10. Indianapolis Colts (6-5):
After surviving a 1-4 start, the Colts look like one of the most dangerous teams in the unpredictable AFC. But why can’t Jonathan Taylor win MVP? The Colts are 6-0 in games in which he rushed for over 100 yards. This dome team is built for the elements, which will serve them well if they get to the postseason. Bold prediction: Indy wins the AFC South.
9. Baltimore Ravens (7-3):
Lamar Jackson’s illnesses are making Ravens fans a little queasy. Ten games in, the Ravens are a 5-5 masquerading as a 7-3 outfit. But the bill is about to come due. Damn, they’re even making me queasy. The Ravens are getting by on guts right now: Marquise Brown joined Jackson as an inactive on Sunday, while 15 players are parked on injured reserve. Survive and advance.
8. Tennessee Titans (8-3):
Go figure. The Titans are the epitome of this upside-down season, winning seven games against 2020 playoff teams while also losing to the Jets and Texans. No Derrick Henry, no Julio Jones and now A.J. Brown is banged up. The Titans’ offense needs someone to save it, but Ryan Tannehill isn’t up to the task. Tennessee has shown no hints of mounting a sustainable offense since Henry went on the shelf after foot surgery three weeks ago. This all feels like terrible timing for a game against the red-hot Patriots, but Mike Vrabel's Titans have a habit of overcoming the odds.
7. Los Angeles Rams (7-3):
If the Rams are the type of team that gains motivation from the doubts of others, well, last week's bye might have been a very productive week. The Greatest Show-offs on Turf need to show something at Lambeau this week or else. The Rams can tweet about going all-in-all they want. But it’s time they show they are more than just empty expectations and a roster assembled on Madden. QB Matthew Stafford heads back to Lambeau Field, where he’s 3-7 all time.
6. Dallas Cowboys (7-3):
An excellent performance by the defense should have put the team in position to make a huge statement at Arrowhead. Instead, Dallas shrunk in the spotlight, fueling speculation we're watching another Cowboys team that's more sizzle than steak. Don’t look now, but here come the Eagles. But for that to matter they need to deal with injuries and the Raiders. The good news for Dallas after its 19-9 loss to the Chiefs? The imploding Raiders are coming to town on Thanksgiving. The bad news? The Cowboys have been outscored 66-45 by the AFC West this season. Oof.
5. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4):
The Chiefs look like a team ready to restore order in the chaotic AFC. The defense is getting back to its former form. Now we’ll see if the offense eventually can do the same. Melvin Ingram’s arrival has allowed Chris Jones to move back inside and return to his position as a game wrecker. Is the defense really keeping the Chiefs in games? The Chiefs’ offense still is figuring some things out, but rumors of their demise were greatly exaggerated.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3):
Last year, they didn’t need home-field advantage in the playoffs. This year, they do. Tom Brady saw Justin Herbert run for 90 yards Sunday night and decided to show off his wheels with a 10-yard run against the Giants. That was the most exciting moment of a Monday-nightsnooze fest. The competition jumps up a notch next Sunday with a road matchup against the red-hot Colts.
3. New England Patriots (7-4):
The Pats matched their 2020 win total by Thanksgiving and have found themselves in first place as a result. This team is one the up and up. Physical defense, bruising run game and a polished rookie quarterback who does exactly what is asked of him. Bill Belichick’s Patriots are hitting their stride and there’s no reason they can’t win an AFC filled with flawed contenders. Mac Jones reminds so many of a rookie from 2001. The Pats could end up partying like it’s 2001. Tampa Bay won the battle earlier but Coach Belichick has eyes on the War in February.
2. Green Bay Packers (8-3):
The Packers are dealing with two toe injuries. Their knicker and their quarterback. Aaron Rodgers is hurting with a toe injury but Green Bay just lost star offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins. The Packers desperately need their bye, but first, they have to deal with a Rams team looking to get right. The Packers remain in fine shape, but they'll need to grind their way to the finish line.
1. Arizona Cardinals (9-2):
The Cardinals swept their NFC West road slate by a score of 91-50 and did so with Colt McCoy starting two of those three games. Coach Cool and the Cards are for real. But, they need to avoid having to play a playoff game in Green Bay at all costs. Zona hits a perfectly timed bye week. Murray (ankle) and DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring) now get two more weeks to heal up before a favorable Week 13 matchup against the Bears. McCoy, meanwhile, probably bought himself another three years of lucrative backup work through his performance this month. Good gig.