Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers celebrates after defeating the...

Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers celebrates after defeating the Washington Redskins 44-16 at Bank of America Stadium on November 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Credit: Getty Images / Streeter Lecka

1. PATRIOTS (10-0) (1): The Patriots are unbeaten, but beaten up, and that could prove to be their eventual undoing. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady get the best of Rex Ryan - again - as the Patriots grind it out Monday night. But the injuries are piling up, and you have to wonder if the attrition rate will catch up to them. The good news: New England's defense has been absolutely brilliant, with Belichick doing some of the finest work of his career with this underappreciated group.

2. PANTHERS (10-0) (2): Five more touchdown passes for the ever-improving Cam Newton, and more proof the Panthers are worthy of Super Bowl discussion. The road to San Francisco will likely go through Carolina.

3. CARDINALS (8-2) (3): Carson Palmer overcomes some early nerves against his former Bengals team and unloads on Cincinnati. Palmer is enjoying his best season yet, and the Cardinals have legitimate hope of making a championship run.

4. PACKERS (7-3) (8): Aaron Rodgers finally looks like himself after three uncharacteristic losses and some shaky play as the Packers retake the NFC North lead with a fine road win at Minnesota.

5. BENGALS (8-2) (5): Andy Dalton puts up a good fight against the Cardinals, but it's Cincy's defense, particularly the injury ravaged secondary that can't get the job done. That's two straight losses and some newfound concern about winning the AFC North with the Steelers only two games back.

6. BRONCOS (8-2) (6): Brock Osweiler celebrates his 25th birthday by winning his first NFL start. Now the question becomes: If Osweiler plays well in Peyton Manning's injury-related absence, does Manning get back into the lineup?

7. VIKINGS (7-3): Mike Zimmer's defense has been mostly excellent this season, but not against a determined Aaron Rodgers and a Packers team in must-win mode following a three-game losing streak.

8. STEELERS (6-4) (7): The Steelers come of the bye week to face the Seahawks on the road.

9. SEAHAWKS (5-5) (9): Seattle gets the win over the 49ers to stay alive in the NFC playoff chase. It's still not perfect, and now with Marshawn Lynch facing potential surgery to repair an abdominal problem, the uncertainty continues.

10. BILLS (5-5) (11): Same old, same old for Rex Ryan against nemesis Bill Belichick: good, just not good enough. The Bills mostly shut down Tom Brady, but it's not enough against a resourceful Patriots team on the road.

11. CHIEFS (5-5) (16): That's four straight wins for a Chiefs team that is without its best playmaker in Jamaal Charles but is using resourceful play on offense from his understudies and a resurgent defense that has been brilliant of late.

12. GIANTS (5-5) (15): The Giants didn't even play, and their NFC East standing still improved thanks to losses by Washington and Philadelphia. They can take another huge step forward with a win on Sunday in Washington.

13. BUCCANEERS (5-5) (19): As a kid, Jameis Winston always wanted to be like Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham. Too bad for the Eagles that Winston was a younger, better version of Cunningham as he throws five touchdown passes and demolishes his one-time favorite team.

14. TEXANS (5-5) (22): T.J. Yates, ladies and gentlemen. Just a few weeks ago, he was sitting home wondering if he'd ever get another chance to play in the NFL. He's now a winner of two straight to keep the Texans in the AFC South race. But it's back to the bench for Yates now that Brian Hoyer has recovered from a concussion.

15. COLTS (5-5) (23): Matt Hasselbeck wins his third straight start in relief of the injured Andrew Luck as the Colts do just enough to beat Atlanta on the road.

16. FALCONS (6-4) (10): The Falcons' plummet continues as Matt Ryan giftwraps a pick-six that leads to Atlanta's fourth loss in its last five games. The Falcons still are in decent shape record-wise for the wild card race, but their margin of error is starting to disappear.

17. RAIDERS (4-6) (12): So much for that promising mid-season surge. The Raiders lose again, this time at Detroit, and take a significant step back in the playoff chase.

18. JETS (5-5) (14): So much for that 4-1 start. The Jets are a mess on both sides of the ball, and it's anyone's guess when - or even if - they'll pull out of his 1-4 tailspin.

19. EAGLES (4-6) (13): The Eagles take a beating at home against Tampa Bay, and Chip Kelly's second-guessers are out in full force. In his first season with full authority over the entire football operation, the results leave much to be desired.

20. BEARS (4-6) (17): John Fox generally plays it safe but decided to go for it on fourth-and-goal against his old Denver team. The move backfired, and it cost the Bears a shot at the win.

21. COWBOYS (3-7) (27): It's Tony Romo to the rescue, and just in the nick of time. As woeful as the record remains after a solid win in Miami after Romo gets back from a broken collarbone, the Cowboys are just two games off the NFC East lead with six to play.

22. REDSKINS (4-6) (18): After a miserable showing in a 44-16 loss to the Panthers, they're now a miserable 1-18 in their last 19 road games.

23. SAINTS (4-6) (20): After a bye-week firing of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, the Saints are back in action against the Texans under new coordinator Dennis Allen.

24. DOLPHINS (4-6) (21): Miami caught the slumping Cowboys at just the wrong time. With Tony Romo back in the lineup for Dallas, the listless Dolphins came up small in a 24-14 loss.

25. RAVENS (3-7) (25): Joe Flacco somehow puts together the game-winning drive despite a torn ACL, and the Ravens beat the Rams at the buzzer on Justin Tucker's 47-yard field goal. It's Matt Schaub the rest of the way for Baltimore.

26. RAMS (4-6) (24): Rookie tailback Todd Gurley is ordinary, and so is recently-named starter Case Keenum as the Rams lose in Baltimore.

27. JAGUARS (4-6) (29): The confidence is starting to show with a young Jaguars team. The latest evidence: a solid down-to-the-wire win over the Titans on Thursday night.

28. LIONS (3-7) (31): With a home win over the Raiders, the Lions have now won two straight after team owner Martha Ford told Lions fans they deserved better.

29. 49ERS (3-7) (26): Hey, Blaine Gabbert, welcome to Colin Kaepernick's world: a loss to the Seahawks, something Kaepernick, who is done for the year and perhaps for good in San Francisco, knows all too well.

30. TITANS (2-8) (28): Marcus Mariota can't solve the Jaguars' defense, and the Titans rookie is beaten by Blake Bortles on the road. Next up: home to the Raiders.

31. CHARGERS (2-8) (30): The ugliness continues in what could be the Chargers' last season in San Diego. A 33-3 home loss to the AFC West rival Chiefs is about as low as you can go.

32. BROWNS (2-8) (32): The dumpster fire that is Johnny Manziel's career rages on. The second-year quarterback was told last week he'd get a chance for the rest of the season to show what he's got for next year. But after a video surfaced on Monday in which Manziel was shown partying over the weekend in Texas, coach Mike Pettine says he might change his mind.

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