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NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Rank Heading into Week 13?

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterJanuary 1, 2017

NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Rank Heading into Week 13?

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    Taking a fresh look at the landscape of the league now that we're three-quarters of the way through the season, which team is truly the most likely to win a Super Bowl? That's how the Power Rankings will be laid out from now on—not on record, but on who is most dangerous and therefore has the most "power" each week.

    Five weeks are all that remain in the NFL regular season. For 12 teams, the future holds a playoff battle for the top honors. For 20 teams, the offseason looms as a way to improve the roster and make changes to the coaching staff and depth chart.

    We'll find out over the course of the next five weeks which teams will be going home to prepare for 2013, and which are moving on to fight for a Lombardi Trophy. This week's No. 1 may shock you, but just keep in mind that records are now out the door.

    Proceed for this week's Power Rankings and each team's biggest need this draft and offseason.

32. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Record: 1-10

    The Kansas City Chiefs become the NFL's first 10-loss team. Another week at the bottom of the rankings.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Quarterback

    The Matt Cassel era in Kansas City is over. So too is the Brady Quinn era. It wouldn't be a shock if the Romeo Crennel era is over too. 

    No matter who is calling the shots as general manager and/or head coach next season in Kansas City, looking at a new quarterback will take precedence in the offseason. The bad news is that this is one of the worst years in recent memory to need a new starting quarterback.

    Free agency is weak this year, barring an upset starter being cut, with only Joe Flacco as an upper-level quarterback being available. And even Flacco is very likely to receive the franchise tag in Baltimore. That leaves the cupboard very bare for the Chiefs' options in free agency.

    The trade market could be good, but not for franchise-type quarterbacks. Matt Flynn or Matt Hasselbeck might be good options as temporary starters until the team can draft a truly elite passer, but the fanbase is unlikely to be happy with either solution.

    That leaves the draft. West Virginia's Geno Smith is this year's top quarterback, but he's not an elite passer on the level of Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. Instead, Smith should be looked at as comparable to Ryan Tannehill. He's raw, but could be better early on than any other option the team has.

31. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Record: 3-8 (MNF)

    The Philadelphia Eagles have lost seven straight games. Head coach Andy Reid and the entire football operations team must be on notice. Big changes are coming to Philly.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Head Coach

    The Philadelphia Eagles have plenty of talent. What they lack is someone to get the maximum production out of that talent.

    Imagine, if you can, the Eagles with Tom Coughlin or Mike Tomlin as head coach. This is a playoff team with a coach who can motivate and inspire the troops. It would also help to have a coach who gives the ball to the team's best player, as Reid seems determined to ignore Lesean McCoy this season.

    The offseason will bring an influx of new players, and help on the offensive line is needed, but more than anything the Eagles need to look for a new head coach who can deliver wins.

30. Oakland Raiders

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    Record: 3-8

    The Oakland Raiders were embarrassed—again—by the Cincinnati Bengals. It's time for Oakland to move down.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Cornerback

    Picking just one need for the Oakland Raiders is difficult, as this is a roster that needs a major overhaul at most positions. However, cornerback stands out as the biggest of the many needs.

    The Raiders will want to look at addressing the entire defense, but finding at least one more cornerback who can come in and actually threaten NFL offenses is missing. The free-agent market could heat up at the position this offseason, which would allow Oakland to sign a cornerback and spend their first-round pick on a pass-rusher or middle linebacker.

    The smart money is on adding cornerbacks through free agency, especially with the potential of a guy like Nnamdi Asomugha hitting the market.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Record: 2-9

    A win over the Tennessee Titans moves the Jaguars up one spot this week. Chad Henne has the Jaguars moving in the right direction.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Quarterback

    The Jacksonville Jaguars need a complete makeover this offseason. Starting from general manager Gene Smith all the way down to the players on the field, massive changes are needed.

    The first priority for the front office will be deciding on the quarterback position. Chad Henne has played well enough in his two full games to be given a chance headed into 2013, but the team can't rely on Henne to be the savior of the franchise. It would be a better situation for the Jaguars to draft a quarterback and then have two viable options at the position rather than trusting Henne and finding that he's still the same quarterback who couldn't win in Miami.

