Week 12 of the 2013 NFL regular season is officially in the books. The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Washington Redskins to close things out, and thus, the final postseason push has commenced.
The question is, how does the league look entering the closing stretch of the regular season?
32. Houston Texans
Week 12: 6-13 loss vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 13: vs. New England Patriots
The Houston Texans aren't bad. They're just downright awful. There's no emotion during games, there's no consistency under center, and worst of all, Houston has lost nine consecutive games.
The season took a turn for the worse during Week 12, when the Texans fell 13-6 to the Jacksonville Jaguars. At home.
Houston finished with 218 yards of total offense from scrimmage against a team that ranks No. 24 in yards allowed per game. Furthermore, Houston scored just six points against the No. 30 scoring defense in the NFL.
This all adds up to the need for dramatic changes in Houston.
Defensively, the Texans continue to rank No. 1 in both total yards allowed per game and pass defense. Unfortunately, the offense is performing at such a putrid level that nothing the defense does counts for much of anything.
This is one of the most puzzling teams you'll ever see play football.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 12: 13-6 win at Houston Texans
Week 13: at Cleveland Browns
The Jacksonville Jaguars are no longer the worst team in the NFL. Head coach Gus Bradley is better than he's getting credit for, the defense showed up for one week, and the Jaguars have now won two of their past three games.
That doesn't make Jacksonville a good team, but it isn't the worst.
Jacksonville defeated the Texans 13-6 in Houston to move to 2-9 on the season. Maurice Jones-Drew ran for a touchdown for the third consecutive game, and the Jaguars are now looking like a competitive team in the AFC.
Competitive doesn't mean contending, but the games are easier to watch.
With all of this being established, the Jaguars are still playing for the No. 1 overall selection in the 2014 NFL draft. Whether they end up choosing a quarterback or a defensive star is unclear, but something needs to change.
Sorry, I meant to say a lot of things need to change.
30. Atlanta Falcons
Week 12: 13-17 loss vs. New Orleans Saints
Week 13: at Buffalo Bills
Who would've thought that two teams that had realistic Super Bowl dreams entering the season would end up as two of the three worst squads in the NFL? In the Atlanta Falcons' case, it comes down to injuries and clutch failures.
Thus far, five of Atlanta's nine losses have come by seven points or less.
The Falcons fell to 2-9 with a 17-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints, which displayed some form of promise on defense. Peria Jerry had a sack, and Drew Brees was held below 300 passing yards, but the loss counts all the same.
This will be the Falcons' first losing season since 2007. That was the year before Mike Smith took over as head coach.
The silver lining is that Atlanta, a team with a cast of offensive superstars, will now add one of the best players in the 2014 NFL draft to its roster. Barring unforeseen circumstances, its draft pick will be in the top 10 and could end up landing in the top five.
As long as this team can stay healthy, that's a scary truth moving forward.
29. Minnesota Vikings
Week 12: 26-26 OT tie at Green Bay Packers
Week 13: vs. Chicago Bears
Three of the four worst teams in 2013 made the playoffs in 2012. All three of those teams entered the 2013 season with rosters relatively similar to those from the year prior.
At No. 29, you have the head-scratching Minnesota Vikings.
The worst aspect of the NFL was placed on display during Week 12, as the Vikings and Green Bay Packers finished in a 26-26 tie. Christian Ponder hit Cordarrelle Patterson in the hands for a game-winning touchdown, but the rookie dropped it.
Thus, the ultimate blemish in the standings was created.
Minnesota is now 0-5-1 on the road, and that embodies everything that's wrong with this team. The Vikings cannot travel and win, and a major reason for those struggles is the absence of a reliable quarterback or defense.
Until this team's youth comes into its own or its personnel simply improves, the Vikings will continue to have trouble winning games.
28. Washington Redskins
Week 12: 6-27 loss vs. San Francisco 49ers
Week 13: vs. New York Giants
The Washington Redskins had a genuine opportunity to re-enter the race for the postseason with a win over the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football. Instead, the Redskins struggled to do much of anything on either end of the field.
Washington isn't eliminated from the race for the NFC East, but it's close to it.
