NFL Power Rankings: Late Look at League Hierarchy Before Sunday's Action

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistNovember 30, 2013

Nov 3, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (25) during the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at CenturyLink Field. Seattle defeated Tampa Bay 27-24. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Week 13's slate of Thanksgiving action did little to tell fans about the NFL as a whole.

Fans know Detroit is a good team. Most are against an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers. Dallas can beat bad teams like Oakland. Baltimore is slightly better than Pittsburgh—but both are mediocre. 

Luckily, Sunday is right around the corner and will tell us much about how the playoff picture (or draft picture) is beginning to take form. 

Before that happens, here is how the NFL looks from a rankings standpoint. 


1. Seattle Seahawks

The 10-1 Seattle Seahawks are the easy pick for the No. 1 slot. Seattle has not lost since early October and has marquee wins over teams such as Carolina and San Francisco.

Percy Harvin is a nice addition to the offense, but the line will need to stay healthy for it to be effective.

We'll find out in a hurry just how elite the Seahawks are thanks to a Monday Night Football showdown with the No. 2 team on the list. They'll have to do without corner Brandon Browner.


2. New Orleans Saints

New Orleans is an easy No. 2. The Saints have a well-known offense with Drew Brees under center, but it is the rejuvenated defense under Rob Ryan that has been most impressive.

The Saints rank in the top half of the league against the rush and in the top five against the pass with an average of just 198 yards per game surrendered.

New Orleans defends the pass well. That's hard to find—and beat.


3. New England Patriots

Nov 24, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) reacts after a completed pass against the Denver Broncos during overtime at Gillette Stadium Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

It's funny how ready many were to write off the New England Patriots because of mediocre stats from Tom Brady.

Yet, here we are with the Patriots at 8-3 coming off a jaw-dropping victory over the Denver Broncos in overtime.

Things get easier for the Patriots in Week 13 against lowly Houston. Tom Brady and the Patriots have a shot at the No. 1 seed in the AFC.


4. Denver Broncos

A stunning overtime loss to New England in Week 12 hurts, but we know Peyton Manning struggles in the cold weather.

We also know the Broncos are 9-2, tout the NFL's best passing offense and have a defense that ranks in the top five against the rush.

Like many of the teams on this list, Week 13 will reveal much about the Broncos. They have a second date with the Kansas City Chiefs for playoff positioning and AFC West supremacy.


5. Carolina Panthers

Carolina has won seven straight. Cam Newton is playing at a high level, and the defense remains elite.

What's not to like?

Linebacker Luke Kuechly and the Panthers rank in the top 10 against the rush and pass and have allowed one opponent to reach the 20-point mark during their win streak.

Carolina has an easy task against Tampa Bay in Week 13 before it encounters New Orleans twice in three weeks to decide the NFC South.


6. Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City is quickly falling down the rankings.

It seems like eras ago the Chiefs were the NFL's last unbeaten team, but they have now lost two straight.

We can understand the loss to Denver in Week 11, but last week's upset loss to San Diego is unacceptable. Now the stellar defensive unit has to deal with the loss of Justin Houston against Denver in Week 13.



7. San Francisco 49ers

Look up "disappointment" in the dictionary, and San Francisco's logo will be the picture.

Alright, probably not. But the 49ers are 7-4 and have lost two of their last three games. Even worse, the one win is over lowly Washington.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the offense need to get it together before they're passed in the NFC West. A trap game against surging St. Louis is on the menu for Week 13.


8. Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati has won five of its last seven, with the two losses coming in overtime.

The defense remains a top unit under coordinator Mike Zimmer, but the offense with quarterback Andy Dalton is unpredictable at best.

The talent is in place on both sides of the football, but once again the Bengals' season will come down to how far a top-ranked defense can carry it.


9. Arizona Cardinals

Arizona is quietly on a four-game win streak. It was hard to take the first three in the stretch seriously, but now we're believers after a 40-11 rout of Indianapolis in Week 12.

It's not advisable to trust quarterback Carson Palmer to keep up this level of play behind a miserable offensive line, but an elite run defense means the Cardinals can hang in most games.

Week 13 is a critical NFC matchup against Philadelphia, the next team on the list.


10. Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia is suddenly in second place in the NFC East after a Dallas win on Thanksgiving.

Despite a three-game win streak, the Eagles are by no means a lock for the division crown. A date with Arizona and a stellar defense could spell trouble for quarterback Nick Foles.

The Eagles rank in the top 10 both passing and rushing the ball, but Foles and star running back LeSean McCoy face an uphill battle in Week 13.


11. Dallas Cowboys 

What does a Thanksgiving win over Oakland tell fans?

Not much, except the Cowboys may have something special in the form of a two-back attack with DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar—if they choose to use it.

Dunbar rushed for 82 yards, while Murray had 63 and three touchdowns. A ground game like that could take Dallas places.


12. Detroit Lions

Detroit now has a clear path to the playoffs after a convincing win over Green Bay on Thanksgiving.

Chicago sits just behind the Lions at 6-5, but Detroit has already bested the Bears twice this season and own the tiebreaker.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford and the league's No. 3 passing attack don't have many issues moving the ball, so a porous pass defense is not the biggest concern at the moment.


13. Indianapolis Colts

Believe it or not, the Indianapolis Colts are not exactly out of the woods yet in the AFC South.

The Colts sit at 7-4 and have a matchup against second-place Tennessee in Week 13, a team that took Indianapolis to the wire in a 30-27 Colts win in Week 11.

After being on the wrong end of a 40-11 outcome against Arizona last week, it's hard to believe in the Colts. They have habitually played down to competition all year and have no consistency to speak of at the moment.


14. Chicago Bears

Like Indianapolis, the Chicago Bears were a massive disappointment in Week 12. The Bears suffered a 42-21 loss to St. Louis in what was a very winnable matchup.

Things get a bit easier in Week 13 with a game against Minnesota, which is a blessing considering starting quarterback Jay Cutler sounds like he won't be ready until the week after per Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune:

It's another winnable game for Chicago. We'll see how it turns out.


15. San Diego Chargers

Alright, San Diego still has a chance at the postseason at 5-6 despite being one of the NFL's more inconsistent teams all year.

Now quarterback Philip Rivers and the Chargers face a must-win game in Week 13 against Cincinnati.

One thing the Chargers surely don't lack is momentum after a thrilling late victory over Kansas City a week ago. We'll find out quickly if Rivers and the NFL's No. 4 passing attack can move the football on an elite Cincinnati defense.


16. St. Louis Rams

How about those St. Louis Rams?

In consecutive games (separated by a bye), the Rams have put up 38 points or more on contenders in Indianapolis and Chicago.

Not bad considering the man under center is Kellen Clemens. With all due respect to Clemens and Jeff Fisher's team, they are supposed to be down for the count at this point and rolling over for good teams.

Kudos to them for keeping the fire alive without their franchise quarterback.


17. Tennessee Titans

Tennessee is another team without its franchise quarterback, but it has been able to remain relatively competitive.

In their last four games, the Titans have won two. The only issue with the stat is simple—Tennessee lost to Jacksonville in that time span.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is a cerebral quarterback who can win games when given the right pieces, which he has. Time will tell if the Titans want to make a playoff push with a brutal schedule that includes Indianapolis, Denver and Arizona the next three weeks.


18. Baltimore Ravens 

So much for us sticking the fork in Baltimore (horrible Thanksgiving joke alert). 

The Ravens have won two in a row. In that span, the defense has suddenly morphed back into a respectable unit and only allowed 23 points total.

Sooner or later the Ravens will have to field a competent offense to remain in the hunt, but for now the schedule has been kind.


19. Green Bay Packers

Let the great debate begin.

Green Bay is 5-6-1. Is it really worth it to throw quarterback Aaron Rodgers back in the lineup at this stage in the game?

The Packers likely need to win out to have any chance at the postseason. Is an improbable run like that worth the potential long-term health of Rodgers?

We'll find out soon how the brass in Green Bay feel about the matter.


20. Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh can't decide if it wants to make the playoffs or not, but a 5-7 record is making the decision easy.

The Steelers entered Thanksgiving on a three-game winning streak, but a 22-20 loss to Baltimore knocked Pittsburgh down a peg in the AFC North.


