In the NFC, there’s the Cowboys and then there’s everyone else. A revitalized Dallas franchise is barreling toward a first-round bye in the postseason thanks to the league’s best record and a two-game lead in its conference with only five weeks to go.
At 10-1, the Cowboys have outpaced the NFC, but their biggest threat has come from inside their own division. The New York Giants are the only team to hand Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott a professional defeat after beating Dallas in Week 1. At 8-3, Eli Manning’s team is now the closest thing they have to competition in the conference. New York has won six straight games, but nothing on the team’s schedule is more important than a Week 14 return date with the Cowboys. The outcome of that game could be the difference between home-field advantage and a bye week vs. a Wild Card road trip to start the playoffs.
Elsewhere in the NFC, the Seahawks fell a bit this week after their loss to the surging Buccaneers, but they're still a solid top-five team. The Vikings also dropped due to their Thanksgiving Day loss to the Lions, but the NFC North race is tight enough that they could make a comeback.
There’s more competition at the top of the AFC. The Patriots and Raiders currently hold the conference’s top two spots thanks to matching 9-2 records, though each team struggled to dispatch underwhelming competition in Week 12. New England needed a touchdown in the game’s final two minutes to beat the 3-8 Jets on the road. Oakland let the Panthers score 25 straight points and trailed in the fourth quarter of a home game, but rebounded in time for Derek Carr to lead the Raiders to a comeback victory.
Carr suffered a dislocated finger in the win, and if the budding MVP candidate isn’t full strength his Oakland team could be vulnerable to a raid from within its own division. The 8-3 Chiefs and 7-4 Broncos have staked their claim as two of the AFC’s biggest threats. After their Sunday Night Football overtime win against the Broncos, the Chiefs climbed a bit in this week's rankings. Not much separates them from Denver, though.
The fourth AFC West team, the 5-6 Chargers, also showed how dangerous they can beat after beating the South-leading Texans on Sunday.
But while the West can stake its claim as the NFL’s toughest division, the AFC South and North fall on the other end of the spectrum. Houston and Baltimore are in line for playoff berths despite middling seasons. Behind them, the Colts and Steelers lurk, waiting for an opportunity to return to glories past.
Finally, the scene at the bottom of the power rankings remains depressingly unchanged. Cleveland remained winless at 0-12 and is now just four games from matching the 2008 Detroit Lions as a woeful footnote to league history. San Francisco kept pace in the race to next year’s No. 1 overall draft pick by losing its 10th straight game. Chicago and Jacksonville, each mired at 2-9, remain a step ahead of them.
|1||Dallas Cowboys||Dallas Cowboys||Dallas Cowboys||Dallas Cowboys||Dallas Cowboys|
|2||Oakland Raiders||New England Patriots||New England Patriots||Oakland Raiders||New England Patriots|
|3||New England Patriots||Oakland Raiders||Oakland Raiders||New England Patriots||Oakland Raiders|
|4||Atlanta Falcons||Kansas City Chiefs||Seattle Seahawks||Seattle Seahawks||New York Giants|
|5||New York Giants||Seattle Seahawks||New York Giants||Denver Broncos||Kansas City Chiefs|
|6||Miami Dolphins||Atlanta Falcons||Kansas City Chiefs||Kansas City Chiefs||Atlanta Falcons|
|7||Seattle Seahawks||Denver Broncos||Denver Broncos||Detroit Lions||Denver Broncos|
|8||Washington||Washington||Detroit Lions||Atlanta Falcons||Seattle Seahawks|
|9||Kansas City Chiefs||Detroit Lions||Atlanta Falcons||Pittsburgh Steelers||Detroit Lions|
|10||Denver Broncos||New York Giants||Washington||New York Giants||Miami Dolphins|
|11||Pittsburgh Steelers||Pittsburgh Steelers||Miami Dolphins||Washington||Washington|
|12||Baltimore Ravens||Buffalo Bills||Buffalo Bills||Miami Dolphins||Baltimore Ravens|
|13||Detroit Lions||Miami Dolphins||Baltimore Ravens||Baltimore Ravens||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|14||Buffalo Bills||Minnesota Vikings||Pittsburgh Steelers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|15||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Baltimore Ravens||Minnesota Vikings||San Diego Chargers||San Diego Chargers|
|16||Philadelphia Eagles||Green Bay Packers||San Diego Chargers||Houston Texans||Houston Texans|
|17||New Orleans Saints||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Green Bay Packers||Buffalo Bills||Minnesota Vikings|
|18||San Diego Chargers||New Orleans Saints||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Minnesota Vikings||Indianapolis Colts|
|19||Minnesota Vikings||San Diego Chargers||Philadelphia Eagles||Tennessee Titans||Tennessee Titans|
|20||Cincinnati Bengals||Tennessee Titans||New Orleans Saints||Philadelphia Eagles||Buffalo Bills|
|21||Carolina Panthers||Houston Texans||Houston Texans||New Orleans Saints||Green Bay Packers|
|22||Green Bay Packers||Philadelphia Eagles||Arizona Cardinals||Carolina Panthers||New Orleans Saints|
|23||Houston Texans||Indianapolis Colts||Indianapolis Colts||Arizona Cardinals||Philadelphia Eagles|
|24||Tennessee Titans||Carolina Panthers||Tennessee Titans||Green Bay Packers||Carolina Panthers|
|25||Arizona Cardinals||Arizona Cardinals||Carolina Panthers||Indianapolis Colts||Cincinnati Bengals|
|26||Indianapolis Colts||Cincinnati Bengals||Los Angeles Rams||New York Jets||Arizona Cardinals|
|27||Los Angeles Rams||New York Jets||Cincinnati Bengals||Los Angeles Rams||Los Angeles Rams|
|28||New York Jets||Los Angeles Rams||Chicago Bears||Cincinnati Bengals||New York Jets|
|29||Chicago Bears||Jacksonville Jaguars||New York Jets||Jacksonville Jaguars||Chicago Bears|
|30||Jacksonville Jaguars||Chicago Bears||Jacksonville Jaguars||Chicago Bears||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|31||San Francisco 49ers||San Francisco 49ers||San Francisco 49ers||San Francisco 49ers||San Francisco 49ers|
|32||Cleveland Browns||Cleveland Browns||Cleveland Browns||Cleveland Browns||Cleveland Browns|