- 1. New England Patriots (11-3): The Pats are back in the No. 1 spot by virtue of the Packers’ loss to the Bills and their blowout win over a Miami team that was playing for its playoff life this past Sunday. Their only loss since late September came at Lambeau Field and they were far from embarrassed, so New England is the clear No. 1 at this stage in the game. Pats should coast against the Jets this weekend but that Week 17 game against Buffalo could have plenty of meaning for both teams.
- 2. Denver Broncos (11-3): Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton threw a Christmas tree on the Pats-Broncos rivalry fire this past week, telling The Denver Post: “At the end of the year, we’re hoisting that trophy … I don’t care who our opponent is … If we got to go to New England and win somewhere we’re not used to winning, we’re going to make it happen.”
- 3. Seattle Seahawks (10-4): It seems foolish right now to think that just prior to Thanksgiving, many were saying that Seattle was done. This defense has given up an average of just 6.75 points per game since Week 12. Unheard of stuff in this era of pro football.
- 4. Green Bay Packers (10-4): Buffalo’s pass rush is more than legit and it made Aaron Rodgers look like Johnny Manziel in Orchard Park. This is simply horrible news for the Buccaneers, Green Bay’s opponent this coming Sunday. The last time Rodgers played following a loss he threw six touchdown passes in a single game and had a 145.8 QB rating.
- 5. Arizona Cardinals (11-3): The Cardinals have scored an average of 12.8 points per game since Week 11. That mark is certainly not going to improve any against the Seahawks this Sunday night. The Cardinals will face a checked-out 49ers team in Week 17, so a first round bye is still absolutely attainable.
- 6. Dallas Cowboys (10-4): Need more proof that it’s unhealthy to wager your hard-earned cash on NFL games? Dallas’ 38-27 win at Philly Sunday night was an all-timer in the “where-the-hell-did-that-come-from?” category. Tony Romo was brilliant against the Eagles, posting a 129.1 QB rating.
- 7. Detroit Lions (10-4): The Lions are still quietly going about their business. Their 16-14 home win over the Vikings this past Sunday wasn’t easy as they had to rally after being down 14-0, but a win is a win over a Minnesota squad that is much better than its 6-8 record indicates.
- 8. Indianapolis Colts (10-4): Finally, the Colts face some legit competition this coming weekend when they’ll tangle with the Cowboys in Dallas. The Indy defense has been better of late, having given up 16 points per game in the past four weeks.
- 9. Philadelphia Eagles (9-5): When Mark Sanchez starts doing that twirly thing he does in the pocket, it’s over. Nick Foles won’t play at Washington this weekend, so the Eagles will have to try to win with No. 3 under center. Anything and everything is possible.
- 10.Baltimore Ravens (9-5): The Ravens should get to 11 wins. They’re at Houston this Sunday before hosting the Browns and Week 17. Joe Flacco has thrown just one interception in Baltimore’s last five games.
- 11. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5): Better than Flacco of late has been Ben Roethlisberger, who posted a 109.2 QB rating at Atlanta this past Sunday and shredded Cincy to the tune of 350 yards passing, three touchdowns and zero interceptions the week prior. Pittsburgh hosts the Chiefs this weekend before another battle with the Bengals in Week 17.
- 12. Cincinnati Bengals (9-4-1): The Bengals took care of business by pounding the Browns, 30-0. Making their way into the postseason is going to be difficult, however, as they host the Broncos this Monday and then have to face Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh on Dec. 28.
- 13. Buffalo Bills (8-6): The Bills allow the fifth fewest yards per game in the league, at 313.4. They allow the fourth fewest points per game in the league, at 18.1. In other words, their defense is good. The Bills should cruise this Sunday at Oakland before their Week 17 showdown in Foxboro against the Pats.
- 14. Kansas City Chiefs (8-6): On paper, the Chiefs should be better than their 8-6 record. Kansas City ranks high in plenty of defensive categories, including yards per game (eighth at 331.8). And they have, arguably, the best running back in the NFL in Jamaal Charles. But it’s going to be a struggle to get into the postseason. They’re at Pittsburgh this weekend before their big blowout with the Chargers in Week 17.
- 15. San Diego Chargers (8-6): It’s tough to get a read on how good the Chargers are right now. The past two weeks, they lost to the Broncos and Patriots. No shame there. Prior to those games, they beat the Ravens (on the road) and the frisky (trademark) Rams. They’re at the 49ers on Saturday before the Week 17 game at Kansas City.
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