NFL Power Rankings: Hottest and Coldest Teams Heading into Week 17
As the NFL heads into the final week of the season, this is generally when teams want to play their best football. Even the clubs that have no prayer of making the postseason want to finish on a high note.
Unfortunately, there are teams striking notes as low as Barry White's legendary baritone. In this instance, there is nothing sexy about going so low.
And then there are teams that are blazing hot headed into the postseason.
This is a complete power ranking of the entire NFL with a concentration on the hottest and coldest teams.
(Highlighted team sections will feature an image and the appropriate icon.)
—Team on a cold streak
—Team on a hot streak
1. San Francisco 49ers 10-4-1
The Niners were destroyed in Seattle on Sunday, but CenturyLink field is such a factor, it's hard to downgrade the Niners from the top spot after the loss.
That's especially the case when most of the teams beneath them looked less than stellar in Week 16 as well.
2. New England Patriots 11-4
The Patriots won, but they didn't look overly impressive. They outlasted the Jacksonville Jaguars 23-16 in one of the Pats' worst performances of the season. I'll give them a slight pass and keep them in the No. 2 spot.
3. Denver Broncos 12-3
Where should the Broncos be ranked?
It is difficult to play better football than the Broncos are playing right now. They have won 10 games in a row, they haven't allowed 30 points in that stretch, the defense is ranked in the top 10 against the pass and run and they have an MVP candidate in Peyton Manning.
So why aren't they ranked No. 1 or No. 2?
Though it was nearly three months ago, they lost the head to head battle with the Patriots on October 7. Since then, the Broncos have only defeated two teams with a winning record.
They may very well be the league's best team, but the real proving grounds begin now.
4. Atlanta Falcons 13-2
The Falcons just keep winning.
They still have their doubters, but the road to the Super Bowl will run through the Georgia Dome as the Dirty Birds have clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
5. Houston Texans 12-3
This may seem harsh for the team in the driver's seat for the top seed in the AFC, but the Texans have lost two of their last three. In those games, they have been outscored 65-20.
This is not a team that appears to be peaking at the right time. No matter what happens in Week 17 vs. the Indianapolis Colts, the Texans will enter the postseason with a ton of questions.
6. Seattle Seahawks 10-5
Can the Seahawks win a playoff game on the road?
Yes, the win over the 49ers came at CenturyLink Field, but you can't ignore the dominating performance. The 42-14 rout gave credence to the blowout wins the Seahawks registered in the two games preceding the Week 16 statement maker.
The NFC has to be praying the Seahawks don't win the division, because that would ensure them at least one home playoff game, and nobody wants to play the Seahawks on the road.
How loud is the 12th man at CenturyLink Field? Check out the video.
7. Green Bay Packers 11-4
Even with a patchy offensive line that has surrendered 45 sacks on the season, the Packers have won four games in a row.
They are quietly finding a decent rushing attack (150.2 rushing yards per game in the last four games), Clay Matthews is back wreaking havoc (three sacks in the last two games) and Aaron Rodgers is...Aaron Rodgers (seven touchdown passes and one interception in last four games).
This isn't a perfect Packers team, but with the NFL's best player under center, they are still very dangerous.
If they can avoid the 49ers in the playoffs, they can beat any other team in the NFC.
8. Washington Redskins 9-6
Most NFL fans know the Broncos have the league's longest current win streak, but how many are giving the Redskins credit for their current six-game run?
This team was 3-6 at one point, and now they are a win away from capturing the NFC East crown with a rookie quarterback. Sure, he isn't just any rookie QB, but the Skins even withstood an injury to Robert Griffin III to remain in control of their own destiny.
I expect them to knock off the Dallas Cowboys to claim that division title, and with their versatility on offense, they could do damage in the postseason.
9. Dallas Cowboys 8-7
I like the way the Cowboys' offense has played of late, but the team came up short in a huge game at home against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. It's hard to continue to win when your defense is allowing 27.5 points per game in the last four weeks.
10. Cincinnati Bengals 9-6
The Bengals' pass rush is serious. Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Wallace Gilberry and Michael Johnson have a combined 32.5 sacks this season.
