NFL Power Rankings: Categorizing Each Team Heading into Week 14

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistDecember 8, 2013

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 02: Running back Marshawn Lynch #24 of the Seattle Seahawks rushes against the New Orleans Saints at CenturyLink Field on December 2, 2013 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Heading into Week 14 the NFL has a fairly established hierarchy. 

With the regular season almost at its conclusion, there's really not a ton of room for too many shake ups in terms of power rankings. Teams that have been great will likely continue to be great and teams that have been bad, well, they'll continue to play Matt Schaub at quarterback. 

It's at this point in the season where we can really start to separate the league into tiers. From the bona fide Super Bowl Contenders to the teams fighting for the right to Jadeveon Clowney or Teddy Bridgewater and everywhere in between, here's a look at where each team stands. 

The Elite

These are the teams that have been excellent all season and would be the favorites to make the Super Bowl if the playoffs started today. 

1. Seattle Seahawks (11-1)

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 02: Wide receiver Ricardo Lockette #83 of the Seattle Seahawks runs with the ball as outside linebacker Parys Haralson #98 of the New Orleans Saints defends during a game at CenturyLink Field on December 2, 2013 in Seattle, Washingt
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

If the Lombardi Trophy went to the team that was legitimately the best in the league, we could just save a whole lot of time and hand the trophy to Pete Carroll now. 

The Seahawks are the most complete team in football. With a defense that ranks No. 1 in Football Outsiders' DVOA ratings and an offense that is putting up 28.3 points per game (No. 2 in the league), per, they are strong in all facets of the game and have the record to show for it. 

It's going to take an incredible upset to keep the 'Hawks out of the Super Bowl. 

2. Denver Broncos (10-2)

If anyone can figure out this Seattle Seahawks defense, it's Peyton Manning. His high octane offense is averaging 38.7 points per game this season and he's enjoying one of his greatest seasons of all time. 

However, a blown 24-point lead and a close call against Kansas City last week bring up questions about the defense. It's ranked just 18th in Football Outsiders' DVOA ratings and keeps the Broncos from being as well-rounded as Seattle. 

3. Carolina Panthers (9-3)

It feels bizarre to say that the Panthers are the No. 3 team in the league right now after a 7-9 season that featured a 1-6 start, but they have a case. 

Cam Newton may be the headline player, but the defense is what has made the team newsworthy. Their DVOA rating is second to only the Seahawks and its been evident on the scoreboard. During the Panthers current eight-game win streak, they've given up 20 points or more just once. And that was in a 24-20 win over Tom Brady. 

If the Panthers can pick up a road win over a team like the Saints on Sunday night, no one is going to want to play them in the playoffs. 

4. New England Patriots (9-3)

Another season, another year of serious contention for the New England Patriots. Despite a mediocre defense that has given up 31 points in each of its last two games, the Patriots are still the top threat to the Denver Broncos in the playoffs. 

Tom Brady engineered a 24-point comeback against the Broncos just two weeks ago and the team is perfect at home. It wouldn't be surprising to see Bill Belichick add another Super Bowl to his mantel. 

5. New Orleans Saints (9-3)

Maybe the Saints used up all of their allotted offensive production in their 49-17 blowout win over the Cowboys in Week 10. Since then the Saints are 2-1, but have scored just 23, 17 and 7 points against the 49ers, Falcons and Seahawks respectively. 

They'll have the opportunity to right the ship in a big way against the Panthers on Sunday night. But that will take a re-ignition of the offense. They'll need to be clicking to top a team that just recently stopped Tom Brady and the Patriots. 

Fringe Contenders

These teams are most likely playoff bound, but will need to garner some serious momentum late in the season to make a run. 

6. San Francisco 49ers (8-4)

After starting the season off at 1-2, it felt like the 49ers were headed for a post-Super Bowl slump. They then rallied to win five straight before dropping two straight again to the Panthers and Saints. The problem with counting them out now is that both games were decided by three points or less and it's likely they meet again in the playoffs. 

With Colin Kaepernick coming off of his best performance since Week 1 and Michael Crabtree back in the fold, the Niners have enough signs of life to be considered dangerous going against the Seahawks at home this week. 

