This upcoming week is the best week of the NFL regular season match up wise, and the divide between good and bad, contenders and pretenders, is likely the lengthen after this week.
So for now, enjoy the last power rankings before things really start to heat up around the league.
01. New Orleans Saints - I don't see Sunday's near loss as a sign of weakness for this team. It was a short week road game against a team that's better than it's record. It looks like they've wrapped up home field in the NFC, but the next four games won't be a cake walk.
02. Indianapolis Colts - I think it's now safe to say that the Colts are the best team in the AFC. They have a big one against Denver this week that could wrap up home field advantage for them with a win. If the Colts win that one then we can start talking about "perfect season." Nothing matters for this team until the playoffs though.
03. San Diego Chargers - They're the hottest team in the NFL, but their schedule finally heats up. This week @ Dallas will be the final barometer for how good this team really is. If they can beat the Cowboys, then I'll buy this team going deep into the playoffs. If they lose, then expect the usual with this team.
04. Minnesota Vikings - Doesn't it feel like the wheels are about to fall off? For the second season in a row Favre was the consensus MVP after week 12. Does this mean for the second season in a row he's going to collapse? EJ Henderson is gone for the season, that hurts a lot. That's like losing AP for this team. Their Super Bowl hopes are going to really be pushed to the limits these waning weeks of the regular season.
05. Arizona Cardinals - Neglect their record, this team is elite. On any given day this team can beat any team in the NFL as long as they have Kurt Warner. I know a lot of people feel as though Warner is overrated and he has a ton of weapons, but this team is infinitely better with him than without him. His chemistry with those receivers is really something special to watch, and I know for a fact that it makes even Peyton Manning and Drew Brees envious.
The Very Good
06. Cincinnati Bengals - They're going to best tested this week @ Minnesota, and next week @ San Diego. I've got a feeling they're going to lose three of their final four to finish up as the 4 seed of the AFC. Then it's revenge time versus Denver. Wherever they finish, it's been a positive year for this franchise.
07. Denver Broncos - They're winning the games they're supposed to win and that means they're going back to the AFC playoffs for the first time since the Plummer era. Hard to believe it's going to be done with Kyle Orton at QB, considering they pushed Plummer out of town (after 3 straight playoff runs) for a guy by the name of Jay Cutler. How'd that work out?
08. Philadelphia Eagles - They're good. They're not great, but they're good, which can be enough to get this team to where they want to go in the playoffs this year. This team can still win the NFC East, but getting to the playoffs should be their biggest concern. Wherever they land they're going to have to play an East team in the first round, followed by two road games to domes. It'll come down to focus.
09. Dallas Cowboys - We can't overrate this team. I've said that all season long. This team is good, and they can be great, but they're not great yet. A great team would have won that game on Sunday. Tony Romo did well, but it was really important to get that win to diminish some of those "December demons." San Diego, @ New Orleans, @ Washington, Philadelphia is the upcoming schedule. They can win two of those four to get to the playoffs, right?
10. New England Patriots - Is this team really falling this fast? I knew they weren't the 2004 Patriots (contrary to the time warp the media is stuck in) but I didn't realize they were this "un-elite." I still think they'll manage the 3 seed, and they'll probably handle whoever they get in the first round, but I can't see them getting past San Diego or Indianapolis. Like I said, this isn't 2004, that was five seasons ago.
11. Green Bay Packers - The Monday Night win over the Baltimore Ravens was the first somewhat "big" game that QB Aaron Rodgers has won in his career. At 8-4, the Packers should benefit from the melee that is the NFC East, while they take care of a schedule that looks like @ Chicago, @ Pittsburgh, vs Seattle, and @ Arizona. Outside of the Pittsburgh game, the other three should be winnable (given that Arizona will likely be resting players in week 17 due to no bye week). In other words, this is a playoff team.
Hanging In There
12. New York Giants - They picked up their second big win in three weeks, but they're in danger of suffering their second big loss in three weeks this week. If they beat the Eagles this week then they're going to win the NFC East. If they lose this week then they'll be lucky to be in
the playoffs. Luckily for them they're playing at home.
13. Jacksonville Jaguars - It's hard not to consider the Jaguars a surprise team so far, but I think they;re going to finally fall off. They head to Miami this week for what is essentially an elimination game; If somehow they win that one, they'll have to beat Indy and New England in back to back weeks before heading to Cleveland to wrap up the season.
14. Miami Dolphins - After a long, tiring, up and down 12 games, the Dolphins are finally in position to make the playoffs. They have tough games their final four; @Jac, @Ten, Hou, Pit, but this team is riding a wave of momentum, and they have big things on their mind. They have as good a chance as any mid level team to make the AFC playoffs.
