NFL Week 13 featured more high-stakes marquee matchups, sudden surprises and fantastic finishes as the murky playoff picture continues to clear and the pressure for a postseason push is reaching its boiling point.
Please take the uncharacteristic momentous movement in this week’s rankings with a grain of salt.
Teams placed previously between 8th and 14th in last week’s rankings all lost on Sunday.
He are my NFL Week 14 Power Rankings with an updated examination on the 2011 NFL playoff picture.
Want to know some eye-opening facts about the current standings?
There are six teams with a 4-8 record. More than a fourth of the league—nine total teams—are 7-5.
Only two teams have racked up two wins on the season.
There is one team with a record of 12-0 (Green Bay), 10-2 (San Francisco), 6-6 (N.Y. Giants), 3-9 (Jacksonville) and 0-12 (Indianapolis). And oddly enough, there are no 11-1, 8-4 or 1-11 teams. I thought that was quite compelling and probably something you won’t read anywhere else.
I maintain a deep-seated focus on patterns, schedules, winning and losing streaks and what teams have done throughout the course of the season (and why), as well as look ahead and evaluate expectations for the coming weeks.
As always, I also provide all of this information all in one convenient location—something you can’t fine anywhere else.
Last Week: 11-5 (130-62)
Previous Ranking: 32
Résumé: Lost 7-34 at Houston, Lost 19-27 vs. Cleveland, Lost 20-23 vs. Pittsburgh, Lost 17-24 at Tampa Bay, Lost 24-28 vs. Kansas City, Lost 17-27 at Cincinnati, Lost 7-62 at New Orleans, Lost 10-27 at Tennessee, Lost 7-31 vs. Atlanta, Lost 3-17 vs. Jacksonville, Lost 19-27 vs. Carolina, Lost 24-31 at New England
Last Four Games: at BAL (9-3), vs. TEN (7-5), vs. HOU (9-3), at JAC (3-9)
No. 31 Jacksonville Jaguars (3-9): It’s a mess down in Jacksonville. Last week the head coach Jack Del Rio was fired and the team was sold. The Jaguars just got blown out on Monday night in their own stadium and suffered additional injuries.
I’ve heard they can sell out monster truck rallies, but are forced to cover empty seats with tarps for Jaguars games. What will it be—sign a big-name head coach and bolster the franchise or move out west?
Previous Ranking: 30
Résumé: Won 16-14 vs. Tennessee, Lost 3-32 at N.Y. Jets, Lost 10-16 at Carolina, Lost 10-23 vs. New Orleans, Lost 20-30 vs. Cincinnati, Lost 13-17 at Pittsburgh, Won 12-7 vs. Baltimore, Lost 14-24 at Houston, Won 17-3 at Indianapolis, Lost 10-14 at Cleveland, Lost 13-20 vs. Houston, Lost 14-38 vs. San Diego
Last Four Games: vs. TB (4-8), at ATL (7-5), at TEN (7-5), vs. IND (0-12)
No. 30 Cleveland Browns (4-8): Colt McCoy will be thrilled when he finally has effective protection, a sound ground game and reliable receivers. That’s if he remains in Cleveland long enough for that to happen.
Previous Ranking: 30
Résumé: Lost 17-27 vs. Cincinnati, Won 27-19 at Indianapolis, Won 17-16 vs. Miami, Lost 13-31 vs. Tennessee, Lost 17-24 at Oakland, Won 6-3 vs. Seattle, Lost 10-20 at San Francisco, Lost 12-30 at Houston, Lost 12-13 vs. St. Louis, Won 14-10 vs. Jacksonville, Lost 20-23 at Cincinnati, Lost 10-24 vs. Baltimore
Last Four Games: at PIT (9-3), at ARI (5-7), at BAL (9-3), vs. PIT (9-3)
No. 29 St. Louis Rams (2-10): With some coaching changes, an improved healthier roster and a less-than-spine-chilling first-half season schedule next year, the Rams should have much more of a fighting chance.
