Seattle stays on top despite a tough loss in San Francisco
1. Seahawks (11-2): Seattle was simply a victim of circumstance, or supreme bias from the refs – at least according to Richard Sherman – who docked them 85 yards on nine penalties. We’re not sure about going that far, but the fact that the Seahawks had a chance to win in a hostile environment, and nearly did, well, that tells you all you need to know about this team. Super Bowl or bust.
2. Broncos (11-2): Peyton Manning can’t play in the cold, huh? He threw for 400 yards and four TDs in 18-degree weather and then told his critics to “shove it where the sun don’t shine.” Is this a new Peyton? We love the personality.
3. Saints (10-3): What a difference a week makes – or what a difference homefield advantage makes. New Orleans followed the yellow brick road and pounded the Panthers, 31-13, to regain their Super swagger.
4. 49ers (9-4): Don’t look now, but the 49ers are coming. The big question, will Jim Harbaugh wear cleats for the rest of this run? The Niners are 4-0 when he sports spiked footware.
5. Panthers (9-4): The streak is over, the streak is over! Yup, the Panthers’ eight-game winning streak came to a crashing halt, but no one wins in New Orleans. This team should be feared on both sides of the ball.
6. Bengals (9-4): Four words: serious Super Bowl contenders. But don’t take our words for it, take theirs. “At the beginning of the year, we had three goals. We wanted to be undefeated at home, win the AFC North and eventually be world champions,” said linebacker Rey Maualuga. Touche, sir.
7. Patriots (10-3): We’ve been on the Pats bandwagon since Week 1 – heck, we had them playing the 49ers in the Super Bowl – but how many injuries can they overcome? No Gronk. No Kenbrell Thompkins. Tom Brady should be garnering MVP votes for his Houdini act.
8. Chiefs (10-3): Perhaps the most surprising part of the Chiefs turnaround has been the return fireworks of Quintin Demps. No one saw that coming, especially not Eagles fans.
9. Eagles (8-5): Chip Kelly’s team is for real, folks. LeSean McCoy is the best running back on the planet – in rain, sleet, snow, locusts … he’ll run through you, over you and on top of you.
10. Colts (8-5): They backed into the AFC South title after Tennessee lost to Denver. Indy really hasn’t played a solid 60 minutes of football since beating the Broncos on Oct. 20.
11. Cardinals (8-5): The defense is getting all the credit, but the offense is averaging 29 points per game while winning five of its last six games.
12. Ravens (7-6): Do you think the Houston Texans would have cut Jacoby Jones if they had to do it all over again? One bad fumble does not make the man.
13. Bears (7-6): Josh McCown’s stellar play is making things very interesting in the Land of Ditka. This is the quarterback conversation (not controversy) that everyone will be talking about this week.
14. Lions (7-6): Sometimes mascots are very appropriate. The Lions can’t play in the snow. Please stick to the rivers and the jungles you’re used to.
15. Dolphins (7-6): Suddenly Miami is a viable playoff contender. That moment came late in the fourth quarter when Charles Clay scored Miami’s first fourth-quarter TD in eight games.
16. Chargers (6-7): This we know for certain: Keenan Allen is going to be a hot commodity in 2014 fantasy drafts all across the country.
17. Cowboys (7-6): We understand injuries have devastated this defense. Still, you have to wonder if the NFL game has passed Monte Kiffin by at this stage in his legendary coaching career.
18. Packers (6-6-1): Matt Flynn is the definition of a system quarterback – and, yes, the Packers are still alive as Aaron Rodgers begins to warm up.
19. Steelers (5-8): Stay in bounds, Antonio! Stay in bounds! Pittsburgh was literally a toe tap from staying in the AFC playoff race. All good (bad?) things must come to an end.
20. Jets (6-7): David Blaine is less mysterious than this team. One week after being benched, Geno Smith and the gang set a season high for points scored. Go figure.
21. Titans (5-8): Good news, Titans fans, it looks like Jay Cutler will be available. Start pre-ordering those powder blue No. 6 jerseys now.
22. Rams (5-8): They are playing for pride now. If the Rams can finish at 8-8, it would mark the first time they did since 2006.
23. Jaguars (4-9): The Jags have the longest winning streak in the AFC. No joke. They’ve won three straight and four of five since the bye.
24. Browns (4-9): Was T.J. Ward’s hit on Gronk legal? We’ll leave that to the football gods. Either way, credit Cleveland for not giving up in this lost season, though.
25. Giants (5-8): The G-Men haven’t beaten a team with a winning record, at least when they played them, yet this season. It’s true. Look it up.
Best of the worst: 26. Buccaneers (4-9); 27. Raiders (4-9); 28. Bills (4-9); 29. Vikings (3-9-1); 30. Falcons (3-10); 31. Redskins (3-10); 32. Texans (2-11).