NFL Power Rankings Week 13: Playoff Hopefuls That Desperately Need a Win
The NFL's playoff picture is taking shape with several teams vying for postseason berths in each conference.
Because things are so tight, every game is huge. That leaves certain teams desperate entering Week 13's action, either to avoid a second-straight loss or to pick up a win over a lesser opponent.
Clear-cut contenders have emerged, but there's still a large group of teams floating in between. For them, one key win could make all the difference.
Let's power rank the NFL teams and focus on a few playoff hopefuls that need victories in Week 13.
1. Atlanta Falcons
There's nothing desperate about this team. If there was, they couldn't continue to win close games.
2. Houston Texans
Houston has struggled to two straight overtime wins over inferior teams, but those victories could build character down the stretch and into the playoffs.
3. San Francisco 49ers
Colin Kaepernick gives this offense a new look and makes this team more exciting. If he can play beyond his experience level when the lights are the brightest, look out.
4. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore struggles on the road, but wins are wins. Winning ugly is an art form, and Baltimore has it mastered.
5. New England Patriots
New England isn't desperate for anything after blowing out Indianapolis and the New York Jets in consecutive weeks. Don't look now, folks, but this team is on the move.
6. Denver Broncos
Beating Kansas City didn't come easy on Sunday, but you have to like Peyton Manning in the playoffs with this defense behind him. He's never had that luxury before.
7. Chicago Bears
If the Bears had lost to Minnesota on Sunday, I would have gone with desperate here, but they didn't. Lovie Smith's squad has beaten up on an inferior schedule, but it's still leading the rugged NFC North.
8. New York Giants
Tom Coughlin's team absolutely dismantled Green Bay on primetime television Sunday night, making everyone quickly forget the two-game losing streak that the Giants entered the game with.
9. Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis needs to win its next two games. With Houston lined up for two of their final three contests, the Colts can't allow those weeks to decide their postseason fate.
Andrew Luck is impressive. Even when he doesn't play pretty, he wins. That's the mark of a special rookie, especially if he plays quarterback.
The rest of this team is still a work in progress, but Luck has developed a solid rapport with the offense. Reggie Wayne is still very capable along with two talented young tight ends, and T.Y. Hilton has emerged of late.
Bouncing back from the blowout loss to New England a week ago says a lot for this young squad. Taking care of Detroit and Tennessee in their next two games will say more.
10. Green Bay Packers
Green Bay will be just fine. The Giants splayed this team open, but Aaron Rodgers will find a way to keep this team in the hunt.
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Because the Buccaneers face an easy late-season slate, this team has a very real chance to make the playoffs.
Beating the Denver Broncos in the Mile High city next week will make a major difference though.
Josh Freeman and Doug Martin have helped one another tremendously this season. Freeman's presence has given Martin room to run, but the rookie has also helped the signal-caller by providing some balance on offense.
Defensively, this team can stop any run game around, but the pass defense is still porous. If they can fix that, even in the short term, this team gets even more dangerous.
Tampa Bay isn't necessarily desperate because it doesn't face a rigorous bunch to close the year, but every win makes a difference.
12. Seattle Seahawks
With three home games in their back pocket, this team will stick around until the bitter end.
13. Minnesota Vikings
Every win is huge for Minnesota at this point, but they're not going to come easy.
Of their five remaining games, two are against Green Bay, one is against Chicago and one is against Houston. The only possible break comes versus St. Louis.
That's a ridiculously tough road to close the season, but the Vikings will have to overcome it if they have any wild-card dreams.
The games versus Green Bay will matter most, and the first one is next week. Beating the Packers is extremely important for their division standing, and it will help the wild-card situation as well.
Adrian Peterson is capable of leading this team to the playoffs, but he's going to need some help. If Christian Ponder plays well, this team is still very dangerous.
14. Cincinnati Bengals
Andy Dalton is playing very well lately, and it has come at the perfect time. With Pittsburgh reeling, this team is making the perfect push.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
Things are getting desperate in Pittsburgh. Committing eight turnovers is appalling, but losing to Cleveland is unspeakable.
With Ben Roethlisberger sidelined, the Steelers' struggles are going to continue. Walking into Baltimore in Week 13 and earning a win isn't going to be easy, but it's necessary.
Pittsburgh isn't going to win the AFC North, but its wild-card berth will be in jeopardy at some point. Cincinnati is surging, and the Colts are still sticking around at 7-4. That only leaves so much room for Mike Tomlin's team.
It's tough to overcome injuries, but every team has to do it, to some degree, at some point. Pittsburgh has been hit hard, but beating its biggest rival has never been more important than it is now.
16. Miami Dolphins
Miami picked up a nice win over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, but this team is at least a year away.
17. New Orleans Saints
The Saints can still vie for a wild-card spot in the NFC, but winning each game is important now.
New Orleans will face the Atlanta Falcons in Week 13. Because the Saints handed Atlanta its sole loss, expect the Falcons to come out ready to play.
Seattle, Minnesota, Green Bay and Tampa Bay aren't going anywhere. The Saints' wild-card hopes aren't huge, but they also aren't dead yet.
Sunday's loss to the San Francisco 49ers was a setback, but don't count out Drew Brees. The veteran QB knows what it takes to win, and he won't go down without a fight.
Winning against the Falcons is the first step. Take care of that, and this team is right back in it.
18. Washington Redskins
Robert Griffin III was spectacular versus the Cowboys in his first Thanksgiving day game, but Washington's defense still struggles.
19. Dallas Cowboys
Dallas just isn't that good. It's time to stop making excuses.
20. St. Louis Rams
Chris Givens gives this team an interesting skill player, but Sam Bradford still needs a No. 1 wideout to take this team to the next level.
21. Detroit Lions
Detroit's passing game is still lethal, but, like last year, it's all the Lions have. Until this team matures, and Ndamukong Suh learns to just play the game, Detroit isn't going anywhere.
22. San Diego Chargers
San Diego nearly took advantage of Baltimore's road woes, but the Ravens found a way to win thanks to Ray Rice's jaw-dropping fourth-down conversion late in the fourth quarter.
23. Tennessee Titans
The Titans have improved as Chris Johnson has slowly found himself, but this defense is still atrocious.
24. Arizona Cardinals
Arizona looked like a playoff contender to start the season, but it's gone way downhill. Losing to St. Louis by two scores on Sunday just made things worse.
25. New York Jets
No one outside of Rex Ryan's living room believes this team is playoff worthy. Sadly for them, a head coach's optimism doesn't count for anything in the wins column.
26. Buffalo Bills
Buffalo has a few pieces, but that's not going to get you into the playoffs. Perhaps this team should consider flipping one of its two excellent running backs in order to fill a weakness elsewhere.
27. Cleveland Browns
Cleveland is getting better. With a little luck and draft-day savvy, this team could make a wild-card run in 2013.
28. Philadelphia Eagles
Check back after Monday Night Football.
29. Carolina Panthers
Check back after Monday Night Football.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville has looked better with Chad Henne running the show, even though that doesn't make much sense. Either way, this team is a long way away from sniffing the postseason.
31. Oakland Raiders
Oakland has lost four games in a row, and Carson Palmer smells like beer after Sunday's game. It's safe to say this team isn't going anywhere.
32. Kansas City Chiefs
The words "playoff hopeful" don't play with this team, although the Chiefs did keep Sunday's game with Denver closer than expected.
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