Robert Griffin III was 17-of-27 for 127 yards, no touchdowns and one interception, and the Redskins ran for exactly 100 yards. Jarvis Jenkins and Brian Orakpo picked up sacks, but that held little relevance in the end.
Washington continues to struggle.
The Redskins are the same team that they were in 2012, and that's why they're struggling to win games. The defense is still lackluster and, with all due respect to Pierre Garcon, the offense is limited on standout wide receivers.
Washington needs to strike gold in the 2014 NFL draft, but it'll have to do so without a first-rounder.
27. Buffalo Bills
Week 12: Bye
Week 13: vs. Atlanta Falcons
The Buffalo Bills were on bye during Week 12, which was a welcome sight for this young and injury-plagued team. Buffalo enters the final stretch with a record of 4-7 and the runaway favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year in Kiko Alonso.
As promising as the defense has been, highlighted by the re-emergence of sack artist Mario Williams, Buffalo just can't consistently move the ball downfield. Even still, the Bills will have a chance to move to 5-7 and get right back into the postseason hunt during Week 13 against the Atlanta Falcons.
Don't count EJ Manuel and company out just yet.
26. Cleveland Browns
Week 12: 11-27 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 13: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
It seems like yesterday that the Cleveland Browns were 3-2 with super-sub Brian Hoyer running the show. Since Hoyer went down with a season-ending injury, however, the Browns have fallen to 4-7 with a number of forgettable performances.
During Week 12, the Browns fell 27-11 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Jason Campbell, the second reserve to come on strong for Cleveland, was injured against Pittsburgh. This put second-year quarterback Brandon Weeden into the game, which one might imagine would be a good thing.
Instead, the 2012 first-round draft choice continued his poor tenure in Cleveland by going 13-of-30 against the Steelers.
The Browns have some very strong defensive players, but there just isn't enough on offense to make it all count. Cleveland needs a franchise quarterback, but its most glaring need is at running back, where there's no form of reliability.
At this point, there are too many holes to count.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 12: 24-21 win at Detroit Lions
Week 13: at Carolina Panthers
After eight straight losses, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have finally come to life with three consecutive wins. It hasn't made much of a difference in the standings, but the Bucs are showing signs of life under embattled head coach Greg Schiano.
Unfortunately, a three-game winning streak doesn't count for much when a team is 3-8.
The Buccaneers traveled to defeat the Detroit Lions by a score of 24-21 during Week 12. It was the club's first road win of the year, and it displayed a continuation of momentum that was built during a Week 10 win over the Miami Dolphins.
Up next, the Bucs will look to derail the red-hot Carolina Panthers.
Mike Glennon is playing well enough to potentially remain the franchise quarterback, and that's the most noteworthy development. He has 13 touchdowns to four interceptions for the season and has completed 77.3 percent of his passes during the past two games.
The postseason is out of the question, but the veterans on this squad are rallying around the promising youth.
24. Oakland Raiders
Week 12: 19-23 loss vs. Tennessee Titans
Week 13: at Dallas Cowboys
The Oakland Raiders are a competitive football team, and that's more than what could be said in previous seasons. During Week 12, Oakland fell 23-19 to the Tennessee Titans in a home game that could've pulled the Raiders into a tie for the final postseason spot in the AFC.
Next week, the Raiders will travel to play the Dallas Cowboys.
The Raiders don't have much in place in terms of building blocks to contend for a Super Bowl in future seasons. Terrelle Pryor has displayed promise, and Rashad Jennings is running the ball at a very high level, but it's difficult to pinpoint a true franchise player.
For that reason, it may not be such a bad thing that Oakland is in line for a top-10 draft choice.
Dennis Allen deserves credit for making the Raiders a better team than we've seen in recent campaigns. The fact that the quarterback position has been a revolving due to injuries and underwhelming performances hasn't made things any easier.
Oakland isn't yet eliminated from the postseason picture, but this team still looks like one that's a year or two away. Just appreciate the progress.
