Projecting the playoff teams in each conference, and then ranking them heading into Week 12
1. Baltimore (8-2)
This is a pretty big jump, but they’ve been so impressive in the past four games and beat the Patriots … the Ravens are the best team in football right now.
This week: at L.A. Rams (6-4). Last week’s ranking: 5.
2. New England (9-1)
The offense is so completely out of sync right now that it needed a Julian Edelman TD pass to beat an injury-plagued Eagles team.
This week: versus Dallas (6-4). Last week’s ranking: 1.
3. San Francisco (9-1)
The proving ground starts now with Packers (off a bye), Ravens and Saints up next. Tough closing slate leaves 11-5 a distinct possibility.
This week: versus Packers. Last week’s ranking: 2.
4. New Orleans (8-2)
The most underrated superstar in the league is Michael Thomas, who became the first WR in NFL history to post 90-plus receptions in the first 10 games.
This week: versus Panthers (5-5). Last week’s ranking: 3.
5. Green Bay (8-2)
This will be a family battle as Packers coach Matt LaFleur is a Kyle Shanahan disciple. The 49ers denied Packers a chance to hire Matt’s brother Mike in the offseason.
This week: at San Francisco (9-1). Last week’s ranking: 4.
6. Seattle (8-2)
After two wins in overtime, it was a good time for the Seahawks to have a bye. A visit to Philadelphia for a 1 p.m. start will not be easy.
This week: at Eagles (5-5). Last week’s ranking: 6.
7. Minnesota (7-3)
That was one ugly victory over the listless Broncos, but the Vikings are sneaky good overall and could be a tough postseason out.
This week: Bye. Last week’s ranking: 9.
8. Kansas City (7-4)
The Chiefs haven’t played a good game in weeks, so having a bye before the AFC West showdown with the Raiders is fortuitous.
This week: Bye. Last week’s ranking: 7.
9. Houston (6-4)
Losing 41-7 after your bye week is about as embarrassing as it gets. A home loss to the Colts would make a path to the playoffs very narrow.
This week: versus Colts (6-4), Thursday night. Last week’s ranking: 8.
10. Dallas (6-4)
The last time Jason Garrett visited Gillette Stadium in 2011, he got conservative and watched Tom Brady drive 80 yards for winning score. Hope he learned his lesson.
This week: at New England (9-1). Last week’s ranking: 10.
11. Raiders (6-4)
The trap game of all trap games — a young, West Coast team on a three-game winning streak playing at 10 a.m. PT on the East Coast against a losing team. Jon Gruden needs to work all his motivational magic. Knock on wood if you’re with me.
This week: at Jets (3-7). Last week’s ranking: 11.
12. Buffalo (7-3)
The Allen QB Bowl between Josh Allen and Brandon Allen could set the modern passing game back 20 years. Watch for errant footballs.
This week: versus Denver (3-7). Last week’s ranking: 12.
Dropped out: None.
Knocking on the door: Colts (6-4), Rams (6-4), Eagles (5-5), Panthers (5-5), Titans (5-5).