With every team exactly three-quarters through its schedule, the entire league has finally shifted into mathematical tiers. Four teams sit clearly ahead of the rest with a 9-3 record, while seemingly the entire remainder of the AFC falls in at 7-5 and, therefore, in a playoff race. The NFC, bogged down by its South division, has virtually no mediocre teams, where franchises find themselves on either end of the Power Rankings spectrum.
Week 13 brought us a bevy of outstanding matchups, from the battle for the top rank in the Power Rankings between New England and Green Bay to divisional and conference games between teams tied with or chasing one another. We saw the top seed in the AFC and NFC both fall, while some division races took a large step forward with wins by the Eagles and Bengals.
Then there's the bottom. After the five-team group of 5-7 franchises, the rest is an absolute mess. Even the team's records cannot be taken seriously when comparing one to the next, and most of their wins have been due to playing one another. They make up a microcosm of the Power Rankings, themselves.
With only four games remaining on each team's schedule, the focus for the final few weeks shifts solely to the playoff races. Records have helped position the teams where they are in the standings, to this point, but, in many cases, the first twelve games have now been rendered meaningless.
It's only the final four that matter.
Week 14 NFL Power Rankings
Week 14 NFL power rankings
28. Jacksonville Jaguars (Last Week: 32)
The Giants must have circled Week 13 as a potential win against the hapless Jaguars, but Jacksonville had every right to enter that game with the same intentions. For the second time all season, they left EverBank Field with a victory. Make no mistake, Jacksonville still remains one of the worst teams in the league, and a one-point victory over the Giants will do little to change that perception. But, for a brief time, the Jaguars have passed a few teams in the Power Rankings.
(Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
27. Carolina Panthers (Last Week: 25)
This is getting absolutely ridiculous. Even with three wins and a tie, the Panthers are easily one of the worst teams in the league. They are now riding a six-game losing streak and fail to show up to most games — of their eight losses, six have been via double digits. Of course, the way the NFL tends to go, the Panthers could march into New Orleans next week and stumble into a win, but that is more of a function of divisional familiarity than talent. Even if Carolina has some, they haven’t shown it when it matters.
(Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
26. Washington Redskins (Last Week: 28)
It was only a matter of time before the Redskins fell out of contention in their Week 13 game in Indianapolis. Washington, now led by quarterback Colt McCoy, pulled to within four points of the vastly superior Colts in the second half before subsequently getting dismantled by the game’s end. It appears clear that the Robert Griffin III era has officially ended and, while Colt McCoy may not be the quarterback of the future for the Redskins, the job is likely his for the remainder of the team’s abysmal season.
(Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Last Week: 27)
While this won’t help them sleep at night, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the best 2-10 team in football. Six of the team’s ten losses — including Sunday against the Bengals — have been by one score or less, and, even with a 1-5 record since the team’s bye week, the Buccaneers have only been outscored a total of 110-100 in this stretch. They might end up playing their way out of a top-three pick in next year’s draft, but, with three games remaining against playoff hopefuls, Tampa Bay is a scary sleeper waiting to play spoiler.
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
24. Chicago Bears (Last Week: 20)
For about 15 minutes on Thanksgiving Day, everyone glancing at a television had to do a double-take. The Bears — a team who have struggled to do basically anything right all season — had jumped out to a 14-3 lead against a Lions team that was recently atop the NFC North. Quickly, the Bears remembered how ill-fated their 2014 was, and returned to form, losing by 17. At least Chicago can use its one quarter of solid play as a potential building block for any upsets going forward.
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
23. Minnesota Vikings (Last Week: 24)
3-2 in their last five games, the Minnesota Vikings have quietly put together a solid string of play, dating back to their one-point loss in Buffalo in Week 7. Since then, the Vikings have yet to lose a game by more than one score, and have grabbed wins against the Buccaneers, Panthers, and Redskins. Yes, all those teams are absolutely terrible. But give credit to the below average team that has made strides in moving out of the bottom tier.
(Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
22. New Orleans Saints (Last Week: 23)
That’s the Saints team everyone expects to see on a weekly basis. Thanks to the third-largest offensive output of their season, the New Orleans Saints went into Pittsburgh and grabbed their fifth win of the season, keeping pace with the 5-7 Falcons atop the NFC South division. By now, the numbers tell the story – a team will likely win the division without a winning record. If the Saints can play out the rest of their games like they played in Pittsburgh, they look like the frontrunner to grab the NFC South. Then again, New Orleans did lead by 19 points in the fourth quarter, only to win by three. Their inability to close out games has hurt them all season, and might ultimately lead to their death.
(Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
21. Atlanta Falcons (Last Week: 22)
There’s the Atlanta Falcons that conventional wisdom led us to believe exists. Julio Jones? Stud on paper; finally a beast on the field. Matt Ryan? Solid quarterback; over 350 yards passing and two touchdowns. Home field advantage in Atlanta? Falcons knock off the previously 9-2 Cardinals. It always seemed possible, yet it never actually came to fruition. Luckily for Atlanta, it was not ‘too little, too late,’ as the 5-7 Falcons still lead the pathetic NFC South via a tiebreaker over the Saints.
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
20. St. Louis Rams (Last Week: 21)
Talk about an explosion. The St. Louis Rams have been knocking on the door of a blowout for weeks. After an impressive stretch of solid play against the Seahawks, 49ers, Broncos, and Chargers – only San Diego beat the Rams, and by a field goal, at that – the Rams were finally given a gift when the horrible Raiders came to town. The Rams did not squander the opportunity, destroying Oakland in embarrassing fashion. While St. Louis has no chance to catch any other team in its division, at least it has clearly separated itself from the rest of the teams with losing records, proving to be the best of the bunch.
(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
19. Houston Texans (Last Week: 19)
It would likely take a 4-0 run to end the season, but the Houston Texans – with two games against the Jaguars and one against the Colts – actually have a chance to make the playoffs. Sweeping their remaining games would probably put them in better position to win their division than grab a Wild Card berth, but they remain alive in both, regardless. In reality, their inability to sustain a record above .500 will probably spell the end of their season, but with J.J. Watt seemingly doing everything on the football field, the Texans remain a threat – albeit, weak – through season’s end.
(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
18. Cleveland Browns (Last Week: 17)
That might be the end of the Cleveland dream. While 7-5 may keep other teams alive in other conferences or divisions – by comparison, it would give a team a two-game lead in the NFC South – the Browns sit at the bottom of a crowded AFC North. Not to be forgotten in the team’s defeat in Buffalo on Sunday is the equally important loss of a head-to-head tiebreaker against the Bills. Of all the non-divisional teams against whom the Browns could ill-afford a loss, the Bills were probably the most critical. Surely, the story going into the Browns’ final four games is the potential quarterback change, as Brian Hoyer was benched late in Week 13’s loss for Johnny Manziel. Whether or not head coach Mike Pettine sticks with Manziel or Hoyer going forward, Cleveland may have to win out to still be playing in January.
(Photo by: Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
17. San Francisco 49ers (Last Week: 14)
While the numbers will say otherwise, the 49ers’ home loss on Thanksgiving Night against the Seahawks should spell the end of any San Francisco playoff push. Now at 7-5, trailing both the Cardinals and Seahawks in the standings and tiebreakers, the 49ers will likely need to win out to grab the division crown. Assuming the NFC West is now out of reach, San Francisco at least has a win against the Cowboys, against whom they may be battling for the final Wild Card spot. It is worth noting, however, that the 49ers’ last two wins came in a miracle against the Saints and a four-point home victory against the terrible Redskins. Quite frankly, the 49ers don’t look good enough to pull off the improbable NFC playoff push.
(Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
16. Baltimore Ravens (LW: 13)
Even at 7-5 and technically still alive in the playoff hunt, the Ravens blowing a six-point lead with under one minute remaining in their Week 13 game might spell the end of the team’s playoff push. With a division loss to the Steelers and a sweep at the hands of the Bengals, the Ravens had likely lost all hope of an AFC North title. Now that they failed to put away the Chargers, at home, the Ravens fall behind yet another team in the Wild Card hunt, and may have to win out altogether to grab a playoff berth.
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
13. Pittsburgh Steelers (Last Week: 12)
Can we all collectively give up on the Steelers? Not necessarily on their ability to win games, but rather to define themselves. It seems like every few weeks, we get a stretch of new Pittsburgh football — three-game winning streak followed by a loss to the Jets and a field goal win in Tennessee. This recent edition? A home loss to the previously 4-7 Saints the same week that the Browns and Ravens also lost. Luckily for the Steelers, the Week 13 defeat could easily be forgiven if they win in Cincinnati next week.
(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
12. Kansas City Chiefs (Last Week: 9)
Between Weeks 3 and 11, it was difficult to find a team better than the Kansas City Chiefs. Once at 7-3, the Chiefs’ 0-2 start had been a distant memory as the team flew up the AFC West standings. Now, with two consecutive losses and a series sweep at the hands of the Broncos, the Chiefs will need another run to grab one of the two Wild Card spots. With games against the sputtering Cardinals, terrible Raiders, and inconsistent Steelers in the next three weeks, the potential is there for Kansas City to turn its season back around.
