After dominating the top spot in the weekly NFL power rankings for the past month or so, the Kansas City Chiefs have finally been dethroned.
Kansas City isn't the only franchise to experience a shift, either.
Heading into Week 12, the seemingly once-clear playoff picture has been muddled significantly, and these upcoming rankings will reflect the changes.
Overall records are important, but they don't dictate where teams stand in these rankings.
What does matter is how the teams are playing at this time. With that in mind, here's a look at how the entire league stacks up heading into the final weeks of the 2013 season.
1. Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning wasn't sacked once on Sunday night against the Chiefs, which resulted in a big win for the Broncos at home, as alluded to by Will Brinson of CBS Sports:
Zero sacks of Peyton Manning = zero chance of Chiefs winning.— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) November 18, 2013
The 27 points Denver scored in that game was the team's lowest scoring output of the season, which shows how well Kansas City's defense played, even without sacks and quarterback pressures. If Denver can continue to protect Manning going forward, then the Broncos will remain atop these rankings in the weeks to come.
Which team deserves the top spot in these rankings?
Another battle against the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium is looming in two week's time, and you can expect Kansas City to redouble its efforts to bring Manning to the turf at home.
2. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks currently possess a three-game lead in the NFC West and are sitting pretty atop the NFC playoff standings with a record of 10-1.
Seattle has won six games in a row since losing a heartbreaker to the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Percy Harvin made his return to the lineup, and the team's offensive line is getting healthy for the stretch run.
It appears the best is yet to come for Pete Carroll's squad, which is bad news for the rest of the NFC.
3. New Orleans Saints
Three turnovers nearly cost the Saints a victory at home against the San Francisco 49ers over the weekend, but New Orleans was able to overcome those mistakes to improve to 8-2 on the season.
It's a good thing, too, because the Carolina Panthers are just one game behind in the NFC South. These two teams will face one another twice in a three-week stretch between Week 14 and Week 16 in what will be the deciding contests in this division.
Featuring one of the league's most potent offenses and an impressive defense, the Saints have the look of a championship team heading into the final weeks of the season.
4. Kansas City Chiefs
Losing to the Broncos in Denver is nothing to be ashamed about.
That said, the Chiefs hadn't played against an elite quarterback all year long before that contest, and they must figure out a way to improve on both sides of the ball heading into the playoffs or suffer an early exit.
Make no mistake about it, though—this team is for real.
5. Carolina Panthers
Speaking of legitimate playoff teams, after knocking off the Patriots at home and taking down San Francisco at Candlestick Park the week before, Carolina is clearly a Super Bowl contender.
Cam Newton is blossoming into an elite quarterback and an inspirational leader, and Carolina's defense is clearly one of the league's best.
6. New England Patriots
Patriots fans won't soon cool off after Luke Kuechly's mugging of Rob Gronkowski at the end of Monday night's game against Carolina. Gronk was clearly interfered with, and the Patriots should have had another chance to win the game.
There's a lot to be happy about, however, when it comes to the Patriots—a team that continues to thrive in the face of injuries and difficult circumstances.
7. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck is brilliant, and as long as he's behind center, the Colts have a chance to go deep in the playoffs. But there are some big holes on both sides of the ball that must be fixed before the postseason arrives—namely the running game and stopping the run on defense.
8. Cincinnati Bengals
Andy Dalton will be the death of Cincinnati's Super Bowl hopes. He's maddeningly inconsistent and continues to make horrible decisions like we saw on Sunday against Cleveland. He's thrown eight interceptions in his last three games, and the Bengals lost two of those contests.
However, the Bengals are extremely loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, and it appears they will easily win the AFC North and host a playoff game in January.
9. Chicago Bears
The Bears have impressively overcome some devastating injuries this season, and backup quarterback Josh McCown has stepped in admirably for Jay Cutler, who is dealing with groin and ankle injuries.
Up next is a tough road contest against the scrappy St. Louis Rams this weekend. Another win would put the Bears in position to either keep pace with the Detroit Lions or take the lead in the NFC North.
10. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers failed to crack 200 yards of offense against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday for the second game in a row. Not surprisingly, the 49ers lost both games to the Saints and Panthers—two of the best teams in the league.
