Winners of eight in a row, Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champions are positioning themselves for another title run
It felt like an extra-long week in the NFL but one filled with outcomes that could be rather significant when it comes to the postseason picture down the road. While there are a number of compelling races for playoff spots still intact, maybe the best part of the weekend was the fact that there were close games by the bunches with some really thrilling finishes.
Doing as much as one can to sort through all that and factoring in everything from overall roster strength, to quarterback play, to the coaching staff, here is the latest edition of NFL power rankings and where every team stacks up from 1 to 32.
Week 14 NFL Power Rankings
1. New England Patriots
Last week: 2
Winning an eighth straight game over a banged-up Bills squad was not the headline grabber on Sunday (thanks to Rob Gronkowski’s antics) but there is only a handful of teams playing as well as the defending champs are right now. The final two road games between now and Christmas Eve look like the only kind of tests New England will face until the divisional round.
2. Philadelphia Eagles
Last week: 1
All good things must come to an end and that nine-game winning streak was bound to be broken at some point. The Eagles simply weren’t on their game up in Seattle and that showed but a split of this West Coast road trip could put them back in the top spot once again.
3. Minnesota Vikings
Last week: 3
While it wasn’t the prettiest of wins, going on the road to beat the reigning NFC champs is yet another sign that this just might the team to beat in the playoffs — and they might not have to leave home at all to hoist that Lombardi Trophy. Minnesota’s defense remains the most fearsome unit in the league and holding the Falcons without a TD (on the road) proves it.
4. Los Angeles Rams
Last week: 5
LA avoided the look-ahead matchup with the Eagles at home by going on the road and taking care of business at Arizona. It was nice to see special teams and the defense step up with some huge plays because they’re going to need them in the next few weeks as they make an improbable run toward a first-round bye.
5. New Orleans Saints
Last week: 6
Credit where credit is due, the Saints’ front office saw something special in Alvin Kamara and the rookie has been everything the franchise could have hoped for and more. His terrific run and the arm of Drew Brees have led to one of the most balanced all-around teams in the league and that victory over the Panthers puts them atop the NFC South with a little breathing room now too.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last week: 4
Seemed like the Steelers were just lost after seeing Ryan Shazier carted off following that horrific injury on Monday night. Hopefully the linebacker will return after a speedy recovery as the fourth-quarter comeback kept his team in the hunt for the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
7. Seattle Seahawks
Last week: 13
Russell Wilson (above, right) for MVP? He certainly made his case on Sunday night with some incredible plays to lead that upset of the Eagles. Despite all of the injuries Seattle has suffered, its star quarterback and some quality coaching has this team looking dangerous for this final month of the season.
8. Carolina Panthers
Last week: 7
Seemed like the Panthers had something go wrong in every phase of the game down in New Orleans as they just couldn’t get over the hump and secure the division lead. This is still a dangerous team but there are so many obvious flaws that if you don’t get the A-Game from Cam Newton and company, a loss feels more likely than not.
9. Tennessee Titans
Last week: 10
Giving up all those yards to the previously dormant Texans passing attack is a little concerning but a sixth win in seven games suddenly has the Titans right in the thick of things in the AFC and keeping pace with Jacksonville in the division. The team hasn’t blown anybody off the map but 8-4 is 8-4.
10. Los Angeles Chargers
Last week: 9
Remember before the season when folks were talking up the potential for the Chargers to do some damage? It took a while but that team has finally arrived following a six-of-eight run the past two months. Now they’re in a tie for the division lead and might have the best schedule left of the bunch.
11. Atlanta Falcons
Last week: 8
The offense failing to find the end zone and settling for field goals against the Vikings might be the difference between making the playoffs or living up to that Super Bowl hangover. While they still played an excellent team close at home, the margin for error going forward is slim.
12. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last week: 12
Welcome back Leonard Fournette, who scored for the first time in over a month, and welcome back to the eight-win mark as a franchise for the first time in seven years. Blake Bortles was pretty solid (especially on third down) but playing well against the Colts’ defense and next week against Seattle could be two very different things for the quarterback.
13. Baltimore Ravens
Last week: 15
The trip to Pittsburgh is a lot more interesting now after the destruction of the Lions as part of this three-game winning streak. Joe Flacco had one of his better outings and they’ll need that to continue going forward with four very winnable games to close out the season.
