Week 15 of the 2013 NFL season is rapidly approaching, making this an ideal time to take a moment and analyze the league’s landscape ahead of the upcoming slate of games.
The playoff picture is quickly coming into focus with a number of teams being eliminated on a weekly basis. A handful more could drop out of contention in Week 15, allowing the remaining squads to capitalize and separate themselves from the pack.
Let’s take a look at how the latest power rankings play out with that in mind.
1. Seattle Seahawks 11-2
The Seahawks suffered their second loss of 2013 in Week 14 after a brutal battle with the 49ers. There is no love lost between these NFC West rivals and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them meet for a third time in the playoffs. Seattle holds the top spot, for now, despite the loss.
2. Denver Broncos 11-2
Peyton Manning proved his doubters wrong by putting together an elite performance at home in a frigid Mile High Stadium. He’s on par to shatter Tom Brady’s single-season touchdown record of 50, as he is at 45 with three games left to play.
3. New Orleans Saints 10-3
The Saints moved to 7-0 in the confines of the Superdome and have to hope that the Seahawks falter down the stretch. If New Orleans can secure home-field advantage through the postseason, it will be impossible to beat.
4. New England Patriots 10-3
The Pats miraculous comeback that included two touchdowns in the final 61 seconds and a converted onside kick was overshadowed by Rob Gronkowski’s season-ending injury. It is a big blow to their Super Bowl chances and will be tough to adjust without him for the second time in 2013.
5. San Francisco 49ers 9-4
San Francisco earned a big win on Sunday to stay alive in the NFC West race over Seattle. The Niners are inching closer to Super Bowl form and could make a repeat appearance as the conference’s representative.
6. Carolina Panthers 9-4
The Saints handled business against the Panthers, finally putting a stop to their eight-game winning streak. Until Cam Newton proves he can beat other top quarterbacks in a shootout, this team will struggle to win against elite tier opponents.
7. Kansas City Chiefs 10-3
Kansas City’s defense got back into a rhythm against the lowly Redskins last week. Now the Chiefs need to parlay that momentum into a solid winning streak to close the season on a high note and make some waves in the playoffs.
8. Cincinnati Bengals 9-4
The Bengals blew up against the Colts and earned another signature win in a season full of them. This team finally looks poised to advance past the Wild Card round of the playoffs—something it hasn’t done since 1990.
9. Philadelphia Eagles 8-5
The Eagles played in a half-foot of snow and emerged victorious against the Lions. They look to be the class of the NFC East and are now in the driver’s seat to claim the divisional crown.
10. Arizona Cardinals 8-5
The Cardinals defense took a big blow when Tyrann Mathieu went down with a torn ACL and LCL. The Honey Badger’s absence is going to clearly impact this team’s effectiveness on that side of the football, although quarterback Carson Palmer has been dominant as of late.
11. Baltimore Ravens 7-6
Baltimore came out ahead in one of the wildest games in NFL history this past Sunday. The Ravens scored three touchdowns—and fended off two from the Vikings—in the final 2:05 to secure a 29-26 win and keep their playoff dreams alive.
12. Indianapolis Colts 8-5
Indianapolis has to get more consistent. This team hasn’t won back-to-back games since Week 7 and Week 9—with a Week 8 bye—and can’t get anything going on the ground. Look for them to finally establish the running game against a garbage Texans front in Week 15.
13. Chicago Bears 7-6
Chicago is in good hands with Josh McCown under center. The backup went absolutely bonkers against the Cowboys in Week 14 and led his Bears to a Monday Night Football victory. Jay Cutler definitely has as much time as he needs to recover from his injury.
14. Detroit Lions 7-6
The Lions are playing just good enough to make the postseason, but can’t afford to take their foot off the gas in a super-competitive NFC North. A single misstep will see them watching the playoffs from the couch this winter.
15. Dallas Cowboys 7-6
Dallas’ defense can’t buy a stop. If you throw out the Bears’ final possession with just six seconds left in the game, the Cowboys gave up a score each of the eight times Chicago was on offense. That is truly terrible and a large reason why they are in grave danger of missing the playoffs.
16. Miami Dolphins 7-6
The Dolphins desperately need a win against the Pats. That would be a giant step towards them securing a wild-card spot, which is quite improbable considering the amount of drama surrounding this franchise earlier in the year.
17. Green Bay Packers 6-6-1
The Packers are staying alive in the playoff hunt despite Aaron Rodgers’ continued absence. If the superstar quarterback can return soon, it would be foolish to rule this club out of contention.
18. San Diego Chargers 6-7
The Bolts aren’t dead yet, but a Thursday Night Football loss to Denver might be the end of their postseason dreams. It will take a gutsy performance in the Mile High to avoid that outcome.
19. Pittsburgh Steelers 5-8
The Steelers had a chance to tie Miami this week, but failed to because Antonio Brown barely stepped out of bounds in the waning moments. It is truly a game of inches and that mistake means Pittsburgh is more than likely out of the hunt.
20. St. Louis Rams 5-8
The Rams will be a good football team in 2014. They have tons of young talent and should conceivably be healthy, which is something they couldn’t achieve this year.
21. New York Jets 6-7
Gang Green finally pulled some offense out and put up a whopping 37 points against the Raiders. That is more points than they scored in the last three games combined and just three less than their total over the last four.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4-9
The Bucs defense looked absolutely dominant in Week 14, albeit against EJ Manuel and the Bills. They racked up five takeaways and sacked the quarterback seven times in the blowout victory.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars 4-9
Don’t look now but Jacksonville has won three in a row and four of its last five contests. This club is playing hard and should close the season strong for head coach Gus Bradley.
24. New York Giants 5-8
Big Blue failed to put up a fight this past Sunday and should be completely discounted from the playoff race, even in the atrocious NFC East. This squad has to hope the Super Bowl hangover finally fades next season.
25. Cleveland Browns 4-9
Cleveland had its heart broken by the Pats. The Browns had them on the ropes but once again failed to close out. They must get better in that regard or they will struggle in 2014.
26. Tennessee Titans 5-8
The Titans are reportedly planning to blow up the roster this coming offseason, per NFL Network's Michael Silver and Ian Rapoport. It’s an interesting decision, but likely the right one considering how poor they have played in recent years.
27. Minnesota Vikings 3-9-1
The Vikings have been able to hang tough with opponents, but ultimately fail to finish strong. With Adrian Peterson injured, that likely won’t even be the case anymore as this team will get blown out from the get go.
28. Buffalo Bills 4-9
Buffalo has been terrible lately and it doesn’t look like things will get better as the weather turns colder. Manuel has to get better after his worst performance of 2013 against the Buccaneers.
29. Oakland Raiders 4-9
You know it is bad when a defense gives up 37 points to a team that has scored a combined six points over the past two games. Oakland is just a mess right now and must make major adjustments in the offseason.
30. Atlanta Falcons 3-10
The Dirty Birds may not be able to right this ship next season. This group fought hard in Week 14 and still lost. Injuries may be hurting this roster, but not as much as many are giving them credit for.
31. Washington Redskins 3-10
Washington has to sort out the messy relationships between star quarterback Robert Griffin III, coach Mike Shanahan and owner Daniel Snyder. Shanahan is clearly going to be first one to go from this disastrous trio.
32. Houston Texans 2-11
Houston is plain pitiful in 2013. This team has a long offseason to make a number of changes to help morph back into something resembling a competent NFL contender.