NFL Power Rankings: Where Each Team Stands Heading into the Postseason

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2013

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 30:  Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks rolls out to pass against the St. Louis Rams at CenturyLink Field on December 30, 2012 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

After 17 weeks of the NFL regular season, it is much easier to determine the best team in football than it was in September. However, there will not be a definitive answer until time runs out in the Super Bowl.

Records say a lot at this time of the year, but they do not tell the entire story.

Some teams started off hot but are now backing into the postseason. Others ended their seasons earlier than expected but are currently playing better than they have all year.

These power rankings help determine which teams are actually the best in football at this late stage.

1. Denver Broncos (13-3)

It took over a month to finally get into a rhythm, but the Denver Broncos are as complete of a team as there is in this league.

The defense is solid against both the run and pass, Peyton Manning has played like an MVP candidate at quarterback and Knowshon Moreno has balanced out the offense with his running ability in the last few weeks.

Even the special teams has been outstanding with Trindon Holliday, who finished the season undefeated after starting the year with the Texans.

With home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, it will be difficult for anyone to defeat this impressive squad.

2. New England Patriots (12-4)

The defense has been much better toward the end of the season, but it still allowed 41 points to the 49ers in Week 15. New England will only go as far as the defense will take it.

3. Atlanta Falcons (13-3)

While the Falcons have not made every game look pretty this year, the experience in close games will help them in the playoffs. They are also one of the toughest teams to beat indoors, where they will play all of their remaining games.

4. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1)

San Francisco has not looked great in the past two weeks, but the bye week will allow coach Jim Harbaugh to fix the recent problems on both sides of the ball.

5. Seattle Seahawks (11-5)

Although there are few teams hotter than the Seahawks, do not forget about this team's struggles away from home. Seattle has a 3-5 record on the road despite facing only two teams with winning records in those games.

6. Green Bay Packers (11-5)

The Packers will have nightmares of Adrian Peterson if he is able to put together one more big game against them in the playoffs. Fortunately, Aaron Rodgers is playing as well as ever and should be able to take care of business at home. 

7. Houston Texans (12-4)

For the first half of the season, the Houston Texans were one of the best teams in football.

Things started to unravel in Weeks 11 and 12 when they were narrowly able to escape overtime victories over the Jaguars and Lions. Finally, those close wins turned into losses as the team dropped three of its final four games.

When the squad had a chance to secure the top seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, it lost to the Colts in Week 17 when the division rival had already been locked into the No. 5 seed. 

Houston still has a lot of talent, but it is very vulnerable against the pass and is looking like it will have an early exit out of the playoffs.

8. Washington Redskins (10-6)

The idea that this is a one-man team is simply not true. Robert Griffin III has been great, but so has Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon and an entire defense full of players that have improved tremendously since the beginning of the year.

9. Indianapolis Colts (11-5)

In a game with nothing on the line except pride, the Colts thoroughly dominated the Houston Texans on the final day of the regular season. This team is playing inspired football and will be tough to beat.

10. Baltimore Ravens (10-6)

The news of Ray Lewis' retirement could inspire this team to win it all. However, the entire defense will have to clean up its play and start making tackles in order for that to happen.

11. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)

Cincinnati has put together a quietly impressive run that includes finishing with a 7-1 record over the second half of the year. The Bengals are young, but they have enough talent to win a game or two in the playoffs. 

12. Minnesota Vikings (10-6)

It seemed like a longshot for the Vikings to reach the playoffs after starting 6-6, especially considering the schedule ended with games against the Bears, Packers and Texans.

However, the squad rode Adrian Peterson to four-straight wins and an appearance in the playoffs.

The problem is that Minnesota will start the postseason with a rematch against the Green Bay Packers, with this game being on the road.

Even if Peterson once again has a huge day, it will be difficult to overcome Aaron Rodgers and the team's impressive passing attack. In addition, quarterback Christian Ponder has been very inconsistent with his accuracy this season.

Reaching the playoffs is an impressive accomplishment for this squad, but the Packers provide a little more balance and should be able to avenge its most recent loss. 

13. Chicago Bears (10-6)

Lovie Smith was fired after a 10-win season, although it is fair to expect better after a 7-1 start. Still, it is weird to think that a Packers win in Week 17 could have gotten the Bears to the playoffs and likely saved the coach's job.