That pressure will keep them in the game against any opponent. Whether they can score enough points to win in the playoffs is the question.
11. Baltimore Ravens 10-5
Baltimore showed a little bit of life against the suddenly hapless New York Giants on Sunday. At this point, they will take any win, especially since this latest one gave them the AFC North title.
They need to play strong in the regular season finale against the Bengals to establish some momentum. With Ray Lewis activated for the playoffs (per NFL.com), we'll see if this team can get hot at the right time.
12. Chicago Bears 9-6
Lovie Smith's teams will defeat the Detroit Lions on Sunday, and the Packers will take care of the Minnesota Vikings. That combination will land Chicago in the NFC playoffs.
They still have to find a way to incorporate someone else in the passing game besides Brandon Marshall. His 113 receptions is more than the rest of the Bears' wide receivers/tight ends combined.
If they do, they could surprise a lot of people in the postseason.
13. Indianapolis Colts 10-5
Anything the Colts accomplish from here on out in 2012 and in the playoffs is gravy. This team has already overachieved and completed a magnificent turnaround.
No matter what happens in the playoffs, 2013 looks bright for the Colts.
14. Minnesota Vikings 9-6
Which team will make the playoffs?
Minnesota's 23-6 win over the Texans in Houston was the most impressive road win of the season, in my opinion.
They knocked off one of the teams with the best record in the NFL, held them to six points and they did it with Adrian Peterson being held to a human 86 yards on the ground.
The Vikings have now won three in a row. If they beat the Packers on Sunday, they will qualify for the playoffs and earn a spot in the top 10.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers 7-8
The Steelers are not going to the playoffs, and Mike Tomlin is assured of finishing without a winning record for the first time in his tenure as Steelers' head coach.
The running game took a drastic dip for the Steelers this year. They ranked only 26th in the NFL in rushing yards per game, and the defense is aging and banged up.
If they hope for a quick turnaround in 2013, they must address those two areas.
16. New York Giants 8-7
This team doesn't deserve to make the playoffs—even though they still have an outside chance of getting in. They have lost three of their last four games and have been outscored 67-14 the last two weeks.
The losses came against playoff-bound teams, which doesn't bode well for the G-Men moving forward. What has happened to the defending Super Bowl champions?
My answer: a lack of leadership.
Eli Manning is showing flashes of the erratic play that once made him one of the most enigmatic players in the NFL. The Giants need an established veteran to step up and lead the offense. You'd expect that to come from Manning, but it hasn't.
Eli has been mediocre at best during this stretch. He's completed just 54.9 percent of his passes and compiled a QB rating of just 72.2 in the last three games.
17. New Orleans Saints 7-8
The Saints' up-and-down season continued on Sunday. They dealt the Cowboys a crucial blow to their playoff hopes last week with a 34-31 OT win.
They'll have to take solace in these types of victories because the season is over for them after Sunday.
18. St. Louis Rams 7-7-1
Jeff Fisher's team has quietly won four out of five, and that includes a win over the Niners in Week 13. Their scant playoff hopes were dashed on Sunday, but they are the NFC's version of the Colts—minus the playoff berth.
That's a cruel joke, but things are certainly looking up for the Rams in 2013.
19. Miami Dolphins 7-8
Miami has an excellent opportunity to finish the season on a high note. If they knock off the Patriots on the road, they will finish .500 and damage the postseason standing of their rival.
That said, the probability of that happening isn't very high.
The Fins haven't won in New England since 2008. Matt Cassell was the QB for an injured Tom Brady in that game. The previous time the Dolphins beat the Pats in New England with Tom Brady under center was in 2005.
Brady threw six passes in that game before being rested for the following week's playoff matchup.
In fact, the Fins have never beaten the Patriots at home with Brady at QB for a full game.
20. Carolina Panthers 6-9
Cam Newton has recaptured the magic, and the Panthers have won three games in a row. Too bad the resurgence has come too late to make the playoffs.
Newton threw his first interception since November 11 on Sunday in a 17-6 win over the Oakland Raiders. He has still been great over the last six weeks, completing 60 percent of his passes for 11 touchdowns and just the one pick.
