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Chris Simms' NFL Power Rankings Ahead of Week 13

Chris SimmsNFL Lead AnalystNovember 28, 2016

Chris Simms' NFL Power Rankings Ahead of Week 13

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Everything changed the moment Cadillac Williams became my teammate. 

    For starters, Jon Gruden's offense became a lot more competitive. Receivers and tight ends knew that if they didn't produce when their numbers were called, those touches were going to Cadillac on the next drive.

    The offense itself changed. Gruden came from the famous Bill Walsh coaching tree; the man loved his short throws and timing patterns. He could now deploy both against defenses that had to protect against big Williams runs.

    Lastly—and I can't stress the importance of this enough—it gave our defense time to catch its breath. We could maximize older stars like John Lynch and Derrick Brooks because they didn't need to make as many stops on the field. That sure came in handy when they had to chase a guy like Mike Vick around for four quarters.

    All three things are happening down in Dallas this season. Ezekiel Elliott's emergence doesn't impact the run game and the run game alone; all 53 active players have reaped the benefits during the 10-game winning streak. That's why Dak Prescott can start as a rookie and Dez Bryant still gets single-covered on Thanksgiving. And that's why you'll find the Cowboys in their rightful spot in my latest power rankings.

32. Cleveland Browns

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Current record: 0-12

    Last week: 32 (same)

    I've called for Josh McCown to lead the winless Browns for weeks.

    You saw why in Week 12. McCown isn't Tom Brady, but he gives Cleveland its greatest chance to win one (one!) game in 2016. Some of the downfield throws he made to Terrelle Pryor and Corey Coleman on Sunday confirm that.

    If only Cleveland's offensive line played at that same level. New York's pass rush nailed down seven sacks and rattled McCown enough to force the game-turning fumble returned for a touchdown by Jason Pierre-Paul. That should be a priority for coach Hue Jackson in free agency and the draft.

    Looking forward: Bye week has opened up as a 2.5-point favorite over the Browns in Vegas.

31. San Francisco 49ers

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Current record: 1-10

    Last week: 31 (same)

    Colin Kaepernick might need to hit career highs in the next few weeks to ensure he's quarterbacking next season.

    Sunday was a good start. His next employer will like what he did against the Dolphins (nearly 300 yards passing, 113 yards rushing). It won't enjoy the off-field controversy/attention that comes with him.

    The rest of this 49ers roster gives talent evaluators enough reason for wholesale change. For instance, a second-quarter catch from Garrett Celek could've sparked a Niners drive. He fumbled the ball away instead (no team has more fumbles than San Francisco), and 11 plays later, Miami found the end zone. That can't happen to a team that lacks so much talent.

    Looking forward: San Francisco hung tough on the road last weekend. Do that again in Chicago and a second win is possible.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

    Current record: 2-9

    Last week: 30 (same)

    I had some reservations about Blake Bortles' ability to go up to Buffalo and throw in the wind.

    That's not how Bortles Bortles'd the Jaguars this week. He actually posted a decent road performance (13-of-26 with two touchdowns and no picks) against a very good Bills defense. Then, he threw in a typical mindless mistake.

    Bortles couldn't get the snap off on fourth down on what proved to be Jacksonville's game-deciding drive. Just like that, all that Gus Bradley's team accomplished—be it Malik Jackson's two sacks or Marqise Lee’s second touchdown in two weeks—went up in smoke.

    Same goes for the Jags' run defense. It bottled up LeSean McCoy for 30 minutes, only to surrender a 75-yard run right out of the halftime locker room.

    Looking forward: I feel bad for Gus Bradley. He'll probably land on his feet with a new team next year. But first...the Broncos.

29. Chicago Bears

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Current record: 2-9

    Last week: 28 (-1)

    Matt Barkley did everything he could to win Chicago its third game of the year.

    He even threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Josh Bellamy—until the receiver dropped it.

