By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts Guy Who Writes Things
There's a clear No. 1 (New England) and a clear No. 32 (Carolina) in this week's power rankings, but plenty of debate about positioning throughout.
Baltimore came in at No. 2 when our award-winning formula was done spitting out the names, but you could certainly make a case for Atlanta, Pittsburgh or New Orleans there as well. In the same vein, how do you decide between Green Bay, Kansas City, Chicago, Philly and the Jets for the No. 6 spot?
There's similar jockeying for (pointless) position at the bottom. Arizona comes in at No. 31, but with five wins – the same number as No. 21 Cleveland. Usually there's a pack of teams that have really been poor at the bottom, but this year there are almost a dozen teams that never really got close to competing for the playoffs but also played tough all year.
Top to bottom, it's been one of the most competitive seasons in the last decade.
Now let's see if anyone can knock off the Patriots, who look to be as much of a favorite here in 2010 as they were in 2007.
1. NEW ENGLAND (13-2)
Last week:
34-3 win at Buffalo
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Among the 19 running backs with 200+ carries this year, BenJarvus Green-Ellis is third at avoiding runs for loss (94.3 percent positive), second in first downs per carry (28.7 percent) and second in touchdown runs (12).
2. BALTIMORE (11-4)
Last week:
20-10 win at Cleveland
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Joe Flacco's passer rating has gone from 80.3 as a rookie to 88.9 as a sophomore to 94.6 this year. At this rate, by 2021 he'll have a passer rating of three billion. He's thrown only four picks since Week 2, with 24 touchdowns.
3. ATLANTA (12-3)
Last week:
17-14 loss vs. New Orleans
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Falcons have picked up 39 first downs thanks to penalty, an extraordinarily high number, and allowed just 13 on penalty. This is one of the reasons they're winning while getting outgained easily on an average down (5.0 yards per play for vs. 5.6 yards per play against).
4. PITTSBURGH (11-4)
Last week:
27-3 win vs. Carolina
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Ben Roethlisberger doesn't have more than one turnover in any of his 11 starts this year and in 16 straight dating back to last year. Considering his style of play and how much the Steelers depend on him to make big throws, that's remarkable stuff.
5. NEW ORLEANS (11-4)
Last week
: 17-14 win at Atlanta
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The running game really needs to return to 2009 form if New Orleans is going to repeat. They've gone from 4.5 YPA and 22 TDs in 2009 to 3.9 YPA and nine TDs in 2010.
6. GREEN BAY (9-6)
Last week:
45-17 win vs. N.Y. Giants
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Why isn't Aaron Rodgers still in the MVP mix? His passing numbers are in the Brady ballpark (101.9 rating), he's picked up 335 yards rushing, and the Packers lost both of the games he didn't finish.
7. CHICAGO (11-4)
Last week:
38-34 win vs. N.Y. Jets
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Jay Cutler had his sixth performance of the year with a 100+ passer rating Sunday; but he's also got five under 70.
8. KANSAS CITY (10-5)
Last week:
34-14 win vs. Tennessee
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Dwayne Bowe in 2009: 47 catches, 589 yards, four touchdowns. Dwayne Bowe in 2010: 67 catches, 1,094 yards, 15 touchdowns. Think he got new coordinator Charlie Weis something nice for Christmas?
Last week:
24-14 loss vs. Minnesota
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Asante Samuel's 36 interceptions over his the five seasons are the most over a five-year span since Hall of Famers Emlen Tunnell and Night Train Lane back in the chuck-it-and-hope 1950s.
10. N.Y. JETS (10-5)
Last week:
38-34 loss at Chicago
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Jets have allowed 300+ yards in seven of their eight road games and an average of 24.6 PPG. They've allowed 300+ yards only twice at home and an average of 14.3 PPG. Considering that they'll need three road wins to reach the Super Bowl, perhaps Jets fans should think about waiting on plane tickets to Dallas in February.
11. SAN DIEGO (8-7)
Last week: 34
-20 loss at Cincinnati
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: In the end, the Chargers' running game (22-for-64 with a fumble lost) and secondary (157.2 Defensive Passer Rating) let the team down against the Bengals.
12. N.Y. GIANTS (9-6)
Last week:
45-17 loss at Green Bay
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Giants have surrendered 73 points in the last 67:28 of play. Yeah, it's all the punter's fault.
13. TAMPA BAY (9-6)
Last week:
38-15 win vs. Seattle
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Josh Freeman was stellar vs. Seattle and has had a nice sophomore season. But it's worth noting that his passer ratings this year against Quality Opponents were 67.1, 79.5, 72.0, 67.6 and 61.4, his five worst performances of the season, and all five in losses.
