It’s safe to say much has changed in the NFL over the past several weeks.
The cream of the football crop is beginning to rise to the top. Meanwhile, other teams are already beginning to look ahead to next season. And, of course, injuries are popping up on rosters all across the league.
Things have changed on the field for everyone since the middle of the season. But how much have they changed in the power rankings?
I’ll find out by comparing where each team stands in my updated rankings heading into Week 14 to the list I compiled back in Week 8. Let’s take a look at just how dramatically the rankings have changed.
Well it was nice while it lasted for Jacksonville.
Chad Henne completed less than half of his passes in a lackluster effort, as the Jags lost 34-18 in Buffalo. These last four weeks are basically an audition for Henne. If he plays well, he may secure the starting quarterback gig in Jacksonville for next season.
If he doesn’t, that opens the door for Blaine Gabbert—or perhaps someone else—to win the job.
Week 8 ranking: 32nd
Nobody ever said it was going to be easy for Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen to turn around the Raiders.
And it certainly hasn’t been. The Raiders suffered another home loss, this time falling to a team with a rookie quarterback and running back in the Browns.
By the way, when is star running back Darren McFadden returning from his injury? At this point, it may be pointless for McFadden to return.
Year one has been a terrible one in the latest era (or error) of Raider football.
Week 8 ranking: 29th
Luke Kuechly was drafted to bolster Carolina’s run defense.
But the rookie linebacker’s presence hasn’t done much to help in that department lately. After the Eagles’ Bryce Brown ran roughshod, Jamaal Charles gashed Carolina for 127 yards in another Panthers loss.
The good news for Ron Rivera’s team is that Cam Newton is showing signs of reverting back to his dominant rookie ways. But it’s too little, too late for Rivera and Newton fantasy owners alike.
Week 8 ranking: 28th
Andy Reid is a dead man walking. And he knows that. It's why every time the NBC cameras show his mug on the sidelines, he has the look and demeanor of a man who has already checked out.
Philadelphia may have found their quarterback of the future in Nick Foles. He played very well in his return to his native Texas. Rookie running Bryce Brown is certainly explosive.
However, his lack of playing time in college is catching up to him through a very bad case of "fumbilitis".
Week 8 ranking: 16th
The only logical explanation for Ryan Lindley being the Cardinals’ starting quarterback is that Kevin Kolb and John Skelton aren’t healthy enough to play.
Other than that, Lindley has done nothing to prove he currently deserves a starting gig in the NFL. Lindley was 10 of 31 for 72 yards passing against a Jets defense missing Darrelle Revis.
How much more anemic would Lindley have been had Revis Island been floating around?
Week 8 ranking: 23rd
When Chargers fans look up “overrated” in the dictionary, Philip Rivers’ picture shows up.
Rivers had yet another unspectacular effort in San Diego’s loss to the Bengals. He threw an awful interception to seal the game against the Bengals, much like he did against Tampa a few weeks ago.
The Chargers have lost four straight to fall to 4-8. At this point, the biggest question isn’t whether or not San Diego will make the playoffs.
It’s whether or not Norv Turner will even survive this current season.
Week 8 ranking: 18th
Winning in the black hole certainly isn’t the accomplishment it used to be.
Nevertheless, Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson led the way in a Browns win at Oakland. The young Browns have certainly taken their fair share of lumps this season. But they have four wins and appear to have the pieces in place needed to turn the corner in 2013.
That is of course, as long as new majority owner Jimmy Haslam pushes all the right buttons during the off-season.
Week 8 ranking: 31st
It’s tough to tell who had the toughest day at the office for the Titans against the Texans.
Quarterback Jake Locker was intercepted three times. Running back Chris Johnson only had 50 yards on the ground. Offensive guard Steve Hutchinson left the game with a knee injury.
But offensive tackle David Stewart definitely had the toughest day at the office. He broke his leg on the game’s opening series and spent the rest of the day in the hospital.
Week 8 ranking: 24th
Mark Sanchez’s days could officially be numbered as the Jets’ starting quarterback.
After throwing three interceptions against Arizona, Sanchez was benched in favor of third-string (not second, but third) quarterback Greg McElroy. Like former Crimson Tide turned Jets quarterbacks Joe Namath and Richard Todd before him, McElroy played well (or at least well enough) in relief as the Jets held off the Cardinals.
There’s no doubt the New York media is going to have a field day dealing with Gang Green’s shaky quarterback situation. After how badly he played against Arizona and New England, Sanchez is likely the odd man out.
Week 8 ranking: 20th
Detroit has produced musical mainstays like the Temptations, Kid Rock, Eminem and Madonna over the years.
But they’ve also produced a few one hit wonders, the most recent one being the Lions. There will be no playoffs for Jim Schwartz’s undisciplined squad this year.
Not after the Lions lost another heart-breaker at home to an AFC South squad. Last week it was Houston. This week, Indianapolis.
