1. New England Patriots (Last week: 1)

New England was simply the better team on the field last night, as his been the case for the previous 9 games. While this defense may not have the same name recognition as last year’s Patriots defense, they are giving up fewer points per game at 18.2, the #1 scoring defense in the NFL.

2. Carolina Panthers (Last week: 2)

Let’s take a look at the four things that the Panthers try to do every game. 1) Run the ball: 142 yards. 2) Play great defense: held the Redskins to less than 200 yards of offense. 3) Win the turnover battle: 5 turnovers for Washington, 0 for Carolina. 4) Win time of possession: 38:07 for the Panthers, 21:53 for the Redskins. Results in 44-14 victory. 

3. Arizona Cardinals (Last week: 4)

Back to back wins for the Cardinals puts them in prime position for that #2 seed in the NFC. Although their schedule is not easy down the stretch, Carson Palmer and this offense look unstoppable. This defense does have holes that need to get fixed, however. This is two 30+ point weeks in a row for both the defense and offense.

4. Denver Broncos (Last week: 6)

Brock Osweiler did a great job managing the game against the Bears, and doing just enough to sneak out of there with a victory. The defense stepped up and made some big stops in the red zone yesterday. Next week is a matchup with the Patriots, and Osweiler will start that game in place of Peyton Manning.

5. Cincinnati Bengals (Last week: 3)

The former #1 scoring defense in the league was shredded by the Cardinals on Sunday night. As of now, the Bengals have lost two primetime games in a row after starting the season 8-0. Now they have to start winning games again, otherwise a definitive division title suddenly comes into question.

6. Green Bay Packers (Last week: 8)

The Packers were able to take care of business in Minnesota and show why they are still the best team in the NFC North. If you look at the stats, the game appeared to be quite even; however, Green Bay looked like they were in solid control, especially late in the game. The Packers host Da Bears on Thanksgiving night with Brett Favre’s jersey retirement at the half. 

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (Last week: 7)

A much needed bye week for the Steelers before traveling to Seattle next weekend.

8. Minnesota Vikings (Last week: 5)

The Vikings are not far off from being able to compete with Packers over the course of an entire season. With that being said, this team just doesn’t have enough offensive fire power quite yet. As good as Teddy Bridgewater has looked at times, he needs to continue to improve as a player and not plateau, like some think he has this year.

9. Kansas City Chiefs (Last week: 15)

The Chiefs are one of the hottest teams in football right now. The offense is playing great, and they dominated a San Diego team that, believe it or not, was favored this past weekend. Forget that Jamaal Charles is gone, and remember that this defense has not allowed more than 20 points since October 4th (Week 4).

10. Indianapolis Colts (Last week: 13)

The Colts lucked out in Atlanta this weekend, ironically without Andrew Luck. This team has been more successful this season with Matt Hasselback at the helm. It’s a good thing that the Colts have the most clutch kicker in NFL history, otherwise they could very easily be 4-6 or 3-7 right now.   

11. Buffalo Bills (Last week: 9)

The Bills certainly put up a good fight, but they just made too many tiny mistakes to win the game. The poor execution at the end of the first half led to a 10-point swing in favor of New England. They committed a few too many penalties, that gave New England that extra edge in a game where they took advantage of Buffalo mistakes.

12. New York Giants (Last week: 12)

The Giants enjoyed a bye this week. Next week is a huge divisional matchup with the ‘Skins.

13. Seattle Seahawks (Last week: 14)

The Seahawks certainly looked impressive this weekend, especially with the continued emergence of Thomas Rawls as a viable feature back. They only rise one spot because they beat the 49ers at home. They will try to go above .500 for the first time this season against Pittsburgh.

14. Atlanta Falcons (Last week: 11)

Don’t look now, but the Atlanta Falcons are slipping out of the playoffs. It has been a rough month for Atlanta, as they have managed only one win (over the lowly Titans) in their last five games. The old phrase in the NFL says that winning will solve all of your problems. Unless Atlanta turns this around, they will be on the outside looking in.

15. Houston Texans (Last week: 19)

The Texans are another one of the hottest teams in the NFL. After a dreadful 1-4 start, the Texans have gone 4-1 to even their record at 5-5, with their last two wins coming against Cincy and the Jets. Houston will need to continue winning to keep pace with the Colts. Next week they play the Saints at home.

16. New York Jets (Last week: 10)

The Jets are another team that started hot, and has faded in November. Once 4-1 and a challenger to the Patriots in the East, the Jets have fallen out of the playoff picture. While they still can turn things around and make the playoffs, it will be coming on the heels of poor defensive performances and a Ryan Fitzpatrick thumb surgery.

