Saturday Night Football?
Tuesday Night Football?
With snow causing football games to be postponed and the Detroit Lions winning their third game in a row, has the NFL world been turned onto its ear? Is the world coming to an end?
No, but the season is. There is but one week left in the regular season and only a few questions remain that need to be answered.
We know that New England is the best team in the league, and there's a huge drop-off to the next best -- whoever that is. We know that five teams have tickets punched in the AFC, four in the NFC. There are still meaningful Week 17 games to be played.
What we're still looking for is an answer to the NFC West question. Which team will rise from mediocrity to "earn" a playoff spot? Can Indianapolis win and limp into the playoffs? Now that New Orleans has won in Atlanta, who is the best NFC team and can any team not from the NFC West represent the conference in the Super Bowl?
- 1. Patriots (13-2) | Last Week: 1
Golden Boy Brady and Company flattened yet another hapless foe on their way to the AFC's No. 1 seed and status as the overwhelming Super Bowl favorite. Their historically spectacular knack for holding onto the football is yet another hallmark of the NFL's most disciplined team. - Thomas Emerick
- 2. Eagles (10-4) | Last Week: 3
Andy Reid must be pretty miffed that the Eagles will lose two days of rest while Dallas receives extra recovery time after playing on Christmas. The way Philly handles the short break will tell a lot more than playing a 5-win opponent would normally seem. - TE
- 3. Ravens (11-4) | Last Week: 4
Because of its defense and renewed run game, Baltimore's built to win on the road in the playoffs. But the possibility of having to take down Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and New England in succession is pretty intimidating. - Chris Burke
- 4. Saints (11-4) | Last Week: 5
The Saints found a way to win in hostile territory on Monday night. The game was atypically low-scoring and marred with busted plays and penalties, but Drew Brees was exciting, elusive and everything you want in a leader heading into the playoffs.
- 5. Falcons (12-3) | Last Week: 2
Atlanta's loss doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things, especially if they quickly put it behind them and thump Carolina next week like they should. An Atlanta win in Week 17 gives them a playoff bye and home-field advantage throughout. That should take the sting out of losing to Who Dat Nation.
- 6. Bears (11-4) | Last Week: 6
You'll still find people that believe Chicago's getting it done with smoke and mirrors. But it doesn't matter how you win games in this league. The Bears have themselves in position to secure a first-round bye and make a run at the Super Bowl. - CB
- 7. Steelers (11-4) | Last Week: 7
Pittsburgh needs a Week 17 win over Cleveland, the AFC North title and a first-round bye in the worst way -- because if Troy Polamalu isn't healthy for the playoffs, the Steelers won't be going very far. - CB
- 8. Chiefs (10-5) | Last Week: 11
Winners of five of their last six games, the Chiefs can now call themselves AFC West champs for the first time since 2003. Undefeated at home this season and possessing a high-power attack both on the ground and in the air, Kansas City is going to pose a mammoth problem in their first playoff game this season. - R.J. White
- 9. Packers (9-6) | Last Week: 13
An impressive bounce-back performance for Green Bay against the Giants puts the Pack back in the playoff picture. And if Aaron Rodgers plays how he did Sunday, there isn't a team in the NFC that would want to see them in the postseason. - CB
- 10. Colts (9-6) | Last Week: 12
The Colts have won three straight games by a combined 17 points. The margin of victory is less important than erasing the memory of three losses in a row earlier and four out of five between Week 9 and Week 13. If the Colts can continue winning and enter the playoffs, Peyton Manning is good enough to do some damage -- at least up and until the Super Bowl.
- 11. Buccaneers (9-6) | Last Week: 15
If the Buccaneers manage to slide into the playoffs, and it's a long-shot at best, they'll play without a key cog in their offensive scheme as Arrelious Benn has been placed on injured reserve. That aside, when a young quarterback like Josh Freeman gives you five touchdown passes in a game like in Week 16, you feel like almost anything is possible.
- 12. Chargers (8-7) | Last Week: 8
Needing a win to stay alive in the AFC West, the Chargers instead were embarrassed by a 3-11 Bengals team that shredded San Diego's highly-rated pass defense without the services of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. Let that one sink in before you deem the Chargers one of the AFC's six best teams and playoff worthy. - RW
- 13. Jets (10-5) | Last Week: 9
All surprises for Gang Green on Sunday: from Jay Cutler shredding their secondary in ugly weather to Mark Sanchez posting his most complete performance in months despite an injured shoulder. The most pleasant surprise would be if the Jets found some way to rush the passer. - TE
- 14. Giants (9-6) | Last Week: 10
Big Blue kept its five-quarter streak of paper-thin defense going right through to the bitter end at Green Bay. Turnovers still loom a larger problem, however, as Tom Coughlin can't withhold paychecks for lost fumbles. - TE
- 15. Raiders (7-8) | Last Week: 14
The Raiders dropped a game against the Colts on Sunday after they were already eliminated from playoff contention, but there's quite a lot hanging on their Week 17 game against the Chiefs. No AFC West team had defeated the Raiders this season, and no team has gone into Kansas City and won. One of those streaks will be over this Sunday. - RW
- 16. Jaguars (8-7) | Last Week: 16
With playoff implications abound, Jacksonville failed to beat Washington after David Garrard threw an interception in overtime to give the Redskins field position for a game-winning field goal. To make the playoffs now, the Jags have to beat Houston next week and Indy has to lose to Tennessee.