Previous Ranking: 29
Résumé: Lost 13-31 vs. Philadelphia, Lost 16-28 at N.Y. Giants, Lost 7-37 vs. Baltimore, Lost 10-17 vs. Washington, Lost 3-24 at Green Bay, Lost 7-34 at Dallas, Won 31-21 vs. New Orleans, Lost 13-19 at Arizona (OT), Won 13-12 at Cleveland, Lost 7-24 vs. Seattle, Lost 20-23 vs. Arizona, Lost 0-26 at San Francisco
Last Four Games: at SEA (5-7), vs. CIN (7-5), at PIT (9-3), vs. SF (10-2)
Previous Ranking: 24
Résumé: Lost 17-24 at San Diego, Lost 20-24 vs. Tampa Bay, Lost 23-26 vs. Detroit (OT), Lost 17-22 at Kansas City, Won 34-10 vs. Arizona, Lost 10-39 at Chicago, Lost 27-33 vs. Green Bay, Won 24-21 at Carolina, Lost 7-45 at Green Bay, Lost 21-27 vs. Oakland, Lost 14-24 at Atlanta, Lost 32-35 vs. Denver
Last Four Games: at DET (7-5), vs. NO (9-3), at WSH (4-8), vs. CHI (7-5)
No. 27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8): The Buccaneers have lost six straight and the defense ranks 26th or worse in all four major categories (run, pass, scoring and total defense).
In last week’s rankings, I said: “Raheem Morris hasn’t stopped believing his team still has a shot at cracking the playoffs. He’s certainly looking at the glass half full. Maybe that’s because he drank the other half of the glass…which might not have been completely alcohol-free.”
Previous Ranking: 20
Résumé: Lost 20-27 vs. Detroit, Won 24-20 at Minnesota, Won 16-13 vs. Atlanta, Won 24-17 vs. Indianapolis, Lost 3-48 at San Francisco, Won 26-20 vs. New Orleans, Lost 18-24 vs. Chicago, Lost 16-27 at New Orleans, Lost 9-37 vs. Houston, Lost 26-35 at Green Bay, Lost 17-23 at Tennessee, Lost 19-38 vs. Carolina
Last Four Games: at JAC (3-9), vs. DAL (7-5), at CAR (4-8), at ATL (7-5)
No. 26 San Diego Chargers (5-7): Finally snapping out of their funk at least for a moment, Phillip Rivers and the Chargers bolted back into the postseason discussion. It’s too little, too late for San Diego, though. A.J. Smith could be joining Norv Turner on the way out as well.
Previous Ranking: 21
Résumé: Won 24-17 vs. Minnesota, Lost 21-35 at New England, Won 20-17 vs. Kansas City, Won 26-16 vs. Miami, Won 29-24 at Denver, Lost 21-27 at N.Y. Jets, Lost 20-23 at Kansas City (OT), Lost 38-45 vs. Green Bay, Lost 17-24 vs. Oakland, Lost 20-31 at Chicago, Lost 13-16 vs. Denver (OT), Won 38-14 at Jacksonville
Last Four Games: vs. BUF (5-7), vs. BAL (9-3), at DET (7-5), at OAK (7-5)
No. 25 Kansas City Chiefs (5-7): Strange things have been occuring all season in the AFC West. I look forward to the first edition of the 2011 Head-Scratching Adventures of the AFC West. The book promised to be jam-packed of information on the letdowns, heroics, consistent inconsistency, quarterback controversy, coaching carousel and so much more.
Previous Ranking: 23
Résumé: Lost 7-41 vs. Buffalo, Lost 3-48 at Detroit, Lost 17-20 at San Diego, Won 22-17 vs. Minnesota, Won 28-24 at Indianapolis, Won 28-0 at Oakland, Won 23-20 vs. San Diego (OT), Lost 3-31 vs. Miami, Lost 10-17 vs. Denver, Lost 3-34 at New England, Lost 9-13 vs. Pittsburgh, Won 10-3 at Chicago
Last Four Games: at NYJ (7-5), vs. GB (12-0), vs. OAK (7-5), at DEN (7-5)
No. 24 Philadelphia Eagles (4-8): Andy Reid and the Eagles had a dream. But it became a nightmare. An excellent collection of talent doesn’t always translate to success. And dear DeSean Jackson, Copernicus called, you’re not the center of the universe.
Previous Ranking: 18
Résumé: Won 31-13 at St. Louis, Lost 31-35 at Atlanta, Lost 16-29 vs. N.Y. Giants, Lost 23-24 vs. San Francisco, Lost 24-31 at Buffalo, Won 20-13 at Washington, Won 34-7 vs. Dallas, Lost 24-30 vs. Chicago, Lost 17-21 vs. Arizona, Won 17-10 at N.Y. Giants, Lost 20-38 vs. New England, Lost 14-31 at Seattle
Last Four Games: at MIA (4-8), vs. NYJ (7-5), at DAL (7-5), vs. WSH (4-8)
No. 23 Buffalo Bills (5-7): The budding Bills haven’t seen the playoffs since 1999. The perennial second-half season tumbles have to be tough to swallow for fans.