15. New York Jets - The Jets are back in the playoff hunt, and they should get over .500 this week when they travel to Tampa. After that it will take wins vs Atl, @ Ind, vs Cin to get to the playoffs. The Jets may end up .500 or 9-7 for the second year in a row. Not bad for starting a rookie all season.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers - This team is starting to fall fast. To make the playoffs they're going to need help. I figured a game against Oakland would be just what they needed, but losing that one will hurt. They have a winnable schedule from here on out, and they're going to have to win all four to make it to January. Undefeated Colts, mediocre Patriots, good but not great Bengals and Broncos, a Steelers team that needs to get hot. Starting to remind you of the 2005 AFC? The Steelers won the Super Bowl that season, by the way.
17. Baltimore Ravens - I knew you couldn't read into the win versus Pittsburgh and boy, was I right. They're 6-6 and have the easiest remaining schedule of the AFC wild card contenders (Det, Chi, @Pit, @Oak) but do you really think they'll win the necessary games to oust Miami, New York, Jacksonville, and Pittsburgh? It's going to be harder than it sounds.
18. Tennessee Titans - That's what happens when you start 0-6. You can win your next five, but one loss to the best team in your conference and your season is pretty much over. Vince Young has solidified himself as the QB of the future for the Titans, and these next four games will see the Titans trying as hard as possible to get over .500.
19. Carolina Panthers - No Delhomme equates to beating a bad team, barely. Every week this team looks more and more like the Bills in that they need to just deconstruct. New head coach, new quarterback, new everything. The Panthers are good, but not great. They'll never be great with this batch.
20. Atlanta Falcons - You can't blame them for losing this week to the Eagles without their franchise quarterback, running back, and all those other injuries we know exist in Atlanta. This team probably won't be in the playoffs, but a win this week against the Saints can rectify an entire season.
21. Chicago Bears - If Lovie Smith wants to keep his job the Bears are going to have to get to 8-8. To do so the Bears are going to have to win three of the final four against Green Bay, @ Baltimore, Minnesota, @ Detroit. Who do I think would be a good head coaching fit in Chicago? I don't know, maybe Jon Gruden? Or maybe a certain QB and coach will reunite? I doubt Chicago are looking to spend that sort of money, though.
22. Houston Texans - Same old Texans. Where do they go from here? New head coach? New Quarterback? That defense should be performing better. My honest opinion? It's hard to win the AFC South. You need to build a team that can beat the Colts and compete with the Colts, but that's hard to do when you don't have Peyton Manning. Since 2003 only the 2008 Titans have been able to kick the Colts off their throne, and that was mostly thanks to a 3 game handicap. If the Texans are going to want to compete in the '10's they're going to need to find a counter to Manning because it doesn't look like he's going to decline anytime soon. They had the right idea drafting Mario Williams, though.
23. Seattle Seahawks - Matt Hasselbeck knows he's playing for his job right now. I think he'll hold on to it next year, but they're definitely going to be drafting another QB this year. Maybe not in the first round, but probably at some point.
24. San Francisco 49ers - Man, talk about schizophrenia. They go out and beat the Jaguars last week, and follow it up with a loss to the Seahawks. I've got a feeling Arizona are going to get some Week 1 revenge this week when they head to San Francisco.
25. Buffalo Bills - As usual, the Bills are a mediocre to below average team. They play a lot of their losses close, and they win a few close ones, too. They have maybe two wins left on their schedule, then this team needs to get deconstructed.
26. Oakland Raiders - I feel as if the Raiders played good teams every week they'd be a playoff team. They have four wins this season, three coming against Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and the Eagles. Let's not forget that they played the Chargers really well twice. I think it's a reflection on how close this team is to being good.
27. Washington Redskins - They've lost so many one score games this season that it's hard to defend Jim Zorn keeping his job. The one against the Saints was heartbreaking. They should get their 4th win of the season this week at Oakland, but after that its the Giants, Cowboys, and at San Diego. I've got a feeling they can't wait for this season to be over.
28. Kansas City Chiefs - $63 million for a quarterback to get benched in the middle of a game with the middle of a game with the Broncos? Ouch.
29. Detroit Lions - Things are starting to get really ugly for this team. Their final schedule won't be much easier. 2-14 is an improvement from 0-16, right?
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - There must be something in Carolina that makes quarterbacks throw 5 interceptions. Unfortunately for the Bucs, it was rookie Josh Freeman this week. At least the game was close.
31. St. Louis Rams - Jimmy Clausen announced that he's entering the 2010 NFL draft. I don't see the Lions, Chiefs, Bucs, or Browns taking him, so does that make him a Ram? Probably.
32. Cleveland Browns - To their credit they're still trying. They competed with a beat up Chargers team and gave them a better contest than some of the other bottom-of-the-barrel teams that the Chargers have played lately (yeah I'm talking about you KC).