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
10. Detroit Lions (Last Week: 11)
They absolutely could not afford a home loss to the Bears and, despite a slow start, delivered when asked. The Lions finally broke their slump of seven consecutive quarters without a touchdown by racking up four on Thanksgiving Day. Back in the win column, the Lions have a chance to enter their Week 17 matchup against the Packers with the division on the line. Their next three games, leading into said matchup, are all against teams with losing records.
(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
9. Cincinnati Bengals (Last Week: 10)
Was there any team less deserving of a win on Sunday than the Cincinnati Bengals? Traveling to Tampa Bay to play the 2-9 Buccaneers, the Bengals had the easiest scheduled game of the AFC North combatants, and could not afford to leave without the win. In the end, they did, but no Bengals fan walked away from that game feeling good about anything except another number in the win column. The one-point victory, coupled with every other team in the division losing, now gives the Bengals a solid lead in the AFC North. With a sweep of the Ravens already under their belt, the Bengals will likely only have to split against the Steelers and beat the Browns — or get some help from Cleveland’s opponent — to grab the team’s second straight division crown.
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
5. Seattle Seahawks (Last Week: 7)
It has been stated many times in the past weeks, but it is worth repeating after the Seahawks’ back-to-back divisional wins — Seattle’s schedule featuring five division games in its final six weeks is a massive benefit to the team’s NFC West title push. Seattle is now playing their best football when it matters the most and have likely knocked the 49ers out of the hunt while bearing down on the Cardinals. Seattle will get their opportunity to further improve their title hopes when they travel to Arizona in a few weeks. Between now and then, however, the 8-4 Seahawks will have to play in Philadelphia and host a revenge-hungry 49ers team in the next two weeks. If the Seahawks are truly capable of repeating as Super Bowl Champions, they will, once again, have to pass these tests.
(Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
4. Philadelphia Eagles (Last Week: 6)
If the Eagles had to prove to the world that they will survive the home stretch of the season without quarterback Nick Foles, one should look no further than their blowout win in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day. Thoroughly dominant throughout the entire game, Philadelphia grabbed hold of the NFC East division lead and now holds a one-game lead, as well as a tiebreaker, over the Cowboys. Philadelphia will now host the surging Seahawks in what should be a fantastic showdown between the Eagles’ offense and Seattle’s defense — which has allowed a combined six points in its last two games. The Eagles are now the class of the NFC East, and have solidified themselves in the upper echelon of the NFL.
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
3. Denver Broncos (Last Week: 3)
Back to their winning ways, the Denver Broncos have now rebounded from their loss to the Rams with victories against the Dolphins and Chiefs in consecutive weeks. The latter, coupled with New England’s loss in Green Bay moves Denver into a tie for the AFC’s best record, although the Patriots hold the tiebreaker via their Week 9 win. Now with a one-game lead in the AFC West — including a win over the Chargers and two against the Chiefs — Denver could conceivably have the division locked up before Week 17 and solely be playing for home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
2. New England Patriots (Last Week: 1)
In the battle of two giants, one was bound to fall. As dominant as New England has been since the beginning of October, the Patriots’ seven-game winning streak was snapped by the Packers in Lambeau Field. Much like the Patriots supplanted Denver atop the Power Rankings by beating the Broncos in Week 9, New England now suffers the same fate of losing its grasp on the top spot with a loss. With the aforementioned win against the Broncos under their belts, the Patriots still remain the top seed and best team in the AFC, and will cruise to a division title, if not a first-round bye.
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
1. Green Bay Packers (Last Week: 2)
The winner would tell the story, and Green Bay is now talking. The Packers’ home game against the Patriots on Sunday was billed as a potential Super Bowl preview, with arguably the best team in each conference squaring off for Power Ranking Supremacy. Surely, more was at stake for Green Bay than recognition as the league’s top team, and with Arizona’s second loss in two games, the Packers now share a piece of the NFC’s best record with the Cardinals and Eagles. Green Bay has been thoroughly dominant of late – an average margin of victory of over 20 points for its last four games – and the Packers appear to have hit their stride at the perfect time. One odd anomaly for this otherwise thriving team is that each of its three losses this season have been by double digits. While they have operated as a boom-or-bust team throughout the course of the year, they are certainly exploding at the moment.