Week 13 sees quite a bit of shuffling in the rankings. The most significant move comes as a result of the week’s biggest game, the Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers. San Francisco drops three spots not only for losing, but for looking worse than the offence that had been out there all season, and it wasn’t all that pretty to begin with. The Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears are losing their stranglehold on the wild card race as each faces difficult distractions. The New York Giants are right on their heels. The New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons all jumped up spots after big wins have them each in better shape for the playoffs. Disappointing teams continue to disappoint in the bottom half of the rankings: Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts all dropped winnable games. Ready, set, read.
1. Green Bay Packers (11-0); (Last Week: 1) Not even the D-Town Suh Stomp could slow the Pack down. Green Bay won with extreme efficiency, logging less first downs, plays, total yards and time of possession than the Lions. Stat of the Week: Eleven wins and zero individual 100 yard rushing performances.
2. New England Patriots (8-3); (3) New England threw down a complete game that would make Roy Halladay proud. The D shut down LeSean McCoy for his second lowest rushing total of the year and held Vince Young ineffective after a fast start (despite his gaudy 400 passing yards). The O produced two rare scores on the ground courtesy of The Law Firm and Brady did what Brady does: two 100 yard receivers and three scores through the air. The Patriots are firing on all cylinders.
3. New Orleans Saints (8-3); (5) Drew Brees is quietly putting together another massive campaign down in N’awlins. That is what happens when 70% completion percentage, 4,500 passing yards and 30 touchdowns are approximately your career averages. Monday night’s drubbing of the New York football Giants was exactly what New Orleans needed to start the last quarter of the season coming off a bye.
4. Baltimore Ravens (8-3); (4) Surely the Ravens miss Ray Lewis, but you would never know it as Baltimore improved to 2-0 without their leader. An insane nine sacks were part of the Ravens’ strong showing on defence, holding the suspect 49ers offence to 170 total yards and proving they can beat a top team with a no-show offence. Thankfully I never have to hear another Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh comment again… until the next time these two teams meet.
5. San Francisco 49ers (9-2); (3) Alex Smith was back to his old, old self: ineffective and over-matched. Frank Gore was also rendered useless: 39 yards on 14 carries. Four of San Fran’s five remaining contests come against division “rival” St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals and Seahawks. Perfect rebound material after a tough loss that surely will have people questioning whether this team is for real.
6. Dallas Cowboys (7-4); (10) The Cowboys barely passed the sleeper test against the Miami Dolphins on the strength of Dan Bailey’s fourth game-winning field goal. Rob Ryan’s defence kept Matt Moore and the Dolphin offence in check, allowing just one touchdown. Tony Romo will take the win, ugly as it was, as it puts Dallas a full game ahead of the Giants in the division race.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3); (6) If the Steelers were playing against just about any team other than the Chiefs this week, they’d be staring up at Baltimore in the standings. Losing All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu to a head injury and watching Big Ben struggle with his thumb can’t make Pittsburgh fans feel terribly super.
8. Atlanta Falcons (7-4); (11) Though its victory over Minnesota was less than convincing, Atlanta now finds itself in an enviable position: trending upwards in the momentum category while the Bears, Lions, and Giants will spend this week licking their various wounds.
9. Oakland Raiders (7-4); (13) Though the Raiders’ 25-20 win over the Caleb Hanie-led Bears was not terribly convincing, it is a win nonetheless and keeps Oakland one game ahead of the Denver Tebows. Sebastian Janikowski deserves a case of the finest imported vodka after going 6-for-6 on field goals, four of which were from 40+. He’ll probably just ask for Popov, though.
10. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4); (14) Barely bouncing back over the Browns after getting tossed by the Ravens, Cincinnati finds itself leading the Tennessee Titans and New York Jets for the final playoff spot in the AFC. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green are proving their worth.
11. Detroit Lions (7-4); (7) The Lions can only hope that Ndamukong Suh’s likely suspension will help the team avoid distractions on the field as they find themselves tied with Atlanta and Chicago for the two wild card spots. Every game is a must-win from here on out and the Lions have been shaky of late.
12. Chicago Bears (7-4); (9) Things could have been much, much worse than they turned out to be in Oakland. There’s no denying Caleb Hanie was rusty as…(insert explicit comparison). The Bears avoided the Peyton Manning reaction and will remain competitive down the stretch on the strength of their defence and special teams. (Can’t you tell I’m an optimistic Bears fan?)
13. Houston Texans (8-3); (8) The Texans are thanking their lucky stars that the defence was able to preserve an edgy win over Jacksonville after the Matt Leinart Experience 2.0 ended just hours after it began. Houston hopes Kellen Clemens can be ready just days after signing as a free agent if they wish to avoid leaning on TJ Yates, though Yates has been rewarded the start next week.