- 17. Rams (7-8) | Last Week: 18
The Rams picked up a key win over the 49ers in their quest to win the NFC West, excelling on the efficient arm of Sam Bradford (75.7 percent passing with 292 yards). The only thing that stands in the way of a worst-to-first turnaround for St. Louis is a fading Seattle team. Win and they're in. - RW
- 18. Lions (5-10) | Last Week: 22
Three straight wins? Two in a row on the road? All year, we talked about how the Lions looked like an improved bunch, and they now have the wins to prove it. A victory over Minnesota next week could actually propel Detroit into third place -- a baby step, for sure, but another sign of things to come. - CB
- 19. Dolphins (7-8) | Last Week: 17
Every Dolphins fan who witnessed their team enter the final five minutes up by 10 against Detroit must have known it would fall apart. This is a horrible fourth-quarter team that just went 1-7 at home. Bill Parcells is gone and his guy, Tony Sparano, will probably soon join him. - TE
- 20. Cowboys (5-10) | Last Week: 19
Big D just edged the San Diego Chargers for the most "Wait, did we really just lose?" games in 2010 with their thorough domination of the Arizona Cardinals. For Cowboys fans, the key word their painfully again being "lose." - TE
- 21. Titans (6-9) | Last Week: 21
In news that should just mortify Jaguars' fans and even the team that needs Tennessee to upset Indianapolis next week to make the playoffs, coach Jeff Fisher failed to rule out the possibility of clearing his bench, so to speak, and letting the younger players have some extra playing time n Week 17.
- 22. Browns (5-10) | Last Week: 23
For a good while this season, Cleveland looked like it had turned a corner. No longer -- the Browns again look like the bumbling, mistake-prone bunch we've come to know. It'll be interesting to see if that glimmer of hope midseason buys Eric Mangini one more year. - CB
- 23. Texans (5-10) | Last Week: 24
Losing eight of nine games is just terrible. But losing last Sunday to a Tim Tebow-lead Denver Broncos team is just embarrassing. Houston blew a 17-0 halftime lead like they've blown the 2010 season that should have seen the Texans fighting for a playoff spot. This seems to be the norm in Houston now.
- 24. 49ers (5-10) | Last Week: 25
Mercifully, the Mike Singletary era is over in San Francisco. After being dubbed the NFC West favorites heading into the season, the 49ers have limped to a 5-10 record behind poor coaching from Singletary and even worse QB play from The Smiths. This talented group needs a quality leader under center and on the sidelines. - RW
- 25. Seahawks (6-9) | Last Week: 20
The Seahawks have now lost their last three games by a combined score of 112-54, dropping them to 6-9 on the season. And yet, they still control their playoff destiny. A win against the NFC-West leading Rams in Week 17 puts Seattle in the playoffs with a 7-9 record. A team with a losing record hosting a playoff game? It could happen. - RW
- 26. Redskins (6-9) | Last Week: 28
Jim Haslett has been skewered all season for the play of his last-ranked defense, but achieved some redemption with a rag-tag gang of no-names on Sunday. The injury-riddled Redskins' ability to put the clamps down on Jacksonville and pull out a win under Rex Grossman bought respect for the entire maligned coaching staff, which is the best thing that could happen to this team as its lost season winds down. - TE
- 27. Bengals (4-11) | Last Week: 29
Cincinnati fans probably enjoyed what they saw Sunday, as their team rolled San Diego without T.O. and Chad Ochocinco. They also better hope that formula will continue to work, because there's a good chance neither temperamental WR is back in 2011. - CB
- 28. Bills (4-11) | Last Week: 26
Ryan Fitzpatrick turned in a decent candidate for this year's most horrendous quarterback performance in a brutal, brutal beatdown by the Patriots. The Bills have fought admirably since the bye week, which may or may not provide consolation for having no shot at Andrew Luck. - TE
- 29. Vikings (5-9) | Last Week: 27
Leslie Frazier seems as good a candidate as any to be Minnesota's coach next season, but he's not getting much of a chance as the interim guy. Choosing between a battered Brett Favre, Joe Webb and Patrick Ramsey at QB can't be very much fun. - CB
- 30. Cardinals (5-10) | Last Week: 31
When you're in the midst of a disappointing season, you have to take your moral victories where you can get them. A wild Christmas Day win over the Cowboys certainly qualifies for the Cardinals. Despite the win, this team still needs talent at the QB position to rebound in 2011. - RW
- 31. Broncos (4-11) | Last Week: 32
Do we have a QB controversy brewing in Denver? First-round pick Tim Tebow brought the Broncos back from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit first with his arm, then with his legs. Does the opponent (Houston) cheapen Tebow's 300-yard day? Maybe a little. - RW
- 32. Panthers (2-13) | Last Week: 30
Carolina's reprieve from the cellar of these power rankings lasted just one week as Pittsburgh showed the Panthers, and everyone else in the NFL, that Carolina has a lot of work to to before they can start down the road of getting better.