production has progressively grown since his arrival in Los Angeles, where he signed a one-year, $1.25 agreement last month. He caught a 54-yard touchdown catch in his second game with the Rams, his first in ten games, and a 1-yard touchdown throw on Sunday, giving him TDs in back-to-back games for the first time since Weeks 16 and 17 of the 2019 season. — Lindsey Thiry is a thirty-year-old woman.
Previous position: 8
QB Ryan Tannehill is a player that needs to step up.
When Derrick Henry was healthy, the Titans were one of the few teams who weren’t led by their quarterback. It’s now Tannehill’s duty to raise the bar for the rest of the team. This will be especially difficult considering the fact that Tennessee will be missing standout wide receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones for an extended period of time. Tannehill, on the other hand, must find new ways to connect with his remaining pass catchers, particularly in the red zone. Inside the 20-yard line, Tannehill is also capable of creating plays with his legs. Tannehill must find a way to prevent costly turnovers down the stretch and in the playoffs, despite the fact that several of his 13 interceptions aren’t entirely his fault. Turron Davenport (Turron Davenport)
Previous position: 9
S is the player who has to step up. Jessie Bates III is a character in the film Jessie Bates III
Bates said in November that his contract season had not gone as well as he had hoped. Bates was rated as the NFL’s best safety by Pro Football Focus in 2020, but he hasn’t been able to maintain that level of play in 2021. Some of this might be attributed to the stalemate in contract talks that plagued Bates at the start of the season. While he has had some strong performances, Bates still has a long way to go before proving he is worthy of being paid as one of the greatest safeties in the NFL. Of course, the most probable possibility is that the Bengals use the franchise tag on him in 2022. But, in addition to maybe generating some additional cash, he might help bolster a Cincinnati defense that has been without several important players in the last month of the season. – Ben Little
Previous position: 13
Carson Wentz, quarterback, is a player who has to step up.
Wentz isn’t having a poor season by any means. With 22 touchdown throws and just five interceptions, he’s had a fairly good year. However, the first-year Colts quarterback must step up his game even more since the team is far from certain to reach the playoffs this season. With four games left, they are now seventh in the AFC, with games against New England, Arizona, and Las Vegas on the schedule. Now is Wentz’s chance to show the Colts why he was acquired from the Eagles in the offseason. Wentz recently said, “It’s December; everything feels like a playoff game.” Mike Wells’ remark
Previous position: 16
RB is a player who needs to step up. Justin Jackson is a musician from the United States.
Jackson was regarded as the No. 2 running back behind Austin Ekeler, but he has missed two consecutive games due to shoulder ailments, and he has never played more than 16 percent of offensive plays in a game. Against the Bengals, he had six carries for 15 yards. The Chargers are in desperate need of a reliable No. 2 back, and Ekeler has the necessary skills, but he is unable to play. Shelley Smith says:
• Can the Bills’ defense rebound without White? • Pats’ RB duo portrays a strong identity • What we learned from Week 13 • C.J. Mosley: Jets must alter narrative • A.J. Terrell is now a cornerstone for the Falcons
Previous position: 12
QB Jimmy Garoppolo is a player who has to step up.
With the exception of a Week 13 flop against Seattle, Garoppolo has been excellent lately, and it’s no surprise that his stellar play has coincided with the rebirth of San Francisco’s running game. That would be ideal for everyone concerned. However, the 49ers will almost certainly find themselves in a game or two like the one versus Seattle, when the opposition defense will push Garoppolo to bear a greater burden. His ability to do so will be critical not just for the 49ers’ playoff chances, but also for Garoppolo’s future. As he goes into an uncertain offseason, a final flourish would only add to his worth. Nick Wagoner is a writer.
Previous position: 19
QB Ben Roethlisberger is a player that has to step up.
Roethlisberger is almost certain to be a future Hall of Fame quarterback, but he is likely in his final five regular-season games with the Steelers. The Steelers might cap Roethlisberger’s illustrious career with a playoff spot and a postseason run if he plays more like the quarterback who had two monster fourth quarters (against the Chargers and the Ravens). But if he looks like the version of himself who threw two interceptions against the Bengals and couldn’t consistently zip the ball, the Steelers’ best-case scenario is a.500 season, which would be a disappointing finish for Big Ben. — Brooke Pryor is an actress who plays Brooke Pryor.
22nd in the previous ranking
Taylor Heinicke, quarterback, is a player who has to step up.
