With four weeks left in the 2013 regular season, which is the best team in the league? How about the worst team?
That's a debatable point on both sides, as the top teams swing back and forth on a weekly basis and the bottom teams continue to win ballgames. Where do teams like the Houston Texans, who have lost 10 straight games, come up? How about the Cleveland Browns, who just lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars?
As the playoff picture becomes more clear, here's our ranking of the best and worst teams in football.
This Week's Rank: 32
Last Week's Rank: 31
Ten straight losses tell the story of the season for the Houston Texans.
After a shaky 2-0 start, the Texans have fallen apart in every way imaginable. Losing 10 consecutive games will put a lot of people on the hot seat in Houston, though.
General manager Rick Smith may be saved by strong draft picks like J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins, but head coach Gary Kubiak was already walking on eggshells when the season began. The failure of this team to perform—and to close out games—should lead to a job opening at head coach.
This isn't a team without talent, but it lacks direction and the attacking mentality needed to close out games in the second half.
This Week's Rank: 31
Last Week's Rank: 27
When Brandon Weeden plays, bad things happen. And that's not an opinion—it's science.
Week 13 was not kind, as Weeden at one point in the game threw back-to-back interceptions and then kicked the ball out of the end zone on a bad snap for a safety that gave Jacksonville the lead in the fourth quarter.
Even when the Browns play well, they find a way to lose. That's the mark of a bad team. And right now, in spite of some nice individual pieces, the Browns are a bad team.
The good news is that the more games they lose, the better their chances are of landing a blue-chip quarterback prospect in the 2014 NFL draft. With two first-round choices, the Browns front office will be in a great position to add a legitimate passer to feed the ball to the soon-to-be-elite Josh Gordon at wide receiver.
This Week's Rank: 30
Last Week's Rank: 32
The Atlanta Falcons' Week 13 win over the Buffalo Bills reads like the season we expected from a team that won 13 games in 2012. Matt Ryan threw for over 300 yards and no interceptions. Steven Jackson rushed for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez made huge contributions.
The only difference is that this win was just the third of the season for Atlanta. With a 3-9 record, everyone associated with the team has to be disappointed, but the Falcons can end the year on a high note by winning the next four games.
Building momentum and some goodwill with fans will be the focus of the team as it looks to move on from 2013 and on to building for 2014.
This Week's Rank: 29
Last Week's Rank: 30
When the season began, most expected the Jacksonville Jaguars to be the worst team in football and a clear-cut winner of the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. Now, 13 weeks later, they're sitting at three wins following a two-game win streak.
The first pick in the draft might be in jeopardy, but the better news is that Gus Bradley is proving he can win with little talent. Bradley, who was the defensive coordinator in Seattle before taking the Jacksonville job, has developed defenders (even guys like Andre Branch) while surviving with an offense that's been embarrassing at times.
Bradley and Dave Caldwell are slowly building something, though, and whether they have the first or fifth pick overall, I have confidence in their ability to add the right players to this roster.
This Week's Rank: 28
Last Week's Rank: 28
For one half, it looked like all was fixed for Washington. Quarterback Robert Griffin III threw just one incomplete pass, the defense was frustrating Eli Manning, and Mike Shanahan was smiling. Then the second half started.
The game fell apart for Washington in the third and fourth quarters. RGIII was hit often, including four sacks by Justin Tuck. As the pass protection faltered, so did the offense. And at the end of the game, Washington was seven points short and looking at another loss—this one securing a losing season for the defending NFC East champions.
A lot of questions need to be answered after this season, but finding a way to protect RGIII is the biggest one of all.
This Week's Rank: 27
Last Week's Rank: 29
The Minnesota Vikings are not an easy team to figure out. Not at all, actually.
In Week 12, we saw them play the Green Bay Packers to a tie. Now, in Week 13, they beat the Chicago Bears in overtime in a game where they gave up record-setting numbers to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and lost quarterback Christian Ponder to injury.
The keys in Week 13—a whole lot of Adrian Peterson, creative uses of Cordarrelle Patterson and big plays from young defenders like Xavier Rhodes—hint at how this team should look moving forward. Once the Vikings find a quarterback they trust to take the ball every game, they could quickly be back in playoff contention.
This Week's Rank: 26
Last Week's Rank: 24
The 2013 Buffalo Bills are a very young team coached by a first-year NFL head coach. They will make mistakes. There will be bad games. Week 13 can be chalked up to a lot of youth facing an Atlanta Falcons team with tons of experience.
