NFL Power Rankings: Teams That Will Make or Break Their Season in Week 15

Mike Shiekman@TheRealShiekFeatured ColumnistDecember 14, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 10: Stevan Ridley #22 of the New England Patriots celebrates his touchdown run with Tom Brady, Brandon Lloyd #85, and Wes Welker #83 of the New England Patriots in the second half against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium on December 10, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

With the final battles for playoff spots happening in Week 15, contenders and pretenders will be all but sorted out by Monday's end.

NFL fans are in for a huge treat with multiple playoff-caliber matchups on Sunday. Some teams, on the other hand, are in for some huge disappointment.

Where do teams stand in the power rankings with three weeks to go? Check out below to find out.


1. New England Patriots (10-3)

After last week’s Monday Night Football, there’s no team that looks more impressive than Brady’s bunch. The offense looks in full form, even with Rob Gronkowski sidelined, while the defense does just enough to ensure a blowout against Houston.

Bill Belichick’s team is peaking at the right time, and the 49ers have some bad timing.


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

The Niners are beginning to adjust fully with Colin Kaepernick at the controls, but the big game against New England will be a true measuring stick.

If Kaepernick can go in on the road and best the league’s best team, all of Harbaugh’s critics will turn into followers in one fell swoop. 


3. Denver Broncos (10-3)

The Broncos’ season has become their preseason best-case scenario, with Peyton Manning playing at the highest level. Now a tough test against Baltimore awaits.


4. Houston Texans (11-2)

Houston’s veil of invincibility has been discarded after Monday night in Foxboro. They’ll try to get back on track and likely will in their first matchup against Indianapolis.

Their defense will have to shore up for the Colts quarterback, though. He has a knack for the dramatic.  


5. Atlanta Falcons (11-2)

The Falcons finally fell behind and couldn’t catch up against Carolina. Now they go into their matchup with the Giants and a ton of doubt from the national audience.

They’ll have their chance at home to silence the doubters.


6. Green Bay Packers (9-4)

The Packers always seems to hang around even when they aren’t at full strength. Keep an eye on how the passing game adjusts against the Bears defense without Jordy Nelson, but with Greg Jennings, on board.

That may be what the offense looks like until deep in the playoffs.


7. Baltimore Ravens (9-4)

The Ravens need to get it together on offense, and fast. After lackluster performances against the Steelers and Redskins, Jim Caldwell will try to right the ship.

We’ll see how personnel shakes out against the Broncos. 


8. New York Giants (8-5)

The G-Men go from one statement game against the Saints to another versus the top-seeded Falcons.

The more the Giants win against the top teams in the regular season, the more proof that they are the ultimate “Team You Do Not Want to Face” in the postseason.


9. Indianapolis Colts (9-4)

That the Colts will finish over .500 is a victory in itself. Anything from here on out is an added bonus.


10. Seattle Seahawks (8-5)

Russell Wilson and this Seahawk passing offense have been much better than advertised, adding a scary element to Seattle for opposing squads.

If only they could play better on the road. This contest in Toronto against the Bills will prove just how good they’ve become.


11. Chicago Bears (8-5)

Their hopes of winning the NFC North are on life support, but Jay Cutler and Co. have strong position for a playoff berth.

A home upset over Green Bay would likely seal their fate for January.


12. Washington Redskins (7-6)

It seems the Redskins will have RGIII in the lineup in a must-win game against Cleveland. The ‘Skins are lucky to have their quarterback in tow, as they’ll be able to have a surefire two-dimensional offense come Sunday.


13. Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)

Cincinnati keeps beating the teams they should beat, supplanting Philadelphia on Thursday night with a 24-0 second half.

The win guarantees a .500 season for the Bengals and keeps them firmly in the playoff hunt.


14. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6)

Ben Roethlisberger must come back into form if the Steelers will have a chance to surprise in the AFC and beyond.