    But the mere fact Barkley got the start is an issue for the Bears. He's technically a fourth-stringer behind the injured Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer and Connor Shaw. That situation is the norm on a roster dotted with more substitutes and reserves than anyone.

    Despite Barkley's heroics and another big game from Jordan Howard, this team looks like it's going in reverse. Changes are imminent.

    Looking forward: Wonder what's more important to Chicago: a meaningless late-season win over San Francisco or a better position from which to draft a quarterback? We'll soon find out.

28. New York Jets

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Current record: 3-8

    Last week: 29 (+1)

    There's no denying Ryan Fitzpatrick makes his team a more competitive one.

    Is that the route Gang Green wants to take? A loss Sunday against their bitter rivals sets Fitzpatrick and Co. back to 3-8.

    It's all about 2017 now—and the signs aren't terrible if Week 12 is a barometer.

    The defense didn't sack Tom Brady, but it hurried him. It held New England to a 4-of-14 conversion rate on third down. And Quincy Enunwa averaged over 21 yards per catch.

    Todd Bowles might be hesitant to fully embrace the future and turn to Bryce Petty/Christian Hackenberg, though. After all, Bowles might not be a part of any future plans.

    Looking forward: All my rowdy friends are ready for...Colts-Jets! Oh.

27. Los Angeles Rams

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Current record: 4-7

    Last week: 27 (same)

    Most defenses assign each lineman a gap that he needs to patrol and a spot he needs to man.

    L.A. isn't one of them. As I mentioned long ago, its motto is to unleash guys like Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn—let them go wherever they'd like—and worry about the rest later.

    That's all well and good until you face a play-caller like Sean Payton. Until he draws up quick screens and pop passes to prey on the linebackers behind Donald and Co. And until Tim Hightower or Mark Ingram exposes a gap one lineman neglected and bursts into the second level untouched.

    This Rams team isn't suffering from a lack of talent. Hell, even Jared Goff had his moments. It just needs a new direction, scheme-wise.

    Looking forward: Jared Goff should stand right on the sideline and watch Tom Brady do his thing this week. That'll teach him more than a film session ever could.

26. Arizona Cardinals

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Current record: 4-6-1

    Last week: 24 (-2)

    Want to know the surefire sign of a bad team?

    Just look at the trenches. If five offensive linemen can't consistently block three or four pass-rushers, there's a problem. I'm looking at you, Arizona.

    Defensive issues persist as well. Patrick Peterson gave Falcons drives new life with two interference calls. D.J. Swearinger dropped a pick, and the Falcons scored soon thereafter. And Calais Campbell (who was dominant all afternoon) let Atlanta put the frosting on the blowout cake by jumping offside on a punt.

    David Johnson is about the only watchable part of this team in 2016. Everything else stinks.

    Looking forward: The Cardinals passing game gets to see what it could've been. Washington's in town.

25. Carolina Panthers

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    Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

    Current record: 4-7

    Last week: 22 (-3)

    All of Carolina's blocking issues should've been exposed in 2015.

    Instead, Cam Newton masked them by playing an MVP caliber of quarterback. But those issues—from left tackle play to depth issues to a lack of any push on the right side—stuck around in time to sink the Panthers this season.

    Khalil Mack's two game-changing plays prove this Panthers offense isn't ready to make a 2015-like move. Mack blew by Trai Turner and Mike Remmers twice, first on an interception he returned for a touchdown and again on a game-ending strip sack.

    Last year's team might've game-planned around a force like Mack. This year's just had its season ruined by one.

    Looking forward: Man, Panthers-Seahawks looked really good before the season started. Now there's nothing at stake for Carolina.

24. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Current record: 3-7-1

    Last week: 26 (+2)

    I don't blame Marvin Lewis' team for taking a step back in 2016.

    Making the NFL's second season is really, really hard. Particularly in a division with the Steelers and Ravens. Even more so with all the coordinator turnover in Cincinnati.

