If you think your team kind of sucks this year, you're probably not alone.
After the Patriots beat the Bills on Monday Night Football, there are now just nine teams with winning records. There are 12 playoff spots up for grabs.
Compare that to this time last season, when there were 14 teams in the NFL above the .500 mark. There was a very strong group of Super Bowl contenders, with Arizona at 9-1, New England sitting pretty at 8-2, and Dallas, Denver, Philly, Green Bay, Detroit, and Kansas City all at 7-3. The Steelers were 7-4, and the Bengals were 6-3-1. There were four more teams (Seattle, San Diego, Indy, and Baltimore) that looked like legit contenders at 6-4. It was going to be a real fight to get into the postseason, particularly with the morass of sub-.500 teams in the NFC South taking up one divisional champion spot.
This year, the playoffs landscape is different. The Patriots, Panthers, Cardinals, Bengals, and Broncos look like the sure shots, and even with Denver, it has the whole quarterback-change thing to worry about. Apart from the league's true elite, it feels like the rest of the playoff spots are still up for grabs from about half the league. There are 17 teams in the NFL with four, five, or six wins right now, with six weeks still to go.
I can't figure out whether this is a sign that the league is strong in parity this year or that most of the teams are middling, but either way, here we are.
The Patriots took care of business again against the Bills, running their record up to 10-0 while demonstrating they're still in control even after losing Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman, and several others to significant injuries. The Panthers won again as well, and for the first time since 2009, there are two 10-0 teams in the NFL. That's only happened four times in the history of the league (1990 and 1934 being the other two).
The Cardinals proved they're not to be trifled with by winning a great game over the Bengals on Sunday Night Football. Arizona's offense continues to be deadly, and in the last two games have posted 73 points against two of the league's better scoring defenses in Seattle and Cincinnati. Carson Palmer is dealing it right now, and the Cardinals have a surplus of weaponry to work with.
At the same time, I think that the way that Cincy played, it proved that it's no fluke, either. Andy Dalton didn't fold even after the Bengals fell behind in the third quarter, and they nearly pulled off the come-from-behind upset on the road against one of the NFL's best teams. It's a loss, obviously, but they proved they belong in the discussion for potential Super Bowl teams.
The Broncos won in Brock Osweiler's debut, and in doing so got both their defense and their run game back on the right track. Osweiler didn't wow anyone, but he was efficient enough and took care of the football. Meanwhile, the Packers got their run game back on track as well as they dominated the Vikings, an important step in re-asserting themselves as the favorites in the NFC North.
The Seahawks once again dominated the 49ers and may have found a new star in Thomas Rawls, who set all kinds of records with 209 rushing yards, 255 all-purpose yards, and two touchdowns. Russell Wilson was on point, the defense got the job done, and they'll try to use this win as a jump-off point for turning their season around.
Meanwhile, the Texans won their third game in a row. Apparently being blown out by the Dolphins in Week 7 was a wake-up call, and they continue to play excellent defense while getting just enough out of their injury-riddled offense. J.J. Watt is completely annihilating offensive linemen right now and DeAndre Hopkins is maybe playing better than any receiver in the league right now.
SB Nation presents: DeAndre Hopkins torched the Jets on Sunday
The Buccaneers offense caught fire behind Jameis Winston and Doug Martin on Sunday, demolishing what had been one of the best defenses in the league in Philly this year. Winston threw five touchdowns and Martin rushed for 235 yards, and getting Vincent Jackson back into the fold proved to be a big boost. With the way that Winston is playing, don't be surprised if Tampa Bay makes a run at a wild card spot this season.
Still in the hunt
The Colts got a big win on the road this week, moving to 3-0 when Matt Hasselbeck has started in relief of Andrew Luck this year. The Bald Bomber finished 23-of-32 for 213 yards, two touchdowns and two picks, and really relied on running backs Frank Gore and Ahmad Bradshaw in both the run and pass game. Indy moved to 5-5 and showed some mettle without its starting quarterback.