San Francisco's defense has played admirably, but unless Colin Kaepernick and the team's offense finds a way to come back to life, the 49ers shockingly won't make the playoffs this season.
11. Detroit Lions
Detroit's defensive secondary continues to be troublesome. Ben Roethlisberger passed for 367 yards and four touchdowns on Sunday to lead the Steelers to victory over the Lions at home.
The loss dropped Detroit back into a tie for first place in the NFC North with a record of 6-4.
On a positive note, Calvin Johnson is absolutely unstoppable. He's caught seven touchdowns in his last four games, despite the fact that teams have been playing two and sometimes three defenders in coverage against him.
12. Philadelphia Eagles
Don't look now, but the Eagles are starting to soar.
After opening the season with a record of 1-3, Philly has turned things around in a big way. Nick Foles has brought stability to the team's offense, and the defense has started playing better.
The Eagles have won three games in a row to improve to 6-5 on the season.
The team has a bye in Week 12 to rest up for the final stretch, and the Eagles are in position to win the NFC East with a strong finish.
13. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals are tied with the 49ers for second place in the NFC West with a record of 6-4 after winning three games in a row.
Featuring a stingy defense that excels against the run (No. 2 in the NFL, allowing just 81.4 yards per game) and a resurgent running game, thanks to the emergence of rookie Andre Ellington, Arizona is vying for a wild-card spot in the NFC playoff race.
Carson Palmer finally finished a game without throwing an interception in Week 11 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. If he can continue to play efficiently and take care of the football, then the Cardinals have a shot at postseason play.
14. New York Giants
Winners of four games in a row, the Giants are only one game behind Philly in the loss column for the NFC East divisional lead.
New York's defense has really stepped up its game the past few weeks, which has been the catalyst for the team's sudden turnaround.
15. Miami Dolphins
With a record of 5-5, the Dolphins are currently the No. 7 seed in the AFC playoff race.
The team's offensive line is a big problem, but a few more scrappy wins like the one we saw against San Diego on Sunday will propel Miami past New York for the final playoff spot in the AFC.
16. Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers' injury has highlighted how crucial his health is for Green Bay to have success. Just as importantly, it has also caused a huge spotlight to shine on the team's poor planning at the backup quarterback spot.
Head coach Mike McCarthy was unsurprisingly cryptic about a date for Rodgers' return to the lineup after Green Bay's loss on Sunday, as noted by the Packers on Twitter:
McCarthy-For Aaron Rodgers-I don't make medical decisions. We know he wants to return as soon as he can, when he can, that's when it happens— Green Bay Packers (@packers) November 18, 2013
At 5-5 entering the final six weeks, Green Bay needs Rodgers to return as soon as possible to secure a playoff berth. Neither Scott Tolzien nor Matt Flynn nor Seneca Wallace has the chops to lead the Packers to many wins to close out the season.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh's offense appears to be clicking more and more each week, and the Steelers have averaged just over 30 points the past three games.
Veteran receiver Jerricho Cotchery has caught five touchdown passes over the course of those games, brilliantly complementing Antonio Brown, who leads the NFL in receptions.
If Pittsburgh's defense can tighten things up, then the Steelers have an outside chance to steal the division with a strong finish to the season.
18. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys were off in Week 11 on their bye, but it's hard to imagine that a week off is going to help Dallas fix its defensive woes.
The Cowboys feature the league's worst passing defense and its No. 29-ranked run defense. Teams have been able to do whatever they want against this unit, causing owner Jerry Jones to recently say firing Rob Ryan, "doesn't look good right now," as noted by Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com.
The Cowboys are playing like a sub-.500 team right now, and that's how they'll end up without some serious improvements on defense.
19. New York Jets
Speaking of inconsistent teams, the New York Jets are the league's poster child for this distinction.
After getting absolutely annihilated by the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, 37-14, it appears the Jets are headed for a disappointing finish. Geno Smith had his worst outing of the season, turning the ball over four times, and New York's defense couldn't stop EJ Manuel when it needed to.
The Rams should...