    With that said, the Bengals weren't very competitive. The offensive line was shaky even before a botched snap that hit Andy Dalton right in the chest. And just as I predicted, the post-A.J. Green hangover was real. Dalton really missed a downfield target against Baltimore's susceptible secondary.

    Looking forward: Who loves six-yard throws? Philadelphia-Cincinnati is the game for you.

23. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Current record: 5-6

    Last week: 13 (-10)

    Jim Schwartz's defense got Aaron Rodgers'd.

    There's no other way to put it. Green Bay's all-everything quarterback read the Eagles like a book. If they gave his receivers too much respect on the outside, Rodgers rifled a pass off in milliseconds. If he saw man, Rodgers scrambled around and bided his time. There's no right way to defend him, and Schwartz was burned.

    One high Carson Wentz throw burned the offense in similar fashion. Philadelphia's rookie passer was on a roll until he misfired on a pass to Zach Ertz…into the waiting arms of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Tough break, kid.

    On a night Wentz needed to match Rodgers throw for throw, that pick sealed the deal. Philadelphia's path to the playoffs looks messy and treacherous now—hence the precipitous 10-spot drop in my rankings.

    Looking forward: Two offenses without much firepower. Two talented but chronically underachieving defenses. Week 13's Eagles-Bengals bout will be like looking into a mirror.

22. Green Bay Packers

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Current record: 5-6

    Last week: 25 (+3)

    R-E-L-A-X.

    Aaron Rodgers has seen it all during his reign atop the NFL's quarterbacking kingdom. A four-game losing streak and a tough Eagles front brought the same calm, cool reaction out of No. 12. He delivered footballs quickly and accurately in a surgical Monday night game.

    Rodgers gave Green Bay enough of a cushion to play downhill defense. With a lead, coordinator Dom Capers could empty his playbook of pressures and coverages. Anyone who thinks Green Bay is completely out of it should look at what Carson Wentz accomplished in the second half (hint: not much).

    Looking forward: Davante Adams got open. Green Bay's line held up in protection. Let's see if both pull off repeat performances against Houston's defense, though.

21. New Orleans Saints

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Current record: 5-6

    Last week: 23 (+2)

    Sean Payton envisioned a different kind of offense when he dealt his top touchdown-maker for a big, bad blocker.

    This is that offense. Drew Brees (four touchdown passes) is the driver, but the running game is the engine. New Orleans' 555-yard output wouldn't be possible without its line play and a dominant running game. Mark Ingram (146 rushing yards, two total touchdowns) ran like a man who doesn't want to be benched again.

    While Brees and Co. figured out a reimagined offense, New Orleans has quietly built a defense. Its talent is undeniably better than years past; Jared Goff managed only eight completions in the second half.

    Looking forward: Pass defenses say home. It's a Drew Brees-Matthew Stafford showdown in Week 13.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Current record: 6-5

    Last week: 21 (+1)

    The NFL's "Siegfried and Roy" duo did it again.

    That's the name I've applied to Tampa's Jameis Winston-Mike Evans combo. Those two can come right at the teeth of a defense like Seattle's and somehow, some way, emerge unscathed.

    Evans caught two Winston touchdowns in the first quarter alone. More importantly, he set the tone of what would be Week 12's most impressive victory; Evans outmuscled Richard Sherman on a 50-50 ball and announced Tampa Bay wouldn't be physically dominated by anyone, even the Seahawks.

    And it wasn't. Doug Martin rushed 23 times for a necessary 87 yards. The defense (especially Noah Spence) applied heat right in Russell Wilson's face. Alterraun Verner and Bradley McDougald even outworked Seahawks receivers to the football for picks.

    Not a bad job by "Siegfried and Roy." And not a bad job by their team, which is only a game back in the division.

    Looking ahead: Tampa Bay faces a much different passing game in San Diego. Can its secondary still hold up?

