NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Heading into Week 14?

Chris Simms@@CSimmsQBNFL Lead AnalystDecember 4, 2017

NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Heading into Week 14?

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    There's just a month left in the 2017 NFL season, and that's big for every team. 

    Earlier this year, I talked about how the NFL teams I spent time with all broke the season down into quarters—each almost like a mini-season of its own. The fourth and final quarter brings unique challenges for both the good teams and the bad.

    When you're entering the final quarter of the year and your team is out of contention, you still want to fight hard and play well. That last month could determine whether you get a new contract or even have a job next year.

    If you're a coach or front office employee, you're basically treating the final quarter as a preseason for next year. You want to figure out what you have to build upon while creating some momentum to bring into the offseason.

    If you're with an organization heading toward the playoffs, you want to finish the season strong. You also want to finish as healthy as possible because the postseason brings with it another level of intensity.

    This is why the best coaches don't just know how to keep their teams motivated in the final quarter of the season; they also know how to keep them mentally and physically fresh. It may take extra days off, later report times or extra film and weight-room sessions in place of padded practices, but preventing your players from breaking down is just as important as preventing a slide in the standings.

    This is precisely why my power rankings aren't based solely on records. Factors like momentum, team health and coaching prowess play a big factor heading into the final quarter of the season.

32. Cleveland Browns

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 32

    Give Hue Jackson and Gregg Williams credit. Despite being 0-12, the Cleveland Browns continue to fight on both sides of the ball.

    DeShone Kizer made some big-time throws against the Los Angeles Chargers. Josh Gordon showed he remains a playmaker at the receiver position too. Coming back from an absence of over two years and immediately becoming a No. 1 target should be harder than Gordon made it look.

    Guys like Gordon, David Njoku and Duke Johnson Jr. give the offense potential. The defense is good too. While the Chargers were able to move the ball, they were forced to settle for field goals more often than not.

    The Browns are closer to being competitive than people realize. They're the worst team in football this year, but whoever is coaching the team next year is going to have some legit weapons and a lot of good players to toy with.

31. New York Giants

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    Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 31

    The New York Giants had a chance to steal one from the Oakland Raiders. They just couldn't do enough to complete the task, and that's been the story of New York's season. Well, that and injuries.

    An example is when the Giants blocked a punt and had themselves set up in scoring position late in the first half. Instead of capitalizing, Geno Smith was sacked and fumbled the ball away. That could have been a game-changing moment for New York, but the Smith turnover allowed the Raiders to go into halftime with a three-point lead. 

    The defense has been playing like it was expected to over the last few weeks. The reality, though, is that the Giants have a high school offense that doesn't go without Odell Beckham Jr. The one positive to Beckham's absence is the fact Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram have had a chance to develop as go-to targets.

    Getting useful reps for people who are going to be around next season has to be the goal moving forward. There's almost no chance head coach Ben McAdoo is going to be back, and there's a chance we've seen the last of quarterback Eli Manning in a Giants uniform as well.

30. San Francisco 49ers

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 30

    What a difference having a starting-caliber quarterback makes. Jimmy Garoppolo gives the San Francisco 49ers a different offense with his ability to move in the pocket and his quick release. He also made some throws into tight windows against the Chicago Bears that were impressive—especially considering he's only been in the system for roughly a month.

    A good quarterback can make a few plays to get an offense over the hump, even on a team that isn't that talented.

    The San Francisco defense isn't special, but it played well against Chicago. It dominated the Bears up front for most of the day.

    The 49ers are in rebuilding mode, and Sunday's win should be a confidence-builder for anyone who cares about or follows the franchise. San Francisco has a quarterback, a head coach and some pieces in place. Now it needs to work on adding to everything else.

29. Denver Broncos

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 29

    The Denver Broncos are a disaster. The offense continues to commit turnovers and find ways to put the defense in tough spots. In addition, the offense cannot sustain drives to keep the defense off the field and fresh. Against the Miami Dolphins, Denver was 1-of-13 on third downs.

    It doesn't help that there isn't much of a running game to help out the quarterback position.

    The Denver defense is good, but there's only so much it can do. It's also concerning that opposing teams are producing some big plays against it. That's probably a product of the defense being forced to carry the team so much this year.

    The Broncos are playing for next year, and it's time for them to figure out who's worth keeping on that offense.

