1. Green Bay Packers (11-0, 1st last week): What is there to say at this point? The NFL’s best team won handily Thursday despite having to travel on extremely short rest. Going 19-0 is a very realistic goal.
2. San Francisco 49ers (9-2, 2nd last week): I still think that, based on what I’ve seen over the first 12 weeks, they’re slightly better than Baltimore on regular rest and at a neutral site.
3. Baltimore Ravens (8-3, 4th last week): We expected that from the defense against San Fran, but no one could have anticipated such a dominant performance from the much-maligned Baltimore offensive line against the Niners’ stellar front seven. Good omen for the final five weeks and the playoffs.
4. New England Patriots (8-3, 6th last week): Might they be peaking at the right time? Tom Brady had his best game since Week 2 against the Eagles, and the Pats have now dominated three straight games (two on the road against tough teams).
5. New Orleans Saints (8-3, 7th last week): Jon Gruden thinks Drew Brees is a conductor and a surgeon. Can we settle on a really, really good quarterback? That was one of the best games of his career.
6. Houston Texans (8-3, 3rd last week): With a rookie fifth-round pick at quarterback, I’m expecting them to continue to drop on this list in upcoming weeks (especially with Atlanta, Cincinnati and Carolina next on the schedule).
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3, 5th last week): We’ve seen that they aren’t the same without Troy Polamalu. They’ve survived a lot of big defensive injuries this year, but if Polamalu has to miss time, it could be a back-breaker.
8. Atlanta Falcons (7-4, 9th last week): Looks like Will Svitek will be Matt Ryan’s blind side protector going forward, and that’s a good thing. It’s not easy to bench a former top pick, but the way Sam Baker was playing, it was necessary. With Baker on the bench, the Falcons held Jared Allen in check Sunday.
9. Denver Broncos (6-5, 15th last week): They’ve moved up 12 spots in two weeks thanks to wins over the Chargers and Jets, supposedly superior AFC opponents . Looking like a playoff team.
10. Oakland Raiders (7-4, 12th last week): Is it possible that the top two players on a playoff team will be the placekicker and the punter?
11. Dallas Cowboys (7-4, 11th last week): Survived against a feisty Dolphins team and now they’re getting healthier. They’ll be hosting a playoff game in the second week of January.
12. Chicago Bears (7-4, 8th last week): They have to be at least a little encouraged that they hung with the Raiders on the road in Caleb Hanie’s first start, but for the Bears to stay alive, the defense will have to be even better than that. Is that possible?
13. Detroit Lions (7-4, 10th last week): Jim Schwartz was the Tennessee defensive coordinator when Albert Haynesworth stomped on Andre Gurode and the Detroit head coach when Ndamukong Suh stomped on Evan Dietrich-Smith. Coincidence? Things are falling apart in Detroit.
14. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4, 13th last week): Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden deserve a lot of credit for being superb halftime adjusters. They’ve been remarkably good in the second half this year.
15. New York Jets (6-5, 14th last week): On an off day, they still survived and beat a desperate team. That said, Darrelle Revis is suddenly human and Mark Sanchez is really struggling early in games.
16. Miami Dolphins (3-8, 17th last week): Solid performance in Dallas. Let’s hope it’s not enough to save Tony Sparano’s job.
17. New York Giants (6-5, 20th last week): Yet another second half slide. Will Tom Coughlin survive this one?
18. Tennessee Titans (6-5, 21st last week): The Titans and Bucs combined for nine turnovers Sunday. Both look like mediocre football teams.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7, 16th last week): See: 18. Tennessee Titans.
20. San Diego Chargers (4-7, 18th last week): Another lost season and that’s probably it for Norv Turner. So much talent, but they seem to do everything wrong. And no one scares you on that defense. It’s baffling.
21. Philadelphia Eagles (4-7, 19th last week): Don’t let Vince Young’s 400-yard performance sway you. Young compiled most of those yards in garbage time against an already-bad pass defense. And don’t put this latest loss entirely on Andy Reid — injuries have hurt this team badly.
22. Buffalo Bills (5-6, 22nd last week): Probably deserved a win in New York, but good teams don’t make those types of game-changing mistakes. And I’m sorry, Stevie Johnson, but that was a drop.
23. Kansas City Chiefs (4-7, 23rd last week): Despite the turnovers against Pittsburgh, Tyler Palko showed some signs of promise.
24. Carolina Panthers (3-8, 25th last week): Offensive balance helped Cam Newton have one of his best games. Then again, it was against Indy…
25. Arizona Cardinals (4-7, 27th last week): Another win despite another terrible John Skelton performance. Their three best players — Larry Fitzgerald, Beanie Wells and Patrick Peterson — have stepped it up.
26. Minnesota Vikings (2-9, 26th last week): Kind of amazing that they’re avoiding embarrassment despite not having Adrian Peterson and being a generally bad football team. That was a little too close for comfort if you’re Atlanta.
27. Washington Redskins (4-7, 30th last week): Ryan Kerrigan disappeared a bit, but the defense still performed well in Seattle. The future is bright for that unit.
28. Seattle Seahawks (4-7, 24th last week): Tom Cable brought a penchant for taking penalties from Oakland to Seattle. Flags killed the Seahawks Sunday.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-8, 28th last week): Maurice Jones-Drew gets you 166 yards on 22 touches and the offense manages to score just six points? This team’s a mess. Major changes are needed.
30. Cleveland Browns (4-7, 29th last week): I don’t feel like being pessimistic this week, so I’ll remind everyone that the Browns have the league’s top-ranked pass defense and Joe Haden has become a superstar this year.
31. St. Louis Rams (2-9, 31st last week): On paper, the team should be better than it was last year, and yet they continue to lose consistently. Steve Spagnuolo survived a 1-15 season, but I don’t think he’s going to keep his job after this one.
32. Indianapolis Colts (0-11, 32nd last week): Even though Minnesota might not win again, the Indy loss to Carolina pretty much clinches the top pick. No chance they win two of their final five games.