We used to refer to our top 12 teams in the Power Rankings as the Dynamic Dozen, a nod to the fact that 12 teams will wind up in the playoffs when it's all said and done.
But this year, the term is really apropos. Very little separates No. 1 New England from No. 12 Kansas City, and there's a pretty sizeable dropoff down to No. 13 Indianapolis.
Yes, the Colts are out of the top 12 in late November for the first time since we've been assembling this wonderful foolishness. At 6-5, only the mediocrity of their division is keeping them in the mix – if the AFC were decided on merit, they wouldn't have a shot.
Same goes in the NFC, where St. Louis or Seattle will be playing at home and at least one of our top 10 teams will be staying home.
We'd say it's time for the league to consider a change in the system, but the suggested solutions all have problems, too. With 32 teams, eight divisions is kind of a no-brainer, and there's really not much to do about that unless you want to go 5-6-5 in each conference – which isn't fair to the division with six teams. And if you don't award a playoff spot to the division winner, all of a sudden the entire NFC West is in garbage time for the last eight weeks of the season.
You could also easily go four eight-team divisions, two in each conference. The top three in each make the playoffs. But then you mess up the whole two-games-against-division-foes system that has worked so well.
Seeding by actual record is a no-brainer. It penalizes sham division winners and makes a great 11-5 wild-card season in a tough division mean something. And here's another thought: add one playoff team from each conference – there's always someone deserving – and allow just one bye. That means an extra playoff game for everyone to enjoy before the field is cut to eight.
It'll make a lot of sense when the playoffs roll around this year, and 8-8 St. Louis hosts 12-4 New Orleans while the 10-6 Giants, Eagles, Bears or Packers stay home, that's for sure.
On to the rankings!
1. NEW ENGLAND (9-2)
Last week: 45-24 win at Detroit
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Jerod Mayo has 132 total tackles for a 9-2 team, which makes him the leader of a great defense, right? Well, maybe not – the Pats are 31st in total defense, and of the seven top tacklers in the league, Mayo is the only one playing for a winning team. So maybe tackles aren't a great indicator.
2. ATLANTA (9-2)
Last week: 20-17 win vs. Green Bay
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Injuries in 2009 put Michael Turner's reputation on ice for awhile, but he's clearly one of the league's best. He's run for 34 touchdowns in 38 games with the Falcons, averages 93.2 yards per game and 4.56 YPA.
3. NEW ORLEANS (8-3)
Last week: 30-27 win at Dallas
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Remember when good QBs threw only 25-30 times a game? Drew Brees hasn't passed fewer than 30 times in a game since putting the Patriots to bed early on Monday night in Week 12 last year (18 straight games including playoffs).
4. N.Y. JETS (9-2)
Last week: 26-10 win vs. Cincinnati
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Mark Sanchez has passed for more yards than his opponent five games in a row after doing it only once in the season's first six games. And yet, for all his perceived success, he's still just 22nd in passer rating (81.9) behind guys like Jon Kitna and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
5. GREEN BAY (7-4)
Last week: 20-17 loss at Atlanta
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Since completing 15 of 34 vs. the Jets, Aaron Rodgers has completed better than 70 percent of his passes three games in a row, with ratings of 131.5, 141.3 and 114.5.
6. BALTIMORE (8-3)
Last week: 17-10 win vs. Tampa Bay
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: As noted above (New England), tackle numbers for linebackers aren't particularly notable – they're the equivalent of passing yards. But Ray Lewis is five away from 100 this year, which would be the 13th such season for him. He fell short only in two years ended early by injury.
7. N.Y. GIANTS (7-4)
Last week: 24-20 win vs. Jacksonville
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Giants have won games this year despite turnovers; Sunday, they won by avoiding them. They were 0-for-3 in the red zone and 3-for-10 on third downs, but were +2 in takeaways and eked out the win.
8. PHILADELPHIA (7-4)
Last week: 31-26 loss at Chicago
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: David Akers is quietly having a huge kicking season – again. He's on pace to score 151 points, which would be 11th all-time. This comes after the 39th-best scoring season all time last year, and the 21st-best scoring season of all time in 2008. You go, David Akers!
9. SAN DIEGO (6-5)
Last week: 36-14 win at Indianapolis
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Want a chance at holding down Philip Rivers? Sack him. In the last 16 games when he's been sacked once or less, he's thrown 38 touchdown passes and eight INTs.
10. CHICAGO (8-3)
Last week: 31-26 win vs. Philadelphia
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Matt Forte has topped 100 yards rushing in just four games since the start of 2009 (including Sunday), and they all have something in common: a 50+ yard run in each. For his career, Forte boasts seven 100-yard games, all Bears wins.
11. PITTSBURGH (8-3)
Last week: 19-16 win at Buffalo
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Too low? Perhaps. But when your offensive line is flagged 13 times (including declined penalties) in a single game as they were on Sunday, you have got some major issues.