28. Chicago Bears

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 28

    The Bears' issues are the same every week. There isn't much on the offense to worry about in the passing game. There's a serious lack of talent at the receiver position, and opposing defenses have no reason to fear Mitchell Trubisky because of it.

    This allows defenses to focus on Chicago's offensive strengths, which are the offensive line and run game.

    The Bears haven't been able to overcome that one-dimensional play on offense. I like what I've seen from Trubisky, and the defensive front seven is fantastic. This means that the hard part of rebuilding this team is finished.

    Chicago appears to have a starting-caliber quarterback. The trenches have been built. Now the Bears need to add some secondary talent and a couple of top-tier pass-catchers, and they must figure out the future of the coaching staff. This is a team building for the future, but the future looks bright.

27. Indianapolis Colts

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    Logan Bowles/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 27

    The Jacksonville Jaguars are a bad matchup for the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts had issues moving the ball and stopping Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette. They also got unlucky by catching Blake Bortles on a good day.

    Bortles is one of the worst throwers in the NFL, but he didn't throw too badly against Indianapolis. The Colts have one of the worst secondaries, though, and they made Bortles look better than he is.

    Indianapolis' strength is the passing offense, but it couldn't do much against Jacksonville's secondary, which is the best in football.

    It was all too much to overcome for the Colts. I give credit to them because they continue to play hard. They're just overmatched against certain teams, Jacksonville being one of them.

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 26

    Jameis Winston did some nice things for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Of course, he also scared me to death a few times with his carelessness with the football. His lost fumble, which was returned for a touchdown, changed the course of the game.

    The big thing is that it was encouraging to see Winston back and the Buccaneers get the run game going a bit. The offense has been predicated on the pass game making big plays all season, so it was great to see balance.

    The problem is Tampa's defense has almost no difference-makers. Sure, it got an interception, but the defense was also run on at will by the Green Bay Packers. There's no excuse for that because the defense wasn't on the field a ton and shouldn't have been frightened by Green Bay's passing game.

    This is a game the Buccaneers are going to look back on and be sick. They could have and probably should have won, but that's been the story of their season. Tampa is a below-average team right now.

25. Houston Texans

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 21

    Tom Savage and the Houston Texans made some plays in the pass game against the Tennessee Titans. The problem was that while Houston moved the ball well between the 30s, it struggled to put points on the board.

    The Texans defense is capable of creating turnovers and doing special things. However, it's suffered too many injuries to important players to be the shutdown unit it was expected to be this season.

    The Texans looked like a surefire playoff contender with Deshaun Watson under center, but he, J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus are gone for the year. Those are some of the biggest playmakers in the NFL—well, Watson has yet to prove it over a full season, but that's how he was playing when he was injured—and their losses are too much to overcome.

    Look out for Houston in 2018. This season, though, is all but over.

24. Arizona Cardinals

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 23

    Once again, self-inflicted wounds hurt the Arizona Cardinals. Whether it's missed field goals, missed extra points or turnovers, the Cardinals can't get out of their own way against superior teams. The Los Angeles Rams are a superior team, but Arizona kept things close for much of the game. Eventually, though, the mistakes caught up with the Cardinals.

    We did see positives from Arizona on Sunday, some strong running from Kerwynn Williams chief among them. Ultimately, though, it is just too inconsistent in all three phases.

    This is why the Cardinals are 5-7 and not a playoff team.

23. Miami Dolphins

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    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 25

    One thing that's impressed me about the Dolphins over the last couple of weeks is the secondary play. It's been great. Cornerback Xavien Howard—who had two interceptions against Denver, including a pick-six—has been especially impressive.

    Miami's defense has the potential to make good things happen up front. With the secondary playing the way it is now, this defense is a challenge for opposing offenses.

    The big things Miami needs to stay in the playoff race are offensive balance and consistency. Once again, Jay Cutler had some concerning interceptions, but the Dolphins don't need to be putting everything on his shoulders anyway.

    Miami did run the ball well against Denver, and that's encouraging. Kenyan Drake has the potential to make some big plays; he just needs to keep working on ball security.

    The Dolphins are managing to stay in the AFC postseason race, but they are going to need some help down the stretch to make the playoffs.

