Week 12 of NFL Football officially ended with the Baltimore Ravens sending the New Orleans Saints to a third straight loss by way of a 34-27 win in New Orleans. Earlier in the evening, the Buffalo Bills stomped the New York Jets 38-3, in a game played in Detroit due to inclement weather in Buffalo.
In the AFC, 11 teams have realistic playoff dreams. In the NFC, nine teams are in the hunt.
Injuries – QB Ryan Mallett (HOU) is out for the season, after suffering a torn pectoral muscle. S Eric Berry (KC) is out for the season for non-injury related reasons, after doctors discovered a mass in his chest, which is feared to be lymphoma.
As the NFL season winds down, here is a look at the Week 12 Top 20 NFL Power Rankings:
1) New England Patriots (9-2): Seven straight wins, and showing no signs of slowing down. Solved their run game deficiency by signing LeGarrette Blount the day after the Pittsburgh Steelers released him. The next week, he runs for 78 yards and two TD’s. Last three games were wins over Denver, Indianapolis, and Detroit, by a combined score of 119-50.
2) Seattle Seahawks (7-4): Coming off a big win over division rival Arizona, in a must-win game. It isn’t always pretty, but when the chips are down, there is no tougher team than Seattle. In fact, looking at how many key pieces they lost this season, their record is amazing.
3) Denver Broncos (8-3): It looked pretty bad when they only rushed for 26 yards while scoring just seven points in loss to the Rams, and then C.J. Anderson comes out of nowhere to rush for 167 yards vs Miami. The run game is key to any future success for the Broncos.
4) Arizona Cardinals (9-2): Not only is Carson Palmer out, but now WR Larry Fitzgerald has a nagging injury as well. The Cards have passed virtually every test this season. It will not get any easier, they have Atlanta this week, then the Chiefs, and then three divsion games after that.
5) Green Bay Packers (8-3): Aaron Rodgers is the best QB in the NFL, but the key to success, is the running of Eddie Lacy. Winners of three straight, this week’s game vs New England, is the NFL’s marquee matchup. Packers are playing excellent football. This weekend’s game vs New England, should be electric.
6) Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4): There may be an upside to the injury problems. Ike Taylor has been out since a forearm fracture of Sep. 21, Troy Polamalu was injured in Week 9. Both look ready to return very soon. This could lead to a couple of key veterans being much fresher down the stretch. First things first, they’ve got to beat New Orleans this weekend.
7) Dallas Cowboys (8-3): It appears there is just no stopping RB DeMarco Murray. As long as Murray keeps running the ball effectively, it will set up the passing game, and take the pressure off QB Tony Romo. If Murray goes south, so too will this team. Big Turkey day game vs Philly is coming up. On Turkey day, they play an Eagles team which has never lost a Thanksgiving day game. It should be fun.
8) Indianapolis Colts (7-4): The loss of RB Ahmad Bradshaw (ankle) may be a bit much to overcome, unless Trent Richardson can finally begin to live up to the hype. QB Andrew Luck is a warrior, but there are questions when it comes to the overall talent on the roster. That said, the Colts are still pretty hard to beat.
9) Baltimore Ravens (7-4): Justin Forsett ran for 182 yards and two TD’s on Monday night win over New Orleans. That kind of power running, coupled with the inspired play of WR Steve Smith, Sr., and stout defense, could carry them far. Forsett is averaging 5.8 yards per carry – best in the NFL. San Diego and Miami await, in the next two weeks.
10) Detroit Lions (7-4): After having scored nary a TD in the last two games, the Lions face the slumping Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving day. If Detroit loses the Turkey day game, they may not be able to psychologically pull out of the tailspin. This would not be the first time the Lions have faded down the stretch.
The rest of the pack: 11-Kansas City, 12-Philadelphia, 13- Miami, 14- Cleveland, 15- San Diego, 16- San Francisco, 17- Cincinnati, 18- Buffalo, 19- Houston, 20- St Louis