Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 11/15/12
(NOTE: Rankings are considered by wins and losses, margins of victory and defeat, quality of opposition, and recent record trends)1. Houston (8-1) (Last week: 2)After weeks of the Falcons hogging the penthouse suite, Houston regains their view from top. Chicago's the third team that Houston's beaten this year who'd qualify for a playoff spot if the season ended today. The others were over Denver, and a laugher over Baltimore.2. Atlanta (8-1) (Last week: 1)The Falcons were held to 46 rushing yards on Sunday against the Saints; their first loss of the 2012 season. Atlanta's margin of victory when they go over 100 yards on the ground: 11.25 points. Margin when they run for under 100 (loss factored in as a negative): 5.6 points.3. Chicago (7-2) (Last week: 3)Putting aside the injury to Jay Cutler as a potential blight, what about the run defense? First five games, yards allowed: 63, 106 (loss to Green Bay), 59, 41, 60. Since then: 97 (six point win), 119 (one point win), 159 (admittedly mostly garbage yards), 127 (loss to Houston).4. Baltimore (7-2) (Last week: 6)If Ben Roethlisberger misses significant time with the severe shoulder sprain, Baltimore's road to winning a second straight AFC North title becomes far easier. The Ravens have only 2 other remaining opponents with winning records: the Broncos and the Giants.5. San Francisco (6-2-1) (Last week: 4)Looks like that dominant performance in Arizona may be a slight aberration. Over the last 4 games, the 49ers may have held the Cardinals to just 7 rushing yards, but the run defense is slipping. The Giants had 149, Seattle ran for 136, and the Rams scored a tie with 159.6. Green Bay (6-3) (Last week: 5)The Bears' loss on Sunday night gives Green Bay a better chance to vie for the North, but their final stretch provides some roadblocks. Aaron Rodgers has been sacked 29 times in 9 games, and 2 opponents (Bears and Giants) are 1 and 3 respectively in defensive negative pass plays.7. Pittsburgh (6-3) (Last week: 8)Ben Roethlisberger will have no choice but to sit Sunday vs. the Ravens, and perhaps beyond, with an unorthodox shoulder sprain. Backup Byron Leftwich has not started a game since September 2009, when he and the Buccaneers were shut out by the Giants 24-0.8. New England (6-3) (Last week: 9)The Patriots are back where they're used to being, engineering the NFL's most efficient offense with a respectable division lead. Tom Brady has thrown just 3 interceptions in 385 dropbacks this season; meaning he only throws a pick once every 128.3 pass attempts.9. Denver (6-3) (Last week: 10)It didn't take long for Peyton Manning to get the offense he wanted in year one. The Broncos have scored 31+ points in five of the last six games, and the team's on pace to have a pair of 1000-yard receivers in Demaryius Thomas (891) and Eric Decker (598).10. Seattle (6-4) (Last week: 11)Russell Wilson is really enjoying the benefits of a raucous Seattle crowd. He's 5-0 at Qwest Field, with a 122.0 QB rating. He's thrown 11 touchdowns and exactly 0 interceptions in 5 home games, which means he's thrown 4 TD's and 8 picks on the road.11. Indianapolis (6-3) (Last week: 12)After the massacre at the hands of the Jets, the Colts have rattled off 4 straight wins for the first time since the end of the 2010 season. Jerrell Freeman has emerged as an unsung star of a young run defense that has held 3 of their last 4 opponents to 84 or less yards.12. New York Giants (6-4) (Last week: 7)I'm convinced that being on top of NFC East is now akin to being valedictorian of summer school. Eli Manning's QB rating has dropped to 81.8 on the season, throwing just 1 touchdown and 6 interceptions over his last 4 games. Does anyone want to win this division?13. Minnesota (6-4) (Last week: 13)Adrian Peterson currently sits at 1128 yards after 10 games, putting him on pace to have 1805 for the year. With tough opponents like Chicago (twice), Green Bay (twice), and Houston ahead, a seventh 2000-yard season seems unlikely, but one never knows.14. Tampa Bay (5-4) (Last week: 16)Nobody seems to be talking about the Pro Bowl-caliber season that Josh Freeman is currently having in 2012. Freeman has not thrown an interception since October 14, and he's thrown 13 touchdown passes in that 5-game frame. In all, he has 18 TDs and 5 picks on the year.15. New Orleans (4-5) (Last week: 19)Smudging the Falcons' perfect season caps off an impressive run, winning 4 of their last 5 games, after spending the early part of the season in the cellar. Drew Brees has needed every one of his 2847 yards and 25 touchdowns to compensate for the defense's failures.16. Dallas (4-5) (Last week: 21)It was just the third time that the Cowboys have had 2 defensive touchdowns in one game since the year 2000, and they even had a punt return for a score to boot. With the Giants slipping as they have, Jason