The Bills were hot early but couldn't close things out, and that's the mark of an inexperienced ballclub. The learning experience will be valuable, though, for coach Doug Marrone and for players like EJ Manuel and Kiko Alonso.
The 2013 season is about development and evaluation for the Bills, and there was plenty of good in their loss to Atlanta. And in 2014, the raw talent will be better prepared to win close games.
This Week's Rank: 25
Last Week's Rank: 26
The Oakland Raiders may have lost a close Thanksgiving Day game to the Dallas Cowboys, but you can't say Dennis Allen's team didn't play tough.
With an undrafted rookie quarterback (Matt McGloin) and skill players named Rashad Jennings, Rod Streater and Andre Holmes, the Raiders went after the Dallas defense and played it close the entire game. That's a credit to Allen and his coaches.
On a weekly basis, the Raiders are facing teams with more talent than they possess, but they're learning to trust their head coach and each other. And with the front office in better shape now with draft picks and the salary cap, good things are coming.
This Week's Rank: 24
Last Week's Rank: 25
The legend of Mike Glennon took a hit in Week 13, but the rookie quarterback is still miles ahead of his peers, and that's what's allowing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to remain competitive despite their playoff hopes being dead weeks—or months—ago.
Glennon struggled against a very good Carolina front seven, showing some of the issues under pressure we saw from him at North Carolina State, but he also made several big throws and adapted on the move too. And the more Glennon shows, the more convinced I am that he's the answer for this team at quarterback in 2014 and maybe beyond.
The remaining four games of the season will go far in determining the future of this team. Will general manager Mark Dominik return? What about head coach Greg Schiano? And with a likely top-five draft pick coming their way, where will the Bucs look to upgrade the roster?
Four games left, and a ton of questions to answer.
This Week's Rank: 23
Last Week's Rank: 23
The Tennessee Titans' hopes of stealing the AFC South died in Week 13 as they lost to the division-leading Indianapolis Colts, but a winning season is still a possibility. Over the next four weeks, the Titans' season becomes about momentum heading into the offseason.
The Titans can take comfort in the young, franchise-building players developed this season. Players like defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, free-agent cornerback Alterraun Verner and wide receiver Kendall Wright are all building blocks. The front office may have to open its wallet to keep Verner, but his play in 2013 has been among the best of any cornerback in the game.
Keeping these key players and getting a healthy Jake Locker back in 2014 will put the Titans in position to challenge the Colts next year.
This Week's Rank: 22
Last Week's Rank: 21
The New York Jets are officially in a free fall. After starting the year with a 5-4 record and a shot at the playoffs, Rex Ryan's team has dropped three straight games. And in those losses, rookie quarterback Geno Smith has gone from being a strength to a liability. In Weeks 11 and 13, he was pulled for Matt Simms, so not only is the team losing, but now its future at quarterback is also in question.
Ryan is coaching for his job, which explains the knee-jerk reactions to Smith's struggles. Instead of committing to the rookie quarterback and letting him take his lumps, Ryan and the coaching staff panic and pull him trying to get a win. The long-term health of the franchise revolves around Smith—a player general manager John Idzik drafted and saw enough promise in to make a second-round pick.
If Ryan can't, or won't, develop Idzik's handpicked quarterback, that's not good for his career outlook.
With four games to go, Ryan needs to prove to Idzik that he's the man to get this team back on track. And after watching the offense struggle for another season, it could be time to get a fresh face in the coach's chair.
This Week's Rank: 21
Last Week's Rank: 19
The St. Louis Rams are a good football team, but they're not ready to keep up with the rest of the teams in the NFL's best division. The NFC West is incredibly tough this year, and the Rams are on the outside looking in at potentially three playoff teams.
The loss of quarterback Sam Bradford has handcuffed the team, but undisciplined play has kept it from competing. Against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 13, the team had five penalties on defense in the first quarter. That type of play might be aggressive and exciting, but it kills your chances of winning.
Jeff Fisher and the Rams coaching staff are doing a good job rebuilding the franchise, but they're still a year away.
This Week's Rank: 20
Last Week's Rank: 20
The New York Giants are playing very good football as the season hits the stretch run, but it might be too little, too late. That said, a Week 13 victory over their rivals from Washington is a good win for Tom Coughlin's team.
The Giants aren't perfect, but they are starting to get big plays from Eli Manning and the defense. With how good the defense has looked since picking up Jon Beason from Carolina, you have to wonder where this team would be had it acquired him earlier in the season. The good news is that the Giants have him moving forward.
The playoffs remain a possibility—albeit a remote one—but the Giants haven't given up yet.
