Well, after Week 13, we know pretty much exactly what we knew after Week 12. The top seven remain unchanged, as all seven won. The next six teams all lost, allowing a certain rookie icon to move his team into the Top 10, at No. 8.
As usual, more big names on playoff teams suffer injuries. Charles Woodson of the Packers appears to have suffered a concussion, Matt Forte of the Bears will miss anywhere from two to six weeks with an MCL injury, Andre Johnson of the Texans suffered an injury to his other hamstring and Patrick Willis of the 49ers also left his game due to a hamstring injury.
Week 13 left us with some pretty mind-boggling numbers, too. Cam Newton set the all-time record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. The top-three quarterbacks in Week 13 in terms of passing yards all hail from the NFC North. And Dan Orlovsky of the Colts (a former NFC North QB) completed 30 of his 37 passes and threw for over 350 yards in his first start since 2008.
And is there anything better than Monday Night Football? ESPN brings you Chargers vs. Jaguars one week, only to top that yawn fest with Rams vs. Seahawks in Week 14!
As we reach the final quarter of the season and the contenders separate from the pretenders, here are the latest rankings.
Teams’ previous ranking in ( ).
1. Green Bay Packers (1): If the Packers choose to go 16-0, they will. Nobody left on their schedule can beat Green Bay if the Packers choose to play their starters. Defensive woes continue though, and losing Woodson to a concussion doesn’t help.
2. New Orleans Saints (2): I won’t say Drew Brees is playing better than any quarterback in the league right now, but I also won’t say that he isn’t.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (3): Perhaps that is the statement game we have been waiting for Pittsburgh to make. They look primed to make another Super Bowl run.
4. Baltimore Ravens (4): For once, the Ravens beat a bad team. Looks like they might be getting serious at the right time.
5. San Francisco 49ers (5): That defense is impressive. Is it good enough to get past potentially the Saints and the Packers though?
6. New England Patriots (6): Hard to consider them a Super Bowl favorite with that defense.
7. Houston Texans (7): How can you not feel sorry for the Texans? They might be the second best team in football if they didn’t have so many important players hampered by injuries.
8. Denver Tebows (15): Henceforth, the Broncos will be referred to as the Tebows. No, Denver is not the eighth best team in football, but with all the other 7-5 teams losing this week, Denver shoots past all of them with their fifth straight win. Can they beat Chicago and New England without Jay Cutler, Forte and that awful Patriot defense? I wouldn’t bet against it right now.
9. New York Jets (14): The Jets too move up significantly in the rankings. They should beat the Chiefs at home, but their final three games could go either way. They likely need to win at least three of the final four to grab a wild-card spot.
10. Dallas Cowboys (9): Icing your own kicker? If Dallas does not make the playoffs, I’d ax Jason Garrett.
11. Oakland Raiders (8): Can anybody figure out the Raiders? The beat the Jets, Texans and Bears, but get shutout by the Chiefs and almost fare the same against the Dolphins. I believe they are the best team in the division, but there is a high probability they will come up short of the playoffs.
12. Chicago Bears (10): No Cutler, and most likely no Forte for the rest of the season. Three of their final four games are on the road, including a game at Lambeau. Does this team have any hope of reaching the playoffs? It might be time to place a call to Donovan McNabb. It certainly can’t make things worse.
13. Detroit Lions (11): When the Lions were 5-2, I said they could easily finish the season at 8-8. Now, at 7-5 that doesn’t seem so implausible. They most likely need to win their next three games to reach the playoffs.
14. Cincinnati Bengals (12): That was an eye-opening loss to the Steelers. I believe their playoff hopes are on the line this week at home against the Texans.
15. Atlanta Falcons (13): The Falcons got a close up look at that No. 1 ranked Texans defense. To win the division, they have to win out. But three out of four should get them a wild card.
16. Tennessee Titans (17): Chris Johnson appears to be coming alive at exactly the right time. Will it be too late?
17. New York Giants (16): The good news is, the Giants hung with the Packers to the very end. The bad news is, the Giants probably couldn’t play any better and still came up just short. Nonetheless, just one game out of first place, they control their own destiny with two of their final four games against the Cowboys.
18. San Diego Chargers (20): San Diego ends their skid with an offensive outburst. They need to continue that in their next four games, and get some help if they want to reach the post season.
19. Buffalo Bills (18): Buffalo had to have that game if they wanted to make the playoffs. Now their goal is to finish at least .500.
20. Arizona Cardinals (25): Reluctantly, I move Arizona into the top 20. They still aren’t a very good football team, but with wins against Dallas and Philadelphia they are at least improving. They have an outside shot of finishing at 9-7, but they must find a way to beat San Francisco this week.
21. Seattle Seahawks (22): Like Arizona, Seattle has an outside shot to finish 9-7. Regardless, it will likely be just short of a playoff spot. This team appears to have a bright future though.
22. Kansas City Chiefs (24): The Chiefs have a brutal schedule to finish the season. I expect them to be a playoff contender next year though when they get their injured players healthy.
23. Philadelphia Eagles (19): It is possibly that the "dream team" might finish 5-11. If that happens, they have to fire Andy Reid, don’t they?
24. Carolina Panthers (27): I’m sure Newton would trade his impressive stats for Tim Tebow’s wins, but it’s clear the Panthers will be going places with Newton very soon.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (21): After a 10-win season last year, wasn’t Tampa supposed to take that next step?
26. Miami Dolphins (29): This is a team that should probably be ranked higher, but their best win was this week against Oakland, and nobody really seems to know how good the Raiders are.
27. Cleveland Browns (23): The Browns must have really pissed somebody off. Their final six games included all four against Pittsburgh and Baltimore, and road games against the Bengals and Cardinals (a fairly tough team to beat in the desert).
28. Washington Redskins (26): After 55 minutes, the Redskins were up 16-13. They then proceeded to self-destruct, losing 34-19. Mike Shanahan’s only hope of returning next season probably means he has to beat the Patriots this week. Even that might not be enough.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (28): The one thing the Jags can typically hang their hat on is defense, but in Week 13 it let them down big time.
30. Minnesota Vikings (31): The Vikings finally got what they had hoped for when they drafted Christian Ponder. If this team can fix the defense, they could be a sleeper next season.
31. St. Louis Rams (30): The Rams have to be considered one of the biggest disappointments of the season. Perhaps they can get a division road win on Monday Night Football this week.
32. Indianapolis Colts (32): If the Colts want to assure themselves of that No. 1 pick, perhaps they should put Orlovsky back on the bench and insert Curtis Painter back into the lineup. Orlovsky might just lead them to a victory or two.