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Week 12 Power Rankings

Belichick has an eye on the AFC standings.

The contenders have emerged in both conferences. The numbers say that the Broncos, Patriots, 49ers, and Texans are legit, while there are still question marks surrounding Atlanta, Baltimore, and Chicago despite their records. What to make of the Giants? No one ever knows.

Are we headed towards a rematch of Super Bowl XXIV? That year involved a San Francisco team with two different starting quarterbacks and a Broncos team built around a future Hall of Fame quarterback. Perhaps John Elway will get his revenge this year. Football Outsiders puts the likelihood of a Denver-San Francisco Super Bowl at 8.2%, just behind San Francisco-New England as the most likely matchup.

While things seem set in the AFC, there’s a very important race still going on. Whichever team ends up with the 1 seed always has an advantage, but this year, having the first seed takes on added value. There are three Tier 1 teams in the conference; the 2 and 3 seeds will very likely have to beat two of them to get there, while the 1 seed will likely get an easy matchup in the division round of the playoffs. New England hosts Houston in two weeks. If the Patriots win, they’ll own the tiebreaker over both the Texans and Broncos, and will trail Houston by only one game. It’s easy to envision the Pats having a first round bye followed by a second round game against Indianapolis or Baltimore before hosting Houston or Denver in the title game.

But if New England loses to the Texans, they’ll be behind the Broncos and in line for the 3 seed. That might mean having to deal with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers, followed by trips to Denver and Houston. New England’s matchup against Houston next Monday night (Dec. 10) is one of the most important games of the year.

[As always, the number of wins I’m projecting each team to finish the season with is in column 3. The fourth column – PWIN – shows how many wins I projected last week, and the difference column represents how many wins I added or subtracted this week. The “RSOS” column stands for the remaining SOS for the team, based on the number of projected wins I’m giving to each of their opponents. The “RHG” column stands for remaining home games.]

Houston Texans10-1131300.5632Monday night in Foxboro is the last remaining hurdle for this team to clear until January.
Atlanta Falcons10-1131300.4883The Falcons have 10 wins and 7.5 Pythagorean wins. Apparently we're going to party like it's 2010.
Denver Broncos8-3131300.3883I continue to project them to finish 13-3. Ugly win against Chiefs doesn't change anything for me.
San Francisco 49ers8-2-112.511.510.5062The 49ers rank 1st in pass defense, as measured by NY/A. It doesn't matter whether Colin Kaepernick or Alex Smith is the quarterback.
New England Patriots8-3121110.5313Patriots offense is operating at historically good levels. They have 10 days to prepare for Miami, which is roughly 9 more than necessary.
Green Bay Packers7-4111100.4633The loss in New York looked worse than it was, because the Packers still control their own destiny for the division. The #2 seed was always a long shot.
Baltimore Ravens9-2111100.6003I still don't believe in this team, because they aren't going to have amazing special teams or amazing 4th and 29 conversions every week.
Chicago Bears8-3111010.4882A big win for the Bears, increasing their margin of error for the wild card and giving them a leg up in the NFC North. They play Green Bay on Dec. 16th.
New York Giants7-410910.5502As usual, no one knows anything about the Giants. I do know that teams are in trouble when the good Eli Manning shows up.
Indianapolis Colts7-410910.5002Basically clinched a playoff berth with win over Buffalo and Steelers loss. Hard not to like this team. #Chuckstrong
Pittsburgh Steelers6-59900.4633Yes, losing to Cleveland was horrible, but their schedule is easy enough for them to get to 9 wins. I think.
Seattle Seahawks6-59900.5253With three home games remaining, I am keeping Seattle at 9 wins.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers6-59900.5562Bucs may be in luck, as Atlanta's week 17 game may be meaningless for the Falcons.
Dallas Cowboys5-689-10.4633The schedule isn't bad, but Dallas' playoff hopes are now on life support.
New Orleans Saints5-689-10.5752A tough loss against San Francisco, but still technically alive.
Cincinnati Bengals6-58800.4752Streaking Bengals look good, but none of their remaining games will be easy. Andy Dalton is quietly having a very good year.
Washington Redskins5-68710.4633Robert Griffin III on Monday Night Football vs. the Giants? Yes please. Washington very much alive in NFC East.
Minnesota Vikings6-578-10.6562It was a great half of a season.
Miami Dolphins5-67610.5693I dropped Miami from 8 to 6 wins last week, but feel comfortable settling on 7 with NE and SF the next two weeks.
St. Louis Rams4-6-16.55.510.5442No longer the worst team in the NFC West!
Tennessee Titans4-767-10.5383Lose to Jacksonville, move down one win.
New York Jets4-767-10.3382Last week's comment presented without further comment: "Jets looked good against the Rams; do they blow all that goodwill tonight?"
Buffalo Bills4-767-10.3944This has to be Chan Gailey's last year, right?
San Diego Chargers4-76600.4253I don't even know what to say anymore.
Detroit Lions4-76600.6383I challenge you to find a more hard luck team than Detroit.
Carolina Panthers3-86600.4252With a new coach, this team should be a sleeper team entering 2013.
Arizona Cardinals4-76600.5562Arizona is the first team ever to start both 4-0 and 4-7 in the same season.
Oakland Raiders3-856-10.3883New report is that Terrelle Pryor may become the quarterback. Spoiler alert: He's not the answer in Oakland.
Philadelphia Eagles3-845-10.5382Another embarrassing performance; how low can this team go? Sadly, they invade our prime-time lineup again this week.
Cleveland Browns3-84400.4632Hard to call it a great win when their turnover differential was larger than their points differential, but in Cleveland, a win is a win.
Jacksonville Jaguars2-93300.4632Good win for the Jaguars, although it may hurt them in April.
Kansas City Chiefs1-102200.4752They have a one game lead on Jacksonville for the #1 pick and will likely "win" the tiebreaker (easier schedule)