Projecting the teams most deserving of the playoffs, then ranking them heading into Week 14.
1. Baltimore (10-2): No breather here after 49ers win as the Bills feature a disciplined and fast defense, and crazy home fans. This game won’t be easy.
This week: at Buffalo (9-3). Last week’s ranking: 1.
2. San Francisco (10-2): 49ers finish their brutal stretch of facing three division leaders (Packers, Ravens) with a trip to the noisy Superdome.
This week: at New Orleans (10-2). Last week’s ranking: 3.
3. New Orleans (10-2): Jimmy Garoppolo beware — superlative Saints DE Cameron Jordan set a franchise record with four sacks last week vs. Falcons.
This week: vs. San Francisco (10-2). Last week’s ranking: 4.
4. Seattle (10-2): Russell Wilson carves up the Rams — had four touchdowns and a 151.8 rating in Week 5 win, the Seahawks’ third straight vs. Los Angeles.
This week: at Rams (7-5). Last week’s ranking: 6.
5. New England (10-2): If the Chiefs’ man coverage against the Raiders was any indication, Patriots’ struggling passing offense won’t fare much better this week.
This week: vs. Kansas City (8-4). Last week’s ranking: 2.
6. Houston (8-4): The Texans’ defense was night-and-day better with Justin Reid, Lonnie Johnson and Bradley Roby recovered from injuries. This team might be better than we think.
This week: vs. Denver (4-8). Last week’s ranking: 9.
7. Green Bay (9-3): After having an easy time against the Giants, Packers continue their tour of the NFC Least with the Redskins.
This week: vs. Washington (3-9). Last week’s ranking: 5.
8. Minnesota (8-4): Kirk Cousins dueled Russell Wilson for much of Monday night, but the continued shortcomings late in big games by the Vikings QB has to be a concern.
This week: vs. Detroit (3-8-1). Last week’s ranking: 7.
9. Kansas City (8-4): The defense is coming alive with eight turnovers in the past three games, but the offense, which has scored just 17 off them, might be the bigger concern. Hard to believe.
This week: at New England (10-2). Last week’s ranking: 8.
10. Buffalo (9-3): Don’t overrate the victory over the struggling Cowboys. The referendum on the Bills starts this week with the Ravens.
This week: vs. Baltimore (10-2). Last week’s ranking: 12.
11. Tennessee (7-5): Who would have thought before the season that a Titans-Raiders matchup would have major AFC playoff implications? It’s Ryan Tannehill mania.
This week: at Oakland (6-6). Last week’s ranking: Not ranked.
12. Dallas (6-6): Does anyone want to win the NFC East? Cowboys are bottoming out, but the Eagles are worse. We’ll see if Dallas can finally put it together.
This week: at Chicago (6-6), Thursday. Last week’s ranking: 10.
Dropped out: Oakland (6-6).
Knocking on the door: Pittsburgh (7-5), Indianapolis (6-6), L.A. Rams (7-5), Philadelphia (5-7).