Last week:
31-26 win at Oakland
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Reggie Wayne now has three seasons of 100+ catches and 1,250+ yards; according to the search engine, only Jerry Rice and Marvin Harrison (four each) had more.
Last week:
20-17 loss vs. Washington
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: When you allow a whopping 6.1 yards per play and stand -13 in turnover margin, retaining playoff hopes in Week 17 is a minor miracle.
16. OAKLAND (7-8)
Last week:
31-26 loss vs. Indianapolis
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Sebastian Janikowski has made 22 field goals of 50+ in the last five seasons (in 40 tries); he attempted only 16 in his first six years. Bonus fact: kickers in 2010 are almost exactly 50 percent from 50+ (56-for-110).
17. ST. LOUIS (7-8)
Last week:
25-17 win vs. San Francisco
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Steven Jackson deserved his Pro Bowl spot on sheer effort and long-term production, not necessarily for great numbers in 2010 (3.7 YPA, six TDs). He's averaged 23 touches a game over his last five seasons and picked up 360 first downs.
18. DALLAS (5-10)
Last week:
27-26 loss at Arizona
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Jason Witten needs 44 yards to hit 1,000 for the third time in four years; considering his reputation as the league's best blocking tight end, that's a mighty impressive run.
19. MIAMI (7-8)
Last week:
34-27 loss vs. Detroit
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Dolphins had a lot going for them this year. But in the end their No. 31 rank in Scoreability (18.5 Yards Per Point Scored) cost them a shot at the postseason and has coach Tony Sparano on the hot seat.
20. MINNESOTA (6-9)
Last week:
24-14 win at Philadelphia
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Joe Webb's passer rating Tuesday night was 87.8 – not great, but the second-best of the season for a full game by a Vikings QB and a strong effort in a rookie's first NFL start.
21. CLEVELAND (5-10)
Last week:
20-10 loss vs. Baltimore
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Since their back-to-back wins over the Saints and Patriots, the Browns are 2-5 and average just 15.7 PPG.
22. BUFFALO (4-11)
Last week:
34-3 loss vs. New England
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Bills have lost 15 straight to the Patriots, but New England's dominance goes much further back. Over their last 32 games, the Bills are 5-27 vs. the Patriots, with only one win by more than seven points. 
23. DETROIT (5-10)
Last week:
34-27 win at Miami
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Did the Lions just beat the Packers, Bucs and Dolphins in successive weeks? Hard to imagine a team's fan base feeling better about a 5-10 record than Detroit's poor faithful.
24. HOUSTON (5-10)
Last week:
24-23 loss at Denver
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Six straight road losses isn't going to do much to erase your team's reputation as eternal pretenders.
25. SAN FRANCISCO (5-10)
Last week:
25-17 loss at St. Louis
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Why is Mike Singletary out of a job? There were plenty of reasons, but here's another – his 49ers never won more than two in a row in his two-and-a-half seasons as the head man.
26. CINCINNATI (4-11)
Last week:
34-20 win vs. San Diego
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Say what you want about Carson Palmer's play, but he's a class guy who's been in tough situations in Cincy – having the best passer rating performance of his career (157.2) against San Diego without T.O or Ochocinco had to feel good (while reinforcing CHFF's shiny hood ornament theory).
27. WASHINGTON (6-9)
Last week:
20-17 win at Jacksonville
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: For all of the drama in Washington, Mike Shanahan at least got the Redskins to six wins – he's never been worse than 6-10 in his 16 full coaching seasons.
28. TENNESSEE (6-9)
Last week:
34-14 loss at Kansas City
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The fact that Kerry Collins is one of 12 men in the history of the league with more than 40,000 yards passing (40,141) is almost enough to make us watch "Inception" again to make sure it's not all a dream. 
29. SEATTLE (6-9)
Last week:
38-15 loss at Tampa Bay
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Win and they're in – despite losing all nine games by double-digits. Truly one of the weirdest developments of any football season.
30. DENVER (4-11)
Last week:
24-23 win vs. Houston
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Keeping Knowshown Moreno on the field will be a key for 2011; he averaged 4.19 YPA on his 176 carries while Denver's other tailbacks averaged 2.76.
31. ARIZONA (5-10)
Last week:
27-26 win vs. Dallas
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: When you get 12 return touchdowns in a season – and need every one of them just to avoid going 0-15 – there are problems.
32. CAROLINA (2-13)
Last week:
27-3 loss at Pittsburgh
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Panthers at least have a defense in place for 2011; they're in the top 10 in Defensive Passer Rating and the Defensive Hog Index.