1. Tennessee -- With its victory against Buffalo, it is now 7-5 for head coach Mike Munchak. I think this is one of the better coaching jobs in the NFL. I don't think the Titans can catch the Texans, but they are not out of the wild-card race, and their last game of the season in Houston might put them in a position to get the last wild-card spot. Chris Johnson has regained his All-Pro form with another impressive outing (153 yards on 23 carries). Matt Hasselbeck did not turn the ball over. The Titans are not flashy but play steady every week.
2. Houston -- A truly remarkable victory for the Texans. A great effort by their defense in holding Atlanta to 10 points, though they had some luck in doing it. Matt Ryan missed two open receivers for touchdowns on the first drive of the game, and Julio Jones dropped a potential tying touchdown pass in the end zone on the last play of the game. The Texans defense jumps out at you because of how hard they play; they fly to the ball on every play. One of their coaches described them as playing like college players, saying it as a compliment. T.J. Yates was fairly efficient, making some plays and missing some others. His only turnover came on a somewhat controversial play that appeared to be an incomplete pass but was ruled a fumble. The key to the game was Houston returning to its running game in its winning drive -- a 23-play drive (counting penalties) where it ran the ball 13 times plus two scramble runs by Yates. The Texans were aggressive with their play calling with Yates throwing the ball throughout the game. Watching the game on TV, I was impressed with Yates' eyes when they showed them. He did not seem to be a "deer in the headlights." Instead, he was not in awe of the situation. I think every game will be a struggle for the Texans with Yates, but the defense will keep them in every game. If they don't turn it over, they will have a chance to win in the fourth quarter like they did versus Atlanta.
3. New York Jets -- Kept their playoff hopes alive as they broke a 13-13 tie in the the fourth quarter. For the second successive week, they did a good job protecting Mark Sanchez. After the loss to the Broncos, the Jets told me they were going to emphasize pass protection in an effort to get Sanchez to be more comfortable in the pocket so he would stop rushing his reads. On Sunday, they held the Redskins without a sack. Quite an accomplishment considering the Redskins are one of the best pass-rushing teams in the NFL. Santonio Holmes delivered the play of the game when he connected with Sanchez on a 30-yard touchdown pass. In watching the Jets, I would like to see them feature Holmes more in their passing attack. Aaron Maybin got his sixth sack of the season and continued to impress with his pass-rushing ability. Maybin's problem is he is not big enough to be a starter as a 3-4 OLB, but he can be effective as a nickel rusher, which means as a high-first-round pick he is overpaid, but as a street free agent he is underpaid. The point is the Jets made a smart move picking him up and finding the right way to use him. I like his quickness and change of direction as a pass rusher.
4. Green Bay -- After beating the Giants, it is hard to see the Packers losing a game in the regular season. The part of their offense that defensive coordinators struggle the most with is Aaron Rodgers' ability to run the ball and make plays. The Giants defense probably played as well as it could. They mixed coverages to make Rodgers hold the ball in the hopes their pass rush could get there, only to see Rodgers either avoid the rush to make a play. The Packers can be beaten because of their defense. They give up too many yards, and as the Giants proved, a good offense can score points on them. Green Bay is a very good team, but not a historically great team because of their defense.
5. New York Giants -- They have to be kicking themselves about losing, otherwise they would be tied for first place, but because the Cowboys lost to Arizona, they still have a chance to win the division with two games left against the Cowboys, including the season finale in the Meadowlands. The Giants gave a remarkable effort considering they were operating on a short week. Eli Manning is one of the top QBs in the game and he proved it again Sunday by continually bringing the Giants back, especially with his deep balls to Hakeem Nicks. You also could see the difference Ahmad Bradshaw made in the offense. It gave them an outside presence in the running game and in the screen game. The Giants have deficiencies in the linebacker area and in the secondary, which showed up in the past two weeks. Their defense is dependent on the pass rush to save the back seven, but as teams have shown, if you account for their DEs, their inside rushers are not good enough to compensate. Eli still gives them a chance for the playoffs.
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6. Denver -- There are a number of great storylines in the NFL, but none more fascinating than Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. Once again, Tebow led the Broncos on a fourth-quarter comeback. This was Tebow's best passing game of the year. He was 10 of 15 for 202 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 149.3. Because of its strong rushing attack and threat of the option, Denver's offense sees a lot of single coverage, thus giving them a lot of opportunities to make big plays in the passing game. Tebow came through Sunday when presented with those opportunities. That is what enabled them to score a lot of points. Two things Tebow has done week in and week out successfully has been avoiding interceptions, and keeping plays alive by avoiding sacks and then finding an open receiver downfield. He hurt the Vikings with his scrambles Sunday. Tebow has shown improvement as a passer. This improvement will be critical if the Broncos are going to make the playoffs. We also saw how much they missed Von Miller's pass rushing.
