The penultimate week of NFL action left us with more questions than answers for this latest edition of the power rankings. A number of top teams struggled, while some middling franchises came up with convincing wins and cemented their place atop the list.
It was a head-scratching week, so hopefully some things get sorted out come Sunday.
Let’s take a look at the latest rankings with, a focus on how each team is doing with just a single game left.
1. Denver Broncos
Denver hasn’t lost since Week 5, and for that reason, we have to reward Peyton Manning’s squad with the No. 1 spot on our list.
While you can knock the Broncos' schedule, the fact remains that they haven’t lost to anyone and are likely going to have a bye going into the postseason (assuming they win or Houston or New England loses). That’s enough to earn No. 1 after last week’s top team was dethroned.
2. Atlanta Falcons
The NFC’s top team was one of the few to beat Denver this season, and it has a sparkling 13-2 record going into the final week of the 2012 campaign. We expect the Falcons get things done against Tampa Bay and go into the bye on a good note.
3. Green Bay Packers
If anyone doubted Green Bay’s offensive prowess, he or she certainly shouldn’t after the Packers laid an absolute shellacking down on the Titans last week in a 55-7 blowout victory.
Should Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the offense get hot like that during the postseason, they are going to be impossible to beat.
4. New England Patriots
The Pats struggled in the early going against the Jags, but eventually pulled through as the superior team. It wasn’t a convincing win, but they got it done and still have a chance to earn a bye by winning in Week 17 and hoping Denver and Houston falter.
5. Houston Texans
Speaking of Houston, the team has cooled at the wrong time and lost two of the past three. If the Texans make it three of four, they are likely going to slip from the No. 1 seed down to the No. 3 in the AFC.
6. Seattle Seahawks
Seattle proved that the NFC West isn’t a one-trick pony by destroying the 49ers in a nationally televised Sunday Night Football game last week. It has a chance to steal the division, but needs some help from the Cardinals.
7. San Francisco 49ers
Expect the Niners to come out firing against Arizona on Sunday, as they need to atone for their shortcomings and build momentum going into the playoffs.
8. Washington Redskins
RGIII returned last week and led the ‘Skins to another victory—a great sign for fans worried about his knee. They have a chance to lock up the NFC East with a victory over Dallas in the finale.
9. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore finally halted its three-game losing streak with a win that likely knocked last year’s Super Bowl champions out of postseason contention and earned the team the AFC North crown. Not shabby for a team people were starting to write off.
10. Indianapolis Colts
The upstart Colts are 10-5 on the year and exceeded nearly everyone’s expectations. If they want to finish the year with a signature win, beating the Texans and ruining their rivals’ potential bye would be the way to do it.
11. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals earned a playoff berth by beating the Steelers and are locked into the No. 6 seed. Not bad for a team that had a coach on the hot seat at the midpoint of the year.
12. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys' season is on the line in Week 17 when they take on Washington for the NFC East crown. If the team fails to get into the playoffs, expect a major overhaul this summer in Big D.
13. Minnesota Vikings
Adrian Peterson is still chasing Eric Dickerson’s record, but his Vikings would much rather make the postseason than have All Day make history.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers' dismal season is over, as their 1-6 finish mercifully puts them out of playoff contention.
15. New York Giants
After winning it all earlier in 2012, the G-Men are on the verge of collapse and need a lot of help to secure a coveted wild-card spot in the NFC. Don’t count on this happening.
16. Chicago Bears
The Bears need some help from their much-hated rivals, the Green Bay Packers, in order to make it into the playoffs. It’ll be interesting to see how that NFC North battle shakes out on Sunday.
17. New Orleans Saints
The Saints were one of the best “bad” teams in the NFL this year. We expect losing an elite coach like Sean Payton had a lot to do with this, and things should be just fine when everyone is back from suspension for the 2013 campaign.
18. St. Louis Rams
The NFC West is now one of the toughest divisions due to Seattle and San Francisco’s emergence, but the young Rams figure to be a contender in short time as well.
19. Miami Dolphins
If it weren’t for Ryan Tannehill’s growing pains, the ‘Phins might still be in contention. However, the Dolphins learned a lot in 2012 and have much to build on next season.
20. Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton and the Panthers are working like crazy to finish their campaign strong. They have won four of their last five and will finish with a respectable 7-9 record if they can beat the Saints in the final game of the season.
It’s a respectable feat and is quite impressive considering this team fell apart in the beginning of the year, dropping six of their first seven contests.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs impressed everyone before their recent five-game slide. Now, the team is desperate to win against the NFC-leading Falcons to answer a few questions before the offseason.
22. San Diego Chargers
We expect a major overhaul in San Diego, as the team must rebuild to compete with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos' dominance of the AFC West.
23. Cleveland Browns
The Browns have much to look forward to in 2013, as RB Trent Richardson and QB Brandon Weeden continue to improve and the defense makes strides.
24. Arizona Cardinals
After raising the expectations of fans in the early portions of the 2012 campaign, the Cardinals managed to kick them in the stomach with 10 losses in the last 11 games. Hopefully this dismal season ends with a quick and merciful loss to the angry 49ers.
25. Buffalo Bills
Buffalo supporters are already looking towards the draft and hoping the team can get a new QB, WR, coach, GM and more through the event.
26. Tennessee Titans
Jake Locker has to make strides as a QB next season or the Titans are doomed to another mediocre outing.
27. New York Jets
The Jets’ circus of a season is finally over, and we’ll see them bow out with a pointless game against Buffalo on Sunday. The over/under for amount of times the camera pans to Tim Tebow on the sideline is 150.
Take the over.
28. Detroit Lions
It’s amazing that the Lions made the playoffs following the 2011 campaign, but fell this far back just a year later. With Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh clogging the cap for the foreseeable future, it’ll be interesting to see how Detroit upgrades in the offseason.
29. Philadelphia Eagles
Don’t sleep on the Eagles making some noise in their final game with Michael Vick back under center.
30. Oakland Raiders
Yet another awful Oakland season is almost in the books. Hopefully the team can find some consistent pieces in the draft and via personnel hires.
31. Kansas City Chiefs
It’s been a trying year for the Chiefs, and everyone that supports the organization cannot wait for the regular season to finally be done with.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jags showed some fight against the Pats last week, but they once again proved that they are perhaps the worst team in the NFL in the loss.