As we head into the final week of the 2011 regular season, there is plenty of debate to be had about who the top 10 teams are in the NFL. While not all of the teams below will make it into the postseason, many of them have the top spots in their respective conferences locked up. It’s not all about the standings though and in fact, the AFC South and West are represented by exactly zero teams in this week’s power rankings. Keep reading to see who made the cut and don’t forget to vote in this week’s poll:
#10: Dallas (#10 last week, 8-7): I know that they lost at home to the Eagles last week, but they sort of folded their hand once the Giants’ win over the Jets went final and Tony Romo left with a hand injury. Still a dangerous team as they travel to The Meadowlands for Sunday night’s NFC East Championship Game.
#9: Atlanta (#7, 9-6): The Dirty Birds take a little tumble after their loss to the Saints last night. All they need is a win over the lowly Bucs to clinch a playoff spot or a Chicago loss at Minnesota (not likely). Hopefully they can refocus after being so upset by Drew Brees throwing at the end of the game.
#8: Cincinnati (Unranked, 9-6): The Bengals pop back into the Top 10 this week just in time to host the Ravens in a game that could propel them into the postseason. A win over Baltimore or losses by the Jets and either Oakland or Denver would get one of the very pleasant surprises of 2011 into the playoffs.
#7: Detroit (#8, 10-5): The Lions let out a mighty roar against the Chargers on Sunday and will wrap up the regular season at Green Bay this Sunday. What happens to Detroit six or seven days later on Wild Card Weekend will be far more interesting, though.
#6: Pittsburgh (#6, 11-4): The Steelers took care of business against the Rams and with a win at Cleveland and a Ravens loss at Cincy, they would clinch the AFC North and a first round bye.
#5: Baltimore (#5, 11-4): The Ravens, who swept Pittsburgh this year, control their own destiny heading into Week 17. A win at Cincinnati is all they need to lock up the division and a first-round bye.
#4: San Francisco (#4, 12-3): West Division champs (wow), the 49ers need only a win at St. Louis to clinch a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs (double-wow). One of the great turnaround stories of 2011, it’ll be very interesting to see how they fair in the postseason.
#3: New England (#3, 12-3): Down 17-0 at the half? No problem. We all witnessed it first-hand on Saturday as the Pats clinched a first-round bye against the Fins. A win on Sunday against Buffalo (at home) is all they need to lock down the one-seed in the AFC.
#2: New Orleans (#2, 12-3): Drew Brees got his passing record last night and the Saints once again asserted themselves as one of the two top teams in the NFL. The only thing that should worry them moving forward? Having to play at Lambeau in January.
#1: Green Bay (#1, 14-1): The defending champs will be the #1 seed in the NFC and they bounced back very nicely from their first loss of the season against the Bears. They won’t play another meaningful game until January 14th or 15th, though, so we’ll see if that layoff messes with their brilliant offense.
IN this week: Cincinnati
OUT this week: Houston
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.