This Week's Rank: 19
Last Week's Rank: 22
The Miami Dolphins got a key win in Week 13, but it wasn't pretty. However, a win is a win, especially this late in the season. And with four weeks to play, the Dolphins are alive in the playoff race.
Currently projected as the No. 7 seed by NFL.com, the Dolphins are alive as a wild-card team. They're fighting with the Baltimore Ravens (6-6) for the final spot, as the No. 5 seed will go to either Kansas City or Denver, whichever team loses the AFC West.
The road to the playoffs won't be easy for Miami. In the final four weeks, the Dolphins face the Steelers, Patriots, Bills and Jets. If they can win out, they'll likely overtake Baltimore for the No. 6 seed, but they'll need better protection of Ryan Tannehill and fewer mistakes on both sides of the ball to come close in games against Pittsburgh and New England.
This Week's Rank: 18
Last Week's Rank: 17
A Week 13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals is the nail in the San Diego Chargers' coffin. With that loss, the team falls to 5-7 and moves one game out of the wild-card race in the AFC. With Baltimore and Miami both winning, the Chargers' playoff hopes took a huge hit.
The blow dealt to this team is tough because of how well it's played this year. Philip Rivers is performing at a Pro Bowl level again, and rookies Keenan Allen and D.J. Fluker have both been irreplaceable on offense. The return of Rivers and the development of young studs on offense might not be enough for a playoff run this year, but Mike McCoy's first year as head coach can still end on a positive note.
With four games left, the Chargers can fight for a winning record and a long shot at the playoffs. The Chargers have a tough schedule—Giants, Broncos, Raiders and Chiefs—but a big chance to prove their talent.
This Week's Rank: 17
Last Week's Rank: 16
The Pittsburgh Steelers were riding a hot streak into Thanksgiving, but then they met their divisional rivals from Baltimore. The Ravens held on to win late, 22-20, and pulled ahead of Pittsburgh in the standings as a result.
Now the Steelers' season is close to being over. At 5-7, they would need four straight wins over the Dolphins, Bengals, Packers and Browns to get back into the wild-card race. While possible, it's not likely. Of course, anything is possible in the NFL. If Mike Tomlin can coach his team back into the playoffs, it'll be the best coaching of his career.
The 2013 season will be remembered as one that saw the Steelers start too late. After an 0-4 start, they struggled to find their identity on offense until running back Le'Veon Bell got healthy. Now that the offense and defense are playing well, there's simply not enough time left in the season to overcome early losses.
This Week's Rank: 16
Last Week's Rank: 15
Another week without Aaron Rodgers, another loss for the Green Bay Packers. Now, at two games back in the NFC North, the team is facing a do-or-die game against the Atlanta Falcons before it ends the year with games against the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears. Without Rogers, none of those games is an easy win; with him, the team could salvage the season and get back to a winning record.
Green Bay's season will hinge on Week 14, though, and the availability of Rodgers will be the key. The Packers have issues on both sides of the ball, but those weaknesses are hidden by great quarterback play. They won't get that from Matt Flynn or Scott Tolzien.
It's all on Rodgers, but that's why he's one of the best in the league.
This Week's Rank: 15
Last Week's Rank: 13
The Chicago Bears saw a record-breaking day from wide receiver Alshon Jeffery in Week 13, but it wasn't enough to keep the Minnesota Vikings from posting an impressive comeback and eventual overtime win. In their sixth loss of the year, it was the defense that let the Bears down.
By allowing Adrian Peterson to rush for 211 yards, the Bears forfeited control of the game despite their 20-10 lead at the end of the third quarter. In the fourth, Peterson and the Vikings defense took over, and the Bears simply couldn't answer.
Now the Bears are one game back in the NFC North with four games to go. To win out and keep their playoff hopes alive, they'll need a healthy Jay Cutler at quarterback and a much better performance from their run defense.
This Week's Rank: 14
Last Week's Rank: 14
The Detroit Lions may want to send thank-you cards to Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler after the season. With their rivals in the NFC North missing their starting quarterbacks, the Lions have taken advantage by moving to a one-game lead in the division. With four games to play, the Lions control their own playoff destiny.
The Lions are getting exceptional play from Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush, as expected, but for the playoffs to become a reality, they need Matthew Stafford at his best. In Week 13, Stafford was dominant, but his Week 12 performance (four interceptions) isn't far from everyone's memory. He can't be that quarterback in the final four games of the season.
The Lions have done a good job of riding their passing game and a strong pass rush to a division lead, but now they'll have to show discipline and consistency in holding on to the lead.