    The Jaguars would be wise to look at Arkansas' Tyler Wilson if Geno Smith is off the board already. Either of the two passers would give the team an exciting young passer to build around. Should both players be off the board, Jacksonville can easily go with best available pass-rusher.

28. Carolina Panthers

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    Record: 3-8 (MNF)

    The Carolina Panthers beat the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football, showing the fight and spark that had been lost all season. Ron Rivera's move to save his job has five weeks left.

    Biggest Team Need: Defensive Tackle

    It should be no surprise if the Carolina Panthers look at improving their defensive tackle situation with their first pick in the 2013 NFL draft.

    General manager Marty Hurney was fired in part due to his inability to build a defense that head coach Ron Rivera could win with. Hurney's replacement may still look to replace Rivera as head coach, but regardless of who is calling the offseason shots, improving the talent at defensive tackle will be a key to the team's plans.

    The good news is that the 2013 draft is full of DTs. With a potential top-five pick coming, the Panthers could look at the top two tackles—Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins and Utah's Star Lotulelei—with their first pick. Either player would be an instant upgrade for the Carolina defense from the first practice.

27. New York Jets

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    Record: 4-7

    Another loss—this time a beat-down by the New England Patriots—has Rex Ryan's boys falling down the charts.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Quarterback

    There are those out there who still support Mark Sanchez as the future of this team, but I'm definitely not one of those people. Sanchez is a damaged commodity, and it's past time for the New York Jets to replace him.

    The Jets are in a position to draft a quarterback of the future in the first round if Tyler Wilson or Geno Smith fall to them. Otherwise, the Jets could be looking at another season of Sanchez while they develop a second- or third-round pick at the position. If that's the route they choose to go, players like Matt Barkley (USC), Tyler Bray (Tennessee) or Landry Jones (Oklahoma) could be options.

    Again, the bad news for the Jets (and others) is that the 2013 draft is one of the worst years in a long time to need a quarterback. This could lead to another season of Sanchez and the team investing in their pass rush in Round 1.

26. Arizona Cardinals

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    Record: 4-7

    Losers of seven straight games, the Arizona Cardinals continue to stay near the bottom of the NFL's rankings.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Left Tackle

    The loss of Levi Brown to injury this season has exposed the Arizona Cardinals offensive line as one of the worst in all of football, but it's not like Brown was a solid option for the team in previous seasons.

    Sure, Brown was better than Nate Potter, but the Cardinals were picking the lesser of two evils when they decided to cut/re-sign Brown before the season in an effort to reduce his cap number. Levi Brown isn't a long-term option at left tackle. Period.

    The best-case scenario in Arizona would be one in which the team drafts Luke Joeckel (Texas A&M) and moves Brown to right tackle. This allows the team to address two huge weaknesses with one addition. It's almost too simple to be true.

    The Cardinals have plenty of needs, but with free agency and Rounds 2-7 remaining, they can reload at key positions and still get their left tackle of the future in Round 1.

25. Cleveland Browns

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    Record: 3-8

    An upset win over the Ben Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh Steelers has the Cleveland Browns moving up after securing their third win of the season.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Pass-Rusher

    You might think that quarterback is the biggest need for the Cleveland Browns, and it is a need for the team (more so depending on who the head coach is next season). But the Browns' biggest need is in their lack of ability to get to the opposing quarterback.

    Everything a defense does is based on their ability to rush the passer. Cornerbacks look infinitely better when there is a strong pass rush causing the quarterback to make faster decisions. Ask anyone who has ever played cornerback and they'll tell you it's much easier to cover for three seconds than seven. That's where the Browns find themselves right now.

    There are plenty of needs on this roster, and you could argue that wide receiver, cornerback and offensive guard are more pressing, but the Browns won't be able to address all of their needs in one offseason. Instead, they can focus on drafting a Jarvis Jones (Georgia) or Dion Jordan (Oregon) in the first round and then using the rest of the draft to build depth and improve the overall talent level.

24. Tennessee Titans

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    Record: 4-7

    The Tennessee Titans struggled to take down a weaker opponent, which is even more damaging since it happened in the division. Time for the Titans to move down a few spots.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Defensive End

    The Tennessee roster is full of talented young players who have the look of long-time starters. Kendall Wright, Jared Cook, Jurrell Casey, Colin McCarthy, Mike Martin and Akeem Ayers are all on my list of favorite youngsters to watch in the NFL today. While those young players develop, the Titans must decide if Jake Locker is the future at quarterback and if they can address their lack of a pass rush through the offseason.

