1. New England Patriots (12-2) | Last week: #1
The Patriots currently lead the NFL in points allowed per game (16.6). The defense has been flying around and paired with Tom Brady and the offense, it’s hard not to imagine the Pats will be right in it at the end.
2. Dallas Cowboys (12-2) | Last week: #3 (up 1)
Dak Prescott got back on track and was super efficient (32 completions on 36 attempts) in the Cowboys’ win over the Bucs. A win or a Giants loss, and the Cowboys would get the #1 seed and homefield throughout the NFC playoffs.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4) | Last week: #2 (down 1)
Alex Smith surprisingly threw a costly interception in the Chiefs loss to the Titans. The loss also says a lot about Tennessee, a team right in the AFC playoff picture. The Chiefs will face the Broncos on Christmas night next.
4. Oakland Raiders (11-3) | Last week: #4
Another close win and another road win for the Raiders, who are now 6-1 on the road. Next up is the Colts; Indy just destroyed the Vikings and are fighting for their playoff lives, so Oakland has to be ready to play.
5. Atlanta Falcons (9-5) | Last week: #5
Matt Ryan and the Falcons took care of the 49ers, as expected. Now they should get Julio Jones back, who leads the NFL in receiving yards (1,253) despite missing the last two games. Julio had 300 yards in the Falcons first matchup with their next opponent—the Panthers.
6. Seattle Seahawks (9-4-1) | Last week: #6
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks took care of business against the Rams on Thursday night, but the offensive line issues have to be concerning. Running back Thomas Rawls had no room to run against the Rams, and they’ll need to get the run game going to make another run at an NFC Championship.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) | Last week: #7
After a slow start, Big Ben and the Steelers turned it on to get a big win over the Bengals. Now their attention turns to the Ravens in a Christmas day matchup that could determine the NFC North champion.
8. Green Bay Packers (8-6) | Last week: #10 (up 2)
Since Aaron Rodgers said they could run the table, the Packers haven’t lost, and Rodgers has inserted himself right into the MVP conversation. Rodgers has 32 touchdowns and seven interceptions, very similar stats to an MVP favorite, Matt Ryan.
9. Baltimore Ravens (8-6) | Last week: #13 (up 4)
A little too close for comfort for the Ravens, but they got the one point victory over the Eagles. After taking care of business, they’ll have a chance to grab control of the AFC North against the Steelers. They won the first matchup, 21-14, but this one will be in Heinz Field.
10. New York Giants (10-4) | Last week: #15 (up 5)
The defense took care of business again, limiting the Lions to just 6 points in the win. They’re the only team besides the Cowboys that have a chance at the number one seed in the NFC, but they’ll likely have to settle for a wild card spot.
11. Miami Dolphins (9-5) | Last week: #14 (up 3)
Quarterback Matt Moore did as well as one could expect in his first start in years. All due respect to Bill Belichick, Jack Del Rio, Andy Reid, and others, but Adam Gase might be hard to deny for coach of the year.
12. Tennessee Titans (8-6) | Last week: #16 (up 4)
Another coach of the year candidate is Mike Mularkey. After having the worst record in the NFL last season, the Titans are right in the AFC playoff race. The ground and pound of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry is working wonders for this team, and they could make some noise in January.
13. Detroit Lions (9-5) | Last week: #8 (down 5)
Matthew Stafford’s unique one finger glove didn’t do much to help him on Sunday, as the Giants shut down the Lions offense. Things won’t get much easier against the Cowboys defense on Monday Night. The Packers are creeping up.
14. Houston Texans (8-6) | Last week: #17 (up 3)
Bill O’Brien should be applauded for making the move to Tom Savage at quarterback. Owner Bob McNair might not be happy with giving Brock Owseiler $72 million to sit on the bench, but BOB made the right decision. Savage looked good in his debut and should only improve with more experience.
15. Indianapolis Colts (7-7) | Last week: #19 (up 4)
The Colts always do this. Just when you expect them to be way out of it, they head into Minnesota and destroy the Vikings. The game wasn’t even close. Give Andrew Luck protection like the Colts did against the Vikings, and Luck is almost impossible to stop.
