1. Dallas Cowoys (11-1) –
The Cowboys got a big scare from the Vikings on Thursday, and the offense hit its first roadblock in weeks. But having the strength of the offense to work behind gave them another victory, and cemented their playoff spot. There’s still questions about the length of time this defense can hold in the playoffs, but their the favorite going forward.
2. New England Patriots (10-2) –
The Rams defense caused a problem for the Patriots offense, but it was for naught. The Pats look the part again, even though losing Gronk is going to hurt going forward. Still, Bennett would start on most any other roster in the league.
3. Oakland Raiders (10-2) –
The Raiders got a little bit of a breather before their big test coming against KC. They look like real threats, but that defense on the backend should worry you. Still, you can’t take your foot off the gas when two bad weeks could move you from first to third in the division.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3) –
Lost amid the hype for the Raiders is the little tidbit that this team beat them. They played Atlanta about as well as the could hope to, even with the offense being as bad as it was. Eric Berry is a catalyst for a secondary that is a force covering in the flats. Should be nice fight for the division.
5. Seattle Seahawks (8-3-1) –
There was little not to like about the Seahawks demolition of the Panthers on Sunday night. The game was never really close or in doubt, and the beat down they gave the Panthers should exercise some of the demons of the last couple of years. Still, they have bigger goals in mind.
6. Denver Broncos (8-4) +3
Hey, don’t forget about Denver back here. They’ve got a chance to redeem slip ups in the division in coming weeks, but 100 yards passing isn’t going to get you very far. Plus, have you seen the back end of their schedule? Tennessee, New England, then the top two of their division. Good luck.
7. New York Giants (8-4) -2
The pipe dream of catching the Cowboys ended with the loss to Pitt. Still, questions we had about the validity of the offenses surge looked to be answered, as they hung some more points on a good Pitt defense. That secondary got trashed, but that could just be who they were going up against.
8. Detroit Lions (8-4) –
The Lions just keep on winning. Matt Stafford is just really good, and it’s looking more and more likely like this team is a division winner. And with the way things started out, that’s a big time accomplishment. An offense that can score like this is a threat in the playoffs.
9. Baltimore Ravens (7-5) +2
The Ravens notched another win, but gained no cushion over the Steelers. This thing could go all the way down to the last week. The Ravens got an emotional game against their rivals in New England this week, and while the Patriots can afford the loss, the Ravens surely can’t.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) +3
The Steelers knocked off a rolling Giants team, and somehow held Odell in somewhat check. Big Ben is returning to form at just the right time, as these next couple of games will define the season.
11. Atlanta Falcons (7-5) -4
As bad as the division around them has been, the Falcons still can’t lock it up. Now they’re tied with the Bucs, and I’m not sure how no one is talking about how the Falcons have collapsed yet again. They need a win, and they need it now.
12. Miami Dolphins (7-5) -2
I know, dropping the Dolphins after a BYE is fishy, but their playoff hopes took a hit. With the Broncos and loser of Chiefs/Raiders likely to get the two wild card spots, the Dolphins would need to try and catch the Patriots to get in. With everyone winning this week, that looks less likely.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5) +4
It’s time to believe in Tampa Bay. The Bucs are quietly winning, and are now sitting in a dead tie with the Falcons in the NFC South. That’s huge news for a variety of reasons, and the have a chance to shut the door on the Saints this week.
14. Green Bay Packers (6-6) +4
Is Aaron Rodgers back? It sort of looks like it. The Packers are quietly back in the playoff hunt, but still have a lot of ground to make up going forward. And we’ll see how Rodgers and company do against Seattle this week.
15. Indianapolis Colts (6-6) +8
Yeah, I’m shooting the Colts up the rankings for two reasons: it may be the Jets, but that was beat down of epic proportions on Monday night, and they are the new favorites to win the division. Yeah, that’s right: the dead-in-the-water Colts of two weeks ago are gonna steal it from Houston again.
