The National Football League is a place where anything can happen, and usually does. Last week, four of the top 10 teams from our previous power rankings got beat, meaning there is a rather large shakeup happening now.
New England stayed on top with a decisive win -- after a slow start -- against Detroit, and Atlanta climbed to the No. 2 spot after Philadelphia lost. It's likely the Falcons would have jumped over the Eagles anyway with how well the Falcons are playing of late. Philadelphia just made it very easy by falling short on its comeback attempt.
New Orleans and the New York Jets are two more teams that are rising up as the season starts to move towards finality, but the real fun is happening in the middle of the pack, where a number of teams are jockeying for position. An amazing 15 teams are within two games of their division leaders. With this much parity -- some say mediocrity -- the final five weeks of the season will have a number of roller-coaster twists and turns.
This could be one of the most intriguing runs to the playoffs in recent memory.
- 1. Patriots (9-2) | Last Week: 1
While Randy Moss toils away in mediocrity, New England's pass offense has started to heat up. Tom Brady torched Pittsburgh and most recently Detroit over the past three weeks, but his biggest test awaits on Monday night in the Jets -- a team that made the future Hall of Famer look pedestrian back in Week 2. - Thomas Emerick
- 2. Falcons (9-2) | Last Week: 3
The Falcons continued their domination at the Georgia Dome -- a place where they have won 19 of the 20 games Matt Ryan has started since his arrival in 2008. Atlanta is in the driver's seat for home-field advantage in the NFC, but hits the road for the next three weeks with two divisional games at Tampa Bay and Carolina. The Falcons need to continue their winning ways to ensure playoff games at home.
- 3. Saints (8-3) | Last Week: 6
Watch out! The Saints are playing like the team that won the Super Bowl last year. After an embarrassing loss in Cleveland in Week 7, New Orleans has rattled off four straight wins. After just one 300 yard passing game for Drew Brees in the first six weeks of play, the Saints' quarterback has four in his last five games. He is peaking at the right time.
- 4. Jets (9-2) | Last Week: 5
No late Mark Sanchez magic was needed on Thanksgiving, but the Jets will probably need their quarterback to string together four good quarters eventually -- which he hasn't done in over a month. The good news for Gang Green: Their defense appeared to be in 2009 form while closing out Cincinnati. - TE
- 5. Eagles (7-4) | Last Week: 2
What's worse than losing a close game on the road when you put up 13 points in the fourth quarter in an attempt at coming back? If you answered "turning around and playing on Thursday night," you are absolutely correct. This may help the Eagles quickly forget about costly mistakes that were made in Chicago and focus on righting the ship.
- 6. Ravens (8-3) | Last Week: 7
Baltimore has won four of its last five games but now must make a few tough decisions in the backfield. When Pro Bowl fullback Le'Ron McClain left Sunday's game with an ankle injury, his status for Week 13 became a question mark. If he misses the game, will the Ravens use tight end Dennis Pitta again -- like they did after McClain's injury -- or will they give the fans what they want and run with a combo backfield that includes Ray Rice and Willis McGahee?
- 7. Steelers (8-3) | Last Week: 8
Whether or not the Steelers can continue their winning ways depends a lot on health, as their roster is starting to swell with injuries. This isn't the best time to be facing off against divisional rival Baltimore.