17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Last week: 26)

Famous Jameis is leading his team to victories. Again, I don’t believe this team is going to make the playoffs this season (nobody expected them to); but, being in the playoff race into December is something that will help this Tampa Bay team a lot down the road. The combination of Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans is very dominant when they’re both healthy.

18. Chicago Bears (Last week: 17)

The Bears played a good game as a whole, but they just did not make enough plays in the red zone to come out victorious. They settled for a lot of field goals in and around the red zone. We can give them a pass this week because they were playing against the Broncos defense. It’s not gonna get any easier for Da Bears, as they play the Pack in Green Bay on Thanksgiving.

19. Oakland Raiders (Last week: 16)

Make that three losses in a row for the Raiders, as they now sit at 4-6 with a difficult road to the playoffs. While some think this team is ready to compete now, they still need a good couple of drafts and time to fully develop as a young core. In two or three years, this team could be competing for Super Bowls again. It all depends on how patient this front office and fan base are.

20. St. Louis Rams (Last week: 18)

What a nightmare for the St. Louis Rams in Baltimore. They knocked out the other team’s starting quarterback and running back, but still couldn’t pull out the victory. Case Keenum clearly isn’t any better than Nick Foles, and this offense is completely devoid of talent outside of Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin.

21. Jacksonville Jaguars (Last week: 23)

Jacksonville took care of business at home against the lowly Titans. While we never expected the Jaguars to be competitive this season, they sit only one game back of the AFC South lead at 4-6. They have a legitimate chance to improve their record to 5-6 this weekend against the struggling Chargers.

22. Washington Redskins (Last week: 20)

Last week was a much better game for the Redskins compared to the debacle that occurred in Carolina on Sunday. Washington can simply pretend that game never happened, and focus all their attention on a HUGE matchup with the Giants. They would move into a tie for the division lead with a win this weekend.

23. Miami Dolphins (Last week: 21)

As good as the Dolphins have looked, this team is horribly inconsistent. They have looked like solid playoff contenders at times, and a top-three pick worthy team at other times. Maybe Ryan Tannehill is the answer, but he needs a better offensive line to succeed. They have given up 30 sacks thus far, and average less than 100 yards per game on the ground.

24. New Orleans Saints (Last week: 24)

The Saints spent the week on a bye before traveling to Houston next weekend.

25. Philadelphia Eagles (Last week: 22)

The Eagles are falling fast, yet still remain in contention for the NFC East crown. As is the theme with any of these teams: losses hurt you some, but wins hurt the other teams more. Whenever someone in this division wins one game, we label them the favorites. All Philly needs to do is win a couple of games, starting this week on Thanksgiving in Detroit.

26. Detroit Lions (Last week: 27)

Don’t look now, but the Lions have won three of their last five games. While this team is realistically out of the playoff race completely, winning games at the end of the season will prove to their fans that the beginning of this season was a fluke against a tough schedule. This defense has gotten it together, allowing only 13 and 16 points the last two weeks.

27. Dallas Cowboys (Last week: 28)

How about them Cowboys?! Make that 3-0 with Tony Romo under center, and 0-7 with another starter. As long as this team keeps winning, their season stays alive. The fact that they went on a seven-game losing streak, and are still division title contenders should tell you everything you need to know about the NFC East.

28. Baltimore Ravens (Last week: 30)

The Ravens won this weekend against a pretty good Rams team, but that doesn’t tell you the story of the game. The Ravens have now lost Joe Flacco, Steve Smith, Terrell Suggs, and likely Justin Forsett for the remainder of the reason. This season was filled with playoff aspirations, now it looks like the team will be drafting in the top-10.

29. San Francisco 49ers (Last week: 25)

Remember Week 1 when everyone watched them take down Minnesota? Well, that’s a distant memory to say the least. Now that the team has decided to go with Blaine Gabbert for the rest of the year, this will lead a lot of their fans to lose interest for the rest of the season.

30. Tennessee Titans (Last week: 29)

The Titans had a winnable game this past Thursday, but they couldn’t make enough plays to make a difference. It has been a rough season for this team, especially at home where they have gone 0-5. They will have their shot to get that first home win next week against a struggling Oakland Raiders team.

31. San Diego Chargers (Last week: 31)

There is no way to put this nicely, but the Chargers got outplayed in every way imaginable this past weekend. We all have to feel for Philip Rivers. During the offseason, there were reports that they were trying to trade him. He wanted to stay, they kept him, and now the entire roster seems to get hurt every week.

32. Cleveland Browns (Last week: 32)

The Browns were on a bye this week, and host the Ravens on a Monday Night stinker next week.

Photo courtesy of news.sportsinteraction.com.