Sure, the Peyton Manning-Tom Brady rivalry is nothing new to football fans, but with Manning's move to Denver, the matchup has a renewed vigor. The Patriots beat the Broncos in Week 5, but after Week 15, Manning's Broncos have supplanted Brady's Patriots at the top of the NFL rankings. San Francisco knocked New England down the rankings with a surprising Sunday night win, albeit only after surviving a swift comeback. Seattle has proven it is for real, on both sides of the ball, while the Giants' problems are widely evident. Teams like the Redskins and Cowboys, who looked dead midway through the season, have proven anything but. The rankings, frankly, are in disarray.
Coming up: Which team with an offensive name might just make the playoffs? Is Christian Ponder's "brand" of quarterbacking a call for the NFL to eliminate the forward pass? And is "disconcerting signals" a penalty in the NFL or just another term for Todd Bowles' playcalling?
1. Denver (11-3); Last week: 2
Week 15 result: Won vs. Baltimore, 34-17
It's odd how the Broncos have flown under the radar this season. They got more attention last year with Tim Tebow than they are now with Manning, one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. Manning is a leading MVP/Comeback Player of the Year candidate, but considering what he has accomplished after missing a full season and moving to a new team, the media praise has been understated. The Broncos have won nine straight, and with games against the Browns and Chiefs remaining, should make it 11.
Next up: vs. Cleveland
2. Houston (12-2); Last week: 3
Week 15 result: Won vs. Indianapolis, 29-17
The Texans rebounded nicely from a smackdown from the Patriots in their first contest in three weeks against the division-rival Colts. Arian Foster ran for 165 yards, Andre Johnson caught 11 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown and J.J. Watt added three sacks (upping his season total to 19.5) to help Houston clinch the AFC South for the second straight year.
Next up: vs. Minnesota
3. Atlanta (12-2); Last week: 4