1. Houston Texans (8-1)
Last week: 3
With the Atlanta Falcons losing to the New Orleans Saints in Week 10, the Texans deserve the top spot after going into windy and rainy Soldier Field and coming away with a "W." The Texans defense, which ranks second in Football Outsiders' DVOA metric through 10 weeks, turned the tables on the Chicago Bears by creating four turnovers and did just enough on offense for a 13-6 win outside their climate-controlled home stadium.
2. Atlanta Falcons (8-1)
Last week: 1
A run at perfection would have been nice, but there's no shame in losing on the road to a Saints team that is heating up entering the second half of the season. The Falcons still have the top record in the NFC, are in complete control of the NFC South, and can now go through the next seven weeks without having to deal with the pressures of remaining undefeated.
3. Chicago Bears (7-2)
Last week: 2
Between the offense's performance on Sunday and the uncertainty of Jay Cutler's concussion, there was some temptation to drop the Bears down even further on the list. Rod Marinelli's defense warrants a Top 3 ranking.
4. Denver Broncos (6-3)
Last week: 8
According to Football Outsiders, the Broncos are back in the top spot in team DVOA following their 36-14 win over the Carolina Panthers. The Broncos have won four straight games and are 6-0 when scoring 30-plus points. Fun fact: With 271 points scored through nine games, the Broncos are just 38 points behind the 309 they scored during the 2011 regular season.
5. Green Bay Packers (6-3)
Last week: 5
This is sort of how the Packers' 2012 season is going: On the day the team returned to work after its be bye week, it placed right tackle Bryan Bulaga on season-ending injured reserve. With outside linebacker Nick Perry (wrist) place on IR last week, and offensive tackle Derek Sherrod (leg) on the physically unable to perform list, the Packers' last three first-round picks are on some form of reserve list.
6. New England Patriots (6-3)
Last week: 6
If anyone was still wondering why the Patriots made the low-risk trade to acquire Aqib Talib from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday's white-knuckle 37-31 win over the Buffalo Bills should clear things up. New England allowed 481 yards of offense and 35 first downs and gave the Bills an opportunity to win the game on the final possession. The players and coaching staff will need to be much better this week with Andrew Luck and the Colts coming to town.
7. San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1)
Last week: 4
The 49ers were a bit slow coming off the bye week, spotting the reeling St. Louis Rams a 14-0 first-quarter lead before playing to the NFL's first tie game since the 2008 season. In addition to not getting what should have been an easy "W," the 49ers lost starting quarterback Alex Smith to a concussion. 2011 second-round pick Colin Kaepernick stepped in at quarterback and helped the team avoid a loss and may have to start this week. If Kaepernick plays well, the 49ers may have a bit of a quarterback controversy on their hands.
8. Baltimore Ravens (7-2)
Last week: 9
A 55-20 drubbing of the Oakland Raiders should have the Ravens feeling pretty good as they enter a stretch of the schedule that should decide the AFC North. Two of their next three games are against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who may be without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the next few weeks.
9. Seattle Seahawks (6-4)
Last week: 10
Stopping the New York Jets "offense" is no great feat, but what about the Seahawks' offense? They have the NFL's second-leading rusher, two receivers with six receiving touchdowns and rookie quarterback Russell Wilson has 15 touchdown passes and a passer rating of 90.5. Seattle's offense may rank 27th overall and is dead last in passing yards per game, but the unit ranks 13th in Football Outsiders' DVOA metric.
10 New York Giants (6-4)
Last week: 6
Tired arm or not, the Giants passing offense and passing defense has gone south lately. The Giants are in desperate need of a week off to rest and regroup for the final six weeks of the season, because if the Dallas Cowboys beat the Cleveland Browns on Sunday to improve to 5-5, the NFC East is going to be pretty interesting down the stretch.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3)
Last week: 11
Ugly wins count just as much as the blowout wins and there was nothing pretty about Monday night's 16-13 overtime win against the one-win Kansas City Chiefs. There may be uncertainty about how long Ben Roethlisberger will be out, but as long as Byron Leftwich can manage the game, the Steelers' running game and defense should be enough to keep Pittsburgh in the AFC playoff race.