This Week's Rank: 13
Last Week's Rank: 18
A rivalry game on Thanksgiving night could either prolong or crush the Baltimore Ravens' playoff hopes. By beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in a close game (22-20), the Ravens take the projected No. 6 seed in the AFC playoff race and control of their own destiny over the final four weeks.
The bad news for Baltimore is that the team still must play the Detroit Lions, New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals over the next month of the season. And even the one game they'll be favored to win will be tough, considering how well the Minnesota Vikings are playing as of late.
Defending their Super Bowl title wasn't going to be easy—not with the turnover they faced on the roster—but the Ravens are playing much better than anyone expected. And with four games to go, anything is possible.
This Week's Rank: 12
Last Week's Rank: 10
With a four-game winning streak under their belt, the Arizona Cardinals rolled into Week 13 looking to prove their status against the Philadelphia Eagles. And even in defeat, the Cardinals showed that they're worthy of a playoff spot in a crowded NFC.
Bruce Arians' ballclub isn't as talented at those in Seattle or New Orleans, but he has the Cardinals playing like they belong among the best teams in the game. While they did struggle early against Philadelphia's offense and the pressure of the Eagles defensive line, the offense clicked late in the game and the defense clamped down. The 24-21 loss hurts, but it's a moral victory for Arians' team.
Moving forward, the Cardinals have a tough road to a wild-card berth. They'll need a win over San Francisco (Week 17) and help from others to get into the top six seeds. But with how well this team is playing, I wouldn't bet against it.
This Week's Rank: 11
Last Week's Rank: 12
The Dallas Cowboys are currently the NFC East leaders, but with four huge games left, the season hangs in the balance. To win the division, the entire team must be better than it was in a close win over the Oakland Raiders.
The good news for the Cowboys coming off the Thanksgiving Day game is that they won and that DeMarco Murray got loose at running back. With three touchdowns on the day, Murray put the offense on his back and took over the ballgame.
To beat the Bears, Packers, Washington and the Eagles to close out the season and return to the playoffs, Dallas will need more of the same from Murray and bigger contributions from a defense that struggled to stop wide receiver Andre Holmes in Week 13.
This Week's Rank: 10
Last Week's Rank: 11
The Philadelphia Eagles are currently behind the Dallas Cowboys in the playoff race, but that will all change if they keep playing like they did in Week 13.
Facing a talented Arizona defense in Philadelphia, the Eagles offense was as dynamic and productive as ever. Nick Foles continued his flawless streak, tossing three touchdowns and no interceptions to run his season total up to 19 touchdowns without a pick. Foles, LeSean McCoy, Riley Cooper, DeSean Jackson and Zach Ertz continue to jell each week, and that's scary for the remaining teams on their schedule.
If they can win against the Lions, Vikings and Bears, their Week 17 showdown against Dallas could be the game of the week.
This Week's Rank: 9
Last Week's Rank: 8
The Cincinnati Bengals won in Week 13, pushing their record to 8-4, but a win by the San Francisco 49ers bumped them down one spot. Not to worry, as their AFC North title hopes are one week closer to a reality.
The Bengals haven't been as explosive in recent weeks—or really for the entire month of November—so it was nice to see Andy Dalton and A.J. Green making things happen again. While Dalton had his share of mistakes in the game, the team was able to overcome them and get a much-needed win over a very good opponent.
Now the Bengals are on cruise control, as they control their own destiny.
This Week's Rank: 8
Last Week's Rank: 7
It's rarely pretty, but the Indianapolis Colts find a way to win more often than not. The close win over Tennessee, plus a comfortable win by San Francisco, has them moving down one spot. But with an 8-4 record after 13 weeks, they're in position to cruise into the playoffs as the AFC South champions.
The playoffs aren't a guarantee yet, but the Colts will be favored to win their remaining divisional games against Houston (Week 15) and Jacksonville (Week 17). It will be their other games—versus Cincinnati (Week 14) and Kansas City (Week 16)—that determine where they'll be seeded in the postseason.
The playoffs look like a sure thing, but how well the Colts will do there remains to be seen. Andrew Luck is struggling with limited talent around him, and while the defense has stepped up in big spots, it can be beaten if you slow down Robert Mathis' pass-rushing ability. In a matchup against Kansas City or Baltimore, the Colts might not be favored at home.
This Week's Rank: 7
Last Week's Rank: 6
The Kansas City Chiefs are a good football team, but they're not quite elite. Not yet, at least.
Two losses to the Denver Broncos, as well as three straight losses after a 9-0 start, have opened up questions about the Chiefs' ability to play well against top-level quarterbacks. For a team that played so well on defense early on, Kansas City has been torched by Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers in three straight weeks.
