NFL Power Rankings: How Week 14 Will Shake Up Each Team's Standing

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NFL Power Rankings: How Week 14 Will Shake Up Each Team's Standing
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As parity continues to be the overwhelming storyline the 2012 NFL season, Week 14 action will finally help settle some of the jumbling in the power rankings.

Key matchups between playoff-worthy teams adorn the schedule and should make for a fantastic slate of games. More importantly, it will allow us to finally start making sense out of what has been one of the most unpredictable seasons in recent memory. 

With that in mind, here is a look the latest batch of Week 14 power rankings, with predictions for how this week could alter each team's standing going forward.

 

1. Houston Texans (11-1)

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The Texans walk into Week 14 facing what can only be called a litmus test game. I've long been of the belief that they are the best team in the NFL, but a Monday Night Football matchup against the Patriots will be the proving ground for that belief.

A convincing win in Foxborough makes Houston the unquestioned Super Bowl favorite. Losing, meanwhile, would set Houston back a bit, but not enough for there to be significant concerns about the team going forward.

For what it's worth, I have the Texans walking out of New England with a victory.

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 1

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 3

 

2. Atlanta Falcons (11-1)

They should be, and are, the favorites against the Panthers, but few would be shocked to see the Falcons lose this week. It took a miracle bomb from Matt Ryan to Roddy White on a scintillating last-minute drive to spur a field goal in Atlanta's 30-28 win in Week 4. Carolina has played most of its games close this season.

If the Falcons lose, the hyperbolic community will say "I told you so," but they'll be wrong. Even with a loss, which will happen this week, Atlanta is still among the NFL's four best teams.

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 1

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 4

 

3. New England Patriots (9-3)

Like Houston, Monday night will be a litmus test. It's just that the defending AFC champions have nothing to prove to anyone and have already locked up their divisional crown. 

Essentially, a loss or a win has little more than home-field implications for the Patriots. With a difficult schedule down the stretch, it doesn't seem likely they'll lock those down, anyway. 

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 1

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 5

 

4. San Francisco 49ers (8-3-1)

Of San Francisco's non-wins this season, only one has come against a likely playoff team. So while the 49ers are heavy favorites and should win on Sunday, don't be shocked if Miami at least keeps it close for a half.

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 2

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 7

 

5. Denver Broncos (9-3)

Peyton Manning's MVP case continues to get stronger every week and that train certainly won't stop against a flailing Raiders team. 

With just one game remaining against a likely playoff team the remainder of the season, it's hard to gather any concrete Broncos-related takeaways until January.

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 2

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 7

 

6. Green Bay Packers (8-4)

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Despite injuries marring the secondary and receiving corps, the Packers have simply kept chugging—Week 12's loss to the Giants notwithstanding. Like the Panthers, the Lions find a way to lose close games on a weekly basis.

That means it wouldn't be a shocker nor would it suddenly revive the early-season questions about Green Bay. Then again, winning, which will happen on Sunday, won't suddenly make the Packers Super Bowl favorites, either.

Elite teams win these games. A division title is within Green Bay's grasp, but with a matchup against the Bears looming next week, this isn't the time to dilly dally and blow a winnable game.

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 3

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 9

 

7. Baltimore Ravens (9-3)

After making Charlie Batch look like, well, not Charlie Batch last week, the time of reckoning has come for Baltimore's struggling secondary.

It's not a far trip to take on the Redskins in Week 14, but based on the two teams' trajectories, a long day could be ahead for the Ravens on Sunday.

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 3

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 9

 

8. Chicago Bears (8-4)

Losing three of four against possible playoff teams doesn't bode well for the Bears in January. However, a loss against a struggling Vikings team could send Chicago's chances of even playing in January into a tailspin.

Luckily, Christian Ponder isn't exactly inspiring any confidence in Minnesota of late. 

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 4

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 13

 

9. New York Giants (7-5)

New Orleans, Atlanta and Baltimore are the Giants' next three opponents in order. With the Saints being the weakest of that bunch, we may have reached the must-win point in the season for Tom Coughlin's team.

