There are only a few weeks left in the NFL season. This means that every game around the league comes with increasing importance.
Entering Week 14, a number of teams are at a point where they cannot afford to lose. Desperation is never a good thing, but the season could be dependent on a couple of games and even a couple of key plays.
Here are the power rankings entering Week 14, but as always, things can change at any time.
1. Houston Texans
In the last three weeks, the Texans have allowed 300-yard passing games to Chad Henne, Matt Stafford and Jake Locker.
The defense better solve the problem fast before Tom Brady tears it apart this week.
2. New England Patriots
While the New England Patriots have already clinched the AFC East, this team has much higher aspirations.
The upcoming game against the Houston Texans will be important for the rest of the season.
First, a win could give them a good chance at securing a first round bye. Second, beating the top team in the conference will give the Patriots confidence heading into the playoffs.
So far, New England has not had to encounter an offense as solid as Houston. It will be interesting to see how the team reacts to an opponent with this type of balance on that side of the football.
3. Atlanta Falcons
Although the Falcons have an 11-1 record, they currently only have one win over a team with a winning record. They remain below the Patriots until they can start winning games more convincingly.
4. Denver Broncos
It sure was easy for the Broncos to win the AFC West with Peyton Manning at quarterback. The upcoming game against the Oakland Raiders should give the team a nice rest heading into a showdown with the Baltimore Ravens.
5. Baltimore Ravens
Robert Griffin III and the red-hot Washington Redskins could be a difficult matchup for the Ravens. If they lose to a second local rival in two weeks, the fans will not be happy.
6. Green Bay Packers
With James Starks, the Packers finally have a bit of a running attack. This will help a little bit, but the offense still belongs to Aaron Rodgers and the passing game.
7. Chicago Bears
Is it possible that the Bears cannot win unless the defense does the majority of the scoring?
Jay Cutler needs to step up his efforts for the offense to match what the defense has been doing all year. Only then will this team be successful.
8. San Francisco 49ers
Colin Kaepernick will remain the starter...for now. You do not want to switch back and forth between quarterbacks, but coach Jim Harbaugh needs to make sure he does not give up this season for the future.
9. New York Giants
The win over the Packers helped the Giants stay in front in the NFC East, but the loss to the Washington Redskins could end up being devastating.
New York certainly was not the first team to be defeated by Robert Griffin's spectacular play, and they are unlikely to be the last. However, the upcoming schedule remains difficult.
In the next three weeks, the Giants now have to battle the New Orleans Saints at home, and then try to win road games against the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons.
If the Giants are unable to get the win this week, the road to the playoffs looks incredibly bleak.
10. Indianapolis Colts
What Andrew Luck and the Colts are doing at this point of the season is simply incredible, and yet it can still get better. With two games remaining against the Houston Texans, Indianapolis still has an outside chance of winning the division.
At that point, Luck would start hearing MVP discussion instead of just Rookie of the Year.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers
The fact that this team can win with Charlie Batch shows the overall resolve and determination of this entire roster. When Ben Roethlisberger returns, the Steelers will be out to show that they are once again contenders.
12. Cincinnati Bengals
Andy Dalton had his worst game in a month, but the team was still able to come away with a victory.
If BenJarvus Green-Ellis can continue his current hot streak to pair with an already great passing attack, this could be a dangerous team in December and January.
13. Seattle Seahawks
Starting Russell Wilson over free agent Matt Flynn might have been a controversial move at the beginning of the year. At this point, few even remember why it was up for debate.
Wilson might not have the measurables you look for in a quarterback, but when the game starts, you want him on your team.
14. Washington Redskins
Remember when the Redskins were 3-6 heading into the bye week and discussing playing some younger players to prepare for the future?
Three weeks later, Washington is in the middle of the playoff race and only one game away from the division lead. The team is built for the future, but ready to contend now, which is a scary thought for the rest of the NFC East.
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Two losses in a row have hurt the playoff prospects. However, the offensive trio of Josh Freeman, Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson give this team the ability to beat anyone it faces.
