Each week, 12 national media members - including the Tribune’s Ira Kaufman - rank teams in what is known as The Associated Press Pro32 power rankings. Here is Kaufman’s ballot.
1. Seattle - Nothing beats a three-game cushion atop the NFC West heading into Candlestick.
2. Denver - John Fox’s extended bye week figures to end with a lopsided win vs. the Titans.
3. Carolina - By Sunday night in New Orleans, we’ll know a lot more about this swarming defense.
4. New Orleans - The jet-lagged Saints just showed us how dispiriting an NFL road trip can be
5. New England - Ho-hum. They can wrap up another division title Sunday with a win and some help.
6. San Francisco - The return of Michael Crabtree could pay huge dividends down the stretch.
7. Kansas City - This reeling defense needs to steady itself before the playoffs begin.
8. Cincinnati - Looking to go 6-0 at home by throttling the struggling Colts.
9. Detroit - When the Lions don’t beat themselves, their talent base can be quite impressive.
10. Philadelphia - QB Nick Foles continues to craft an implausible story line.
11. Indianapolis - When Reggie Wayne limped to the sideline, he took much of the offense with him.
12. Dallas - Cowboy fans remain leery of this defense, and with good reason.
13. Arizona - That 4-5 record within the NFC could hurt them in a tiebreaker scenario.
14. Baltimore - Hanging in there, but still much to prove on the road.
15. N.Y. Giants - One more stumble and they’re toast.
16. Miami - If Ryan Tannehill stands tall in the pocket, they could sneak in as a wild card.
17. Chicago - It’s been a while since Chicago’s defense looked this soft.
18. Green Bay - McCarthy’s right ... they have to win out in December to have a chance.
19. St. Louis - Making strides, but not good enough to play with the big boys.
20. Pittsburgh - Step lightly, Mr. Tomlin. Your gritty team is still alive.
21. San Diego - One step up, two steps back.
22. Tennessee - Ryan Fitzpatrick is proving once again why he should be a backup.
23. Cleveland - The Browns have wasted some good defense this season.
24. Oakland - That 0-4 slate vs. the NFC doomed the Silver & Black to failure.
25. Buffalo - They can run the football and rush the passer. That about covers it.
26. N.Y. Jets - Stuck with Geno Smith, at least for the time being.
27. Minnesota - Anybody heard Josh Freeman’s name lately?
28. Washington - Feeling nice and cozy in the NFC East basement.
29. Tampa Bay - Beatdown in Charlotte raised many of the old concerns.
30. Jacksonville - Only club without a home win could break through on Thursday evening.
31. Atlanta - Roddy White and Steven Jackson emerged from hiding last week.
32. Houston - Closing in on that No. 1 draft pick, amid plenty of needs.
VOTING PANEL: Cris Collinsworth, NBC Sports; Tony Dungy, NBC Sports; Herman Edwards, ESPN; Bob Glauber, Newsday; Rick Gosselin, Dallas Morning News; Clark Judge, CBSSports.com; Ira Kaufman, The Tampa Tribune; Pat Kirwan, SiriusXM NFL Radio/CBSSports.com; Jeff Legwold, ESPN/ESPN.com; John Lynch, Fox Sports; Alex Marvez, Foxsports.com; Charean Williams, Fort Worth Star-Telegram