Sports sure are funny sometimes, and the 2012 NFL regular season has offered plenty of examples to verify that statement. The AFC is, as a whole, so mediocre that 6-7 and 5-8 teams are technically still in the playoff picture, and that conference is also responsible for the very best and very worst teams in the league. There are new kings of NFL power rankings as we hit the midway point of December, and that side happens to feature who I see as the undisputed Comeback Player of the Year.
Week 15 NFL power rankings
32. Kansas City Chiefs (2-11): It’s not nice to say, but the emotionally spent Chiefs crashed down to earth in Cleveland. It could be bad times for KC fans between now and December 30.
31. Arizona Cardinals (4-9): Wow. At least you know you’ll be entertained when watching the Cards. Unfortunately for Arizona fans, it has nothing to do with their favorite team playing well.
30. Oakland Raiders (3-10): Perhaps the most missable team in all the league. They still should, in theory, be able to beat KC this coming Sunday.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11): Remember when Jacksonville looked like a real football team for a couple of weeks? That was fun.
28. Tennessee Titans (4-9): A good team beats Indy by double digits last weekend considering how poorly the Colts played in the first half of that game. Shocking to nobody, the Titans reminded all that they aren’t a good team during the second half of that same contest.
27. Detroit Lions (4-9): The once thought to be mighty continue to fall. The Lions have been their own worst enemy throughout 2012, and that was again the case on Sunday night at Green Bay. They’ll have plenty to address this winter.
26. Philadelphia Eagles (4-9): Welcome to the Nick Foles era! It may not have been a statement win, but you have to learn to crawl before you can learn to run.
25. Miami Dolphins (5-8): The ‘Phins had a chance to show their quality in significant contests in the past few weeks. That they did, and their quality was that of a team that’s not good enough to make the playoffs.
24. Buffalo Bills (5-8): Not only did they lose at home to lowly St. Louis, but they also failed to even entertain me in the process. I should really drop them lower just for being boring.
23. Carolina Panthers (4-9): Good on the Panthers for holding on against Atlanta and earning their biggest win of the season. Don’t look now, but Cam Newton has been playing much better as of late.
22. New Orleans Saints (5-8): A not very good defense has caught up with the once resurgent Saints. It was a solid run after a disastrous start, but the postseason dream is over.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7): The Bucs aren’t a bad team. They’re also not a very good team. I’ve said that for weeks whenever discussing Tampa Bay, and they’ve thus far proved me right this holiday season.
20. San Diego Chargers (5-8): Who saw that big win from SD coming? The Super Chargers looked like a real playoff team at Pittsburgh. Too bad such a performance came weeks too late.
19. New York Jets (6-7): The New York Jets still have a real shot of making the playoffs. That’s tells you all you need to know about the AFC this December.
18. Cleveland Browns (5-8): Who would have thought that the 2012 Browns would ever get this high in NFL power rankings? They’re the hottest team in the AFC North right now. No, really.
17. Chicago Bears (8-5): Uh oh. The Bears continue to slip down the standings and NFL power rankings. Hosting the red hot Packers is not what this team needs right now.
16. St. Louis Rams (6-6-1): I cannot at all even pretend to be impressed with St. Louis winning an awful game against the Bills. Good for them for still being in the hunt for a postseason spot, but they just aren’t getting a bump this week.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6): Remember when the Steelers had a defense that was impenetrable when playing in Pittsburgh? That trend went on hiatus this past Sunday. Maybe the quarterback position isn’t the only concern for this team.
14. Minnesota Vikings (7-6): Breaking news: Adrian Peterson is awesome. All of a sudden, that upcoming Minnesota at St. Louis game is a lot more interesting.
13. Cincinnati Bengals (7-6): I understand that their home game against Dallas was played under special circumstances, but a real contender has to win that match-up. This could be another year in which the Bengals are nothing more than an average team.
12. Dallas Cowboys (7-6): That win in Cincy wasn’t just about emotions following a tragic event. Jerry’s Boys are also just one game out of first place in the NFC East.
11. Washington Redskins (7-6): Plus: The ‘Skins just keep on winning. Minus: RG3 is hurt, and his missing even one game would be a very big deal.
10. Seattle Seahawks (8-5): Arizona is absolutely terrible, I’ll admit, but 58-0 is nothing to ignore. If Seattle goes east and wins in Buffalo, they could quickly become one of those teams that no side in the league wants to play.
9. Baltimore Ravens (9-4): Every time I want to believe the Ravens are ready to take that next step, they give me a reason not to. Their home game against Denver could be a very important playoff preview for both squads.
8. New York Giants (8-5): Is ranking the Giants at eight in NFL power rankings a bit harsh? Maybe, but they really did flirt with disaster before ultimately blowing New Orleans out. That alone makes this Big Blue fan nervous about the future.
7. San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1): Unlike last year, San Fran will have to earn a division title this December. Maybe that pressure will be just what they need to turn them into a championship team.
6. Houston Texans (11-2): Losing in New England is nothing to be ashamed of, but I don’t think anybody expected the Texans to be bossed around as they were. Their defense has looked very beatable over the past month, and that’s not good at this stage of the season.
5. Indianapolis Colts (9-4): You know what’s the scariest thing about any advertised “Team of Destiny?” When it really appears to be just that. Indy’s refusal to lose will have them playing January football, and I sure wouldn’t want to face the Colts right now.
4. Atlanta Falcons (11-2): Don’t write off the Falcons after that loss at Carolina. Atlanta will still probably have home field advantage, and that makes them contenders.
3. Green Bay Packers (9-4): Aaron Rodgers and company have somewhat quietly risen to the top of the division standings. While other teams are stealing headlines, Green Bay is playing some solid football at the right time.
2. New England Patriots (10-3): If the New England defense can routinely play as well as it did against Houston on Monday night, the Pats will again be playing in the final game of the postseason tournament. That was one helluva performance.
1. Denver Broncos (10-3): Kings of NFL power rankings for the first time in my lists this season, the Broncos are as complete a team as is any in the league. Peyton Manning is showing no signs of slowing down, and Denver has now won eight straight.