NFL Power Rankings: Updated Standings Heading Toward 2014 Super Bowl

David Daniels@TheRealDDanielsSenior Writer IJanuary 20, 2014

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) passes the ball during the second half of the AFC Championship NFL playoff football game against the New England Patriots in Denver, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)
Joe Mahoney/Associated Press

Just the hearts of two teams remain beating in NFL power rankings.

The Seattle Seahawks defeated the San Francisco 49ers by the score of 23-17, and the Denver Broncos beat the New England Patriots 26-16.

At the conclusion of the NFC and AFC Championships, here are updated power rankings.

32. Houston Texans (2-14)

Houston entered Week 3 undefeated and with Super Bowl aspirations. It entered conference-championship Sunday racking its brain whether to select Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel or Jadeveon Clowney first overall.

31. Washington Redskins (3-13)

Washington's postseason expectations dwindled even before Houston's. In one season, it digressed from having a Super Bowl-winning head coach and the NFL's most exciting player at QB to firing the coach and having the QB's maturity being questioned.

30. Cleveland Browns (4-12)

Injuries forced an already untalented Cleveland offense to start three different quarterbacks this season. Apparently Rob Chudzinski injured Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer, because the Browns fired the head coach after just one season calling the shots.

29. Oakland Raiders (4-12)

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Oakland failed to win back-to-back games this season and finished the year on a six-game losing streak. Even more disheartening is the fact it still has no idea if Terrelle Pryor, Matt McGloin or a future draft pick is its future at QB.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12)

Four wins over the span of five weeks after starting the season 0-8 may have erased Jacksonville's opportunity to draft its favorite prospect this April. However, those four wins proved its roster isn't completely incompetent.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12)

Tampa Bay also had a Jacksonville-like, four-win-in-five-week spurt of competitiveness this season. Unlike the Jaguars, though, it identified a gunslinger on its roster with the potential to be its franchise quarterback, Mike Glennon—even if the odds are against him.

26. Atlanta Falcons (4-12)

Dave Martin/Associated Press

Atlanta lost as many games this year as it had in the previous three regular seasons combined. It's also the first time in the Matt Ryan-era it finished with a losing record.

25. Minnesota Vikings (5-10-1)

Adrian Peterson will turn 29 years old in March. If Minnesota whiffs again on acquiring a franchise QB this offseason, it may have all but wasted a chance to ride one of the greatest halfbacks of all time to a Super Bowl victory.

24. Buffalo Bills (6-10)

Four of Buffalo's 10 losses were decided by seven points or less, despite EJ Manuel missing six games due to injury. It's a competitive club that's one strong offseason and a healthy core away from playoff contention.

23. Detroit Lions (7-9)

This was Detroit's year. Injuries to Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler seemingly gift-wrapped the NFC North Crown for the Lions, but Jim Schwartz earned his firing by losing six of their last seven games.

22. St. Louis Rams (7-9)

Sam Bradford's torn ACL in Week 7 signaled an end to the Rams' 2013 playoff dreams. In his absence, though, two promising weapons emerged on St. Louis' mediocre offense—Zac Stacy and Tavon Austin.

21. New York Giants (7-9)

Eli Manning didn't look like an elite QB in 2013. He threw 27 interceptions compared to just 18 touchdowns, casting a cloud over the Giants' future at the position.

20. Tennessee Titans (7-9)

Speaking of a cloudy future, Chris Johnson may have played his last season in Tennessee, and the Titans continue to lack a face of the franchise at QB. They were the first team to lose to Jacksonville and one of the only two teams that lost to Houston.

19. Miami Dolphins (8-8)

Riding a three-game winning streak into Week 16 after upsetting the New England Patriots, Miami just had to defeat one of its two other AFC East rivals to earn a playoff berth. It dropped both games, scoring a combined seven points, reaffirming major offensive weaknesses that it must address this offseason.

18. Baltimore Ravens (8-8)

Joe Flacco didn't look like an elite QB in 2013. He didn't play as poorly as Eli Manning, but a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 19-to-22 is unacceptable, especially after signing a $120.6 million contract.

