One of the most difficult aspects of putting together power rankings for all 32 NFL teams is trying to separate fact from fiction each week. It is easy to look at certain teams and say they are good or bad, but when do we really now how good or how bad someone really is?
That is the question no one can ever really answer. We could say that the winner of the Super Bowl is the best team in the league, but in a one-game, winner-take-all situation, the "better" team on paper doesn't always win.
As we head into Week 12, which begins with three games on Thanksgiving, here are the biggest movers, up or down, after last week's strange results.
No. 1 Houston Texans (9-1)
It feels like we are placing the Texans here almost by default after allowing 37 points to the Jaguars, but don't let that one mediocre performance negate the fact that this team holds wins over Denver, Baltimore and Chicago.
No. 2 San Francisco 49ers (7-2-1)
Quarterback controversy or not, this year's 49ers team has the weapons at wide receiver to create a lot of big plays. With dominant offensive and defensive lines, there are not a lot of teams who will stop them in the trenches.
No. 3 Green Bay Packers (7-3)
After a sluggish start, the Packers kept right on rolling against Detroit with a big comeback win on the road. They are tied with the Bears in the NFC North, though the Packers did win their first head-to-head meeting. So don't be shocked if they take the division lead this week and don't look back.
No. 4 Denver Broncos (7-3)
Like the Packers, the Broncos needed a few weeks, and an easier schedule, to find themselves. Now that they have hit their rhythm, they will just be biding their time until they lock up the AFC West, which could be in the next two weeks.
While the offense is going to grab a lot of headlines thanks to Peyton Manning, the defense is what makes them Super Bowl contenders. Von Miller is a monster on that line with 13 sacks and 45 tackles already.
It will take a lot of luck and good fortune for the Broncos to overtake Houston for the top spot in the AFC—remember, the Texans beat them head-to-head—but they should be sitting pretty in the No. 2 spot come playoff time.
No. 5 New England Patriots (7-3)
Yes, the Patriots have beaten the Broncos head-to-head, but they aren't as complete a team as the Broncos. The defense still scares me in a big spot, and it doesn't matter what anyone says, the offense will take a step back without Rob Gronkowski.
No. 6 Baltimore Ravens (8-2)
The Ravens are 16th in the NFL in passing yards, 25th in rushing yards, 23rd in pass defense and 27th in run defense. So how are they 8-2? A soft schedule that has included Cincinnati, Cleveland, Kansas City, Dallas, Cleveland, Oakland and a Ben Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh.
The Ravens are well coached and can execute on the field, but eventually, you hope to see more from a team with as much talent as they have.
No. 7 Atlanta Falcons (9-1)
Style points don't matter in the scheme of things, and the Falcons have the best record in a loaded NFC. For a long time I had them sitting at the top of these rankings, but it is hard to keep doing it.
Their performance, especially last week against a bad Arizona team, brought back those doubts about what this team will do against a good team in a big spot.
And for Falcons fans flipping out about this ranking, take a step back and really ask yourself, on a neutral field, are they better than any of the teams above them?
No. 8 New York Giants (6-4)
With the Giants, you hope they don't shoot themselves long enough to hang in the race in December. Given how bad the NFC East is right now, that shouldn't be a problem.
No. 9 Seattle Seahawks (6-4)
If the Seahawks can figure out how to play on the road, they could be a dark-horse Super Bowl team in the NFC. That defense is every bit as good as San Francisco's; the team just has to find a way to win away from the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field.
No. 10 Chicago Bears (7-3)
With or without Jay Cutler, I have no idea what to do with the Bears right now. The same problems they have always had (bad offensive line, poor performances against good teams) still persist this season.
No. 11 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-4)
If you want to follow the trajectory of the Buccaneers, all you have to do is look at quarterback Josh Freeman. After four games he was completing 55 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and four interceptions, and the team was 1-3.
Since then, Freeman has completed 70 percent of his passes and thrown 16 touchdowns to just three interceptions. This team is dangerous in the NFC, so keep your eyes open.
No. 12 Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4)
Until Ben Roethlisberger returns, this team is going to be in a state of limbo. Things have gotten so bad with their receiving corps they had to bring in Plaxico Burress. Charlie Batch is going to be starting at quarterback.
It's a good thing the defense is so dominant, otherwise we would be talking about a complete collapse.
No. 13 New Orleans Saints (5-5)
For all the talk about this team being a serious playoff contender, four of their five wins have come against San Diego, Philadelphia and Oakland, and the defense nearly gave the game away against Atlanta and Tampa Bay.
