As Week 16 approaches in the NFL, there are only a couple more games left for teams to improve their spot in the league's power rankings.
The final two weeks of the regular season are going to be highlighted by an abundance of contests with heavy playoff implications.
Only four teams have clinched playoff berths, meaning there are still eight spots up for grabs. Making it even more interesting, there are approximately double the amount of teams vying for those spots.
Rest assured, these upcoming rankings will shift in the last two weeks leading up to the playoffs. Some teams will rise, and some will fall. That said, this is how the league stacks up heading into Week 16.
1. Seattle Seahawks
After suffering just their second loss of the 2013 season in Week 14 against the San Francisco 49ers, the Seattle Seahawks feasted on the New York Giants in Week 15.
Seattle's 23-0 shutout victory at MetLife Stadium over New York marked the worst showing at home by the Giants since 1995, as ESPN Stats & Info noted:
Giants suffer their worst home shutout loss in regular season since a 35-0 loss to Cowboys in 1995, clinch 1st losing season since 2004— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 15, 2013
The Seahawks don't have any big weaknesses, and this team will likely host games throughout the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the NFC. That's bad news for the rest of the conference, as this team hasn't lost at home since Dec. of 2011.
2. Denver Broncos
The best team in the NFL is...
Peyton Manning has to be razor-sharp throughout the playoffs if the Denver Broncos are going to live up to expectations. Denver's defensive secondary is highly exploitable, and the entire defense is mediocre—at best.
If Manning is sharp, then the Broncos will win the Super Bowl. However, the Broncos are toast if Manning struggles.
3. San Francisco 49ers
It's truly remarkable how much better Colin Kaepernick has been since his favorite receiver came back into the starting lineup. Since Michael Crabtree's return in Week 13 against the St. Louis Rams, Kaepernick has thrown four touchdowns and just one interception. Better than stats, however, is his obvious comfort level running the offense with Crabtree on the field.
Harbaugh on chemistry between Colin Kaepernick and Michael Crabtree, saying, "They've picked up on that pretty seamlessly." #49ers— Dylan DeSimone (@DeSimone80) December 16, 2013
If the young signal-caller plays with the same kind of poise and smarts he's displayed of late, then the 49ers will go far in the playoffs. The team's defense is among the league's best, as is the running game. San Francisco's roster can compete with any team.
4. New Orleans Saints
St. Louis' big win over New Orleans was shocking to some, but those who have watched the Rams perform this year were only slightly surprised. Jeff Fisher's defense is brutally tough at home, and the Rams had Drew Brees' number in Week 15.
But this is still one of the most dangerous teams in the league, featuring a potent, somewhat-balanced offense and an impressive defense.
5. Kansas City Chiefs
Holy offensive explosion, Batman!
101 points have been scored by the Kansas City Chiefs in the team's past two games...scary, considering this team's defense is among the league's best when healthy.
Jamaal Charles has been the league's most impressive offensive weapon in 2013, and Alex Smith has been as efficient and precise as ever.
6. Carolina Panthers
The NFC is so damn good right now, and nobody should be surprised if the No. 5 or No. 6 seed wins the Super Bowl. Carolina has a chance to wrestle the NFC South away from the Saints at home in Week 16, but regardless of the outcome of that contest, this team could make a big playoff run.
Cam Newton's maturity and decision-making have dramatically improved this season. Of course, it surely helps his cause that he plays with one of the league's most complete and dominating defenses.
7. New England Patriots
New England's offense is going to be "dink-and-dunk" heavy for the foreseeable future without all-world tight end Rob Gronkowski in the lineup. Combined with the team's struggles against the run (No. 31 in the NFL), the Patriots will likely suffer an early exit during the playoffs.
Still, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have only lost four games this year, and this duo always finds a way to turn lemons into lemonade.
8. Indianapolis Colts
Legendary NFL writer Peter King of the MMQB perfectly summed up the state of the Indianapolis Colts in his weekly column: "America’s (Psycho) Team checks in: In the last six, Colts have lost by 30, won by three, lost by 29, won by eight, lost by 14, won by 22. Football is a funny game."