23. Miami Dolphins
Week 12: 16-20 loss vs. Carolina Panthers
Week 13: at New York Jets
During Week 12, the Miami Dolphins were a Cam Newton comeback away from upsetting the Carolina Panthers. Unfortunately, almost doesn't mean anything in the NFL, and that's left Miami in a very tight race for the final postseason spot.
As for why Miami is ranked this low, try the fact that it's now gone 2-6 since starting 3-0.
Ryan Tannehill is showing signs of being a franchise quarterback, but he's also making costly mistakes. From missing Mike Wallace on a throw that could've potentially won the game to his inability to lead a second-half scoring drive, there's been just as much frustration as there has been encouragement.
What this all adds up to is Miami hitting the road for a huge division game in Week 13 against the Jets.
Miami still has a strong pass rush and a skilled offense, but six losses in eight games is all that needs to be said. This team started hot and continues to fall apart during late-game situations.
Until Tannehill learns how to close out, Miami will continue losing.
22. New York Jets
Week 12: 3-19 loss at Baltimore Ravens
Week 13: vs. Miami Dolphins
The New York Jets offense continues to be an issue that Rex Ryan doesn't deserve the blame for. Geno Smith has displayed signs of promise, but he and everything around him are re-defining the term, "boom-or-bust."
During Week 13, the Jets will look to right the ship against the Dolphins.
New York still has the No. 1 run defense and the No. 8 rushing offense, but this team is hindered by inconsistency at quarterback. Ryan has done enough to earn another year as head coach, but an inability to move the ball through the air is crippling.
Thus far, Smith has 2,227 passing yards, eight touchdowns and 18 interceptions on a completion percentage of 55.2.
It's encouraging to see the Jets stick it out with a rookie who can only grow from this experience. It's also disheartening to know that Smith has failed to throw a touchdown in each of his previous four games.
It's hard to blame just one player for New York's recent struggles, but the proof is in the numbers.
21. New York Giants
Week 12: 21-24 loss vs. Dallas Cowboys
Week 13: at Washington Redskins
After starting the season at 0-6, the New York Giants began looking like the New York Giants. Tom Coughlin led the G-Men to four consecutive wins and had the New York and New Jersey area calling for the playoffs.
During Week 12, those aspirations were silenced when Tony Romo led a game-winning drive to drop the Giants to 4-7. So much for that.
Technically speaking, the Giants aren't mathematically eliminated from the postseason just yet. What the Giants are, however, is two games back of the Cowboys with five weeks remaining and a tiebreak that goes in Dallas' favor.
It's time to think about the draft.
The Giants have franchise players in Andre Brown, Victor Cruz and Eli Manning, but New York must be looking to bolster its roster. Landing a potential top-15 draft choice is the perfect way to do so, even if it doesn't help the team overcome the frustration of missing out on a golden opportunity.
Anything is possible with this team, but the playoffs appear to be out of the question.
20. Tennessee Titans
Week 12: 23-19 win at Oakland Raiders
Week 13: at Indianapolis Colts
The Tennessee Titans earned a critical 23-19 victory over the Oakland Raiders during Week 12. The win pushes the Titans into the No. 6 spot in the AFC standings, making them the on-paper favorites to reach the playoffs.
Tennessee has also lost five of its past seven games.
The Titans will test just how legitimate they are during Week 13, when they travel to play the Indianapolis Colts. One week later, Tennessee will remain on the road when it goes to play the Denver Broncos.
If Tennessee is a postseason team, this is when it'll prove it.
The offense hasn't been great, but the Titans defense is good enough to hang with the best. Twenty-three-year-old defensive end Jurrell Casey is leading the pass rush, and 24-year-old Alterraun Verner is leading the NFL with five interceptions.
If the Titans defense can continue playing at this level, Mike Munchak could end up guiding this team to an improbable postseason berth.
19. Baltimore Ravens
Week 12: 19-3 win vs. New York Jets
Week 13: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Baltimore Ravens salvaged their postseason aspirations with a 19-3 victory over the New York Jets. Baltimore isn't the No. 6 seed in the AFC, but it is tied with the team that owns that distinction at 5-6 with five weeks remaining.
If you're looking for entertainment, check out Baltimore.