12. KANSAS CITY (7-4)
Last week: 42-24 win at Seattle
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: If you missed it from us earlier, it bears repeating – Matt Cassel has thrown 19 touchdowns with just one INT over his last six games. If they ever bring back the Assistant Coach of the Year award (discontinued since 1998), Charlie Weis would be a good choice.
13. INDIANAPOLIS (6-5)
Last week: 36-14 loss vs. San Diego
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Peyton Manning leads the league with 34 drops by his receivers, so that's why his numbers are off, right? Maybe, except that Tom Brady is No. 2 with 30 receiver drops, and it doesn't seem to be keeping him down.
14. MIAMI (6-5)
Last week: 33-17 win at Oakland
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Dolphins are an equal-opportunity employer when it comes to touchdowns. Eight different players have scored TDs, but no one has scored more than three.
15. TAMPA BAY (7-4)
Last week: 17-10 loss at Baltimore
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: LeGarrette Blount leads all rookie running backs with 62 yards per game, followed by Chris Ivory (57.7) in New Orleans. Not bad for a couple of undrafted players.
16. ST. LOUIS (5-6)
Last week: 36-33 win at Denver
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Stephen Jackson is second in the NFL with 261 touches, but isn't even in the top 10 in yards from scrimmage (1,120, 11th).
17. CLEVELAND (4-7)
Last week: 24-23 win vs. Carolina
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Wondering what the Browns will shop for in the draft next year? They're the only team in the league without a 100-yard receiver.
18. JACKSONVILLE (6-5)
Last week: 24-20 loss at N.Y. Giants
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Jags make their money up the middle. According to NFL.com, they've rushed for 49 first downs up the middle – 20 more than second-place Kansas City.
19. TENNESSEE (5-6)
Last week: 20-0 loss vs. Houston
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Rusty Smith is one of seven rookie QBs to try a pass this year, and he helps point out that Sam Bradford is special. Bradford has 17 touchdowns and just 9 INTs; the other six including Smith have six TDs and 17 interceptions.
20. OAKLAND (5-6)
Last week: 33-17 loss vs. Miami
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Darren McFadden looked like an MVP candidate through the first half of the season, but has 18 carries for 16 yards the last two weeks.
21. HOUSTON (5-6)
Last week: 20-0 win at Tennessee
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Arian Foster is on pace for 2,327 yards from scrimmage, which would be seventh all-time. Not bad for an undrafted free agent with 54 career carries coming into the year.
22. SAN FRANCISCO (4-7)
Last week: 27-6 win at Arizona
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Frank Gore is out for the season with a hip fracture; add that to an average of 20+ touches per game for the past five seasons, and you have to wonder about his NFL future.
23. MINNESOTA (4-7)
Last week: 17-13 win at Washington
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Actual headline on ESPN.com Sunday: "Favre lifts Vikings to win over Washington". Actual happening: Favre goes 15 of 23 for 172 yards and no touchdowns and an 87.6 rating.
24. WASHINGTON (5-6)
Last week: 17-13 loss vs. Minnesota
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: A full 16.1 percent of Redskins run plays result in negative or zero yards (NFL worst). But, at least their backs don't fumble (league-low three).
25. BUFFALO (2-9)
Last week: 19-16 loss vs. Pittsburgh
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Steve Johnson dropped more balls Sunday then a school full of seventh-grade boys.
26. DALLAS (3-8)
Last week: 30-27 loss vs. New Orleans
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Cowboys average 30.7 PPG since Jason Garrett took over. But they've also surrendered an average of 338 passing yards. See, they miss Wade Phillips!
27. SEATTLE (5-6)
Last week: 42-24 loss vs. Kansas City
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Seahawks like to lose decisively, that's for sure. All six of their defeats are by double digits.
28. DETROIT (2-9)
Last week: 45-24 loss vs. New England
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Shaun Hill has thrown the ball 313 times in his seven full games this year. That's a pace of 715 passes for a full year.
29. DENVER (3-8)
Last week: 36-33 loss vs. St. Louis
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: In another year of great quarterback play, it's worth noting that Kyle Orton leads the league with 3,370 yards and has just six picks.
30. CINCINNATI (2-9)
Last week: 26-10 loss vs. Jets
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Since resting the starters in Week 17 of 2009, the Bengals are 2-11. Never rest the starters!
31. CAROLINA (1-10)
Last week: 24-23 loss at Cleveland
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Jimmy Clausen has thrown 166 passes as a rookie ... with one touchdown. But he'll never match the mark of former Philly QB Bobby Hoying, who threw zero TD passes in 224 attempts for the Eagles in 1998.
32. ARIZONA (3-8)
Last week: 27-6 loss vs. San Francisco
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Derek Anderson can protest all he wants, but cameras catching him laughing on the field at the end of a home blowout loss registers a 9.3 on the Piss Off The Fans Index.