Given the injuries this team has suffered in 2013, it's hard to envision a deep playoff run. However, Andrew Luck has proved time and time again in his first two seasons as a pro that he's not to be trifled with when the game is on the line.
9. Chicago Bears
It appears the Chicago Bears have two starting quarterbacks—much like what we saw from the San Francisco 49ers in 2013. The biggest difference between the two situations is that Marc Trestman isn't dealing with a second-year superstar in the making as Jay Cutler's backup.
Whoever's lining up behind center these days in Chicago, Trestman's offense is screaming. It'll have to continue doing so the rest of the way, however, because this team's atrocious defense won't win it any games.
10. Cincinnati Bengals
When the Bengals are on, they're one of the most impressive teams in the league. But when Cincy shows up stale, like it did against Pittsburgh on Sunday Night Football in Week 15, ugliness ensues.
Losing Geno Atkins for the season was brutal, as was losing cornerback Leon Hall. But this team still has the players to make a deep run in the playoffs. The biggest key will be whether or not the offense can play with consistency.
11. Arizona Cardinals
At 9-5, the Arizona Cardinals refuse to bow out of the NFC wild-card race. This team has won six of its last seven games, impressively beating the Colts and Rams in the process. A brutal two-game stretch to close out the season is upcoming, however, with a road game in Seattle and a home game against the 49ers.
12. Philadelphia Eagles
After giving up 48 points to the Minnesota Vikings, the Philadelphia Eagles must quickly fix what went wrong on defense because the Bears have been on a scoring frenzy of late. Chicago will be in Philadelphia in Week 16.
13. Miami Dolphins
Heading into Week 16, the Miami Dolphins control their own destiny with the No. 6 seed tentatively in grasp. Joe Philbin's team has won three games in a row, and the head coach is approaching his next opponent with tremendous focus, as noted by MiamiDolphins.com:
We’re focused on the Buffalo Bills. We’ve already talked about it. We’ve talk to the team. This is a good football team. All we have to do is throw on the tape of our last game against them. We are going to have to improve and play better.
Beating the Patriots in Week 15 was a huge first step for Miami to finally break through to the next level, but this team must continue winning to ensure a playoff bid.
14. Detroit Lions
If the Detroit Lions don't make the playoffs in 2013, then it's time for head coach Jim Schwartz to go. The Lions feature plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, but this team continues to shoot itself in the foot with silly fouls and poor judgement calls on the field.
15. Baltimore Ravens
Getting tight end Dennis Pitta back was a huge boost for Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens offense. Baltimore still has a realistic shot to get into the playoffs, and given the team's impressive defensive front, we could see the Ravens making a run in the postseason tournament—if they get in.
16. Green Bay Packers
Thanks to Chicago and Detroit's inability to string together wins, the Green Bay Packers are still very much in the mix to win the NFC North, despite losing four of five when Aaron Rodgers first went down with his collarbone injury.
Green Bay's defense isn't terrific, but if Rodgers returns to his normal brilliance in the final two weeks of the season and the Packers back-door it into the playoffs, then this team will be a huge sleeper to go deep.
17. San Diego Chargers
The Chargers entered Week 15's contest against the Broncos with playoff intensity and came out of Denver with a monumental win. It's not likely to matter in the end, however, as the Chargers haven't been able to keep positive momentum all year, and they'll miss the playoffs after losing to Kansas City in Week 17.
18. St. Louis Rams
The NFC West is incredibly deep. St. Louis has the pieces in place to make a run at the playoffs in 2014, just like the other three teams in the division. It'll be fascinating to see if the team drafts a quarterback in the early rounds.
19. Dallas Cowboys
Different year—same old Cowboys.
There's absolutely no way the Packers should have been able to win in Dallas during Week 15's game after being down by 23 points at halftime.
Bada-bing, bada-bang, Dallas' defense gave up the farm, and Tony Romo threw two interceptions to hand the game over to the elated Packers.
20. New York Jets
As usual, there will be an obscene amount of speculation surrounding the direction of the New York Jets following the completion of the 2013 season. Rex Ryan's Jets are a mess, but there are glimmers of hope in the midst of the madness.
