At this point of the NFL season, it takes a lot for teams to change their perception.
As Bill Parcells liked to say, "You are what your record says you are." Few teams have the ability to claim that they are just unlucky with only a few weeks remaining.
However, there are a number of organizations that are looking better than ever after big performances in the last few weeks. These clubs are headed in the right direction, regardless of whether the final goal is a Super Bowl win or just getting momentum heading into next season.
Here are the power rankings of all 32 teams, highlighting those on the way up.
1. Houston Texans
Houston is in the top five in the NFL in points scored per game, as well as the top five in fewest points allowed per game.
The Texans can run the ball, throw the ball, force turnovers and get to the quarterback as well as any team in the league.
They only allowed six points in a win over the 7-2 Chicago Bears. Against the 7-2 Baltimore Ravens, they scored 43 points.
This is the most complete team in football right now, and they will be Super Bowl favorites until someone else can prove otherwise.
2. Atlanta Falcons
The loss to the New Orleans Saints does not prove much. This is still one of the elite teams in the NFL, and the Falcons should be in Super Bowl contention when the season ends.
Of course, Mercury Morris has every right to get excited once again.
3. Chicago Bears
The Bears learned from the injuries last year and got plenty of depth with Jason Campbell and Michael Bush. However, time will still tell if this makes a difference.
With the way the defense can score points, it might not matter who is under center.
4. Green Bay Packers
Starting with the win over the Houston Texans, the Packers have been on fire. Even while dealing with injuries, Aaron Rodgers is playing at an MVP level, and he has the team looking as good as it did at the end of last season.
5. Baltimore Ravens
The 7-2 record is nothing to joke about, but there are some serious questions on both sides of the football.
Unlike past Ravens teams, the defense will not be there to save the day if needed.
6. Denver Broncos
Those who thought Peyton Manning would come back at anything other than full strength simply look foolish at this point.
Manning once again looks like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and he is leading his team towards the top of the standings.
The rest of the team also looks unstoppable lately, with five touchdowns in the last four games from the defense and special teams.
There are only two teams with winning records remaining on the schedule, so Denver is likely to have a pretty easy time reaching the playoffs and doing damage once it gets there.
7. San Francisco 49ers
Winning the NFC West is no longer a guarantee with a tough schedule upcoming and the Seattle Seahawks close on the tail.
It would have been unthinkable two years ago, but fans might actually start to miss Alex Smith if he is unable to play this weekend.
8. New England Patriots
There will never be a question with Tom Brady and the offense.
However, the defense has not improved since last season and will cause serious problems when facing better teams.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers
Four-straight wins have the Steelers back in the playoff picture. Still, we will get a better idea about this team's level after two games against the Ravens in a three-week period.
10. New York Giants
A bye could not have come at a better time for this quickly-falling team. Eli Manning needs to remember what he was doing that made people consider him elite just a few weeks ago.
With the Packers, Ravens, Falcons and New Orleans Saints still on the schedule, the Giants could be in danger of an epic collapse.
11. Indianapolis Colts
After four-straight wins, the Colts are now entering the conversation for playoff berths and even possible contention.
First, however, they must perform well this week on the road against the Patriots.
Fortunately, Indianapolis has a good enough pass offense to exploit the struggling defense in New England.
Andrew Luck is currently fourth in the league in Total QBR, and he is spreading the ball around to enough receivers to keep defenses on their toes. His great play is not a fluke, and it should continue throughout the season.
12. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks once again proved how tough they are at home with a dominant win over the New York Jets. Now, they have to show they can win on the road with two tough games after the bye in Miami and Chicago.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Although the defense still leaves a lot to be desired, the offensive trio of Josh Freeman, Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson has enough fire power to beat any team in a shootout.
It will not be easy, but a playoff spot is certainly not out of the question for this young team.
