As we enter Week 14 of the NFL Power Rankings, the New Orleans Saints are probably playing the best football of any team outside of the Green Bay Packers. Drew Brees, in a contract year, has had a fantastic season, augmented by new playmakers like Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles, and Mark Ingram. Unfortunately for them, a lot of their NFC competition is also playing well. The 2011-2012 NFL playoffs are shaping up to be an interesting set of matchups. Anyway on to the Top Ten:
1. Green Bay Packers (12-0): There's not a whole lot of drama left for Green Bay. The New York Giants represented one the last reasonable threats to their undefeated regular season and, while there was some drama in that game, the Pack still prevailed. The season finale against the Lions might be tough, though.
2. San Francisco 49ers (10-2): The Niners clinched the yucky NFC West over the weekend with a thrashing of the cellar-dwelling St. Louis Rams. While it was not a stretch to see this team winning their division, how dominantly they've been winning has been mind-blowing.
3. New Orleans Saints (9-3): Drew Brees is well on his way to passing Dan Marino's regular season passing yards record and his stellar play is pushing the Saints towards the front of the NFC. He's been helped by the team's surprising and above average running game.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3): The Steelers started off slowly against the Cincinnati Bengals, but then stepped all over their collective throat in the second quarter, laying out 28 points. They created some separation from Cincy, but the Baltimore Ravens continue to haunt Pittsburgh's AFC North dreams.
5. New England Patriots (9-3): The Patriots haven't looked all that hot this season - and they just squeaked out a win over the winless Indianapolis Colts - but they've got most of their top players healthy and on the field, so they should continue their playoff-worthy play.
6. Houston Texans (9-3): The Texans have now won two games without starting QB Matt Schaub. Now, star wide receiver Andre Johnson might miss more games. Can Houston score their first franchise playoff berth without their two best players? Sure seems possible these days.
7. Baltimore Ravens (9-3): The Ravens are probably the least-impressive 9-3 team this season. Their three losses have all been against lesser competition. They did take care of business this week against the Cleveland Browns, but their success just doesn't feel as tenable this season.
8. Denver Broncos (7-5): There is a giant mess of teams at 7-5; however, the Broncos crack the Top Ten ahead of the others because of the steamroller momentum they've got going. Their stellar D has kept things close to allow for Tim Tebow to pull off late-game wins, both with his feet and now his arm, apparently, as Sunday proved.
9. New York Jets (7-5): They got a much-needed win against the Washington Redskins to keep them in the playoff race. Their remaining competition isn't too stuff, but there are a lot of AFC teams hovering around them in the standings.
10. Tennessee Titans (7-5): The Titans have been a surprising team this season. Matt Hasselbeck has been a nice stop-gap QB for them and Chris Johnson is finally rounding into form. They beat the downward-spiraling Buffalo Bills to keep their head above water.
In local news, the Arizona Cardinals got yet another exciting, last minute-ish win against the Dallas Cowboys to end the ‘Boys' winning streak at four games. Kevin Kolb looked pretty good in the second half of his return from injury and the team's defense continues to play well. Don't let this get to your heads, Cardinals fans, but the team is actually in the NFC Wild Card race. At the very least, they've ensured that they'll be at least as good (or bad) as last year's team. After the first handful of games this season, it seemed like they'd actually be a lot worse.