    It's not for a lack of trying—the Titans added big-money free agent Kamerion Wimbley this past offseason and drafted Derrick Morgan in the first round of the 2010 draft. Wimbley has been good, but Morgan is bordering on draft bust status. Replacing him will be a focus this offseason, but deciding on when to replace the defensive end is key.

    The Titans could easily keep their best-player-available draft mentality and add a DE when they come up on the clock. It wouldn't be a reach for the team to look at cornerback, safety or offensive guard in the first round as well.

23. Buffalo Bills

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    Record: 4-7

    A loss in Week 12, but no change overall for the reeling Buffalo Bills, who are technically still alive for a wild-card berth.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Quarterback

    Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't the worst quarterback in the NFL, but he's nowhere near the top either. The lack of playmaking ability from Fitzpatrick has become an issue in Buffalo, and also a convenient scapegoat for the overall lack of production from the team. Expect him to be replaced this offseason.

    As with every team that needs a quarterback, there just aren't many options as far as top-tier quarterbacks go. The Bills are unlikely to break the bank for a free agent or trade option after picking up Mario Williams last season. That leaves the draft.

    The Bills could look to add a linebacker, wide receiver or defensive end in the first round and then double-back around to get a QB in Round 2,  but expecting a second-rounder at the position to beat out Fitzpatrick in Year 1 may be asking too much.

22. Dallas Cowboys

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    Record: 5-6

    A Thanksgiving Day loss to the Washington Redskins makes the Dallas Cowboys' playoff chances even weaker—and it moves them down in Week 13's rankings.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Head Coach

    Much like their rival Philadelphia Eagles, the Dallas Cowboys have enough talent to win the NFC East but are being held back by the game plan put in place each week.

    It's become trendy, and easy, to just blame Tony Romo for the Cowboys' struggles, but there is more to the issue than just the poor play of Romo. The offensive line has been a mess due to injuries and bad signings in the offseason. Dez Bryant was supposed to be a game-changing receiver, but instead he's still the maddeningly inconsistent diva the team saw too much of last year. 

    What the Cowboys need is a tough coach who will install discipline and leadership in a locker room that sorely lacks both.

21. Detroit Lions

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    Record: 4-7

    Another loss has the Detroit Lions on the verge of playing their way out of the playoff race. Jim Schwartz and his staff should be on notice.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Cornerback

    The Detroit Lions have underperformed this season, but this team isn't too far removed from the 2011 squad that made a playoff run. How do the Lions get back into the playoffs?

    The Lions gambled at the cornerback position, thinking that young players could quickly develop and step in to fill the departed shoes of Eric Wright. That gamble failed, and the Lions secondary has been exposed on an almost weekly basis. Adding a viable starting cornerback in the first round would make the most sense for the Lions' future.

    There is a good chance that defensive end will be looked at too, with free agency playing a factor due to Cliff Avril's contract and Kyle Vanden Bosch's age. Don't be shocked if the Lions go for the best available defensive player early and often come April.

20. Miami Dolphins

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    Record: 5-6

    At 5-6, the Miami Dolphins and rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill are in the middle of a playoff hunt.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Left Tackle

    Fans may be shocked to see left tackle listed here, but anyone watching the Miami Dolphins this season has seen that Jake Long is a far cry from the elite pass protector he used to be. A change could be coming.

    Adding insult to injury is the fact that Long will be a free agent after the season. If you're the Miami Dolphins, with so many needs across the board, do you invest top money in a left tackle who was a perennial All-Pro but has struggled the last two seasons? I wouldn't.

    Long can be replaced, and early in the first round, depending on where Miami finishes this season. The 2013 class has three tackles ranked in the top 12—Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews from Texas A&M and Michigan's Taylor Lewan. Miami could replace Long with a younger, cheaper option and start building their offense around Ryan Tannehill, Jon Martin and the new left tackle.

19. St. Louis Rams

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    Record: 4-6-1

    A win in Week 12 over the Arizona Cardinals keeps the Rams' playoff hopes alive, but this is still a team with major flaws holding them back.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Wide Receiver and Offensive Tackle

    The Rams have one clearly identifiable need, and it's at wide receiver.

