The shake-up finally comes… at both ends.
Denver lost hold of the top spot for the first time since taking over in Week 2 and Jacksonville climbs up from the foot of things after resting there from Week 1 on.
The Denver drop opened the door for Seattle to slide in a week ahead of their Monday Night matchup with the Saints who hold at No. 3. Elsewhere in the Top 10, New England moves up again, the Chiefs fall back again, and the rest shift around in small steps, sorting themselves as we head into the season’s final five weeks.
At the bottom, the Jaguars can at long last look down on someone as their win over Houston gave the Texans what they needed to surpass Atlanta in the race to the cellar. Tampa Bay, a long-time companion of Jacksonville at the sour end, sees their second big bounce toward respectability.
Here’s how our analysts see the league after 10 weeks, and the cumulative rank (below) that comes of their ballots.
With the votes tallied, here’s how the list looks after Week 12: (last week’s rank and change in rank in parentheses)
The Top 10
1. Seattle Seahawks (2, 1)
A bye week lets the action around them set the scene and move the Seahawks into the top spot. With the showdown against New Orleans on Monday Night looming and more off-field news breaking, Seattle has a big week ahead.
2. Denver Broncos (1, -1)
Falling to New England after a fine first half, the Broncos absorb their second loss on the season and are knocked from their perch atop the rankings after a 10-week strangle hold on No. 1. Part 2 of Denver-KC is up next, this time in Arrowhead, but without Hali and Houston.
3. New Orleans Saints (3, 0)
Doing enough to get by Atlanta last Thursday, the Saints have a long week to prep for Seattle and the NFC’s premier matchup in Week 13. They stay at No. 3, looking to strike with a takedown of the new No. 1.
4. New England Patriots (6, 2)
Beating the conditions – and the Broncos – helped New England to an improved standing, moving up two spots back into the Top 5. Following the tough chores of Carolina and Denver, a trip to Houston to face the newly-crowned No. 32 is their reward.
5. Carolina Panthers (4, -1)
Notching the seventh straight win, the Panthers took down the Dolphins but got nudged aside by the passing Patriots in the rankings. Perhaps they have to prove themselves again? Being in that spot has worked well for them so far and the Saints are still showing twice on their remaining schedule.
6. San Francisco 49ers (7, 1)
Up another spot after their convincing win in Washington on Monday Night, the 49ers end a two-game slide and look more like the team they were once thought to be. St. Louis stands between them and their rematch with Seattle.
7. Kansas City Chiefs (5, -2)
After hitting their highest level in Week 9 (No. 3), the Chiefs have fallen back to the seventh spot thanks to consecutive losses and now the rock of their run – the defense – has taken a major hit just in time to see Denver again.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (10, 2)
Their biggest gain in weeks comes on their week off as the Colts and Lions both tumble down past. Outside of the upper tier but among the next best, the Bengals return to see the Chargers who are feeling good after dethroning the Chiefs in Week 12.
9. Detroit Lions (9, 0)
Just when believers were jumping aboard, the Lions found their way to trip up in two straight games, this time losing to the suddenly dangerous Bucs in one they gave away. Struggling Green Bay is next up as Detroit tries to keep hold of their share of the North lead.
10. Indianapolis Colts (8, -2)
Looking less like a serious contender than at earlier points in the season, Indianapolis is now having trouble stringing together wins and being tossed in Week 12 by Arizona only adds to the mess. They get the Titans for the second time in three weeks and are barely hanging on to a Top 10 spot.
11t. Philadelphia Eagles (12, 1)
Another ‘gainer’ during a week away, the Eagles benefit from Chicago’s slip in St. Louis. Tied for first in the East with Dallas, the Cowboys are Philadelphia’s lone remaining division game – but that won’t come until the season’s final week.
11t. Arizona Cardinals (16, 5)
A fifth straight week of rise for the Cards (up 15 spots in that span), they handled the Colts in convincing fashion and head home to take on the Eagles who they sit tied with in the ranks. A thorn in the West, Arizona could cause problems for their division foes down the stretch.
13. Dallas Cowboys (13, 0)
Still hanging around, the Cowboys left New York with a win and kept pace with the Eagles in the ‘someone has to win it’ East. The week-to-week questions on offense don’t look so bad when held against the sinking linebacker play in Lee’s absence. A Turkey Day date with Oakland awaits.