14. Denver Broncos (6-5); (15) I’m still waiting for Tim Tebow to fail. Sorry, Broncos fans, it’s just how I feel.
15. New York Giants (6-5); (12) Being blown out on Monday Night Football by Drew Brees was not in the plans, but then again not much has gone with the grain for the Giants this year. Three losses in a row hurts as New York looks forward to welcoming the Champs to town.
16. Tennessee Titans (6-5); (16) If CJ2K can run like he did this week with some normality, the Titans have a legitimate shot at the wild card, though strangely it could be that their best chance lies in winning the division with Houston facing personnel issues.
17. New York Jets (6-5); (17) Could Mark Sanchez and the Jets pull off another regular season miracle? Four scores in the air isn’t a bad start.
18. Philadelphia Eagles (4-7); (18) Last week’s comment (wince): “A week ago the Eagles were left for dead after getting dismantled by Random Stud of the Week John Skelton. This week, Vince Young got the Dream Team back on the road to redemption with a tough win over the Giants.” Goodbye playoffs, Dream Team.
19. Miami Dolphins (3-8); (20) The Dolphins were seconds away from making it four wins in a row, despite an exceedingly average offensive performance. The defence held Dallas scoreless until midway through the second quarter and provided the offence with good field position, but couldn’t keep Romo and DeMarco Murray from gaining yards when it mattered most.
20. San Diego Chargers (4-7); (21) Has their ever been a more underachieving team? Excluding previous Chargers years, of course. This latest of six straight losses has to hurt the most: in overtime and against the Broncos. San Diego now finds itself tied with Kansas City in the cellar of the AFC West, which somehow remains up for grabs.
21. Cleveland Browns (4-7); (22) The Browns put up 20 points for just the second time this season, losing a valiant effort to a last second Cincinnati field goal in the Battle for Ohio.
22. Buffalo Bills (5-6); (24) This was a tough, tight loss for a team looking to curb a dangerous spiral to the season. Buffalo managed a nice comeback that fell just short, despite not having the services of Fred Jackson. Even if they miss the playoffs, which they will, the Bills can look to this game as a reminder of how to get back on track in future seasons. Stevie Johnson wins this week’s MoJoD Award for (un)Timely Touchdown Celebration: taking a “shot” at Plaxico Burress by feigning shooting himself in the leg.
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7); (23) Josh Freeman’s frustrating season continued with two turnovers and a fumbled snap in the waning seconds with overtime in reach.
24. Washington Redskins (4-7); (25) Rex Grossman uncharacteristically led the Redskins from behind in the fourth quarter. Rookie Roy Helu posted his first career 100-yard game and scored his first touchdown.
25. Seattle Seahawks (4-7); (19) Surrendering a fourth quarter lead to Rex Grossman is not what a team wants to do when they are on the cusp of figuring out how to win multiple games in a row.
26. Arizona Cardinals (4-7); (29) Arizona barely beat the Rams in spite of John Skelton’s best efforts to do the opposite. Beanie Wells set a franchise record with 228 rushing yards and Patrick Petersen tied the single-season record for punt returns for a touchdown with his fourth.
27. Carolina Panthers (3-8); (28) Cam Newton scored his 10th rushing touchdown of the season, the first quarterback to do so since Daunte Culpepper totaled the same in 2002, and Newton still has five games to go. The record is 12 by Steve Grogan with the New England Patriots in 1976.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-8); (26) Any team that holds Arian Foster and Ben Tate to a combined 91 yards and goes from facing Matt Leinart to TJ Yates should win, right?
29. Kansas City Chiefs (4-7); (27) Tyler Palko quickly played himself out of the lineup, this time tossing three INTs, losing a fumble and managing just 167 total yards. Kyle Orton steps in against one former team (Chicago) this week, and if he is still around by the end of the season he will face the other (Denver) in week 17.
30. Minnesota Vikings (2-9); (30) The Vikes almost stole one from Atlanta without Adrian Peterson. And then they didn’t. Getting playmaker Percy Harvin back was a nice boost to morale as he caught a touchdown and nearly brought a kickoff out of one endzone and into the other.
31. St. Louis Rams (2-9); (31) I might have said something last week about the D making plays. And then they go ahead and surrender another 200+ yards (DeMarco Murray in Week 7) on the ground to an opposing running back, this time Beanie Wells.
32. Indianapolis Colts (0-11); (32) Double Stat of the Week: Indy mustered one total yard in the first quarter, in front of a nearly sold out audience. The rest of the game was much different with the Colts actually facing two opportunities to force overtime late in the fourth quarter. Curtis Painter promptly ended both drives with a pair of interceptions in the end zone. The only other likely opportunity to avoid an 0-16 stinker will come in the final week against Jacksonville.
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