17. Dallas Cowboys (8-8)

Evan Vucci/Associated Press

One win away from an NFC East title, Dallas couldn't overcome Tony Romo's injury that forced Kyle Orton into action. Romo impressed statistically, throwing for 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, but he'll continue to be questioned after the Cowboys' fourth straight campaign without a winning season.

16. Chicago Bears (8-8)

There may not be a better RB-WR trio than Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. For the first time in a long time, Chicago's defense—ranked No. 30 in the NFL in points allowed—held back its offense on a playoff run that fell just short.

15. New York Jets (8-8)

New York lost to the Titans, Steelers, Bengals, Bills, Ravens and Dolphins by a total of 137 points (that's over 22 points a loss). The Jets having glaring weaknesses, but once they're filled, the franchise's impressive ability to find a way to win will pay off.

14. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)

Don Wright/Associated Press

After an 0-4 start, Pittsburgh nearly sneaked into the playoffs. An injection of youth is a much-needed addition to its defense, but the Steelers proved that they'll remain competitive while rebuilding.

13. Arizona Cardinals (10-6)

Arizona exceeded expectations this year, earning its first 10-win season since 2009 and nearly earning a playoff berth. Its one strong offseason away from competing for a Super Bowl once again.

12. Cincinnati Bengals (11-6)

Andy Dalton's inconsistency should be a tad terrifying for Cincinnati. While he finished with a passer rating over 105.0 in six games this season, he also failed to finish with a passer rating higher than 67.0 in six other games.

11. Green Bay Packers (9-7-1)

Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

Green Bay's offense is so talented that it managed to average nearly 30 points a game in Weeks 14-16 without Rodgers. It's a defense away from being a Super Bowl favorite.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (10-7)

Philadelphia's season didn't end the way it would've liked after it finished the regular season by winning seven games in eight weeks. However, Nick Foles' development into a star, along with the effective transition of Chip Kelly's offense, has given the franchise much reason for optimism. 

9. Kansas City Chiefs (11-6)

Kansas City lost six of its final eight games. As impressive as its turnaround from pitiful to competitive was, it remained one offseason away from being a true title contender.

8. Indianapolis Colts (12-6)

Indianapolis overachieved more than any team in the NFL this season thanks to Andrew Luck. Its regular-season record didn't improve from the previous year, but progression was apparent—though major holes remain.

7. San Diego Chargers (10-8)

San Diego, the other team that found a way to lose to Houston, entered the division round of the playoffs riding a five-game winning streak. It will never make it past Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, though, with a pass defense ranked No. 29 in the NFL in yards allowed.

6. Carolina Panthers (12-5)

Carolina won 11 of its last 12 regular-season games. It may have disappointed in the playoffs, but—with Cam Newton under center—its future is bright.

5. New Orleans Saints (12-6)

New Orleans knows as well as any team in the NFL how much home-field advantage means to Seattle. It visited CenturyLink Field twice this season and fell each time, leaving the Saints wondering if their fate would've differed had they played two Saturdays ago in the Superdome.

4. New England Patriots (13-5)

Denver's supposedly mediocre defense, ranked 22nd in points allowed in the regular season, held New England to three points through the first three quarters of the AFC Championship. By the fourth, the lead that Peyton Manning built was too great for Tom Brady to ignite a comeback.

3. San Francisco 49ers (12-5)

Colin Kaepernick was well on his way to leading the 49ers to a go-ahead, game-winning touchdown to send San Francisco to its second straight Super Bowl. Then Richard Sherman deflected a pass into Malcolm Smith's hands for the game-clinching interception.

2. Seattle Seahawks (14-3) 

In a defensive battle, Russell Wilson did what Kaepernick could not—protect the football. Marshawn Lynch, though, who rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown against the 49ers' fourth-ranked run defense, was arguably the best offensive weapon in the championship.

1. Denver Broncos (15-3)

Seattle should hate how Denver won its last two games. Not only do the Broncos have the best offense in NFL history but its defense—which held both the Patriots and Chargers under 20 points—has been their driving force this postseason.

David Daniels is a breaking news writer for Bleacher Report and news editor for Wade-O Radio.

Follow @TheRealDDaniels


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