1 -- NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (No change)
Too many people want to tear into the 12-9 victory on Monday Night Football over the Panthers, or they want to look at some lessened or inconsistent productivity by the Saints offense in recent weeks. I look at the win much differently, the defense is coming around, there aren't many offensive units who can keep up the type of pace they were racing at from week to week. Homefield advantage is nearly everything in the playoffs. If they get it, they're the best team in the NFC, and it might not even be that close.
2 -- LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (Up three spots)
They're getting healthier of late, they're finding creative ways to win football games, and with an impressive 6 and 1 record on the road this season, it almost may not matter if they win the AFC West and earn the #1 seed in the AFC or if they're confined to a wildcard spot.
3 -- CHICAGO BEARS (Up one spot)
The margin for error here is very thin. Their defense has been very opportunistic, and while Mitch Trubisky may remind some of a "game manager" type QB, the fact remains they simply do enough to win. The idea of having to go to a hungry Bears fanbase and win a game in the postseason should frighten anyone.
4 -- LOS ANGELES RAMS (Down one spot)
If you can neutralize Jared Goff, you can beat this team. If you take Todd Gurley out of the equation, you can beat this team. If you get ahead on this team, you can take away all the things they do well. These are all very obvious statements, but it appears the blueprint is out there, and for all the hype and hyperbole we tossed onto Goff, Gurley and head coach Sean McVay earlier this season, they have a lot of work to do to regain that momentum.
5 -- KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (Down three spots)
While some will call it unfortunate that Kareem Hunt's departure from the team has called attention to the continuing mess the league has with domestic violence offenders, it's also created quite a chasm in the way this team performs on the field. Don't get me wrong, quarterback Patrick Mahomes has still been way too impressive to start questioning his run down the stretch, but there are still too many glaring deficiencies on both sides of the ball. How monumental a difference would it be if the Chiefs fell out of the top spot and suddenly had to win all their games on the road? Especially considering the all-too familiar chorus of recent Chiefs shortcomings in the playoffs.
6 -- HOUSTON TEXANS (Up one spot)
7 -- PITTSBURGH STEELERS (Up one spot)
8 -- NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (Down two spots)
9 -- BALTIMORE RAVENS (Up one spot)
10 -- DALLAS COWBOYS (Down two spots)