21. Miami Dolphins

Nov 24, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) throws a pass against the Carolina Panthers during the second half at Sun Life Stadium. The Panthers won 20-16. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Miami is another team that has been maddeningly difficult to watch all year.

The Dolphins started the year with three wins. Then four losses. Now a win every other week has brought the Dolphins to 5-6 and a status as another mediocre team with a shot at the final wild-card spot in the AFC.

Better protection for quarterback Ryan Tannehill is necessary if the Dolphins are to make some noise. He has been sacked a league-leading 44 times.


22. New York Jets

Miami's opposition in Week 13 is New York, another team with the same status at 5-6.

The Jets have lost two straight, primarily thanks to rookie quarterback Geno Smith. He's thrown no touchdowns and five interceptions on the streak.

When Matt Simms is in the conversation at quarterback for any team, it is easy to see things are bad.


23. New York Giants

Nov 24, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) drops back to pass against the Dallas Cowboys during the game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY

So much for that improbable playoff run we were all clamoring about.

New York won four straight starting in Week 7, which had most thinking about what Tom Coughlin's teams are known for—crazy rebounds that lead to playoff berths.

A Week 12 loss to Dallas that sunk the Giants to 4-7 ended that in a hurry.

Because the NFL loves to torture fans, New York plays Washington on Sunday Night Football in Week 13.


24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Just like that, Greg Schiano has saved his job.

Tampa Bay has won three straight. Not in impressive fashion by any means, but a win is a win after losing eight in a row to start the year.

Schiano can really save his job with a Week 13 win over Carolina. Unlike Schiano, fans should not bet their financial well-being on the outcome.


25. Cleveland Browns

There was a brief moment where the Cleveland Browns looked like they could make a run at the AFC North.


Quarterback Jason Campbell is out Week 13 per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal:

That means it is Brandon Weeden time in Cleveland once more. Enough said.


26. Buffalo Bills

Buffalo was on a bye last week, sits at 4-7 and most recently beat the New York Jets.

The Bills are a gritty team with a solid defense, but an inept offense makes it hard for the Bills to be respectable.

Speaking of inept, the Bills play in the Inept Bowl 2013 in Week 13 against the Atlanta Falcons.

We totally just made that up.


27. Oakland Raiders

Nov 28, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin (14) throws in the pocket in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys during a NFL football game on Thanksgiving at AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Raiders 31-24. Mandatory
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It was a not-so-surprising 31-24 loss to Dallas on Thanksgiving for the Oakland Raiders.

Matt McGloin reverted to his rookie form with only 255 yards and an interception against one of the NFL's worst defenses.

Back to the drawing board.


28. Minnesota Vikings

A tie against the Green Bay Packers in Week 12 would be impressive had Aaron Rodgers been in the game. 

That's a new low. 

Minnesota has the league's most displeasing eye candy with a record of 2-8-1.


29. Washington Redskins

We have reached the point where folks want to see Robert Griffin III benched in favor of Kirk Cousins.

Yes, because picking up win No. 4 on the season is oh-so-important at this stage. 

Forget letting a struggling sophomore quarterback get precious reps and experience, right? Forget the fact the franchise has invested millions of dollars and draft picks in his future success, right?



30. Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville has now won two of three.

That means a 2-9 record for Jacksonville, a team that seems intent on playing its way out of the top pick in the draft.

Jacksonville has another winnable game in Week 13 against Cleveland.


31. Atlanta Falcons

Nov 21, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) is sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive end Keyunta Dawson (55) and defensive end Akiem Hicks (76) in the second half at the Georgia Dome. The Saints won 17-13. Mandatory Credit:
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

It is pathetic at this point how the Atlanta Falcons have quit on the season. 

Injuries ruined the year, but a lack of effort is what continues to hold the team back. Even the worst teams in the league can overcome a lack of talent—just ask the team in the No. 30 slot. 

Don't be surprised if Atlanta comes out flat against Buffalo in Week 13.


32. Houston Texans

Losers of nine in a row, the Houston Texans have the look of another team that has simply quit.

The Texans are bad. There is really no way around it. Fans can blab for days about how most losses have been of the close variety, but at some point, even the worst teams find a way to pull one out.

Houston does not. Gary Kubiak's seat is on fire.