The Seattle Seahawks are the team to beat in the NFC.
With Week 13 almost in the books, it's time to look at the lay of the NFL land. With just four games remaining on each team's schedule, the playoff picture is getting clearer, and we have a better idea of whom the true Super Bowl contenders are.
Without further ado, here are your NFL power rankings after Week 13.
1. Seattle Seahawks (11-1)
They’ve only lost one game, and are now getting back to full health on the offensive line and with the return of Percy Harvin. With a home-field advantage unlike anything else in the NFL, it’s going to be bad news for the rest of the NFC if Seattle locks up the No. 1 seed.
2. Denver Broncos (10-2)
Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos bounced back from a gut-wrenching loss to the New England Patriots in Week 12. The Broncos defense has been up and down, and that’s a concern against quarterbacks that can put up points (see Brady, Tom).
What’s working in Denver’s favor right now is that the big plays returned in spectacular fashion against the Kansas City Chiefs, and Peyton Manning doesn’t look so banged up any more. That’s dangerous for the rest of the NFL.
3. New England Patriots (9-3)
Through all of the injuries and inexperience, the New England Patriots are sitting pretty at 9-3.
Rob Gronkowski has been fantastic, scoring a touchdown in each of the last four games and making the Patriots offense an intimidating proposition for any defense.
They need to get their act together to play a complete game instead of sitting out the first half, but the Patriots are hitting their stride at the right time.
4. New Orleans Saints (9-3)
The Saints could very easily be the No. 2 team, but there are a few things holding them back. For starters, they have been unconvincing on the road.
Drew Brees and Co. have outscored teams by 109 points, but they have been outscored by 22 points away from the Mercedes-Benz Super Dome. Their only losses have come on the road, including an upset loss to the New York Jets.
Their thrashing at the hands of the Seahawks did nothing to ease those concerns.
5. Carolina Panthers (9-3)
Nobody was paying the Carolina Panthers any attention, but they grabbed the spotlight and shone it on themselves with two big-time victories against the San Francisco 49ers and the New England Patriots.
Now, they’re just the hottest team in the NFL (eight straight wins) and are giving New Orleans a real run for its money as the leader of the NFC South.
Their defense is outstanding, Cam Newton has matured significantly, and they play a power brand of football that can hang with the 49ers and Seahawks. This team is for real, and it’ll have to chance to take control of its division with a matchup against the Saints in Week 14.
6. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3)
Three weeks, three losses for the previously undefeated Chiefs. Two of those games were fairly close losses to the Denver Broncos, but they also lost to the San Diego Chargers at home in Week 12.
Alex Smith has been great in recent weeks, but the defense (especially the pass rush) hasn’t been as dominant as it was to start the year, and the offense isn’t explosive enough to compensate for that.
7. San Francisco 49ers (8-4)
All the talk about the San Francisco 49ers has revolved around the struggles of Colin Kaepernick. While quarterback controversy is attention-grabbing, you shouldn’t overlook this team. It still has a very good defense, a dominant running game and one of the best coaches in the NFL.
It probably won’t be able to catch the Seattle Seahawks for the division crown, but it is a team that no other NFC team should want to face in the playoffs.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (8-4)
Andy Dalton has crashed back down to Earth, but the Cincinnati Bengals are a very competitive team in spite of that. They are sorely missing Geno Atkins and Leon Hall, but the defense is still a good unit that can win games. Can it continue to carry the load while Dalton struggles?
9. Detroit Lions (7-5)
The Detroit Lions made it a Thanksgiving rout of the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers, and are in control of the NFC North. Consecutive losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers were disconcerting, but the dominant performance in Week 13 was enough to instill some confidence in the Lions and their explosive offense.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (7-5)
The Philadelphia Eagles have won four in a row with Nick Foles at the helm, and he’s looked absolutely fantastic. Everybody has been talking about that, but what’s gone under the radar has been the improved play of the defense.