Seven of the Ravens' past eight games have been decided by six points or less. Unfortunately, Baltimore is 3-5 during that eight-game stretch, which is why the defending Super Bowl champions are now fighting for a postseason berth.
The Ravens will host the Pittsburgh Steelers in a game that could end up deciding which team goes to the playoffs. Regardless of what transpires, the Ravens cannot afford to lose another game this season.
That's tough news for a team that will be on the road against the Detroit Lions, home for the New England Patriots and away for the Cincinnati Bengals to close the year out.
18. Green Bay Packers
Week 12: 26-26 OT tie vs. Minnesota Vikings
Week 13: at Detroit Lions
Matt Flynn made his return to the Green Bay Packers during Week 12 and led the team to a comeback 26-26 tie against the Minnesota Vikings. It wasn't a win, but it kept the Packers within .5 games of the first-place Detroit Lions in the NFC North.
How fitting is it that Green Bay will play Detroit on Thanksgiving?
According to Rob Demovsky of ESPN, star quarterback Aaron Rodgers is doubtful to return for this season-altering game. That means that Flynn could again be trusted with the Packers' season in a clash between division rivals.
Forgive me for my skepticism, but that doesn't sound favorable.
Flynn was very good against Minnesota, but in a full four-quarter game, he hasn't impressed since his previous tenure in Green Bay. He'll have his hands full with a monstrous Detroit defensive line, and that spells trouble.
The wild card could be out of the question, and that makes this game a must-win.
17. San Diego Chargers
Week 12: 41-38 win at Kansas City Chiefs
Week 13: vs. Cincinnati Bengals
From Week 9 to Week 11, the San Diego Chargers lost three consecutive games by one possession. It was a heartbreaking stretch that could've ended the Chargers' season, but San Diego responded in the best way possible.
At Arrowhead Stadium, where no team had won in 2013, the Chargers earned a 41-38 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
If San Diego makes the playoffs, then quarterback Philip Rivers needs to receive legitimate consideration for the MVP award. He threw three touchdowns to no interceptions against Kansas City and has now put up 3,381 yards, 22 scores and eight picks on a completion percentage of 70.8.
If there were some form of a defense in San Diego, this team would be scary.
The Chargers didn't just win at Arrowhead. They posted an obscene 41 points on one of the best defenses in the league. It was a pure example of Rivers taking over a game, and in Week 13, he'll need to do it again.
San Diego is right in the postseason hunt, and a home game against the Cincinnati Bengals will determine whether or not the Chargers cash in on this opportunity.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 12: 27-11 win at Cleveland Browns
Week 13: at Baltimore Ravens
The Pittsburgh Steelers continued their unbelievable turnaround with a 27-11 win over the Browns. Pittsburgh is now 5-6 after beginning the season at 0-4.
During Week 13, Pittsburgh will hit the road to play Baltimore in a game that could determine whether or not the Steelers' comeback bid will matter.
Ben Roethlisberger continues to play at a star-caliber level, but the story for Pittsburgh is the rise of rookie Le'Veon Bell. His return from injury has invigorated the Steelers and added the new dimension that the offense was desperate for.
Bell is currently averaging 88.9 yards of total offense per game, and the Steelers have been a different team because of it.
The key for the Steelers will be defending the run, as Ray Rice is still a dangerous force in Baltimore. If Pittsburgh is able to make Baltimore one-dimensional, then it will have a shot at moving into the No. 6 spot in the AFC.
The Steelers will need some help to reach the playoffs, but all they can do at this point is keep on winning.
15. Chicago Bears
Week 12: 21-42 loss at St. Louis Rams
Week 13: at Minnesota Vikings
The Chicago Bears may be 6-5 and in position to make a run at the playoffs, but there's trouble at Soldier Field. For as well as the Bears played for 44 minutes and 54 seconds, Chicago's collapse during the final three minutes and five seconds was stunning during Week 12.
It went from 27-21 to 42-21 in a matter of three minutes as Chicago fell 42-21 to the Rams.
Josh McCown was 36-of-47 for 352 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, but that wasn't enough. Shockingly, not even a 77-yard rushing performance by Matt Forte was enough to keep the Bears from losing a 21-point game.
