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1. New England Patriots (11-3): After leading the Dolphins by one at halftime, they dominated the second half and took a 41-13 win, to take the AFC East title. Finishing against the Jets and Bills, they can sew up home-field advantage. Last week: 2

2. Denver Broncos (11-3): With an injured Peyton Manning, they managed to douse the Chargers, 22-10, and clinch the AFC West title. They'll have another big test against the Bengals this week before finishing with the Raiders. Last week: 3

3. Arizona Cardinals (11-3): After a huge road win over the Rams, they are in the driver's seat to get the top seat in the NFC playoffs. Drew Stanton is out and Ryan Lindley will have to get touchdowns instead of field goals this week against Seattle. Last week: 4

4. Seattle Seahawks (10-4): After a 3-3 start, they've won seven of eight and crept back into the playoff picture. They can make things interesting with a win over the Cardinals this week before finishing against the Rams. Last week: 5

5. Green Bay Packers (10-4): Their 21-13 loss to the Bills makes the North Division race and the NFC playoff picture much tighter. They'll have an easier time with the Buccaneers but the finale against the Lions could loom large in sorting things out. Last week: 1

6. Indianapolis Colts (10-4): With four straight wins, they claimed the AFC South title and are in the race for a first-round bye. This week's showdown at Dallas will be key for playoff positioning in both conferences. Last week: 6

7. Dallas Cowboys (10-4): In their biggest game of the season, they beat the Eagles, 38-27, on the road. Tony Romo continued his late-season surge, with 3 TD passes to Dez Bryant. They lead the division but have a tough one against the Colts this week. Last week: 8

8. Detroit Lions (10-4): For the umpteenth time this year, they erased an early deficit and rallied for a win. The offense continues its roller-coaster ride but the defense is carrying the team to the cusp of the playoffs, with the Bears and Packers looming. Last week: 9

9. Philadelphia Eagles (9-5): The 38-27 home loss to the Cowboys is a setback in the division race but they'll have to regroup quickly. The last two games, at Washington and at the Giants, are winnable. Last week: 7

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5): With a 27-20 win over the Falcons, the AFC North is theirs for the taking, if they can win their last two games. Beating the Chiefs and the finale against the Bengals will be tough but is within their reach. Last week: 10

11. Baltimore Ravens (9-5): They toughed out a 20-12 win over the Jaguars and kept themselves in the thick of the wild-card race. They've won four of five and have a favorable schedule, finishing at Houston and versus Cleveland. Last week: 11

12. Cincinnati Bengals: (9-4-1): They dominated the Browns, 30-0, and set up a tough finish with games against Denver and Pittsburgh, with the division title on the line. Jeremy Hill led the way with 148 yards and 2 TDs. Last week: 12

13. Buffalo Bills (8-6): The defense stifled the Packers, 21-13, and kept them in the middle of the AFC playoff chase. They're a game out of the wild card and need plenty of help but they can take a big step with a win at the Raiders this week. Last week: 16

14. Kansas City Chiefs (8-6): A 31-13 victory over the Raiders kept them just a game behind in the wild-card race. Alex Smith (297 yards, 2 TDs) had a big third quarter to help them pull away. Last week: 17

15. San Diego Chargers (8-6): The 22-10 loss to the Broncos has them out of the playoff picture this week. But with wins in the final two games, at San Francisco and at Kansas City, they could still hang around. Last week: 13

16. Miami Dolphins (7-7): Ryan Tannehill (346 yards) was good but two interceptions hurt the comeback effort after the Patriots rallied in the second half. The playoffs are out of reach, but they still want to finish above .500. Last week: 14

17. Houston Texans (7-7): With the injury to QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, they'll have to lean on Tom Savage for the final two games. Arian Foster continued his good play with 99 yards rushing in a 17-10 loss to the Colts. Last week: 15

18. Cleveland Browns (7-7): That whole Johnny Manziel experiment went bad — historically bad — as he went 10-of-18 for 80 yards and two INTs, with a 1.0 QBR. They're out of the playoff race so giving Manziel a look isn't the worst idea. Last week: 18

19. San Francisco 49ers (7-7): After a 17-7 loss to the Seahawks, the clock is ticking on coach Jim Harbaugh and QB Colin Kaepernick has been disappointing. They're out of the playoffs and things will look much different next year. Last week: 19

20. New Orleans Saints (6-8): They're back in the playoff race, taking the division lead with a 31-15 win over the Bears. If they can keep the mojo going in the last two games, against the Falcons and Buccaneers, they can sew things up. Last week: 25

21. Carolina Panthers (5-8-1): With Derek Anderson (277 yards, TD) taking over for the injured Cam Newton, they showed signs of life in the win over the Bucs. Now, they'll have to finish against the Browns and Falcons. Last week: 23

22. St. Louis Rams (6-8): No running game and no passing game led to a defensive struggle in a surprising 12-6 loss at home to the Cardinals. It's been a good building year, as next year could show some promise. Last week: 20

23. Minnesota Vikings (6-8): Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater (315 yards, TD) continues to improve, but had two ill-timed interceptions in the 16-14 loss to the Lions, ending their two-game win streak. Last week: 21

24. New York Giants (5-9): Coming off a seven-game skid, they've won two straight, behind Odell Beckham Jr. (12 catches, 143 yards, 3 TDs) in a 24-13 win over Washington. They finish at the Rams and home vs. the Eagles. Last week: 26

25. Atlanta Falcons (5-9): A loss to the Steelers hurt their chances in the division race but Matt Ryan (310 yards, 2 TDs) kept them close. With the Saints and Panthers in the final two games, they aren't out of the playoff hunt just yet. Last week: 22

26. Chicago Bears (5-9): After an embarrassing loss to the Saints on Monday, the future looks cloudy for Jay Cutler. Without Brandon Marshall, the offense was lost and he threw three interceptions and was sacked seven times. Last week: 24

27. New York Jets (3-11): While other teams are pushing for the playoffs, their 16-11 win over the Titans was big in the race for the No. 1 draft pick. Geno Smith didn't have any turnovers and Chris Ivory had the go-ahead TD with three minutes left. Last week: 31

28. Washington (3-11): It's back to RGIII in the back-and-forth QB shuffle but the change didn't matter in the 24-13 loss to the Giants. They've lost six straight but will determine the division champ, finishing with the Eagles and Cowboys Last week: 27

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12): They've had a much better second half of the season, leading in several of their games. Against the Ravens, they were up, 12-10, at halftime but couldn't score in the final 30 minutes. Last week: 29

30. Oakland Raiders (2-12): The alternating wins and losses continued, with a 31-13 loss to the Chiefs. They finish against Buffalo and at Denver, so the race for the No. 1 draft pick is on. Last week: 28

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-12): The offensive struggles continued, with Josh McCown throwing for 154 yards but losing two fumbles and they lost their eighth in the last nine. Doug Martin improved, rushing for 96 yards in the loss to the Panthers. Last week: 30

32. Tennessee Titans (2-12): They struggled against the Jets, falling in the NFL's first-ever 16-11 final. Nate Washington had 102 receiving yards and Delanie Walker 93 but the season can't end quickly enough. Last week: 32

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter.com/detnewsRodBeard

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