Previous Ranking: 22
Résumé: Won 41-7 at Kansas City, Won 38-35 vs. Oakland, Won 34-31 vs. New England, Lost 20-23 at Cincinnati, Won 31-24 vs. Philadelphia, Lost 24-27 at N.Y. Giants, Won 23-0 vs. Washington, Lost 11-27 vs. N.Y. Jets, Lost 7-44 at Dallas, Lost 8-35 at Miami, Lost 24-28 at N.Y. Jets, Lost 17-23 vs. Tennessee
Last Four Games: at SD (5-7), vs. MIA (4-8), vs. DEN (7-5), at NE (9-3)
No. 22 Arizona Cardinals (5-7): Technically, the Cardinals are still alive in the playoff hunt. Kevin Kolb and Ken Wisenhunt may stick around after all.
Previous Ranking: 28
Résumé: Won 28-21 vs. Carolina, Lost 21-22 at Washington, Lost 10-13 at Seattle, Lost 27-31 vs. N.Y. Giants, Lost 10-34 at Minnesota, Lost 20-32 vs. Pittsburgh, Lost 27-30 at Baltimore, Won 19-13 vs. St. Louis (OT), Won 21-17 at Philadelphia, Lost 7-23 at San Francisco, Won 23-20 at St. Louis, Won 19-13 vs. Dallas (OT)
Last Four Games: vs. SF (10-2), vs. CLE (4-8), at CIN (7-5), vs. SEA (5-7)
No. 21 Seattle Seahawks (5-7): Tarvaris Jackson completed 13 of 16 throws for 190 yards and a score against the Eagles. Marshawn Lynch also got in the zone and back in beast mode, rushing for a whopping 148 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns to boot. Thanks to Skittles, he’s really tasting the rainbow.
T-Jack may be a nice short-term solution, but Matt Barkeley is most likely the long-term answer. Most people also probably don’t know Barkeley’s a lot like Tim Tebow in terms of being so open about his Christian faith. Robert Griffin III isn’t much different, either. So to the people that don’t like that about Tebow, you better get used to it.
And is it really such a bad thing? I mean there’s enough bad examples and negativity in this world. It’s a breath of fresh air in my opinion. Would you rather tell your kids amazing things good people are accomplishing or the ugly scandals like those at Syracuse and Penn State? But I digress.
Previous Ranking: 27
Résumé: Lost 17-33 at San Francisco, Lost 0-24 at Pittsburgh, Won 13-10 vs. Arizona, Lost 28-30 vs. Atlanta, Won 36-25 at N.Y. Giants, Lost 3-6 at Cleveland, Lost 12-34 vs. Cincinnati, Lost 13-23 at Dallas, Won 22-17 vs. Baltimore, Won 24-7 at St. Louis, Lost 17-23 vs. Washington, Won 31-14 vs. Philadelphia
Last Four Games: vs. STL (2-10), at CHI (7-5), vs. SF (10-2), at ARI (5-7)
No. 20 Washington Redskins (4-8): Lose by two touchdowns and move up six spots? Yeah, like I said in the intro—ignore the bizarre movement in this week’s rankings—if you can. It’s once in a blue moon.
And separating the pretenders from the other pretenders is borderline rocket surgery. The Redskins battle with everything they have until the clock strikes 0:00 every week and are dealing with a laundry list of absent players due to injuries and suspensions.
Previous Ranking: 26
Résumé: Won 28-14 vs. N.Y. Giants, Won 22-21 vs. Arizona, Lost 16-18 at Dallas, Won 17-10 at St. Louis, Lost 13-20 vs. Philadelphia, Lost 20-33 at Carolina, Lost 0-23 at Buffalo, Lost 11-19 vs. San Francisco, Lost 9-20 at Miami, Lost 24-27 vs. Dallas (OT), Won 23-17 at Seattle, Lost 19-34 vs. N.Y. Jets
Last Four Games: vs. NE (9-3), at NYG (6-6), vs. MIN (2-10), at PHI (4-8)
No. 19 Carolina Panthers (4-8): Coming into Week 12, Carolina hadn’t beaten an opponent on the road since 2009. Cam Newton and company have won two consecutive contests—both on the road. The Panthers are likely going to be a force next season.