14. Chicago Bears (11, -3)
In a game they needed, Chicago matched Detroit’s loss with one of their own, giving up 42 to the Rams. Keeping even atop the North, Chicago has already lost twice to Detroit, so they’ll need to find an edge somewhere in these final five games. They slip three spots in their first fall since Week 8.
15. Baltimore Ravens (15, 0)
The edge in a field goal fest got Baltimore back into the thick of things in the lacking AFC wild card picture and brought the Jets down to match them in the process. They hold tight in the ranks ahead of matchup with Pittsburgh that might be a better fight than the first we saw this year.
16. San Diego Chargers (18, 2)
Fresh off a three-game free fall, San Diego bit the Chiefs in Week 12 with a score in the final minute to win it. One of the AFC’s pile of 5-6’s the Chargers rise back into the top half of the league in these rankings.
17. Green Bay Packers (14, -3)
The optimistic would chalk it up as a losing streak snapped. Those still carrying playoff hopes see it as a half game that might prove the difference, keeping the Packers out of things in the end.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers (20, 2)
Winning and moving up three weeks in a row, Pittsburgh has rejoined the race in time to face a rival Raven squad in Week 13. This latest bump means the Steelers have lost ground in the rankings only once in the past eight weeks.
19. Miami Dolphins (17, -2)
A Mike Wallace sighting wasn’t enough to overcome rough outings around the roster in their Week 12 loss to Carolina. Still right in the playoff hunt, Miami can’t afford more of the same. They fall two spots as their up-and-down run continues.
20. St. Louis Rams (26, 6)
Now with their second two-game winning run locked in, St. Louis hopes to play spoiler if a wild card push isn’t in the cards. On the road to San Francisco and Arizona next, they’ll have a prime opportunity to cause headaches in the division. Their six-spot jump is the week’s biggest.
21. Tennessee Titans (22, 1)
A battle of 4-6 teams with playoff implications? Yes, that’s what we saw in Oakland as a late touchdown moved the Titans ahead and into the six-team mosh marking the edge of the AFC playoff race. Tennessee moves up a spot here and has three tough games coming up.
22. New York Giants (19, -3)
The win streak fell short of fully balancing the six losses that opened the season and, at 4-7, the Giants are now closer to a division title than a wild card spot. Perhaps a trip to Washington gets them back on a winning way and at least prolongs hope.
The Bottom 10
23. New York Jets (21, -2)
Down two more spots, the work they put in to move up for four straight weeks has been completely undone by the past two – their Week 12 loss in Baltimore particularly disheartening. Still in the race, they’ll have to discover something outside of a stellar run defense to be a threat.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (27, 3)
Climbing seven spots in two weeks says as much about the Bucs as it does their company in the lower ranks. Regardless, that’s three straight wins for a team looking to push into the Top 20 after a long rest near the bottom.
25. Buffalo Bills (24, -1)
A win leading into their week away had them happy and seeing the Falcons on the other side has to encourage smiles as well. With the no-longer-toothless (but still a way off the league’s top) Bucs and Jags to follow, Buffalo could be looking at their last two to decide the season.
26. Cleveland Browns (23, -3)
Losers in five of six, Cleveland eyes may be shifting past the January playoffs to focus on May’s draft. Their latest loss leaves them a game behind the pack and showing little life. A Week 13 matchup with Jacksonville may be very telling.
27. Oakland Raiders (28, 1)
An inability to finish may be the mark of the season for the rebuilding Raiders as one more slipped through their hands, this time hurt at home by a final-minute Tennessee touchdown. On the road for a short-week Thanksgiving trip to Dallas is next up.
28. Washington Redskins (25, -3)
Outclassed on Monday Night, the Redskins have worked their way to a solid hold on the bottom of the NFC East and slip three spots in the ranks here to finish off the Bottom 5.
29. Minnesota Vikings (31, 2)
A tie? Ugh. Even a push for the league’s worst record didn’t work out as the Vikings find themselves a half game behind the trio of 2-9’s eyeing the draft’s top position.
30. Atlanta Falcons (30, 0)
Hanging with the Saints before an eventual fall keeps Atlanta right here as they lose out on the downward race to a Houston team that simply wanted it more.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (32, 1)
At the opposite end of things, mirroring Denver’s fall from the top spot, the Jags have made a move up! For the first time since Week 1, these ranking do not have Jacksonville at No. 32. Mark the calendar.
32. Houston Texans (29, -3)
Completing their trek to the depths of the rankings, Houston has gone from preseason No. 8 to Week 12 No. 32. Their loss to Jacksonville unseating the previously unchallenged cellar masters.