The beauty of this time of year is that the playoffs start to shape up. The curse of this time of year is that though we now have a picture, nothing is clear.
The best thing to do is just wait and enjoy the games.
01. New Orleans Saints - They're schedule turns up a notch starting this week when they host New England. If they win this one, which I think they will, then we can start talking "undefeated season." This team has bigger hopes than that though/
02. Indianapolis Colts - Are the 2009 Indianapolis Colts seriously the most unappreciated 10-0 team of all time? Love them or hate them, respect them or not, the Colts season has thus far been the most entertaining in the league.
03. Minnesota Vikings - If someone told you that through week 11 Brett Favre would have a 21-3 TD to INT ratio you probably would have laughed at them. Well, through week 11 he has a 21-3 TD to INT ratio, and the Vikings are definitely playoff bound, they'll probably have a first round bye. Take a look at their schedule though, who have the beaten? Their final six aren't as easy.
04. San Diego Chargers - Arguably the hottest team in the NFL and they won't be tested again until week 14. They better beat Kansas City and Cleveland these next two weeks or they'll be stuck with the four seed.
05. New England Patriots - A lot of people think this team is the best team in the NFL and they'll have a chance to prove it this week against the Saints. A win, and we can start talking about ring 4 for Belichick and Brady, a loss and we can start wondering who the Patriots are going to play wild card weekend.
06. Arizona Cardinals - Cardinal fans (and wide receivers) have to be worried about Kurt Warner's health. The way everyone has been talking about head injuries these days, you have to wonder whether or not the Cardinals are going to sit him this week @ Tennessee. Chances are the Cardinals are out of the race for a first round bye, so this team should probably do what's best to set them up for a playoff run.
The Very Good
07. Cincinnati Bengals - They had a golden opportunity to get to 10-2 and put their mark on the two seed, but they blew it against the Raiders. If this team is for real then they're going to turn it on from here on out and learn a lesson from that brutal loss.
08. Pittsburgh Steelers - Ouch. You can't lose games like that, not after you lost to Cincinnati the week before. If they can bury Baltimore on Sunday Night then they'll be in great shape to contend for the division again. They'll be in the playoffs, and no one will want to play them.
09. Dallas Cowboys – A lot like the Steelers they have looked pretty bad these past two weeks. Savor the Thanksgiving showdown with Oakland because the remainder of the schedule reads as @ NYG, SD, @ NO, @ Was, Phi. Remember all that talk about Tony Romo in December and January? Get ready for round 4. Also, if you don’t have NFL Sunday Ticket expect to be stuck watching six Cowboy’s games in six weeks.
10. Philadelphia Eagles – Their win against the Bears was close, but a big step in maneuvering this team for a playoff run. This team may not be the best Eagles team of the McNabb-Reid era, but in a top heavy NFC, this is a playoff team.
11. New York Giants – It was a nail-biter with the Falcons, but for good reason; it was also an elimination game. The Giants came out alive, but their schedule doesn’t really cool off. They’re going to need to win three of their final six to make the playoffs, to be safe they’ll have to win four. That schedule reads as (@ Denver, Dallas, Philadelphia, @ Washington, Carolina, @ Minnesota). Despite that schedule, it’s hard to write off a team that has been in contention every year since 2005.
Hanging In There
12. Green Bay Packers - The Packers won their do-or-die against the 49ers and are rewarded with a Thanksgiving game against a Matthew Stafford-less Lions. Although I don't believe in this team, they have an open road to nine wins, maybe even ten or eleven. They'll probably be in the playoffs. Now imagine they meet the Vikings in January?
13. Jacksonville Jaguars - I buried this team, what the heck happened? Quietly this team has won their last three, but outside of they have yet to beat a team in the upper echelon. They might not have to to make the playoffs though.
14. Miami Dolphins - Suddenly the Dolphin control their own playoff fate. If they can beat an identity-less Bills team this week in Buffalo, the Dolphins will be at 6-5 and if New England drop one to New Orleans the game the next week in Miami may be for the AFC East. Imagine that?