Three costly turnovers will do that.
The Bears are far from out of the postseason conversation, and a Week 13 win over the Vikings would be a major help. Chicago still needs the teams ahead of it to lose, but it's currently tied with the Lions for the division lead.
Unfortunately, Detroit owns the tiebreak.
14. St. Louis Rams
Week 12: 42-21 win vs. Chicago Bears
Week 13: at San Francisco 49ers
The St. Louis Rams have quietly put together two consecutive blowouts of postseason-caliber teams. After earning a 38-8 decimation of the Indianapolis Colts during Week 10, the Rams picked up a 42-21 win over the Bears in Week 12.
Who needs Sam Bradford?
Benny Cunningham, Zac Stacy and Tavon Austin combined to lead an explosive rushing attack that registered 258 yards and three scores on the ground. It was a six-point game until the 3:05 mark of the fourth quarter, but a 21-point win is still a 21-point win.
They may be facing an uphill battle in the pursuit of the postseason, but the Rams are playing as well as any team in football.
Chris Long and Robert Quinn are an elite pass-rushing tandem, and St. Louis' linebacker corps is rapidly improving. The passing attack is shaky, but Jeff Fisher has his team working like a well-oiled machine.
Right now, no one wants to play St. Louis.
13. Detroit Lions
Week 12: 21-24 loss vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 13: vs. Green Bay Packers
The Detroit Lions have lost consecutive games to teams they should've defeated. After falling 37-27 to the Steelers during Week 11, the Lions lost a disappointing 24-21 game to the Buccaneers.
Now, Detroit enters a Thanksgiving game against the Packers in desperation mode.
Week 12 came down to turnovers. Matthew Stafford had 297 passing yards and three touchdowns, but he threw four interceptions, and Kris Durham coughed up and lost a fumble.
Nate Burleson and Jeremy Ross also fumbled the ball, but Detroit recovered it both times.
Burleson's return to the offense is a critical upgrade for the passing attack, but the value of protecting the football cannot be understated. If Detroit is unable to limit the turnovers, it could lose the division lead that it's currently holding onto.
Thanksgiving could be the day that Detroit makes or misses the playoffs.
12. Philadelphia Eagles
Week 12: Bye
Week 13: vs. Arizona Cardinals
The Philadelphia Eagles have been revitalized with the emergence of quarterback Nick Foles. He has 16 touchdowns to no interceptions, and the Eagles have won five of the past six games that he's been under center.
With Foles spacing the field with the deep ball, superstar running back LeSean McCoy will continue to tear up opposing defenses. The Eagles aren't very strong on defense, but the offense is explosive enough to win regular-season games.
The NFL community will learn just how explosive it is when Philadelphia plays the rising Arizona Cardinals in Week 13.
11. Dallas Cowboys
Week 12: 24-21 win at New York Giants
Week 13: vs. Oakland Raiders
The Dallas Cowboys killed your proverbial two birds with one stone when they defeated the New York Giants 24-21 at MetLife Stadium. Not only did the win move Dallas into the division lead, but it also enabled Tony Romo to lead a game-winning drive.
Just like that, Dallas is back to controlling its own destiny.
Tony Romo was 23-of-38 for 250 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, while DeMarco Murray had 126 yards of total offense. Dez Bryant had a monster game, and the Cowboys offense came up big when it mattered most.
Dallas is now 6-5.
Defensively, Jason Hatcher came up with two critical sacks, and Jeff Heath recovered a fumble. The run defense was very poor, but the Cowboys did enough to limit the Giants to 21 points despite allowing 202 rushing yards.
It wasn't pretty, but it didn't need to be. Dallas is in control of the postseason hunt.
10. Indianapolis Colts
Week 12: 11-40 loss at Arizona Cardinals
Week 13: vs. Tennessee Titans
For the second time in three weeks, the Indianapolis Colts suffered a stunning blowout loss against an NFC West opponent. Surprisingly, neither of those two games were against the San Francisco 49ers or Seattle Seahawks.