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-4)
Last week: 15
The Buccaneers have won four of their last five games and are very much in the hunt for a spot in the NFC playoffs. Here's a sure sign that the team has bought into Greg Schiano's program: It hasn't lost a single game this season by more than seven points. In the Buccaneers' dumpster fire of a 2011 season, nine of their 12 losses were by double-digit margins.
13. New Orleans Saints (4-5)
Last week: 17
After an 0-4 start had seemingly buried the Saints, the Who Dats have won four of their last five and appear to be hitting their stride even with a defense that remains on pace to allow over 7,500 yards of total offense this season. The Saints have an excellent opportunity to complete the turnaround this Sunday against an Oakland Raiders team that has allowed 97 points in their last two games.
14. Indianapolis Colts (6-3)
Last week: 14
The Colts have won five of their last six, but face a tough test this Sunday against the Patriots in a late afternoon game at Gillette Stadium in mid-November. The Colts defense, which ranks 32nd in defensive DVOA according to Football Outsiders, will need big performances from Robert Mathis (who is expected to play after missing last week's game with a back injury) and Dwight Freeney to upset the Patriots.
15. Minnesota Vikings (6-4)
Last week: 18
The Vikings avoided a disastrous three-game losing streak before the bye week and remain in the thick of the NFC playoff race. Less than 11 months after tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee, Adrian Peterson enters the bye with 1,128 rushing yards. Imagine how productive he'd be if he weren't constantly facing eight- and nine-man fronts.
16. Detroit Lions (4-5)
Last week: 12
If the Lions miss out on the playoffs, getting swept by the Vikings this season will be a major reason why. On the bright side, the Lions are about to begin a three-game home stand. On the down side, those games are against the Packers, Texans and Colts.
17. Dallas Cowboys (4-5)
Last week: 19
The Cowboys had lost four of their last five games before their 38-23 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday and can pull to within a game of the Giants with a win this week over the Cleveland Browns, the first of three straight home games. The Cowboys are getting healthier, too, with DeMarco Murray expected to return to the backfield during the upcoming home stand.
18. San Diego Chargers (4-5)
Last week: 13
The Chargers could easily be 7-2 and in position to seal the AFC West this week in Denver. Instead, they're 4-5 and trying to stay relevant in a division that has been taken over by Peyton Manning. As noted by Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Chargers were outscored 69-10 in the second half of losses to the Broncos, Saints and Buccaneers. Yikes.
19. Miami Dolphins (4-5)
Last week: 16
Losing 37-3 at home to the Titans, who were called out the week before by owner Bud Adams, is a sure sign that the Dolphins probably aren't going to make the playoffs this season. But they appear to be heading in the right direction under first-year coach Joe Philbin, who needs holdover GM Jeff Ireland to get the team some more weapons on offense.
20. Washington Redskins (3-6)
Last week: 20
The Redskins rode a three-game losing streak into the bye week, which frustrated head coach Mike Shanahan to the point where he sounded like he was giving up on the season. Shanahan backtracked from those comments, which he says were misinterpreted, and the coaching staff's actions during the bye show it. The Redskins have three straight games against NFC East opponents and can pull to within two games of the first-place Giants with a win on Sunday, which is why the staff used the bye to begin preparations for their Thanksgiving Day game against the Cowboys.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (4-5)
Last week: 25
Cincinnati's four-game losing streak is over and with a three-game swing against the sub-.500 teams in the AFC West, the Bengals have an opportunity to claw back into the AFC playoff race. Andy Dalton is coming off the first four-touchdown game of his career and was interception-free for the first time this season, the defense is coming off its best performance of the season, and in better news, the Bengals have already declared that their Dec. 9 game against the Dallas Cowboys is a sellout.
22. St. Louis Rams (3-5-1)
Last week: 23
Technically, the Rams' 24-24 tie with the 49ers snapped their three-game losing streak. The real story is that the Rams showed that, in Year 1 of the Jeff Fisher and Les Snead Era, they're capable of going on the road against a superior team -- which the 49ers are -- and win. They also proved that they can do that on the same day they sat a pair of rookies that the team has been counting on for contributions on both sides of the ball for disciplinary reasons. Second-round cornerback Janoris Jenkins had started all eight games and had played in nearly 98 percent of the Rams' defensive snaps over the first eight games, while fourth-round wide receiver Chris Givens had played in over 50 percent of the offensive snaps and had a string of five consecutive games with a 50-plus yard reception. Neither played against the 49ers after violating team rules.
