Ahh yes, it’s time to separate the men from the boys, the contenders from the pretenders … the Biggies from the Asher Roth’s – well, you get the idea.
Anyway, with that being said, here’s another exciting edition of our NFL Power Rankings. (For the record, our Super Bowl pick – Patriots over Falcons — is still very much in play). Away we go:
1. Green Bay Packers (11-0): Can’t overlook the Giants, a road team desperate for a win this week, but after that it’s smooth sailing on the road to perfection. Three of the Packers’ final four games are at Lambeau, where they’ve won 10 straight.
2. Baltimore Ravens (8-3): With a statement win over the 49ers on Thanksgiving Day and a season sweep of the Steelers, the Super Bowl wagons are circling. They also proved they can win without that spiritual leader/rock named Ray Lewis.
3. San Francisco 49ers (9-2): Hung around with a tough Baltimore team for most of last week, but Alex Smith needs to come back firing before we’re completely sold. They’ll clinch the soft NFC West this week.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3): Is there a tougher QB than Ben Roethlisberger? The guy is practically playing with one hand and his team has won six of last seven.
5. New Orleans Saints (8-3): After decimating what many considered a good Giants defense — to the tune of 577 yards — the Saints have established themselves as the lone threat to the Packers in the NFC. Tell me again why the Chargers let Darren Sproles walk …
6. New England Patriots (8-3): This has nothing to do with last week’s win over the hapless Eagles. Despite a very unstable secondary, the Pats can finish at 13-3. Tom Brady is just that good, he’s the best QB since Joe Montana.
7. Atlanta Falcons (7-4): Matt Ryan has really stepped up his game over the past two weeks (119.5 average QB rating) but the Dirty Birds have yet to score a signature win, beating up on bad-to-average teams all year.
8. Dallas Cowboys (7-4): Everyone laughed at us when we said Jerry’s Kids were a threat to win the NFC East before the season. Well, barring another December collapse from Tony Romo, they are going to do it. Book it.
9. Houston Texans (8-3): Best rushing attack in NFL should get them through the regular season and an easy AFC South. After that, with rookie QB TJ Yates — or Jake Delhomme — it is anybody’s guess. Tough break for Gary Kubiak.
10. Detroit Lions (7-4): There’s little margin for error now, but we’re sticking with the Lions. They just better hope Ndamukong Suh, who will miss the next two games due to suspension, gets his act together. Pronto.
11. Oakland Raiders (7-4): Watch out. Carson Palmer is starting to feel at home by the Bay, the Raiders’ own the NFL’s best special teams and Darren McFadden is getting healthy.
12. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4): Struggled to beat Cleveland after two straight losses to the division’s big boys (Pittsburgh, Baltimore). But if Andy Dalton can beat the Steelers this week, all will be forgotten.
13. New York Jets (6-5): They’ve been finding different ways to disappoint all season and probably should have lost to Buffalo last week. Looking at their schedule, however, there’s no reason that Rex Ryan’s crew can’t go 5-0 the rest of the way.
14. New York Giants (6-5): Big Blue knew they had a brutal stretch of games to finish the season — and they haven’t responded. Now, images of the past two late-season collapses, are creeping into everyone’s minds (and wallets). This could be Tom Coughlin’s farewell tour.
15. Chicago Bears (7-4): After watching Caleb Hanie last week, you could make a serious case that Jay Cutler deserves MVP consideration. Without him, the Bears are in for a fight just to get into the playoffs.
16. Denver Broncos (6-5): That’s four straight wins for Tim Tebow and the Mile High Miracles. Broncos are averaging 159.7 yards per game on the ground and have a defense that Tom Jackson would be proud of.
17. Tennessee Titans (6-5): Chris Johnson was back to his pre-contract form and the Titans are back in the AFC South race now that the Texans are bringing in quarterbacks off the street.
18. Buffalo Bills (5-6): Oh how the mighty have fallen. Once upon a time the Bills were a Top 5 team, the feel-good story of the year … now, players are grabbing headlines more for their drops and antics, than their play on the field.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7): Has coach Raheem Morris lost control? The Baby Bucs now have five straight losses, along with a report that their starting QB Josh Freeman injured his thumb at a gun-range mishap. Uh-oh.
20. Philadelphia Eagles (4-7): The preseason Dream Team has gone the way of Lady Gaga, as in no longer relevant or worth watching. The only drama now is whether Andy Reid gets the axe.
21. Miami Dolphins (3-8): There are teams with better records, but Tony Sparano actually has the Fish playing tough. In a four-game span, they’ve gone 3-1 and outscored opponents, 105-40.
22. Carolina Panthers (3-8): Cam Newton and Co. has already exceeded our expectations — and, if I’m a contending team, I wouldn’t want to play them.
23. Kansas City Chiefs (4-7): Surprisingly still not out of AFC West race. They’ll turn the reins over to Kyle Orton this week to save their season.
24. San Diego Chargers (4-7): Think it’s tough in Philly these days? In the land of Ron Burgundy, fans are calling for the exit of both coach Norv Turner and GM A.J. Smith.
25. Washington Redskins (4-7): Going into Seattle, with Rex Grossman throwing for 314 yards, winning has to count for something, right?
26. Seattle Seahawks (4-7): Hawks got butterfingers. According to ESPN stats, Seattle has the most dropped passes (14) in weeks 7-12. That’s not going to help you win games.
27. Cleveland Browns (4-7): The biggest question in Cleveland right now is: Has Colt McCoy done enough to retain his starter’s status next season? Probably not.
28. Arizona Cardinals (4-7): Me thinks the Kevin Kolb era is over. Me also thinks this Patrick Peterson kid is going to make a lot of money. Amazing.
29. Minnesota Vikings (2-9): Something to Ponder: the Vikes are 1-4 since benching Donovan McNabb (1-5 before). And Christian Ponder’s QB rating is 72.6 compared to McNabb’s 82.9.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-8): And we’re free, free fallin’ — first, the Jags fired head coach Jack Del Rio, then their owner sold the team. Get Bill Cowher on speed dial.
31. St. Louis Rams (2-9): It’s been bad, but a win this week could spoil the 49ers’ division-clinching party — for at least a week. Get Bill Cowher on speed dial.
32. Indianapolis Colts (0-11): Would love to be a fly on Peyton Manning’s wall right now. Get Bill Cowher on speed dial.