16. Minnesota Vikings (7-7) | Last week #9 (down 7)
The return of Adrian Peterson was a huge disappointment, thanks in large part to the Vikings getting blown out from the start. They fell way behind Indy and had to abandon the run game early. My preseason NFC pick is not looking too good right now, but they can get right back into the playoff race with a win against the red-hot Packers.
17. Washington Redskins (7-6-1) | Last week: #11 (down 6)
The Redskins defense looked really bad against the Panthers on Monday night. Jay Gruden and the Redskins have a bright future, but now they’re going to need some help to make the playoffs this season.
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6) | Last week #12 (down 6)
The Bucs nearly took down the Cowboys despite bad pass protection, no run game, and three interceptions by Jameis Winston. They need to get the offensive issues fixed for this week against the Saints.
19. Denver Broncos (8-6) | Last week: #18 (down 1)
Denver’s offense was shut down by New England. The run game has struggled mightily this season, and now the Broncos are going to need some help if they’re going to get into the playoffs a year after winning the Super Bowl.
20. Buffalo Bills (7-7) | Last week: #21 (up 1)
LeSean McCoy ran all over the Browns on Sunday to help the Bills pick up an easy victory. The offense has been outperforming the defense all year. Rex Ryan’s future is still up in the air, but offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn may be someone Bills management may want to keep around no matter what happens to Ryan.
21. New Orleans Saints (6-8) | Last week: #22 (up 1)
That’s more like it from the Saints offense. After two straight bad weeks from Drew Brees, the Saints put up 48 points in a win over Arizona.
22. Carolina Panthers (6-8) | Last week: #25 (up 3)
Similarly, that’s more like it for the Panthers. They looked more like the 2015 version of the team in their win over the Redskins.
23. Arizona Cardinals (5-8-1) | Last week: #20 (down 3)
The Cardinals are among the teams I’m most interested to see this offseason. Will Carson Palmer be back? If not, who will be the quarterback? Either way, some changes have to be made to the personnel after this down year, and the Cardinals got started early by cutting Michael Floyd (who was in a contract year anyway) after they weren’t happy with how he handled his DUI arrest. The release may give an indication into this upcoming offseason.
24. San Diego Chargers (5-9) | Last week: #23 (down 1)
The Chargers have had trouble winning close games this season. Melvin Gordon could return this week against the Browns, and the Chargers will try to avoid being the team that loses to Cleveland.
25. Cincinnati Bengals (5-8-1) | Last week #24 (down 1)
Cincinnati was up on Pittsburgh, but coughed up the lead after Jeremy Hill messed with a Terrible Towel (coincidence or not). Similar to the Cardinals, it feels like they need to make some changes (if slight) to the personnel.
26. Los Angeles Rams (4-10) | Last week: #26
According to Jay Glazer, the Rams are the most sought after coaching destination, particularly because of Jared Goff and Todd Gurley as pieces to build around. Does that mean someone like Jon Gruden would want to coach the Rams? If I were a Rams fan, that’s who I would want.
27. Philadelphia Eagles (5-9) | Last week: #27
The Eagles have had some very close losses as of late. The good news for them is right tackle Lane Johnson returns from suspension, which will give the offensive line a boost.
28. New York Jets (4-10) | Last week: #28
Bilal Powell has been a real bright spot for the Jets over the past two games. Sheldon Richardson has not been a bright spot off the field after his Snapchat video was made public. He’s not someone I’d want on my team, and the Jets are likely thinking the same thing.
29. Chicago Bears (3-11) | Last week #30 (up 1)
The Bears made a valiant effort against the Packers, but a deep ball from Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson sealed their fate. They deserve credit for battling despite being way out of playoff contention.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12) | Last week: #29 (down 1)
As written last week, the Jags were the next team to get rid of their head coach. I thought it would be after the season, but I guess they didn’t want the Rams to get too much of a head start on them in the coaching search.
31. San Francisco 49ers (1-13) | Last week: #31
As expected, the 49ers couldn’t compete with the Falcons high-powered offense. Christian Ponder was activated as the backup quarterback, could we see some of him in the final two games, with Colin Kaepernick almost certainly not returning to the Niners in 2017?
32. Cleveland Browns (0-14) | Last week: #32
RGIII ran for a touchdown for a second straight game, but he is going to need to pick it up in his 2017 audition.