1. (1) Indianapolis Colts (14-2)
As expected, the Colts' starters didn't see much action in snowy Buffalo, and so Peyton and the boys will enter their divisional playoff contest on Jan. 16 or 17 without having won a game in 30 or 31 days. Still, I can't see ranking Indy anywhere but first because they remain undefeated with the first line on the field. No one else can say that.
2. (2) San Diego Chargers (13-3)
3. (3) Dallas Cowboys (11-5)
The Cowboys dominated the Eagles, 24-0, to capture the NFC East crown and earn the right to host the rematch next week in the Wild Card playoff round. I expect a closer game this weekend, but with Dallas still coming out on top. Let's say 21-14.
4. (4) New Orleans Saints (13-3)
With the Saints riding a two-game losing streak heading into their Week 17 matchup at Carolina, I thought Sean Payton would've wanted to get Drew Brees and the rest of the starters a little more playing time in this one, but Mark Brunell and the rest of the backups played just as poorly as the stars have been as New Orleans enters its bye week.
5. (5) Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)
The Eagles better figure out a way to get their running game going against Dallas. In their two meetings with the Cowboys this season, Philly has gained a grand total of 125 yards on the ground.
6. (6) Minnesota Vikings (12-4)
The stumbling Vikes got just what they needed heading into the playoffs: a momentum builder against The Team Formerly Known as the New York Giants.
7. (7) Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)
I don't blame the Bengals for tanking the game at the Jets. Now Cincinnati gets to host New York in a rematch this weekend, instead of facing division rival Baltimore for the third time this season.
8. (8) Green Bay Packers (11-5)
The Packers' defense will decide the team's fate this postseason. Green Bay finished the year 11-0 when giving up less than 30 points and 0-5 when yielding more than that.
9. (9) Arizona Cardinals (10-6)
Before we read too much into the Pack's 33-7 rout at Arizona, let's remember that Kurt Warner only threw six passes in this playoff tune-up. Expect him to toss a lot more this weekend. The goal will be to get to 30 points.
10. (10) New England Patriots (10-6)
If Bill Belichick didn't start Wes Welker and then the receiver didn't play well this weekend leading to a playoff loss, everyone would've been on the coach for not getting his guys ready to play in the postseason.
If Welker's injury had come in the fourth quarter, then I think Patriots fans would have something to complain about, but you have to get your starters some real game action heading into the Wild Card round. The receiver was hurt in the opening minutes of the first quarter, so I think you chalk this up to bad luck, not bad coaching.
11. (13) Baltimore Ravens (9-7)
Ray Rice and Willis McGahee form the best running back combo among the six AFC playoff participants.
12. (12) Atlanta Falcons (9-7)
The Falcons are the best team not in the playoffs and when at full strength, they may be better than some of the squads to make the postseason.
13. (16) New York Jets (9-7)
If you're a Jets fan, you have to be worried that the only reason you made the playoffs is because the teams you played the past two weeks were resting their starters.
14. (11) Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7)
15. (15) Tennessee Titans (8-8)
Following an 8-2 finish behind the NFL's leading rusher Chris Johnson (2,006 yards), the Titans are my pick to win Super Bowl XLV.
16. (18) Houston Texans (9-7)
Since Week One, the Texans have either won or lost by eight or fewer points. An unfortunate end to the season for a very underrated team.
17. (19) Miami Dolphins (7-9)
In a season tarnished by injuries (Chad Pennington, Ronnie Brown), it was fitting that the Dolphins' year ended with a game in which two of their quarterbacks were hurt.
18. (20) Carolina Panthers (8-8)
The Panthers are a QB away from being a Super Bowl contender.
19. (14) Denver Broncos (8-8)
With their season on the line at home against a 3-12 Chiefs team, the Broncos surrendered 44 points, completing one of the worst second halves in NFL history.
20. (21) New York Giants (8-8)
The Giants were 24-5 in the 29 games before Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg in late November 2008. They are 10-12 since.
21. (22) San Francisco 49ers (8-8)
The Niners finished at .500 for the first time in seven years and won my friend, Brad, a bunch of money in his survivor pool.
22. (23) Chicago Bears (7-9)
At least the disappointing season ended with two divisional wins.
23. (17) Jacksonville Jaguars (7-9)
The Jags' four-game losing streak to end the season, ended their season.
24. (24) Buffalo Bills (6-10)
If the Colts win the Super Bowl, at least the Bills can look back on this season and say they beat the champs—sort of.
25. (25) Seattle Seahawks (5-11)
The Seahawks finish the season 5-11 and Mike Holmgren is returning with the Browns. At least the Mariners will be better this year.
26. (26) Cleveland Browns (5-11)
The Browns completed the season with their longest win streak since 1994, so I think it would be a mistake to fire Eric Mangini at this point.
27. (29) Kansas City Chiefs (4-12)
KC won its first game in Denver since 2000.
28. (27) Tampa Bay Bucs (3-13)
29. (28) Oakland Raiders (5-11)That makes seven consecutive seasons the Raiders have failed to win more than five games.
30. (30) Washington Redskins (4-12)
The Redskins couldn't even beat a team with nothing to play for.
31. (31) St. Louis Rams (1-15)
If this trend continues, the Rams won't win a single game next season.
32. (32) Detroit Lions (2-14)
With just two wins and a home loss to the Rams, I can't rank the Lions anywhere but last for the second straight season.
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