Heading into the week of Thanksgiving, the NFC looks settled at the top, but it’s still quite chaotic everywhere else. Let’s see how the top-10 looks with five weeks left to play.
1. Seattle – Hopefully the Seahawks enjoyed their bye week because the schedule is about to get hard with games against New Orleans and San Francisco the next two weeks. The good news is that if Seattle can take care of the Saints at home Monday night they should have no trouble closing out home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, which will make them awfully hard to beat on the way to the Super Bowl.
2. New Orleans – Outside of their blowout of Dallas, the Saints didn’t look all that sharp throughout the month of November, barely pulling out wins each of the last two weeks. The good news is that November is over and we’re moving into December, but the bad news is that they have a road trip to Seattle upcoming, followed by Carolina twice in a three-week span. New Orleans needs to get straightened out in a hurry, but they keep the two-spot in the power rankings because no one else is quite ready to take it away from them.
3. Carolina – The Panthers came out a little sluggish against the Dolphins, but their defense continues to get the job done and they were able to pull out the win, extending their winning streak to seven. Carolina isn’t exactly blowing anyone away, so they’re not yet on the same level as New Orleans, but soon enough they’ll get their chance to take on the Saints and maybe make a push for the NFC South Division title.
4. San Francisco – After losing two in a row, the 49ers got back on track in impressive fashion against the Redskins on Monday night. Colin Kaepernick threw for more than 200 yards in a game for the first time in more than a month, which is a great sign moving forward, although it came against a bad Washington defense. A playoff spot is far from a certainty, but they’re in good shape and they’ve played well for the past month, settling into the fourth spot in the power rankings.
5. Arizona – Nope, that’s not a clerical error, the Cardinals really are one of the top five teams in the NFC right now. They’ve won four in a row, including an absolute shellacking of the Colts over the weekend. Arizona has lost only two games in the last two months, and those were against San Francisco and Seattle. They also have wins over Detroit and Carolina from earlier in the season on their resume. The schedule gets tough for them down the stretch, starting with a road trip to Philadelphia this week, but they’ve played well this season and they’re a serious playoff contender.
6. Philadelphia – The Eagles drop a spot behind the Cardinals in the power rankings, but they can prove otherwise when they host Arizona this weekend. The offense has been flying high recently, and the entire team, including Michael Vick, is behind Nick Foles as the starting quarterback, and now they aim to finish the season strong and get to the postseason, although they should expect a fight from the Cowboys down the stretch.
7. Dallas – Look what the Cowboys are capable of doing when they try to run the ball, let alone are successful at running the ball. They did blow a 15-point lead, and the Dallas run defense leaves a lot to be desired, but the Cowboys played a more complete game against the Giants than they have in a long time, and they bounced back well after getting blown out by the Saints two weeks ago, as Tony Romo, of all people, led a game-winning drive. The team that showed up on Sunday and found a way to beat the Giants is a team that has a chance to win its division and make some noise in the playoffs, and that’s the team Dallas needs to show up the next five weeks.
8. Detroit – The Lions have had ample opportunity to take control of the NFC North, but instead they have slipped big time the past two weeks, and now they’re in a tight division race. The last two weeks Detroit has lost to a team that hasn’t been able to run the ball at all, and that’s a big problem they’re going to have to fix and doesn’t bode well for them moving forward. The Lions are in games, but they have to be able to finish games down the stretch if they’re going to make it to the playoffs.
9. St. Louis – The bottom half of the NFC is so bad these days that two straight wins is all it takes to move into the top-10 of the power rankings. Of course, the two wins the Rams have had are quite convincing, as they obliterated the Colts on the road and then out-classed the Bears at home. St. Louis doesn’t have an explosive passing game like we thought they’d have this year, but they may have found something with running backs Benny Cunningham and Zac Stacy, as well as an occasional big play from Tavon Austin.
10. Chicago – The Bears seem to get more and more disappointing every week, and they’ve shown no consistency, as they’ve alternated wins and losses over their last seven games. The Chicago defense has become unreliable, and unless that changes they’re going to have a tough time winning games during the final month of the season, even with a manageable schedule.