14. New York Giants (9-7)

The Giants finished with the same record as last year when it won the Super Bowl. This time, however, few are talking about Eli Manning being one of the top quarterbacks in the game.

15. Dallas Cowboys (8-8)

Tony Romo did what all of his haters wanted him to do: throw three interceptions in the team's biggest game of the year. On the other hand, the Cowboys likely would not be in position to reach the playoffs without the quarterback's solid play during the previous month. 

16. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)

It is easy to blame this down year on injuries, but many starters failed to play up to expectations when healthy. The question is whether this was a fluke or a downward trend. 

17. St. Louis Rams (7-8-1)

Even without projected defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, the Rams defense was solid all year. Just imagine what can happen when that unit has an actual coach next season. 

18. Carolina Panthers (7-9)

If the NFL season was a few games longer, it is entirely possible the Carolina Panthers would have been able to get into the playoffs.

After starting the year with a 2-8 record, the team was able to win five of its last six games to finish the year 7-9. 

During that final stretch, quarterback Cam Newton threw 10 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. Prior to that point, last year's Rookie of the Year had a ratio of nine touchdowns to 10 interceptions.

Still, the organization should be confident that this squad can be a legitimate contender next season based on its play at the end of the year.

19. New Orleans Saints (7-9)

This has been a year to forget for the entire Saints organization. When Sean Payton returns next season, he will need to focus on rebuilding a defense that allowed almost 1,000 more yards than anyone else in football.

20. San Diego Chargers (7-9)

With Norv Turner out of the picture, the team needs to decide whether Philip Rivers can remain as the franchise quarterback. 

21. Miami Dolphins (7-9)

Ryan Tannehill still has a long way to go to be an elite passer, but the team should be happy with what it saw in the inexperienced quarterback. Now, the team must focus on giving him offensive weapons.

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9)

There are some solid pieces on offense to build around. However, this team will not go anywhere until it improves its pass defense.

23. Buffalo Bills (6-10)

With C.J. Spiller, Buffalo can be an elite rushing team next season. The next step is improving the run defense that ranked No. 31 in the NFL.

24. Tennessee Titans (6-10)

In 10 full games at quarterback, Jake Locker had an 0-6 record when he threw an interception, but was 4-0 otherwise. If he can learn to avoid mistakes, he can be a very good quarterback in this league. 

25. New York Jets (6-10)

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Rex Ryan kept using Mark Sanchez as his quarterback and was rewarded with a lot of losses. 

It will be interesting to see what moves are made to avoid a similar fate next season with the same head coach. 

26. Cleveland Browns (5-11)

Although a 5-11 record is nothing to be excited about, the Browns got a lot of positive contributions from young players this year. Better days are on the horizon. 

27. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)

Cardinals fans will want a new quarterback after a pathetic display at the position this year. However, it will not matter who is under center if the offensive line cannot provide any protection. 

Upgrading the line should be priority No. 1 during the offseason.

28. Detroit Lions (4-12)

Throughout the season, the Detroit Lions were victims of missed opportunities.

Of the team's 12 losses, nine of which were decided by one score. This could be attributed to bad luck, but more often it was simply bad mistakes that led to losses.

Matt Stafford has a big arm, but 17 interceptions proved costly. Jim Schwartz brought the team to the playoffs last year after years of ineptitude, but he continued to make questionable decisions throughout the year.

The good news is that there is enough talent on this roster to get back to the postseason next year. However, this will not happen until the entire organization learns more discipline and starts focusing on the little things that lead to victories.

29. Philadelphia Eagles (4-12)

Andy Reid had been with the Eagles so long that it is difficult to remember the team without him.

There is veteran talent on both sides of the football, but it remains to be seen if a different coach can get more production out of the players. 

30. Oakland Raiders (4-12)

The Raiders had four wins this season, and three of them were against the only two teams lower in the standings. After a solid start, there were not many positive takeaways from the year.

31. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14)

As bad as the Chiefs were this season, this team can go places with a legitimate quarterback leading the offense. In reality, anyone that can hold onto the football could make a difference of at least a few wins.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)

Jacksonville allowed the third most points per game and scored the third-fewest. It will take more than the second overall pick to fix all of the problems on this team.


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