Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesDecember 10, 2009
While the NFC playoff picture is clearing up, the AFC seems to get more and more muddled with each passing week.
If the season were to end today, the NFC playoffs would feature New Orleans, Minnesota, Arizona, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Green Bay.
If the season were to end today, the AFC playoff picture would feature Indianapolis, Cincinnati, San Diego, New England, Denver, and...Jacksonville?
1. Indianapolis Colts (12-0)
With their 27-17 win over the Titans, the Colts have now matched the NFL
record for the longest regular-season winning streak, having won their last 21 games.
They'll attempt to set a new mark this Sunday when Denver comes to town.
2. New Orleans Saints (12-0)
The Saints were a Shaun Suisham chip-shot away from falling from the ranks of the undefeated.
Instead, games with Atlanta, Dallas, Tampa Bay, and Carolina stand between the Saints and a 16-0 season.
3. Minnesota Vikings (10-2)
It has to be of some concern that Adrian Peterson
was held to just 19 yards on 13 carries in Sunday's desert drubbing at the hands of the Cardinals.
It likely won't get any easier this weekend when they'll face the 9-3 Bengals at home.
4. San Diego Chargers (9-3)
The Chargers have won seven straight heading into their Texas-sized showdown with the Cowboys in Dallas this weekend.
Philip Rivers is a dark horse MVP candidate, having thrown for 3,311 yards with a 65 percent completion percentage, 21 touchdowns, and just six interceptions.
5. Cincinnati Bengals (9-3)
The Bengals and their 6-0 divisional record appear to be headed for the playoffs.
On their way, however, they'll certainly be tested.
Their remaining schedule: at Minnesota, at San Diego, vs. Kansas City, at New York Jets.
6. Arizona Cardinals (9-3)
The defending NFC champs appeared to put everything together in beating the mighty Vikings on Sunday night.
They have the NFC West clearly in hand, and can now set their sights on trying to snag a first-round playoff bye.
7. Green Bay Packers (8-4)
Keeping Aaron Rodgers
' jersey clean has made all the difference in the world to the Packers this season.
Rodgers was sacked 41 times in Green Bay's first nine games.
In three games since, the Packers are 3-0 and Rodgers has been sacked just four times total.
8. Dallas Cowboys (8-4)
The Cowboys started their annual "December swoon" in typical fashion Sunday, losing to the desperate Giants 31-24.
In other news, the Cowboys have switched field goal holders from punter Mat McBriar to...
You guessed it!
9. Philadelphia Eagles (8-4)
The Eagles have now won three in a row, and have put themselves in great position to steal the NFC East title.
They can take another huge step this Sunday night when they face division rival New York.
10. Denver Broncos (8-4)
The Broncos have returned to their winning ways, having won two in a row following their four-game skid.
With a favorable schedule remaining, the Broncos are just one game behind San Diego for the AFC West lead with four to play.
11. New England Patriots (7-5)
Since their win over the Dolphins in Week Nine, the Patriots are just 1-3, and have opened the door for the 6-6 Jets and Dolphins in the AFC East.
12. New York Giants (7-5)
The G-Men won a game they absolutely had to have against the Cowboys last Sunday at home.
While they're still on the outside looking in on the playoffs, they can do themselves another favor by taking down the Eagles this Sunday night.
13. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5)
Who are these guys?
The Jags, despite starting 0-2, getting crushed 41-0 by a mediocre Seahawks team, and having almost no consistent fan support at home games, are currently in the AFC playoffs as a Wild Card.
While their schedule is tough the rest of the way (vs. Miami, vs. Indianapolis, at New England, at Cleveland), they've shown that they aren't to be counted out.
14. Baltimore Ravens (6-6)
Ray Rice has quietly become one of the most consistent backs in the league.
Rice has rushed for 875 yards on 181 carries (4.8 ypc) with six rushing touchdowns, and has caught another 64 passes for 599 yards with a touchdown.
