NFL Power Rankings Week 15: Teams on Pace to Finish Regular Season Strong

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 11, 2012

With only three weeks left in the NFL regular season, the playoff picture is just about set.

Some teams might not have a shot at the postseason, but winning this late into the season can provide momentum to carry into the 2013 season.

Here are power rankings going into Week 15, with teams that are finishing up the season well in italics.


1. New England Patriots (10-3)

Anybody who wondered if the New England Patriots were the best team in the league got their answer Monday night. The Pats are the most complete team in the NFL. It's hard to believe they started the season 1-2. The biggest question of the season has to be how in the world New England lost to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2.

It's very telling that the Patriots' three losses have come by a combined four points.


2. Denver Broncos (10-3)

The Denver Broncos are another team that started the year slowly, only then to absolutely surge. Denver started 2-3, winning its next eight games. Peyton Manning has to be the favorite for MVP with the way he's played.

Everybody's going to expect him to perform great the rest of the year, but if Knowshon Moreno can get going like he did against the Oakland Raiders, the Broncos are serious Super Bowl contenders.


3. Green Bay Packers (9-4)

The Green Bay Packers are now the sole leader of the NFC North, in turn putting the entire league on notice. Wins against the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings to end the season make the Packers the favorites to win the NFC.


4. Houston Texans (11-2)

Even with a loss to the Patriots, the Houston Texans could have remained one of the best teams in the league. However, they were thoroughly outclassed by New England. The one problem area is the pass defense, and it showed Monday night. Houston has been giving up quite a few yards through the air recently. It's something that needs to be addressed before the playoffs roll around.


5. Atlanta Falcons (11-2)

It had been building for the past couple of weeks. The Atlanta Falcons weren't playing like a one-loss team in the victories over the Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Weeks 11 and 12.

Beating the New Orleans Saints by 10 points is a very good feather in the cap, but the Falcons followed it up with a 10-point loss to the previously 3-9 Carolina Panthers. The New York Giants are a great test to see if this Falcons team is as good as its record.


6. San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1)

The San Francisco 49ers can win with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, but the question remains as to whether he makes the team good enough to lift the Lombardi Trophy. His running brings a different element from Alex Smith, and it's not as if he needs to be Peyton Manning. Kaepernick will be successful if he continues to limit mistakes.


7. New York Giants (8-5)

The Giants are a team that is always hard to pinpoint, especially at this time in the season. They'll look average to below average at certain points in the season, only to win the Super Bowl. New York has looked good this season but just not quite elite, hence the eighth ranking.

With the 52-27 demolition of the Saints, the Giants look to be ending the regular season on a high note. A win against Atlanta this week will see them jump into the top five.


8. Seattle Seahawks (8-5)

The Seattle Seahawks had the most dominant performance of the season in their 58-0 drubbing of the Arizona Cardinals. Russell Wilson doesn't have to win games all by himself as long as Marshawn Lynch continues his fantastic performances. It's a bit distressing, though, considering their 2-5 record on the road.


9. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6)

They might have lost this week, but the return of Ben Roethlisberger provided a lot of help for fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Even though they're barely hanging on to the last wild-card spot, there's no way the Steelers miss out on the playoffs. Their defense makes them a serious threat in the postseason. Giving up 34 points to the Chargers was nothing more than an aberration.


10. Baltimore Ravens (9-4)

It's a bit of a toss-up between the Baltimore Ravens and the Steelers. Injuries, though, are starting to catch up with the Ravens. They've also lost their last two games with the Broncos coming into town this week.


11. Indianapolis Colts (9-4)

Andrew Luck has been great this season as a rookie, but he might not be able to lead the Indianapolis Colts too deep into the postseason. His 18 interceptions are a huge concern. You can't win a game against better teams when you turn the ball over.


12. Chicago Bears (8-5)

The Chicago Bears could be in serious trouble. They've lost four of their last five and face off with the Packers this week. A loss wouldn't kill their playoff hopes, but they need to pick up some wins to gain some momentum going into the playoffs.


13. Washington Redskins (7-6)

The Washington Redskins are on the fringe of the playoffs. They can't afford to slip up at all the rest of the way. That's troubling considering the injury to Robert Griffin III. It might not be serious, but it could hobble him a little bit. Plus, the Cleveland Browns present tricky opposition this week.