7. Cincinnati Bengals (8-4)

The Bengals are just complete enough to be scary, but just inconsistent enough to not pose a real threat at this point. They proved that they can win a tough game on the road against San Diego last week, despite just 93 yards passing from Andy Dalton they were able to pull out the 17-10 win. 

While some may consider that a negative thing, it at least shows that the Bengals have the ability to lean on their defense and win on the road. Two things they'll need to do to win once they get to the playoffs. 

8. Indianapolis Colts (8-4)

Yes, the Colts are just 2-2 in their last four games with losses to the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals. Yes, the Chiefs have a better record. But when you get to this point in the rankings, it's all about ceiling. 

As the Colts have proved this season, they are capable of beating great teams. After all, they are the only team to beat the Seahawks and went ahead and defated the Broncos two weeks later. Going into the playoffs as the only team to beat the top seed in each conference isn't the worst thing ever. 

9. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3)

There's no denying the Chiefs' record and strength of schedule tends to be a weak argument in the NFL, but their play on the field has them ranked a little lower than their record may indicate. According to Football Outsiders DVOA values, the Chiefs rank just 16th offensively and 12th defensively. 

Those aren't overwhelmingly impressive numbers and it's starting to show on the scoreboard. They are now on a three-game losing streak including a loss at home against the Chargers. 

10. Philadelphia Eagles (7-5)

The Eagles barely slip into this tier by virtue of the Ravens Super Bowl run last season. Despite a middling record, the Ravens ran through the playoffs thanks to Joe Flacco's incredible hot streak. Nick Foles is the most likely candidate to come out of nowhere and lead his team through the playoffs this season. 

He's been incredible in Chip Kelly's offense and has yet to throw a single interception in 196 attempts—a near historic start, according to NFL on ESPN:

The Eagles are No. 3 offensively in Football Outsiders' DVOA. The defense is certainly an issue at No. 25, but if Foles continues his level of play they can score with anyone. 

Good, But Not Dangerous

These teams are still in the playoff hunt, but shouldn't strike any type of fear into their opponent if they get there. 

11. Detroit Lions (7-5)

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 28: Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions runs for a third quarter touchdown while playing the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field on November 28, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Lions are in great shape to make the playoffs because the NFC North is not all that strong as a division. But that doesn't mean they can win once they get there.

Their DVOA numbers don't point to them being a playoff contender. They're No. 13 overall. The Lions don't really have a win on the schedule that you can point to and believe they can beat the league's best. 

The 7-5 Dallas Cowboys are the only team with a winning record that they have beaten on their way to 7-5. 

12. Arizona Cardinals (7-5)

The Cardinals won't be in this group for long if they actually do make the playoffs. One game behind San Francisco for the final NFC wild card spot they have St. Louis, Tennessee, Seattle and San Francisco left on the schedule. 

The No. 3 defense in the league (per DVOA) keeps them in most games, but a Carson Palmer-led offense with Rashard Mendenhall at running back keeps the Cardinals from being truly scary. 

13. Dallas Cowboys (7-5)

The last three weeks have been a perfect microcosm for a good, but not dangerous, team for the Cowboys. With a chance to earn a statement win over an elite team in the Saints, Dallas was blown out in embarrassing fashion.

However, the past two weeks have provided close victories over the Oakland Raiders and New York Giants. Neither of which are likely playoff bound.

14. Baltimore Ravens (6-6)

Don't look now, but the Ravens who once appeared to be dead in the water have won three of their last four games. Just in time for the wild card chase.

This certainly doesn't look like the team that won the Super Bowl last season, but with the Minnesota Vikings next on the schedule, there's a good chance the Ravens are 7-6 by the end of the week and right in the thick of the playoff race once again.

15. Chicago Bears (6-6)

These aren't your typical Bears. The Chicago franchise has a proud history of great defenses and excellent running games. This one is winning games with an offense that is reliant on the passing game and is fifth in the league in scoring at 26.9 points per game.

Unfortunately that approach hasn't been all that successful recently. With Jay Cutler out of the lineup and Josh McCown filling in, the Bears are just 1-3 in their last four games. Which means they're losing ground fast in the NFC playoff picture.

16. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7)

The Steelers suffered a devastating loss at the hands of the Ravens on Thanksgiving, but all is not lost quite yet. With Miami and Cincinnati up next on the schedule the Steelers still have the opportunity to make up some lost ground.

In winning three of their last four games, the Steelers have shown that they still have some life. With a veteran quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger that's enough to make them dangerous enough to get in.

17. Miami Dolphins (6-6)

The Dolphins are one of the greatest enigmas in the league. Are they terrible? Are they secretly good? How good is Ryan Tannehill?


Miami has lost to some of the league's best teams in the Saints, Panthers and Patriots. But they've also lost to the Bills and Buccaneers. The only team with a winning record they hold a victory over is the Bengals. 

There's a reason this team is 6-6. They define mediocrity. Ryan Tannehill has developed this season, but he's not quite capable of elevating this team into a fringe contender just yet.

Circling the Drain

These teams aren't technically eliminated from the playoffs, but they might as well be. Time to start evaluating what they have to build on next year.

18. New York Giants (5-7)

If the Giants were in the AFC, there's a good chance they would be in the next tier. Unfortunately for Tom Coughlin and Co. their incredible climb from an 0-6 start isn't likely to be enough in the NFC.

The Giants won't likely make the playoffs, but they have to be happy about the way they've been playing lately. The defense has made an impressive turnaround as only two opponents have passed the 20-point threshold in their last seven games. 

19. San Diego Chargers (5-7)

Speaking of the Giants, their Week 14 opponent comes in just one spot below them as one of these teams will earn false hope for one more week. 

The Chargers will find some positives when they look back on Mike McCoy's first season as head coach. First and foremost, he helped spark a career resurgence for quarterback Philip Rivers and the Chargers became an explosive offense. 

Unfortunately, they've also learned they have a lot of work to do on the defensive side of the ball. They are dead last in defensive DVOA and will need to address multiple positions in the offseason. 

20. Green Bay Packers (5-6-1)

It's very simple with the Green Bay Packers. When Aaron Rodgers is on the field they are very good. When he's not. Well, it isn't pretty. 

Matt Flynn, Scott Tolzien or Seneca Wallace, it doesn't matter. The Packers are 0-4-1 since their star quarterback went down. On the bright side, the Packers will be armed with a high draft pick to put a better supporting cast around the star signal-caller when he's fully healthy next season. 

21. Tennessee Titans (5-7)

Titans fans have reason for optimism, just not for the 2013 season. The team is 4-2 this season when Jake Locker is healthy and the defense anchored by budding stars like Alterraun Varner and Jurell Casey should be good for years to come. 

The problem is that Jake Locker isn't walking back through that door this year, so if it weren't for ending the season against the Jaguars and Texans they'd be a good candidate to lose out the rest of the season. 

22. St. Louis Rams (5-7)

Would it surprise you to find out that the Rams are the third-most inconsistent team according to Football Outsiders' variance metric?

It shouldn't. The Rams shift from scary good offensive machine (38 points vs. Colts, 42 points vs. Bears) to struggling team with the acceleration of Usain Bolt. With two first round picks in the 2014 NFL draft the Rams have the makings of a scary team in the future, but they just aren't there quite yet. 

Jockeying for Draft Position

If you're a fan of one of these teams, it's time to start embracing the fail. They're all but mathematically eliminated and should be focusing on what they need to improve next season. 

23. New York Jets (5-7)

The New York Jets have a playoff-caliber defense. It's ninth in DVOA and Rex Ryan has managed to squeeze five wins out of this team almost entirely because he knows how to get the most out of his defensive personnel. 

But even a great defense can't make up for some of the worst quarterback play in the league. Geno Smith has had a rough time adjusting to the NFL and it isn't as though Mark Sanchez or Matt Simms are the answer either. 

24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-9)

From headed towards an 0-16 season to winners of three of their last four, the Buccaneers are a team with a lot more talent than you might think. They are 18th in the league in weighted DVOA and nearly became the second team to beat the Seahawks in Week 9 when they took them to overtime on the road. 

Mike Glennon appears to be promising enough that the Buccaneers won't need to reach for a quarterback in the first round. With Greg Schiano looking to prove he deserves to keep his job, the Buccaneers could end the season hot like Ron Rivera and the Panthers last season. 

