1. Green Bay Packers (13-0, 1st last week): The Greg Jennings injury shouldn’t hurt them, but it might serve as a cautionary tale for Mike McCarthy. Luck’s been on your side lately, Packers. Don’t push it.
2. New Orleans Saints (10-3, 3rd last week): A little too close for comfort in Nashville, as they continue to struggle on outdoor grass. They move up by virtue of bigger problems in San Francisco.
3. Baltimore Ravens (10-3, 4th last week): Killing it ever since that shocking loss to Seattle. And with a weak schedule coming in, the Ravens might end up with the top seed in the AFC.
4. New England Patriots (10-3, 5th last week): Unless of course the Pats steal it from them. If New England can beat Denver, they’ll almost definitely finish the season on an eight-game winning streak. But based on how they played in Washington, I wouldn’t rule out another Broncos upset.
5. Houston Texans (10-3, 6th last week): With Carolina (at home), Indy (away) and Tennessee (at home) to finish the year, there’s a good chance T.J. Yates starts his first playoff game with a 5-0 record. That would also mean the Texans will have won 10 straight prior to the divisional playoffs.
6. San Francisco 49ers (10-3, 2nd last week): I’m very concerned about the league’s worst red-zone offense with tough games against Pittsburgh and Seattle coming up. What this all means: Patrick Willis might have to play one week earlier than originally expected, because it’s beginning to look like San Fran will have to play on wild-card weekend.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3, 7th last week): Ben Roethlisberger is hurt (again) and James Harrison is in jeopardy of being suspended. Turmoil for a team that can’t seem to avoid it and doesn’t have room for error. And now a huge game in San Fran.
8. Denver Broncos (8-5, 8th last week): Can we agree that it’s not luck but it’s also not “God’s favor“? Otherwise, God has some messed up priorities. Let’s just agree that luck has played a role (easy schedule), and so has clutch play, good defense and a unique offense that is just productive enough to be successful. End of story.
9. New York Jets (8-5, 10th last week): Having to adjust on the fly to life without Jim Leonhard. With three challenges against Philly (away), the Giants (“home”) and Miami (away) to finish the season, it won’t be easy. On the bright side, the Bengals, Titans and Raiders aren’t exactly posing large threats to their wild-card spot.
10. Atlanta Falcons (8-5, 9th last week): When’s the last time they just smashed a weaker opponent? And Indianapolis doesn’t count…
11. New York Giants (7-6, 13th last week): Thanks, Tom Coughlin. I’m pretty sure we’ll never see the day in which icing the kicker is buried forever. That icing might have changed New York’s entire season. Same for Dallas’. Eli Manning was better than Tony Romo Sunday night, and that, plus the icing, was the difference.
12. Detroit Lions (8-5, 15th last week): They probably would have been 1-1 with or without Ndamukong Suh the last two games. And they’re actually in even better shape in the playoff race now than they were before the suspension. With a tiebreaker advantage over Dallas and the Bears struggling, Detroit’s probably going to the playoffs.
13. Dallas Cowboys (7-6, 12th last week): Down goes DeMarco Murray. Imagine Tiki Barber, in New York to play the Giants as a member of the rival Cowboys with a division title on the line, Jan. 1 at MetLife. Just throwing it out there.
14. Arizona Cardinals (6-7, 22nd last week): Um, 4-1 under John Skelton ($405,000 salary). 2-5 under Kevin Kolb ($10.8 million salary). We could have a problem here.
15. Miami Dolphins (4-9, 11th last week): They did the right thing in getting rid of Tony Sparano. Have to wonder how good they might have been this season with Jim Harbaugh as head coach.
16. Oakland Raiders (7-6, 14th last week): It’s amazing the role injuries play in deciding playoff teams. With a slew of weapons out, they’ve been outscored 80-30 in two games. But a win against Detroit and a Denver loss to New England could change everything.
17. Tennessee Titans (7-6, 18th last week): Against Indy and Jacksonville, they should prevail regardless of who’s at quarterback. But to make the playoffs, they’ll probably have to win in Houston in Week 17.
18. Chicago Bears (7-6, 16th last week): We’ve ruled them out preemptively before, but with a Green Bay road game looming, there’s almost no margin for error, and they’d still need help. I don’t think they can do it without Jay Cutler and Matt Forte.
19. Cincinnati Bengals (7-6, 17th last week): Four losses in five games and a tough schedule to finish. They’ll probably have to run the table against St. Louis, Arizona and Baltimore without top guard Bobbie Williams. Fat lady’s warming up in Cincy.
20. Seattle Seahawks (6-7, 21st last week): The Wrigley Company, Mars Inc. and those directly in charge of the Skittles brand would like to thank Marshawn Lynch, the 12th Man, the NFL’s schedule-makers and serendipitous timing.
21. Carolina Panthers (4-9, 19th last week): Blew a chance to play spoiler against the Falcons. What happened to Cam Newton in the second half?
22. San Diego Chargers (6-7, 20th last week): Once again turning it around in December — they’ve outscored their last two opponents 75-24. But the schedule gets tough again now, and it’s probably too little, too late.
23. Philadelphia Eagles (5-8, 26th last week): Nine sacks, a pick and two forced fumbles? Where’d that come from? Too late, but quite a defensive performance in Miami.
24. Minnesota Vikings (2-11, 27th last week): At least they’ve found Percy Harvin again. Oh, and they’ll probably have a top-three pick in April’s draft.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9, 29th last week): They’re playing in another prime-time game Thursday? What the hell did we do to deserve this?
26. Washington Redskins (4-9, 28th last week): So I’ve concluded that DeAngelo Hall has Rob Gronkowski on his fantasy team. Man, if not for Gronk, the ‘Skins might have won that thing.
27. Kansas City Chiefs (5-8, 23rd last week): With Jamaal Charles, Matt Cassel, Eric Berry and Tony Moeaki out, I’m not sure what the front office was expecting from Todd Haley. This isn’t on him.
28. Buffalo Bills (5-8, 25th last week): How far and quickly have they fallen? Only six weeks ago they were ranked sixth on this list. Now, they’re fifth-last.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9, 24th last week): Did you seriously just allow 41 points to an offense that hadn’t scored 20 all year? Raheem Morris is screwed.
30. Cleveland Browns (4-9, 30th last week): Decent defensive performance in Pittsburgh. Still a freakin’ mess on offense.
31. St. Louis Rams (2-11, 31st last week): That did not look like a healthy Sam Bradford. Why force it when you’re a two-win team?
32. Indianapolis Colts (0-13, 32nd last week): And now Dan Orlovsky has fallen back to earth. The fairy tale is over in Indy.