1. Dallas Cowboys (8-1) defeated Pittsburgh 35-30. Previously: 2
The league’s best record, longest winning streak and best running back all reside in Dallas. Ezekiel Elliott is on pace to finish with 1,782 rushing yards, 26 shy of Eric Dickerson’s rookie record. Elliott has been remarkably consistent. Since Week 2, he has not had a game with fewer than 92 yards rushing or less than 4.4 yards per carry.
2. Seattle Seahawks (6-2-1) defeated New England 31-24. Previously: 5
Seattle put the shoe on the other foot in New England, keeping the Patriots out of the end zone on four straight attempts from the goal line. Thomas Rawls may return against the Eagles this week, and it’s unclear where he’ll fit into a backfield where rookie C.J. Prosise (17 carries against the Patriots) seems to be supplanting Christine Michael (five carries).
3. New England Patriots (7-2) lost to Seattle 31-24. Previously: 1
The Patriots have now lost twice at home in one season for the first time since 2012. When DeShawn Shead intercepted Tom Brady Sunday night, it was not just Brady’s first interception of the season but the first one New England has thrown. It’s rather remarkable when you consider they’ve used three quarterbacks this season.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (7-2) defeated Carolina 20-17. Previously: 4
The Chiefs defense is playing at the level the Vikings were at the start of this season. Eric Berry’s 42-yard pick six and Marcus Peters’ strip of Kelvin Benjamin to set up the winning field goal Sunday catalyzed a 17-point comeback victory. The Chiefs have never been an offensive powerhouse, but they’ve now won back-to-back games where their opponents outgained them 449-to-231 and 341-to-256.
5. Oakland Raiders (7-2) bye. Previously: 3
Oakland spent their bye watching the Chiefs and Broncos win, no great shock when you consider those two teams. The Raiders have three games now they should be home favorites in Houston, Carolina and Buffalo, before a road date with Kansas City. Circle their final game of the 2016 season: at Denver.
6. Denver Broncos (7-3) defeated New Orleans 25-23. Previously: 7
The Broncos get their bye week before returning to face the Chiefs at home on Sunday Night Football in two weeks. It will be a matchup of two teams relying on their defenses this season while the offenses do just enough. For Denver that was too true Sunday. For the first time in NFL history, the deciding points in victory came on a blocked extra point returned for a two point score. The offense gained just 337 yards against the NFL’s 29th ranked defense in New Orleans.
7. New York Giants (6-3) defeated Cincinnati 21-20. Previously: 10
The Giants have won four games in a row. And with their next two games against Chicago and Cleveland, they may very easily make it six. Sterling Shepard’s winning touchdown catch on fourth down was no new level of drama for Giants fans. These cardiac kids have had only one game this season decided by more than one score: a 24-10 loss to a very different Minnesota Vikings team.
8. Atlanta Falcons (6-4) lost to Philadelphia 24-15. Previously: 6
They aren’t coming apart quite like last year’s Falcons, but Atlanta has now lost three of five. The strategy of “let Julio Jones get his” worked for the Eagles in Philadelphia. While the Falcons are 3-0 when Jones has less than four catches this season, in those last three losses he has 26 receptions for 448 yards —but just one touchdown.
9. Detroit Lions (5-4) bye. Previously: 11
It’s gotta be nice to go into your bye week in second place and come out in first. That’s what happened for Detroit while they watched the Vikings drop their fourth straight to Washington. Some credit is still due to the Lions though, who beat Minnesota to assure themselves of the tie-breaker — for the moment. The teams will play again on Thanksgiving.
10. Houston Texans (6-3) defeated Jacksonville 24-21. Previously: 8
The Texans are a hard team to read. They are the clear leaders of a weak division. They finally have their first road win after beginning the season undefeated at home and 0-3 on the road. Their losses have come to Denver, Minnesota and New England, and none of them have been “impressive” losses. They’ll have a chance to change the perception that they’re skating by when they travel to Oakland Monday night.
11. Washington (5-3-1) defeated Minnesota 26-20. Previously: 19
Washington recovered from two weeks out of the winner’s circle against the NFL’s new favorite punching bag. What’s more impressive is the way they did it: opening a 14-0 lead off two Kirk Cousins’ touchdown throws and a whole bunch of passing yards against a secondary that was the NFL’s blueprint five weeks ago.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (5-4) defeated Atlanta 24-15. Previously: 20
The Eagles are a different — and undefeated — team at home. On the road, their lone win has come against Chicago. The bad news first: They’re headed to Seattle this week. The good news: Their remaining divisional games, one each against the Giants, Cowboys and Washington, are all at home.
13. Miami Dolphins (5-4) defeated San Diego 31-24. Previously: 16
The Dolphins — tied with the Giants for the NFL’s third longest win streak at four games — just keep rolling. With their next game at Los Angeles they may as well just stay on the West Coast. And with the game after that coming at home against San Francisco, they may just be 7-4 before long. All after beginning the season as a thoroughly believable 1-4.
14. Minnesota Vikings (5-4) lost to Washington 26-20. Previously: 9
What light through yonder window breaks? It is the west, and the Vikings are the sun. It sure feels that way in Minnesota, where the sun is fast setting on a season that began 5-0. Each week they find a new way to lose. Philadelphia and Chicago sacked Sam Bradford 11 times. Jordan Howard ran for 150 yards and now Kirk Cousins threw Washington to a victory. The offensive line remains the most troubling issue in Minnesota: Bradford has been sacked 16 times in their four losses.