16. Minnesota Vikings (6-6) -1
It’s hard to be a Vikings fan this week. After dropping another game and watching the Lions build their division lead, they got news that Adrian Peterson would only return in the Vikings are in contention.
17. Washington Redskins (6-5-1) -5
Speaking of folding down the stretch, we can now firmly say the Redskins won’t repeat as division champs. Beyond that, the Redskins are currently fighting for their playoff lives. And if they end up missing it, you have to view this season as a failure.
18. Houston Texans (6-6) -4
How is this division always so bad? Even when it looked like the Texans were turning a corner, they’ve collapsed against teams with a pulse. Osweiler is looking less and less like the answer at QB, and the defense is finally taking the slight dip we expected with the loss of JJ Watt.
19. Tennessee Titans (6-6) –
It was the best of possible BYE weeks for the Titans, who watched the race in the division tighten, and got rested up. They’ll need that rest: the back end of their schedule is easily the hardest of the two teams they are tied with in the AFC South.
20. Arizona Cardinals (5-6-1) +4
Even though it feels like it’s mostly for pride, the Cardinals are refusing to go quietly. The defense is getting better each week, and the offense looks competent in their wins. It’s still a fall from grace, but maybe a slightly less harder one than it looked like originally.
21. Buffalo Bills (6-6) -5
After a promising start, Rex’s crew have regressed back to the mean. Which isn’t to stay things are bad, but the Bills certainly probably envisioned more. Still, they still have an outside shot at the postseason, and could easily win their last four, with two guaranteed wins in New York and Cleveland.
22. New Orleans Saints (5-7) -2
That loss is probably the end of the season for Drew Brees and company. Still, they’ve got another date with Tampa Bay and Atlanta, so nothing is out of the realm of possibility, especially when the offense actually shows up.
23. San Diego Chargers (5-7) -2
The Super Chargers went back to the Chargers, and it just feels like a merciful end. The disappointing season the Chargers had only feels that way because of Rivers and company raising the bar in early weeks. This team is still young, and they’ll catch some people in the next few weeks.
24. Cincinnati Bengals (4-7-1) +3
The final score of that Philly game doesn’t do the game justice. The Bengals offense and defense finally game alive, albeit a little late. They aren’t playing for much, but looking competent again is a nice start.
25. Philadelphia Eagles (5-7) -3
The Eagles were never expected to do much going into the season, but has there been a harsher crash than the one the Eagles took? Carson Wentz looks pretty average now, and we’ve seen even the defense regress back to the mean.
26. Carolina Panthers (4-8) -1
What a great eulogy to the end of the season for the Panthers. About everything that’s been wrong for this team this season showed its ugly head in that blowout by Seattle. Enough so that if anyone asks how the season went, just show them that game.
27. Los Angeles Rams (4-8) -1
The Rams lost another game, and somehow Jeff Fisher got an extension out of it. I’m not against the move, but man is it weird in LA. Either way, Jared Goff looks better than originally though, and it seems like the Rams will have something to build on going forward.
28. Chicago Bears (3-9) +2
The Bears got a win, which feels good and bad. Good in the idea that they got some momentum, but when you’re this far out of contention, maybe lessening your draft pick isn’t the best thing in the world.
29. New York Jets (3-9) -1
I really want to write something uplifting about the Jets, but after that beat down, the Jets just look like a mess. We knew that they were going to throw in the towel on the season, but there’s not really an excuse for that. Long road ahead for the Jets.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10) -1
Another week, another Gus Bradley loss. It’s becoming quite the running joke, and everyone but the Jags are laughing. Blake Bortles needs someone new in his ear, and they need it fast.
31. San Francisco 49ers (1-11) –
Chip Kelly survived the rumors that he was going back to college football. But the 49ers took another loss. And with Kaepernick benched again, it looks like it’s back to the drawing board.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-12) –
No more losses for the Browns: BYE week. It’s back to the grind now, and Hue Jackson says to expect more in the last four games. We certainly can’t expect less.