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By Joe Benigno
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It was a tough week for the Top 10, as the Niners, Giants, Ravens and Bears all lost. The Steelers, Bengals, Seahawks and Redskins are all poised and ready to crack the rankings.
1. Houston Texans (1) 11-1
Houston clinched a playoff spot with a workman-like win in Tennessee for the second straight season. They also set a franchise mark with their 11th win.
Next: @ Patriots
2. Atlanta Falcons (2) 11-1
Atlanta clinched the NFC South title with a solid win over the archrival Saints. They also revenged their only loss of the season. The Falcons probably need home-field advantage throughout the playoffs to get to the Super Bowl.
Next: @ Panthers
3. Denver Broncos (4) 9-3
Denver clinched its second consecutive AFC West crown with a win over Tampa. The Broncos have won seven straight and may be the AFC’s best team right now.
Next: @ Raiders
4. New England Patriots (6) 9-3
The Pats made it 10 division titles in 12 years with a win in Miami. New England has won six in a row. Next week is a heavyweight showdown with the Texans.
Next: vs Texans
5. San Francisco 49ers (3) 8-3-1
What is it with San Fran that they can’t beat the Rams? These two were just 26 seconds away from their second tie of the season. It’s the first time we’ve seen some warts in Colin Kaepernick’s game, but Jim Harbaugh is sticking with him.
Next: vs. Dolphins
6. Green Bay Packers (9) 8-4
The Pack got back on track with a win over the Vikes despite Adrian Peterson’s monster day. Green Bay is again tied with the Bears for the top spot in the NFC North.
Next: vs. Lions
7. Baltimore Ravens (7) 9-3
The Charlie Batch-led Steelers ended the Ravens’ 16-game home winning streak with a surprising win over their archrivals. Baltimore is still in the division’s driver seat, but something is still missing with this group.
Next: @ Redskins
8. New York Giants (5) 7-5
Next: vs. Saints
9. Indianapolis Colts (10) 8-4
Andrew Luck to Donnie Avery on the game’s final play won it for the horseshoes in Detroit. The Colts overcame a 12-point deficit in the last three minutes. The magic continues in Indy.
Next: vs. Titans
10. Cincinnati Bengals (unranked) 7-5
Cincy won its fourth in a row, holding off the lousy Chargers in San Diego. Upcoming games with the Steelers and Ravens will probably determine the Bengals’ playoff fate.
Next: vs. Cowboys
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