1. New England Patriots (10-2) – They left no doubt. What else can you say?
2. Atlanta Falcons (10-2) (+1) – Their resume isn’t full of impressive wins, but they keep beating the teams they have the chance to play. Barring any hiccups, they should end up 13-3 at worst.
3. Green Bay Packers (8-4) (+1) – The Packers will be a tough out in January, but if they can get their running game together they could be really scary. Could James Starks possibly be the answer?
4. Philadelphia Eagles (8-4) (+1) – The Eagles have the potential to be one of the most complete teams in the NFC, but their defense needs to catch up to the offense a bit. The talent is there, and getting Asante Samuel back should make a huge difference.
5. New Orleans Saints (9-3) (+2) – They’re one of the hottest teams in the league now, and nobody is going to be thrilled about facing them in the playoffs.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3) (+2) – This team just finds ways to win, and now they’re looking good for a first round bye.
7. New York Giants (8-4) (+4) – Name me a team that looked better this week. OK, now name one other than New England.
8. New York Jets (9-3) (-6) – The Jets are 9-3, but they’ve been living at the top of the power rankings on hype for a while now. Their last truly impressive win was way back in week two against New England. Since, they’ve beaten Miami, Buffalo, Minnesota, Denver, Detroit, Cleveland, Houston and Cincinnati.
9. Baltimore Ravens (8-4) (-2) – The Ravens are built for this time of year, but they couldn’t get a key win at home against the Steelers.
10. Chicago Bears (9-3) (-1) – I’d say it wasn’t pretty against Detroit, but who ever accused the Bears of winning pretty?
11. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5) (+4) – The Jaguars may not be the scariest team in the AFC, but David Garrard is making big time plays.
12. San Diego Chargers (6-6) (-2) – The Chargers won’t be the best team to miss the playoffs – that title will go to someone in the NFC. They’ll be the second best, though.
13. Kansas City Chiefs (8-4) (+1) – Any three game winning streak that involves two NFC West teams is automatically less impressive.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5) (-1) – The Buccaneers are almost there, but they need one more year to really reach their potential.
15. Indianapolis Colts (6-6) (-3)– When ESPN is discussing whether this is the beginning of the decline of Peyton Manning, you know that there is too much time to fill. Peyton can do almost everything, but he needs some help.
16. Oakland Raiders (6-6) – Just when you think the Raiders might go quietly into the dark night, they crush a hot Chargers team. Now what?
17. Dallas Cowboys (4-8) (+4) – Losing Dez Bryant will be a big blow to the Cowboys, but they’ve been playing inspired football lately.
18. Houston Texans (5-7) (-1) – How do you give up 19.5 yards on 3rd-and-19 with the game on the line? Houston, we have a big, big problem.
19. Cleveland Browns (5-7) (+6) – Cleveland has won four of its last six games and all of its losses came against teams who have winning records.
20. St. Louis Rams (6-6) (-1) – Insert NFC West joke here.
21. Seattle Seahawks (6-6) (-1) – And here.
22. Washington Redskins (5-7) – It’s going to be a long offseason in the nation’s capital.
23. San Francisco 49ers (4-8) – Four games below .500 with four weeks left, and they have a realistic shot at the playoffs. See: 20, 21.
24. Minnesota Vikings (5-7) – Will he or won’t he? Yawn.
25. Tennessee Titans (5-7) (-7) – I feel vindicated after dropping the Titans seven spots in the last two weeks. Lets see how seven in one week feels.
26. Miami Dolphins (6-6) – Who’s at quarterback? Chad. Chad who? Chad “I’ve thrown an interception in nine straight games” Henne.
27. Detroit Lions (2-10) – I think close should count for the Lions. They deserve a break, so I propose that close now count in horseshoes, hand grenades and Lions football.
28. Denver Broncos (3-9) – When you have to make your running backs coach the interim head coach, things are not going well.
29. Buffalo Bills (2-10) (+1) – The good news is they play Chad Henne’s Dolphins in two weeks. The bad news is, it’s going to be tough to catch Carolina for the top draft pick.
30. Arizona Cardinals (3-9) (-1) – Four players have thrown a pass for the Cardinals. None of them has more touchdowns than interceptions.
31. Cincinnati Bengals (2-10) – Ocho Uh-Oh.