Meanwhile, another Troy Polamalu injury signifies it may be the end of an era for the Steeler defense.


15. Dallas Cowboys (7-6)

The Cowboys also can’t afford another loss in 2012, but a matchup against a struggling Steelers team should help.

Whether the Cowboys can come to play after an emotional win against Cincinnati, though, is up in the air.


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

The Rams will play in an exciting win-or-stay-home scenario against the Vikings, with their playoff hopes hanging in the balance.  

St. Louis has had a resurgent season in their first year under Jeff Fisher, but it will likely have a better result in 2013, barring a miracle three-week stretch.


17. Minnesota Vikings (7-6)

The Vikings surprisingly still have a chance to make the NFC postseason but will need some help to get into the dance.

With the Seahawks and Bears holding onto playoff spots and the Rams and Cowboys also in contention, they’ll need two teams to fall out.

The Vikings can only control their own fate, so a win over St. Louis will merely have to suffice.


18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7)

The Bucs swallowed a tough last-second loss against the lowly Eagles and now don’t have much of a prayer in the competitive NFC race.

A nice rebound year for Tampa Bay, but they will fall just short of their ultimate goal.


19. New Orleans Saints (5-8)

The Saints were once in playoff contention, but a rough schedule has taken them out of contention. They need to shore up the defense to get back into form.


20. New York Jets (6-7)

Gang Green needs to win out to have a chance at the postseason. Lose and the season comes crumbling down, with the national media all over it.

With a winnable game at Tennessee on Monday night, Mark Sanchez and Co. will need a transcendent performance on offense (compared to other showings in 2012) to take a road win.

If the Jets can get past this test, their season will be more than just hanging by a thread.


21. San Diego Chargers (5-8)

San Diego looks like another team in transition as the 2012 season winds down. Time to see what young talent the Chargers have headed into the future.


22. Cleveland Browns (5-8)

The Browns don’t look like it by their record, but they are certainly on the upswing headed into the final stretch. You don’t hear that out of Cleveland that often.


23. Detroit Lions (4-9)

The best 4-9 team in the history of the NFL? This Lions team just might be.

They should turn the tide for one week at Arizona.


24. Miami Dolphins (5-8)

The Dolphins have played a lot of games tough but haven’t been able to get the big upset in the fourth quarter. Most of those issues can be credited to a lack of playmakers on offense.

More weapons until next year, Ryan Tannehill.


25. Buffalo Bills (5-8)

Buffalo is ending 2011 with much of the same problems they had in 2012. This time, they might not go into the next season with the same coach and quarterback. 


26. Carolina Panthers (4-9)

Ron Rivera has likely saved his job with two wins in the last three.  Meanwhile, Cam Newton looks to be in 2011 form.

The Panthers will finish towards the midsection of these rankings with a strong finish down the stretch.


27. Philadelphia Eagles (4-10)

The Eagles continued a disappointing 2012 with a turnover-laden second half against Cincinnati. A new team with a new coach is likely in order in 2013.


28. Tennessee Titans (4-9)

Jake Locker continues to give the Titans mixed results at the quarterback spot. A win over the Jets on Monday night would cure a lot of those issues.


29. Arizona Cardinals (4-9)

In Week 4, the Cardinals were thought to be an NFL surprise. The surprise had yet to come: how hard they would fall.


30. Oakland Raiders (3-10)

The Raiders will finally have a winnable game this week against fellow league bottom-dweller Kansas City. It’s must-see viewing for the top quarterbacks in next year’s draft, and that’s about it.


31. Kansas City Chiefs (2-11) 

Their running back runs for over 165 yards, yet the Chiefs still found a way to lose by 23 to the Browns. As if this season couldn’t get any worse.


32. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11)

When the Jags are an underdog by more than a touchdown to a bottom-10 team, you know this team wants to finish the season already.


Mike Shiekman is a Breaking News Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow his NFL musings on Twitter @TheRealShiek


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