22. Green Bay Packers

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 22

    I've said it before and I'll say it now. I don't love Mike McCarthy as a play-caller, but I love him as a head coach. His Packers are always well-prepared and ready to battle. That's what they did against the Buccaneers.

    Green Bay's ability to run the ball against Tampa was impressive. Jamaal Williams was great, and I liked the designed runs for quarterback Brett Hundley. This is how the Packers need to operate their offense because Hundley isn't going to be able to run around and make plays in the passing game the way Aaron Rodgers can.

    The Packers defense let up yards to the Buccaneers, but it created a few big plays, including the Winston fumble that was returned for a touchdown. This isn't a shutdown defense, but it's unconventional, can create chaos and keeps the Packers in games.

    Green Bay isn't out of this yet. If the Packers can beat Cleveland next week and Rodgers can return in two weeks, they can make a serious push for the postseason.

21. Washington Redskins

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 14

    Hey, give the Washington Redskins a lot of credit. They've dealt with some big injuries this season, and they continue to fight. They faced offensive line issues again against the Dallas Cowboys. Still, the Redskins have no one but themselves to blame for losing on Thursday night.

    Washington dominated early and had all the momentum for nearly the entire first quarter. Mistakes killed that momentum. We saw a dropped pass turn into an interception, a fumbled punt return and a big Dallas punt return. Those were tough plays to overcome.

    Because of Washington's offensive line issues, the offense is too one-dimensional—though numerous injuries at the running back position haven't helped. The Redskins place too much on the shoulders of quarterback Kirk Cousins.

    The Redskins aren't out of it, but they basically have to win out and hope for a lot of help to make the NFC playoffs.

20. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 18

    There were some positives and negatives for the Chiefs in their loss to the Jets. The one big positive was the return of big plays from the Kansas City offense. The negatives—aside from the loss, of course—are that the running game continues to struggle and the defense continues to be terrible. How can you have any confidence in the defense when it gives up huge plays like it does?

    It's embarrassing how easy it is for teams to move the ball on the Chiefs. The Jets had their way with Kansas City in the run game and the pass game. The Chiefs couldn't get off the field on defense. New York was 13-of-20 on third down and held the ball for nearly 43 minutes. That's concerning if you're a Chiefs fan.

    The Chiefs are in trouble, and I won't believe they're a playoff team until they get their ground game and defense back on track.

19. Buffalo Bills

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    Rich Barnes/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 17

    Two flaws the Buffalo Bills have came to a head against the New England Patriots.

    When they have to rely on the dropback passing game, there isn't enough there for the Bills. Yes, Buffalo can usually lean on the run game, but it has to be special to beat a team like New England. It wasn't, and the Bills couldn't get enough out of the passing game to compensate.

    The other issue is that the Bills don't have enough size up front on defense. The defensive line got bullied by the Patriots offensive line, and New England dominated on the ground.

    These are the two issues that concern me with Buffalo. The Bills are still in the AFC postseason hunt, but they're not going to make the playoffs if they don't get these issues fixed. It's more likely that Buffalo is a year away.

18. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Last Week's Ranking: 16

    The Cincinnati Bengals offense played as well as it has all year against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Andy Dalton played one of his best games of the season, too.

    Actually, the Bengals played one of their best games overall of the year against Pittsburgh. Ultimately, though, penalties and self-inflicted wounds did them in. The biggest mistake was Cincinnati's inability (or lack of desire) to tackle Le'Veon Bell on his long touchdown run in the second half. That made it a 17-10 game and gave Pittsburgh all the momentum.

    Cincinnati isn't totally out of it, but it is at the point where it needs to win out and to get some help to reach the postseason.

17. New York Jets

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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 24

    I'll give the New York Jets credit. Not much was expected of them this season, but they come out ready to fight every week. The question is whether they'll commit one or two dumb plays to cost them. New York's losses have often come because of a bad special teams play, a key fumble or a Josh McCown interception.

    Those mistakes weren't there against the Kansas City Chiefs. Not surprisingly, the Jets won.

    I've been impressed with the offensive system implemented by coordinator John Morton. There isn't a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball, but New York's scheme still manages to produce big plays.

    The Jets defense was underwhelming against the Chiefs, and a lot of blame rests on the coaching staff. Too often, New York tried to match up one-on-one with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.

    The Jets may not make the postseason, but they're not going to be easy for anyone to beat down the stretch.

