Week 13 in the NFL did much to help sort things out in the power rankings. For example, there is absolutely no question the Kansas City Chiefs do not deserve to be near the top spot after two losses to the Denver Broncos in three weeks.
A few contenders in the NFC, such as the Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers, picked up major wins to keep pace in what is quietly a very competitive conference. Meanwhile, pretenders like the Chicago Bears and San Diego Chargers began their crawl away from postseason relevancy with losses.
Fans still have one outstanding matchup to watch this week, as the New Orleans Saints will make the trip to Seattle to face the Seahawks on Monday Night Football. But before the NFL's best teams duke it out Monday night, here is how league hierarchy stacks up.
1. Seattle Seahawks (10-1)
Sorry for the spoilers in the intro.
The team with the NFL's best record will have a serious problem on its hands when the Saints come to town for a Monday Night Football contest.
The No. 1 spot is up for grabs Monday.
2. New Orleans Saints (9-2)
New Orleans has won three in a row heading into its Monday Night Football showdown with Seattle. The Saints clearly have a top offense with Drew Brees under center, but it's their defense—which is allowing just 17.8 points per game on average—that should give opponents nightmares.
Outside of Seattle, the Saints are the best team in the NFL. That could change if New Orleans can be the first team to knock off the Seahawks at home since December of 2011.
3. Denver Broncos (10-2)
What more can be said about the Denver Broncos?
Peyton Manning torched Kansas City in Week 13 for 403 yards and five touchdowns to two interceptions.
The performance did a lot to quiet the "overrated" whispers after the team's Week 12 loss to New England in overtime. While it was a mark in the loss column, it was more of an anomaly than regular thing.
For now, the Broncos remain in the top three after beating a top team two times in three weeks.
4. New England Patriots (9-3)
Much has been written about Tom Brady's "struggles" this year for the New England Patriots, yet his team is sitting pretty at 9-3 and just escaped Houston with a gritty win. Just because Brady not posting eye-popping stats does not mean his team is struggling.
He came through with the great numbers so many seem to desire against Houston, throwing for 371 yards, two touchdowns and an interception against an elite pass defense.
New England quietly has a solid defense to go with its Brady-led offense.
5. Carolina Panthers (9-3)
Is there any team that can stop the Carolina Panthers? It certainly was not going to be three-win Tampa Bay in Week 13. Cam Newton and the Panthers breezed through that matchup en route to a 27-6 win.
The offense is great, with a rushing attack that ranks in the top 10, but the star of the show for Carolina is its defense. Linebacker Luke Kuechly and the defense allow an average of 13.1 points per game—the best in the NFL.
6. San Francisco 49ers (8-4)
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick appeared to remember he had arms in Week 13 against the St. Louis Rams, throwing for 275 yards and a touchdown in the 23-13 win.
The 49ers still have an elite ground game, but through the air, they average a miserable 180.3 yards per game.
While the approach has worked to this point, teams that have an ability to shut down the run, like Carolina, give San Francisco fits. That could be a major issue come playoff time.
7. Cincinnati Bengals (8-4)
The Cincinnati Bengals are now .500 in their last four games, which is about par for the course considering how inconsistent the offense has been with quarterback Andy Dalton under center.
Dalton was putrid in the first half Sunday, with one of the worst interceptions of the season to boot, but he turned it around with a touchdown in the second half as the defense carried him to a 17-10 win in San Diego.
That is the story for Cincinnati—how far can Vontaze Burfict and the defense carry the offense?
8. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3)
The argument that the Chiefs had not played great teams over the course of their streak of nine wins to start the season now has some weight.
Not to say that San Diego is a great team, but the Chiefs have now dropped three in a row. They failed to finish off the Chargers late in Week 12, and Peyton Manning and the Broncos had their way in two games against them.
On paper, the Chiefs defense is beginning to look like a mediocre unit. But two matchups with Manning in three weeks, combined with injuries to key players, can do that to any team.
The Chiefs are better than their recent record and stats show, and an easy schedule the rest of the way will help them turn things around.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (7-5)
Philadelphia extended its win streak to four in Week 13 with a close win over the visiting Arizona Cardinals.
Quarterback Nick Foles continued to impress. He torched a solid Arizona secondary for 237 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions (19 touchdowns to no interceptions on the year).