Heinicke has already shown he belongs in the NFL, but there are still doubts about the level he can reach. Even in Washington, he is regarded as a capable backup or a low-end starter. Heinicke’s NFL future is safe, but if he can lead Washington to a solid finish over the next five games — say, a 4-1 record — that may boost his stock. He’s been hit or miss, but he’s only appeared in 13 games in the NFL. Heinicke has the NFL’s fifth highest overall QBR (65.4) in the last four weeks, and he has won over teammates. With a strong December, he can win over a lot of people. ‘John Keim’
Previous position: 21
OL is a player that needs to step up. Eichenberg, Liam
While Eichenberg was one of the most highly ranked offensive lineman in the 2021 rookie class, he has been the Dolphins’ poorest starter statistically this season, despite gaining a lot of experience starting. Eichenberg has a 71.4 percent pass block win rate since Week 9, the start of Miami’s winning run, which ranks him 162nd out of 164 qualifying linemen. His 76 percent victory percentage throughout the course of the season puts him dead last out of 170 qualifying players. He’s playing better than he has in the past, and he’s not in danger of losing his starting position, but a good finish would be motivating as the Dolphins head into an offseason flush with cash and anxious for progress. — Louis-Jacques Marcel
14th place before.
Derek Carr, quarterback, is a player who has to step up.
Carr led the NFL in passing yards entering the weekend, and he’s on pace to throw for a career-high 5,189 yards. And he’s had to deal with a lot of off-the-field controversy this season, to say nothing of a rebuilt offensive line on the fly. With just one year remaining on Carr’s contract and a.434 lifetime winning %, a decision on whether to extend the most divisive player in Raiders history or let him play a lame-duck season while dangling a franchise tag for 2023 might be made in these next five games. Gutierrez, Paul
Previous position: 17
Baker Mayfield, QB, is a player that has to step up.
Mayfield has had a dismal season so far after leading the Browns to their first playoff win in 26 years in 2020. Since Week 2, he’s been dealing with a torn labrum in his non-throwing left shoulder, as well as problems to his right knee and left foot. Mayfield is now ranked 26th in QBR, after ranking in the top 10 the previous season. The Browns are still in contention for a postseason berth. They won’t get there unless Mayfield can resurrect the level of play he showed in 2020. Jake Trotter’s remark
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15th place before.
Teddy Bridgewater, quarterback, is a player that has to step up.
Bridgewater is already hobbling with another leg injury this season, so the Broncos are doing him no favors by putting him in the shotgun. They don’t protect him effectively in there, and he is already limping again. The Broncos have pushed the ball down the field in the passing game when he is under center and executing play-action. Bridgewater must overcome any and all issues and throw with the confidence he had before his initial lower-body injury earlier this season if this club is to remain in the postseason chase. Legwold, Jeff
Previous position: 23
Jalen Hurts, QB, is a player who needs to step up.
Hurts vs. Gardner Minshew is a misnomer. Hurts is up against the clock. Hurts has four regular-season games remaining to persuade the front office that instead of wasting their three first-round selections in April’s draft to acquire a quarterback, they should build around him. Hurts has been one of the most devastating quarterbacks in the league at times this season, but he has been inconsistent as a thrower. It will be much more difficult for management to move in a different way if he can lead the Eagles to a playoff spot in coach Nick Sirianni’s first year. Tim McManus, Ph.D.
Previous position: 20
Taysom Hill, QB, is a player that has to step up.
Isn’t this one very self-evident? This might be Hill’s final genuine shot to establish he’s a viable quarterback option, and it couldn’t have begun much worse than his four-interception performance in Week 13. Hill also sustained a mallet finger injury on his throwing hand and is currently battling with a partly torn plantar fascia from Week 10 to add to the challenge. What’s the good news? He might have key players back this week, including running back Alvin Kamara and offensive tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk. Hill’s expectations are at an all-time low, so a surprising playoff run may do wonders for his image. — Mike Triplett (Mike Triplett)
Here’s how the playoff bracket currently stands, as well as the possible outcomes. • Who’s in the playoff picture right now? • The Playoff Machine on ESPN » • Football Power Index » | Standings
Previous position: 18
LB is a player that needs to step up. Barr, Anthony
Injury to his knee and subsequent hamstring have restricted the linebacker to only six games this season, during which he had 0.5 sacks, one interception, three pass defenses, and 28 tackles. This follows a season-ending pectoral injury that kept him out of all but 112 games in 2020. After paying him $9.4 million on a fully guaranteed one-year deal, the Vikings modified Barr’s contract in the summer to make him a free agency in 2022. Barr hasn’t seen enough of the field in the last two seasons to earn a new contract. To prove he can return to his Pro Bowl form, he’ll have to put up a solid showing in Minnesota’s last five regular-season games. Courtney Cronin (Courtney Cronin)
Previous position: 24
Russell Gage, wide receiver, is a player that has to step up.