20. St. Louis Rams
There are some excellent players on both sides of the ball in St. Louis, but the Rams haven't been able to put the entire package together this year. Losing Sam Bradford for the season was the final nail in this team's coffin, and the Rams' brass must make a hard decision about the quarterback position next year.
21. Cleveland Browns
Browns fans have reason to be excited about the future of their favorite team. Trading Trent Richardson for a first-round pick gives Cleveland some flexibility in the draft next year, and you have to believe a quarterback will be targeted early in the first round.
In the meantime, Cleveland will likely struggle to hover around .500 this season, but the team's stifling defense gives it a chance to hang around in most games.
22. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore's gutsy win over Cincinnati in Week 10 showed how much heart this championship team still has. Unfortunately, heart can only take you so far in the NFL.
There just isn't enough talent on either side of the ball for the Ravens to win many games this season, which has been clearly evident during the team's recent run of four losses in its last five games.
23. Tennessee Titans
Like St. Louis, Tennessee faces a difficult decision after the season about what to do at the quarterback position. Jake Locker played well when healthy this year, but he's proven to be injury-prone in his short career.
Without a premier quarterback, the Titans are mediocre—at best.
24. Oakland Raiders
Before the season began, most experts pegged Oakland to compete with Jacksonville for the worst record in the league during the 2013 season. Incredibly, the Raiders have won four games already this year and is only one game behind Miami and New York for the No. 6 seed in the AFC.
However, nobody should expect the Raiders to challenge for that final playoff spot. The offensive line is in shambles, and Oakland's remaining schedule isn't easy.
25. Buffalo Bills
The pieces are in place for Buffalo to make a run at the AFC East divisional crown in the next year or two, but this team is too young and inexperienced on offense to win many games this season. Look for the Bills to add a couple more receivers for EJ Manuel to throw to next year.
26. San Diego Chargers
The Chargers have lost three games in a row and are in danger of completely falling out of the AFC playoff picture with another loss. Defensive lapses have been the hallmark of this team's failures, and things have gotten worse as the season has progressed—not the other way around, as you'd hope to see.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After losing eight games in a row to open the season (many of which were lost by the slimmest of margins), the Buccaneers have ripped off two wins in a row.
Tampa Bay's defense is playing outstanding football of late, which has been a perfect complement to rookie Mike Glennon's emergence as an up-and-coming star at quarterback.
28. Washington Redskins
After last season's incredible run—Robert Griffin III winning the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year award and the team's 10-6 record to claim the NFC East title—this season's letdown has been all the more disappointing.
Griffin III hasn't been able to conjure the same magic on offense, and the team's defense has gotten even worse this year than it was in 2012. With a record of 3-7, the Redskins are now alone in the cellar of the NFC East, and it seems like things will get worse before they get better.
29. Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota will be in the market for a new quarterback in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft next spring, and it wouldn't hurt to add a stud defensive tackle or two, either. This team is a complete mess right now on both sides of the ball, but there are some excellent young players to build around for the future.
30. Atlanta Falcons
It's always shocking to see a team fall from the top all the way to the bottom from one year to the next. Injuries decimated Atlanta's talented roster, and the high-powered Falcons team from a year ago has been outscored by 78 points this season.
That said, this one lost season puts the Falcons in play for one of the nation's top college players, and it's not hard to imagine the impact someone like Jadeveon Clowney would have on this team going forward.
As bad as it's been for Falcons fans this year, next season has a chance to be special—provided Atlanta doesn't get hit with an injury bug as vicious as the one that destroyed this season.
31. Houston Texans
Houston just got beat at home by the Raiders.
It was the team's eighth loss in a row, which is currently the worst losing streak in the NFL. However, if the Texans and Jaguars faced off on neutral ground, it's hard to imagine Houston losing to Jacksonville, which is why the Texans are not ranked dead last.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars have been outscored by 189 points this season, which is 60 more points than Jacksonville has scored in 10 games (129).
No wonder fans are still trying to convince the team to sign Tim Tebow, as noted by Brinson:
Aunt texted me this. "Dear Mr Khan, Sign Tim Tebow & We Will Fill The Stadium" ad in Jax paper: pic.twitter.com/HkhYBOBYIW— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) November 18, 2013
There's always next year, right?
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