With many playoff spots already claimed, it's now or never for many teams to move up the NFL power rankings.
There are twelve spots available every year in the NFL playoffs. Six in the AFC and six in the NFC. But with four games left on the slate for each team, four of those spots have already been claimed. Half of the AFC field is now set: Denver and New England clinched their divisions while Houston is ensured a playoff spot at the very least. The NFC remains a bit more open, as only Atlanta has claimed their division crown.
With eight spots remaining and only four weeks left to claim them, it's time for teams to make their final push to rise up the power rankings. Which teams are heading towards picking up those last few playoff spots and which will be waiting in line for next year?
As always, we list our power rankings with each team's record followed by how their ranking changed compared to last week.
- Falcons (11-1, NC): Finally, a win that made the other team look ugly!
- Texans (11-1, NC): Finally, a win that didn't require overtime!
- Patriots (9-3, +1): So they didn't score 40. They still won their sixth game in a row and clinched their division in a place that usually gives them a tough time.
- Broncos (9-3, +1): Tim Teb-who? Denver hasn't lost for two months and they don't show any signs of doing so anytime soon.
- 49ers (8-3-1, -2): It must have been hard for Alex Smith not to chuckle on the sidelines in St. Louis on Sunday. "Oh really, Jim Harbaugh? Colin Kaepernick has the hot hand?!"
- Ravens (9-3, NC): Baltimore and Pittsburgh play close games no matter who's playing, don't they? Terrell Suggs is going to try to play through his latest injury. He better be close to 100% if the Ravens want to do anything in the playoffs, because their offense isn't scaring anyone right now.
- Packers (8-4, +2): Their victory over Minnesota felt a lot less like Green Bay dominating and a lot more like Christian Ponder handing them the win. They're slowly getting healthier...and inching towards another division crown.
- Bears (8-4, NC): Chicago depended on their defense too much against Seattle, and it ultimately let them down. Tough loss that gives away control of the NFC North.
- Colts (8-4, +1): Wow. Andrew Luck is the real deal. But you already knew that.
- Giants (7-5, -3): Don't look now, but the NFC East is wide open again.
- Seahawks (7-5, +1): They won on the road! Against a good opponent! Now that they've cleared that hurdle, watch out for Russell Wilson and company down the stretch.
- Steelers (7-5, +2): What a gritty win on the road by Pittsburgh. If they can somehow hold on, get healthy, and make it to the postseason don't be surprised if they pull off a run like they did in 2005.
- Redskins (6-6, +2): You're going to hear the phrase "nobody wants to play them right now" a lot when TV personalities are discussing Washington. It's with good reason.
- Bengals (7-5, -1): They took care of business against a lousy San Diego team. They have a tough final four games, but they'll stay in the conversation until the end.
- Buccaneers (6-6, -4): It's starting to look more and more like "maybe next year" with this young, talented team.
- Cowboys (6-6, +2): So they beat Philadelphia at home. Let's see them beat a couple tough opponents before we get too excited about their postseason chances.
- Vikings (6-6, -1): The pitchforks are out in Minnesota after Ponder's awful showing in Green Bay. These next four weeks might have a lot to do with how this team (and coaching staff) look in 2013.
- Rams (5-6-1, +4): These guys just own the NFC West. Too bad they're 1-6 against everyone else.
- Saints (5-7, -2): More proof that starting 0-4 and throwing five interceptions in a game aren't good ideas.
- Bills (5-7, +1): Looks like Buffalo is a good candidate for this year's annual Team That Finishes Strong To Get Their Fans' Hopes Up Only To Suck Again The Following Year, taking the title over from Arizona.
- Dolphins (5-7, -2): "Keeping it close" is little consolation this time of year.
- Lions (4-8, -2): If games were 55 minutes long, Detroit might be headed to the playoffs.
- Jets (5-7, +1): Congratulations, Jets fans! You're the proud new owners of "worst quarterback controversy of all time" and "ugliest win of the 2012 season"!
- Browns (4-8, +3): This is the first time I have ranked Cleveland outside of the bottom fourth of the rankings all season. So...um...congrats, I guess.
- Titans (4-8, -2): Quick--name me one interesting thing about this team. Trick question!
- Chargers (4-8, -1): It isn't officially a Chargers game until the game-clinching Philip Rivers turnover.
- Panthers (3-9, -1): They had to play in incredibly tough circumstances in Kansas City, but that still doesn't excuse their defense allowing 27 points to the worst offense in football.
- Cardinals (4-8, NC): Remember when I awarded Jets fans the worst quarterback controversy of all time? Yeah, we might have to have co-champions in that category.
- Jaguars (2-10, NC): So...that lethal Chad Henne to Justin Blackmon combination might not be the sure thing it looked like for the past couple weeks.
- Eagles (3-9, +1): At least Bryce Brown looks promising. When he holds onto the ball.
- Chiefs (2-10, +1): Had to move them out of the cellar for winning under the worst conditions imaginable.
- Raiders (3-9, -2): Had to move them to the cellar because they're mailing it in more than FedEx and UPS combined this December.