It is by no means an elite unit, but it's been able to put pressure on the quarterback (nine sacks in the last two weeks) and force turnovers (nine in the last three games).
Nick Foles has rejuvenated the Chip Kelly offense, and it can score on anybody. This team could easily make a push for the NFC East crown and find itself in the playoffs.
11. Indianapolis Colts (8-4)
Andrew Luck has managed to keep the Indianapolis Colts afloat without Reggie Wayne, and their two recent wins over the Tennessee Titans should ensure that Indianapolis wins the AFC South and gets a home playoff game.
Despite its 8-4 record, however, this team has holes. Without Wayne, Luck is having a difficult time moving the football, and Trent Richardson has been so bad that he was benched last week.
The Colts will be ready for the playoffs, but their dip in performance without Reggie Wayne means that they will likely get only the one postseason game.
12. Dallas Cowboys (7-5)
Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys had the chance to win some close games earlier in the season and lock down their division crown. They weren’t able to do that, and now they’re in a battle against the Eagles.
They won a close game against the Oakland Raiders on Thanksgiving Day, but that isn’t a victory that instills confidence. The offense is capable of putting up points, but can that defense stop anybody?
13. Arizona Cardinals (7-5)
The Arizona Cardinals couldn’t quite pull off the victory over Philadelphia, but they’ve looked impressive in recent weeks. Carson Palmer has been good recently, throwing for over 300 yards and two scores in the last three games, but turnovers cost them against the Eagles.
Arizona’s defense is great, so if the offense can avoid turning the ball over it’ll be a competitive team. If not, the Cardinals offense isn’t good enough to overcome large deficits.
14. Baltimore Ravens (6-6)
The reigning Super Bowl champions have won two games in a row, and the offense is starting to look more consistent. Baltimore won a crucial game against the Pittsburgh Steelers to jump into that second AFC wild-card spot, but its hopes of staying there rest on the offense.
The Ravens defense has been outstanding, so this team is playoff-bound if the offense can pick up some of the slack.
15. Chicago Bears (6-6)
An overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 13 is not what they were looking for. Josh McCown has been excellent as a replacement for Jay Cutler, whose status for Week 14 is still unclear.
Jay Cutler's status for Week 14 is up in the air http://t.co/CYNOhzJVns— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) December 2, 2013
Chicago’s problem has been a porous defense that has been eviscerated on the ground all season. The offense has been dynamic, even without Cutler, but this team isn’t going anywhere if the defense can’t put it together.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7)
The Steelers came roaring back from their 0-4 start to the year, but their loss to the Ravens was a big one that seriously complicated their road to the playoffs.
Pittsburgh’s secondary is a concern, but Ben Roethlisberger has been on fire recently and is leading a potent offense.
17. Miami Dolphins (6-6)
Miami is coming off a dominant victory over the New York Jets, but how much does that actually say about the Dolphins?
The Ryan Tannehill-Mike Wallace connection has come on strong recently, but the Dolphins are still incapable of running the ball. They’ve been better than expected without two of their starting linemen, but the Dolphins have not looked convincing.
18. San Diego Chargers (5-7)
San Diego was unable to come away with a big win over the Cincinnati Bengals, and now they're teetering on the brink of elimination from realistic playoff contention.
The Chargers play the Chiefs and the Broncos in the last four weeks of the season, and they’re trending the wrong way after losing four of their last five games.
19. Green Bay Packers (5-6-1)
The Green Bay Packers haven’t won in their last five games, and we can be sure of one thing: Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn are not as good as Aaron Rodgers.
Green Bay is rapidly falling down the standings, but Rodgers can make this the Packers a dangerous playoff team if he returns. Unfortunately, his status is unclear, and there is even talk of shutting him down for the year.
Rodgers may miss Week 14, could be shut down http://t.co/NkSXeGfuna— NFL Daily Post (@NFLDailyPost) December 2, 2013
If Rodgers comes back, this team could jump up the power rankings, but without him it's stuck in the low teens.
