NFL power rankings fluctuate from week to week. There is sure to be plenty of movement after Week 16, too, given the fact that there are still eight playoff spots and 16 teams fighting for them.
That said, there are a few teams from each conference that have established themselves as the undisputed best in the league heading into Week 16.
Here's a look at where every team stands after 15 phenomenal weeks of NFL action.
1. Seattle Seahawks
No team in the league can match Seattle's loaded roster. On offense, on defense and on special teams, the Seahawks have special players who put forth excellent efforts on a weekly basis. And at 12-2, there isn't a team that can match Seattle's record this year, making this an easy pick.
2. Denver Broncos
When Peyton Manning is on his game, the Denver Broncos are unbeatable.
Unfortunately, when Manning is even slightly off his game, Denver's defense isn't solid enough to keep teams from scoring.
It's crazy to think Manning can't put together a Joe Flacco-type playoff run to propel the Broncos to a title. He's already thrown 47 touchdowns this year, and nobody should be shocked if his offense rolls through the playoffs.
3. San Francisco 49ers
After a couple of rough patches in which they lost two games in a row, the San Francisco 49ers look like the second-best team in the NFC behind Seattle.
Michael Crabtree is back, and he caught his first touchdown pass during the team's impressive 33-14 road win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 15. His return to the lineup appears to have had a calming influence on young Colin Kaepernick, who has been phenomenal during the team's four-game winning streak.
Couple this with San Francisco's stifling defense and it's clear teams will need to play their best to beat the 49ers this January.
4. New Orleans Saints
The Saints got steamrolled by the St. Louis Rams in Week 15, but that loss—like the one in Seattle—doesn't define this team. As long as Drew Brees is on the field, the Saints are a formidable playoff team.
Run defense is an issue Rob Ryan needs to correct, however, before the playoffs, because both opposing teams were able to dominate the line of scrimmage in those losses.
Another area of concern is that Drew Brees isn't the same when Jimmy Graham is shut down. It'll be interesting to see how the Saints combat these two issues the rest of the way.
5. Kansas City Chiefs
The Jacksonville Jaguars have scored 221 points all year long.
The Kansas City Chiefs scored 101 points in the past two games. This offensive explosion, combined with the team's formidable defense, gives one faith that the Chiefs will win at least one playoff game in January—if not a few more.
6. Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton flopped in his first attempt this year at taking down the Saints in New Orleans. He'll have another chance to flip the script in Week 16 when the Panthers host their NFC South rivals, and nothing less than the divisional crown is on the line.
For his part, Newton is approaching this opportunity with nothing less than full focus, as reported by Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer:
If Newton can play within himself and the game plan, then the Panthers have the defense and running game to beat the Saints and take the NFC South lead with one game to play.
7. New England Patriots
Losing Rob Gronkowski hurts New England's chances of winning a Super Bowl, to be sure.
However, we've seen Tom Brady work miracles in the past, and Bill Belichick is a master at scheming up a winning formula for his defense.
8. Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis' roller-coaster season is a bit unnerving when evaluating this team's chances of going deep in the postseason. The recent huge losses to St. Louis, Arizona and Cincinnati are troublesome, but at the same time the Colts have taken down the likes of San Francisco, Seattle and Denver this season, too.
The upcoming game against Kansas City will be telling about what we should expect from the AFC South champs.
9. Chicago Bears
Offense isn't a problem for the Chicago Bears under rookie head coach Marc Trestman—a noted quarterback guru. Defense, on the other hand, has been and will continue to be an issue the rest of the season and into the playoffs—if the Bears make it in.
10. Cincinnati Bengals
Like the Colts, Marvin Lewis' Cincinnati Bengals have shown two faces this season. When the Bengals are sharp, they're hard to beat, but when they show up flat, they tend to get blown out. Still, this 9-5 team is in control of its own destiny heading into the final two weeks, with a huge showdown against Baltimore on the slate in Week 17.
11. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals have won six of seven games, but the final two weekends of the season will truly define this team. With the team on the road in Seattle in Week 16 and back home again to host the 49ers, Arizona's playoff hopes hinge on beating the odds.
12. Baltimore Ravens
Justin Tucker for MVP?
The stalwart Baltimore kicker stuffed six of six attempts during Monday night's game against Detroit in Week 15, including a 61-yard game-winner with 38 seconds left to play.
Even better, but much less discussed, is the fact that Baltimore's defense held Detroit's offense to just two touchdowns and a field goal, allowing an impressive 5.5 yards per play. Detroit is explosive at home, and the fact that the Ravens were able to win on six field goals is truly impressive.
13. Philadelphia Eagles
Watching the Minnesota Vikings drop 48 points on Philadelphia wasn't what Eagles fans wanted to see in Week 15, but Philly's defense has actually been pretty darn impressive of late, as pointed out by Peter King of the MMQB:
"Some alarming failures on defense, but it’s the same D that allowed 21 or fewer in the previous nine games. Lucky for the Eagles, Dallas was Dallas Sunday."
The Eagles are still a game ahead of Dallas in the NFC East. They'll host Chicago in Week 16 and then travel to Dallas to finish the season against their hated rival.
14. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins have a chance to sneak into the playoffs with two more wins. Baltimore will face New England and Cincinnati to close out the season, while Miami has a slightly easier road against Buffalo and the New York Jets.
Joe Philbin has been phenomenal leading the Dolphins this year, and Ryan Tannehill continues to shine behind center.
15. Green Bay Packers
After winning two games in a row to get to 7-6-1 on the season, Green Bay finds itself just one-half game behind Chicago for the NFC North crown.