All that’s left for Lions fans this season is rooting for Calvin Johnson to break Jerry Rice’s record for receiving yards in a season.
Week 8 ranking: 19th
Buffalo’s performance against the Jaguars was arguably its most complete of the season, especially on offense.
The Bills’ two-headed running back monster of CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson combined for 186 yards and a touchdown. And Stevie Johnson and Scott Chandler—Ryan Fitzpatrick’s two favorite receivers—caught touchdown passes in a Buffalo romp.
The problem for the Bills is that they dominated against a two-win Jaguars team. There aren’t anymore two-win teams left on the schedule.
Week 8 ranking: 26th
This statement may sound pretty ludicrous, but too bad the Rams can’t play the 49ers every week.
Twice this year, the Rams took San Francisco to overtime. They should’ve won in San Francisco and settled for a tie.
This time, the Rams finished the job in St. Louis over Colin Kaepernick and company. However, the Rams certainly won despite its lackluster offense.
It’s almost like Sam Bradford is a totally different quarterback without receiver Danny Amendola on the field—and not for the better.
Week 8 ranking: 22nd
Stop me if you've heard this before.
The Cowboys got a big win to get back into the NFC playoff picture. Say what you want about Tony Romo.
But he played sparkling football Sunday night against Philadelphia. Romo completed all 10 of his second half passes and became the all-time leader in Cowboys history for touchdown passes.
Romo will need to put forth a similar effort against a tough Bengals team on the road next week if Dallas is to stay alive.
Week 8 ranking: 14th
Give the Miami Dolphins defense credit.
Even in a close defeat, they held the high-powered Patriots offense to 23 points and harassed Tom Brady throughout. If quarterback Ryan Tannehill is going to take the next step in his young career, he needs more offensive weapons around him.
Other than Brian Hartline and Reggie Bush, the cupboard is pretty bare right now in South Beach.
Week 8 ranking: 15th
It’s no secret that the Saints are only going to go as far as quarterback Drew Brees will take them.
He took them nowhere fast against Atlanta, throwing five picks and no touchdowns for the first time in the past 54 games.
At 5-7, it’s going to take nothing short of a miracle for the Saints to make the playoffs in a very deep NFC.
Week 8 ranking: 17th
A few weeks ago, Mike Shanahan basically proclaimed that Washington’s season was over.
It’s safe to say he’s changed his tune as the Redskins have surged back into the NFC East race. Washington has one person to thank for this: Robert Griffin III. Actually, make that two people: RG3 and Alfred Morris.
The present and future of the Redskins offense looks very bright with the dynamic RG3 and Morris in the backfield.
Week 8 ranking: 10th
It looks like Doug Martin is hitting that rookie wall for Tampa.
The Bucs rookie running back has struggled in the aftermath of his epic performances against Minnesota and Oakland a few weeks ago. The Muscle Hamster ran for just 56 yards on 18 carries in Tampa’s road loss in Denver.
It’s been a nice season so far for the Bucs. But if they’re going to somehow steal one of the NFC wild card spots, they’re going to need Martin to muscle his way through that rookie wall.
Week 8 ranking: 27th
Another game, another ho hum beastly effort from Adrian Peterson on the ground.
Peterson ran for 210 yards, including a monstrous 82-yard touchdown run, against Green Bay at Lambeau Field.
While Peterson is doing everything to help Minnesota’s playoff chances, quarterback Christian Ponder isn’t. He had yet another crushing interception that did in the Vikings against the Packers.
Minnesota needs Ponder to play smarter. They also need Percy Harvin back if they’re going to keep their fading postseason chances alive.
Week 8 ranking: 11th
It’s better late than never for the Seahawks.
Seattle finally won its first road game of the year in thrilling overtime fashion over the Bears.
The dramatic win boosted the playoff chances for Pete Carroll’s team.
But if the cornerback tandem of Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner can emerge victorious from the appeal of their separate four-game suspensions, it will be an even bigger win for the Seahawks.
Week 8 ranking: 13th
The game ball for Week 13 has to go to Charlie Batch.
A week after doing absolutely nothing against the Browns, Batch bounced back to complete his last eight passes of the game as Pittsburgh snapped Baltimore’s long home-winning streak in inspiring fashion.
Batch wasn’t perfect against Baltimore and he’s certainly no Ben Roethlisberger. But if he can just hold down the fort until Roethlisberger returns from his injuries, the Steelers may have a chance to potentially catch the Ravens in the AFC North hunt.
Week 8 ranking: 12th
The Bengals are officially on fire.
They’ve won four straight to make things really, really interesting in the AFC North race. The big test for Andy Dalton and his teammates will come the last two games of the regular season.
That’s when the Bengals play Pittsburgh and Baltimore. If Cincinnati hopes to break through and win the division, they’re likely going to need to win both those games.
But given how effectively they’re playing on both sides of the ball right now, I wouldn’t put it past them to pull it off.
Week 8 ranking: 21st
He’s only a rookie, but the legend of Andrew Luck continues to grow.