The team's defensive front is one of the best in the business (and young, too), and Geno Smith appears to have all the tools to succeed, given protection up front and a few playmakers to throw to.
21. Pittsburgh Steelers
After thrashing the Bengals in Week 15, the Steelers still have a shot to get into the playoffs with a record of 6-8.
Ben Roethlisberger has once again proved his status as an elite quarterback, leading a resurgent offense in the second half of the season despite the fact that his offensive line has been a train wreck all year long.
However, Pittsburgh's defense is no longer a Steel Curtain—especially against teams with dominant running games.
22. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings have been a feisty bunch all season long, no matter who's starting behind center, and it wasn't completely shocking to see this team beat the Eagles in Week 15. But there are too many significant holes on the roster to consistently win games—the chief among them being at the quarterback position.
23. Buffalo Bills
It's no fun rebuilding a team in the AFC East.
But it appears the Buffalo Bills are doing the right things in Doug Marrone's first year as head coach. He has found his quarterback of the future, and the next step will be bringing in talented playmakers who'll help E.J. Manuel become an elite quarterback.
24. Tennessee Titans
After Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 402 yards and four touchdowns during Week 15's overtime loss at home to the Cardinals, Scott Kacsmar of Bleacher Report and Football Outsiders made the perfect commentary on the quarterback, as well as this entire franchise:
That was kind of the signature Ryan Fitzpatrick game today. Good enough to get you beat close.— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) December 16, 2013
Good enough to be competitive but rarely good enough to win, the Titans have languished in mediocrity for the past five seasons. And it doesn't appear the trend will turn any time soon.
25. New York Giants
It's telling that nobody was shocked to see the Seahawks blank the Giants at home in Week 15.
On both sides of the ball, New York has major flaws. General manager Jerry Reese hasn't done a good job drafting, and the team's infrastructure is falling apart at the seams.
26. Oakland Raiders
Oakland must not strike out at the quarterback position during the 2014 NFL draft.
The Raiders also need to continue rebuilding the entire roster, but this team won't have a chance to compete in the AFC West until it lands its quarterback of the future.
27. Cleveland Browns
This young team is likely going to get even younger in 2014.
It's likely a rookie quarterback will be drafted early, and nobody should be surprised to see the Browns look for a starting running back and another talented receiver in the first two days of the draft.
Cleveland's defense remains formidable. With some savvy personnel decisions, the Browns won't much longer be cellar dwellers in the AFC North.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars
Sound coaching makes all the difference in the world. We've seen this truth firsthand with the Jacksonville Jaguars under rookie head coach Gus Bradley, who has quickly changed the culture of this perennial loser.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Getting pummeled by the 49ers in Week 15 was a sharp lesson for Tampa Bay regarding just how much better it must get to compete with the NFC's best. However, Greg Schiano's schtick appears to be working after a rough start to the 2013 campaign, and there's no doubt the future's looking bright for the Buccaneers.
30. Atlanta Falcons
The bad news for Falcons fans is that Atlanta has been out of the playoff hunt since Week 1, thanks to devastating injuries on both sides of the ball.
The good news?
This team will get healthy again this offseason, and it'll also own one of the first picks of the 2014 NFL draft to land a premier rookie.
31. Washington Redskins
Owner Daniel Snyder has a tough decision to make at the conclusion of Washington's disastrous 2013 season. Mike Shanahan has no designs on resigning his position as head coach, as reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter, but his team has utterly collapsed this season:
Mike Shanahan will not resign from his job and would like to return to Washington next season as long as he can run team the way he wants.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 15, 2013
So, what's it gonna be?
Whoever leads Washington in 2014, he'll need to find a way to fix the team's tackle-allergic defense.
32. Houston Texans
Losers of 12 straight games, the Houston Texans have transformed from a Super Bowl contender into the league's worst team in front of our eyes in 2013.
It'll be interesting to see who the franchise brings on board to lead the team in 2014 after Gary Kubiak's tenure came to an end. It'll be just as interesting to see what the team does in response to the obvious need for a new quarterback.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78