Seemed like yesterday that possibility of a Super Bowl featuring two unbeaten teams might come off in South Florida in February.
Oh, well. Forget about Colts-Saints in the battle for 19-0.
First the Saints went down to the Cowboys, and then the Colts lost to ... themselves. Pulling starters after a 15-10 lead over the Jets late in the third quarter, the Colts decided it was better to think about resting starters than going unbeaten and creating their slice of NFL history.
Will karma come back to bite the Colts? We’ll soon find out. In the meantime, the Saints and Vikings are suddenly scuffling down the stretch, while the Iggles, Cowboys and Patriots are hitting their stride heading into the postseason. The Chargers? They’ve been hot all along, having won nine straight after a 2-3 start.
Here’s a look at how they stack up in this week’s NFL Power Rankings:
1. Colts (14-1) (1): Coach Caldwell, what were you thinking?
2. Chargers (12-3) (2): Can we just fast forward to the Chargers-Colts AFC Championship Game?
3. Eagles (11-4) (5): Iggles stay hot and hold off Broncos. Suddenly, they can capture the No. 2 seed with a win over the Cowboys.
4. Cowboys (10-5) (6): Pokes’ December resurgence continues against sagging Redskins. Bigger question is: Do they stay hot in the playoffs?
5. Saints (13-2) (3): After going 13-0, Saints turn back into Aints with losses to Cowboys and then Bucs at home.
6. Patriots (10-5) (7): Pats have quietly regained their confidence – and swagger – down the stretch.
7. Vikings (11-4) (4): Thrilling comeback by Brett Favre not enough against upset-minded Bears. Vikes have now lost three of their last four.
8. Bengals (10-5) (8): Bengals clinch AFC North title with win over Chiefs. They’ll likely limit play of key starters against Jets in advance of the playoffs.
9. Packers (10-5) (9): Pack drubs hapless Seahawks to clinch playoff bid. Could another Aaron Rodgers-Favre showdown be in the works in the playoffs?
10. Cardinals (10-5) (10): Cardinals still alive for the No. 2 seed after drubbing Rams at home.
11. Steelers (8-7) (15): Thrilling home win over Ravens keeps Stillers barely alive in the wild card race.
12. Jets (8-7) (16) Colts decide to pull starters in third quarter, and Jets respond immediately by pummeling rookie QB Curtis Painter and keeping their playoff hopes alive. Win and they’re in.
13. Broncos (8-7) (11): Is a second straight late-season meltdown about to happen?
14. Ravens (8-7) (14): Ravens fail to clinch a playoff berth with loss at Pitt.
15. Texans (8-7) (21): Texans keep their playoff hopes barely alive with big effort in Miami.
16. Dolphins (7-8) (17): Dolphins put on awful first-half showing against Texans. Too little, too late in second half comeback that falls short.
17. Titans (7-8) (13): Titans’ unlikely playoff push finally dies at the hands of the Chargers. Still, not bad after an 0-6 start.
18. Falcons (8-7) (18): Falcons still playing hard for Mike Smith; they rout the Bills at home.
19. Panthers (7-8) (20): Back-to-back wins convince team owner Jerry Richardson to bring John Fox back for at least one more season.
20. Giants (8-7) (12): Final game at Giants Stadium a nightmare blowout loss to the Panthers. Easily the most disappointing team of the season.
21. Jaguars (7-8) (19): Jags continue erratic play on the road, can’t keep up in New England and now they need help to get into the tournament. Doesn’t look good.
22. 49ers (7-8) (22): Niners still playing hard even through they were eliminated last week.
23. Bears (6-9) (27): Terrific effort by Jay Cutler and the Bears. Just one question: Where was that all season?
24. Browns (4-11) (25): Is late-season surge enough to save Eric Mangini’s job? New team president Mike Holmgren isn’t so sure.
25. Raiders (5-10) (23): Only highlight in loss to Cleveland was 61-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski. Whoop-de-do.
26. Buccaneers (3-12) (29): Raheem Morris may be out after the season, but not before coming up with a stunning upset in New Orleans.
27. Bills (5-10) (24): Bills going out with a whimper. A new coach will be hired within a few weeks.
28. Redskins (4-11) (26): Only a matter of time before Mike Shanahan takes over?
29. Seahawks (5-10) (28): The nightmare season continues for Jim Mora Jr. with another blowout loss, this one in Green Bay.
30. Chiefs (3-12) (30): Can Charlie Weis save the offense? The Chiefs will make a call … if the Bills haven’t hired Weis as head coach before then.
31. Lions (2-13) (31): Life is as it always is in Detroit: It’s about next year.
32. Rams (1-14) (32): And with the first pick of the 2010 draft, the Rams select ….