1. Seattle Seahawks (+1): The Seahawks only need one win in the next two weeks to clinch home-field advantage. Did I mention that both games are in Seattle? I like their odds.
2. Denver Broncos (-1): Thursday’s game was good for the Broncos, which sounds strange. With two weeks left to lock up the top seed, the loss to the Chargers was a wake-up call. If they use that to motivate themselves down the stretch, the Broncos may not lose again.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (+1): DO NOT sleep on the Chiefs. Everyone will point to their trouble against Denver, but the Chiefs are actually getting BETTER at the end of the season. Amazingly, their offense is winning games. Their defense still looks good too.
4. New Orleans Saints (-1): A lot of good teams were upset this week, but the Saints loss to the Rams was the most shocking. The near-complete shutdown of Drew Brees’ offense should give Saints fans cause for worry. They’ll rebound, but the Saints’ road issues are telling. If they can’t keep the division crown, they may not win a playoff game.
5. Carolina Panthers (+1): The ship has been righted in Carolina, and now the Panthers want payback. They’ll look to exploit the Saints’ problems on the road, and take back control of the division.
6. San Francisco 49ers (+2): The Niners have won four straight, and they don’t look like they’ll stop this week against the Falcons on Monday Night Football. While the division is likely out of reach, the playoffs certainly aren’t.
7. New England Patriots (-2): For three straight games, the Patriots have performed poorly against sub-par teams. The third time was the charm, as they finally earned the loss they deserved against the Dolphins. Now the Pats face an actual playoff contender in the Ravens. At this stage, the Patriots haven’t even guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, which is normally unheard of by Week 16.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (-1): Consistency continues to be the issue in Cincinnati. Andy Dalton isn’t exactly playing his best football, but the team as a whole has been good enough to keep them on top of the AFC North. The Ravens are knocking on the door though, so the Bengals need to win to clinch the division.
9. Baltimore Ravens (+1): Congrats to Justin Tucker for carrying the team on his back, but winning with no touchdowns is not going to get you far in this league. This week’s game against the Patriots will be a good measuring stick to see if the Ravens are truly ready to defend their title.
10. Arizona Cardinals (+2): The Cardinals are back in the top ten, though I doubt it’ll last. They are only a game back in the wild card hunt, but their last two games are against the Seahawks and 49ers. Good luck with that.
11. Indianapolis Colts (same): That Colts record is definitely padded by being in the worst division in football. No one is going to be impressed by defeating the Texans at this stage. The Chiefs, however, could easily play the Colts again in a few weeks.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (-3): What happened? Nick Foles played pretty well, but the Eagles defense simply fell apart when the Vikings ran the ball. Also, LeSean McCoy had a whopping EIGHT rushes compared to Foles’ 48 pass attempts. Yeah, that’s how you want to use the NFL’s leading rusher.
13: Chicago Bears (+1): Forget Julio Jones and Roddy White. The best wide receiver duo in the NFL has to be Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Throw Matt Forte running wild, and Jay Cutler doesn’t have to worry about the early interceptions as he shook off the rust. For what it’s worth, I believe Cutler is the right choice in Chicago. The Bears are miraculously coming together as a complete unit. Watch out.
14. San Diego Chargers (+1): I don’t think the Chargers really stand a chance in the wild card race at this stage, but they have to feel good about their performance against the Broncos. If the defense continues to play like that next year, and Philip Rivers doesn’t regress, they could be a scary team in 2014.
15. Miami Dolphins (+1): What a day for the Dolphins. Their playoff hopes are very much alive as they prepare to face our Bills. Too bad we’re going to squash those dreams come Sunday.
16. Green Bay Packers (+2): Amazingly, Matt Flynn and Eddie Lacy are getting the job done. Aaron Rodgers MAY return against the Steelers, but it doesn’t look likely. Flynn and company could have their hands full against a Pittsburgh defense that likes to eat inexperienced offenses up.
17. Detroit Lions (-4): When your opponent only scores field goals, you aren’t supposed to lose. The Lions have actually dropped to 3rd in their division now, and it’s going to take a small miracle at this point to get them into the postseason. That said, the Giants SHOULD be an easy win.