If Aaron Rodgers can get cleared to play, then the Packers could sneak into the playoffs and make a deep run, given the right circumstances.
16. Detroit Lions
Jim Schwartz was reportedly put on the hot seat before Week 15's devastating loss to the Ravens, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported.
After the loss, that hot seat couldn't be any hotter.
The Lions feature one of the league's most talented offenses and defensive fronts, and the team's payroll is the league's highest, as Tom Pelissero of USA Today pointed out on Tuesday, Dec. 17:
One more loss will likely seal his fate.
17. San Diego Chargers
It's hard not to root for Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers to somehow sneak into the playoffs. The level of enthusiasm the quarterback brings to each and every game is inspiring. He's also a tremendous quarterback.
That said, San Diego's defense has been atrocious this year, and it's highly unlikely the Chargers will get in.
18. St. Louis Rams
There was a bit too much hype surrounding the Rams during the preseason. However, after this team's impressive recent showings against Indianapolis, Chicago and New Orleans, it's clear St. Louis has the pieces in place to make an impressive run in the years to come.
19. Dallas Cowboys
Jerry Jones is the best salesman in the world—when it comes to selling ideas to himself.
Unfortunately, it's crystal clear to everyone outside the Dallas Cowboys organization that this team is a complete train wreck.
And it starts at the top—it starts with Jerry.
Despite the overall dysfunction of the franchise (which is formidable), Dallas has a shot to get into the playoffs, as detailed by Judy Battista in a report for NFL.com, who adds out a salient point about the team's status:
The Cowboys, incredibly, still have a chance to win the division, owing to the weakness of the NFC East, but they can't allow that to delude them this offseason into thinking that they are among the league's best teams. They are far from that, and other than Romo -- whose massive contract has conferred untouchability on him -- nobody should feel safe.
20. New York Jets
Rex Ryan has done a good enough job with the talent on his roster to maintain his status as head coach of the New York Jets. That's bad news for this team, because as long as Ryan is in charge, New York's offense will struggle.
21. Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger won't be mentioned among the top men in line for the NFL's MVP Award, but he deserves to be after the job he's done leading Pittsburgh's injury-ridden offense in 2013. At 6-8, the Steelers still have an outside chance to make the playoffs, which is really remarkable after the team opened the season with a record of 2-6.
22. Minnesota Vikings
Don't buy into Matt Cassel, Rick Spielman. Just ask Scott Pioli how that went for him and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Vikings desperately need to bite the bullet and draft another quarterback with a top pick—despite the fact that Christian Ponder was taken in the first round just three years ago.
23. Buffalo Bills
If quarterback EJ Manuel can stay healthy, and if the Bills bring in a talented tight end and another receiver, then Buffalo will have an explosive, balanced offense for years to come. The team's defense has been feisty the past two years, and a couple more savvy draft picks like Kiko Alonso will keep things headed in the right direction.
24. Tennessee Titans
Head coach Mike Munchak needs to go.
Tennessee needs to start from scratch, bringing in an entire new front office and coaching staff to rebuild this franchise. As it stands right now, the best the Titans can hope for is to lose close games.
25. New York Giants
Speaking of teams that need to start from scratch, add the New York Giants to that list.
Head coach Tom Coughlin likely isn't headed anywhere, however, given the amount of stock he gained with the organization by winning two Super Bowls.
There shouldn't be any doubt about general manager Jerry Reese being canned, though. He's completely failed in his recent attempts to build a championship roster, and there aren't many teams in the league in worse shape from a talent perspective.
26. Cleveland Browns
Featuring one of the most impressive young defenses in the league and one of the top young offensive playmakers in Josh Gordon, Cleveland is an elite quarterback away from becoming a top-tier team in the AFC. You can be sure general manager Michael Lombardi and his scouting department will be working overtime to find the right guy for Norv Turner's system in the 2014 NFL draft.
27. Oakland Raiders
After an impressive (relatively) start to the 2013 season, the Oakland Raiders have tanked recently, losing four games in a row and six of their last seven.
Clearly, this team still has a long, long way to go before it will compete for a playoff spot. The biggest step will be finding a franchise quarterback to build around.
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After losing eight straight games to open up the 2013 season, Tampa Bay has become quite formidable in the second half, winning four of six games. Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon has been fearless and effective since taking over for Josh Freeman early in the year, and he appears to be someone the Bucs can build around for the future.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
It only took three years for Jacksonville to figure out Blaine Gabbert isn't a starting-caliber quarterback in the NFL. Like Oakland, Cleveland, Minnesota and other teams, the Jaguars will likely consider drafting a signal-caller in the first round.
If the team lands a winner, then you can be sure it will be competitive. Head coach Gus Bradley, who was Seattle's defensive coordinator before coming over, will have his defense playing well in the years to come.
30. Atlanta Falcons
Week 16's Monday Night Football game featuring Atlanta in San Francisco was supposed to be a big deal, considering both teams made it to the NFC Championship Game last season. However, the 49ers have continued playing outstanding football, while the Falcons have become one of the NFL's worst teams.
Injuries and a lack of depth crippled this team early, and it never recovered.
31. Washington Redskins
RGIII hasn't been red hot this year, and Washington's defense has been so bad most of the time that Morris hasn't been utilized as often as the team would like.
With Washington at 3-13, there's only one team in the league worse than it heading into Week 16.
32. Houston Texans
The 2-12 record of the Houston Texans speaks for itself. But the 12 losses in a row makes an even more compelling statement about how this team has played this season—especially when you consider the two wins came in thrilling fashion at the end of games.
Incredibly, after winning the AFC South last year with a 12-4 record, Houston is the league's worst team in 2013.
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