The Cowboys and Redskins are nipping at their heels, so it's time to halt the autumn skid and get back to the winning track. If not, it could be a cold, television-heavy winter for the defending Super Bowl champions.

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 6

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 14

 

10. Indianapolis Colts (8-4)

Unquestionably the best story in the NFL this season, the Colts have also gotten the help of some great schedule luck. That only continues this week against the Titans, who possibly have the NFL's worst defense.

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 8

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 14


11. Cincinnati Bengals (7-5)

John Grieshop/Getty Images

Speaking of schedule luck, the Bengals are winners of four straight games, only one of which came against a team that has won a third of its games. 

This week, Cincinnati hosts the Cowboys in what can only be deemed a "loser leaves town" match. A win for the Bengals and they're still in the hunt for a wild-card spot. 

On the other hand, a loss puts them in a situation where there is no margin for error going forward. Neither Cincinnati nor Dallas evokes the strongest of emotions, but with that in mind, I'm sticking with the home team. 

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 9

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 16

 

12. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5)

With Ben Roethlisberger likely back at the helm, there is no excuse for the Steelers to fall against a Chargers team filled with lame ducks. 

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 9

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 14


13. Seattle Seahawks (7-5)

Simply put, Seattle will not get its first home loss of 2012 against this Cardinals team, regardless of whether it's led by John Skelton or Ryan Lindley

Look for Pete Carroll to have plenty of reasons to break out his best Save the Last Dance impression on Sunday.

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 10

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 16

 

14. Washington Redskins (6-6)

For all of the rightful credit Robert Griffin III gets for his scintillating play this season, the young star needs to spend his offseason with the Washington Nationals learning how to slide. 

He takes far too many hits and he'll learn on Sunday that the Ravens aren't shy about teeing off on quarterbacks. The Redskins will keep their winning streak going, but don't be shocked if fans are left a little worried about the long-term stability of their franchise player.

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 9

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 16


15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6)

Three of their last four games are very winnable, but the Buccaneers' playoff hopes could reach an end with a loss to the Eagles this week. There's little we've seen from Philadelphia to make that a considerable thought, but Greg Schiano cannot allow his team to look forward to New Orleans in Week 15.

Two losses in a row have put Tampa on life support. Three would end the Bucs' season.

 Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 12

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 19


16. Dallas Cowboys (6-6)

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Lost in the Cowboys' mediocre season is the fact that Dez Bryant has become a superstar in 2012. With 71 receptions for 978 yards and eight touchdowns, the third-year wideout is just one score away from setting/tying career highs in every category and may make his first Pro Bowl. 

However, with the Bengals having given up just 13 touchdown passes on the season, Bryant may have trouble adding to that total on Sunday.

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 13

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 19

 

17. New Orleans Saints (5-7)

The Saints aren't making the playoffs, but may become the team no playoff contender wants to face down the stretch. 

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 15

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 22


18. St. Louis Rams (5-6-1)

While not considered a playoff contender by most, the Rams may sneak in if they win three of their last four games. Matchups against wild-card contenders adorn the last quarter of their schedule and the team's tie would put them ahead of any 9-7 team on the docket.

A win against the Bills this week will go a long way towards helping turn that dream into a reality. 

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 15

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 22


19. Minnesota Vikings (6-6)

Despite an MVP-level performance from Adrian Peterson, the Vikings will be watching from home in January because of quarterback issues.

Sounds a little familiar, doesn't it?

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 15

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 22

 

20. Detroit Lions (4-8)

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The 2012 Lions may be the best example of a "good" bad team in NFL history. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson are excoriating defenses on a weekly basis to the point where there may be a new CJ2K in town by the end of the season.

With a defense that has talent just about everywhere except the secondary, it's nearly incomprehensible that Detroit is 4-8 coming into Week 14.