Philadelphia has the NFL's worst pass defense, but it matters little with the way Foles takes care of the football. He leads an offense that ranks in the top 10 both on the ground and through the air.
The Eagles remain tied for the NFC East lead with Dallas.
10. Arizona Cardinals (7-5)
The Cardinals broke a streak of four wins in Week 13 with a 24-21 loss to Philadelphia. The loss keeps the team firmly in third place in the NFC West.
There is a good chance the Cardinals can get back to their winning ways with games against the 5-7 Rams and Tennessee Titans on the schedule in the next two weeks.
An elite run defense and opportunistic defense overall make the Cardinals a sneaky playoff contender.
11. Dallas Cowboys (7-5)
Dallas is tied with Philadelphia for the NFC East lead after a Thanksgiving win over Oakland.
Running back DeMarco Murray had a bit of a coming out party, with 63 yards and three touchdowns. That performance bodes well for the offense moving forward if the staff decides to actually create a balance.
The Cowboys appear on Monday Night Football in Week 14 to battle the Bears, another NFC playoff contender.
12. Detroit Lions (7-5)
Detroit scored a 40-10 win over the Green Bay Packers Thursday to take sole possession of the NFC North and break a two-game skid.
The Lions are true contenders thanks to an offense that can keep pace with any in the league. A Week 14 bout against another NFC power in Philadelphia could help to decide exact seeding.
13. Indianapolis Colts (8-4)
For the second time in three weeks, the Indianapolis Colts slipped past the Tennessee Titans.
While it was a quality win, a 38-8 Week 10 loss to St. Louis and 40-11 Week 12 loss to Arizona say all observers need to know—the Colts are too inconsistent to be trusted.
That is a major issue with the playoffs on the horizon.
14. Baltimore Ravens (6-6)
The defending champs continue to look good, as they climbed back to .500 with a win on Thanksgiving over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Now on a two-game winning streak, the Ravens are firmly in the playoff hunt. Running back Ray Rice is still as ineffective as ever (32 yards on 12 carries vs. Steelers), but an elite run defense will keep Baltimore in most games.
Don't sleep on Baltimore—again.
15. Chicago Bears (6-6)
The Bears are a mess.
Chicago has lost three of four, but Week 13 was especially embarrassing. The Bears allowed Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson to rush for over 200 yards as the Vikings won their third game of the season.
While it's still technically in the playoff hunt, Chicago does not have the look of a contender by any means.
16. San Diego Chargers (5-7)
A loss to Cincinnati at home this week puts a major damper on any playoff hopes the folks in San Diego had.
The team's brief success—a thrilling 41-38 win over Kansas City in Week 12—is now gone. The Chargers have lost four of five and must still play Denver and Kansas City again to close the season.
It is time to protect Philip Rivers and let young stars, such as receiver Keenan Allen, shine, because playoffs will not be happening.
17. St. Louis Rams (5-7)
The good vibes in St. Louis had to end at some point.
After a 38-8 win over Indianapolis in Week 10 and a 42-21 win over Chicago in Week 12, the Rams had all of their momentum halted by San Francisco in a 23-13 loss.
St. Louis is still very much a team that can give any and all comers fits, but a brutal stretch to close the season, with games against Arizona, New Orleans, Tampa Bay and Seattle, will decimate the Rams.
18. Tennessee Titans (5-7)
The Tennessee Titans are 2-3 in their last five, with three of those losses coming in the AFC South—to Jacksonville and Indianapolis twice.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick doomed the Titans in Week 13 with 201 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
They still have an elite pass defense, but we will find out quickly if the unit can remain ranked in the top 10 after a trip to see Peyton Manning in Week 14.
19. Green Bay Packers (5-6-1)
Things are bad in Green Bay.
The Packers have lost five straight (forget being politically correct—a tie with Minnesota is a loss) and the status of quarterback Aaron Rodgers remains up in the air, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport:
Dec. 8 has been the target date for #Packers QB Aaron Rodgers to return. Source now tells me “he’d be lucky” to be able to return this week— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 1, 2013
Regardless of Rodgers' status, playoffs hopes are faint. Time to look forward to the draft.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7)
Pittsburgh was another team that saw its faint playoff hopes become a casualty this week.
The Steelers lost by two points to AFC North rival Baltimore on Thanksgiving. They didn't particularly do anything wrong in the performance (outside of a gaffe from Mike Tomlin), but the effort simply was not enough.
