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1. New England Patriots (12-3): They wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the AFC and are streaking toward the playoffs with momentum. This week's game against the Bills doesn't have much consequence — unless they just want to troll Buffalo some more. Last week: 1

2. Seattle Seahawks (11-4): After question marks early at midseason, they've turned things around, winning eight of the last nine. With a critical win over the Cardinals, they took control of the NFC playoff race and can get the top seed by beating the Rams. Last week: 4

3. Green Bay Packers (11-4): They handled their business against the Buccaneers and set up a home showdown against the Lions for the NFC North Division title. All signs point to them holding their edge at Lambeau, but stranger things have happened. Last week: 5

4. Dallas Cowboys (11-4): With a blowout win over the Colts, they clinched the NFC East, while eliminating the rival Eagles. Tony Romo is playing at his peak in the most critical time of the season, with 10 TDs in the last three games. Last week: 7

5. Detroit Lions (11-4): Another week, another second-half comeback — it's becoming a regular occurrence in a season of seeming destiny. They're in the playoffs, but the defining game is Sunday at Lambeau Field against the rival Packers. Last week: 8

6. Denver Broncos (11-4): With a late chance to win against the Bengals, Peyton Manning faltered, throwing four interceptions. They still can clinch the No. 2 seed with a win this week against the Raiders. Last week: 2

7. Arizona Cardinals (11-4): A crushing loss to the Seahawks and a quarterback controversy have shaken things up in the desert, as they limp into the playoffs. They'll need to finish strong to avoid flaming out on a promising season. Last week: 3

8. Indianapolis Colts (10-5): An embarrassing performance against the Cowboys raised some red flags as they head toward the playoffs. The defense was shredded and the offense never got going behind Andrew Luck, who had his worst game of the season. Last week: 6

9. Cincinnati Bengals: (10-4-1): They held their home turf and surprised the Broncos, 37-28, to clinch a playoff spot. Sunday's prime-time showdown against the Steelers will decide the AFC North Division title. Last week: 12

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5): They handled their business and now have a showdown for the AFC North Division title against the Bengals in prime time on Sunday night. You can't ask for much more in Steelers country. Last week: 10

11. San Diego Chargers (9-6): With an improbable second-half comeback behind Philip Rivers, they took a 38-35 overtime win over the 49ers. That gave them plenty of momentum and they can clinch the wild card with a win this week. Last week: 15

12. Baltimore Ravens (9-6): A big loss has them on the fringe of the playoff race but they can still work their way in as a wild card with a win over the Browns and some help — well, make that a lot of help. Last week: 11

13. Philadelphia Eagles (9-6): After losing to the Cowboys last week, they dropped a shocker to Washington and with Dallas' win were eliminated from the playoffs, in what turned out to be a stunning nosedive after a hot start to the season. Last week: 9

14. Buffalo Bills (8-7): A crushing loss hurt their playoff chances, but they have something to build on for next season. Sammy Watkins is a player to watch and they'll have to add some more complementary pieces. Last week: 13

15. Houston Texans (8-7): They've dispensed with tradition, as J.J. Watt has been catching touchdowns and now Arian Foster is throwing them. The mix is keeping things fun in Houston, with the playoffs all but gone. Last week: 17

16. Kansas City Chiefs (8-7): They're still in the wild-card hunt but will need plenty of help to make it. To their credit, they stayed in it until the last week of the regular season, but some key losses hurt their chances. Last week: 14

17. Miami Dolphins (8-7): Ryan Tannehill continues to roll and they took a 37-35 win over the Vikings after getting a blocked punt out of the back of the end zone, for a safety. They're out of the playoff hunt, but it's progress, still. Last week: 16

18. Carolina Panthers (6-8-1): How about the way their season has turned? They beat the Browns, 17-13, and face the Falcons for the NFC South Division title. After being left for dead, they're rallying at the right time. Last week: 21

19. Cleveland Browns (7-8): Johnny Manziel was injured and had to leave the game — to some boos from the crowd — but the season still has been pretty good. The rest of the division was just a little bit better. Last week: 18

20. Atlanta Falcons (6-9): They got the win over the Saints and it's hard to imagine that they're still in the division race. They'll face the Panthers for the NFC South title — hey, someone has to win the division, right? Last week: 25

21. San Francisco 49ers (7-8): They could have salvaged some pride with a win over the Chargers, but just made the abyss a lot larger, with a collapse late in their 38-35 overtime loss. There will be plenty of changes in the offseason, especially after this. Last week: 19

22. New Orleans Saints (6-9): With their loss and wins by their rivals, they went from leading the division last week to out of the playoff race within a few hours. A controversial goal-line fumble call against Jeremy Shockey doused their postseason hopes. Last week: 20

23. New York Giants (6-9): There's reason for optimism, after a win over the Rams and with the emergence of Odell Beckham Jr. Still, the running game will need some work and they'll need to start looking to replace Eli Manning at some point. Last week: 24

24. St. Louis Rams (6-9): Despite a highlight-reel blocked field-goal attempt, they didn't get the win. It's back to the drawing board. But with injuries, they've managed to play well and have some optimism next year. Last week: 22

25. Minnesota Vikings (6-9): Despite a loss to the Dolphins on a blocked punt out of the end zone, things are looking up for next year, with some young players getting their feet wet and making key contributions. Last week: 23

26. Chicago Bears (5-10): Following a concussion for Jimmy Clausen, it's back to Jay Cutler in the finale. The loss to the Lions wasn't unexpected, but giving up the lead again probably was. It's going to be a tough winter in the Windy City. Last week: 26

27. Washington (4-11): With not much to play for, they came up with a nice effort behind Robert Griffin III and stunned the Eagles, knocking them out of the playoffs. Who says that teams tank for a higher draft pick? Last week: 28

28. Oakland Raiders (3-12): They're not playing like a team that wants the top pick, beating the Bills and looking like a real NFL team. There are some flashes of goodness, as things are starting to fit into place. Last week: 30

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-12): They finally found a team they could handle, dousing the Titans and getting a good win for the morale. Blake Bortles wasn't great, but is learning what it takes to win in the NFL. Last week: 29

30. New York Jets (3-12): They gave the Patriots a scare, but couldn't come through in a 17-16 loss. They'll likely have a few changes next year, but a top pick in the draft will help with their overhaul. Last week: 27

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-13): They couldn't hang with the Packers and took a 20-3 loss, in another embarrassing loss. Coach Lovie Smith didn't quite plan on a season like this, but they'll continue rebuilding with a top-five draft pick. Last week: 31

32. Tennessee Titans (2-13): If there was a game for the No. 1 draft pick, it was theirs against the Jaguars on Thursday night. Both teams were lackluster, but the Titans proved they were the worse team. Last week: 32

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/detnewsRodBeard

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