The New Orleans Saints are still on top, while the Colts are still number 2. Both teams are undefeated, and if they win this week will likely end the 2009 season 16-0.
The Chargers and the Vikings wrap up the elite, while the Eagles look to climb in while the Cardinals fell out.
There's no number three team in the running for elite, but I believe that if a third team in the AFC can make a run at the Super Bowl, it will be the Patriots.
32 has narrowed down to 18, and that 18 will likely dwindle to 15-16 after this week.
01. New Orleans Saints - They're the best team in the NFL right now and they have a great shot to go down as the best team in NFL history. That's right I said it. They figure out a way to win every week and if they beat the Cowboys this Saturday, they'll probably be 16-0 heading into the playoffs. They're good, really good.
02. Indianapolis Colts - They wrapped up home field advantage in the AFC, thus there regular season mission is over. From this point on all that matters is the playoffs. Beware though, this is the deepest team in the NFL, and with Anthony Gonzalez and Donald Brown getting healthy, this team can be really scary in January.
03. San Diego Chargers - They've proven me wrong, and they're for real. Their schedule won't get much easier these next two weeks, but a win this week against the Bengals and Charger fans can start planning vacations for wild card weekend. Can they beat the Colts for a third year in a row?
04. Minnesota Vikings - It seems as though the MVP Favre discussion has cooled off, and that was good for the Vikings this week. If this team is going to do what Vikings teams of the past have failed to do; win the Super Bowl; they're going to have to rely on strong defense and clock management. The Saints, Colts, and Chargers aren't going to let Brett Favre get off free for his mistakes.
The Very Good
05. Philadelphia Eagles - They have taken control of the NFC East and they're poised to enter the playoffs for 8th time this decade. If this team wants to finally win the Super Bowl, they're going to have to get better on defense, but the way their offense is playing they may be just fine as is.
06. Arizona Cardinals - Sure it was a bad loss against the 49ers, and an ugly one at that, but they had plenty of those last year before the playoffs. I still think they're going to be the 3 seed, and that will be scary for the Vikings. This team won't have to play outdoors until they get to the Super Bowl. NFC Beware.
07. Cincinnati Bengals - I have a feeling they were exposed on Sunday in Minnesota. This team is good, but they're not great. I'd be shocked if this team beats San Diego this week, and I'll be even more shocked if they win a playoff game this year.
08. Green Bay Packers - If the Chargers are the hottest team in the AFC, then this is the hottest team in the NFC. The only difference is this team is going to have to win three on the road just to get to the Super Bowl. They probably won't make it past the divisional round.
09. Denver Broncos - They my have staged a comeback against the Colts but they still dropped another game to a good team. This team will be in the playoffs, but they're far from a championship contender. They may be headed back to Indianapolis soon though.
10. New England Patriots - They got another home win, but they're continuing to fail at impressing anyone. Don't believe the media though, they may not be the 2004 Patriots, but they're one of three teams in the AFC who actually have a chance at winning the Super Bowl.
Hanging In There
11. Dallas Cowboys - The Cowboys haven't played a more important game than the one they're going to have this week against the Saints in over a decade. Not only are they fighting for their playoff lives, but they're also fighting to legitimize the franchise, the owner, the quarterback, and the coach. If this team loses on Sunday, then it'll mark the end of an era.
12. New York Giants - They're up-and-down more than any team in the NFL right now, but if the Saints beat the Cowboys this week, then the Giants will simply have to take care of the Redskins this week to take control of the NFC six seed. They'll have a similar impact as the 06 Giants had on the tournament as opposed to the 07 Giants.
13. Miami Dolphins - They needed that win against the Jaguars and now they're in great shape to make the playoffs. They're not Super Bowl contenders, but if Chad Henne can develop, and they can get a play making receiver in there, they may get there next decade.
14. New York Jets - They were able to win one they needed to win this week against the Bucs, but this is a team that really doesn't deserve to be in the playoffs. I hate to say it, but the 2009 Jets offense would be the worst unit to ever make it to the NFL playoffs. Ever. They may actually make it though.
15. Baltimore Ravens - Quietly the Ravens are positioning themselves for a playoff run. They have Chicago, @ Pittsburgh, @ Oakland, in their way of making it back to the playoffs, but there's no denying they have a great shot at making it back to the playoffs. The question is can they do damage when there and beat Cinci or New England?
16. Jacksonville Jaguars - They needed that win against the Dolphins. Now they're forced to win against the Colts and @ New England in back to back weeks. It's a tall order, but who thought they'd be the AFC 6 seed through week 14?
17. Tennessee Titans - They're a win this week against the Dolphins from getting to .500, and considering they were once 0-6, that's a monumental achievement and can change the way we look at losing teams early on forever. A win against the Dolphins and some help from the Colts on Thursday, and the Titans can also get themselves right into the playoff mix.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers - They lost to the Browns. Ouch. To be honest, the only reason I have then this close to the middle of the pack is because of past success. I think their decade is over, but how can you complain when you won two championships, including one last year. They'll be back in 2010.
19. Houston Texans - They finally got back to winning, but chances are it was too late. That four game skid was brutal, but at least they have St. Louis this week: the perfect opponent to ensure consecutive wins.
20. San Francisco 49ers - They got an impressive win against the Cardinals, but it's too little too late. This is a team that has to start preparing for 2010. I think they have their coach and QB though. Let's hope Frank Gore stays healthy for it.
21. Carolina Panthers - They tried their hardest to beat the Patriots but it wasn't good enough. You can't rough the kicker against a team like the Patriots and not pay for it. Who is their QB in 2010? Better question, who is their coach in 2010?
22. Atlanta Falcons - They're still alive in the playoff race, but we all know they're done. What 2009 has taught us is that Matt Ryan probably isn't the next Peyton Manning or Dan Marino, but he is good enough to win in the future. The defense needs work and they can still use another receiver. I love the heart they showed against the Saints, though.
23. Buffalo Bills - The Bills 2009 will play out like the rest of their decade: mediocre, not awful, not in the playoffs.
24. Chicago Bears - When the Bears made the trade for Jay Cutler did they anticipate Cutler leading the league in interceptions? If so then they got more than what they asked for.
25. Washington Redskins - After keeping it close for three weeks, the 'Skins finally pulled off a win. They end their season with NYG, Dal, and @ San Diego. This may have been their last win until 2010.
26. Seattle Seahawks - Though they have five wins, their 2009 version is still disgusting. The last time the Indianapolis Colts were 13-0. the Seahawks were headed to the Super Bowl. Only three seasons have played out since then. What a fall this franchise has had.
27. Oakland Raiders - Welcome back, JaMarcus. This guy is quickly becoming Ryan Leaf for a new generation of Football fans.
28. Kansas City Chiefs - Matt Cassell heard boos from the home crowd after getting beat by the Bills. Let's be honest, Cassell succeeded in a system in New England that no offensive player has yet to succeed outside of. Kansas City isn't New England. Matt Cassell isn't a legitimate NFL QB.
29. Cleveland Browns - Their season gained retribution with a win over the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Give it to Mangini, for a bad team these guys are disciplined.
30. Detroit Lions - 48-3 to the Ravens is disgraceful. No disrespect to the Ravens, but no professional football team should get beaten that badly by the Ravens. 2010 needs to come soon for these guys.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Where does this team go from here? Has the team that Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden made relevant for over a decade fallen back to their 1970's to mid 1990's identity?
32. St. Louis Rams - If you thought this team was bad, then now you know. Do you think Ndamukong Suh would look good on that defensive line with Chris Long? It looks like we'll find out in 2010.