Another week, another top team in one of the conferences goes down.
1. New England Patriots
Previous Week: 1
The game was close at halftime but Tom Brady took over in the second half as the Pats destroyed the Lions on Thanksgiving Day. The win was significant because it showed that New England didn’t overlook a bad team with the Jets on deck.
2. Atlanta Falcons
Previous Week: 5
The 2009 Saints are the reason why people are still reluctant to call the Falcons the best team in the NFC. New Orleans steamrolled over everyone last year, but Atlanta wears teams down until they can win it in the fourth quarter (sometimes late in the fourth quarter). They’re not the most talented team (at least defensively), but they’re consistent and with their win over the Packers last Sunday, the Falcons have now beaten four straight playoff contenders (Bucs, Ravens, Rams and Packers). Argue with that.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
Previous Week: 2
The Steelers beat the Falcons without Big Ben in Week 1, but the only reason they’re still ranked this high is because Steve Johnson dropped that touchdown pass in overtime. Every team is allowed a mulligan or two throughout the year and that was the Steelers’ last week. They got caught looking ahead to Baltimore a week early.
4. New York Jets
Previous Week: 4
If the Jets want the No. 1 spot in these rankings, I’ll give it to them if they can beat the Patriots on Monday night next week. They’ve already beaten the Pats once this year but to do it in Foxboro is another story.
5. New Orleans Saints
Previous Week: 8
What should scare every team in the NFC is that nobody is talking about the Saints right now. Sure, they could have easily lost to the Cowboys had Malcolm Jenkins not run down Roy Williams in the final minutes on Thanksgiving. But let’s not overlook the fact that the Saints are getting healthy and could head into the playoffs with a full head of steam. Who would want to play this team in January?
6. Baltimore Ravens
Previous Week: 9
Their win over the Bucs last Sunday was highly unimpressive from an offensive standpoint. But with the Steelers coming up this week, it was good to that Baltimore wasn’t caught looking ahead.
7. Chicago Bears
Previous Week: 13
This isn’t the same team that took the field in the first six or so weeks of the season. The offensive line has greatly improved over the last three weeks and Jay Cutler is starting to put some quality games together. If Mike Martz can stop taking unnecessary chances and rely more on his running game, then the Bears are going to be tough to beat down the stretch. That said, they have a tough schedule coming up, which includes a date with the Packers in Green Bay.
8. Philadelphia Eagles
Previous Week: 3
I think the Eagles started to read their own press clippings after beating the Giants. That was when everyone started to talk about how this team was the best in the NFC and then smack! They met a determined Bears team in Chicago. This may not be the team to beat in the NFC, but they’re still the team to beat in the NFC East.
9. Green Bay Packers
Previous Week: 6
It would be a shame if a 7-9 or 8-8 team in the NFC West makes the playoffs and the Packers (who know doubt will have a better record) don’t. This is a good team led by an elite quarterback. Now they just have to figure out ways to win close games so they’re not nipped come playoff time.
10. San Diego Chargers
Previous Week: 11
I wonder if the Raider fan who left a comment on my rankings two weeks ago that Oakland should be ahead of San Diego will come back to eat crow. Doubtful.
11. New York Giants
Previous Week: 10
That was a highly unimpressive effort against the Jaguars. If this team can’t stop turning the ball over then they’ll be on the outside looking in come playoff time.
12. Indianapolis Colts
Previous Week: 7
That’s two bad games in a row for Peyton Manning. Are the Colts’ injuries starting to take their toll on Manning too or is he just in a funk? (Or worse, are his skills declining?)
13. Kansas City Chiefs
Previous Week: 14
Impressive, impressive, impressive win on Sunday. I don’t care what the Seahawks’ record is – it’s tough to win in Seattle and Kansas City made it look easy.
14. Tampa Bay Bucs
Previous Week: 12
Josh Freeman needs more help. He can take care of busy against bad teams but he can’t win games on his own when he faces the likes of Baltimore, Atlanta and New Orleans. That said, the Bucs have another chance to notch a signature win this week when they host the Falcons in Tampa.
15. Jacksonville Jaguars
Previous Week: 15
I know they lost but the Jags earned some respect last week with their effort against the Giants. This isn’t an overly talented team but they’re sound. They give it hell every week.
16. Miami Dolphins
Previous Week: 16
No Brandon Marshall? No offensive line? No problem.
17. Dallas Cowboys
Previous Week: 20
This team can now play with anyone again thanks to their resurgence under Jason Garrett. If Roy Williams doesn’t fumble that ball the ‘Boys go on for their third-straight victory.
18. Houston Texans
Previous Week: 21
I don’t care that it came against Rusty Smith: Houston’s defense needed a game like that.
19. Minnesota Vikings
Previous Week: 24
Who didn’t see that coming? No Brad Childress and suddenly the Vikings’ effort level rises.
20. Washington Redskins
Previous Week: 19
Upset prediction of the week: Redskins over Giants. You heard it here first. Why? Because just when you want to write off the Skins they beat some team nobody expects them to.
21. Cleveland Browns
Previous Week: 23
Try as they did, the Browns didn’t give that game away on Sunday. Peyton Hillis is a beast.
22. Tennessee Titans
Previous Week: 17
Who would have ever thought that the Titans would be so pumped for Kerry Collins’ return?
23. Oakland Raiders
Previous Week: 18
The Raiders are who we thought they were!
24. St. Louis Rams
Previous Week: 26
Sam Bradford is already special but in three years, I have a feeling he’s going to be really special.
25. San Francisco 49ers
Previous Week: 25
Where has that effort been all year, Niners? I know it was against the Cardinals but that was the best San Fran has played all year. So focused and determined.
26. Seattle Seahawks
Previous Week: 22
I was always under the impression that Seattle was a tough place to play. You would have thought the Chiefs were playing at Arrowhead with how comfortable they looked on Sunday.
27. Buffalo Bills
Previous Week: 28
Steve Johnson, no! Oh, Steve Johnson…
28. Denver Broncos
Previous Week: 27
That seat under Josh McDaniels is starting to reach unsafe temperatures.
29. Cincinnati Bengals
Previous Week: 29
I’ve run out of things to say about the Bengals. I mean really, what can anyone say? That this team is good? They’re better than they’re record? They’ve been in most games? Who cares.
30. Arizona Cardinals
Previous Week: 30
Absolutely pathetic. Watching the Cardinals’ offense on Monday night was like watching a 11 monkeys try to assemble a Lego castle.
31. Detroit Lions
Previous Week: 31
In a couple of years the Lions are going to be good, but Jim Schwartz needs to get his team to be more mentally tough.
32. Carolina Panthers
Previous Week: 32
While it came in a losing effort, the Panthers certainly gave great effort in Cleveland on Sunday. That hasn’t been the case for much of this year.
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