7. Chicago -- The Bears are in a downward spiral they might not escape. Caleb Hanie's play over the past two games hasn't helped, and when Matt Forte came out of the game, Chicago's offense came to a halt. With the lack of a running game, their pass protection got exposed and gave up seven sacks. I know there will be a cry to bring in Donovan McNabb, but I don't see that being the answer. It will take him time to learn the offense. With four games to go, I think you have to live with what you have. The Bears felt that way last week when they did not claim him.
8. Atlanta -- Got away from their formula, and it cost them in their loss to the Texans. They threw the ball 46 times and ran it only 18 times. The disturbing thing to me as I watched them was the Matt Ryan's play. He is a good QB, but not an elite one. He certainly is good enough to win a lot of games, but his inaccuracy will show up from time to time, and that was evident Sunday. It cost them the game. When they run the ball a lot, it opens up throwing lanes that enables easier throws. This is not the first time I have seen him be inconsistent. Defensive coordinators I have talked to see him the same way.
9. Philadelphia -- Andy Reid is taking a lot of criticism in Philly these days. Many people are calling for him to fired. Sometimes you can stay in one place too long, and that is what has happened to him. I even saw this with Joe Gibbs in Washington. He could not win enough even with three Super Bowl rings. I will say this: If Philly lets him go, he will be the first in line for every opening in the NFL. Maybe he should leave for his sake, but I would not fire him. I do think he will have to make some critical personnel decisions and coaching-staff decisions in the offseason. Among those will be deciding whether to draft a young QB for the future, which I think is their biggest need. If they don't find that guy, they must at least make an upgrade at backup QB.
10. Miami -- Another impressive performance by the Dolphins in beating the first-place Raiders. Tony Sparano changed the Dolphins' approach to practice a few weeks back, and since then, the Dolphins have responded with their best football of the year. Their defense is now playing like it was supposed to at the beginning of the season, they are finding ways to use Reggie Bush effectively, and seem to have found a rhythm with Brandon Marshall. Matt Moore has made some good throws, but misses too many others to be your starter. They need a speed receiver and a QB. They won't get a coach who will get these players to play harder than Sparano does. Also, the first thing the new coach will say is we need a QB and a speed receiver! It might not be a popular move in South Florida, but Sparano deserves another year.
More Thoughts on Week 13
1. Ndamukong Suh -- I talked to Kyle Vanden Bosch, who is the leader of the Detroit's defensive line and a close friend of Suh, and asked what he said to him. He said he told Suh he was behind him. That no matter what happened, he had his back, and when he came back that they would welcome him back. He felt Suh was a good person and that the public perception of him was wrong. He also felt that as good as Suh is, defensive tackle is Detroit's strongest position; they have enough depth (Sammy Hill and an improving Nick Fairley) to overcome his loss.
2. Donovan McNabb -- People I've talked to don't see him as the same player he was in the past because of his legs. He doesn't have the escapability he had in the past that made him such a dangerous player, especially on third down. One of the reasons Orton got three claims and McNabb got none was Kansas City, Chicago and Dallas viewed Orton as a potential backup for next year -- something that they did not view McNabb as for next year.
3. Rolando McClain -- I was told there is a wide range in the stories between the parties involved. An interesting side note was the mother of the person who accused McClain of shooting the gun called the Raiders shortly after this incident became public and left messages with the Raiders that she "was going to make trouble" for the Raiders. The Raiders' position on disciplining him was that you are innocent until proven guilty. There will be some form of punishment for at least not leaving the scene of a fight. I would have sat him down on Sunday and gotten that part of the discipline over with.
4. T.J. Yates -- One thing about Yates that was evident Sunday was his special rapport with Andre Johnson. When Johnson was rehabbing, Yates would throw 30-40 balls to him on Mondays. I also asked him what Gary Kubiak told him. He said to trust his instincts and don't hesitate, let it fly. He also was told not to overthink things, just have fun. And finally, the main thing he was told was don't try to win it by yourself -- take what the defense gives you.
5. Jacksonville -- The reason Jack Del Rio was let go now was because Wayne Weaver had said the team had to make the playoffs this year. Once the Jags were eliminated, Del Rio was going to be out as coach for next season, so why not get started on finding a new coach now? This allows Jacksonville to openly talk to people they are interested in who are not currently coaching in the NFL. I also think the timing was such to help on ticket sales for the San Diego game, as well as the fact he had to make an announcement about the sale of the team -- why not have one press conference instead of two? The next step in the process of the sale is for the Finance Committee to review it this week. The committee will make a recommendation to be voted upon at the NFL Meeting on Dec. 14, with the closing tentatively scheduled for Jan. 4. In talking to people familiar with the sale, they believe it will go through.
Charley Casserly can be followed on Twitter @CasserlyCBS