14. Minnesota Vikings
After two losses in a row, Adrian Peterson put the team on his back for a big win over the Detroit Lions. Until someone finds a way to stop the beast of a running back, the Vikings can win any game.
15. New Orleans Saints
It is hard to believe that this is the same team that started 0-4.
The Saints have won four of the last five games, including last week's win over the Falcons to give Atlanta its first loss of the season.
Although the defense has given up the most yards in the NFL by a wide margin, the offense has the ability to outscore any opponent.
In addition, the emergence of Chris Ivory and Mark Ingram in the last few games gives the team another dimension on offense, and it forces opponents to focus on the run as well as the pass.
Despite the 4-5 record, this is a team that no one wants to face right now.
16. Cincinnati Bengals
This is the Bengals team that we have been waiting to see all season. Andy Dalton tossed four touchdowns against the Giants last week to end a four-game skid.
There is enough talent on this roster to turn this season around, but there needs to be more games like this last one in order to make that happen.
17. Detroit Lions
An 0-3 record against your own division is not the way to have a successful season, especially with two games against the Packers still remaining.
There are times that this team resembles the Lions of the past decade rather than the playoff team from last year.
18. Dallas Cowboys
Between the failures by the Giants and a win over the Eagles, the Cowboys are very much alive in the NFC East race. Now, the offense has to get it together and score points without relying on the defense.
19. Tennessee Titans
This is a much better team with Jake Locker at quarterback. After destroying the Dolphins in Miami, the Titans must keep this momentum going after the bye to help salvage this season.
20. Miami Dolphins
After a few steps forward, the Dolphins took too many steps back. This young team is still promising, but nothing exciting will happen this year.
21. San Diego Chargers
If there is a quarterback-coach combination that you should not trust with the game on the line, it is Philip Rivers and Norv Turner. They might win a few games here and there, but San Diego is not a contender this season.
22. St. Louis Rams
Although finishing with a tie is always disappointing, the Rams proved that they can play on the road with one of the best teams in the NFL.
This was the first time in seven road games that they did not lose, so it is definitely a sign of improvement.
Danny Amendola also showed his value with 11 catches for 102 yards in his first game back from a collarbone injury. St. Louis lost all three games without the top receiver.
The Rams have a very balanced team, and when healthy, can compete with anyone in the league.
23. Arizona Cardinals
After a 4-0 start to the season, the poor offensive line caught up with the Cardinals.
Arizona has allowed by far the most sacks in the league, while also rushing for the fewest yards per game. It is tough to win without the big guys up front doing their job.
24. Washington Redskins
Robert Griffin III is really fun to watch, but this team will not be successful until the receivers learn to catch the ball, and the defense learns to stop the opposing team through the air.
25. Buffalo Bills
Buffalo looked very encouraging in the last three losses, specifically its most recent six-point defeat to the Patriots.
The running back duo of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson should lead to a few more wins before the season ends.
26. Philadelphia Eagles
Fans in Philadelphia will get their wish when Nick Foles takes the field as a starter. If he does not succeed against the Redskins, however, he might start hearing boos quickly as well.
27. Oakland Raiders
You can excuse the lack of healthy running backs for some things, but there is no excusing the fact that the defense has allowed 97 points in the last two games. It could get scary against the Saints.
28. New York Jets
29. Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton looked like he was about to come out of his slump heading into last week, but the game against the Broncos was as bad as we have seen all year with a QBR of 2.0 out of 100.
The front office will have a lot of tough decisions to make after this year.
30. Cleveland Browns
Brandon Weeden makes typical first-year mistakes at quarterback, but there is not too much time for development for the 29-year-old rookie. At least the Browns know that Trent Richardson should be there for the long haul.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
After six losses in a row, the Jaguars have a road game against the Houston Texans.Things could get ugly real fast in that one.
32. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs finally had a lead against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Unfortunately, they could not hold it and finished with yet another loss.
It would be hard for anyone to get wins with a negative-20 turnover differential.
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