We are now in December, and the playoff picture is looking clearer than ever. In the AFC, the Broncos and Patriots look to get the conference’s two byes. Cincinnati and Indianapolis should be the other division winners, with the victor of their Week 14 matchup getting the higher seed. The Chiefs pretty much have the first wild card locked up, with a handful of teams having a shot at the second. Shifting toward the NFC, Seattle secured the No. 1 seed after annihilating the Saints at home. New Orleans can still get the No. 2 seed, or that could go to the Panthers, with the loser likely getting the No. 5 seed. Thanks to the underperforming Bears and Aaron Rodgers’ injury, the Lions should wind up with the No. 3 seed, while the NFC East winner, either the Cowboys or Eagles, will get the No. 4 seed. The 49ers have the inside track at the second wild card, but there are other teams in the hunt.
1. Seattle Seahawks SAME: Well, it looks like we know who’s representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.
2. Denver Broncos SAME: Eric Decker had an absolute field day at Arrowhead, racking up 174 yards and four touchdowns. It seems like the Broncos have all but locked up the AFC West.
3. Carolina Panthers SAME: Even with two picks, Cam Newton was very impressive on the ground. As were the Panthers as a whole, blowing out a bad team at home like they should.
4. New England Patriots UP 1: Despite the fumbling issues, the New England offense has a ton of weapons. With Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Shane Vereen, and others, Tom Brady has a scary amount of options.
5. New Orleans Saints DOWN 2: Jimmy Graham was, more the most part, contained, and the Seattle defense absolutely dominated the Saints’ offense. There’s a good chance New Orleans returns to Seattle in the NFC championship game, and Sean Payton better think of how to stop the Seahawks.
6. San Francisco 49ers SAME: It’s always good to see the Niners dominate bad teams, but what was very encouraging to see was Michael Crabtree on the field. Only two catches, but it’s a good start.
7. Cincinnati Bengals UP 2: The Cincinnati defense really stepped up against a high-octane Chargers’ offense, limiting them to 10 points. The Bengals are learning how to win tough games on the road.
8. Kansas City Chiefs DOWN 1: Even after intercepting Peyton Manning twice, Kansas City couldn’t knock off the mighty Broncos at home. They’re now looking at a likely trip to Cincinnati or Indianapolis on Wild Card weekend.
9. Philadelphia Eagles UP 1: A couple calls went their way, but three more Nick Foles touchdowns and zero interceptions got the Eagles a big win at home. With the Cowboys’ classic end of the year struggles, Philly is the favorite to win the NFC East.
10. Indianapolis Colts UP 1: Adam Vinatieri had a busy day, kicking five field goals, but it was a Donald Brown touchdown and an Andrew Luck comeback that pretty much wrapped up the AFC South for the Colts.
11. Arizona Cardinals DOWN 3: Despite a solid comeback, three Carson Palmer turnovers killed the Cards. This could have been a huge win, but it instead leaves Arizona with more questions on offense and on the outside looking in on the NFC Wild Card hunt.
12. Baltimore Ravens SAME: The Ravens’ defense is starting to clamp down and make up for the lethargic offense. Baltimore is looking good for the playoffs again, so watch out.
13. Detroit Lions UP 2: Matthew Stafford’s interceptions continued, but the Lions ran all over Green Bay. Reggie Bush and Joique Bell combined for over 200 yards on the ground.
14. Dallas Cowboys SAME: It was a rocky start for the Cowboys, but they battled back thanks to DeMarco Murray’s three touchdowns. It’s a shame that Lance Dunbar was lost for the season, as he breathed life and creativity into the running game on turkey day.
15. Miami Dolphins UP 5: While he had his struggles, Ryan Tannehill ripped the Jets’ defense for 331 yards and two touchdowns. Miami is looking good in the playoff hunt and may have fixed their locker room in the process.
16. Chicago Bears DOWN 3: Alshon Jeffery produced 249 yards to go with two scores, one of the big days for wide receivers, but Chicago suffered a crushing loss to the Vikings. Jay Cutler may be back for Monday Night Football against the Cowboys, but Josh McCown is also playing so well.
17. San Diego Chargers DOWN 1: The Phillip Rivers-Keenan Allen combination continued to look lethal, but San Diego couldn’t pick up a statement win over the Bengals.
18. St. Louis Rams DOWN 1: There are some pieces here. Tavon Austin and Zac Stacy look like young studs. But a Kellen Clemens-led team certainly has its limits.
19. Pittsburgh Steelers DOWN 1: With all of the controversy surrounding Mike Tomlin, some may forget that Pittsburgh fell in a huge game to the Ravens. The offense still looks very solid, but a win here would have put the Steelers in the driver’s seat.
20. Tennessee Titans UP 2: The Titans move up despite a loss, because it was a tough road defeat to the Colts and all of the teams around them had worse losses. They’re now out of the AFC South race and things aren’t looking great in the playoff picture.
21. Green Bay Packers DOWN 2: It’s amazing how awful this team is without Aaron Rodgers. And it may get even worse, as Green Bay might sit Rodgers for the rest of the year to avoid further injury.
22. New York Giants UP 1: Andre Brown’s two touchdowns canceled out Eli Manning’s interceptions and the Giants stayed alive (barely) in the playoff race.
23. New York Jets Down 2: The Jets went into Sunday’s game looking for a huge win against rival Miami that could help their playoffs hopes. Instead, they got a blowout loss and a quarterback controversy.
24. Minnesota Vikings UP 5: Coming so close to another tie, the Vikings rode Adrian Peterson’s 211 yards to a win over rival Chicago. Matt Cassel replaced an injured Christian Ponder and was good enough.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars UP 5: The Jaguars are now a legit NFL team. They’ve won three of four coming out of their bye, all on the road, with the most recent one thanks to a 20-yard touchdown catch from Cecil Shorts with only 40 seconds remaining. They may not wind up with Teddy Bridgewater, although he could stay in the division.
26. Atlanta Falcons UP 5: Atlanta finally won again thanks to Roddy White. The star wide receiver may finally be back with 10 catches for 143 yards.
27. Cleveland Browns DOWN 3: Josh Gordon racked up an insane 261 yards, with Brandon Weeden at the helm. But Weeden’s awful turnovers continue to doom the Browns.
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers DOWN 3: The Buccaneers’ winning streak is over and they’re back to their awful ways. Mike Glennon threw for under 200 yards and Greg Schiano’s seat is suddenly warm again.
29. Washington Redskins DOWN 1: It’s time to shut down RG3. Griffin can only get hurt, so the Redskins should start Kirk Cousins, boost his trade value, and trade him. Right now, Washington has the No. 2 overall pick. Problem is, they traded it to St. Louis.
30. Buffalo Bills DOWN 4: C. J. Spiller had a day with 15 carries for 149 yards, but the Bills’ defense was pretty awful in Toronto. They gave the Falcons’ offense life, something not many teams have done this year.
31. Oakland Raiders DOWN 4: They got a gift after Terrence Williams’ fumble of the opening kickoff was returned for a touchdown, but Oakland looked flat the rest of the game. They’re pretty much toast in the playoff race.
32. Houston Texans SAME: Houston put on a valiant effort against New England, but couldn’t pull off the upset. It’s ok Texans’ fans, this team is still talented and could get the first overall pick in the draft.