Previous Ranking: 25
Résumé: Lost 21-28 at Arizona, Lost 23-30 vs. Green Bay, Won 16-10 vs. Jacksonville, Lost 29-34 at Chicago, Lost 27-30 vs. New Orleans, Lost 17-31 at Atlanta, Won 33-20 vs. Washington, Lost 21-24 vs. Minnesota, Lost 3-30 vs. Tennessee, Lost 35-49 at Detroit, Won 27-19 at Indianapolis, Won 38-19 at Tampa Bay
Last Four Games: vs. ATL (7-5), at HOU (9-3), vs. TB (4-8), at NO (9-3)
No. 18 Miami Dolphins (4-8): Who’s responsible for the remarkable turnaround down in South Beach? A few names come to mind. Miami might be the best 4-8 team ever. Could Tony Sparano actually save his job despite an 0-7 start? His odds only seem to be getting better by the week.
Previous Ranking: 19
Résumé: Lost 24-38 vs. New England, Lost 13-23 vs. Houston, Lost 16-17 at Cleveland, Lost 16-26 at San Diego, Lost 6-24 at N.Y. Jets, Lost 15-18 vs. Denver (OT), Lost 17-20 at N.Y. Giants, Won 31-3 at Kansas City, Won 20-9 vs. Washington, Won 35-8 vs. Buffalo, Lost 19-20 at Dallas, Won 34-14 vs. Oakland
Last Four Games: vs. PHI (4-8), at BUF (5-7), at NE (9-3), vs. NYJ (7-5)
No. 17 N.Y. Giants (6-6): I pondered a variety of topics that could flock to the top of the headlines following the marquee matchup against the Pack in my Week 13 predictions. Giving Green Bay its toughest test of the season was one of them.
Previous Ranking: 13
Résumé: Lost 14-28 at Washington, Won 28-16 vs. St. Louis, Won 29-16 at Philadelphia, Won 31-27 at Arizona, Lost 25-36 vs. Seattle, Won 27-24 vs. Buffalo, Won 20-17 vs. Miami, Won 24-20 at New England, Lost 20-27 at San Francisco, Lost 10-17 vs. Philadelphia, Lost 24-49 at New Orleans, Lost 35-38 vs. Green Bay
Last Four Games: at DAL (7-5), vs. WSH (4-8), at NYJ (7-5), vs. DAL (7-5)
No. 16 Chicago Bears (7-5): Insult meet injury in Chi-Town. After losing the services of Jay Cutler for the season, Matt Forte suffered a sprained right MCL in the loss to Kansas City. He’ll miss several weeks. The Bears say they’re not really interested in the ex-Eagle, Redskin and Viking, but Donovan McNabb might want to sleep next to his phone just in case.
Previous Ranking: 9
Résumé: Won 30-12 vs. Atlanta, Lost 13-30 at New Orleans, Lost 17-27 vs. Green Bay, Won 34-29 vs. Carolina, Lost 13-24 at Detroit, Won 39-10 vs. Minnesota, Won 24-18 at Tampa Bay (London), Won 30-24 at Philadelphia, Won 37-13 vs. Detroit, Won 31-20 vs. San Diego, Lost 20-25 at Oakland, Lost 3-10 vs. Kansas City
Last Four Games: at DEN (7-5), vs. SEA (5-7), at GB (12-0), at MIN (2-10)
No. 15 Oakland Raiders (7-5): If Albert Einstein were alive today, I’d ask him to help me figure out the Raiders. You almost have to take each of their games with a grain of salt.
Previous Ranking: 8
Résumé: Won 23-20 at Denver, Lost 35-38 at Buffalo, Won 34-24 vs. N.Y. Jets, Lost 19-31 vs. New England, Won 25-20 at Houston, Won 24-17 vs. Cleveland, Lost 0-28 vs. Kansas City, Lost 24-38 vs. Denver, Won 24-17 at San Diego, Won 27-21 at Minnesota, Won 25-20 vs. Chicago, Lost 14-34 at Miami
Last Four Games: at GB (12-0), vs. DET (7-5), at KC (5-7), vs. SD (5-7)
No. 14 Tennessee Titans (7-5): What’s going on in Tennessee with the numbers 23 and 17? That’s been the final score three weeks in a row. The Titans are well within striking distance of the AFC playoff race. Chris Johnson—as expected—ran like a man on a mission against Buffalo with 153 yards and two scores.
