1. New England Patriots (11-2)
It sure wasn’t pretty, but the Patriots survived Baltimore and cemented their lead in the AFC with the Raiders loss. The Patriots now find themselves in the driver’s seat for the top seed and home field throughout, which is something we’ve all grown really accustomed to seeing.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-3) +2
The Chiefs made a statement in their win over the Raiders, again surging late in the season to take a division most people pegged them out of early on. Now they look like the favorites after sweeping the Raiders, but it’s far from over out West.
3. Dallas Cowboys (11-2) -2
Okay, it may be time to be a little worried about Dak Prescott. I’ve voiced my concerns in the past about his lack of facing quality defenses, and he’s now struggled four weeks in a row while being pressured. With a record like this, Cowboys fans aren’t going to take another first round exit.
4. Oakland Raiders (10-3) -1
In a season filled with so much optimism, Thursday night’s beatdown by the Chiefs just really seemed like it hit home. The defense wasn’t bad, but Derek Carr and the receivers flat out struggled. The Raiders are a great team, but this loss casts some doubt on their readiness for the big stage.
5. New York Giants (9-4) +2
Is there a better spoiler of dreams in the last decade than the New York Giants? No, they probably aren’t winning the division, but throwing the Cowboys into a full blown quarterback controversy has to be icing on the cake.
6. Detroit Lions (9-4) +2
Is anyone going to pay attention to the Lions? It’s looking more likely by the week that the Lions are going to steal the NFC North, and no one is giving them much credit. But let’s pump the brakes, the Packers are still looming, and the Vikings may figure out their form.
7. Seattle Seahawks (8-4-1) -2
I’m sure there’s a positive way to spin that loss in primetime that the Seahawks took. But you won’t find it here. The loss underscored just how bad the Seahawks offense can be at time, and how crushing the loss of Earl Thomas was. They’ve got to figure out both sides quickly.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) +2
After trying their best to blow it, the Steelers seem to have righted the ship and took the division lead back from the Ravens. They’ve got a tough test with the suddenly competent Bengals coming, but all signs point to them being the best in the division at the moment.
9. Atlanta Falcons (8-5) +2
Sure, it was only the Rams. But seriously, beating a team like that in today’s NFL is a really tall feat. That win ignited the offense that doesn’t center around Julio Jones, which had fallen into a deep lull for a few weeks now.
10. Denver Broncos (8-5) -4
The panic button was pressed long ago in Denver, but maybe it’s time to press it again? The defending champs are on the ropes, and in danger now of falling out of the postseason. Trevor Siemian says the offense is going to break out soon, and they dang sure better hope so.
11. Miami Dolphins (8-5) +1
There probably wasn’t a more depressing bit of news to come out of the NFL on Sunday than the news of Ryan Tannehill’s injury. Now, the Dolphins already tight playoff hopes hinge on Matt Moore keeping the offense afloat for at least two weeks. Good luck.
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5) +1
I know Jameis Winston gets all the publicity, but we need to talk about how good the Bucs defense has gotten in recent weeks. They are putting fear in people, and the secondary finally looks like we thought it would before the season. Now the test: catch the Falcons.
13. Green Bay Packers (7-6) +1
Yeah, they didn’t move and that’s a slight disgrace. But who do you want me to move them ahead of? Anyways, the Packers are finding their groove when they need to, but two games out of the Lions, is it already too late?
14. Baltimore Ravens (7-6) -5
The Ravens got just about every break you needed to be able to win in New England and still lost. They now have to win out to truly control their destiny, and with this streaky team, that’s not a place you want to be.
15. Houston Texans (7-6) +3
The Texans got the win in a big game they so desperately needed, and as close as you can get it. Still, they sit atop the division with a tiebreaker over the Colts and Titans. It’s theirs to win, but don’t bet on it.
16. Minnesota Vikings (7-6) –
The Vikings finally stopped the bleeding from their fall down the rankings, but the offense still isn’t something for anyone to believe in. The announcement of Adrian Peterson returning to practice is a good sign, but he won’t be available for another couple of weeks.
17. Washington Redskins (7-5-1) –
The Redskins are fighting for their playoff lives, and notched a win over the struggling Eagles. It locked them into contention, but that defense worries me. They get the Panthers in a grudge match for Josh Norman next.
18. Tennessee Titans (7-6) +1
The Titans started their quest for the division with an upset over the Broncos. That’s one hurdle cleared, but the remaining schedule is plenty daunting. They’ll need some more games like the one they just had going forward.
19. Indianapolis Colts (6-7) -4
Few losses are as soul-crushing as the one the Colts took Sunday. Andrew Luck says this team has a quick memory to forget, and they better hope so, as they are still very much alive in this thing.
20. Cincinnati Bengals (5-7-1) +4
Their recent opponents have been lifeless, but two in a row is two in a row. And the Bengals outside shot at the playoffs still remain. An upset over the Steelers would put them just a game out, but that tie is still haunting them.
21. Arizona Cardinals (5-7-1) -1
The Cardinals aren’t going quietly, and have an outside shot of saving their season with a last minute surge. That opportunity took a big hit with the loss Sunday, though. Now they’ve got to at least run the table going forward, and get some major help.
22. Buffalo Bills (6-7) -1
Well, that probably locks up another missed playoff chance for Rex Ryan. The Bills are now firmly out of the race, and can now look at just rebuilding going forward. They do have a chance to finish above .500 though.
23. Carolina Panthers (5-8) +3
The Panthers are showing a pulse late in the season, but with wins by the Bucs and Falcons, it’s probably all over for them. Still, it’s nice to see the Panthers putting some effort into the season and trying to finish on a high note (and save Rivera’s job).
24. New Orleans Saints (5-8) -2
The Saints saw their slim playoff chances crumble in that loss to the Bucs. The division race now is one between the Falcons and Bucs, and that means the Saints will probably again miss the postseason.
25. San Diego Chargers (5-8) -2
It was a tough beating the Chargers took in Carolina, and not the score. The Chargers injury battle continued, losing Melvin Gordon and Joey Bosa, along with some other players that couldn’t finish the game. This will be a limp to the finish line.
26. Philadelphia Eagles (5-8) -1
The Eagles again botched a close game, and the Redskins put them away. The sudden decline of Carson Wentz has been violent, and Eagles fans are starting to get a little heated with the Golden Boy.
27. New York Jets (4-9) +2
Well, the Jets got back to the win column, albeit against the even worse 49ers. Still, any win for this team is one to build on, and getting them closer to looking competent is a step in the right direction.
28. Chicago Bears (3-10) –
The Bears got beat again, but at least this one wasn’t a blowout. They had the Lions on the ropes, and looked like they were going to play spoiler, but Matt Stafford magic struck again.
29. Los Angeles Rams (4-9) -2
Well, the Jeff Fisher experience in LA is over. Just a week after signing the extension, Fisher is no more, which is the most Rams sentence I think I’ve ever seen. Now we’ll see what the Rams have going forward, with the towel thrown in on this season.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) –
It’s getting pretty comical at this point seeing Gus Bradley lose games. Beyond that though, the defense is showing signs of life. Still, they need some serious work and leadership, and it doesn’t exist on the roster currently.
31. San Francisco 49ers (1-12) –
The 49ers are making a case for the saddest franchise going forward in the NFL. They don’t have any of the picks and talented young players the Jaguars and Browns have, and they don’t have the upside. Bad time to be Niners fan.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-13)
Another week without a win, as 0-16 gloomily awaits. The players swear they’ll get a win this week against the Bills, but they’ve looked worse as the weeks have drug on.