15. Denver Broncos - This team is free falling to an 8-8 record at best. They're on pace to make the 2003 Vikings season look like a success. With the Giants, Colts, and Eagles on their schedule, they're probably getting left out of the playoffs.
The Living Dead
16. Tennessee Titans - Jeff Fisher really, really, regrets not starting Vince Young after the 0-4 start. Or maybe he saw Indy and New England back to back and knew that was the worst place to throw a quarterback into. The heat of the schedule turns on these next two weeks with Arizona and @ Indianapolis in back to back weeks. This team can only afford one more loss, and even then they're in an unlikely position to get the six seed. The three seed will be scared to death if they get in though.
17. Houston Texans - They're 5-5 and they play Indianapolis again, this time at home. The question is how confident can this team be heading into their most important game (for the third game in a row) of their season? There's a good chance they fall below .500 again.
18. Baltimore Ravens - Though it looks as though Indianapolis may've put a dagger in Baltimore's season, don't write the Ravens off yet. Outside of two games against the Steelers, the rest of the schedule is very winnable. If they can win this week at home against Pittsburgh, there's a great chance the Ravens ride momentum to a 10-6 record a playoff berth.
19. Atlanta Falcons - In all reality, The Falcons 2009 is done with that loss to the Giants. They're going to have to beat the Eagles and Saints (fortunately both games are at home) to make the playoffs. The truth about the 2009 Falcons is their too inconsistent to make a run like that. They'll be a .500 team at least.
20. Carolina Panthers - That loss to the Dolphins was brutal, and so was that interception by
Jake Delhomme, that pretty much wrapped the contest up. Final four games are against @NE, Min, @ NYG, NO. They're not going to the playoffs. At this point they're going to play the spoiler and play for their jobs. That Delhomme contract was bad.
21. New York Jets - Since their 3-0 start the Jets have only beaten the Raiders. Somehow Rex Ryan and Matt Sanchez have devolved. If they win 2 of their final 5 it'll be a positive ending to 2009.
22. San Francisco 49ers - They're going to be below .500 again. Do they stick with Alex Smith now that he's shown some signs of being a decent NFL QB? If not, then they should let Frank Gore walk, it's unfair for that guy to sit through another process.
23. Chicago Bears - 2009's biggest underachievers. Didn't they get rid of Rex Grossman because they wanted consistency from the quarterback position? At least Grossman took them to the Super Bowl. The way Jay Cutler is playing, the Bears may not get back anytime soon.
24. Seattle Seahawks - I really thought they were going to get back to the playoffs this year. I think a lot of changes are going to take place in 2010. The Hasselbeck era may be over.
25. Kansas City Chiefs - The win against Pittsburgh was the type that redeems a season. Matt Cassell has started to play alright, and Chris Chambers looks much better in Kansas City than he ever looked in San Diego. Long term they're in the worst shape in their division.
26. Oakland Raiders - For the second time in 2009 the Raiders cooled off a team with overblown Super Bowl hopes. How much longer until the Raiders have Super Bowl hopes? They
may only be a quarterback (and coach?) away.
27. Buffalo Bills - They had every opportunity to beat the Jaguars and gain some respectability but they couldn't do it. They were healthier on defense, the offense looked okay, but losing Marshawn Lynch will hurt them for the duration of the regular season.
28. Detroit Lions - It was a game of the year candidate when they came back against the Browns not once, but twice. Let's not forget that the game was against the Browns though.
29. Washington Redskins - Man, they missed that field goal and you just knew they were going to blow it. This team just has that aura of stink around them, that even when they're winning, you expect them to lose.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - At least they look like an NFL team now. They may not win a game the rest of the regular season though. At least they don't have to worry about drafting a Quarterback, though.
31. St. Louis Rams - They may not have beaten the Cardinals, but they definitely reminded Kurt Warner of his injury prone days at the beginning of the decade.
32. Cleveland Browns - Somebody put a curse on this franchise. Personally, I felt as though the call was wrong on the pass interference, but what can you do? It's the Browns.