Previous Ranking: 15
Résumé: Lost 14-16 at Jacksonville, Won 26-13 vs. Baltimore, Won 17-14 vs. Denver, Won 31-13 at Cleveland, Lost 17-38 at Pittsburgh, Lost 7-41 vs. Houston, Won 27-10 vs. Indianapolis, Lost 17-24 vs. Cincinnati, Won 30-3 at Carolina, Lost 17-23 at Atlanta, Won 23-17 vs. Tampa Bay, Won 23-17 at Buffalo
Last Four Games: vs. NO (9-3), at IND (0-12), vs. JAC (3-9), at HOU (9-3)
No. 13 Cincinnati Bengals (7-5): The AFC playoff race will boil down to the final week of the season and at least four teams will be fighting for the sixth spot in a photo finish—including Cincinnati. The Bengals have extraordinarily exceeded expectations, but without a doubt they’re a product of a soft schedule.
Previous Ranking: 14
Résumé: Won 27-17 at Cleveland, Lost 22-24 at Denver, Lost 8-13 vs. San Francisco, Won 23-20 vs. Buffalo, Won 30-20 at Jacksonville, Won 27-17 vs. Indianapolis, Won 34-12 at Seattle, Won 24-17 at Tennessee, Lost 17-24 vs. Pittsburgh, Lost 24-31 at Baltimore, Won 23-20 vs. Cleveland, Lost 7-35 at Pittsburgh
Last Four Games: vs. HOU (9-3), at STL (2-10), vs. ARI (5-7), vs. BAL (9-3)
No. 12 Dallas Cowboys (7-5): ”Dallas has its swag back, but Tony Romo and company have a history of hitting their stride in November before plummeting in December and January.” That’s what I said last week. Still, the Cowboys can pretty much wrap things up in the East win a win over the Giants on Sunday. A word of advice to Jason Garrett—it’s not the best idea to ice your own kicker.
Previous Ranking: 12
Résumé: Lost 24-27 at N.Y. Jets, Won 27-24 at San Francisco, Won 18-16 vs. Washington, Lost 30-34 vs. Detroit, Lost 16-20 at New England, Won 34-7 vs. St. Louis, Lost 7-34 at Philadelphia, Won 23-13 vs. Seattle, Won 44-7 vs. Buffalo, Won 27-24 at Washington (OT), Won 20-19 vs. Miami, Lost 13-19 at Arizona (OT)
Last Four Games: vs. NYG (6-6), at TB (4-8), vs. PHI (4-8), at NYG (6-6)
No. 11 N.Y. Jets (7-5): Mark Sanchez and the Jets have the tendency to bounce back when their backs are up against the wall. Their remaining schedule is also favorable.
Previous Ranking: 17
Résumé: Won 27-24 vs. Dallas, Won 32-3 vs. Jacksonville, Lost 24-34 at Oakland, Lost 17-34 at Baltimore, Lost 21-30 at New England, Won 24-6 vs. Miami, Won 27-21 vs. San Diego, Won 27-11 at Buffalo, Lost 16-37 vs. New England, Lost 13-17 at Denver, Won 28-24 vs. Buffalo, Won 34-19 at Washington
Last Four Games: vs. KC (5-7), at PHI (4-8), vs. NYG (6-6), at MIA (4-8)
No. 10 Denver Tebows (7-5): The most polarizing player—perhaps in NFL history—could soon be in good company, as I mentioned above in the Seahawks’ section (No. 21) in this post.
Here’s an interesting comparison (pictured right) between John Elway and Tim Tebow through their first 10 starts in the NFL.
Previous Ranking: 16
Résumé: Lost 20-23 vs. Oakland, Won 24-22 vs. Cincinnati, Lost 14-17 at Tennessee, Lost 23-49 at Green Bay, Lost 24-29 vs. San Diego, Won 18-15 at Miami (OT), Lost 10-45 vs. Detroit, Won 38-24 at Oakland, Won 17-10 at Kansas City, Won 17-13 vs. N.Y. Jets, Won 16-13 at San Diego (OT), Won 35-32 at Minnesota
Last Four Games: vs. CHI (7-5), vs. NE (9-3), at BUF (5-7), vs. KC (5-7)
No. 9 Detroit Lions (7-5): As a result of Chicago’s injury dilemmas, the Lions should be able to sneak in as the sixth seed in the NFC by winning two or three of their final four games.