This week against San Francisco will show us just how far these Saints have come from that 0-4 start.
No. 14 Cincinnati Bengals (5-5)
Andy Dalton has not thrown an interception in the last two games and the Bengals have outscored their opponents 59-19. With the Steelers ailing right now, the Bengals could make things very interesting in the AFC North.
No. 15 Indianapolis Colts (6-4)
Even before the New England game, the Colts were not ready to compete with the elite teams in the NFL. This has been a far better season than anyone expected, but they are still a few key players, particularly on defense, away.
No. 16 Minnesota Vikings (6-4)
Eventually Christian Ponder has to make some plays if the Vikings want to stay in the playoff race. But when you have Adrian Peterson, why bother throwing the ball at all?
No. 17 Dallas Cowboys (5-5)
I thought about putting the Cowboys at 16. Given how mediocre they are, that would be a very fitting spot. I decided to go with No. 17 since they still strike me as a slightly below-average team.
No. 18 Detroit Lions (4-6)
Just when you think the Lions have things figured out and are ready to make a run, they get picked apart at Minnesota and blow a fourth-quarter lead to the Packers. They are too inconsistent to compete in the NFC North.
No. 19 Tennessee Titans (4-6)
Give the Titans credit: When they lose, they lose badly. But when they win, they win in impressive fashion. The most important development this season has been the resurgence of Chris Johnson.
No. 20 Washington Redskins (4-6)
Robert Griffin III makes the Redskins entertaining to watch. The defense holds them back from contending. Thanksgiving Day against the Cowboys should be fun.
No. 21 San Diego Chargers (4-6)
Blame Norv Turner all you want, but the players still have to go out and execute. Whoever the head coach is next season has a lot of work to do just to stop this team from constantly shooting itself in the foot.
No. 22 Miami Dolphins (4-6)
I got sucked into the Dolphins after their three-game winning streak. Ryan Tannehill was playing better and not throwing as many interceptions, while the rest of the offense looked solid around him.
Three straight losses and five more interceptions for Tannehill have brought the Dolphins back down to earth. They have a brutal three-week stretch ahead of them, with games at home against Seattle and New England before going on the road to San Francisco.
No. 23 Buffalo Bills (4-6)
If you are the Bills, and you invested a truckload of money into Ryan Fitzpatrick to stabilize the offense and Mario Williams to shore up a porous pass rush, what do you do in the offseason? At least they stopped the bleeding last week with a win over Miami.
No. 24 New York Jets (4-6)
If you want to dream, the Jets need to get by the Patriots then end the season with games against Arizona, Jacksonville, Tennessee, San Diego and Buffalo. But you have to be in a very deep sleep to see the playoffs in store for this team.
No. 25 Arizona Cardinals (4-6)
The Cardinals are moving closer to ending their six-game losing streak. After losing by 21 to San Francisco, they lost by 14 to Green Bay and four to Atlanta. This week they play St. Louis, which could be the end of the streak.
No. 26 Philadelphia Eagles (3-7)
Even though the Nick Foles era did not get off to a good start last week, it is probably in the Eagles' best interest that he is getting more playing time. There has been no indication Michael Vick will be back next season, so they need to see what they have in their rookie quarterback.
No. 27 St. Louis Rams (3-6-1)
Just when you think maybe the Rams have figured something out by playing San Francisco to a tie, not to mention scoring 24 points against that defense, they come out and lost by 14 to the Jets.
No. 28 Carolina Panthers (2-8)
The Panthers are going to be that team everyone talks about, losing close games that could have gone either way. Six of their eight losses have come by six points or less. A play or two here and there, and they could be sitting around .500 or better.
No. 29 Oakland Raiders (3-7)
After defeating Jacksonville and Kansas City in consecutive weeks, the Raiders have lost their last three games by a combined 66 points. If the night is darkest just before the dawn, it has to be pretty black around Oakland right now.
No. 30 Cleveland Browns (2-8)
Even though the Browns have suffered through another dreadful season, Trent Richardson has run for 322 yards in his last three games. When you are going nowhere fast, you need to find little things to comfort you.
No. 31 Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9)
The Jaguars showed some signs of life against arguably the best team in the NFL, so you have to give them a little boost for that. Right? Chad Henne didn't look great—he completed just 16 of 33 attempts—but at least he got the team into the end zone.
No. 32 Kansas City Chiefs (1-9)
At least the Chiefs can figure out the future direction of their team when they are picking first in the 2013 NFL draft.