The NFL now has four teams that have clinched playoff berths. One -- the Chicago Bears -- has even won its division outright. Atlanta, Pittsburgh and New England are all in, but still need to handle a few other items before they can claim their respective divisions.
The Patriots and Falcons still sit on top of the power rankings, both winners in Week 15. Chicago also took care of business, moving up to No. 6. But Pittsburgh fell to the New York Jets and dropped to No. 7. The Green Bay Packers also dropped, falling out of the top 10 after a loss to New England.
The Jets moved back into the top 10 with their win, and Indianapolis is also on the rise as it makes a charge towards the playoffs.
More news comes from the bottom, as Cincinnati and Carolina both got wins and have risen from the cellar, kind of, at No. 29 and 30, respectively. Denver is the new Carolina.
- 1. Patriots (12-2) | Last Week: 1
After blowing out two formidable opponents in Weeks 14 and 15, a mere four-point victory over Green Bay has many a member of Patriots Nation clamoring for answers. In truth, it was New England's sixth win in a row -- 30 teams wish they were in a similar situation.
- 2. Falcons (12-2) | Last Week: 2
The Falcons capitalized on three costly second-half turnovers to trounce the Seahawks and book an invite to the playoffs. They still need a win next Monday night against New Orleans to secure the division and home-field advantage.
- 3. Eagles (10-4) | Last Week: 6
Perhaps no team in the league is more equipped for a 28-point burst than the explosive Eagles. They may need a couple more of these given the struggles of an injury-riddled defense. - Thomas Emerick
- 4. Ravens (10-4) | Last Week: 5
Baltimore established the run on Sunday when Ray Rice ran for 153 yards and the team accumulated 208 on the ground. The Ravens seem to have built the same smash-mouth style on offense that they sported so long on defense, and it's working. Next step is clinching a playoff berth with a win, or even the division with a Steelers loss.
- 5. Saints (10-4) | Last Week: 3
The Saints had trouble stopping the run on Sunday, giving up 208 rushing yards and allowing an opponent to score 30 points for only the fourth time this year. One more win, either in Atlanta or against Tampa Bay, gets New Orleans into the playoffs, but a division championship isn't likely.
- 6. Bears (10-4) | Last Week: 8
Chicago's defensive line put on a clinic Monday night in the snow in Minnesota. But it was their offense -- by putting up 40 points, the most they've scored this season -- that put on a show. The Bears are in the playoffs, and can do no worse than a No. 3 seed.
- 7. Steelers (10-4) | Last Week: 4
The Steelers finally got some offensive output in the form of two touchdowns -- one rushing and one through the air. Pittsburgh came up short against the Jets but still was able to sneak into the playoffs, and still ha shot at a divisional crown.
- 8. Chargers (8-6) | Last Week: 10
It was only a matter of time before the Vincent Jackson of old re-appeared, and with the Chargers passing corps decimated by injury, he stepped up in Week 15 to catch three TDs and likely earn a big payday this offseason. The Chargers hit the road for two winnable games over the next two weeks, but they'll need the Chiefs to falter if they're to make the playoffs. - R.J. White
- 9. Jets (10-4) | Last Week: 11
Breaking a two-game losing streak was important to the Jets, for sure. But getting back to tough, hard-nosed football is exactly what head coach Rex Ryan said this team needed. Believe it or not, a win in Chicago next week means the Jets are in the playoffs.
- 10. Giants (9-5) | Last Week: 7
Big Blue's consistently blundering special teams figured to bite them eventually, and it did at the worst time. Their early muffed punt, lack of preparation for the onside kick and failure to punt out of bounds at the end are all inexcusable -- the latter two wiping out three superbly played quarters by the offense and defense. - TE
- 11. Chiefs (9-5) | Last Week: 14
Kudos to Matt Cassel, who gutted out what was likely a pain-filled performance to lead the Chiefs to victory in what was likely a must-win game on Sunday. A win in Week 16 against the Titans would eliminate the Raiders from playoff contention, which would likely make the Chiefs' Week 17 game against Oakland much easier in their quest to win the AFC West title. - RW
- 12. Colts (8-6) | Last Week: 16
Though Peyton Manning and the Colts struggled in recent weeks, they stepped up when it mattered in Week 15, beating the Jaguars to move into a tie for first in the division. A surprising byproduct of the victory was the emergence of the Colts running game, as Donald Brown racked up 129 yards on 14 carries after doing virtually nothing all season. - RW
- 13. Packers (8-6) | Last Week: 9
The Packers got some help from the Giants and Buccaneers on Sunday and are in the enviable situation of controlling their own destiny, even though they have lost two straight. They must win out to get into the playoffs, and mums the word on the status of Aaron Rodgers.
- 14. Raiders (7-7) | Last Week: 17
The Raiders have done a great job of just barely hanging around the fringe of the division race, and after a win against the Broncos in Week 15, they have an outside shot at the playoffs. The team has a huge test in Week 16 against the Colts, a team fighting for their own divisional title and playoff berth. - RW
- 15. Buccaneers (8-6) | Last Week: 13
After tough games against Baltimore and Atlanta, Week 16 against Detroit was supposed to be an easy win. Whoops! Losing to the Lions last Sunday makes it extremely difficult to make the playoffs, placing Tampa Bay two games behind the Saints and out of the NFC South race. With every division title still up for grabs, though, there are still a number of possibilities for the Bucs to sneak in.
