A lot has changed in this league over the last decade or so, but one thing remains the same: Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are constantly in contention in December. And while Manning is in a new home now, that's again the case this year. You could argue that despite some serious concerns Brady's Patriots and Manning's Broncos are in prime positions to meet in the playoffs in what could be one last epic battle between the two future Hall of Famers. Combined, their teams have won 13 straight games and are continuing to charge up this list.
1. Houston Texans (11-1, 2nd last week): Final test will be tough for a team I'm still not that confident in. They play 8-4 Indy twice as well as 9-3 New England.
2. Atlanta Falcons (11-1, 3rd last week): Lots of takeaways and Michael Turner got back on track against New Orleans. Now can they keep it rolling? Virtual lock for the No. 1 seed, but in January it's a whole new ballgame.
3. San Francisco 49ers (8-3-1, 1st last week): They'd better hope the Rams don't sneak into a playoff spot and land match up with them on wild-card weekend.
4. New England Patriots (9-3, 5th last week): Gronkowski-less offense came back to earth a little in Miami, but another division title is wrapped up. Now can they get the bye without their stud tight end?
5. Denver Broncos (9-3, 6th last week): The hottest team in the NFL has to beat Baltimore on the road in Week 15 to edge out Houston on this list.
6. Baltimore Ravens (9-3, 4th last week): That's a terrible loss to Charlie Batch and the Steelers at home. This team concerns me. Are they overrated?
7. Green Bay Packers (8-4, 9th last week): Looks like the loss to the Giants was a blip on the radar. They should finish with four straight wins and win the NFC North again.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (7-5, 11th last week): Quietly winners of four straight, and maybe even a shot at winning the AFC North still.
9. Washington Redskins (6-6, 13th last week): I really think they might actually win this division now. And could RG3 be the MVP?
10. New York Giants (7-5, 8th last week): Starting to prove just how hard it is to win back-to-back Super Bowls.
11. Indianapolis Colts (8-4, 12th last week): Magic again, this time in Detroit. Love this team's knack for winning, but not expecting to see it in January. Right attitude going forward, though. Quick rebuild in Indy.
12. Seattle Seahawks (7-5, 14th last week): They go toe-to-toe with anybody, home or road. And the better news is that their only remaining road game is in Buffalo.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5, 15th last week): Season-saving victory in Baltimore. When both teams are healthy, they're still better than the Ravens are.
14. Chicago Bears (8-4, 7th last week): Too many injuries on defense. Looks like another late-season slide for the Bears, who just don't have it in them.
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6, 10th last week): Two straight tough losses to superior teams Atlanta and Denver, but still alive for a wild-card spot.
16. St. Louis Rams (5-6-1, 18th last week): They're now 4-0-1 in one of the toughest divisions in football. Watch out in 2013.
17. Cleveland Browns (4-8, 19th last week): They've gone above .500 in a seven-game stretch for the first time since 2010. This is actually an average football team.
18. New Orleans Saints (5-7, 16th last week): Forget it. Season over. What the hell happened to the offense? And is this just a one-year slump, because there appear to be lots of flaws in New Orleans?
19. Minnesota Vikings (6-6, 17th last week): They'll stay alive for a couple more weeks...until they finish up with Houston and Green Bay. I see 8-8 in their future, at best.
20. Dallas Cowboys (6-6, 22nd last week): So much talent and Dez Bryant has finally become a star, but they can't string together wins with the defense in such bad shape.
21. Detroit Lions (4-8, 21st last week): Three consecutive heart-breaking losses and four straight overall. Just a weird year in Detroit. Goes to show that the offseason counts, too.
22. Miami Dolphins (5-7, 20th last week): Bad time to run into San Francisco on the road. They're about to get stomped on, bringing an end to their season for all intents and purposes.
23. Buffalo Bills (5-7, 25th last week): The definition of a 7-9 team. They'll continue to go loss-win-loss-win to finish another mediocre season.
24. San Diego Chargers (4-8, 24th last week): Shocked they haven't put Norv Turner out of his misery yet. Not a single head coach has been fired this season in the NFL.
25. Carolina Panthers (3-9, 23rd last week): That was a big win (loss) in their pursuit of the No. 1 overall pick.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10, 26th last week): OK, so Chad Henne isn't the answer....
27. Tennessee Titans (4-8, 27th last week): It's sad because they've lost four of five but there's no indication 2013 will be any better.
28. New York Jets (5-7, 29th last week): Look at the schedule. They could actually finish 9-7. Let's see if they can make a run with Greg McElroy.
29. Arizona Cardinals (4-8, 28th last week): They literally stand no chance of winning with the current offense.
30. Philadelphia Eagles (3-9, 31st last week): Fans had better hope that another strong finish doesn't save jobs. They need a makeover...again.
31. Oakland Raiders (3-9, 30th last week): Five straight losses out of nowhere and now Denver to make it six in a row. They're better than this.
32. Kansas City Chiefs (2-10, 32nd last week): It goes beyond football, of course, but a nice win for a team in mourning.