The Chargers obviously dropped, but Baltimore and the Jets remain in the top 10 this week. And the top three teams remain the same.
After Atlanta's come-from-behind victory against Tampa Bay, I just knew the Patriots would have to do something special to remain on top. A 45-3 thumping of the Jets was just that and shows that there is no question New England is the best team in the NFL.
The Colts and Texans dropped big as they are in serious trouble right now -- and not just because they are looking up at Jacksonville in the AFC South.
Speaking of the Jaguars, they are on the cusp of the top 10, as are the Chiefs. But the biggest riser this week is Cleveland, which jumped eight spots up to No. 17. Does anyone want to face Peyton Hillis and the Browns right now, even at 5-7?
- 1. Patriots (10-2) | Last Week: 1
Any questions left? New England's now beaten Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and the Jets in a four-week span, with a Thanksgiving rout of Detroit sprinkled in. If the defense plays like it did Monday, considering how balanced and potent the offense is, the Patriots may be unstoppable. - Chris Burke
- 2. Falcons (10-2) | Last Week: 2
Never count the Atlanta Falcons out! Staring a 10-point deficit in the face with just 10:30 to play on Sunday, Matt Ryan did what he's done six times this season -- put together a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime. This team is starting to bring it's magic out on the road, which isn't a good thing for the rest of the NFC.
- 3. Saints (9-3) | Last Week: 3
It wasn't a pretty win, and New Orleans needed just about every bit of the fourth quarter to mount its comeback, but the Saints put Cincinnati down and kept pace with the surging Falcons. Drew Brees passed Archie Manning as the Saints' all-time leading passer.
- 4. Steelers (9-3) | Last Week: 7
Pittsburgh still has injury issues all over the field, but its Sunday night win in Baltimore was as impressive a performance as you'll see. The Steelers should be able to lock down the AFC North and the No. 2 playoff seed. - CB
- 5. Bears (9-3) | Last Week: 9
Once again, Chicago made it look difficult in rallying past Detroit for win No. 5 in a row. But if the Bears can slow the Patriots' charge next week in Chicago, we'd all have to put them amongst the Super Bowl favorites. - CB
- 6. Packers (8-4) | Last Week: 8
There's almost no margin for error in the NFC playoff race -- which makes Green Bay's trip to Detroit in Week 14 dangerous. The Lions are on a 19-game division losing streak, but keep playing teams close and could catch the Pack looking ahead to a Week 15 meeting with New England. - CB
- 7. Jets (9-3) | Last Week: 4
That was a major setback. Not only did the Jets lose at New England Monday -- very possibly dooming them to the wild-card life in the playoffs -- but they looked horrible doing it. Mark Sanchez was awful, which will still happen from time to time. The defense's inability to do anything, though, is a bigger issue. - CB
- 8. Ravens (8-4) | Last Week: 6
It's an uphill battle now for Baltimore, which has three straight tough games (at Houston, vs. New Orleans, at Cleveland) before closing with Cincinnati. A playoff spot's probably a given, but Sunday's loss likely means the Ravens will be headed on the road in the postseason. - CB
- 9. Eagles (8-4) | Last Week: 5
With two games left against Dallas plus a home date with Minnesota, Philadelphia has no excuse -- even with the Vikings and Cowboys playing better -- to finish below 10 wins. Getting to 11 could be tricky, though, and that might be what it takes in the NFC. - CB
- 10. Giants (8-4) | Last Week: 11
New York has three tricky road games left: Minnesota, Green Bay and Washington. But as long as they don't go 0-3 there, a Week 15 game in New Meadowlands against Philadelphia will probably decide this division. - CB
- 11. Chiefs (8-4) | Last Week: 14
A steady diet of Arizona, Seattle and Denver is just what Kansas City needed to put some separation between its win and loss columns. On top of the favorable schedule, Matt Cassel has been lights out of late. Over his last four games he's thrown 11 touchdown passes and zero picks and aired it out for 1,091 yards.
- 12. Buccaneers (7-5) | Last Week: 12
For the second time in five weeks Tampa Bay dropped a heartbreaker to Atlanta. The Bucs are on the outside looking in on the playoff picture right now, but they shouldn't be hanging their heads. Their fives losses have been to Atlanta twice, Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Baltimore, all top-notch teams. This franchise isn't ready for the "big time" yet, but it isn't far off.
- 13. Jaguars (7-5) | Last Week: 15
Over the last two weeks David Garrard has been limited to 288 yards through the air. That's an average of 144 yards per game. As the Jaguars fight for a playoff spot, all I have to say is "run Maurice Jones-Drew, run."
- 14. Raiders (6-6) | Last Week: 21
The Raiders won four of five games before dropping two in a row to Pittsburgh and Miami. Beating San Diego -- for the second time this season -- on Sunday put Oakland back on track, but still a long way from being relevant. If the Raiders win their next three games, they need Kansas City to lose before Week 17 and then Oakland will control its own destiny in that final week.
