Now that December is upon us, it's a good time to start tracking the playoff picture.
- 1. New York Jets
- 2. Baltimore
- 3. Kansas City
- 4. Jacksonville
- WC: New England, Pittsburgh
- 1. Atlanta
- 2. Chicago
- 3. Philadelphia
- 4. St. Louis
- WC: New Orleans, N.Y. Giants
Jacksonville and Indianapolis have the same record, but the Jaguars won the first meeting between the teams. It would be foolhardy to count Peyton Manning and the Colts out, but we can at least realistically contemplate Indianapolis not making the post-season for the first time since 2001. It would seem their only route to the playoffs is winning their division — more on that later — as the current AFC wild card teams are at least two games ahead of them.
St. Louis is ahead of Seattle in the NFC West by virtue of an earlier win over the Seahawks. The Rams could be the first sub-.500 division winner in modern times, but their reward could be a playoff game against Atlanta or defending champ New Orleans (i.e., the second-place team in the South).
Green Bay and the Giants are both 7-4, with New York a half-game better than the Pack in conference games. The two teams battle in Green Bay on Boxing Day.
Hot-seat power rankings
The coach of the losing team in Monday's epic San Fran-Arizona game would shoot to near the top of this list, but we'll give them a reprieve (see sidebar).
There is little doubt the Lewis Era is over, but McDaniels seems to have accelerated his demise with spying infractions to go along with a dreadful defence.
Fisher has been a fine coach, but an expiring contract and inconsistent results seem to signal it's time for a change in Nashville.
Maybe Cable shouldn't be on the list, but his strange love affair with Bruce Gradkowski has been costly on the field. Fortunately for him, the QB's late-game injury in Sunday's home loss to Miami means Al Davis fave Jason Campbell should be back in next week.
There were five teams that went through the month without a loss.
Chicago, Atlanta and the New York Jets won all four of their games in November. New Orleans and San Diego each had a bye week and went 3-0.
Other notable records:
- 3-1: Baltimore, Pittsburgh, New England
- Winless: Cincinnati, Detroit, Carolina (all 0-4), Tennessee (0-3)
- 3 losses: Houston, Indianapolis, Seattle, Arizona
The teams not mentioned went 2-2 or 1-2, while San Francisco is 1-1 in the month heading into Monday's game against the Cards.
It ain't 2009
The Colts may be ripe for the taking, but the rest of the AFC South hasn't taken advantage, including de facto leader Jacksonville.
Take a look at the list [see sidebar] of the top and bottom six teams in win differential compared to where they stood after Week 12 in 2009. Arizona will be either three or four games behind last year's pace pending Monday night's result.
The Colts are five games below last year's unbeaten pace, but the Jaguars, Houston and Tennessee all have the exact same record as they did following Week 12 of the 2009 season.
The only other "Even Steven" teams with respect to this exact juncture in 2009 are 7-4 Philadelphia and Green Bay (good), and 2-9 Detroit (bad; hard to improve when you can't win on the road).
Cleveland, Tampa Bay and St. Louis were all 1-10 at this point last season. They are a combined 16-17 this season.
So there's hope for you fans of the Bengals and Panthers.
Missouri magicLed by quarterback Matt Cassel and receiver Dwayne Bowe, top, Kansas City has four more wins than at this time last year. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
These rapid turnarounds often happen because the NFL likes to ease the pain of really bad teams through a more favourable schedule the next season.
St. Louis and Kansas City are reaping those benefits, as the above sidebar shows. Their respective quarterbacks have put up gaudy numbers of late.
St. Louis rookie Sam Bradford has thrown 11 touchdowns and just one interception in the last six despite the absence of a stud receiver. Matt Cassel has 18 touchdown throws against just one pick in the last seven games, with 13 of those majors hauled in by Chiefs wideout Dwayne Bowe.
After a week in which the biggest matchups were in the NFC, the focus swings the other way in Week 13:
Pittsburgh (8-3) at Baltimore (8-3): Joe Flacco finally got a win against the Steelers earlier this season. Now he'll try for the first over Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger at the helm.
Oakland (5-6) at San Diego (6-5): While division leader K.C. has revenge on its mind against Denver, these two West teams lock horns in a must-win for both. They appear to be heading in different directions, but remember: the Raiders are 3-0 within the division, including a win over the Chargers.
N.Y. Jets (9-2) at New England (9-2): The Jets won in their own stadium against New England, but Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have since worked magic by becoming more productive after ditching Randy Moss. The Pats have averaged 38 points over the past three games, with their defence bending an awful lot, but producing timely turnovers.
Atlanta (9-2) at Tampa Bay (7-4): Atlanta, whose two losses are on the road, looks to avoid a letdown after a big win over Green Bay. An upset would set the Bucs up nicely; their following three games are against Washington, Detroit and Seattle.