The Packers are back on top of the NFC North and hosting a playoff game, just like we all expected at Thanksgiving
THE FINE FIFTEEN
1. New England (14-2). LW: 1. Tom Brady’s 28:2 TD:INT ratio is the best in NFL history. At age 39, he’s had as good a season as he’s ever had—and the upside of the four-game suspension he served to open the season is that he’s had four less games of a beating than his fellow QBs.
2. Dallas (13-3). LW: 2. The Cowboys had a successful strategy for the last two weeks of the regular season after wrapping up the No. 1 seed in the NFC. They didn’t totally rest their starters and escaped pretty healthy.
3. Kansas City (12-4). LW: 3. Pretty remarkable feat by the Chiefs in sweeping the formidable AFC West. Winning the division title and earning a first-round bye is huge for several reasons, including the extra rest time for Justin Houston. Having him healthy enough to be effective in the playoffs will be a big boost from last year’s postseason.
4. Pittsburgh (11-5). LW: 4. Mike Tomlin “feels great” about his team’s health entering the postseason, something he hasn’t been able to say the last couple years. Last year, they went to Denver with Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown already ruled out.
5. Atlanta (11-5). LW: 5. The Falcons’ bye gives Kyle Shanahan time to have a busy HC interview slate, but if there is anyone who can give advice on balancing a postseason run with job interviews, it’s Dan Quinn.
6. Green Bay (10-6). LW: 7. Back on top of the NFC North and hosting a playoff game, just like we all expected at Thanksgiving.
7. Seattle (10-5-1). LW: 6. The Seahawks managed just 87 rushing yards against the woeful 49ers in Sunday’s unconvincing win. Somewhat concerning for a team whose past postseason runs were all rooted in a strong ground game.
8. Giants (11-5). LW: 8. If the Giants win this week, no one will be talking about the wide receivers' Miami vacation. If they lose, it becomes the Cowboys’ Cabo circa 2008.
9. Detroit (9-7). LW: 9. You feel for Matthew Stafford, having the season of his life even without Calvin Johnson, only to be hampered by a finger injury. It’s hard to win at Seattle; it’s even harder when your QB is not at 100 percent.
10. Oakland (12-4). LW: 10. The first game after losing Derek Carr was going to be the worst one. At least that’s what Jack Del Rio has to get his team to believe.
11. Baltimore (8-8). LW: 11. First on the Ravens’ offseason list: An offensive coordinator who believes in the run game.
12. Miami (10-6). LW: 12. The Dolphins haven’t ruled out Ryan Tannehill for this week’s playoff game four weeks after his knee sprain. But Adam Gase has been fiercely protective of his QB since he got the job; expect him to be the same way when it comes to his health.
13. Denver (9-7). LW: 13. The Broncos have a tough task ahead in replacing Gary Kubiak, but they have the advantage of having the most attractive head-coach opening in the league right now.
14. Washington (8-7-1). LW: 14. I wrote last week that Kirk Cousins deserves a multi-year contract in Washington whether they make the playoffs or not. I still believe that, but Sunday’s performance in the season-ending loss will make negotiations even more complicated.
15. Buccaneers (9-7). LW: 15. The good news for the Bucs is that they can say what a lot of teams that missed the postseason can’t: They look like they are headed in the right direction.
Also receiving consideration:
16. Houston (9-7). LW: 16.
17. Tennessee (9-7). LW: 17.
18. New Orleans (7-9). LW: 18.
19. Minnesota (8-8). LW: UR.
20. Arizona (7-8-1). LW: UR.
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