Week 10 may prove to be the week everything changed, or it might just be an aberration.
1. Houston: I finally get to drop Atlanta out of the top spot. Nice job traveling to Chicago and proving they can play defense, and on a sloppy field.
2. Chicago: Of course the question now becomes how healthy is Jay Cutler? With the Niners, the Vikings twice, and Seattle in the next four they are going to need him.
3. Atlanta: Starting to show the fatigue of winning a lot of games late.
4. Green Bay: Their stretch of tough games starts now too. Will the loss of Clay Matthews put the final nail in that defenses coffin for a few weeks?
5. Giants: The bye comes a week late. A 6-game schedule remaining consists of Green Bay, N.O., Washington, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Atlanta. Can they win 4 of these?
6. New England: Playing just well enough to win and finding ways to protect their secondary.
7. San Fran: Losing Alex Smith may be the most unimportant injury for any team this week. We will see how good a coach Harbaugh is going forward.
8. Denver: Peyton delivering on his promise.
9. Seattle: Nice dismantling of The Jets. But that’s really not that difficult a task.
10.Pittsburgh: Losing Big Ben for three weeks when two of those weeks include games against Baltimore could prove fatal.
11. Baltimore: Time to prove you can play against a big boy defense. Let’s see what you really got.
12. Tampa: This up and down team continues to move up and down the rankings. With the NFC so wide open at this point, they are still in the mix.
13. Cincy: Made a nice statement against a tired Giants team, but the real tests remain ahead in Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
14. Minnesota: They seem to have righted the ship. Let’s see if they can stay consistent.
15. Dallas: Again with the wide open NFC, they have climbed back into a race for a wild card spot.
Here is where we start to look at playoff possibilities, and eliminate teams from consideration.
NFC: Atlanta, Giants, Chicago, Green Bay, San Fran, Seattle, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Dallas, Detroit, St. Louis and Arizona are all still looking for playoff spots. However everyone from Tampa on down needs to think they have to win 5 of the next 7.
AFC: Houston, Baltimore, New England, Denver, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh are in great shape at the moment. San Diego, Miami, Cincy and Tennessee are in a battle for their lives, but one of them will make the playoffs under the current scenario. Pittsburgh and Big Ben’s injury could be the key to the playoff hopes of a few of these teams.
Gone: The Jets, Oakland, Buffalo, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Carolina, Washington and Philadelphia.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @tufdan.