19. Minnesota Vikings

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Current record: 6-5

    Last week: 18 (-1)

    Excuse me for sounding like a broken record here.

    It's just that Minnesota's offense is broken. Sam Bradford and Co. are too reliant on short-to-intermediate crossing routes. If I know that, so do defenders like Darius Slay, who jumped one on a game-deciding interception.

    For all its late-game struggles against Matthew Stafford, this Vikings defense is still surrendering only 17.5 points a game.

    That points right back to the offense. When push came to shove in the fourth quarter, Minnesota only picked up 10 yards on four third-down tries. Conversely, the Lions picked up 46.

    Looking forward: You better believe Mike Zimmer is coming after Dak Prescott. Whether or not his defense gets there is another question.

18. San Diego Chargers

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    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    Current record: 5-6

    Last week: 20 (+2)

    Houston's defense boasts Jadeveon Clowney and about four secondary players who would scare any quarterback.

    But it wasn't the best one on the field in Week 12. Coordinator John Pagano's group forced four Texans turnovers and was downright stifling for 60 minutes.

    Who led the Chargers' defensive charge? A rookie. Joey Bosa was a white-and-blue blur and made Brock Osweiler's life hell as a pocket passer. The stronger-than-you-think run defense held Lamar Miller to 57 ground yards too. Philip Rivers will win with that kind of defensive output 99 times out of 100.

    Looking forward: Philip Rivers shouldn't underestimate Tampa's defense. They're one of the hottest groups in football right now.

17. Tennessee Titans

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Current record: 6-6

    Last week: 19 (+2)

    Like Oakland from last year or Cincinnati a few years ago, this Titans team doesn't know how to put teams away just yet. It needed a dropped touchdown pass to squeak by the Bears, for crying out loud.

    The good news? Tennessee might still make the playoffs in 2016. Marcus Mariota's eighth straight multi-touchdown game has his team within half a game of the AFC South summit.

    I'll ignore some glaring deficiencies (no sacks, blown coverages, only eight carries for Derrick Henry) for now. Tennessee is on the arrow up with a shot to play postseason ball.

    Looking forward: Tennessee's playoff fate will be decided over the next four games. But first, a late bye week.

16. Indianapolis Colts

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Current record: 5-6

    Last week: 17 (+1)

    Every week, I use this space as a sounding board for how Andrew Luck-centric the Colts are.

    So hats off to Indianapolis. Thanksgiving's third game looked like a blowout in the box score, but it was close for almost three quarters. It turned out Scott Tolzien was more Luck-y than lucky.

    Tolzien played admirably in relief of Indy's QB1. The rest of his offensive teammates hardly held up their end, though. Between drops (Phillip Dorsett and T.Y. Hilton could've scored) and coaching decisions (Chuck Pagano's two 4th-and-goal attempts), Tolzien wasn't helped out.

    The same could be said for the Colts defense. It wasn't the same from the moment Vontae Davis left the game and struggled to defend both Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell.

    Looking forward: Andrew Luck is expected to suit up Monday night. That's bad news for the aging Jets secondary.

15. Buffalo Bills

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    Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

    Current record: 6-5

    Last week: 15 (same)

    We know Buffalo is a second-half team, but c'mon.

    A full 60-minute performance has eluded Rex Ryan's team in 2016. Come playoff time, LeSean McCoy (75-yard run to start the second half) and Sammy Watkins (62-yard catch) won't be available to bail the Bills out.

    In fact, they might not be available at all. Buffalo kept a team quarterbacked by Blake Bortles competitive. It couldn't keep a team quarterbacked by Blake Bortles off the scoreboard when it reached the red zone. It might not have what it takes to make the playoff cut against more competent passers.

    Looking forward: LeSean McCoy and the Bills' ball-control attack? Meet Derek Carr and Oakland's high-wire act. This oughta be fun.

14. Houston Texans

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Current record: 6-5

    Last week: 11 (-3)

    At this point, the Texans will take a not-godawful performance out of Brock Osweiler.

