1. New England Patriots (12-2) –
The Patriots remain atop the NFL for the second consecutive week after traveling to Denver and winning a slugfest. It wasn’t pretty by any means, but that win showed the Patriots can win in any way and any climate. The Patriots will enter the postseason as the favorite again, it seems, after clinching at least a first round bye.
2. Dallas Cowboys (12-2) +1
The Cowboys got back to their winning ways, and staved off a new week of quarterback questions with Prescott responding to his worst game as a pro with arguably his best. The Cowboys are now just a win on Sunday away from locking up the top seed in the NFC, and the division.
3. Oakland Raiders (11-3) +1
The Raiders avoided a let down, and took back their division lead by winning this week. They’ve got a tough two weeks coming, but they’ve proven that they can beat who they are supposed to. It’s those primetime games that are a growing problem.
4. New York Giants (10-4) +1
Seriously, where was this Giants defense to start the season? They are one of the best units in football, and are easily the reason for the Giants surge. They may not catch the Cowboys, but they are the hottest team in the NFC not named Dallas.
5. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4) -3
Yeah, that was a letdown. The Chiefs followed up their emotional win over the Raiders with a cough-up of the division. Alex Smith again proved he’s not going to win you games, but the defense must play better. They don’t control their own destiny in the division anymore.
6. Seattle Seahawks (9-4-1) +1
The Seahawks are back in the win column, and are in full postseason mode. They are trying any kind of new package to fix that defense, and will look to grow the unit a bit more before the games get serious, and they’ll get at least one home playoff game.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) +1
That last tilt with the Ravens is looking more and more likely like it will decided the division, and who will go to the postseason. The Steelers offense is as dangerous as ever, but the defense has been much better in recent weeks.
8. Atlanta Falcons (9-5) +1
Well, the Falcons quieted some critics of their late season showings with another big win to increase their division lead. It’s now a two-horse race with them and the Bucs, and it will come down to the last few weeks to decided the champion of the NFC South.
9. Detriot Lions (9-5) -3
That whole “play like crap and win it in the fourth quarter” thing finally caught up with the Lions. Matt Stafford finally looked human this week, but it’s still hard to justify the slight of Stafford for the Pro Bowl. Either way, the Lions don’t have many believers; they’ll need to prove some people wrong in the last two weeks.
10. Miami Dolphins (9-5) +1
The surge from Miami continues, as the squad inches closer to the postseason. They already have clinched their first winning season in a long time, and look much better down the stretch. Credit Adam Gase: there were few who believed in this bunch a few weeks ago.
11. Green Bay Packers (8-6) +3
Absolutely no one wants a piece of the Green Bay Packers right now. Rodgers and company got another win, and tightened up the division with the Lions. They look like they’ll pull off a playoff berth from no where.
12. Baltimore Ravens (8-6) +1
The Ravens aren’t all that exciting to watch, but they win. They already have that victory over the Steelers, and look like they’ll get another shot to dethrone them and make the postseason, barring an upset this week.
13. Houston Texans (8-6) +2
It’s a new era in Houston, with the Texans going with Tom Savage over the big money Brock Osweiler. It seemed to work: the Texans exploded on offense, and look dangerous all of a sudden. It’s an odd situation, but ride the guy who’s winning.
14. Tennessee Titans (8-6) +4
The surprises continue for the Titans, who are still picking up wins despite one of the toughest ends of the schedule in the NFL. They still have a tough two game tilt upcoming, but they’ve proved many skeptics wrong already. This could be a playoff team.
15. Denver Broncos (8-6) -5
Sure, losing to the Patriots is nothing to be ashamed of. But it’s time to panic for the Broncos. They are on the outside looking in of the playoffs, and need a jolt of life on offense soon. They carried the carcass of Peyton Manning last year, and the defense is going to have to do it again.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6) -4
The Bucs finally slipped up, and now have to win out to get the NFC South crown. They’ll need some help, and they’ll also need to play well against two tough NFC South opponents in the Saints and Panthers.
17. Indianapolis Colts (7-7) +2
The Colts kept pace with the division, but with the Titans streaking and Texans finding new life, the Colts are going to need two big collapses for their dreams of the postseason to come true.
18. Washington Redskins (7-6-1)
Double whammy on the Panthers knocking the Redskins out of the playoffs (currently) AND shutting up Josh Norman. The two are heartbreakers for the Redskins, who now have to win out to even have a shot.
19. Buffalo Bills (7-7) +3
I mean, they aren’t going to the playoffs, but credit Rex Ryan on salvaging a winning season. The Bills look competent all of a sudden, and had they not started as poorly as they did, they’d be sitting in the playoff hunt.
20. Minnesota Vikings (7-7) -4
The Vikings are now in free-fall mode. The Lions would have to lose out to even given them a chance, and they are pretty much on the outside looking in of the postseason after that embarrassing loss this week. AP might not even play, and that wouldn’t be the worst thing that’s happened to them this week.
21. Carolina Panthers (6-8) +2
Credit the Panthers for keeping up their fight, as the Panthers are not out of the playoff hunt by the slimmest margin imaginable. No, they won’t make it, but still: the Panthers look more like the team they were supposed to be now that Cam Newton is upright.
22. New Orleans Saints (6-8) +2
The Saints are truly boom or bust: they either score 30 points and win, or score 6 and lose- and there really isn’t an in-between. On the plus side, this week proved to be one of the good weeks. But with the Falcons looming, they’ll need more.
23. Cincinnati Bengals (5-8-1) -3
The Bengals are finally about ready to bookend this rough season, and really the only question left is who on the staff will survive. We know AJ Green and Andy Dalton will be back, but will ownership really allow Marvin Lewis another inch on the long leash they’ve already given him?
24. Arizona Cardinals (5-8-1) -3
Another team that is close to seeing it’s once-promising season come to an end. The Cardinals are still within playoff distance, but it’s just not happening this way. The Cardinals are an older team, and now face a looming rebuild.
25. San Diego Chargers (5-9) –
On the plus side, there just aren’t many more players that can get injured. The Chargers are still slipping, but five wins for a roster this ravaged isn’t the worst thing in the world.
26. Philadelphia Eagles (5-9) –
The Eagles are probably the team in the NFL that rescinded the most from what they showed early on. Carson Wentz continues to struggle, and now they’ll need to look long and hard about where they go. Showing life against the Ravens is a good sign, though.
27. New York Jets (4-10) –
Well, the Bryce Petty hype train took a noticeable detour this week, but the Jets just don’t have anything to play for. They are simply looking for a high draft pick, where they’ll probably take yet another quarterback.
28. Chicago Bears (3-11) –
The Bears are sitting exactly where most expected them, and now will have to move on from Jay Cutler in all likelihood. It’s not the worst thing in the world for new blood, and the Bears need some more.
29. Los Angeles Rams (4-10) –
It may have been short notice, but that offensive performance is exactly the reason the Rams had to move on from Jeff Fisher. It’s just frustrating that they are in the exact same spot they were five years ago.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12) –
The Jags are finally moving on, cutting Gus Bradley out after some massive losing streaks in his tenure. The roster seems mixed on the response, given social media, but a coach simply can’t lose that much and keep his job.
31. San Francisco 49ers (1-13)—
Speaking of bad: I know the 49ers are supposed to be rebuilding, but is 1-13 an acceptable mark regardless? There can’t be that much of the roster that’s that bad, right?
32. Cleveland Browns (0-14) –
The rumors that the Browns may not target a quarterback in the upcoming draft are especially disheartening given the offensive output. The Browns just need help.