    You have to love the effort and production of Danny Amendola, but he's a free agent after this season. The team invested through the draft in Brian Quick, but he's been a non-factor so far this season, while fellow rookie Chris Givens has played well enough to warrant more reps moving forward. Adding a true No. 1 wide receiver will take priority for Les Snead's staff.

    With two first-round picks this draft, the Rams can address their needs at wide receiver and look at upgrading the offensive tackle position. The team likes the ability of Rodger Saffold, but he's been a constant injury concern. Saffold could be an option in 2013 on the left side, but an addition at right tackle is still needed. 

18. San Diego Chargers

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    Record: 4-7

    Why do the San Diego Chargers move up after an overtime loss? Because they took the 9-2 Baltimore Ravens to overtime and by virtue of the teams below them being so bad. The Chargers aren't good, but they'd be favored against every team below them.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Left Tackle

    The San Diego Chargers swung and missed when they gave Jared Gaither a free-agent contract this offseason. Now LT is the team's biggest need.

    Gaither played very well to end the 2011 season, but he was coming off a back injury and had previously been cut by both the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs in the same season. Gaither did play well, and by proxy Philip Rivers had his best games of the year, but trusting three positive games against a track record of injuries was a foolish move by A.J. Smith. It could cost him his job.

    The Chargers are looking at an offseason of big changes. Both Smith and head coach Norv Turner could be on their way out of San Diego after repeated letdowns. Whoever is calling the shots on draft day, expect the Bolts to look long and hard at drafting a franchise left tackle in Round 1.

17. Washington Redskins

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    Record: 5-6

    A big win over the division rival Dallas Cowboys has the Washington Redskins holding tight and keeping their playoff hopes alive.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Safety

    The Washington Redskins are a team on the rise, but that doesn't mean they are without areas of need. One of those key areas is at safety.

    The Redskins are without a first-round pick due to the RGIII trade, a trade that in hindsight seems to have worked out just fine. But that does mean the pressure will be on the Washington Redskins to nail their remaining draft picks and free-agent signings.

    Finding a playmaking free safety to replace Madieu Williams will be a point of emphasis. Players like Eric Reid (LSU) and Kenny Vaccaro (Texas) should be on the Redskins' radar.

16. Seattle Seahawks

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    Record: 6-5

    Another road loss pushes the Seattle Seahawks to 1-5 away from home this season and puts their chances of catching the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West in doubt. A wild-card berth is the team's new best-case scenario.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Right Tackle

    The Seattle roster is loaded with young players who are making big contributions on both sides of the ball. Russell Wilson has been a steal at quarterback, and Bobby Wagner and Bruce Irvin are both making big impacts as rookies. The Seahawks need to hit another home run with their 2013 draft class.

    When Breno Giancomini is your starting right tackle, it's time to find a new option. The Seattle offensive line has been better as a unit than I expected, and Pete Carroll's draft board rarely mirrors the rest of the league's, but there's no doubting the team needs to find a long-term solution at right tackle.

    There are few truly identifiable needs for Seattle, and that means a wild card could come in Round 1 if a player the team loves falls to them.

15. Minnesota Vikings

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    Record: 6-5

    A loss to the Chicago Bears has the Vikings' playoff chances in doubt, causing a move down two spots this week.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Wide Receiver

    The 2012 season has been a successful one in Minnesota, as the Vikings move from a team drafting No. 3 overall to a legitimate contender for a wild-card berth. The team's development has been promising.

    The Vikings will be better equipped to make a run again in 2013 if they can find more versatility on offense. Much of that will come from adding another wide receiver who can be a threat opposite Percy Harvin. No disrespect to Jerome Simpson, but a big-play threat is needed on the edge.

    The Vikings could look at a wide receiver in Round 1 or Round 2, depending on where they are selecting in April. If the first round is where they want to look, Baylor's Terrance Williams or Cal's Keenan Allen should be considered as game-changing targets for Christian Ponder out on the boundary.

14. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Record: 6-5

    The Cincinnati Bengals are slowly but surely keeping themselves alive in the race up to the playoffs. With the Pittsburgh Steelers losing and the Bengals winning in Week 12, the AFC North will be interesting over the next five weeks.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Defensive End

    The Cincinnati Bengals are an interesting team. Being one of the youngest teams in the league, the roster is full of promising players to develop. So where do the needs come from?

