With just three weeks to go, the AFC playoff picture is half set, while the NFC still has five spots up for grabs. Strangely enough, the top 12 teams in this week’s rankings are all currently in the playoff picture if the playoffs were to start today.
In the NFC, four teams have officially been eliminated, and at one point, all four were thought to be potential playoff teams. The Panthers, Lions and Eagles all had high expectations when the season started, and the Cardinals—a team with very little expectation—began the season 4-0.
The Patriots took over the top spot for the first time since Week 17 of the 2010 season. The Colts cracked the top 10, and the Steelers dropped six spots to No. 12.
With that, let’s get to the rest of the rankings!
Each team's previous ranking is in parentheses.
1. New England Patriots (3)
Despite the win, the Patriots still need some help if they want the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
2. San Francisco 49ers (4)
Colin Kaepernick has proven to be more than reliable. He is winning games. However, if he gets hurt, will Alex Smith have any confidence in himself to lead them through the playoffs?
3. Houston Texans (1)
The only two blemishes on their resume this year are a pasting by the Packers and a beat-down by the Patriots. But hey, if your only two losses are to Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, I guess that’s not something to be too upset with.
4. Denver Broncos (5)
The Broncos are 10-3 and still have a chance at grabbing one of the top two seeds to get a first-round bye.
5. Atlanta Falcons (2)
For a while I was beginning to think maybe I was wrong about the Falcons. Glad to see that even at 11-2, they are still an overrated team. Nonetheless, they should be able to get past the first round of the playoffs this year. Because, you know, they will have a bye.
6. Green Bay Packers (8)
With a win against the Bears this week, Green Bay will have the division wrapped up and can then focus on getting its defense healthy over the final two weeks.
7. New York Giants (9)
The Giants seem to be rounding back into form, and that is a scary thought for everyone else in the NFC. They might not be the most talented, but they are the most experienced when it comes to the playoffs.
8. Baltimore Ravens (7)
The Ravens should get Ray Lewis back this week, which will help their defense tremendously. On offense, where has Torrey Smith disappeared to? They need their top wide receiver to get back on track.
9. Indianapolis Colts (11)
Even if the Colts fell flat on their faces in these next three games, Andrew Luck should be one of the favorites for MVP. It was just a year ago at this time that they had still yet to win a game. This time around, they are one away from double digits.
10. Seattle Seahawks (12)
Beating any team in the NFL 58-0 is impressive, even if it is the Arizona Cardinals during a nine-game losing streak.
11. Chicago Bears (10)
The Bears have lost two straight and now must beat the Packers if they have any division title dreams.
12. Pittsburgh Steelers (6)
It is officially time to worry in Pittsburgh. Big Ben looked fine, but the defense really struggled, and they don’t have much of a running game.
13. Washington Redskins (14)
If RGIII misses even a single game, it would appear as if the Redskins’ playoff hopes are likely finished.
14. Minnesota Vikings (16)
The Vikings have been a surprise all season, and if the MVP award doesn’t go to Andrew Luck, surely it would go to Adrian Peterson. I would have a hard time going to the bathroom after having the surgery he had. All he’s doing is threatening the single-season all-time rushing record.
15. Cincinnati Bengals (13)
Heartbreaking loss for the Bengals at home. Their playoff hopes almost certainly ended with that last-second defeat to Dallas.
16. Dallas Cowboys (17)
Just like the Bengals' playoff hopes were likely crushed, the Cowboys’ playoff hopes were increased, as they remain just one game back of the division lead.
17. St. Louis Rams (20)
The Rams are a competitive bunch. It’s interesting to think how good they could be if they could just find some offensive weapons to surround Sam Bradford with.
18. New Orleans Saints (15)
If they had any hope at 5-7, they are officially out of hope at 5-8. They gave it a good run after starting 0-4, but their schedule was just too tough.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (18)
Tough loss at home for Tampa Bay, pretty much eliminating any playoff possibilities. They can still finish the year on a positive note, though. After the season they had last year, if they can finish 8-8 or even 9-7, it will be considered a success.
20. Detroit Lions (19)
Another game, another loss by seven points or less. The Lions might not be a great team, but they are one heck of a 4-9 team, to say the least.
21. Philadelphia Eagles (23)
The Eagles finally got a win, but surely it won’t be enough to salvage Andy Reid’s job beyond the next three weeks.
22. San Diego Chargers (25)
The Chargers too got a win, after losing seven of eight. But like the Eagles, it will not be enough to save Norv Turner’s job.
23. Miami Dolphins (21)
Well, despite the poor record, the Ryan Tannehill draft pick still appears to be a good one. Five wins with that team is better than anyone predicted, and they could still pick up a couple more before the season is finished.
24. Tennessee Titans (22)
The Titans sit at 4-9 and don’t appear to have much to build on in the next couple of years. It might be time to start from scratch and build around Jake Locker.
25. Buffalo Bills (24)
The Bills have been a big disappointment, especially after some of their offseason acquisitions. It’s time they look for a new quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick has had his time and simply is not the answer.
26. New York Jets (26)
How the Jets still have playoff possibilities is beyond me. If they somehow find a way in, I might just stop watching football altogether. The Jets are simply not a good football team, and it would almost undoubtedly rank as one of the least-watched playoff games of recent memory.
27. Carolina Panthers (29)
After the rough year they have had, it must have felt good to take down the No. 1 seed in the NFC. That is the kind of game you can build off of, even heading into next season.
28. Cleveland Browns (28)
The Browns have won three in a row, and Brady Quinn is finally showing he might have some potential as an NFL quarterback.
29. Arizona Cardinals (27)
For a team that has lost nine straight, and most recently by 58 points, what justification do they have for not firing the entire coaching staff before the plane even landed back in Phoenix?
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (30)
When you are 31stt in overall offense and 31st in overall defense, well, it just hasn’t been your season. The Jags are more than a year or two away from contention.
31. Kansas City Chiefs (31)
At 2-11, it would also seem as if the Chiefs are quite a ways away from contention—which is puzzling, seeing as they won the division with a very similar roster just two seasons ago.
32. Oakland Raiders (32)
Needless to say, the Raiders have been years away from contention for, well, years.