We witnessed some blistering games in Week 12 of the 2012-2013 NFL campaign, including some dominant performances and some nail-biters that went down to the wire.
This is when it matters, folks. In the second half of the season, teams will either strengthen themselves for the playoffs or fall, seeing their postseason hopes slip through their fingers (literally, for some teams with struggling passing games).
So who is building momentum?
Here are my Week 13 NFL power rankings, complete with teams that are picking up steam down the stretch (in italics).
1. San Francisco 49ers (8-2-1)
I originally didn't like the decision to shove Alex Smith to the side, but you have to admit Colin Kaepernick offers more to the table. If he can avoid costly interceptions, he will boost the 49ers' offense. Given the defense of this team, that is certainly a scary combination.
2. Houston Texans (10-1)
After two straight overtime victories, the Texans have now won five straight games. They can pass the ball, run the ball, defend the pass, defend the run and they know how to win close ball games. What more do you want?
3. New England Patriots (8-3)
The pasting of the Jets in Week 12 was laughable. The offense is electric once again behind Tom Brady, and the run defense has been much improved since a year ago.
4. Atlanta Falcons (10-1)
An explosive passing game plus a capable defense equals the No. 4 team in the country. The Falcons have only lost a nail-biter to the New Orleans Saints this season.
5. New York Giants (7-4)
Watch out, here come the defending champions. The dominant performance against the Packers in Week 12 was a complete reversal from the previous two games against the Bengals and the Steelers.
6. Denver Broncos (8-3)
Peyton Manning has been more than the Broncos could have hoped for, and the defense continues to look good after a rough start to the season. This team has stability and leadership.
7. Baltimore Ravens (9-2)
The Ravens may be 9-2, but their defense isn't the same as it once was, and the offense is inconsistent. The overwhelming injuries don't help, either.
8. Green Bay Packers (7-4)
The Packers looked good until getting unloaded on by the Giants in Week 12. The offense isn't the same as it was last season, and after allowing 38 points to the Giants, the defense appears to have hit a snag.
9. Chicago Bears (8-3)
The problem with this team has always been the offensive line, and until that is fixed, the Bears won't be a threat in the playoffs.
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5)
The Buccaneers have risen tremendously this season, but the 24-23 loss to the Falcons hurt. Still, this offense has the ability to simply overwhelm many opponents.
11. Cincinnati Bengals (6-5)
The Bengals have now won three straight games. That includes a 31-13 shellacking of the Giants in Week 10. This young group is finally beginning to come around after an ugly stretch earlier in the season.
12. New Orleans Saints (5-6)
The Saints have the offense to make life tough for opponents, but they were simply outmatched against a dominant 49ers team in Week 12. The Saints' defense still makes life tough on Drew Brees.
13. Indianapolis Colts (7-4)
The Colts have had some nail-biters against some mediocre teams, but they are winning, and that is what matters. The team will only get better with Andrew Luck developing.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)
Pittsburgh's offense still relies way too much on Ben Roethlisberger's arm, with little help from the running game, and it's not a surprise that the Steelers have lost their last two games with him out of action.
15. Seattle Seahawks (6-5)
Russell Wilson has had a promising rookie season, but Seattle's run defense needs some work. All in all, a team that is a legit playoff contender.
16. Minnesota Vikings (6-5)
For an offense with such a dynamic player in Adrian Peterson, the passing game needs to come along, and that rests on second-year pro Christian Ponder's shoulders. Ponder is averaging 6.09 yards per pass attempt this season, 32nd among qualifying quarterbacks and behind the likes of Brandon Weeden, Matt Hasselbeck, Kevin Kolb, Matt Cassel and Mark Sanchez.
17. Washington Redskins (5-6)
Two straight wins have Washington feeling better about its playoff hopes. Having a quarterback like Robert Griffin III helps, too. But the defense has to get better.
18. San Diego Chargers (4-7)
The inconsistency of the Chargers has reared its ugly head again. They lost by one possession to the Ravens and the Broncos, but the flip side is that they could have won those games, especially the matchup against Baltimore.
19. St. Louis Rams (4-6-1)
The offense has let this team down, but the 31-17 victory over the Cardinals was a start, and Sam Bradford finally has his original offensive line healthy.
20. Miami Dolphins (5-6)
You can't exactly be thrilled with the Dolphins' offense, but Ryan Tannehill had a relatively good game in the 24-21 victory over the Seahawks in Week 12.
21. Detroit Lions (4-7)
The Lions have lost by a combined seven points to the Texans and the Packers in the past two weeks, but playoff contenders are supposed to win those close games, and the run defense has been disappointing.
22. Dallas Cowboys (5-6)
Since the Week 1 victory over the Giants, the Cowboys haven't beaten a good team, and they just lost to the Redskins. The team can't seem to stay on the same page for one single game.
23. Buffalo Bills (4-7)
It's probably a good idea to run the football more. C.J. Spiller had 107 rushing yards on 14 carries against the Colts in Week 12, averaging more yards per carry (7.6) than Ryan Fitzpatrick averaged per pass attempt (5.5).
24. Tennessee Titans (4-7)
Jake Locker is still learning the game, and the Titans' defense is not where it needs to be, whether defending the run or the pass. Allowing Chad Henne to pass for 261 yards and two touchdowns is not a good sign.
25. Cleveland Browns (3-8)
The Browns did enough on offense to beat the Steelers in Week 12, but this team is still averaging 19 points per game, and that's generally not good enough, no matter what your defense does.
26. Arizona Cardinals (4-7)
The Cardinals are averaging 16.4 points, 30th in the NFL, and they just lost by 14 points to the Rams. No matter who starts under center for Arizona, it seems to always be a disappointment.
27. New York Jets (4-7)
Mark Sanchez ran into his own lineman's backside against the Patriots in Week 12, fumbling the football as New England returned it for a 32-yard touchdown. Need I say more?
28. Carolina Panthers (3-8)
The Panthers haven't scored the way they did last season, and the defense hasn't exactly been stellar, either, but a victory in Week 12 (albeit against the Eagles) moves them up a bit. They've lost a lot of close games this season, so the 30-22 win in Philadelphia was encouraging for a relatively young team.
29. Philadelphia Eagles (3-8)
The Eagles were ranked 31st in the NFL in points per game and 23rd in points allowed per game headed into Monday night's game, despite a lot of high-priced talent. It's a mess that should cost Andy Reid his job.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9)
A win over the Titans is a win, I'll say that. It's just too bad that it was Chad Henne who stood out after Blaine Gabbert was a dud throughout the season.
31. Oakland Raiders (3-8)
Oakland is allowing 32.4 points per game, the worst mark in the NFL, and Carson Palmer is his usual interception-throwing self. The Raiders have lost four straight games, including a 34-10 clunker against the Bengals in Week 12.
32. Kansas City Chiefs (1-10)
The Chiefs can't score, and the defense has been nothing to write home about, either. And with the worst turnover differential in the league by far (negative-21), it's no wonder why KC is 1-10 this season.
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