Tennessee vs. Detroit. Dallas vs. Seattle. These were the two daytime games on Thanksgiving this year, and both games were built to stink. Dallas vs. Seattle might be forgivable — when the schedule was being penned, nobody could’ve known Seattle would be this bad — but there’s simply no excuse for giving the perennially awful Lions such a marquee game. And the night game, Arizona vs. Philadelphia, which was the day’s only game with competitive promise, was on the NFL Network, which means that most fans couldn’t see it. The point? The NFL seems to refuse to give us much to be thankful for when the Thanksgiving holiday rolls around. Here’s hoping December has something better in store.
1. New York Giants 11—1 (1)
2. Tennessee Titans 11—1 (2)
The Titans have a defense that few offenses are ready to deal with. But they have an offense that simply manages to get the job done. Will that offense be able to continue getting the job done as tougher late- and post-season opponents pounce? That’s the critical question in Tennessee.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers 9—3 (3)
There were plenty of “experts” picking against the guys from Steeltown, but on a cold Sunday in New England the Steelers — particularly that nasty defense — showed the world that the experts aren’t always right.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9—3 (4)
The win was slim (23–20 over the Saints on Sunday), but at this late stage of the season, victories over division rivals indicate staying power — and the Bucs seem here to stay.
5. Baltimore Ravens 8—4 (10)
According to the early-season rumors, QB Joe Flacco was going to be the weak spot on this year’s Baltimore squad. Well, on Sunday he went 19/29 for 280 yards, two TDs and not a single turnover. Not bad for a weak spot. And the D is strong as ever. The Ravens/Steelers matchup on Dec. 14 will be this year’s battle for the AFC North.
6. Carolina Panthers 9—3 (8)
7. Dallas Cowboys 8—4 (11)
8. Indianapolis Colts 8—4 (7)
Yes, they won. But they barely knocked off a reeling Browns team in what might’ve been a statement game. This Sunday at home against a truly terrible Cincy team presents another chance to make a very dramatic statement.
9. New York Jets 8—4 (5)
10. New England Patriots 7—5 (6)
Even Tom Brady would’ve had trouble getting away from the hungry Steelers defense that turned up in Foxboro on Sunday. But, I mean, Tom Brady really would’ve helped, too. The Pats may be good enough to find the playoffs, but they’re not poised for a deep post-season run.
11. Atlanta Falcons 8—4 (13)
Atlanta may not win the NFC South. But this is the biggest success story in that division this year — maybe the biggest success story in the entire league.
12. Washington Redskins 7—5 (9)
13. Minnesota Vikings 7—5 (19)
14. Denver Broncos 7—5 (16)
Just when you’re ready to write Jay Cutler and his Broncos off as a mediocre team that’s lucky to be in a really weak division, they go and put Brett Favre and his Jets in their place. This is the NFL in 2008 — nothing is predictable.
15. Arizona Cardinals 7—5 (12)
16. Miami Dolphins 7—5 (17)
17. Philadelphia Eagles 6-
18. New Orleans Saints 6—6 (14)
19. Chicago Bears 6—6 (15)
20. Houston Texans 5—7 (22)
Nobody’s saying the Texans are heading to the Super Bowl, but by manhandling the Jags on Sunday (aided by three Mario Williams sacks) the Texans have proven they no longer occupy the AFC South basement.
21. Green Bay Packers 5—7 (20)
22. Buffalo Bills 6—6 (18)
23. San Francisco 49ers 4—8 (26)
24. San Diego Chargers 4—8 (23)
25. Cleveland Browns 4—8 (24)
26. Jacksonville Jaguars 4—8 (25)
27. Kansas City Chiefs 2—10 (30)
28. Oakland Raiders 3—9 (27)
29. Seattle Seahawks 2—10 (28)
30. Cincinnati Bengals 1—10 (29)
Next steps? Fire every single person on the team, switch to hockey and start fresh.
31. St. Louis Rams 2—10 (31)
32. Detroit Lions 0—12 (32)