Recently, the output has increased, including an 11-catch, 130-yard effort on Sunday. Gage, on the other hand, is in a contract year, and it seemed that once the Falcons moved Julio Jones, Gage would be in line for a breakthrough season. That hasn’t occurred in large part because he returned from an ankle ailment with a lot of inconsistency. Gage, on the other hand, has been targeted seven times or more in each of the last three games, and he had his first 100-yard game on Sunday. That level of performance must continue if Atlanta is to have a chance to make the playoffs. Michael Rothstein is a writer and producer.
Previous position: 28
Rashaad Penny, running back, is a player that has to step up.
The fourth-year running back must show he can remain healthy and perform consistently when given the opportunity. Since being picked 27th overall by the Seahawks in 2018, he hasn’t done either. Penny isn’t playing for a huge paycheck in free agency, considering that he’s missed 30 of a potential 64 games (including playoffs) due to injuries over the course of his career; he’s probably playing for any kind of money, which will almost surely come from another club. More performances like the one on Sunday would be beneficial. Penny got 62 yards on 11 touches despite a pulled hamstring he sustained two weeks earlier. Brady Henderson’s quote
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Cam Newton, the quarterback, is a player who has to step up.
After a dream start to his Panthers comeback, Newton flopped with possibly his poorest performance of his NFL career before the bye. The 32-year-old quarterback is hoping to earn a job with the Panthers or another club next season. If he performs well in the remaining five games, Carolina may consider rehiring him as the starter. If he performs badly, it’s unlikely that any club will give him a chance. The fact that Newton is still learning the system and that Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady was dismissed during the bye week adds to the confusion. The need of consistency will be crucial. David Newton is an author.
Previous position: 26
QB is a player who needs to step up. Jones, Daniel
The issue is that no one knows when or if Jones will return from a neck injury. But it’s already Year 3 and there’s still no clear answer as to whether he’ll be the franchise quarterback. The Giants are still high on Jones internally, but they need to see him more on the field. The last six weeks of working with a new playcaller were meant to be crucial in the assessment process. Who knows what will happen now. Jordan Raanan is a writer.
Previous position: 27
Justin Fields, quarterback, is a player that has to step up.
Because the youngster is struggling with broken ribs, it’s unclear whether or not he’ll be able to play again this season. The Bears, on the other hand, would want to get a better look at him as they prepare for next season. They still need to figure out what sort of player they have, whether they have a new coach and/or a new general manager. Demovsky, Rob
Previous position: 29
QB Zach Wilson is a player that needs to step up.
The rookie’s performance in the remaining five games will decide whether the Jets’ season is a complete disaster or a promising start to 2022. In eight games, the second overall selection has just six touchdown passes and 11 interceptions, but he showed signs of improvement in Sunday’s defeat to the Eagles. According to coach Robert Saleh, it was “by far” his greatest game in terms of playing inside the offense’s system. Wilson’s ability to stack games like that will bolster the Jets’ view that he is the perfect man for the job at quarterback. Cimini, Rich
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32nd in the previous ranking
QB Jared Goff is a player that has to step up.
The Lions will try to play spoiler now that Goff has shown he can win a game without his former Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay. Goff ended his 12-game losing run against Minnesota on Sunday, which was the longest by a quarterback picked first overall since the common selection period started in 1967. The Lions’ chances of making the playoffs are plainly bleak. However, if Goff can help the Lions end the season with at least a couple wins, it will give first-year coach Dan Campbell and the rest of the squad some confidence as the club continues to develop for the future. Eric Woodyard’s remark
30th in the previous ranking
WR Laviska Shenault Jr. is a player that has to step up.
This is true of many players, including quarterback Trevor Lawrence, but Shenault was expected to be a breakthrough player in his second season. Instead, he hasn’t been a regular contributor and isn’t performing routes properly. The Jaguars need to improve at wide receiver, and Shenault has a month to show if he belongs in that group in 2022 and beyond — or whether he’s simply another player they’ll have to replace. Lawrence’s future is in jeopardy. Mike DiRocco’s remark
Previous position: 31
QB Tyrod Taylor is a player that has to step up.
Despite the tiny sample size, Taylor had a decent start until injuring his left hamstring against the Cleveland Browns in Week 2. He has struggled since returning off injured reserve, and in Houston’s Week 13 defeat to the Colts, he was benched in favor of rookie quarterback Davis Mills. Taylor, who signed a one-year contract with the Texans, is competing for a spot on an NFL squad next season, but it’s unclear if he’ll get another chance to show his worth. Texans coach David Culley refused to commit to Taylor preserving his starting position after a blowout defeat to the Colts, stating, “When you don’t score any points in the game, you reassess everything.” Sarah Barshop is a writer.