    The biggest point of concern has to be the defensive end position. As SB Nation's Joe Goodberry told me, "They need someone that can slide inside in nickel. Robert Geathers and Wallace Gilberry play that DE/DT role and combine for 60 snaps a game. Both are free agents, though. Ideally, get a defensive end to rotate with Carlos Dunlap & Michael Johnson, then slide inside in Nickel packages."

    Joe nails it here, and that's what the front office should do on draft day. A player like BYU's Ezekial Ansah or Oregon's Dion Jordan would be intriguing here.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Record: 6-5

    A loss to the Cleveland Browns not only drops the Pittsburgh Steelers in our rankings, but it puts them back in the AFC North race. Even a wild-card berth is in doubt heading into Week 13.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Outside Linebacker

    Many of the problems the Steelers are experiencing this season is due to poor depth at most positions. Injuries at quarterback, on the offensive line and all over on the defensive depth chart has led to an underachieving season in Pittsburgh. That's fixable, though.

    The one area that jumps off the page is the team's lack of a pass rush for much of the season. Injuries have slowed James Harrison to the point where the team should be actively looking for his replacement. Lamarr Woodley continues to amaze, but he can't be a one-man pass rush in the Steelers' 3-4 scheme. An influx of young talent is needed at outside linebacker. Even with Jason Worilds playing well this season, a bigger impact is needed.

    Should this be the team's Round 1 focus, plenty of mid-to-late first-rounders are worthy at the position. Alex Okafor (Texas), Sam Montgomery (LSU) and Bjoern Werner (Florida State) would all be a strong fit as outside pass-rushers in the team's plans.

12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Record: 6-5

    A close loss to division rival Atlanta moves Tampa Bay down in the NFC South standings, but in a week where the Saints, Vikings and Seahawks all lost, the Buccaneers see a move up in the rankings.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Free Safety

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in great position for the future. They have young quarterback Josh Freeman, running back Doug Martin and a slew of talented wide receivers. Help could be added at offensive tackle, but the biggest need comes on defense.

    The front office has done a nice job of keeping the defense young and fast over the last two drafts. That needs to be the focus again this season when stacking their draft board. As Ronde Barber gets closer to retirement, the team should look to find his replacement sooner rather than later.

    LSU's Eric Reid would be an ideal fit next to Mark Barron in the Tampa defense, but Texas' Kenny Vaccaro or Oklahoma's Tony Jefferson could also be options for the Bucs.

11. Indianapolis Colts

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    Record: 7-4

    The Indianapolis Colts continue their improbable run toward the playoffs, moving their win total to seven and keeping pace in the AFC wild-card race.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Outside Linebacker

    The Indy front office deserves a ton of credit for building a tough team that was ready to compete early on. Even the biggest Andrew Luck fans couldn't have seen a season like this coming, especially considering the lack of talent around him on offense. But Luck has developed a chemistry with Reggie Wayne that's opening things up for T.Y. Hilton and Donnie Avery. The Indianapolis offense has a ton of upside.

    With their offseason approaching, Ryan Grigson's scouts should be looking at a few key positions—wide receiver, offensive linemen and, the one that stands out most, outside linebacker.

    For the Colts to make a jump ahead in the AFC, they have to get better at pressuring the opposing quarterback. Dwight Freeney hasn't transitioned well to the 3-4 defense, and drafting his replacement could help this team take the next step in the South.

10. New Orleans Saints

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    Record: 5-6

    The New Orleans Saints were done no favors by the NFL's schedule-makers. Their Week 12 loss to the San Francisco 49ers kicks off a four-game stretch that could doom the team. Up next, the team has Atlanta, the New York Giants and then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

     

    Biggest Team Need: Defensive Line

    It was obvious again versus San Francisco—the New Orleans Saints simply don't have the pass-rushers needed to run Steve Spagnuolo's scheme. 

    Cameron Jordan is a keeper, and the big-bodied defensive end has a bright future ahead of him. But the rest of the defensive line is a mix between washed-up veterans, players who don't fit the scheme or youngsters who have yet to earn their keep. Getting faster, stronger and more athletic overall on the defensive line will be the focus in New Orleans' war room this offseason.