The Bears lost a close one to the Broncos but definitely made it close to the end. Chicago's offense has improved dramatically over the past few weeks, but don't overlook its defense, which has given up just 18.0 points per game over the last month.
The Vikings had a great chance to make a statement at home against the Packers but came up short. Minnesota struggled to get its run game going and couldn't stop the Packers' offensive attack with Aaron Rodgers and Eddie Lacy. The Falcons continued to free-fall as well, losing their third straight game, and the Raiders and Rams' respective losing streaks hit three games as well.
Jockeying for that first pick
Right now, it's looking like a three-horse race between the Browns, Chargers, and Titans for that valuable first overall pick. The Niners and Ravens aren't far behind, and Baltimore in particular could be the darkhorse here because of the loss of Joe Flacco for the season.
|RANK||WEEK 12||SB NATION BLOG|
|1||New England Patriots, 10-0 (Last Week: 1)||Pats Pulpit|
|2||Carolina Panthers, 10-0 (Last Week: 2)||Cat Scratch Reader|
|3||Arizona Cardinals, 8-2 (Last Week: 3)||Revenge of the Birds|
|4||Denver Broncos, 8-2 (Last Week: 6)||Mile High Report|
|5||Cincinnati Bengals, 8-2 (Last Week: 5)||Cincy Jungle|
|6||Pittsburgh Steelers, 6-4 (Last Week: 6)||Behind the Steel Curtain|
|7||Kansas City Chiefs, 5-5 (Last Week: 7)||Arrowhead Pride|
|8||Green Bay Packers, 7-3 (Last Week: 10)||Acme Packing Company|
|9||Minnesota Vikings, 7-3 (Last Week: 4)||Daily Norseman|
|10||Seattle Seahawks, 5-5 (Last Week: 13)||Field Gulls|
|11||Buffalo Bills, 5-5 (Last Week: 9)||Buffalo Rumblings|
|12||New York Jets, 5-5 (Last Week: 11)||Gang Green Nation|
|13||Houston Texans, 5-5 (Last Week: 20)||Battle Red Blog|
|14||Indianapolis Colts, 5-5 (Last Week: 18)||Stampede Blue|
|15||New York Giants, 5-5 (Last Week: 15)||Big Blue View|
|16||Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 5-5 (Last Week: 21)||Bucs Nation|
|17||Atlanta Falcons, 6-4 (Last Week: 12)||The Falcoholic|
|18||Chicago Bears, 4-6 (Last Week: 23)||Windy City Gridiron|
|19||Oakland Raiders, 4-6 (Last Week: 16)||Silver and Black Pride|
|20||Washington, 4-6 (Last Week: 19)||Hogs Haven|
|21||Miami Dolphins, 4-6 (Last Week: 17)||The Phinsider|
|22||St. Louis Rams, 4-6 (Last Week: 14)||Turf Show Times|
|23||New Orleans Saints, 4-6 (Last Week: 18)||Canal Street Chronicles|
|24||Detroit Lions, 3-7 (Last Week: 28)||Pride of Detroit|
|25||Dallas Cowboys, 3-7 (Last Week: 31)||Blogging the Boys|
|26||Philadelphia Eagles, 4-6 (Last Week: 22)||Bleeding Green Nation|
|27||Jacksonville Jaguars, 4-6 (Last Week: 29)||Big Cat Country|
|28||Baltimore Ravens, 3-7 (Last Week: 26)||Baltimore Beatdown|
|29||San Francisco 49ers, 3-7 (Last Week: 25)||Niners Nation|
|30||Tennessee Titans, 2-8 (Last Week: 30)||Music City Miracles|
|31||San Diego Chargers, 2-8 (Last Week: 27)||Bolts from the Blue|
|32||Cleveland Browns, 2-8 (Last Week: 32)||Dawgs by Nature|