There are a lot of factors that determine who goes where on a list like this, especially in 2012, a year that will go down in infamy. Power rankings can't predict how injuries will affect the next game, but it can take into account how a team has dealt with the many unpredictable situations it has faced and what that could mean against other teams' unpredictable situations.
Each game is another opportunity to rise above, or crumble under the pressure. Every team has to deal with adversity, as well as strokes of pure luck. And, of course, the ability to overcome any situation starts with the coaches.
Some teams are in disarray, and we need look no further than the head coach; take the Jets as a perfect example. This team should be fighting for the AFC East title every year. Instead, they have become a freak show, thanks, in part, to their coach, Rex Ryan. He goes, and the team suddenly becomes a contender.
So let's get down to business. With the playoffs fast approaching, I will focus primarily on the teams who have a shot to make it into the postseason.
1. I'm going to join Gregg Rosenthal and put the New England Patriots at the top. I know they don't have the best record, but hear me out. They got a slow start as the defense figured out who they were. They lost 3 games by a total of 4 points. And they put all that to rest and went on a tear, wracking up the most yards and points in the entire league.
2. I just have to give this spot to the Denver Broncos. They only trail Houston by 2 in the total points category, but they are winning in convincing fashion. If Manning had beaten Brady earlier this year, I would have them at #1.
3. The Houston Texans have the best record, but not the best team. They have been winning games in troubling fashion. Thanksgiving Day is the key to understanding the difference in this list so far. Houston needed a blown call, a late touchdown, and an overtime field goal to beat the Lions.
4. I have to bump the Indianapolis Colts over the Steelers and Ravens. Baltimore is on its way down, and the Steelers are struggling for wins. Things should get better when Big Ben gets back, but Andrew Luck is making waves and keeps getting better. They could be dangerous in the playoffs.
5. The Pittsburgh Steelers dumped the Ravens with an aging back-up QB and just want it more than the ailing Ravens right now. As I said, Ben makes this team better, and he will be back!
6. I had a hard time here, but I stick to my statement that Baltimore is on its way down, and the Cincinnati Bengals are forcing they way up and in. They could win the division, but Pittsburgh will challenge them down the stretch; week 15 may be the deciding game in the AFC North.
7. The Baltimore Ravens may just play themselves out of the postseason. If the Bengals don't shoot themselves in the foot, Ray Lewis will find himself watching from his favorite couch.
The rest of the AFC lacks a wing AND a prayer. The Jets, Bills, and Dolphins (the rest of the AFC East) won't be able to win enough games to catch even a glimpse of the playoffs. They are playing for pride, but there isn't much of that in any of those cities.
The Chargers, Browns, and Titans never got going this year, and probably won't for the foreseeable future. And the Jags and Chiefs are playing the "Suck for Luck" lottery, minus Mr. Luck, of course. But they are going to need more than a #1 pick to right their ships.
I predicted the Patriots would represent in the Super Bowl and I still stand by that opinion. Injuries notwithstanding, they play the best football down the stretch and have the Coach and QB to get it done when it counts the most.