    The draft is loaded with pass-rushers, and depending on where the Saints are picking in Round 1, they could conceivably land a Dion Jordan (Oregon) or Barkevious Mingo (LSU) to play the role of Jason Pierre-Paul in the Saints' defensive game plans.

9. Chicago Bears

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    Record: 8-3

    Sorry, Chicago fans. With one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL, the Bears can't be trusted in the postseason. Even following a win over Minnesota, the Bears move down this week after watching their pitiful offensive line fail to protect Jay Cutler.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Left Tackle

    It's painfully clear to anyone who watches the Chicago Bears play: General manager Phil Emery has to address the team's offensive line this offseason. It has to be the first priority this year after taking a backseat to defensive end (Shea McClellin) and wide receiver (Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery) last year.

    The Bears will be happy to know that this year's draft and free-agent classes are loaded at left tackle. There are three LTs ranked in my top 12 right now for the NFL draft, and the free-agency class features Branden Albert and Jake Long as options if the team is willing to spend money. Albert also has a connection to Emery from the head man's days in Kansas City.

    No matter if it's through the draft or free agency, the Bears have to upgrade the left tackle position. This should set off a chain reaction of improving the talent and/or depth at every position along the offensive line.

8. Baltimore Ravens

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    Record: 9-2

    The Baltimore Ravens are in firm control of the AFC North, but this doesn't look like a team poised to make a Super Bowl run. Getting healthy on defense is the key to the team's success in the postseason.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Outside Linebacker

    The Baltimore Ravens would benefit from being able to add a few playmakers before the postseason run, but instead the team will have to wait until after the season to address their age problem on defense. And addressing the defensive side of the ball should be their first priority after re-signing quarterback Joe Flacco.

    Both Ray Lewis and Ed Reed will be questioned heavily about their retirement plans after this season, and while both middle linebacker and free safety are areas of need, the team has really missed the pass-rushing presence off the edge that made them so dangerous in the past.

    The team's plans to rely on Pernell McPhee and Paul Kruger on the edge hasn't paid off as expected, and when the offseason comes around, replacing Kruger or at least finding a pass-rusher to supplement his play will be on the docket.

    No team does a better job of playing the draft, and Ozzie Newsome will be sure to have a plan in place to fill the team's many needs this offseason.

7. Green Bay Packers

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    Record: 7-4

    A beat-up Green Bay team dropped a loss to the New York Giants. With the NFC North still in play, the Packers need to get back on track in Week 13.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Running Back

    The number of injuries have added up this season and are a big part of the reason the Packers struggled so much in Week 12. Adding depth to the offensive line and on defense will be keys for the team's offseason plans, but the hole at running back looms largest.

    The team looked sharp with Cedric Benson in the backfield, but injuries ended his season. James Starks is an average back who lacks the ability to be a factor in Green Bay's pass-heavy schemes. Imagine a back who could run between the tackles on play action and serve as an outlet to Aaron Rodgers on passing downs? The Packers need a feature back.

    There are many who will point to the fact that Mike McCarthy may not even use the running back, so why waste a first-round pick on one? I agree with that, and a running back shouldn't be the team's first selection, but it is their biggest need heading into the offseason. 

    If Green Bay can find a versatile back in Round 2—like Oregon's Kenjon Barner—they have to make the pick.

6. New York Giants

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    Record: 7-4

    A huge win over the Green Bay Packers reminds the NFL that when the games matter most, the New York Giants are still one of the NFL's toughest.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Offensive Tackle

    As good as the Giants can be on offense, they would be even better with a more sound protection up front for quarterback Eli Manning. That's where the NFL draft comes in.

    General manager Jerry Reese has done a great job piecing together an offensive line, but eventually the team will have to move on from David Diehl and Sean Locklear as real options in the starting lineup. Injuries have been an issue here for what seems like forever, but the overall talent and age are starting to take its toll in the regular season. Drafting a bonafide blue-chip tackle prospect in the first round could make a major difference on this offense.


5. Atlanta Falcons

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    Record: 10-1

    It may seem crazy to have a 10-1 team at No. 6, but the Atlanta Falcons are playing too many close games. That may work in the regular season, but in a one-and-done situation in the playoffs, I have trouble buying into Atlanta as a real contender.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Offensive Line

    Initially, I had the team's biggest need as running back, and while that is a need, the Falcons shouldn't look to draft a running back in the first round or give big money to one in free agency. The team should see what they have in Jacquizz Rodgers while adding a mid-round back to complement him next season. 