18. St. Louis Rams (+1): I’m telling you, this team is a quarterback away from exploding next year. It’s insane that THIS is the worst team in the NFC West, and they just made the Saints offense look terrible. The Buccaneers shouldn’t put up much of a fight.
19. Dallas Cowboys (-2): How long do the Cowboys stick with Romo? You can’t put the blame entirely on Romo, and that big contract of his makes it hard to move away from him, but the Cowboys’ recent choke job was pretty epic. The real answer may be that the Cowboys need a defense so that the game doesn’t always rest on Romo’s shoulders. Could they actually lose to the Redskins?
20. Pittsburgh Steelers (+1): While the season is effectively over, the Steelers can really spoil things for the Packers this week. Things are looking up in Pittsburgh, and Le’Veon Bell is really starting to show why Pittsburgh drafted him. They’re finishing strong, even if it’s not enough.
21. New York Jets (-1): Geno Smith is pretty bad. Which is great for the Bills. They face the Browns this week, who are better than their record suggests. If Buffalo could at least catch the Jets, I’d be so happy.
22. Cleveland Browns (same): Like I said, the Browns are better than their record. This is another team that is a QB away from being a true contender. Put a real threat under center, and they’ll have a field day throwing to guys like Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron.
23. Buffalo Bills (+3): I’m happy to report, we AREN’T the worst! Losing E.J. to another injury is difficult to bear, though. Here’s to hoping Manuel takes a big leap forward next year. Until then, Thad and our boys will SQUISH THE FISH.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (same): It’s not like we expected the Bucs to win over the Niners. I don’t expect them to do so well against the Rams either. Mike Glennon seems like he’s worth a look over the next few years, but their run game dropped off with the injury to Doug Martin. The Buccaneers use fewer screen passes than any other team in the league. Perhaps they should reconsider that strategy.
25. New York Giants (-2): Shutouts don’t look too good. Sure, it was against the top scoring defense in the league, but still. Superbowl-winning quarterbacks shouldn’t get shutout. I’m still not sure what happened here. The Lions defense is pretty good, but the G-Men should at least be able to SCORE on Sunday.
26. Minnesota Vikings (+2): You would think losing their best player, Adrian Peterson, would doom the Vikings against the playoff-contending Eagles, but think again. Matt Asiata (Who?) managed 3 touchdowns, Greg Jennings exploded and Matt Cassel nearly threw for 400 yards. MATT CASSEL. Unfortunately for the Vikings, the Bengals actually have a defense that can stop people.
27. Atlanta Falcons (+2): Here’s a crazy stat for you: Matt Ryan has had a good Total QBR in 11 of the 14 games he played this year . Don’t blame him for the Falcons’ woes. Blame the worst rushing offense in the league and one of the worst defenses in the league. Good luck against the Niners.
28. Tennessee Titans (-3): Well the Titans have dropped 5 of their last 6 games, and the only win was against the Raiders. I guess I should finally drop them down here. I’d give them a pretty good chance against the Jags, though. Fitzmagic has earned his job this year.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (-2): The Jags are at least showing some life at the end of the season. It wouldn’t take much to rise out of the AFC South next year. Hell, they’re not even the worst team in the division. Hello Texans!
30. Oakland Raiders (same): Poor Oakland. Rashad Jennings is proving to be a good addition, but the quarterback position is wide open. And that HORRIBLE defense is, well… HORRIBLE. I don’t think they’re liking the prospect of facing the Chargers, who just came off an upset over Denver.
31. Washington Redskins (same): What a train wreck. Did you hear that RG3 actually SAID that he believes he will be playing for a different coach next year. Wow. Not sure if that means Mike Shanahan will be fired, or RG3 will be traded. Either way, things are bound to get ugly in Washington.
32. Houston Texans (same): Can it get any worse? After only managing a measly field goal against the Colts (who don’t exactly have an elite defense), the Texans have to face the Broncos? Wow. On the bright side, the Texans are interviewing Lovie Smith for the coaching job. Can you imagine what a defensive mind like that could do with J.J. Watt and company? All they need is a quarterback.