- 8. Packers (7-4) | Last Week: 4
Amazingly, all four of Green Bay's losses have come by three points. That's got to be some sort of record. It isn't all anyone's fault, but Aaron Rodgers is the leader of this team, and he simply can't leave points on the field like he did Sunday. The Packers are in a tight division and conference playoff race. He needs to be razor-sharp every week going forward. - Bruce Ciske
- 9. Bears (8-3) | Last Week: 11
The Bears took sole possession of first in the NFC North with Sunday's win over Philly, and they looked strong in doing it. The battle with Green Bay for this division title should be a great one, and there's no reason to think Chicago can't emerge as the champion. - BC
- 10. Chargers (6-5) | Last Week: 13
You always expect them to turn on the jets in November, and they've done just that, winning four straight. The latest victory was dominant against old foe Indianapolis, and with a top-rated offense and defense at their disposal, San Diego could not only win the West, but also compete for a trip to the Super Bowl. - R.J. White
- 11. Giants (7-4) | Last Week: 12
Even though Brandon Jacobs has taken over the starting running back role in New York, Ahmad Bradshaw still saw lots of work. The two practically split carries last week, Jacobs running the ball 14 times and Bradshaw nine. More to the point, neither coughed up the ball -- an issue much of the year, and the reason why Jacobs leapfrogged Bradshaw on the depth chart -- and each averaged well over five yards per carry.
- 12. Buccaneers (7-4) | Last Week: 10
As good as quarterback Josh Freeman is, the Buccaneers are starting to look a little like pretenders instead of contenders in the NFC playoff picture. Sure, the team is 7-4, but their record against winning teams this year is 0-4 and they've been outscored 113-50 in those four games.
- 13. Colts (6-5) | Last Week: 9
This is not fiction or some weird joke: the Indianapolis Colts have lost two straight games and three of their last four. Injuries have surely taken their toll, but no one is stepping up to shoulder the burden. When Peyton Manning gets picked off four times with two being returned for touchdowns, you know something is wrong on offense.
- 14. Chiefs (7-4) | Last Week: 15
We knew the Chiefs were great at home, and now they've taken their act to the road. With Jamaal Charles chewing up yardage every time he touches the ball, and Dwayne Bowe a threat to score any time from any distance, this Chiefs offense looks unstoppable right now. They face Denver at home this week before a critical Week 14 game in San Diego. - RW
- 15. Jaguars (6-5) | Last Week: 14
Jacksonville is still tied for the lead in the division at 6-5 and the Jags really like where they are in terms of a potential trip to the playoffs. They hold a tiebreaker edge over Indianapolis, if it were to come to that, and got good medical news when quarterback David Garrard's X-ray and MRI revealed no broken bones in his wrist.
- 16. Texans (5-6) | Last Week: 22
Maybe having all eyes laser-focused on Andre Johnson this week is a good thing for the Texans, who have lost five of their last seven games.The league is not going to suspend the receiver for briefly morphing into an MMA fighter, and that's great news since Houston has to play Philadelphia and Baltimore over the next two weeks.
- 17. Dolphins (6-5) | Last Week: 20
Ripping Oakland to shreds had to feel great for Chad Henne, especially after spending the past three weeks either benched or injured -- and watching his team get shut out at home two Thursday nights ago. One road upset has now shifted the Dolphins from written off to peripheral playoff contender. - TE
- 18. Vikings (4-7) | Last Week: 26
In beating the Redskins, the Vikings proved nothing about their former or current head coach. Simply put, Minnesota did what they would have been doing all along if they had taken better care of the football on offense. If they can keep avoiding turnovers, they'll make Leslie Frazier look like a genius. - BC
- 19. Rams (5-6) | Last Week: 24
From worst to first? The Rams had been getting it done with defense this season, but they've had three of their worst four games this season in terms of points allowed over the last three weeks. The offense took center stage in Denver, where Sam Bradford was nearly flawless in leading St. Louis to a big road win. Season-ending games with Seattle and San Francisco loom large. - RW
- 20. Redskins (5-6) | Last Week: 17
The Redskins have lost four of their last six games and are playing terribly at FedEx Field this year where they are now 2-4 after Minnesota's visit. There is still a flicker of hope that they can turn things around and compete for a wildcard berth. But it's going to take an epic late-season run. With four of their final five games coming against winning teams, the outlook isn't favorable.