However, Detroit had little to no discipline on Sunday night in New Orleans. It was a dreadful display. The team out Raidered the Raiders.
As Gregg Rosenthal of ProFootballTalk.com points out, “The Lions took three personal foul penalties after the whistle, including tight end Brandon Pettigrew’s shove of an official. Each penalty came at a critical moment and cost the team dearly. In all, the Lions were penalized 11 times for 109 yards.”
Previous Ranking: 11
Résumé: Won 27-20 at Tampa Bay, Won 48-3 vs. Kansas City, Won 26-23 at Minnesota (OT), Won 34-30 at Dallas, Won 24-13 vs. Chicago, Lost 19-25 vs. San Francisco, Lost 16-23 vs. Atlanta, Won 45-10 at Denver, Lost 13-37 at Chicago, Won 49-35 vs. Carolina, Lost 15-27 vs. Green Bay, Lost 17-31 at New Orleans
Last Four Games: vs. MIN (2-10), at OAK (7-5), vs. SD (5-7), at GB (12-0)
No. 8 Atlanta Falcons (7-5): Losing to a third-string rookie fifth-round quarterback who’s the only player at his position to ever start in the NFL from the University of North Carolina is arduous for Atlanta to digest.
Nevertheless, it was against one of the top teams in the league on the road. Atlanta is also still in prime position to win the fifth seed in the conference with Chicago’s condition.
Previous Ranking: 10
Résumé: Lost 12-30 at Chicago, Won 35-31 vs. Philadelphia, Lost 13-16 at Tampa Bay, Won 30-28 at Seattle, Lost 14-22 vs. Green Bay, Won 31-17 vs. Carolina, Won 23-16 at Detroit, Won 31-7 at Indianapolis, Lost 24-27 vs. New Orleans (OT), Won 23-17 vs. Tennessee, Won 24-14 vs. Minnesota, Lost 10-17 at Houston
Last Four Games: at CAR (4-8), vs. JAC (3-9), at NO (9-3), vs. TB (4-8)
No. 7 New England Patriots (9-3): Tom Brady and the high-flying Patriots have scored 30 points or more in nine out of their first 12 games. Eventually they may have to turn a little more to the run game and better defense to return to the Super Bowl.
Previous Ranking: 7
Résumé: Won 38-24 at Miami, Won 35-21 vs. San Diego, Lost 31-34 at Buffalo, Won 31-19 at Oakland, Won 30-21 vs. N.Y. Jets, Won 20-16 vs. Dallas, Lost 17-25 at Pittsburgh, Lost 20-24 vs. N.Y. Giants, Won 37-16 at N.Y. Jets, Won 34-3 vs. Kansas City, Won 38-20 at Philadelphia, Won 31-24 vs. Indianapolis
Last Four Games: at WSH (4-8), at DEN (7-5), vs. MIA (4-8), vs. BUF (5-7)
No. 6 Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3): The Steel Curtain has won seven of its past eight contests. Dick LeBeau‘s defense is wrecking havoc for opposing offenses and just stole the No. 1 ranking from the Texans.
Previous Ranking: 6
Résumé: Lost 7-35 at Baltimore, Won 24-0 vs. Seattle, Won 23-20 at Indianapolis, Lost 10-17 at Houston, Won 38-17 vs. Tennessee, Won 17-13 vs. Jacksonville, Won 32-20 at Arizona, Won 25-17 vs. New England, Lost 20-23 vs. Baltimore, Won 24-17 at Cincinnati, Won 13-9 at Kansas City, Won 35-7 vs. Cincinnati
Last Four Games: vs. CLE (4-8), at SF (10-2), vs. STL (2-10), at CLE (4-8)
No. 5 Houston Texans (9-3): ”Next man up” is becoming a household term and embraced on a weekly basis in the Texans organization. Reduced to third-string quarterback T.J. Yates, the Texans still managed to take care of business in a contest nobody expected them to win (except for CBSSports.com’s Will Brinson and your’s truly) against Atlanta.
It’s almost reminiscent of the 2010 Packers. The Texans are losing star players right and left and seem to be overcoming them flawlessly. An unstoppable tandem out of the backfield (Arian Foster and Ben Tate) paired with the NFL’s No. 1 receiver Andre Johnson (expected to miss only 1-2 weeks), one of the league’s top two defenses and potentially home-field advantage throughout the playoffs (assuming they can run the table) will bode extremely well for a team now built on overcoming adversity.