20. Tennessee Titans (5-7)
Things are not going well for the Tennessee Titans. They had the chance to compete for the division crown with two games against the Indianapolis Colts in the past three weeks. Unfortunately, they lost both and couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity.
The defense is the strength of the team, but the offense has been unable to put enough points on the board and hold onto the football.
21. New York Giants (5-7)
The Giants won a close game against the Washington Redskins in Week 13. The fact that they could barely beat Washington tells you all you need to know about the G-men.
New York’s defense is starting to play better, but it hasn't given us any reason to expect that it can turn things around and suddenly become a good football team.
22. St. Louis Rams (5-7)
The Rams had soundly beaten the Colts and the Bears in recent weeks, but they did not have the look of a great team, especially without Sam Bradford under center.
St. Louis was brought back down to Earth by a physical 49ers team, and their schedule to end the year will continue to ravage it, with tough matchups against Arizona, New Orleans and Seattle down the stretch.
23. New York Jets (5-7)
Geno Smith had shown enough to create some hope for Jets fans. He’s sucked all of that hope out of MetLife Stadium with his putrid performances over the last month. It resulted in him getting pulled last week against the Dolphins, but Matt Simms isn’t the answer either.
The defense is elite, but the offense is far from it. That’s the New York Jets in a nutshell.
24. Oakland Raiders (4-8)
The Raiders lost a close one to the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, but they’re starting to look like the team we expected them to be. They’ve lost four of their last five games, and the defense can’t give the offense any cushion to work with.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-9)
Tampa Bay was convincingly beaten by a good Carolina team, but the Bucs can be happy about some things. The most important thing for the franchise is that Mike Glennon is playing well, especially for a rookie quarterback.
This season is meaningless for the Bucs after their atrocious start, but a three-game winning streak (before last week) and some exciting play by Glennon gives the team hope moving forward.
27. Buffalo Bills (4-8)
The Bills have been unable to put together a complete performance this season. They lost to the hapless Atlanta Falcons in Week 13, and have been a disappointment considering the talent that’s on the roster.
28. Cleveland Browns (4-8)
The feel-good story of the first half of the season is dead. Cleveland just lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars, which shows how far they’ve fallen. Brandon Weeden has been forced back into the starting role due to injury, and nobody seems particularly happy about it.
Cleveland’s defense is elite, and the Browns have a legitimate star in Josh Gordon, but they still need a quarterback to steer the ship.
25. Minnesota Vikings (3-8-1)
The Vikings are coming off an overtime victory against the Bears, but the bottom line is that they will go as far as Adrian Peterson can carry them on his broad shoulders and bionic legs. The quarterback situation is a mess, and the secondary is horrible.
Against a team like Chicago, that struggles to defend the run, the Vikings are golden. Against any other team, they stand no chance.
29. Atlanta Falcons (3-9)
Matt Ryan and the Falcons got a win…finally. They were on a five-game losing streak prior to Week 13’s win over the Bills, and the good news was that Roddy White finally looked healthy with 143 receiving yards.
The defense has been dreadful for Atlanta, and a win against the Bills doesn’t change the fact that it’s been a tremendously disappointing season for the reigning NFC South champions.
30. Washington Redskins (3-9)
Robert Griffin III can certainly stand to improve his performance, but his teammates aren’t giving him much help. The offensive line has provided less resistance than a turnstile for opposing pass-rushers, the defense is giving up huge plays all over the field, and the receivers couldn’t hold on to the ball in Week 13.
Change is on the horizon in Washington this offseason.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-9)
Somehow, the Jacksonville Jaguars no longer hold the worst record in the NFL. They did it thanks to a victory over the Browns, but their three wins don’t change anything. This team needs serious work in all phases of the game before it starts to head in the right direction.
32. Houston Texans (2-10)
The Houston Texans have way too much talent on their roster to be this bad. But they ARE this bad.
To their credit, they hung around with a very good New England team, but as has been the case all year, the Texans weren’t able to put it away.