By Brandon Burnett
Cold, Hard Football Facts Power Lifter
The Houston Texans are No. 1 no more.
It's not easy being the best. It's even tougher coping with a two-spot drop in our Quality Stats Power Rankings after such a hard-fought (and referee-aided) win like the Texans had over the Lions on Thanksgiving.
With the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers overtaking the top two spots, respectively, the Texans find themselves at No. 3 after a five-week stint as king of the mountain.
Houston wasn't the only team that took a Week 12 nosedive. The Packers fell from No. 4 to No. 7 after being throttled by the Giants.
Minnesota dropped six spots to No. 24 after its loss to Chicago, despite still carrying a 6-5 record. Dallas slid from No. 16 to No. 20 with its loss to Washington.
This week's biggest climber is St. Louis (No. 23 to No. 17). The Dolphins (No. 19 to No. 16) and Giants (No. 12 to No. 9) each jumped three spots, but no other team leaped more than two spots.
Let's get to the rankings, shall we?
1. Denver Broncos (8-3) - Denver's lead in the AFC West has now stretched to four games with five to play. Peyton Manning 's passer rating of 104.8 is third among all QB's.
But here's the best part for Broncos fans: Peyton is finally paired with the defense that fans in Indy had always wished for. Denver is No. 1 on our Defensive Hog Index, a key measure of Super Bowl potential. They are No. 2 against the run, No. 3 pressuring the passer, and No. 4 on third-down. Teams that dominate the DHI typically reach the Super Bowl.
2. San Francisco 49ers (8-2-1) - Two pick-sixes off Drew Brees in one game? This defense is downright nasty when it wants to be. It really doesn't matter whether Kaepernick or Smith is starting. Losing RB Kendall Hunter and WR Kyle Williams for the remainder of the year will hurt, though.
3. Houston Texans (10-1) - Houston keeps winning (barely), but allowing a combined 68 points to the Jags and Lions in consecutive weeks will invite a bit of concern. The Texans surrendered a combined 795 yards and six TDs through the air in the two overtime wins.
4. New England Patriots (8-3) - The Patriots are scoring 47.5 PPG over their last four wins. New England is now No. 1 in Scoreability and on pace to score more points than any team in history (592). And we thought only the Oregon Ducks were capable of scoring so efficiently.
5. Atlanta Falcons (10-1) - The Falcons keep grinding out wins, and this week they'll get a chance at revenge when they host New Orleans, the only team that's beat them in 2012. Atlanta dropped two spots in Scoreability and Bendability despite moving to 10-1.
6. Seattle Seahawks (6-5) - The Seahawks are so predictable. 5-0 at home and 1-5 on the road. Inconsistency of that magnitude will not land you a spot in the postseason, Pete Carroll. Not this year. Even so, Seattle remains No. 4 in Passer Rating Differential.
7. Green Bay Packers (7-4) - It was only a matter of time before an opponent capable of exposing Green Bay's injury-ravaged roster came along. The Pack fell from No. 6 to No. 9 in The Relativity Index.
8. Baltimore Ravens (9-2) - Key injuries haven't kept the Ravens from piling up the W's. Baltimore has now won four straight, three of them on the road, and can clinch the AFC North with a win over Pittsburgh and a Cincinnati loss in Week 13.
9. New York Giants (7-4) - The G-Men desperately needed a win, and a win they got. Now their NFC East lead will be safe even with a loss to Robert Griffin III and the 5-6 Redskins Sunday night.
10. Chicago Bears (8-3) - Speaking of much-needed wins, Chicago avoided a three-way tie atop the NFC North by topping the Vikings 28-10. The Bears are in the top five of every defensive Quality Stat.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) - A loss to the Browns will be difficult for Steeler Nation to bear. Now Pittsburgh must travel to Baltimore and come away with a victory to avoid this season quickly becoming a complete disaster. If Big Ben can't return, they'll need some kind of miracle.
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) - Despite dropping a close one at home, the Bucs are still tied for the NFC's No. 6 seed and jumped to No. 3 in Scoreability. Tampa hasn't scored less than 22 points in any game since Week 3.