Alas, Pittsburgh can still play the spoiler.
21. Miami Dolphins (6-6)
Miami is back to .500 after a 23-3 win over the hapless New York Jets in Week 13. The Dolphins have been alternating wins and losses since Week 8.
While the defense touts a top-10 pass defense, the offense cannot obtain any kind of consistency, as second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill is the most-sacked player in the league at 45.
Until that changes (it will not this season), .500 is just right for this team.
22. New York Giants (5-7)
New York managed a thrilling comeback win over the NFC East rival Washington Redskins on Sunday Night Football in Week 13.
Too bad nothing was on the line.
New York has a decent run game it can rely on thanks to Andre Brown (14 carries for 35 yards and two touchdowns vs. Washington), but that's about it.
There will not be a magical postseason push this year.
23. New York Jets (5-7)
Since stunning the New Orleans Saints in Week 9, the New York Jets have lost three straight and scored just six points in their last two games combined.
The NFL's top-ranked run defense means little if the Jets cannot score a touchdown. The trio of Geno Smith, Matt Simms and David Garrard will not do much to help things down the home stretch.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-9)
A 27-6 loss to Carolina in Week 13 hurts, but two things need to be said.
One, which team is not losing to Carolina at the moment? The Panthers have won eight straight.
Two, it is hard to complain about a loss in Tampa Bay after three wins in a row. Head coach Greg Schiano may have saved his job with the streak.
25. Cleveland Browns (4-8)
Brandon Weeden cannot save Cleveland, and the organization may not want him to, anyway.
Weeden threw for 370 yards and three scores in a Week 13 loss to Jacksonville, but his two interceptions doomed the team.
Fans can take solace in the fact Josh Gordon is the NFL's next big thing. His 10 catches for 261 yards and two touchdowns set an NFL record, per ESPN's Adam Schefter:
Josh Gordon is first player in NFl history with back to back 200+-yard receiving games.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 1, 2013
26. Buffalo Bills (4-8)
Buffalo lost a close one Sunday to the Atlanta Falcons, which is about par for the course for the Bills in 2013.
C.J. Spiller and his 15 carries for 149 yards and a touchdown could not save the team. The defense allowed 423 total yards, and Atlanta went 10-of-18 on third down.
Buffalo is a team that simply cannot get every unit on the same page at the same time.
27. Minnesota Vikings (3-8-1)
A 34-yard field goal from Blair Walsh in overtime against Chicago gave the Vikings their third win of the season.
Now 2-1-1 in their last four games, the Vikings are performing about as expected against weaker teams as running back Adrian Peterson feasts on defenses.
The remaining schedule is brutal, but Peterson at least makes the games worthwhile.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-9)
Look at those Jaguars go...right out of the top pick in the 2013 draft.
Hey, Jacksonville is not tanking. Kudos for that. The Jaguars have now won three of their last four, the most recent being a trip to Cleveland for a 32-38 victory.
Jacksonville is still a bad team, but weapons for the future are emerging. Ace Sanders caught eight balls for 67 yards in the Week 13 win.
29. Atlanta Falcons (3-9)
Atlanta broke a five-game skid in Week 13 with a victory over Buffalo.
One of the teams had to win. Maybe.
A tie would have been a better result given the quality of the teams in the matchup, but alas, the Falcons are back on a winning streak. The return of Roddy White to relevancy (10 catches for 143 yards) helped things.
30. Oakland Raiders (4-8)
The regression into the team many thought Oakland would be before the season is complete.
The Raiders have dropped four of their last five, including a loss to Dallas on Thanksgiving. While the team showed heart and clearly has not quit yet, a defense that allows 25 points per game paired with an inept offense means trouble.
31. Washington Redskins (3-9)
Should the Redskins bench RGIII?
Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins have now lost four straight.
Speaking of RGIII, he continues to struggle and the offensive line continues to do little to protect him. The sophomore quarterback took five more sacks against New York, bringing his tally to 33 on the season.
32. Houston Texans (2-10)
The Houston Texans have heart. But that does not change the fact they are bad.
Look, a three-point loss to New England is admirable—which is saying something at this point.
The Texans have now lost 10 in a row. The last six losses have come by a touchdown or less, as the've fought until the bitter end in all.
But a spade is a spade (cliche alert). The Texans are horrible. Even Jacksonville has pulled out wins in recent weeks.