1. Carolina Panthers (11-0) Def. Dallas 33-14. Previously: 2
The Patriots’ first loss means Carolina finally reaches the top, and maybe they should have sooner.The last undefeated team shows no signs of slowing down.After several close wins to open the season, it’s been four weeks since Carolina played an opponent (the Colts) that finished within a score.
2. Denver Broncos (9-2) Def. New England 30-24 (OT.) Previously: 5
After the win over New England, the Broncos sit just a game back from the Patriots in the race for home field advantage in the AFC.They have a home game upcoming against the Bengals that could further that case.And with the Patriots’ injuries mounting, who’s to say they can’t drop another game and propel Denver into the top spot?
3. New England Patriots (10-1) Lost to Denver 30-24 (OT.) Previously: 1.
Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s chance for a second undefeated regular season is lost, but the more devastating loss is certainly Rob Gronkowski.The injuries sustained by the Patriots so far could be partly offset by Brady’s ability to rely on his biggest threat, figuratively and literally.The good news is Gronk’s status appears to be week-to-week, though it’s unlikely he’ll return against the Eagles.
4. Arizona Cardinals (9-2) Def. San Francisco 19-13. Previously: 3
The Cardinals were oddly flat against San Francisco, but maybe that’s what happens a week after winning a close one over an opponent as big as the Bengals.And hey, if it weren’t this close, we probably wouldn’t have seen Carson Palmer run into the end-zone for that spectacular spike.The big problem is Chris Johnson’s renaissance season has been put on hold while he recovers from a fractured tibia.
5. Cincinnati Bengals (9-2) Def. St. Louis 31-7. Previously: 4
All’s well in Bengal-land.Andy Dalton found his two favorite targets three times in the end-zone: A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert.For Eifert, it was his twelfth touchdown on the season.For Green, his two scores were his first since Week8, and that score was his first since another two touchdown effort Week 3 against the Ravens.
6. Green Bay Packers (7-4) Lost to Chicago 17-13. Previously: 6
Brett Favre’s big night was spoiled not by weather, but Green Bay’s fourth loss in five games.Usually the weather is to the Packers’ advantage, but it was their receivers who seemed to suffer most Thanksgiving night.Positively: Eddie Lacy and James Starks combined for 144 rushing yards and Aaron Rodgers threw in 33 of his own.
7. Minnesota Vikings (8-3) Def. Atlanta 20-10. Previously: 8
This was a really nice bounce-back game for the Vikings.Fresh off a defeat that looked worse than it was to Green Bay, they came out and stayed true to themselves — pounding Adrian Peterson down the highly ranked Falcons rush defenses’ throat.This is how they’ll win.
8. Kansas City Chiefs (6-5) Def. Buffalo 30-22. Previously: 9
It’s crazy to think the Chiefs could start 1-0, go 0-5, and then finish 10-0 to go 11-5 right?The only opponents left on their schedule: Raiders, Chargers, Ravens, Browns, Raiders.It’s crazy right?One thing in their favor: they apparently simply can’t find bad running backs in Kansas City, as Spencer Ware became the third Chief to run for 100 yards in a game this season.
9. Seattle Seahawks (6-5) Def. Pittsburgh 39-30. Previously: 12
After five wins against sub-par competition, Seattle was in place for a put-up or shut-up moment, and they put-up.More surprisingly, it was their passing game that came through, as Russell Wilson threw five touchdowns, three to Doug Baldwin.Whether the offense can keep that up now that Jimmy Graham is done for the year is an open question.Give the Legion of Boom some credit for nabbing four interceptions, though they allowed an eye-popping 490 passing yards as well.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) Lost to Seattle 39-30. Previously: 7
Turnovers, they’ll get you.Four interceptions, two from Ben Roethlisberger and two from Landry Jones, put Pittsburgh behind the eight-ball, even though they gained 538 total yards Sunday.The Steelers’ secondary was questioned before the game, and lets just say their performance didn’t put those questions to bed.
11. Indianapolis Colts (6-5) Def. Tampa Bay 25-12. Previously: 11
Two trains roll on: Matt Hasselbeck’s winning streak as the Colts’ starting quarterback, and the Colts’ abysmal inability to run the football.It is now 45 games without a 100-yard rusher for Indy, not since Vick Ballard reached the number in 2012, and Frank Gore’s latest efforts are trending the wrong way: 19 carries for 24 yards against Tampa.
12. Houston Texans (6-5) Def. New Orleans 24-6. Previously: 13
The Texans are pretty much a quieter version of the Chiefs, with a 1-4 start and a four game win streak to their name.What’s weirdest about this is that they really took off once they lost Arian Foster for a second time.There’s a big game against the Bills this week, but they don’t get much bigger than a trip to Indianapolis in three weeks time, quite probably for the division.
14. New York Jets (6-5) Def. Miami 38-20. Previously: 16
Line up the Jets’ first sweep of the Dolphins since 2007.These were the Jets we saw early in the season, when everything was clicking.Chris Ivory got loose with a beautiful touchdown run, and Ryan Fitzpatrick put his beard to rest with four scoring passes of his own, one finding Devin Smith for the rookie’s first career score.
13. Buffalo Bills (5-6) Lost to Kansas City 30-22. Previously: 10
Sammy Watkins took apart Kansas City with some lovely catches, just not quite as quickly as the Chiefs were taking apart Buffalo.The Bills have a game with big wild card implications this week against Houston, before the schedule offers up some potential victories with a three game stretch against the NFC East.
15. Chicago Bears (5-6) Def. Green Bay 17-13. Previously: 17
A week after their winning streak was put to bed with a close home loss to Denver, Chicago’s bounce back effort in a huge Thanksgiving night game on the road in Green Bay tells you this team is hear to stay. Zero turnovers on a rainy, miserable night, tells you they’ve got a good chance to do just that.