- 21. Raiders (5-6) | Last Week: 16
The quarterback carousel in Oakland continued this week, with Bruce Gradkowski being re-inserted into the starting lineup, then exiting the game with injury. After looking like this year's big surprise team two weeks ago, the Raiders have dropped their last two games by a combined score of 68-20. Maybe next year. - RW
- 22. Broncos (3-8) | Last Week: 23
Mired in off-field controversy, the Broncos welcomed the 4-6 Rams into their home and suffered their sixth loss in their last seven games. While the passing game is piling up fantasy points, the defense has been abysmal; they've allowed 24 or more points in each of their last seven games. At least the team knows what it needs to do this offseason. - RW
- 23. Cowboys (3-8) | Last Week: 21
Dallas nearly pulled off a major upset when they took the Saints to the wire in a 30-27 loss on Thanksgiving Day. There are a number of things going right in Dallas, even though that loss marred Jason Garrett's coaching record. The biggest of which is Jon Kitna's play since taking over for the injured Tony Romo.
- 24. 49ers (4-7) | Last Week: 27
Who knew Brian Westbrook still had it in him? The 49ers completely dominated the Monday night game against the Cardinals, but Westbrook was integral in keeping them ahead, rushing for nearly six yards per carry on his 23 attempts. If the offense can keep Troy Smith in a caretaker role, they can compete for the division title. - RW
- 25. Browns (4-7) | Last Week: 25
After an amazing thumping of New England in Week 9, the Browns have lost two of three -- beating only the lowly Carolina Panthers by a measly point. If Peyton Hillis wasn't evolving into a top-notch running back, this team would be in serious trouble. As if a 4-7 record wasn't trouble enough.
- 26. Titans (5-6) | Last Week: 18
Running back Chris Johnson was held to just five yards rushing on seven carries on Sunday as Houston put as many men in the box at all times to stop the explosive runner. The Titans were held scoreless against the 31st-ranked defense, and it's starting to get hard to blame the offensive struggles on just injury issues.
- 27. Seahawks (5-6) | Last Week: 19
Not only did the Seahawks lose their second game at home this season, they also lost control of the NFC West. Matt Hasselbeck has actually played pretty well, but the defense has doomed the Seahawks, as the team has surrendered 33 points or more in four of their last five games, losing each one. Tied for first, Seattle is trending down. -- RW
- 28. Bills (2-9) | Last Week: 28
Ever-creative in finding ways to lose, the Bills crafted their magnum opus against Pittsburgh. Since their Week 6 bye, Buffalo has actually played postseason-worthy football, except for when receiving beautiful chances to close the deal in overtime. Thanks to Stevie Johnson's drop, Bills fans will continue to ask God "Why?" - TE
- 29. Lions (2-9) | Last Week: 30
A great effort against a rock-solid New England team for two-plus quarters went south in a hurry on Thanksgiving. The Lions needed a four-quarter effort to beat the Patriots. Another losing season is assured now, and as long as Matthew Stafford is on the sideline, the franchise won't know what they have to move toward 2011 with. - BC
- 30. Cardinals (3-8) | Last Week: 29
After investing heavily in Matt Leinart, the team surprisingly cut him loose before the season started. His replacements have been awful, and the Cardinals have now dropped six straight. They don't appear anywhere near competing -- do you really expect them to beat the 1-10 Panthers in Week 15? I don't. - RW
- 31. Bengals (2-9) | Last Week: 31
The Bengals have lost eight straight games, have only won twice, and face a daunting schedule in the coming weeks. They are saying all the right things about playing for pride and their jobs and motivating cliches abound, but it's hard not to look ahead at the draft next year and wonder about the booty they may come away with. If only those pesky Panthers would win a game or two over the next few weeks.
- 32. Panthers (1-10) | Last Week: 32
The Panthers got the best news of their rough and tumble season on Monday when injured tailback DeAngelo Williams told reporters that he loved being in Charlotte and wanted to remain with the team even though his contract is up after the season. Will the lure of money and a better team trump those thoughts of remaining at home.