21. San Diego Chargers 6-9
San Diego is at least finishing up respectfully.
They knocked off the New York Jets on Sunday, and they will likely deliver a spirited effort against the Oakland Raiders at home. It will probably be Norv Turner's last game as head coach, per Tulsa World.
22. Cleveland Browns 5-10
Even though the Browns have lost two in a row, I still like the direction the franchise is moving in. Brandon Weeden needs another offseason to get completely acclimated to the NFL game, and the Browns need another receiving option.
If they can attain those two factors, this team could push for a wild-card spot in 2013.
23. New York Jets 6-9
Rex Ryan has become the Ozzie Guillen of the NFL. He's just a blowhard who has lost the ability to inspire or affect his players.
How long before the Jets give Ryan the same exit the Miami Marlins and Chicago White Sox gave Guillen?
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6-9
Believe it or not, the Bucs were once 6-3 and seemingly a lock for the playoffs. Five straight losses and a shoving match on the sidelines later, the Bucs are again one of the NFL's biggest messes.
This team has to shore up its 32nd-ranked pass defense.
Perhaps Bryan Cox was attempting to teach Adam Hayward some pass-rushing or block-shedding techniques in the aforementioned incident. Check out the GIF:
25. Buffalo Bills 5-10
Losing three in a row heading into Week 17 is certainly not what the Bills had in mind for the close of this season. The defense hasn't been as fierce as they hoped. The team is dead last in the NFL against the run.
While Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't the worst starting quarterback in the NFL, it doesn't appear that he's the answer to lead the team to the playoffs either.
He's thrown just as many picks as he has touchdowns in December, and the Bills' pass offense is ranked 24th in the NFL.
26. Philadelphia Eagles 4-11
The Eagles have lost 10-of-11, but they haven't played quite as bad of late. With Mike Vick set to start in the season finale (per New Jersey Star-Ledger), and with the game likely to be Andy Reid's last as the Eagles' head coach, Philly will come out firing for their embattled leaders.
It won't matter all that much, but the Eagles will make fans ask: "where was this all season?"
Both Vick and Reid are likely auditioning for jobs elsewhere.
27. Arizona Cardinals 5-10
This is one of the worst offenses in recent memory. Nine running backs in the league have more rushing yards than the Cardinals do as a team, and they are dead last in yards per play and first downs.
Larry Fitzgerald should be the new spokesperson for Calgon.
28. Tennessee Titans 5-10
The Titans have not only allowed 30 or more points nine times this season, but they have lost by 21 or more points six times. Losing four of their last five games is simply a pimple on the Titans' virtual acne-filled face of despair.
This team is perhaps the most bitter loser in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes (USA Today).
Bud Adams threw the farm at Manning this offseason. He declined and now Adams is left to clean up the pigsty.
29. Oakland Raiders 4-11
At some point, the Raiders need to see what Pryor has in a game. What better situation than in Week 17 against the Chargers, in a game that means absolutely nothing for either team?
30. Detroit Lions 4-11
Calvin Johnson has proven that there is no such thing as a Madden curse with his record-breaking season. For his next feat, he must find a way to make Matthew Stafford make better decisions with the ball.
He has thrown five interceptions and just one touchdown pass in the last three games.
The Lions have lost seven games in a row, but they do have a chance to send the Bears into hibernation on Sunday.
It is a small consolation for a team that figured to return to the playoffs, but this is what happens when your defense gives up 31.7 points per game over the last seven weeks.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars 2-13
The Jags pushed the Patriots in Week 16 just like they pushed the Texans in Week 11, but they lost just as they have 12 other times this season.
It is a perfect match from a commercial standpoint, and it is perhaps the last place Tebow will get a fair shot at starting in the NFL.
32. Kansas City Chiefs 2-13
What position should the Chiefs target in the draft?
This has been a terrible season on the field for the franchise. There is major transition ahead for them, and quite honestly, it is hard to even know where they need to start correcting the football issues.
A quarterback seems like a logical choice considering they scored a league-low 208 points and turned the ball over a league-high 37 times.
It's difficult to imagine the Chiefs selecting anyone besides Geno Smith with their top pick.
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