    The team's biggest area of focus should come on the offensive line. While a patch-work unit has played well this season, it's still a weakness for the team. No one would trust Sam Baker to stop Justin Smith or Julius Peppers in a playoff game, and that's just one part of the problem.

    The Falcons could use a youth movement at key spots on the O-line—something the front office started in the 2012 draft and should look to finish in 2013.

4. Denver Broncos

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    Record: 8-3

    It wasn't pretty, but the Denver Broncos held off the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead and extended their already solid lead in the AFC West. 

     

    Biggest Team Need: Cornerback

    The Denver Broncos have a solid two- to four-year window to win a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning at quarterback. The goal of John Elway and John Fox will be determining which positions they can improve to help Manning get back to another Super Bowl.

    A few positions stand out as potential needs. The team could look to get better at running back, tight end, on the interior of the offensive line and at key positions on defense. Where to go first?

    No need looms larger than attempting to replace Champ Bailey on defense once the All-Pro cornerback retires. Bailey has been air-tight again this season in coverage, but he is also 34 years old, with a birthday coming up in June. At 35 years old, Bailey can't be counted on as the primary cover man in 2013. 

    The Broncos will find a good cornerback crop this offseason, especially late in the first round. Alabama's Dee Milliner and Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks are the top two ranked corners in the country, and both could be there when Denver comes on the clock.

3. Houston Texans

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    Record: 10-1

    An overtime win against the Detroit Lions gives Houston the AFC's first 10-win team, but this hasn't been a dominant team over the last several weeks. The Texans are no longer tops in the AFC.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Wide Receiver

    One of the biggest areas of concern when looking at the Texans' chances in the playoffs this year is their lack of an established target opposite Andre Johnson. The team doesn't need a Roddy White and Julio Jones-type combination, but someone to draw attention away from Johnson is needed. With ultra-conservative play-caller Gary Kubiak in control, anything to potentially open up the offense would be a blessing.

    The Texans were a favorite to land a wide receiver in the first round of the 2012 class, but instead they went with outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus. Looking ahead to April, the Texans are once again a favorite to check out wide receivers like Robert Woods (USC), Terrance Williams (Baylor) and Corradelle Patterson (Tennessee), should they enter the draft. 

    There will be calls for added talent at cornerback and safety, and while both are needs, nothing is more important than getting a No. 2 wide receiver in this offense.

2. New England Patriots

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    Record: 8-3

    The New England Patriots don't have the AFC's best record, but anyone watching over the past four weeks would see that this is the conference's most dangerous team. Again.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Secondary

    If there is one weakness that is evident in New England over the last few seasons, it's been in the secondary. The team has a good thing going with Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard at cornerback and Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty at safety, but Talib's impending free agency could throw a wrench in their new-found strength in the defensive backfield.

    Keeping Talib will depend largely on his attitude over the course of the season and his salary demands. Bill Belichick has never been afraid to let a good player go to keep the harmony in the locker room, but Talib is certainly needed. 

    Regardless, the Pats should look at adding to the secondary—at both cornerback and safety—to fill in holes where draft picks and free-agent signings haven't worked out in the past. An upgrade at strong safety could put this unit over the top if they can keep Talib locked up long term.

1. San Francisco 49ers

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    Record: 8-2-1

    The NFL's best team has two losses, but with Colin Kaepernick executing the offense and the game's best defense hitting like no one else, the 49ers look primed to run through the remaining regular season and playoffs.

     

    Biggest Team Need: Cornerback

    The San Francisco 49ers have high hopes for the postseason, but that doesn't mean this team can't start looking ahead to next year. Where can the 49ers get better?

    It's tricky to judge this team's young talent, mostly because the entire 2012 draft class is sitting on the bench waiting to be played. Top picks A.J. Jenkins and LaMichael James have yet to see the field this year, in what has essentially been a redshirt year.

    With that in mind, look for GM Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh to look at the cornerback position early in the draft. Chris Culliver has a bright future, and Tarell Brown is a very good mid-level starter, but Carlos Rogers is aging and will be an expensive option to keep around post-2012. Brown and Culliver could be starters in 2013 with a rookie starting in a nickel role.

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