15. Miami Dolphins (6-6)
An improbable win over the Patriots not only has Miami back in the playoff race, but the division race as well.
Ricky Williams has been stellar since Ronnie Brown went down, having rushed for 309 yards in his last three games.
16. New York Jets (6-6)
The Jets have won two straight, and will have to go for No. 3 without Mark Sanchez
Sanchez isn't even traveling with the team when they head down to Tampa for Sunday's game, where Kellen Clemens will be starting at quarterback.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6)
As you've surely heard, the Steelers are mired in a four-game losing streak that has all-but drowned their hopes of defending their Super Bowl championship.
They face an absolute must-win tonight against the 1-11 Browns.
18. Atlanta Falcons (6-6)
The Falcons were run over by the Eagles Sunday, and will likely have to win out in order to have any hope of making their second straight playoff appearance.
The problem with their prospect of winning out?
They'll have to start their streak this Sunday against the 12-0 Saints.
19. Carolina Panthers (5-7)
The Panthers' playoff hopes are slim to begin with, and their schedule does nothing to make a berth any more likely.
Their remaining four games: at New England, vs. Minnesota, at New York Giants, vs. New Orleans.
20. Tennessee Titans (5-7)
Tennessee's five-game winning streak was snapped Sunday against the Colts, as was any hope of a miraculous appearance in the playoffs.
Now, Titans fans can focus on Chris Johnson's quest to become the sixth player in NFL
history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season.
21. Houston Texans (5-7)
Remember when the Texans were 5-3 and off to their best start in franchise history?
Well, Houston has lost four straight since, and Gary Kubiak looks as though he could be on his way out after this season as head coach.
22. Seattle Seahawks (5-7)
The Seahawks have won two in a row for the first time this season.
They'll look to make it three when they head back down to Texas to face the struggling Texans.
23. San Francisco 49ers (5-7)
A week after beating Jacksonville 20-3, the Niners curiously lost to Seattle 20-17.
Vernon Davis has turned into one of the most prolific tight ends in the league, having caught 63 passes for 781 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.
24. Chicago Bears (5-7)
The Bears were able to beat the lowly Rams 17-9 Sunday, bringing their four-game losing streak to a halt.
However, Jay Cutler
was nothing spectacular against the weak Rams defense, going 8-17 for 143 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.
25. Oakland Raiders (4-8)
I'm putting the Raiders ahead of the Bills due to the strength of their wins this season.
This season, Oakland has beaten Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh...and Kansas City, but who cares?
26. Buffalo Bills (4-8)
2009 has been a season to forget for Buffalo.
The Bills have had just one game with a 100-yard rusher (Fred Jackson ran for 163 yards in week two) and one game with a 100-yard receiver (Terrell Owens
tallied 197 yards in week 11).
27. Washington Redskins (3-9)
For the third straight week, the Redskins excruciatingly lost a game at the last second.
Give them credit though, as they are clearly playing very hard for head coach Jim Zorn.
28. Kansas City Chiefs (3-9)
In their last two home games this season, the Chiefs will be playing the Bills and the Browns.
It's safe to say that nobody will be watching a football game in Kansas City again this season.
29. Detroit Lions (2-10)
I still don't know why I thought the Lions would be so much better this season.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-11)
If the Bucs are able to wind up with the No. 1 pick in next spring's draft, expect Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh to be welcomed to town, as the Bucs are 31st in the NFL against the run.
31. St. Louis Rams (1-11)
Remaining schedule: at Tennessee, vs. Houston, at Arizona, vs. San Francisco.
It's safe to assume that the Rams will not be winning any more games this season.
32. Cleveland Browns (1-11)
There are signs of life from Brady Quinn
for the second time in three weeks, as he was 25-45 for 271 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions against the Chargers Sunday.
While he hasn't been great all season long, I still can't believe Eric Mangini went with Derek Anderson for as long as he did.