14. Dallas Cowboys
Last week: 16
The offense finally — finally — showed some life in that Thursday night game against Washington with their backs against the wall. That keeps their slim postseason hopes alive but there’s no margin for error still and no chance the Cowboys can afford to overlook their next two. At least linebacker Sean Lee is set to return for this stretch run.
15. Detroit Lions
Last week: 11
The lopsided score against the Ravens wasn’t quite indicative of how the team played but even with Matthew Stafford exiting with the hand injury that was a loss the team could ill-afford to take.
16. Oakland Raiders
Last week: 17
Replacing Ken Norton Jr. as coordinator looks like it’s playing some dividends as the defense has been much better lately and the team is suddenly tied atop the division with a chance to secure a sweep against Kansas City.
17. Washington Redskins
Last week: 14
At some point, all those issues that Kirk Cousins was masking were going to be a factor in a game and it seemed like Thursday night in Dallas was the time it call came crashing down. While the rest of the season seems like it will be played in the role of spoiler, getting back above .500 is a reasonable goal.
18. Green Bay Packers
Last week: 23
Another clutch team victory at home to bring the record to .500 in what was a great time for the offense to break out some big runs. With the winless Browns on deck and Aaron Rodgers throwing in practice, things are starting to warm up a bit in Green Bay.
19. Cincinnati Bengals
Last week: 21
Another lifeless second half effort, this time at home against division rival Pittsburgh to probably shut the door on those extremely slim playoff hopes. The depth at linebacker and running back is getting very concerning.
20. Buffalo Bills
Last week: 18
All eyes will be on Tyrod Taylor’s knee and how it progresses throughout the week but is there anybody who thinks this team can rally to make the playoffs? Even in the muddled AFC playoff picture, that’s four losses in five weeks.
21. New York Jets
Last week: 26
If Todd Bowles wasn’t already a strong candidate for Coach of the Year, beating the Chiefs and getting this roster to five wins should be part of the case.
22. Kansas City Chiefs
Last week: 19
Four in a row in the loss column and this team has gone from the last undefeated to possibly missing out on the playoffs. Alex Smith and the offense seemed to break out against the Jets a little but just about everything else for Andy Reid is proving to be an issue.
23. Arizona Cardinals
Last week: 20
There was a little bit of fight left in this team right before halftime but the offense just isn’t there to win against good teams like the Rams.
24. Miami Dolphins
Last week: 23
The five-game losing streak was snapped with a cathartic victory over Denver but how much did we really learn about this team given the opponent? We’ll find out quickly with New England up next.
25. Houston Texans
Last week: 22
Tom Savage came out of left field with that 365-yard passing day against Tennessee but only managed to find the end zone once. The running game feels like it’s getting underused more by the week and the defense is not helping any sort of turnaround either.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last week: 24
The good news is that Jameis Winston is back under center and wasn’t quite as rusty as expected given the shoulder injury. Still, he failed to take care of the ball and the defense allowing all those big runs in the fourth quarter and overtime came at the worst time imaginable.
27. San Francisco 49ers
Last week: 31
Jimmy G. comes through with the victory on the road in the kind of debut many were hoping for by the quarterback. Of course, that win was really courtesy of the Robbie Gould revenge game and all that it entailed.
28. Denver Broncos
Last week: 27
After eight losses in a row, you wonder if a reset button is coming on everybody from John Elway on down. Either way, this is a bad team that is trending in the wrong direction and falling further and further underwater.
29. New York Giants
Last week: 29
The Ben McAdoo era is over and he pulled Jerry Reese out the door with him. You wonder if they would have been able to stay on a little longer had they not botched the Eli Manning issue but that is a moot point by now after another loss on Sunday.
30. Chicago Bears
Last week: 28
Outside of that terrific Tarik Cohen punt return for a touchdown, there wasn’t much to write home about in a lifeless loss to the 49ers. The offense isn’t making the strides you would want against teams near the bottom of the league and it seems like only a matter of time before John Fox and his 12-32 record is kicked to the curb in Chicago.
31. Indianapolis Colts
Last week: 30
The look on Chuck Pagano’s face in the postgame presser appeared to be one of resignation at the way the wheels keep coming off week after week to clinch a losing season.
32. Cleveland Browns
Last week: 32
Congrats to the Browns on taking a two-game lead in the race for the No. 1 overall pick. The effort and execution was a little better in Los Angeles but the result was predictably the same for a team that is looking more and more likely to go winless.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.