16. Oakland Raiders

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    Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 19

    The thing that should excite Raiders fans—aside from the fact they're now tied for the division lead—is the run game has started to get going. Derek Carr and the passing game haven't had the same magic they had last season, so improvement on the ground is critical.

    The other big thing is the run game can help keep Oakland's lackluster defense off the field.

    I still don't feel great about the Raiders' playoff chances, but Oakland does have playmakers in the pass game. If the defense and the running game make plays like they did against the Giants—playmaking receivers Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper were both out—Oakland will have a shot at an AFC West title or a wild-card spot.

15. Dallas Cowboys

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 20

    The Cowboys got a win over the Redskins, and that's encouraging. However, the win didn't make me feel a lot better about Dallas as a team. The Cowboys got off to a stale start and benefited from Washington miscues.

    The big thing is Dak Prescott was careful with the ball and the Cowboys got the run game going. As the game went on, the offensive line dominated the way it did last season. It was also encouraging to see Prescott on the same page with wideout Dez Bryant. All this needs to continue if the Cowboys want to keep winning without Ezekiel Elliott.

    Defensively, Chidobe Awuzie and Xavier Woods were excellent. They're becoming nice pieces of the Dallas secondary. Once again, the defensive line played tremendously as well.

    When the offensive and defensive lines control the game the way they did Thursday, the Cowboys are tough to beat.

14. Detroit Lions

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 11

    The Detroit Lions' defensive performance was one of the shockers of the week. Detroit's defense isn't that good, but it's ridiculous how good Baltimore's often-struggling offense looked against the Lions. The Ravens had their way with Detroit's defense, especially in the first half. That's concerning.

    The other thing that appeared—and it always seems to—is that there was too much pressure on Matthew Stafford. He's one of the five best quarterbacks in football, but he cannot carry this team on his own. Detroit's run game doesn't worry anyone.

    Against a defense like Baltimore's, that's a problem. The Ravens have a tremendous front seven, and when it doesn't have to worry about the run, all those resources are put toward chasing down Stafford.

    The Lions are an average team that has been brought into the playoff conversation by Stafford. I don't think even he's good enough to get Detroit into the postseason this year.

13. Baltimore Ravens

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 15

    The Ravens defense has had to fight through injuries all season, and it continues to be one of the most dangerous units in the NFL. That speaks volumes about the leadership on the defense and about coordinator Dean Pees, who I think is one of the best coaches in football.

    The Ravens made Stafford hold the ball a lot, which means people weren't getting open downfield. The defensive front made his life miserable from there.

    The thing we need to see from Baltimore is more consistent offensive play. If the Ravens want to be legit contenders, the offense needs to produce like it did against Detroit (370 total yards) every week.

    If Joe Flacco plays like he did in Week 13 and coordinator Marty Mornhinweg can keep getting people open downfield, the Ravens will have the missing piece they need. With that piece, Baltimore would be a team no one wants to face in the postseason. 

12. Los Angeles Chargers

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    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 13

    The Chargers are one of the hottest teams in the game; we know that. One thing that concerns me is that they have a hard time putting teams away. This is why they had some early-season losses and why a team like the Browns were able to hang around until the very end.

    When Philip Rivers throws the ball like he has over the last few weeks and Los Angeles gets production from the run game, the offense becomes borderline unstoppable. There is just so much the offense is able to do.

    The defense has transformed itself into one of the most dominant units in the game. It was the defense that finally put Cleveland away with two interceptions when the Browns were in scoring position late in the fourth quarter. It's a defense that's good at all three levels, and it's one that will be a pain in January.

    I expect the Chargers to go on to win the AFC West, and I expect them to be a real challenge in the postseason. They might not be able to dominate any team in football, but they match up with the best of them.

11. Tennessee Titans

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 12

    The Titans defense is better than people give it credit for. The front seven is stout, and the secondary is more than serviceable. When the offense can sustain drives the way it did against the Texans, the Tennessee defense can be tough to score points on.

    The big question with the Titans is the same one that has existed all season. When the Titans can't run the football, can Marcus Mariota move the chains by himself? When the answer is no, the defense can get exhausted and start giving up big plays (see: Pittsburgh a couple weeks ago).

    The stats will make it look like the Titans ran well against Houston, but remember that 75 yards came on the final drive with Derrick Henry's long scoring run. Mariota had to make some plays in the game, and he did.

