1. New England Patriots (12-2) – It wasn’t a victory that they’ll send to Canton and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but beating the Packers is still beating another quality team. Still, the defense bears watching. (Last week: 1)
2. Atlanta Falcons (12-2) – Another dominant win in Seattle last week and who knows, a win Monday over the Saints could vault them to #1. A victory would definitely clinch the NFC South, a first-round bye and home-field in the NFC. (Last week: 2)
3. Philadelphia Eagles (10-4) – What more can you say about the latest Miracle in the Meadowlands? Their present is a post-Christmas Day visit from QB Joe Webb (presuming Brett Favre doesn’t play) and the Minnesota Vikings in primetime. (Last week: 4).
4. Baltimore Ravens (10-4) – The Ravens got back to what the Ravens do best against the Saints Sunday – using Ray Rice on the ground, using Ray Rice in the flat and using Ray Rice a lot! That’s a good recipe for success for Baltimore. (Last week: 7).
5. New Orleans Saints (10-4) – A very good battle on the road in Baltimore where the Saints almost pulled it out. Their division title life is on the line Monday in Atlanta. (Last week: 3).
6. NY Giants (9-5) – If only they didn’t play the last 8 minutes of the Philly game. Oh yeah, that’s right, the Giants didn’t really play. (Last week: 5).
7. Chicago Bears (10-4) – One of these weeks they might actually climb into that upper echelon of teams. A win at home against the NY Jets could do it. Could. (Last week: NR)
8. NY Jets (10-4) – The Jets escaped Pittsburgh with a victory that temporarily stops the slide. (Last week: NR).
9. Kansas City Chiefs (9-5) – If you say nothing else about the Chiefs, they are at least one of the more gutty teams in the league. Prime example #1 is their leader: QB Matt Cassel. (Last week: 10)
10. Indianapolis Colts (8-6) – They simply refuse to go away. Faced with a sure elimination from the playoffs against the Jaguars, the Colts stood tall. This week, the Raiders vaunted offense (500 yards last week) should test the Indy run defense. (Last week: NR)
On the outside looking in:
Jacksonville Jaguars 8-6
San Diego Chargers 8-6
Tampa Bay Bucs 8-6