1. New England Patriots (9-2) – A 45-24 win over the Lions was just a tune up for what looms next: the New York Jets and a battle for first in the AFC East.
2. New York Jets (9-2) (+4) – Speaking of tune ups, their 26-10 win over the Bengals on Thanksgiving was just that. In one of the best regular season games we’ll see this year, the Jets face the Patriots next week.
3. Atlanta Falcons (9-2) (+2) – I still want to see them impress me on the road, but they may never have that opportunity. With an easy schedule remaining, they look good to get home field in the NFC.
4. Green Bay Packers (7-4) – The Packers went toe to toe with another one of the top four teams in the conference and came out just a field goal behind. Impressive in defeat.
5. Philadelphia Eagles (7-4) (-3) – The Eagles looked like a good, but not great, team against the Bears. That said, they weren’t going to win out and are still right in the thick of things in the NFC. Things are never as good or bad as they seem.
6. New Orleans Saints (8-3) (+1) – Who dat say they can’t win six straight? The Saints have four in a row with Cincinnati and St. Louis on the horizon. They may be the NFC team with the best shot at unseating the Falcons, given that they play them once more.
7. Baltimore Ravens (8-3) (+1) – Beating the now 7-4 Buccaneers was a nice win, but the Bucs are not among the elite teams and have beaten up on soft competition. The Ravens are a notch below the elite teams.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3) (-5) – Needing overtime and Stevie Johnson’s drop to beat the Bills? That’s a recipe for a drop in the rankings.
9. Chicago Bears (8-3) (+2) – The Bears picked up an impressive win over the Vick-led Eagles. If that was signs of things to come for their offense, they’ll end up in the top five before long.
10. San Diego Chargers (5-5) (+4) – Three straight wins meet three very tough games against the Colts, Raiders and Chiefs. Don’t be shocked if that Chiefs game is for the division lead.
11. New York Giants (7-4) (-2) – The Giants may have avoided another late-season collapse by coming back from a 17-6 halftime deficit to beat the Jaguars 24-20.
12. Indianapolis Colts (6-5) (-2) – Peyton Manning is fortunate that what looked like a tough AFC South is now mediocre at best, as his Colts remain tied with the Jaguars at 6-5.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-4) (-1) – Their wins aren’t all that impressive, and next week is nearly a must-win as they face the Redskins before taking on the Falcons.
14. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) (-1)– The jury is still out on Kansas City. Their defense could make them a tough out in the postseason, but they’re definitely not one of the elite squads.
15. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-5) (+1) – David Garrard was impressive enough to bump the Jaguars up a spot in defeat, but that meltdown as a team didn’t impress anyone.
16. Oakland Raiders (5-6) (-1) – Losing to Miami did not help Oakland’s case for having a huge turnaround season.
17. Houston Texans (4-6) (+1) – Sure, it was the Titans, but 20-0 is still impressive and shows signs that Houston’s defense may be ready to play well enough to win games consistently.
18. Tennessee Titans (5-7) (-1) – I feel vindicated after dropping the Titans six spots last week.
19. St. Louis Rams (5-6) (+1) – They’ve been competitive, even in defeat, other than a blowout loss at Detroit. A win over the Broncos makes them a threat to end up winning the NFC West.
20. Seattle Seahawks (5-6) (-1) – At least stay within two scores of another mediocre division leader. Is that too much to ask?
21. Dallas Cowboys (3-8) (+1) – This team has some life again and could be a big spoiler down the stretch.
22. Washington Redskins (5-5) (-1) – They can move up when Donovan McNabb has his first impressively good game as a Redskin.
23. San Francisco 49ers (4-7) (+4) – Well, maybe the season’s not over. Just get to 7-9 and you’ll have a chance in the NFC West..
24. Minnesota Vikings (4-7) (+1) – Clearly this is a team that quit on Brad Childress. Now they can make some noise down the stretch. They won’t make the playoffs, but they may end up with a better record than whoever gets in from the NFC West.
25. Cleveland Browns (4-7) (-2) – Their close win over the hapless Panthers was less impressive than their close losses in prior weeks.
26. Miami Dolphins (6-5) – I’ll consider moving the Dolphins up when they aren’t starting a Chad or a Thigpen at quarterback.
27. Detroit Lions (2-8) (-4) – It’s a lovely Thanksgiving tradition to watch the Lions lose. They were kind enough to continue it for us.
28. Denver Broncos (3-8) (+1) – Losing to NFC West teams is not going to help you in this power ranking.
29. Arizona Cardinals (3-8) (-1) – THIS season is over.
30. Buffalo Bills (2-9) – Horeshoes and hand grenades. Go get that top draft pick, Stevie Johnson.
31. Cincinnati Bengals (2-9) – 85 + 81 = 2-9?
32. Carolina Panthers (1-10) – Carolina has a firm grasp on #32.
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