16. Minnesota Vikings
After losing four out of five games, the Vikings are hurting. However, they are not out of contention just yet.
One way to help their cause is to win at home against the Chicago Bears.
Right now, Minnesota is two games behind both the Bears and Packers in the race for the division crown. The team is also one game back of the last wild-card spot, but that includes a head-to-head loss to the Seahawks.
Fortunately, Adrian Peterson is playing as well as anyone in football with over 100 rushing yards in six straight games, including 210 yards last week.
If the team is able to ride the running back to a victory this week, the team is right back in the playoff race.
17. St. Louis Rams
With a win over the 49ers, the Rams proved that the tie a few weeks back was not a fluke.
The postseason might be out of reach for this young squad, but they should have a lot of confidence heading into 2013.
18. Dallas Cowboys
It is one thing beating a Philadelphia Eagles team that has all but given up on the year. It is another trying to beat the Bengals, who are playing as well as anyone in the NFL after four straight wins.
Tony Romo needs to avoid turnovers, otherwise the Cowboys will fall under .500 once again.
19. New Orleans Saints
This has been quite an up-and-down season for the New Orleans Saints.
After an 0-4 start, the team then won five of six games to get back into the playoff hunt. However, two straight losses now have the Saints likely needing to win out to reach the postseason.
That does not even include the drama surrounding the suspensions related to the Bounty Scandal.
With one more loss this week, the Saints' season would be over. The only question will be whether they can recover next year with Sean Payton back in charge.
20. Buffalo Bills
As talented as C.J. Spiller is, it is a wonder why he is still not getting more touches in the Bills' offense. When he gets at least 15 carries, Buffalo is 2-0.
There should be many more games ahead where they test this theory.
21. Detroit Lions
Detroit is talented enough on both sides of the football to be competitive in every game. However, the entire organization suffers from lack of discipline and the mental mistakes have cost them multiple wins.
22. Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill could be in serious trouble in the upcoming weeks now that left tackle Jake Long has been placed on injured reserve. This week, Aldon Smith of the 49ers could be in for a big day.
23. Cleveland Browns
Brandon Weeden has completed over 65 percent of his passes in the last two games, both wins. Of course, the defense is also doing its part as the young team is finally coming together.
24. Tennessee Titans
Jake Locker will get more time to show that he is the quarterback of the future for this organization, but he better start picking up his play. Five interceptions in two games is not going to cut it.
25. New York Jets
Somehow, the Jets are still in the playoff hunt with a 5-7 record.
However, the team has been downright embarrassing on and off the football field.
Mark Sanchez is still the starting quarterback, despite the fact that he has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns and has a Total QBR of 28.4 out of 100, which ranks 32nd out of 34 quarterbacks.
The problem is that there are not many better options on the roster.
A win would get the team back on track and possibly instill more confidence in Sanchez, but a loss could be the start of a house cleaning in the entire organization.
26. San Diego Chargers
At this point in his career, I would not trust Philip Rivers to walk my dog, let alone trust him to win me a football game.
San Diego might have to start looking for a new quarterback to go with a new coach this offseason.
27. Philadelphia Eagles
In the six games since the bye week, opposing quarterbacks have thrown 16 touchdown passes without tossing a single interception.
It is tough to win when you allow this type of efficiency.
28. Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton is finally coming out of his sophomore slump. It is too late to do anything this season, but at least the fanbase can breathe easier heading into next year.
29. Arizona Cardinals
Ryan Lindley has not done well as a replacement for John Skelton, who did not do well as a replacement for Kevin Kolb. Then again, it is tough for anyone to succeed when the offensive line allowed a league-high 48 sacks.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars
Blaine Gabbert is not the answer at quarterback, but neither is Chad Henne. It is time for Jaguars to once again look to the draft for help.
31. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs were dealt a tough situation and came through with a win on an emotional day. Regardless of what happens for the rest of the year, the team should be proud of its effort on Sunday.
32. Oakland Raiders
The losses are starting to get more and more embarrassing. Carson Palmer deserves some blame, but few have the ability to outscore the dreadful defense.
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