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nfl_rankings_945

Updated every Tuesday of the regular season.

Rank   Team Record   Change   Comment
1 Seattle Seahawks Seattle Seahawks 12-4
The Seahawks allowed an average of 6.5 points in their last six games. That’s it. In this era, that’s unheard of. It’s also why the Seahawks are favorites to win it all again.
2 New England Patriots New England Patriots 12-4
Foxboro hasn’t been as airtight in the playoffs over the last decade as you might think, but make no mistake: the AFC road goes through New England.
3 Green Bay Packers Green Bay Packers 12-4
Fourth straight NFC North title, 8-0 at home, first-round bye. We’ll call that #AaronRodgers.
4 Denver Broncos Denver Broncos 12-4
The first-round bye is nice, but can Peyton beat Brady in the cold in January? In a word, yes. In six words, yes – if they feed C.J. Anderson.
5 Dallas Cowboys Dallas Cowboys 12-4
The Cowboys notched their second 12-win season since 1995 and are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2009. That should quiet the Romo critics for at least a week.
6 Pittsburgh Steelers Pittsburgh Steelers 11-5
▲ 2
With a good defense, a great running game and weapons galore on the outside, Pittsburgh looked like a playoff sleeper. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for Le’Veon Bell.
7 Indianapolis Colts Indianapolis Colts 11-5
Another 11-5 season and AFC South championship for Andrew Luck. But can he beat elite competition when it matters most?
8 Detroit Lions Detroit Lions 11-5
▼ 2
Matthew Stafford is now 0-16 on the road against winning teams. Good luck in the playoffs.
9 Cincinnati Bengals Cincinnati Bengals 10-5-1
Four seasons, four playoff appearances for Andy Dalton. Now he just needs to win one. So does the franchise in general. We’re closing in on a quarter of a century.
10 Baltimore Ravens Baltimore Ravens 10-6
▲ 3
After last year’s Super Bowl hangover, the Ravens are back in the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years. Baltimore doesn’t feel like a serious contender, but who knows? Joe Flacco has gotten hot before.
11 Arizona Cardinals Arizona Cardinals 11-5
▼ 1
With four losses in six games, this team has one-and-done written all over it. Still a heck of a season, though.
12 Carolina Panthers Carolina Panthers 7-8-1
▲ 7
As bad as the NFC South was, you have to hand it to Carolina. The Panthers won four straight to end the season – this after six straight losses – and host the reeling Cardinals in the payoffs. That’s a pretty nice reward for a sub-.500 team.
13 Philadelphia Eagles Philadelphia Eagles 10-6
▼ 1
The Eagles beat 10 teams; seven finished with a losing record.
14 Houston Texans Houston Texans 9-7
The Texans fell just short in their playoff bid but set a franchise record with 34 takeaways. J.J. Watt, meanwhile, became the first player in NFL history to record multiple 20-sack seasons. With a transcendent player on that side of the ball, Houston will be in the mix for years to come.
15 Buffalo Bills Buffalo Bills 9-7
▲ 1
Encouraging season for Buffalo, which finishes with its first winning season in 10 years.
16 Kansas City Chiefs Kansas City Chiefs 9-7
▲ 1
The Chiefs almost made the playoffs despite not throwing a touchdown to a receiver all season. If that’s not amazing, I don’t know what is.
17 San Diego Chargers San Diego Chargers 9-7
▼ 6
The notoriously up-and-down Chargers went 2-4 in their final six games to miss the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.
18 San Francisco 49ers San Francisco 49ers 8-8
If you’re a 49ers fan, just say thanks for the memories.
19 Miami Dolphins Miami Dolphins 8-8
▼ 4
Apparently it doesn’t matter where the Dolphins play; they’ve gone 4-4 at home and 4-4 on the road each of the last two seasons.
20 New York Giants New York Giants 6-10
▲ 1
If you extrapolate Odell Beckham Jr.’s last four games over the course of a full season, you’d have 172 catches for 2,424 yards and 28 touchdowns. That’s how good he’s been.
21 Atlanta Falcons Atlanta Falcons 6-10
▼ 1
It wasn’t just that the Falcons lost to Carolina; it’s how they lost – embarrassed at home, 34-3. Has there been a more un-clutch team in the NFL over the last five years?
22 New Orleans Saints New Orleans Saints 7-9
▲ 1
The silver lining for the Saints? They went 4-4 on the road. With a few tweaks, especially on defense, this team could easily be back in the Super Bowl mix.
23 Minnesota Vikings Minnesota Vikings 7-9
▲ 2
A rookie quarterback, no Adrian Peterson, injuries – the Vikings have nothing to be ashamed of, especially since they lost four games by three points or fewer.
24 Cleveland Browns Cleveland Browns 7-9
▼ 2
What began with a magical 7-4 start ended with five straight losses, during which Cleveland averaged 11.4 points. The Browns once again have questions to answer this offseason, starting under center.
25 St. Louis Rams St. Louis Rams 6-10
▼ 1
This franchise needs to get two things: healthy, and a quarterback.
26 Washington Redskins Washington Redskins 4-11
Washington is 7-25 (.219) over the last two seasons. At this point, no one is safe – not even RG3. Hell, especially RG3.
27 Chicago Bears Chicago Bears 5-11
The Bears closed the season with five straight losses and failed to score a touchdown in their final game at Minnesota. If Jay Cutler’s contract isn’t the worst in football, it’s got to be close.
28 New York Jets New York Jets 4-12
▲ 1
New Yorkers may disagree, but Rex Ryan’s tenure wasn’t a failure. He deserves a lot of blame for what happened, but he did some good things, too. Bottom line? Be careful what you wish for.
29 Oakland Raiders Oakland Raiders 3-13
▼ 1
A team that was built for 8-8 went winless on the road. Not much else to say.
30 Jacksonville Jaguars Jacksonville Jaguars 3-13
The Jaguars were 3-5 at home and 0-8 on the road. This is a young team that simply needs time to mature.
31 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-14
Remember at the beginning of the season when I said I wasn’t buying the Bucs? Well, they just went 0-8 at home.
32 Tennessee Titans Tennessee Titans 2-14
Oakland and Jacksonville were bad this year; Tennessee was worse. The Titans closed the season with 10 straight losses and have no hope of being competitive in the foreseeable future.

Tony Meale is the author of The Chosen Ones: The Team That Beat LeBron. He lives in Chicago and won’t be mad if you follow him on Twitter @TonyMeale.