1. New Orleans Saints (11-0) After a dominating performance last night, there is no doubt the Saints are playing the best football in the NFL.
3. Minnesota Vikings (10-1) Favre has made a believer out of me again, not because of his ability to strike up big plays, but because of his current willingness to avoid the disastrous ones.
4. San Diego Chargers (8-3) There is obviously a huge drop-off from the top three teams in the NFL, but a healthy San Diego is rolling. They will need it in December when they face Cincy, Dallas, and a resurgent Tennessee.
5. Dallas Cowboys (8-3) I cannot remember so little hype in Dallas for a winning team. The key to this team’s success is the replacement of T.O. with the playmaking ability of Miles Austin.
6. Green Bay Packers (7-4) A tough primetime schedule remains, but Green Bay is finally starting to live up to preseason expectations after coming off of their bye (they played Detroit).
7. New England Patriots (7-4) With all of the new faces, this may be the worst defensive squad Bill Belichick has had in New England.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (8-3) I am not quite sold on how Cincy’s defense will hold up late in the year, but after sweeping all three divisional opponents, the AFC North is all but locked up.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (7-4) Just one game back of the division lead, Philly gets to travel to Dallas in Week 17 for what could be the game of the year.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) The defending champs are just one game over .500, but Dennis Dixon did an outstanding job on Sunday night in Baltimore. Pittsburgh will be a playoff team.
11. Arizona Cardinals (7-4) The Cards are doing their best to avoid a Super Bowl hangover, but a lot of their success could be credited to the weakness of the NFC West. Leinart did fine in Warner’s absence, but Arizona needs the old guy back to make any sort of run in the playoffs.
12. Tennessee Titans (5-6) A 5-6 team at #12 in the rankings? You bet. Vince Young is now 5-0 this season and the Titans are not far from a wild-card spot. Plus, they have my MVP in Chris Johnson.
13. Baltimore Ravens (6-5) Baltimore really was lucky that Roethlisberger was hurt this week. They just don’t seem to have the look of a playoff football team, although Ray Rice is a beast.
14. Houston Texans (5-6) After a heartbreaking loss to Tennessee on Monday night, Houston collapsed at home against the Colts. They certainly have tons of talent, especially on defense (Okoye, Robinson, Cushing, Williams all first-rounders), but they have yet to figure out how to become winners.
15. New York Giants (6-5) The one-loss combined record of Minnesota and New Orleans actually helps New York, as it means a 9-7 team could get into the playoffs. Sunday’s home contest against Dallas isn’t a must-win, but it is certainly close.
16. Atlanta Falcons (6-5) Redman did an excellent job filling in for Matt Ryan, and it looks as though he will need to do it again this week against Philly.
17. Denver Broncos (7-4) Denver has won just one of their last five, and will now be struggling just to make the postseason.
18. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-5) I am really not even sure how Jacksonville is over .500, but they could be the worst 6-5 team in league history.
19. San Francisco 49ers (5-6) Alex Smith is obviously much more comfortable out of shotgun (what took so long?), and Week 14′s matchup with Arizona will incredibly be for the NFC West lead (if San Fran beats Seattle and Arizona loses to Minnesota).
20. Buffalo Bills (4-7) The Bills are playing well under interim coach Perry Fewell, perhaps because quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is getting his playmakers the ball.
21. New York Jets (5-6) The Jets are actually worse than a 5-6 team, and are really lucky to still be in the playoff hunt after the honeymoon phase with their rookie quarterback has ended.
22. Miami Dolphins (5-6) Chad Henne is the future for Miami at quarterback, but he will have to play more consistently in the future. It doesn’t help when your defense gives up 24 unanswered fourth-quarter points.
23. Chicago Bears (4-7) Jay Cutler is supremely talented, but he is going to have to get much smarter in protecting the football for any team he is on to win.
24. Carolina Panthers (4-7) After a small bright spot in the middle of the season, it has become apparent that Carolina just will not win anymore with Delhomme at the helm.
25. Oakland Raiders (3-8) They are only this high because they have a solid pass defense. Without Nnamdi Asomugha, this team would have one win at best.
26. Seattle Seahawks (4-7) HUGE win over the Rams. Just kidding. It really meant nothing except a worse pick in the draft.
27. Washington Redskins (3-8) Believe it or not, I am still a believer in Jason Campbell. Washington just doesn’t have the proper protection to allow him to be more aggressive.
28. Kansas City Chiefs (3-8) Kansas City does play tough at home, where they have three straight contests coming up.
29. Detroit Lions (2-9) Three teams with a worse record than this?
30. Tampa Bay Bucs (1-10) How did this team beat Green Bay? They did look good in Atlanta on Sunday, and have played better by leaps and bounds since Freeman came into the lineup.
31. St. Louis Rams (1-10) Luckily, the Rams will perhaps have a pick high enough to grab whichever quarterback they want to replace Bulger.
32. Cleveland Browns (1-10) Cleveland showed some signs of life two weeks ago against Detroit. They lost anyway, and now they are terrible again.