23. Arizona Cardinals (4-5)
Last week: 24
The Cardinals did absolutely nothing during their bye week, which was all they needed to do in order to move ahead of the Eagles and Jets in our Power Rankings. Don't get too comfortable with the bump, though, as a road game against an ornery Falcons team is next on the schedule.
24. Buffalo Bills (3-6)
Last week: 26
Buffalo continues to lose — three straight, five of their last six — but it did nearly upset the Patriots on Sunday. The Bills have a quick turnaround, hosting the Dolphins on Thursday night. Head coach Chan Gailey isn't a fan of these short weeks.
"I don't like it," [...] Gailey said [via Tim Graham of The Buffalo News]. "I think it's tough on the players. We have quite a few players that sometimes don't get back on the practice field until Thursday. So I think this is a tough turnaround for a football team and for the players in general.["]
25. Philadelphia Eagles (3-6)
Last week: 21
With five straight losses by the Eagles, and quarterback Michael Vick sustaining a concussion in last Sunday's 38-23 home loss to the Cowboys, the Philadelphia media is already laying odds on who will replace Andy Reid at season's end. With the way the Eagles are going, it would be a surprise if Reid is still with the team in December.
26. Tennessee Titans (4-6)
Last week: 30
Called out by their owner last week, the Titans used an opportunistic defense — which created four turnovers on Sunday after entering Week 10 with nine takeaways — and the return of Jake Locker to go on the road and down the Dolphins 37-3. With half of their remaining games coming against the Jaguars and Jets, we might see similar defensive performances from the Titans down the stretch. In other words, don't get too excited about what you see from the defense in those games.
27. New York Jets (3-6)
Last week: 22
Following a 28-7 loss to the Seahawks in which the Jets offense mustered just 185 yards of total offense and scored zero points, head coach Rex Ryan stood by Mark Sanchez as the starting quarterback. Of course, Ryan is merely sticking by the guy he's stuck with as Sanchez's $8.25 million base salary next season is fully guaranteed. Sanchez also happens to be the best option the team has, as it's either him, Tim Tebow or 2011 seventh-round pick Greg McElroy.
Another motivating factor for Ryan's decision to stick with Sanchez could be his attempt to avoid another locker room mutiny. According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, several Jets players anonymously ripped backup quarterback Tim Tebow.
You're too late, Rex.
28. Cleveland Browns (2-7)
Last week: 28
The playoffs are not, and never were, a realistic scenario for the 2012 Cleveland Browns, so the next seven games should be about finding out whether or not first-round pick Brandon Weeden is the long-term option at quarterback. Weeden ranks 33rd among 34 qualifying quarterbacks in Football Outsiders' DYAR metric (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement), but is also one of six quarterbacks to not miss a snap this season. That needs to continue as there's nothing to gain by having Weeden on the sidelines at any point of the final seven games of the season.
29. Oakland Raiders (3-6)
Last week: 27
After taking the Falcons down to the wire and winning back-to-back games to pull within a game of .500, the Raiders have lost two straight by a score of 97-52. The schedule doesn't get any easier for the Raiders, who'll host the Saints on Sunday.
30. Carolina Panthers (2-7)
Last week: 29
The Panthers rearranged more deck chairs this week, firing special teams coordinator Brian Murphy after Broncos return specialist Trindon Holliday returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown in the Panthers' 36-14 loss on Sunday. Holiday released the ball before crossing the goal line, and the NFL has come out and said that the play should have been reviewed and ruled a touchback, but that Holiday was in position to nonchalantly flip the ball in the first place explains the dismissal of Murphy, whose unit ranked 32nd in Football Outsiders' special teams DVOA in 2011 and is ranked 30th through 10 weeks this season.
31. Kansas City Chiefs (1-8)
Last week: 32
The Chiefs nearly upset the heavily favored Steelers in Pittsburgh on Monday night, but turnovers and penalties would submarine the effort. For a team that had just one win entering Week 10, the Chiefs sure had well-choreographed celebrations.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8)
Last week: 31
Another home game for the Jaguars resulted in another 17-point loss. Jacksonville is now 0-5 at EverBank Field this season, with three of the losses coming by 17 points. The other two home losses came by 20 and 38 points.
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