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1. Green Bay Packers (9-3): This is a long way from the 1-2 start and needless worry by Packers fans. Aaron Rodgers had another masterful performance (368 yards, two touchdowns) in a 26-21 showdown win over the Patriots. Last week: 4

2. New England Patriots (9-3): Without a dominant running game, they struggled against the Packers and lost the first meeting between Tom Brady and Rodgers. They still have the best record in the AFC, but things are getting interesting. Last week: 1

3. Denver Broncos (9-3): With a big road win over the Chiefs, they stayed in contention for the top seed in the AFC. Without Julius Thomas, they were still effective and the defense came up with some big stops to preserve the victory. Last week: 5

4. Philadelphia Eagles (9-3): They played one of their best games of the season in a nice road win over the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Mark Sanchez continues to guide the ship and LeSean McCoy (159 yards, touchdown) was a force in the backfield. Last week: 6

5. Arizona Cardinals (9-3): The race in the NFC West took an interesting twist with the Cardinals' 29-18 road loss to the Falcons and the Seahawks' win. The last four weeks have some critical games and two straight losses have them trending down. Last week: 2

6. Seattle Seahawks (8-4): After topping the Cardinals last week, they got another impressive win, over the 49ers. Their next three games, at the Eagles, versus the 49ers and at Arizona, will play a big part in determining the NFC playoff seeding. Last week: 7

7. Indianapolis Colts (8-4): Andrew Luck continues to bolster his MVP campaign, with 370 yards and five touchdowns in a dominating win over Washington. Donte Moncrief (134 yards) and Coby Fleener (127 yards) each topped the century mark in receiving. Last week: 9

8. Dallas Cowboys (8-4): They missed a chance to take a step forward in the playoff race and are on the outside looking in after the loss to the Eagles. They've lost three of the last five but can bounce back versus the Bears. Last week: 3

9. Detroit Lions (8-4): After a crucial win over the Bears, there's optimism about the offensive production. Matthew Stafford (390 yards) had his best game of the season, hitting Calvin Johnson (146 yards) for a pair of touchdowns. Last week: 11

10. Cincinnati Bengals: (8-3-1): They created some space in the AFC North with a win over the Buccaneers and losses by the rest of the division. They control their playoff destiny with two games against the Steelers, one at the Browns and hosting the Broncos. Last week: 10

11. San Diego Chargers (8-4): Philip Rivers led the winning drive and they scored the go-ahead touchdown with 38 seconds left to shock the Ravens and climb into playoff position. Rivers finished with 383 yards and 3 touchdowns. Last week: 12

12. San Francisco 49ers (7-5): Their playoff hopes took a jolt with a 19-3 loss at home to the Seahawks. After the Raiders this week, the schedule is unforgiving: at Seattle, versus San Diego and versus Arizona. They hold their slim chances in their hands. Last week: 8

13. Miami Dolphins (7-5): They mounted a second-half comeback and downed the Jets, 16-13. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill showed some patience and growth but didn't have a great game. The win kept them in playoff position, with a tiebreaker over the Chiefs. Last week: 17

14. Baltimore Ravens (7-5): They looked to be in control with a six-point lead in the final minutes, but the defense couldn't get a stop and the Chargers took a 34-33 win, putting a dent in the Ravens' playoff hopes. Last week: 15

15. Buffalo Bills (7-5): In a critical playoff-type matchup at home against the Browns, they pulled out a 26-10 win and stayed in the postseason hunt. Kyle Orton had two interceptions, but the defense stifled Browns QB Brian Hoyer. Last week: 18

16. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5): The score looked close, but the Saints were in control throughout the 35-32 loss. They'll face the division-leading Bengals twice in the last four weeks, keeping their playoff hopes in good shape. Last week: 13

17. Kansas City Chiefs (7-5): After a crushing loss to the Raiders last week, they followed it up with a home loss to the Bengals. Somehow, they're still in the AFC playoff race but will need to pull out of it this week against the Cardinals. Last week: 14

18. Cleveland Browns (7-5): Their playoff aspirations took a hit with a loss to the emerging Bills. After losing two of three, it gets no easier this week, facing the Colts, with their self-created QB controversy with Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel. Last week: 16

19. Houston Texans (6-6): Arian Foster returned with 105 total yards and a touchdown and kept the slim playoff hopes alive. They still have the Jaguars twice on the schedule, so anything's possible. Last week: 20

20. Atlanta Falcons (5-7): They seemed to show interest in winning the NFC South, taking a 29-18 win over the Cardinals, winning their third in the last four games. Their next three games are tough, starting at Green Bay this week. Last week: 23

21. New Orleans Saints (5-7): Following three straight losses, they bounced back with a surprising 35-32 win at Pittsburgh. They have a favorable last four games, with three against division foes and the other against the Bears. Last week: 22

22. St. Louis Rams (5-7): A 52-0 drubbing of the Raiders continued their string of alternating wins and losses over the last eight games. Facing Washington this week, they have a chance to get to .500, with an upset or two. Last week: 21

23. Minnesota Vikings (5-7): They ended their two-game skid with a 31-13 win over the struggling Panthers. With two blocked punts, special teams were critical and Teddy Bridgewater had a pair of touchdown passes. Last week: 25

24. Chicago Bears (5-7): After taking a 14-3 lead over the Lions in the first quarter, they couldn't hold on to try to squeeze their way into the playoff conversation. The defense is battered, but the offense has too many pieces to be inept. Last week: 19

25. Carolina Panthers (3-8-1): Following a 31-13 loss to the Vikings, they're guaranteed a losing record after a promising start to the season. Quarterback Cam Newton is a shell of himself and they'll look for some positives in the last four games. Last week: 24

26. Washington (3-9): Switching from Robert Griffin III to Colt McCoy didn't make much of a difference, as they lost to the Colts, 49-27. Their four-game skid is putting them in good draft position, though — for a quarterback? Last week: 28

27. New York Giants (3-9): There isn't much room to drop the Giants, who have lost seven straight after giving up the go-ahead field goal to the Jaguars in the final minute. Coach Tom Coughlin's days are numbered. Last week: 26

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-10): They stayed with the Bengals in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to one, but couldn't muster anything else in a 14-13 loss at home. There's still not enough offense, but a good draft pick will help. Last week: 27

29. Tennessee Titans (2-10): Digging into a 24-0 hole in the first half was too much to overcome, as they lost to the Texans in a 45-21 laugher. The bright spot was Kendall Wright, who had seven catches for 132 yards and a touchdown. Last week: 29

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10): They didn't look like a team playing for the No. 1 draft pick, surprising the Giants, 25-24, in the final minute, overcoming a 21-3 deficit. Blake Bortles had 194 yards passing (and no interceptions and 68 rushing yards). Last week: 32

31. New York Jets (2-10): For most of the game, they were in control but made a critical mistake that allowed the Dolphins to score a fourth-quarter touchdown and a go-ahead field goal in the final minutes. Last week: 31

32. Oakland Raiders (1-11): Of course, the win last week was just a facade. They started a new losing streak with a new low, a 52-0 loss at St. Louis. The good news is that there are only four more weeks left in the season. Last week: 30

rod.beard@detroitnews.com

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