    Anything short of a stinker might've saved Houston's hopes in Week 12. Instead, the man once tabbed to lead Houston's offense fully into the next era tossed two horrific interceptions (and one on a Hail Mary attempt at the end).

    The offensive issues start at quarterback, but they don't end there. Lamar Miller had nowhere to run (57 yards on 19 carries) against San Diego's front and fumbled. His line couldn't contain Joey Bosa whatsoever.

    It's no wonder Houston's lead in the AFC South has nearly evaporated. It can't put points up.

    Looking forward: Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers in back-to-back weeks. The schedule-makers must be Colts fans.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Current record: 6-5

    Last week: 16 (+3)

    I'm officially redacting my previous statements on Le'Veon Bell's lack of explosion.

    He's exploding just fine these days. After all, the Steelers star has carried the football 51 carries the past two weeks. He's averaging 5.2 yards per carry in that span.

    His latest masterpiece? A 120-yard rushing game in Indianapolis that was both surgical and eye-opening. Bell is showing the ability to separate in a footrace with defenders; we haven't seen that since before his knee injury.

    So is Antonio Brown, whose three-touchdown performance should scare the pants off the rest of the AFC. Pittsburgh's offense is peaking at the right time.

    Looking forward: Pittsburgh's offense is back, you say? I want to see them block the Giants up before I agree.

12. Baltimore Ravens

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Current record: 6-5

    Last week: 14 (+2)

    Cincinnati had no business losing by one score in Week 12.

    By the way it played, it could've easily been a 10- or 20-point blowout. These Ravens haven't won like that at any point in 2016. But I have to hand it to them—they just win.

    Ravens fans can pin their playoff hopes on two promising factors. First, Joe Flacco's downfield passing looked much improved to different targets. Steve Smith Sr. isn't the only big-play threat; Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman both contributed head-turning catches.

    The pass rush is second. Terrell Suggs notched two sacks and forced two fumbles. Elvis Dumervil recovered a fumble and strip-sacked Andy Dalton to seal a win. Those two need to keep it up to maintain Baltimore's spot on top of the division.

    Looking forward: Suggs and Dumervil face another banged-up line against Miami. Time to feast, fellas.

11. Detroit Lions

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Current record: 7-4

    Last week: 12 (+1)

    It's now a surprise if the Lions don't mount an epic last-second comeback.

    Just ask the Vikings. They've been bested by two of Matthew Stafford's frenetic fourth-quarter drives in three weeks and have relinquished control of the division as a result.

    The first-place Lions aren't perfect. Stafford directs the league's most one-dimensional offense, with zero threat of a running game. The Lions also give up too many easy throws underneath.

    But they get to enough of those throws, too. With less than a minute remaining and the game tied at 13, Darius Slay jumped Sam Bradford's throw to Adam Thielen and gave Detroit a chance to sweep its NFC North rivals. That turnover could wind up turning a roller-coaster season into a playoff berth.

    Looking forward: Detroit's pass rush is getting healthy at the right time. It needs to apply some kind of pressure on Drew Brees this week, or else.

10. Miami Dolphins

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    Eric Espada/Getty Images

    Current record: 7-4

    Last week: 10 (same)

    No Branden Albert. No Mike Pouncey. No Laremy Tunsil.

    No problem.

    This Dolphins team doesn't use offensive line injuries as an excuse. The remaining linemen just paved the way for a 358-yard afternoon against a desperate 49ers club.

    It did so in uncharacteristic fashion. Jay Ajayi rushed for 45 yards—not nearly enough to carry Miami as he had in past weeks. It came down to Ryan Tannehill to connect on "wow" throws, and he did. A second-quarter pass to Dion Sims and a third-quarter throw to Kenny Stills both fell in that category.

    The defense took it from there. Kiko Alonso notched 12 tackles and a big pick. Ndamukong Suh stopped Colin Kaepernick on the game's last play. I'm impressed.