13. Cincinnati Bengals (6-5) - Cincy, once 3-5, is now a game over .500 and set to face the Chargers, Cowboys and Eagles the next three weeks. Each of the Bengals last three wins have been by three possessions or more.
14. Washington Redskins (5-6) - Words cannot describe how good RGIII has been this season. The Skins go as he goes, because their defense surely isn't taking them anywhere. Washington is now No. 5 in Offensive Passer Rating.
15. New Orleans Saints (5-6) - New Orleans is on the wrong side of .500 again with visits to Atlanta and New York (Giants) coming the next two weeks. It goes without saying that this is now do-or-die for the Saints.
16. Miami Dolphins (5-6) - Miami's 2-2 record against Quality Opponents will be put to the test when New England comes to town in Week 13. After that, it's off to San Francisco. The Dolphins are No. 29 in Offensive Passer Rating and No. 22 in Scoreability.
17. St. Louis Rams (4-6-1) - The Rams have just two victories since September 30, and both came against the Cardinals. It's too bad they won't see them again this year.
18a. Carolina Panthers (3-8) - It's about time Cam Newton had a good game for a change. The second-year QB finished with 306 passing yards and four total TDs. Considering it came against the Eagles, we shouldn't be surprised.
18b. Arizona Cardinals (4-7) - Your third-string QB tossed four interceptions in what became your seventh straight loss. Doesn't get much worse than that.
20. Dallas Cowboys (5-6) - Dallas doesn't know what type of team it wants to be, but we do. A bad one. Is that really a surprise, though? The Cowboys followed up their first two-game winning streak of the season by losing at home to the Redskins. Not good.
21. Detroit Lions (4-7) - Make it nine straight Turkey Day losses for the Lions. Thanks in part to Justin Forsett's 81-yard TD run that shouldn't have been, Detroit dropped six spots to No. 25 in our Defensive Hog Index.
22. San Diego Chargers (4-7) - Losers of seven of their last nine, any lingering hopes of an AFC West title have been washed away. Now safety Atari Bigby is gone for the year.
23. Cleveland Browns (3-8) - Beating the hated Steelers will help Browns fans forget about another painful season for at least a week. So what if Pittsburgh had Charlie Batch starting. Cleveland is now No. 11 in Defensive Passer Rating, up from No. 14.
24. Minnesota Vikings (6-5) - The Vikes fall to 1-4 against Quality Teams with Sunday's 28-10 loss to Chicago. Now it's off to Green Bay before hosting the Bears for a rematch in Minnesota.
25. Buffalo Bills (4-7) - T.Y. Hilton set the Bills' playoff hopes ablaze Sunday, catching a TD pass and scoring on a punt return to help the Colts pull out the 20-13 win. Indy may be 7-4, but they aren't as good as Buffalo was supposed to be.
26. Indianapolis Colts (7-4) - Sole possession of the AFC's No. 5 seed with five weeks to go? Nobody saw this coming, but it may not be worth buying into yet. None of Indy's past five wins have come against Quality Opponents.
27. New York Jets (4-7) - We can't say the Jets don't know how to go out in style. New York surrendered 35 second-quarter points to the division-leading Pats Thanksgiving night in a 49-19 defeat.
28. Tennessee Titans (4-7) - Losing to the Jaguars after a bye week...ouch. The Titans are No. 30 in Passer Rating Differential. Better luck next year.
29. Philadelphia Eagles (3-8) - Philly is on a seven-game losing streak, just lost DeSean Jackson for the season and released DE Jason Babin. Which team is more of a mess, the Jets or the Eagles?
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) - Chad Henne has 609 yards and six TD passes in the Jags' past two games. Weather permitting, there's no reason he can't go to Buffalo this weekend and continue this shockingly solid play.
31. Oakland Raiders (3-8) - The Raiders have lost five games by 21 points or more in 2012. Oakland's two victories since Week 3 came against Jacksonville and Kansas City, who are a combined 3-19.
32. Kansas City Chiefs (1-10) - Kansas City wouldn't trade this spot for the world. They're here to stay, which is more than some inside the organization may be able to say this winter.