Then, of course, you remember that from top to bottom this may be the most undisciplined team in the league. With that, it becomes easy to discern how such a talented team can lose seven games by one possession.

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 18

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 23

 

21. Miami Dolphins (5-7)

Am I the only one who thinks the Dolphins would have been a playoff team with Matt Moore as the starting quarterback?

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 20

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 25


22. Buffalo Bills (5-7)

How C.J. Spiller has just 31 more carries than Fred Jackson thus far is one of the five most indecipherable facts about the 2012 NFL season.

Not only has Spiller out-gained Jackson 907-423 on the ground, but has also fumbled fewer times and has the most receptions of longer than 20 yards on the entire Bills roster.

Then again, Jackson does have a long carry of a whopping 15 yards this season. There's always that explanation.

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 20

 Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 25


23. New York Jets (5-7)

Don't worry, Jets fans, this nightmare of a season will all be over in a month. 

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 20

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 26


24. San Diego Chargers (4-8)

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

With the messes going on in the Big Apple and Philadelphia, the Chargers have gotten a little bit of a free pass this season.

Philip Rivers has gone from superstar to Carson Palmer-esque; it might be time to chalk up Ryan Mathews as a sunk cost. And Norv Turner has continued to, well, coach like Norv Turner.

A purging of management and the coaching staff may help a bit. But until we're sure Rivers and Mathews prove themselves as cornerstones, San Diego is going to have trouble competing, regardless of who is running things.

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 22

 Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 25


25. Arizona Cardinals (4-8)

Ken Whisenhunt may lose his job in the offseason because management couldn't find him even a replacement-level quarterback. That may not seem fair, but it's the way of life in the NFL.

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 25

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 30


26. Cleveland Browns (4-8)

A win against the Chiefs this week would give Cleveland their third-straight victory and inject even more hope into Browns fans going into next season.

I'm still nowhere near sold on Brandon Weeden as even a replacement-level quarterback and there are talent needs all over the place elsewhere. Nonetheless, Pat Shumur has done a nice job rounding his team into form this season and deserves another chance in 2013 to bring the Browns back into playoff contention. 

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 22

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 28

 

27. Carolina Panthers (3-9)

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Panthers will essentially be playing for Ron Rivera's job over the last quarter of the season. If my prediction comes to fruition and Carolina beats Atlanta this week, Rivera keeping his job is a distinct possibility.

Each of the Panthers' final three games (at San Diego, vs. Oakland, at New Orleans) are winnable, meaning 7-9 is not out of the question just yet. 

It's little consolation for a team that came into 2012 with playoff hopes, but at least there is some reason for hope.

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 25

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 29

 

28. Tennessee Titans (4-8)

With deficiencies apparent all over the field, the team's personnel decisions over the past couple offseasons have to raise some massive questions.

As it stands, Chris Johnson is still the most proven player on offense and the defense is languishing in the bottom five in the NFL.

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 26

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 29


29. Philadelphia Eagles (3-9)

On the bright side, Eagles fans, at least the team has possibly the best one-two running back punch in the league with Bryce Brown and LeSean McCoy. 

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 28

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 30

 

30. Oakland Raiders (3-9)

After their performance this season, does anyone have a good answer why the Raiders fired Hue Jackson after the 2011 campaign?

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 29

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 32

 

31. Kansas City Chiefs (2-10)

As heartwarming as last week's win over the Panthers was, it took the Chiefs out of the pole position for the No. 1 pick. 

Obviously, there are far more important mitigating factors surrounding the team. Still, a winning streak is just about the opposite of what the organization needs football-wise.

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 30

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 32

 

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10)

By no means is Chad Henne the Jaguars' quarterback of the future. However, his performances the past few weeks may have answered the franchise's questions about whether Blaine Gabbert is that man as well. 

With Matt Barkley and Geno Smith out there as intriguing prospects, Jacksonville might be right back on the rebuilding train in the offseason. 

Best Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 30

Worst Possible Ranking After Week 14: No. 32

 


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