16. Oakland Raiders (5-6) Def. Tennessee 24-21. Previously: 19
Nothing like a game against the Titans to right the ship.Credit the Raiders for being ready to play in a noon game they had to fly east for.Seth Roberts hauled in 113 yards and two touchdowns worth of passes; did the Raiders need even more weapons in the passing game?
17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6) Lost to Indianapolis 25-12. Previously: 14
The end-of-drive troubles that doomed Tampa Bay against the Colts have been a problem all season, in one way or another.Even while rolling up 235 rushing yards last week against the Eagles, Doug Martin didn’t score, and he still hasn’t since Week5.The blown 24-0 lead against Washington only happened because at the end of the game Tampa couldn’t find pay-dirt from five yards out (after a 49 yard Martin run got them there).
18. Washington (5-6) Def. New York Giants 20-14. Previously: 21
Having DeSean Jackson around might be important for Washington down the stretch.He has 56 and 63 yard touchdown receptions in his last two games, and that deep threat even helped the Washington run game open up against New York Sunday.First place in the NFC East with three games left against the Eagles and Cowboys looks pretty good.
19. Atlanta Falcons (6-5) Lost to Minnesota 20-10. Previously: 18
The Falcons lost so many games to bad teams to start this downward spiral that now that they’re running up against good teams –Indianapolis and Minnesota — they can’t help but fall further down it.The last two losses wouldn’t look so bad, except for those they come on the heels of.
20. New York Giants (5-6) Lost to Washington 20-14. Previously: 15
It’s hard to have faith in the Giants.At any moment they could tighten up and play a game like a few weeks ago in New England, and at any given moment some part of the team can completely disappear: see the defense against New Orleans, allowing seven passing touchdowns; see the run game against Washington, totaling 33 yards.
21. Detroit Lions (4-7) Def. Philadelphia 45-14. Previously: 27
Three wins in a row makes it look like Detroit certainly picked the right people to fire.Vintage Megatron unloaded on the Eagles for three touchdowns after finding himself matched up against rookie Eric Rowe.Matt Stafford became the second QB in a row to toss five touchdown passes against Philadelphia.
22. New Orleans Saints (4-7) Lost to Houston 24-6. Previously: 22
Two big streaks stopped in this loss:The Saints hadn’t gone a game without a touchdown since 2005, and Drew Brees hadn’t done the same without a touchdown pass in 45 straight contests.It’s a far cry, three losses later, from the Saints last win, when Brees threw an NFL record seven touchdowns.
23. Miami Dolphins (4-7) Lost to New York Jets 38-20. Previously: 23
Nine carries for 12 yards.Now that is what you call abandoning the run game. Deficits of21-0 and 28-7will do that to you, I guess.The Dolphins threw their way to a few more scores, but never back into the game.With no one in the AFC separating themselves as wild card favorites, the Dolphins are certainly heading the other direction.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7) Lost to San Diego 31-25. Previously: 25
Julius Thomas, the Jaguars leading receiver in the loss to the Chargers with 116 yards and a touchdown, has become an important part of this offense once healthy, and is showing he can do it without Peyton Manning.That’s important for Jacksonville, who don’t figure to have Manning anytime soon.
25. Baltimore Ravens (4-7) Def. Cleveland 33-27. Previously: 26
Kudos to Brent Urban and Will Hill for that game winning field goal block and return.And further kudos to Matt Schaub, Javorius Allen, and Terrance West, who put together a passable offense sooner than expected in Joe Flacco and Justin Forsett’s absence.
26. Dallas Cowboys (3-8) Lost to Carolina 33-14. Previously: 20
It didn’t look good even before Tony Romo was re-injured and lost for the remainder of the season.Let the questions about whether Dallas should have brought him back continue, but their season will now unfold the same as if they never had(and hopefully, so will Romo’s career).
27. Philadelphia Eagles (4-7) Lost to Detroit 45-14. Previously: 24
They’ve allowed90 pointsover two games.They had negative nine yards on nine plays in the second quarter in Detroit.These are just some stats the Philadelphia Eagles can amaze you with.Chip Kelly is the hottest name on the hot seat, and now a game in Foxboro against a Patriots team nursing it’s first defeat beckons.
28. San Diego Chargers (3-8) Def. Jacksonville 31-25. Previously: 32
You had a feeling it had to end eventually.Maybe suffering all the close losses San Diego did convinces a team things will just go their way one week, and then a loss like, say 33-3 to Kansas City opens your eyes.
29. San Francisco 49ers (3-8) Lost to Arizona 19-13. Previously: 29
Can you be too upset with the Ninersfor losing a close game to the Cardinals.The passing offense has gotten more prolific in each of Blaine Gabbert’s three starts, and it’s a good thing too, because the run game is as miserable as ever.
30. St. Louis Rams (4-7) Lost to Cincinnati 31-7. Previously: 28
The Rams just get worse every week.To go from the team that had some questionable losses but victories over Seattle and Arizona to this, it makes you wonder how those victories happened.The unstoppable Todd Gurley train has been, to put it mildly, stopped.
31. Tennessee Titans (2-9) Lost to Oakland 24-21. Previously: 30
Marcus Mariota came up on the short end of the stick in his match-up against Derek Carr, with a 46 percentcompletion percentage and two interceptions.But with 11 home losses in a row and no end in sight, the Titans will likely be positioned well to throw him some big help in the draft.
32. Cleveland Browns (2-9) Lost to Baltimore 33-27. Previously: 31
Oh, Cleveland. It was a nice one-week vacation at 31.Josh McCown’s injury means we really may not have seen the last of Johnny Manziel yet, though we’re not sure what story-line could top first to third string in a week.