Through 9 weeks, 7 teams have established themselves as the cream of the crop in the NFL... the other 25 teams have been doing their best to let other teams take the final playoff spots. While it should make for an interesting Wildcard race (especially in the AFC), it makes for a mess on the field.
32. Detroit Lions (1-7, Previously #31) - On paper, this team should not be considered one of the worst teams in the league; on the field, that's exactly how they've played. The Lions fired the GM and President during their bye week, so we'll see if that lights a fire.
31. Tennessee Titans (2-6, Previously #32) - The Titans probably wish they were in the NFC South, with the way they've played them this year (W at Tampa, 3 point loss to Atlanta, W at New Orleans). They have another NFC South opponent coming up, as they try to end Carolina's unbeaten season. The only thing this game proved is the Saints aren't going anywhere (even if they make the playoffs), but will win just enough to get a bad draft pick.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6, Previously #30) - They hung in there with a tough, but inconsistent Jets team. They have a chance to turn their season around (at least as far as W-L's go) with the opponents in their next four games each having only 2 wins to their respective resumes.
29. Houston Texans (3-5, Previously #27) - Houston was a bad team going into their bye, they're still a bad team coming out. Move along.
28. Cleveland Browns (2-6, Previously #23) - They were outclassed by Cincinnati, just in case you weren't sure how this team compared against truly good teams. With some decent opponents left on the schedule, this team looks to be on their way to a top 5 draft pick. Not that they'll do anything with it, anyways.
27. San Diego Chargers (2-7, Previously #25) - Just in case we thought we were wasting a good QBs' career, take a look at what San Diego has done for Philip Rivers. The man they drafted in the 1st round to help Rivers on offense, Melvin Gordon, has been spectacularly unspectacular. Through 9 games, Gordon has rushed for 413 yards for 0 TDs to go along with 4 fumbles.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5, Previously #26) - The Buccaneers are actually 2-1 vs the NFC South, but it's how they've played against the rest of the NFL that has them sitting near the bottom. The blowout loss to the Giants certainly didn't help their cause, but it's not enough to cause them to drop.
25. Miami Dolphins (3-5, Previously #18) - It's fitting that the Dolphins abbreviation is MIA, because that's what they've been against any live bodied team this year. A popular preseason pick to contend with the Patriots for the AFC East crown, the Dolphins now sit in last place with a divisional record of 0-3.
24. Chicago Bears - (3-5, Previously #28) - The Bears have won 3 of their last 5 to get back into the wildcard picture, thanks to Jay Cutler starting to play a little better. This is a team that won't be doing anything great this year, but in addition to whomever they get in the upcoming draft, they also get WR Kevin White for the first time next year.
23. Baltimore Ravens (2-6, Previously #24) - Picking up a W going into your bye week is a good way to start turning your season around... you have an even better opportunity when your opponent on the other side of said bye is the Jacksonville Jaguars.
22. Dallas Cowboys (2-6, Previously #22) - They've lost 6 straight now without Tony Romo, and are putting him in a tough position to make a run when he gets back. Luckily, the 'Boys will hopefully only have to play one more game without Tony in charge. Up next, they play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in one last shot to pick up a win to help Romo.
21. San Francisco (3-5, Previously #29) - If you look at the teams they've lost too, their record doesn't look that bad. They also have nice wins over Minnesota and Atlanta. Still, at 3-6 with one game left against undefeated Cincy and 3 games left against teams they've already lost to by double digits, it's hard to imagine the 49ers to make any sort of late season push.
20. Washington Potatoes (3-5, Previously #20) - If someone told me the 'Taters were going to New England, I'd expect them to lose by 2 or 3 scores, and that's just what happened. Up next, they play host to the New Orleans Saints, in what is essentially (but not mathematically) a must win game for both teams.
19. Kansas City Chiefs (3-5, Previously #19) - The Chiefs managed to pick up back to back wins without Jamaal Charles, to head into their bye week with a 3-5 record... they'll have a tough time keeping that momentum when they travel to Denver on Sunday.
18. Indianapolis Colts (4-5, Previously #21) - The Colts have now beaten 3 of the worst teams in the NFL, but also one of the best. Andrew Luck played better against one of the best defenses in the league, than he has all year against some mediocre defenses. It was a really nice win that shows they are the best team in the AFC South, but they'll have to beat another live body to prove they can contend with the real teams.
17. Atlanta Falcons (6-3, Previously #13) - Once proud owners of a 5-0 record, the Falcons have now lost 3 out of their last 4, all to pretty "meh" teams (and the one win, wasn't that good, either). Dan Quinn had this team playing hard and pulling out close wins in the beginning of the season, but the wheels are starting to get a little rickety on the dirty bird bandwagon.