Indianapolis defeated San Francisco and Seattle but lost lopsided games to the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams. Who saw that coming?
The Colts were destroyed during Week 12, falling 40-11 to the Cardinals. Even when the Colts won during Week 11, they started slow and further illustrated how lost the offense is without Reggie Wayne.
That's a bad sign moving forward.
Indianapolis can right the ship against Tennessee during Week 13, but there are long-term questions that must be answered. Specifically, as Andrew Luck continues to face physical defenses, he'll need a go-to receiver to emerge.
So far, that hasn't happened.
9. Arizona Cardinals
Week 12: 40-11 win vs. Indianapolis Colts
Week 13: at Philadelphia Eagles
The Arizona Cardinals moved to 7-4 with an outstanding 40-11 victory over the Colts. It was Arizona's fourth straight win and further proof that Bruce Arians' team is a legitimate force in the hunt for the final NFC wild-card spot.
Arizona will now hit the road to play the Eagles during Week 13.
Carson Palmer was dominant again, going 26-of-37 for 314 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Rashard Mendenhall added a rushing score, while Michael Floyd topped 100 yards receiving and Larry Fitzgerald caught two touchdown passes.
Defensively, it was just as impressive.
Karlos Dansby had a pick-six, and the Cardinals held Luck to 163 passing yards. It was yet another display of Arizona's new identity as a team that will fight hard and compete with any opponent that it comes across.
Arizona has a rough schedule to close out the season, but it's proven capable of playing with the best of them.
8. Cincinnati Bengals
Week 12: Bye
Week 13: at San Diego Chargers
The Cincinnati Bengals were on bye during Week 12 after defeating the Cleveland Browns by a score of 41-20 during Week 11. The Bengals are currently 7-4 and continue to own a relatively comfortable edge in the weak AFC North.
The key for Cincinnati will be helping Andy Dalton find his rhythm again. Since throwing for 11 touchdowns to two interceptions from Oct. 13 to Oct. 27, Dalton has five touchdowns to eight interceptions during his most recent three.
Cutting down on the turnovers is the only way for the Bengals to continue down the path to contending.
7. San Francisco 49ers
Week 12: 27-6 win at Washington Redskins
Week 13: vs. St. Louis Rams
The San Francisco 49ers shined under the bright lights of Monday Night Football. As the wild-card race gets tight, the Niners put up a 27-6 road victory over the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.
San Francisco owns the tiebreak over Arizona and is now the No. 6 seed in the NFC.
Colin Kaepernick posted a long-awaited bounce-back performance after virtually a full season of lackluster play. He was 15-of-24 for 235 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, finding Anquan Boldin for two of those scores.
If Kaepernick can maintain that level of play, the Niners will be a very tough out.
Defensively, it was more of the same. Donte Whitner had an interception, and both Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith managed to register two sacks for San Francisco's vaunted defense.
The Niners will play the red-hot Rams during Week 13 in a game that could go a long way toward determining whether or not Jim Harbaugh's crew secures the final postseason spot.
6. Kansas City Chiefs
Week 12: 38-41 loss vs. San Diego Chargers
Week 13: vs. Denver Broncos
The Kansas City Chiefs have lost consecutive games, and thus, many have jumped the gun on labeling them as flukes. With that being said, the Chiefs have jumped out to a big enough lead in the race for a wild-card spot that two losses are of little relevance.
Keep in mind, the No. 6 seed in the AFC is currently 5-6.
If possible, the Chiefs actually made a positive statement during their 41-38 Week 12 loss to the San Diego Chargers. Alex Smith proved that the Chiefs can put up points in a shootout, and he threw a clutch touchdown before Rivers had the chance.
All the Chiefs need to do from this point onward is win at least two of their final five games to clinch the No. 5 seed in the AFC. Kansas City may not even need to do that.
Andy Reid's crew will have an opportunity to go a step further during Week 13 when it hosts the Denver Broncos. Should the Chiefs win, then they will own the lead in the AFC West.
Two straight losses are tough to deal with, but Kansas city is the real deal.