The Chiefs are a playoff team—likely as the No. 5 seed—and they'll be a favorite if they travel to Indianapolis or Cincinnati in the Wild Card Round, but the evidence on the field shows that this team isn't quite ready to play with the elite teams of the NFL.
This Week's Rank: 6
Last Week's Rank: 9
The return of Michael Crabtree brought a much-needed spark to the San Francisco 49ers offense just in time for the team's matchup against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 14. The 49ers' win over the St. Louis Rams also created possible weaknesses heading into the biggest game of the season.
Crabtree opened things up offensively and allowed Colin Kaepernick to play one of his most efficient games of the season. Having Crabtree on the edge gave Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin and Frank Gore more space to operate in the pass and run games, and the 49ers offense was noticeably more upbeat. That will be tested if left tackle Joe Staley misses any time after suffering an injury early in Week 13.
Losing Staley would be a big blow, but it's worth mentioning how well Alex Boone—normally the team's starting right guard—played when asked to slide out and stop Robert Quinn of the Rams. Boone and the rest of the 49ers offense will have to be at their peak to beat Seattle and take the next step to securing a playoff berth.
This Week's Rank: 5
Last Week's Rank: 5
The Carolina Panthers have won eight straight games, and in the process they secured a winning season for the first time since 2008. Thanks to an MVP-like season from quarterback Cam Newton and an aggressive defense, the Panthers look like a threat to make a run as a wild-card team.
The Panthers' ability has been tested with a difficult schedule so far this season, but they continue to answer their doubters with wins. Beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers isn't a season-defining victory, but it does show that the Panthers can win trap games. That's not something this team could have done last season, but the maturation of Cam Newton and the bravado of head coach Ron Rivera is paying off.
This Week's Rank: 4
Last Week's Rank: 4
The Broncos proved in Weeks 11 and 13 that the AFC West still goes through Denver. With two wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and 10 wins total, the Broncos look like the No. 1 seed in the AFC. They can have home-field advantage throughout if they can take care of business down the stretch.
The next four weeks for Denver are winnable. The Broncos play the Titans (5-7), Chargers (5-7), Texans (2-10) and Raiders (4-8) to close things out—and in each game, they'll be a heavy favorite. Win out and they'll never leave Denver during the playoffs, unless they're traveling to New York for the Super Bowl.
That's a reality right now for Denver, and all signs point to another Manning vs. Brady Bowl in the AFC Championship Game.
This Week's Rank: 3
Last Week's Rank: 3
There are no style points in the NFL. For the New England Patriots, that's a good thing. With back-to-back weeks of nail-biting victories, the Patriots aren't winning pretty, but they are proving their ability to come from behind and close out games.
In Week 12, it was a 24-point deficit against the Denver Broncos. Week 13 was a smaller 17-7 lead by the Houston Texans, but the Patriots still marched back and took control of the lead before a back-and-forth second half led to a narrow 34-31 win. Two weeks in a row, Tom Brady and the offense have answered the call and put points on the board in comeback wins.
The Patriots, who are 4-1 over their last five games, are getting hot at the right time. And heading into Week 14, there's not a hotter team in the AFC.
This Week's Rank: 2
Last Week's Rank: 2
A blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks was almost enough to move the New Orleans Saints down a spot this week, but losing in Seattle is nothing to be embarrassed about. The Saints may have lost, but they still have as much talent as any team in the league. For that reason, they're staying at No. 2 overall for another week.
That may soon change, though, as the Saints host the Carolina Panthers next week. That's a second straight marquee matchup for the team. Drew Brees and the Saints offense must pass protect better than they did on Monday night against Seattle if they hope to shut down the Panthers' disruptive pass rush.
The Saints are still legitimate Super Bowl contenders, but Week 15 will say a lot about just how good they truly are.
This Week's Rank: 1
Last Week's Rank: 1
There is no doubt that the Seattle Seahawks are the best team in football right now. And there's a pretty sizable gap between them and the next-best team when we're talking about how well they play at home.
That home-field advantage is huge for the Seahawks' playoff hopes, as they're currently the No. 1 seed with a comfortable lead. Barring a complete meltdown in the final four weeks, the road to the Super Bowl will go through Seattle. And that's a place no one wants to visit in January.
With an efficient offense led by Russell Wilson and an attacking, suffocating defense, the Seahawks don't have many identifiable weaknesses. And with the way they're rolling right now, they won't be picked to lose to anyone at home in the postseason.