Luck completed a stunning 12-point comeback over Detroit by hitting Donnie Avery on the game’s final play for the winning touchdown. Raise your hand if you thought the Colts were going to be 8-4 at this point in the season? Outside of the Hoosier State, there probably aren’t many hands in the air.
It’s safe to say the Colts are the NFL’s biggest surprise team by a landslide this year.
Week 8 ranking: 25th
Don’t look now, but suddenly the Chicago Bears have lost three of four to fall behind in the chase for the NFC North.
Forte has only averaged a meager three yards per carry over the past four games. If he can somehow get back on track, it will go a long way in helping the Bears get back on track, too.
Week 8 ranking: 8th
It must’ve been the mustaches.
Last week, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy sported hideous mustaches during Green Bay’s bad loss to the Giants. A week later, the ‘staches were history and the Packers were back in the win column.
Green Bay overcame Adrian Peterson’s monstrous game to beat the Vikings and vault their way into a tie with the Bears in the NFC North. The bad news is that star receiver Jordy Nelson hurt his hamstring again.
McCarthy and Rodgers certainly are hoping the Packers can get some key guys—like Nelson—back from injuries by the time the playoffs roll around.
Week 8 ranking: 4th
The Giants rebounded from their mid-season skid in a big way by whooping Green Bay back in Week 12. Look for running back Ahmad Bradshaw to have a big remainder of the regular season for Big Blue.
With Andre Brown lost to a broken leg, Bradshaw should get the majority of carries from here on out. A busy Bradshaw will be a productive one for the suddenly surging Giants.
Week 8 ranking: 1st
Although Colin Kaepernick’s bad option pitch arguably cost the 49ers the game against the Rams, don’t expect to see Alex Smith back under center just yet.
Kaepernick had nearly 300 yards of total offense (84 rushing yards alone) against St. Louis and looks to be developing a rapport with explosive receiver Michael Crabtree. Jim Harbaugh will soon discover what Kaepernick is made of in Weeks 15 and 16.
That’s when San Francisco plays at New England and Seattle, respectively.
Week 8 ranking: 2nd
You hear that sound?
That’s the 16-game home winning streak for the Baltimore Ravens snapping, courtesy of the rival Steelers. The Ravens may be 9-3, but they haven’t looked very impressive lately. They needed an incredible 4th & 29 conversion by megastar running back Ray Rice to beat the Chargers.
And they only managed a split against the Steelers despite the fact that Ben Roethlisberger didn’t play a single snap in either game. There’s certainly no reason for panic in Baltimore after one loss.
However, the Ravens will need to play more consistent football down the stretch if they want to, at the very least, return to the AFC title game.
Week 8 ranking: 6th
Peyton Manning and the Broncos have won seven straight to claim their second consecutive AFC West title under John Fox.
The last time Denver won seven straight was 1999, when they won their second Super Bowl. This team is starting to look more and more like a serious Super Bowl contender with each passing week.
As long as Manning keeps finding his new favorite receiver Demaryius Thomas and as long as guys like Von Miller keep dominating on defense, the Broncos will extend their winning streak.
Week 8 ranking: 9th
So much for that theory some Patriots fans had at the beginning of the year, that the team was phasing out Wes Welker from the offense.
Welker torched his old Dolphins team for 12 catches, 103 yards and one touchdown, as the Patriots clinched yet another AFC East title. They may need to lean on Welker even more down the stretch.
Rob Gronkowski remains out with a broken forearm. And Julian Edelman reportedly left Sun Life Stadium after the game wearing a walking boot and crutches.
Week 8 ranking: 7th
The Falcons finally got over their Saints problem in a big Thursday night win.
The 23-13 victory may not have been totally impressive from Atlanta’s standpoint. What was impressive was how Atlanta’s defense shut down Drew Brees.
All they did to Brees was force five interceptions and snap his record streak of 54-straight games with a touchdown. With the NFC South officially wrapped up, Atlanta can now focus on securing home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Week 8 ranking: 3rd
There was no overtime needed for the Houston Texans this week.
The Texans defense got back on track in Nashville, picking off Titans quarterback Jake Locker three times in a 24-10 Houston win. Next up for the playoff-bound Texans is a potential Game of the Year Monday night showdown against Tom Brady and the Patriots.
That should be a lot of fun.
Week 8 ranking: 5th
Obviously, the Chiefs aren’t really at the top of the Week 14 power rankings.
But considering how they handled themselves through the most unthinkable of circumstances this past weekend, they deserve this honorary spot at the top of the list.
There was finally some happiness for Chiefs fans in what has been a miserable season and an even more miserable past few days.
Having to play a day after the awful murder-suicide tragedy involving Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend, Kansas City played inspired football in a win over the Panthers.
Here’s hoping one of the NFL’s most venerable franchises can find some more happiness between now and the end of the year. If anyone could use some good fortune on and off the field right now, it’s certainly them.