- 15. Rams (6-6) | Last Week: 19
It's nice to win on the road, and the Rams have orchestrated two big wins over the last two weeks in Denver and Arizona. But their next two games will be the measuring stick as they face New Orleans and Kansas City to try and stay on top of the NFC West.
- 16. Chargers (6-6) | Last Week: 10
Wait! It's possible for the Chargers to lose in December? I wasn't aware of that, but San Diego fans sure are as Oakland put a huge crimp in the Bolts' playoff plans. If the Chargers can't find a way to run the ball, their long shot will quickly turn into no shot at making the postseason.
- 17. Browns (5-7) | Last Week: 25
Cleveland must be kicking itself for taking the first six weeks of the season off. The Browns have been one of the most dangerous teams in the league since, but that 1-5 start means they're just playing -- and playing hard -- for pride. -- CB
- 18. Vikings (5-7) | Last Week: 18
The biggest shame in this Vikings season is that they refuse to sit Brett Favre. Somewhere, probably not Minnesota, Tarvaris Jackson will get a shot -- and he'll probably turn out to be pretty good. - CB
- 19. Dolphins (6-6) | Last Week: 17
Farewell, Miami. We'll see you in 2011. Teams in the midst of a frantic playoff chase cannot lose at home to Cleveland. The Dolphins now have nine months to figure out their QB situation. - CB
- 20. Cowboys (4-8) | Last Week: 23
Sweeping Philadelphia down the stretch will be difficult, but it's not out of the realm of possibilities that Dallas wins out to finish 8-8. Could Jason Garrett win Coach of the Year with half a season's worth of work? - CB
- 21. Colts (6-6) | Last Week: 13
Want to know how much trouble Indianapolis is in? Sure, you can look at their three straight losses, two to .500 teams or worse. The bigger indicators are Peyton Manning's 11 interceptions over those three games. Boy, could he sure use a healthy Joseph Addai.
- 22. Texans (5-7) | Last Week: 16
Over the last three years, Houston has gone 7-0 at home and 10-4 overall in the month of December. That's the good news. The bad news is that the Texans have lost five of their last six games and need almost everything to go right for them over the remainder of the schedule. What are the odds of that happening?
- 23. Seahawks (6-6) | Last Week: 27
Of the Seahawks' six wins this season, only two have come against winning teams. Looking at the remaining four games, I see two division leaders and a very dangerous Tampa Bay team. Uh-oh.
- 24. Redskins (5-7) | Last Week: 20
Someone call AAA because the wheels have fallen completely off in the nation's capital. Washington may be able to play spoiler, but right now, it looks more likely that the 'Skins will be a sacrificial lamb for teams desperate for postseason berths. - CB
- 25. Titans (5-7) | Last Week: 26
The Titans are averaging just 9.75 points per game in their four games since the beginning of November. Even worse is the fact that they haven't scored a touchdown in 13 quarters. Looking at the bright side, Tennessee is only two games out of first place in the division.
- 26. Broncos (3-9) | Last Week: 22
Josh McDaniels is gone, fired in the wake of a miserable season and off-the-field misdeeds that couldn't go unpunished. Now that he's gone, what happens to his "pet project," first-round draft pick Tim Tebow?
- 27. 49ers (4-8) | Last Week: 24
If there was ever a schedule over the last four weeks to help Mike Singletary keep his job, we're looking at it with games against Seattle, San Diego, St. Louis and Arizona. Win out, and possibly make the playoffs, and Singletary likely stays. Anything less...
- 28. Lions (2-10) | Last Week: 29
Another double-digit loss season. Another loss in the division. Sure, Detroit's improving and another high draft pick will speed the process along. But Jim Schwartz needs to start delivering wins soon or he'll be looking for another job. - CB
- 29. Bengals (2-10) | Last Week: 31
It's amazing to think that a 2-1 start could turn into a 2-14 finish, but that's what Cincinnati is staring down right now. With every loss, the questions about Carson Palmer grow. - CB
- 30. Cardinals (3-9) | Last Week: 30
Arizona has quarterback issues and they don't revolve around laughing on the sidelines or exploding at members of the media in post-game press conferences. Derek Anderson suffered a concussion and Max Hall is out with a dislocated shoulder. The Cardinals may have to put rookie John Skelton under center.
- 31. Bills (2-10) | Last Week: 28
After weeks of competing hard and staying in games, Buffalo laid an egg in Minnesota. Of course, at this point, finishing 2-14 and staying near the top of the draft is probably the best course of action anyway. - CB
- 32. Panthers (1-11) | Last Week: 32
What do you do when you're team is 1-11 with two games against Atlanta and one with Pittsburgh left on the schedule? You start looking over NFL Draft possibilities. That's quite possibly the only light at the end of this tunnel.