- 16. Jaguars (8-6) | Last Week: 12
Two problems: how does a team screw up an onside kick so badly that the opposing team runs untouched into the end zone? And how does Maurice Jones-Drew, coming off five straight 100-yard games, fail to torch the Indianapolis run defense? The Jaguars now need to beat Washington and Houston and have the Colts falter. - RW
- 17. Dolphins (7-7) | Last Week: 15
In a moment of clarity, even sincerity, Brandon Marshall called out the offense, special teams, the coaching staff and even himself when apologizing to the Miami defense after the Dolphins lost to the Bills on Sunday. He said the team hasn't gotten it done all year and did everything but call for a total revamp of the offensive unit -- which he should have done.
- 18. Rams (6-8) | Last Week: 18
Sam Bradford has been 10 steps forward, 10 steps back in his first season. After being incredibly efficient early in the season, the rookie has thrown no TDs and five interceptions in his last three games. And yet, the Rams are still in the driver's seat for the NFC West title. Unreal. St. Louis faces the 49ers and Seahawks in the last two weeks. - RW
- 19. Cowboys (5-9) | Last Week: 22
In getting "Grossmaned," the Cowboys defense plummeted yet further from grace. The 2009 unit would be ashamed, except that it's mostly the same pieces. Who knew Jon Kitna would be picking up the slack? - TE
- 20. Seahawks (6-8) | Last Week: 21
Playing in a division that some team has to win, Seattle dropped its sixth contest in its last eight games, losing each one by at least 15 points. The mark of a division champion? Matt Hasselbeck was so bad that Charlie Whitehurst saw some action, and actually looked competent. A Week 17 game against the Rams looms large. - RW
- 21. Titans (6-8) | Last Week: 29
The Titans looked to have given up on this season as recently as a few weeks ago, before playing the Colts tough in Week 14 and beating the Texans handily this past Sunday. The Texans stifled Chris Johnson in the first meeting between these teams, but the star back rebounded for 130 yards and a TD on the ground this time around. - RW
- 22. Lions (4-10) | Last Week: 26
With their upset of Tampa Bay, the Lions have won back-to-back games for the first time in three years. What's with the resurgence? A pounding rushing attack, even with two featured backs injured, is the reason. Maurice Morris ran for 109 yards and a touchdown on Sunday after compiling 51 yards the week before.
- 23. Browns (5-9) | Last Week: 23
Players seem to have different opinions on what's wrong with the Browns. Some of the younger players think the problem is a lack of intensity. The veterans say that isn't the case, it just a lack of execution. Whatever the problem, it looks like it'll be the worry of a new head coach next season.
- 24. Texans (5-9) | Last Week: 19
A popular sleeper pick this offseason, the Texans have moved backward in 2010, losing seven of their last eight games. The one victory in that stretch was against the Titans, but Tennessee easily avenged that loss in Week 15. In all seven losses during their last eight games, the Texans have given up at least 29 points. Opponents have scored at least 24 points in all but one game. - RW
- 25. 49ers (5-9) | Last Week: 20
The 49ers have been alternating between looking like the team that drew sleeper buzz earlier in the season and looking like the 49ers of much of the last decade. Last Thursday, we saw the latter, and the team was thoroughly embarrassed by the Chargers. At 5-9, the 49ers still have playoff hopes when they face the Rams next week. - RW
- 26. Bills (4-10) | Last Week: 28
The Bills have won four of their last six games. Pause and reflect on that statistic, please. Had Buffalo not dropped its first eight games, or it they won a few of the five games it lost by a touchdown or less, it wouldn't be quite the laughing stock.
- 27. Vikings (5-9) | Last Week: 24
The Vikings have been outscored 61-17 over the last two weeks -- obviously both were losses. Adrian Peterson was inactive, but Brett Favre played on a snowy Monday night outdoors. Favre's concussion means he's likely -- you always have to say "likely" when it's Favre -- done playing football, and Minnesota should now start looking at the back-end of their depth chart, focusing on next season.
- 28. Redskins (5-9) | Last Week: 25
Mike Shanahan earned a little respect from Washington fans and media after Rex Grossman made the offense sing in Dallas; a very temporary diversion from the still-disastrous decision to employ a 3-4 defense. - TE
- 29. Bengals (3-11) | Last Week: 31
Cincinnati broke a 10-game losing streak by upsetting the rival Browns. The Bengals did so by running the ball like everyone thought they were supposed to, with Cedric Benson piling up 150 yards and a touchdown.
- 30. Panthers (2-12) | Last Week: 32
The Panthers love facing the NFC West! Carolina won its second game of the season on Sunday when everything went right and the Panthers sent the Cardinals home 19-12 losers. Carolina's other win this season came against the NFC West's 49ers.
- 31. Cardinals (4-10) | Last Week: 27
At 4-10, the Cardinals have finally been eliminated from the NFC West division title race. Arizona and Carolina looked like the two worst teams in the league heading into their Week 15 game, and the previously one-win Panthers secured an easy victory. I say we waive the grace period and elect Kurt Warner to the Hall immediately. - RW
- 32. Broncos (3-11) | Last Week: 30
Losers of five straight, the Broncos will likely give rookie Tim Tebow the last two weeks of the season to determine his capacity to be the team's QB of the future. His Week 15 performance was about what we should have expected: eight completed passes and some very productive running. His performance against a terrible Texans secondary in Week 16 will be telling. - RW