16. New Orleans Saints (4-5, Previously #12) - The Saints can't play defense, and "big" free agent acquisition Brandon Browner can't cover without holding his match up. Unless the Saints make a big playoff push (and win at least one game), I expect Rob Ryan will be looking for the next defensive coordinator job he's going to fail at.
15. Seattle Seahawks (4-4, Previously #17) - Their 4 wins have come against some of the worst teams in the NFL, their 4 losses have come against some of the better... this is a team that's a step above the bad, and a step behind the good, which may be enough for them to take the 2nd wild card spot when it's all said and done.
14. Philadelphia Eagles (4-4, Previously #15) - They beat the hapless Dallas Cowboys, but it took them until overtime to do it. At 4-4, they are just .5 games out of 1st in the NFC East. They end the year with what could be a big game against the currently 1st place New York Giants, in week 17.
13. Buffalo Bills (4-4, Previously #18) - They beat Miami to stay out of the cellar of the division and to keep themselves firmly in the playoff hunt. Up next is a big game against the New York Jets, a game with huge wildcard implications, as well as personal matter for HC Rex Ryan.
12. New York Giants (5-4, Previously #14) - I don't think anybody has benefited more from the Tony Romo injury than Tom Coughlin. The Giants started of 0-2 and Coughlin was already on the hot seat, while the Cowboys were off to a 2-0 start. Since then, the Giants have gone 4-2 and the Cowboys 0-6. Another season without a playoff appearance would likely mark the end of Tom Coughlin in New York, but thanks to the Boys' 6 game skid, the Giants now control their own destiny.
11. New York Jets (5-3, Previously #10) - They beat Jacksonville, which may not seem like much, but they did so with a bevy of injuries, especially on the offensive side. When you can get a win in a game where you weren't sure if either of your top 2 QBs (along with your top WR) would even be able to play, that has to be considered a good thing.
10. Oakland Raiders (4-4, Previously #9) - That loss to Pittsburgh hurt, because that is likely going to be one of the teams that they will be battling a wildcard spot for. Still, a close loss on the road against a solid team isn't anything to get down on this Raiders team about. Up next they have a tough match up against the Minnesota Vikings, before getting a little bit of a break with back to back games against Detroit and Tennessee.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4, Previously #11) - They played without Bell for the first two games, then lost Roethlisberger for 4 games, the week after Bell came back. Then Bell gets hurt for the season in week 8, and now Roethlisberger is likely to miss another game, due to a separate injury. It's a small miracle that this team is 5-4, right now. DeAngelo Williams has played well in Bell's stead, but the Steelers will need Big Ben back and healthy, if they want to make a postseason run.
8. St Louis Rams (4-4, Previously #8) - They lost a close one to the red hot Minnesota Vikings, no shame in that. The defense is among the best in the NFL, but the offense (sans Todd Gurley) needs to start stepping up, if they want to be taken seriously as NFC contenders.
7. Minnesota Vikings (6-2, Previously #7) - The first truly good team on the list, this is where you should start reading if you're looking for legit Super Bowl level teams. The Vikings are playing as well as anyone right now, and just picked up another nice win over the Rams. More importantly, they are now tied for first in the NFC North, with the Packers dropping two straight.
6. Arizona Cardinals (6-2, Previously #6) - Did Carson Palmer go on IR during the bye week? No? Ok then, the Cardinals are still the team to beat in the NFC West, and remain a top contender for a first round bye, come playoff time.
5. Green Bay Packers (6-2, Previously #4) - Back to back losses are never good, but they can be a little more defensible when they both come against undefeated opponents (at the time). The Packers are a good team that can play great, but the last couple weeks have shown that they aren't the NFC Super Bowl lock that many were making them out to be.
4. Carolina Panthers (8-0, Previously #5) - The Panthers got their statement win, and with how quickly the Falcons have fallen off, they now have a 3 loss advantage over the next best NFC South team. They may not be the most prolific team out there, but the keep getting the job done.
3. Denver Broncos (7-1, Previously #2) - Almost all teams lose eventually, doesn't make them any less of a good football team.
2. Cincinnati Bengals (8-0, Previously #3) - They may not have as flashy of an offense as the Patriots, they may not have as tenacious of a defense as the Broncos, but the Bengals just might be the most complete team in the NFL.
1. New England Patriots (8-0, Previously #1) - The Patriots rolled over yet another NFL team, improving their record to 8-0. The Pats came extremely close to going 19-0 several years ago... will they be able to complete the mission, this time around?