15. Indianapolis Colts (4-5) bye. Previously: 15
The Colts, feeling good about their victory in Green Bay, had to spend their bye week watching Tennessee trash the same opponent. They take on Tennessee this week, a team they’ve already beaten once, to try to maintain their status in the top half of the division, a distinction that right now, based on record, they no longer have.
16. Tennessee Titans (5-5) defeated Green Bay 47-25. Previously: 25
Boy does going up on a team 21-0 in the first quarter play right into Tennessee’s hands. We’ve already talked about Ezekiel Elliott, but if someone challenges him for the NFL rushing title this season it will be the former Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, sitting in second place with 930 yards rushing after a game more played than Elliott.
17. Baltimore Ravens (5-4) defeated Cleveland 28-7. Previously: 23
Are the Ravens working on a second win streak after beginning the season 3-0? Getting this one to three games will be tough, with a trip to Dallas on the horizon this week. Don’t despair Ravens fans, you’re in first place in your division, and your defense is allowing the fewest yards in the league — by a long shot.
18. Buffalo Bills (4-5) bye. Previously: 17
It’s been a season of streaks for the Bills. An ugly 0-2 start led to a four game win streak which has since subsided into a three game losing streak. They’ve watched the Dolphins become the darling of the division in the time since Buffalo’s last win — doubly painful since Miami kicked off the latest Bills losing streak.
19. Arizona Cardinals (4-4-1) defeated San Francisco 23-20. Previously: 18
Yeah, the Cardinals won and still dropped down our rankings. Their problems are looking fundamental and ingrained since last season’s playoff disaster. Carson Palmer’s stats are down across the board, and he already has been sacked more times and fumbled more times than in 2015. If a date against the 49ers defense couldn’t get this offense sorted — and four turnovers isn’t sorted — maybe nothing can.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-5) lost to Dallas 35-30. Previously: 14
If the Steelers don’t stop their slide this week against Cleveland, they’ll suddenly be in a lot more danger of having the NFL’s longest losing streak. Four in a row is surely enough for Pittsburgh. The offense certainly seemed to have a lot more in the tank against Dallas than they have in recent games. The defense … not so much.
21. New Orleans Saints (4-5) lost to Denver 25-23. Previously: 21
That is just a brutal way to lose. Having the game winning extra point blocked and turned into the game losing two point conversion is rough. It’s even rougher when you consider the Saints gave up a win against the defending Super Bowl Champions that would have seen them a half game out of their division.
22. Green Bay Packers (4-5) lost to Tennessee 47-25. Previously: 13
P-A-N-I-C. The Packers have lost four of five with the only win coming against Chicago, and they might not be favorites in another game for a month: until they face the Bears again on Dec. 18. Sure, Aaron Rodgers may be the team’s best running back right now, but is that why the Titans gained 7.6 yards per play Sunday?
23. San Diego Chargers (4-6) lost to Miami 31-24. Previously: 12
The Chargers — better than expected this season — certainly still aren’t better enough that they can survive four Philip Rivers interceptions, especially when one goes 60 yards the other direction for the deciding score.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) defeated Chicago 36-10. Previously: 26
That was a nice victory to let Tampa Bay separate itself from the bottom of the pack. Like New Orleans, they’re just a game-and-a-half behind Atlanta after the Falcons loss in Philly. But unlike New Orleans, they have to play the Chiefs next week.
25. Cincinnati Bengals (3-5-1) lost to New York Giants 21-20. Previously: 22
And the Bengals probably felt so good about having the NFC East be their cross-conference matchup for this season. After Monday night’s loss to the Giants they’re 0-2-1 against the division with just the Eagles left in week 13 for a shot at a win.
26. Carolina Panthers (3-6) lost to Kansas City 20-17. Previously: 24
The Panthers won’t have any time to grieve their last second loss to Kansas City. They play New Orleans Thursday night and if they want to establish that there hasn’t been a colossal change to the pecking order in this division in just one offseason, this is the time to start doing it.
27. Los Angeles Rams (4-5) defeated New York Jets 9-6. Previously: 28
The Rams just pulled off something a lot of better teams have struggled to do this season: come from the West Coast to the East Coast, play at 1 o’clock on the road and win. Maybe their internal clocks are still on Central Time.
28. New York Jets (3-7) lost to Los Angeles 9-6. Previously: 27
Bryce Petty can hardly be blamed for the Jet’s loss or expected to have dragged them to victory Sunday. But he was outplayed by Case Keenum, and all Keenum had to do was throw for 165 yards.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-7) lost to Houston 24-21. Previously: 30
The Jaguars are probably tired of looking for good things in losses, but Allen Robinson (finally) showing up for a late touchdown (his second straight) and two point conversion is a good thing.
30. Chicago Bears (2-7) lost to Tampa Bay 36-10. Previously: 29
Everything that went right for Chicago three weeks ago on Monday Night Football against the Vikings has gone wrong since. Four turnovers against Tampa Bay was just more of the same. If you’re looking for new and different ways for the Bears to struggle, check out Alshon Jeffery’s four game suspension, just handed down.
31. San Francisco 49ers (1-8) lost to Arizona 23-20. Previously: 31
Colin Kaepernick has done enough in four starts to show that he should have been starting all season. Whether he’ll ever regain the stature he had during San Francisco’s Super Bowl run remains to be seen.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-10) lost to Baltimore 28-7. Previously: 32
Robert Griffin III told reporters he hopes he can come back this season and “help us get some wins.” Let’s start with one win.