It's a fair time to start wondering about NFL positioning. Teams atop the standings are fighting for position in the playoff picture and, more importantly, home-field advantage.
Playing at home is doubly valuable this year because of the teams involved. Look at the best teams in each conference, and each has a decided edge playing at home because of crowd and the elements. We'll examine that more in the power poll, but it's an overwhelming truth this year more than most.
As for the dregs of this NFL society, the street urchins residing in the safe underbelly of the ATM that is the NFL, a utopian business model structured on TV revenue being the bell cow and attendance being the profit source, well, being bad does mean being badly financed. Heck, the NFL is such a money-maker, the Cleveland Browns are worth a billion dollars, and of the 50 most valuable sports franchises, 30 of them are NFL teams.
So stinking in the NFL is still worth millions. It's also worth the chance to draft a playmaker who could easily flip the script for almost any franchise. That's another genius side ripple of the NFL's power structure: Great teams can stay great, but even the worst teams can start anew rather quickly. The least desirable position would be on the treadmill of mediocrity that results in a one-and-done playoff every third year and a river of draft picks ranging from the mid teens to the low 20s in each round.
So it goes, and with an eye on position let's go to the power poll.
1. Seattle -- The Seahawks have the league's best home-field advantage, and it would be magnified against the top contenders in the NFC. Granted, the Seahawks' thinning secondary could become a big concern.
2. New England -- Injuries have greatly affected the Patriots -- hey, it's the NFL, injuries affect everyone -- but as the offensive pieces return to Tom Brady's group, the Patriots are going to be hard to handle.
3. Denver -- While the elements are going to affect the Broncos as much as anyone, the noise is an important factor, too. Denver and Peyton Manning do so much at the line of scrimmage that a hostile road crowd greatly can limit his options. The fallout in Foxborough this past Sunday hardly inspires confidence in Manning and the Broncos' ability to move the ball in cold weather. This just in -- Denver, Kansas City and New England can get quite chilly in January. Better yet, the Super Bowl is outside in New Jersey. Somewhere, Peyton just punched his playbook.
4. New Orleans -- The second-best home-field edge in the game -- in terms of noise and how the Saints are built.
5. Carolina -- Cam Newton is on target to finish in the top five in the NFL MVP voting. Raise your hand if you thought that before the season.
We're adding an extra bonus to this week's bottom five, since it's all about positioning. In parentheses is where each team is currently slotted in round one of next spring's NFL draft.
28. Washington (no first-round pick; sent to St. Louis as part of the RG3 deal) -- Arguably the most volatile environment in the league right now considering the quarterback is unhappy, the coach is unhappy, the owner is a clown and there will be limited big-time help coming in the draft. Ah, Washington, where frustration is a way of life.
29. Houston (No. 1 overall) -- The Texans started 2-0 and have been defeated since. This is a team a lot of people thought was closer to the Super Bowl than the super selection of the No. 1 overall pick.
30. Minnesota (No. 4 overall) -- The Vikings need to be in position to add a quarterback, so Sunday's rare tie against Green Bay could be the tiebreaking factor between the top pick and wondering which potential QB will be on the board.
31. Atlanta (No. 3 overall) -- The Falcons are dreadful and the possiblity of adding any type of lineman of merit is appealing -- be he a defensive lineman, an offensive lineman or a telephone lineman. Yes, really. That's how bad the Falcons are on the line; even the phones need help.
32. Jacksonville (No. 2 overall) -- Leave it to the Jagaurs to mess up messing up. Now Jacksonville has won two in a row and muddled the entire process. The Jags can't lose at losing.
Contact Jay Greeson at firstname.lastname@example.org.