Garrett may yet save his job with a late surge.17. San Diego (4-5) (Last week: 14)Signs your team isn't going anywhere: you had 10 days to prepare for a hot-and-cold team like the Buccaneers, and you're the ones that end up looking frigid. Of course, most teams that give up a long pick-six and a blocked punt for touchdowns don't win anyway.18. Detroit (4-5) (Last week: 15)For as much as you hear about the ferocity of Ndamukong Suh, Kyle Vanden Bosch, and the rest of Detroit's foreboding defensive line, their defense as a whole isn't anything to fear. Adrian Peterson's twice had 100-yard games against Detroit, and they allow 24.7 PPG.19. Miami (4-5) (Last week: 17)Two weeks ago: fringe playoff contender. Last week: upended by the Colts. This week: beaten to death by Tennessee of all teams. Funny how fast momentum changes in the NFL. Now a black media cloud hovers over the Dolphins concerning the benching of Reggie Bush.20. Arizona (4-5) (Last week: 18)Don't forget; this team was once 4-0. The Cardinals have some winnable games down the stretch against the Jets, Rams, and Lions, but Seattle, Atlanta, and San Francisco, all on the road, are tall orders. They also get the Bears at home, and I don't see em winning that either.21. Cincinnati (4-5) (Last week: 27)Gotta love those inexplicable wins for middling teams that give false playoff hopes to the true believer fans. The win over the Giants marked the first time Andy Dalton hasn't thrown an interception all season, and he did it tossing 4 scores on New York. Go figure.22. Tennessee (4-5) (Last week: 28)The Titans head into their bye, where fans and pundits alike can ponder the resurrection of Chris Johnson. CJ2K's first 5 games: 210 yards (2.88 YPA), 0 touchdowns. Last five games: 652 yards (6.72 YPA), 4 touchdowns. Titans still play the Jags twice, plus the Jets.23. St. Louis (3-5-1) (Last week: 23)Well, at least they didn't lose this time, right? Little things like not knowing the play clock before Greg Zuerlein attempted (and made) a 53-yarder in overtime are the hallmark of an undisciplined team with lots of potential, but still a ways to go to become great.24. Philadelphia (3-6) (Last week: 20)Everybody was wondering when the annual Michael Vick Injury was going to occur, and it took the hated Cowboys to faciliate it. Nick Foles looked impressive behind a shaky line, but even Andy Reid knows how bad it is. That's why he went and signed Jake Scott this week.25. Oakland (3-6) (Last week: 22)When they were 3-4, it seemed as though they were a team on the rise, until you realize that 2 of those wins came over the Jaguars and Chiefs. Since then, Oakland gave up 515 yards of offense to a surging Tampa team, and then watched Ravens punter Sam Koch score on them.26. New York Jets (3-6) (Last week: 24)Reports are that Rex Ryan tearfully addressed his team after the Seattle loss Sunday, which equates to either frustration, fear of what tomorrow brings, or both. Just a few weeks ago, they were poised to go 4-3 after holding New England on the ropes. Alas.27. Washington (3-6) (Last week: 25)The Redskins may finally serve a purpose, other than "give the fans minimal hope via the All-Pro play of 2 rookies". They may also give the Eagles their first win since September 30 if Nick Foles can beat up Washington's secondary, the same way everyone else does it.28. Buffalo (3-6) (Last week: 26)How abysmal is the Bills defense? They scored 30+ points for the third time this season, and they're 1-2 in those games. Allowing league worsts in opponent's rushing yards (5.48 per attempt) and opposing third down percentage (47.%) doesn't help their case.29. Carolina (2-7) (Last week: 29)The Cam Newton/DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart/Mike Tolbert quartet can win games, or at least keep the struggling team competitive, as long as they don't hit a wall. 3 straight games of 100+ yards as a team ended vs. Denver, who held them to 52 in a 22-point loss.30. Cleveland (2-7) (Last week: 30)An encouraging sign for a harried fanbase: the defense is showing a marked improvement. Over their first six games, they gave up no less than 344 yards (clearing 400 in 4 games). Since then, in the last 3 games, they've given up 321 yards max, and twice under 300.31. Jacksonville (1-8) (Last week: 31)The Jags became the first team this season to ensure a record of no better than 8-8 after their loss to the Colts. They're running for a pathetic 3.67 YPA, now without Maurice Jones-Drew, and are the worst in the NFL at convering third downs, just 28.5 percent.32. Kansas City (1-8) (Last week: 32)It was 10-10 when Byron Leftwich replaced Ben Roethlisberger, and the Chiefs still couldn't win. If Jamaal Charles isn't demanding a trade this offseason, he's far more of a warm and patient person than I could ever hope to be. Get out while you can, man.
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