Previous Ranking: 5
Résumé: Won 34-7 vs. Indianapolis, Won 23-13 at Miami, Lost 33-40 at New Orleans, Won 17-10 vs. Pittsburgh, Lost 20-25 vs. Oakland, Lost 14-29 at Baltimore, Won 41-7 at Tennessee, Won 24-14 vs. Jacksonville, Won 30-12 vs. Cleveland, Won 37-9 at Tampa Bay, Won 20-13 at Jacksonville, Won 17-10 vs. Atlanta
Last Four Games: at CIN (7-5), vs. CAR (4-8), at IND (0-12), vs. TEN (7-5)
No. 4 New Orleans Saints (9-3): The blue-collar Ford (Detroit) couldn’t quite keep pace with the Mercedes-Benz (New Orleans) for four quarters. Drew Brees and New Orleans might present the toughest test for Green Bay in the NFC.
Previous Ranking: 4
Résumé: Lost 34-42 at Green Bay, Won 30-13 vs. Chicago, Won 40-33 vs. Houston, Won 23-10 at Jacksonville, Won 30-27 at Carolina, Lost 20-26 at Tampa Bay, Won 62-7 vs. Indianapolis, Lost 21-31 at St. Louis, Won 27-16 vs. Tampa Bay, Won 27-24 at Atlanta (OT), Won 49-24 vs. N.Y. Giants, Won 31-17 vs. Detroit
Last Four Games: at TEN (7-5), at MIN (2-10), vs. ATL (7-5), vs. CAR (4-8)
No. 3 San Francisco 49ers (10-2): Think you need an elite signal-caller to turn things around at an unsurpassed short amount of time? See Denver and San Francisco. Great defense and a terrific running game is a recipe for playoff success—in any era. Jim Harbaugh also happens to be a genius.
Previous Ranking: 3
Résumé: Won 33-17 vs. Seattle, Lost 24-27 vs. Dallas, Won 13-8 vs. Cincinnati, Won 24-23 at Philadelphia, Won 48-3 vs. Tampa Bay, Won 25-19 at Detroit, Won 20-10 vs. Cleveland, Won 19-11 at Washington, Won 27-20 vs. N.Y. Giants, Won 23-7 vs. Arizona, Lost 6-16 at Baltimore, Won 26-0 vs. St. Louis
Last Four Games: at ARI (5-7), vs. PIT (9-3), at SEA (5-7), at STL (2-10)
No. 2 Baltimore Ravens (8-3): Joe Flacco and co. ended their eye-opening and head-scratching pattern of poor play against bad teams after big wins with a 24-10 pounding in Cleveland. Ray Rice tore the Browns defense into pieces with 204 rushing yards and a score.
Previous Ranking: 2
Résumé: Won 35-7 vs. Pittsburgh, Lost 13-26 at Tennessee, Won 37-7 at St. Louis, Won 34-17 vs. N.Y. Jets, Won 29-14 vs. Houston, Lost 7-12 at Jacksonville, Won 30-27 vs. Arizona, Won 23-20 at Pittsburgh, Lost 17-22 at Seattle, Won 31-24 vs. Cincinnati, Won 16-6 vs. San Francisco, Won 24-10 at Cleveland
Last Four Games: vs. IND (0-12), at SD (5-7), vs. CLE (4-8), at CIN (7-5)
No. 1 Green Bay Packers (12-0): Are the 2011 Packers the greatest NFL team ever? I guess we’ll find out enough. Who would like to see this team go back in time and play the ’72 Dolphins? It would be a must-see game.
Previous Ranking: 1
Résumé: Won 42-34 vs. New Orleans, Won 30-23 at Carolina, Won 27-17 at Chicago, Won 49-23 vs. Denver, Won 22-14 at Atlanta, Won 24-3 vs. St. Louis, Won 33-27 at Minnesota, Won 45-38 at San Diego, Won 45-7 vs. Minnesota, Won 35-26 vs. Tampa Bay, Won 27-15 at Detroit, Won 38-35 at N.Y. Giants
Last Four Games: vs. OAK (7-5), at KC (5-7), vs. CHI (7-5), vs. DET (7-5)
Updated Playoff Picture