5. Carolina Panthers
Week 12: 20-16 win at Miami Dolphins
Week 13: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Since he entered the NFL, the No. 1 criticism of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been that he's too immature to lead a team. In 2013, Newton is displaying the in-game and off-the-field maturity that fans and analysts had been hoping to see.
The result? Carolina is 8-3.
The Panthers have won seven consecutive games, earning victories over the likes of the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers. During Week 13, Newton led a game-winning drive that resulted in a 20-16 win over the Dolphins.
With a superstar quarterback, a balanced rushing attack and a dominant defense, Carolina is a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Carolina is No. 1 in the NFL in scoring defense, allowing 13.7 points per contest. By comparison, the No. 2 teams are the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks, which are tied at 16.3.
If you didn't believe the hype before, start to do so now. Carolina is legitimate.
4. New Orleans Saints
Week 12: 17-13 win at Atlanta Falcons
Week 13: at Seattle Seahawks
The New Orleans Saints have proved capable of winning big and earning ugly victories. During Week 12, it was an example of the latter, with the Saints securing a 17-13 win at the division rival Atlanta Falcons.
New Orleans is now 9-2 and on the fast-track to home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a potential Week 13 win over the Seattle Seahawks.
Drew Brees was 23-of-33 for 278 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, and Pierre Thomas put up 130 yards of total offense. Jimmy Graham caught five passes for 100 yards and a score, and the Saints continued to be a dynamic offense.
This one, however, was all about defense.
Led by breakout star Cameron Jordan, the Saints put up five sacks against Matt Ryan and company. It was another example of Rob Ryan's defense stepping up with a very strong performance in the face of adversity.
Who's ready for a Week 13 slugfest?
3. Denver Broncos
Week 12: 31-34 OT loss at New England Patriots
Week 13: at Kansas City Chiefs
The Denver Broncos lost one of the most dramatic games in recent memory against the New England Patriots. It took a muffed punt to give the Patriots the opportunity to win, but it was a loss nonetheless, and that has Denver at 9-2.
Next, the Broncos will travel to play the Chiefs in a game that may just decide the AFC West.
It was a devastating loss for Denver, as the overtime loss was just the icing on the cake after the Broncos blew a 24-point lead. Fortunately, it wasn't all negative for the Broncos, as the loss was a character-building defeat.
It all starts with Knowshon Moreno.
Moreno is the front-runner for Comeback Player of the Year, and this game was further evidence of why. He carried the ball 37 times for 224 yards and one touchdown, which was a message to the rest of the league that Denver is multi-dimensional.
Throw in two sacks from Von Miller and the Broncos are still a legitimate force to be reckoned with.
2. New England Patriots
Week 12: 34-31 OT win vs. Denver Broncos
Week 13: at Houston Texans
If the New England Patriots had come back from 24-0 to defeat the worst team in the NFL, it would've been stunning. The fact that New England did it to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, however, makes it difficult to find an adjective.
All that needs to be said is that the Patriots are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
Tom Brady finished the game at 34-of-50 for 344 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, routinely exploiting the Broncos' banged up secondary. Brandon Bolden added 58 rushing yards and a touchdown, and Shane Vereen had 91 yards of total offense.
If you were skeptical before, then you aren't anymore. New England is a dominant force at home.
The Patriots are now 6-0 at home and 2-3 on the road, which could ultimately create problems come the postseason. Denver still has a better record than New England, and no team has been able to win at Mile High Stadium this season.
Rather than creating theories on what hasn't even happened yet, however, it's important to take note of what's real: New England is getting healthy. That's bad news for the rest of the NFL.
1. Seattle Seahawks
Week 12: Bye
Week 13: vs. New Orleans Saints
The Seattle Seahawks were on bye during Week 12 but have already jumped out to a record of 10-1. Seattle entered Week 12 with ranks of No. 3 in rushing offense and scoring defense, and No. 2 in passing defense.
Russell Wilson hasn't been racking up extraordinary yardage totals, but he does have 19 passing touchdowns to six interceptions. Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate have emerged as go-to receivers, and the defense continues to smother every team it comes across.
Seattle will have a major test during Week 13 when it hosts the New Orleans Saints.
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