    Looking forward: It's been tough sledding for Ajayi of late. It gets even tougher this week against the run-stuffing Ravens.

9. Washington Redskins

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Current record: 6-4-1

    Last week: 7 (-2)

    Kirk Cousins showed the Redskins enough when he outdueled Aaron Rodgers in Week 11.

    If the team brass isn't sold after Thanksgiving, I'm not sure it'll ever be. Cousins dropped 449 yards on one of the more technically sound defenses in football. His play kept Washington close against Dallas.

    A few missed field goals and Washington's defensive play had the opposite effect. Josh Norman won't ever be the lockdown cornerback his paycheck implies, but Dez Bryant turned him around in coverage long before the two traded blows.

    Without a running game, Cousins couldn't compensate for his defense. That's what it'll take to rank his team up there with the top NFC power.

    Looking forward: Washington stole Arizona's mantle as the NFC's big-play offense. It can also steal Arizona's dimming playoff hopes.

8. Seattle Seahawks

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    Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

    Current record: 7-3-1

    Last week: 4 (-4)

    A few weeks of on-point play was nearly enough to make me forget about Seattle's offensive shortcomings. "Nearly" is the operative word.

    It all came rushing back to me in one road game. Russell Wilson and Co. reverted to Week 2 levels, when receivers were covered and tackles couldn't block. Wilson couldn't manage any magic with defenders lunging at him.

    The defense was somehow more disappointing. Tampa Bay's offensive line isn't a brick wall; Seattle could've and should've nabbed more sacks. And even without Earl Thomas, it should've notched more than one Jameis Winston interception, especially with so many throws going Mike Evans' way.

    Looking forward: Seahawks fans better hope what they saw against Tampa Bay was just a speed bump. If it's the new normal, Carolina will pose an upset threat.

7. Denver Broncos

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Current record: 7-4

    Last week: 6 (-1)

    Trevor Siemian was too good against a tough Chiefs defense to let his team linger on the playoff ropes for long.

    But after losing to the Chiefs, Denver is on the playoff ropes. It committed uncharacteristic mistakes—a fumbled punt return, a surrendered safety and coach Gary Kubiak's overtime decision to try a 62-yard field goal—and now sits on the outside of the tight AFC West race.

    The biggest concern? Denver's defense showed more signs of mortality in crunch time. A 13-play, 75-yard game-tying drive shouldn't happen to a team that has Von Miller. Demetrius Harris manhandled his defender on the ensuring two-point conversion; it's usually the other way around in terms of physicality.

    Looking forward: Think Denver's defense is excited to play Blake Bortles this weekend? Me too.

6. Atlanta Falcons

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Current record: 7-4

    Last week: 9 (+3)

    A bye week did wonders for Atlanta's complexion.

    Gone were the ugly scars left behind by a road loss to the Eagles. Dan Quinn's team looked fresh, played fast and out-Cardinals'd the Cardinals.

    That is to say Atlanta leveraged its speed and big-play ability on both sides of the football. On offense, Taylor Gabriel (two touchdowns) emerged as Matt Ryan's third receiving option. The Browns castoff gives coordinator Kyle Shanahan an added dimension in both the downfield passing and screen games; Arizona couldn't stay in front of him.

    Defensively, Atlanta matched speed with speed. The Keanu Neal-De'Vondre Campbell-Deion Jones trio is as dangerous and fast as they come. And Arizona found few chunk throws downfield, even though Atlanta was without the services of top cornerback Desmond Trufant.

    Looking forward: Atlanta can't let up in the NFC South race. But Kansas City is coming to town for a tough home game.

5. New York Giants

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Current record: 8-3

    Last week: 5 (same)

    Frustrated by New York's offense? Join the club.

    A team that features so many weapons shouldn't struggle to score against a talent-poor Browns club. Eli Manning didn't look sharp.