25. Buffalo Bills (4-8)

Week 11's 37-14 win over the New York Jets provided false hope for the Bills faithful. Coming off of a bye the following week, they proceeded to move the Atlanta Falcons out of the first pick in the draft with a loss in overtime. 

Watching a healthy EJ Manuel remains the only highlight the rest of the way for the Bills. A playoff spot is all but completely out of reach and they may not be favored in a single game the rest of the way. 

26. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9)

The Jaguars were supposed to be a shoo-in for the No. 1 draft pick at the mid-point of the season. Now? They're winners of four out of five straight. Whether it's the fact that Jaguars can't even get tanking right or they finally found some winnable games in an otherwise brutal schedule, the Jags are actually hot right now. 

Teddy Bridgewater and Jadeveon Clowney Should Be Really Good

Things have gone wrong. Things have gone very wrong. 

27. Cleveland Browns (4-8)

At one point, the Browns were 3-2 and in the lead of the AFC North. They've now lost six of their last seven and only have Josh Gordon's incredible production to show for it. The defense, which once looked dominant, is now ranked just 22nd in DVOA and isn't helped out by an offense that is 28th. 

With three games on the road and a home game against 6-6 Chicago, it's likely the Browns don't win another game. 

28. Oakland Raiders (4-8)

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 24:  Matt McGloin #14 of the Oakland Raiders drops back to pass against the Tennessee Titans during the second quarter at Coliseum on November 24, 2013 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Highlights for the Raiders this season have been few and far between. The lone bright spot in recent weeks has been that they won a game against the lowly Texans and avoided getting blown out against the Cowboys and Titans. 

Matt McGloin has been promising with 799 yards, four touchdowns and only two interceptions but that shouldn't exclude them from the Teddy Bridgewater sweepstakes. 

29. Minnesota Vikings (3-8-1)

Adrian Peterson is singlehandedly giving the Vikings a pulse and reminding us how this team even made the playoffs last season. He has rushed for 146 and 211 yards in the last two weeks respectively. But the quarterbacking trio of Christian Ponder, Matt Cassell and Josh Freeman has done him no favors. '

If he ever wants a chance at winning in Minnesota, Peterson may want to slow down so his Vikings have a chance to snag Bridgewater in the draft. 

30. Atlanta Falcons (3-9)

Has there ever been a fall from grace as dramatic as the Falcons this year? From serious NFC playoff contender to bottom of the barrel, the Falcons have fallen on their face this season. 

Even with a top quarterback in Matt Ryan the offense has been ineffective, but the defense has been the most to blame. It's just 31st in the league in DVOA and has plenty of holes to fill in the offseason. Last week's overtime win against the Bills shows some signs of life, but it's hard to see this team finishing any better than 4-12.

31. Washington Redskins (3-9)

Yikes. There's not much to be happy about in D.C. these days. Not only are the Redskins one of the worst teams on both sides of the ball, they don't even have the comfort of knowing they'll get a high pick in the draft. St. Louis owns their first rounder as part of the deal that brought Robert Griffin III into the fold. 

32. Houston Texans (2-10)

If you had Gary Kubiak in your office's "First Coach to be Fired" pool, congratulations. You're a fortune teller. And just a bit sadistic. Kubiak was fired by the Texans after their 2-10 start and loss to the Jaguars on Thursday Night Football. 

Wade Phillips will take over as the team's interim head coach. As Cowboys fans can attest, Wade Phillips as a head coach is never the prescription for a losing team. 


    NFL Players Respond to Trump's Pardon Request

    NFL logo

    NFL Players Respond to Trump's Pardon Request

    Mike Chiari
    via Bleacher Report

    Julio Jones Isn't Drinking the TO Kool-Aid

    NFL logo

    Julio Jones Isn't Drinking the TO Kool-Aid

    Mike Freeman
    via Bleacher Report

    Brady Hints at Retiring at 45 with IG Comment

    NFL logo

    Brady Hints at Retiring at 45 with IG Comment

    Joseph Zucker
    via Bleacher Report

    Jameis Reportedly Braces for Ban

    NFL logo

    Jameis Reportedly Braces for Ban

    Kyle Newport
    via Bleacher Report