Each week, 12 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 - The road to the NFC title clearly runs through deafening CenturyLink Field.
2. Denver - Upcoming road games against the Pats and Chiefs will define their season.
3. Kansas City - While KC’s defense did its part at Denver, Alex Smith came up well short.
4. New Orleans - Holding off the surging Panthers in the NFC South won’t be easy.
5. Carolina - They’ve become a scary team, with Cam Newton maturing before our eyes.
6. Indianapolis - Could virtually wrap up a division title this weekend.
7. San Francisco - They’d better find some more offense in a hurry.
8. New England - Good enough to win another AFC East crown, but not much more.
9. Cincinnati - Troubling questions remain whenever they hit the road.
10. Detroit - With six games left, they could win the division ... or miss the playoffs.
11. Chicago - Same here.
12. Arizona - They are 6-1 when venturing outside of the rugged NFC West.
13. Philadelphia - The home jinx is over and Nick Foles has settled in under center.
14. Green Bay - Just trying to tread water until Aaron Rodgers returns.
15. Dallas - We’ll see if Monte Kiffin’s dreadful defense was fixed during the bye week.
16. N.Y. Giants - On a roll just in time to welcome the Cowboys to town.
17. Miami - Would likely make the playoffs with a 4-2 finish.
18. N.Y. Jets - Geno Smith looks every bit the rookie when he hits the road.
19. Baltimore - The AFC North basement is beckoning the defending Super Bowl champs.
20. Pittsburgh - You can expect a big finish from Ben Roethlisberger.
21. Tennessee - At some point, being competitive just isn’t good enough.
22. San Diego - A frustrated KC defense will be swarming Philip Rivers on Sunday.
23. St. Louis - Living proof you need more than a strong pass rush to succeed.
24. Cleveland - A 15-minute brain drain cost them dearly in the battle of Ohio.
25. Oakland - When you figure this enigmatic team out, please let me know.
26. Buffalo - They’ve basically been irrelevant for almost two decades.
27. Washington - From division champions to 0-3 in the NFC East.
28. Tampa Bay - Bucs fans finally being rewarded for their loyalty.
29. Atlanta - Owner Arthur Blank has it right ... they won’t be down for long.
30. Houston - Andre Johnson is running a slant pattern, off the reservation.
31. Minnesota - Coach Leslie Frazier can’t believe his defense is this bad.
32. Jacksonville - Only die-hards will watch the Jags and Texans exchange gaffes.