    Here's where I credit Big Blue, though. It did everything in its power to get Odell Beckham Jr. the football—even on punt returns—because it knew it had a talent/speed advantage. With that advantage came a kind of confidence not to force throws or go hurry-up.

    It spilled over to the defensive side. Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon played with swagger against an undermanned Browns front. JPP broke the game open with a fumble return touchdown and was generally all over Josh McCown. That's a Giants kind of game.

    Looking forward: It's a big jump to go from McCown to Ben Roethlisberger. Big Blue's in for a test.

4. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Current record: 8-3

    Last week: 8 (+4)

    What a team win for the Kansas City Chiefs.

    They're leaping several spots in my rankings after squeaking past the Denver Broncos and picking up a crucial AFC West victory. Head coach Andy Reid's team controls its destiny in the playoff hunt.

    The Chiefs did so by A) controlling the line of scrimmage at times and B) maintaining a creative edge in player usage. Tyreek Hill scored in three different ways, for instance. Travis Kelce caught bubble screens. Alex Smith made some impressive reads with Von Miller crashing in.

    Of course, it helps to have a Von Miller-esque player on your own team. That's what the Chiefs have with Justin Houston's return. Old No. 50 showcased the pass-rushing form that once made him a 20-sack player. Get him and Dee Ford on the field together and watch the hell out.

    Looking forward: On the road. In Atlanta. Against Julio Jones and Matt Ryan. Smells like playoff football come early to me.

3. Oakland Raiders

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    Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

    Current record: 9-2

    Last week: 3 (same)

    Khalil Mack doesn't need a secret identity and a cape.

    He played superhero for the Raiders in plain view with two end-of-half daggers against Carolina: a pick-six at the end of the first half and a strip sack at the end of the second. Both proved pivotal in the fight to stop Cam Newton.

    Every bit of help was needed when Derek Carr left the game with a finger injury. Newton came storming back and—let's face it—was too good for Oakland's secondary to stop.

    Carr returned, and so did Oakland's swagger. The Raiders scored 11 points on their final two drives to pull out another roller-coaster win.

    Looking ahead: Buffalo poses a toughness test for the big-play Raiders. Oakland can grind it out offensively, but can it stop LeSean McCoy from doing the same?

2. New England Patriots

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Current record: 9-2

    Last week: 1 (-1)

    The Patriots are no longer king in the NFL.

    This much was evident against a Jets team that hasn't been in New England's class all season. Those roles looked reversed on Sunday; Tom Brady and Co. were outplayed by their AFC East rivals all week.

    Surprisingly, the offense quarterbacked by a future Hall of Famer shoulders the most blame. No. 12 was slightly off target to his receivers all game and wasn't aided by Rob Gronkowski's early exit. An 11-carry game by LeGarrette Blount put more onus on Brady's throwing, too.

    New England's defense was shell-shocked by Ryan Fitzpatrick. It eventually adjusted and forced a momentum-swinging Robby Anderson fumble, but I'm slightly concerned.

    Looking forward: Don't be fooled by L.A.'s record. Aaron Donald poses a serious threat to New England's No. 1 seed.

1. Dallas Cowboys

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Current record: 10-1

    Last week: 2 (+1)

    With 10 wins, Dallas sits alone atop the NFC—and the NFL.

    It's only fair that Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Co. now sit atop my power rankings. They've handled every challenge thrown their way with flying colors.

    That includes the Redskins blitz. Washington dialed up the pressure when nothing else worked on Thanksgiving. Prescott evaded it and launched a high-arcing pass to Dez Bryant to effectively ice the game.

    The Cowboys were outgained in Week 12. They fell behind in time of possession too. But when push came to shove, Kirk Cousins and his offense were on the sideline watching Dallas score a touchdown to go up 12 with just over six minutes remaining. The Cowboys are the deadliest team in football.

    Looking forward: Dak Prescott hasn't seen a heavy blitz package yet. He'll get his fill from Minnesota.

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