14. Cincinnati Bengals (7-6)

The Cincinnati Bengals were surging in recent weeks, winning four games in a row. A loss to the Dallas Cowboys is huge because the Bengals have both the Steelers and Ravens remaining on the schedule. A loss in either of those games will keep them out of the last wild-card spot.


15. Dallas Cowboys (7-6)

An emotionally charged Cowboys team went out and picked up a nice win in Cincinnati. A win against Pittsburgh this season would make getting past Washington and Chicago a littler easier, but there's not enough time left in the season for the Cowboys to make up all that ground.


16. Minnesota Vikings (7-6)

Adrian Peterson alone can't get the Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs. Until they get a steady, consistent performance from Christian Ponder, the Vikings will struggle to get in the playoffs, this year or next.


17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers might have a bad pass defense, but nobody could have seen them giving up 381 yards to Nick Foles. The future is bright, though, with Josh Freeman and Doug Martin. This is a team to watch in 2013.


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

It might have been a win for the St. Louis Rams, but it sure as heck wasn't pretty. This year has been an improvement for the Rams, so there are things to be happy about. The progression of Sam Bradford is the biggest key for this team in the long term.


19. New Orleans Saints (5-8)

The Giants were a good test for the New Orleans Saints last week. The playoffs might have been out of reach, but they could have won some pride. Instead, the Saints were soundly defeated, 52-27.


20. Cleveland Browns (5-8)

It was only a matter of time before the Browns started picking up some victories. There's a talented nucleus in Cleveland that could make this team much more competitive sooner rather than later.


21. San Diego Chargers (5-8)

It's just about time for the Chargers to start their end-of-the-season run. It's not enough to make the playoffs, and it's also unlikely to save Norv Turner's job.


22. New York Jets (6-7)

It's nothing short of amazing to think about the fact that the New York Jets are only a game out of a wild-card spot. The Jets' offense is simply terrible.

23. Detroit Lions (4-9)

2012 has been a huge disappointment for the Detroit Lions. They must be slobbering thinking about their matchup with the Cardinals this Sunday after games against the Packers, Texans, Colts and Vikings.


24. Buffalo Bills (5-8)

The Rams presented a very winnable game for the Buffalo Bills, but the Bills weren't even able to score a touchdown. Running back C.J. Spiller is a franchise back, but he needs more around him.


25. Miami Dolphins (5-8)

Lost in the years that Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are having is the performance of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He can't be blamed for the Miami Dolphins' otherwise mediocre season.


26. Philadelphia Eagles (4-9)

Nick Foles feasted on a weak Buccaneers secondary. The win finally ended the Eagles' losing streak, which hit eight games.


27. Carolina Panthers (4-9)

The Panthers have had more talent than their record showed. Against the Falcons, they showed what the possibilities for 2013 are. At this point, that's all the team is playing for.


28. Tennessee Titans (4-9)

It was a tough loss for the Tennessee Titans this past week. Jake Locker performed well and the defense was able to force Andrew Luck into two interceptions. It might be enough to get the Titans up a spot or two, but they weren't helped out by the Eagles and Panthers both winning.


29. Oakland Raiders (3-10)

Whether it's Carson Palmer or Terrelle Pryor starting at quarterback, the Oakland Raiders are a bad football team. In fairness to Palmer, though, they'd likely be the worst team in the league without him.


30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11)

Ranking the bottom of the league is a little tough because the last three teams are almost equal levels of bad. The Jacksonville Jaguars get No. 30 because of their strength of schedule, and the fact they didn't give up 58 points.


31. Kansas City Chiefs (2-11)

Things started so well last Sunday for the Kansas City Chiefs, when Jamaal Charles scored on the first play of scrimmage. It was all downhill after that as they lost, 30-7, to the Browns.


32. Arizona Cardinals (4-9)

Quite frankly the Cardinals deserve the bottom spot on everybody's power rankings. Their 58-0 loss at the Seahawks is the worst result of the season for any team. The Cardinals offense is nonexistent at this point.

John Skelton has been arguably the worst regular starter in the league. Arizona fans will hope his four-interception performance on Sunday is the nadir of his 2012 season.


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