    Speaking of Henry, can the Titans please play him more? I know DeMarco Murray is good, but Henry is one of the most physically gifted backs in the game. I don't understand why he isn't the workhorse by now.

    The Titans are a good team, and they can be a playoff team. I just don't know that they do enough special things to be more than an afterthought in the postseason.

10. Seattle Seahawks

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    Don Feria/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 10

    Russell Wilson is the NFL MVP in my opinion. What he has been doing for the Seattle Seahawks over the last month is mind-boggling. He did it once again against the Philadelphia Eagles, which is extremely impressive.

    If Seattle can continue to get just a little spark from the run game, this offense will be hard to stop. Wilson only needs a little help to lift him over the hump.

    Seattle's defense isn't what it once was and it isn't healthy, but it's still dangerous and makes a lot of plays. On FieldTurf, the front seven is scary fast.

    The Seahawks are not the cream of the crop in the NFC, but they are tough and play fearless. With Wilson under center, they have as good a chance of winning as anyone if they get into the playoffs. At the very least, Seattle is a team others won't want to face.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 9

    We all know the Jaguars defense is special and can carry this team to the Super Bowl. If Jacksonville can just be consistent on offense and show some semblance of balance there, it can be almost impossible to beat down the stretch.

    Bortles threw the ball against Indianapolis about as well as I've ever seen him throw it. I'll give him credit for that. There's no getting around the fact he's still the biggest weakness of this team. If that stops being the case, watch out, because pass-catchers like Dede Westbrook, Allen Hurns and Marquise Lee can be difference-makers.

    The Jaguars need to get their pass game going too because they haven't been able to dominate on the ground since Fournette's leg injury—at least not like they did before it. Still, Jacksonville is one of the best teams in football.

8. Atlanta Falcons

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 8

    If anyone's read what I've written all year, they know I've been saying that the Atlanta Falcons offense isn't the offense of last year. The 2016 Falcons probably would have found ways to get big plays against the Minnesota Vikings. This year's unit mustered just nine points.

    Against a vastly underrated Vikings offense, nine points aren't going to get it done.

    This is what I've been scared of with the Falcons as the season has gone on. Teams are figuring out Steve Sarkisian's schemes, and a great defense like Minnesota's can shut it down. Atlanta was just 1-of-10 on third down. There's too much talent on the roster for that to be happening.

    Atlanta's defense played well against Minnesota and did enough to keep the Falcons in the game. I predicted before the season that the Falcons defense would be better than the offense, and that's proving to be the case. It's the offense that has to get on track for Atlanta to be a playoff team.

    Even if the Falcons get into the postseason, they're no better than a fifth or sixth seed this year.

7. Carolina Panthers

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 6

    The big question about the Carolina Panthers is whether they have enough weapons on offense. The Panthers place a lot on Cam Newton, who constantly has to throw into tight windows or make plays with his legs.

    Newton has been Carolina's most dangerous runner over the last month or so. I like the fact they run him, but he cannot be the only legitimate threat on the ground. That isn't a recipe for success in the postseason. The Panthers need to run the ball better with their running backs.

    What concerns me about the defense is its reliance on zone coverage. Can it hold up against the elite quarterbacks in the NFC? It couldn't against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

    The Panthers are still one of the most dangerous teams in the NFC, and they're capable of winning a Super Bowl if everything gets clicking. However, their loss to the Saints may have ended their chances of earning a first-round playoff bye.

6. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Joe Sargent/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 5

    The Steelers are a 10-2 football team that still hasn't played its best game of the year. However, the offense has started to kick things into gear over the last few weeks. We might be close to seeing the true potential of this offense because Martavis Bryant looks like he has found his niche and new role.

    I do have concerns about the Steelers defense. There were too many easy completions to be had for the Bengals on Monday night. Now Pittsburgh has a beat-up defense potentially without its best defender in Ryan Shazier for the rest of the season.

    The good news is that the offense might be getting to the point where Pittsburgh can win a shootout with anyone.

5. New Orleans Saints

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    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 7

    The Saints match up well with other NFC contenders like the Panthers. If there's one thing to question, though, it's New Orleans' secondary. Can it match up against the elite passing attacks in the NFC if Marshon Lattimore isn't there? I wouldn't call Carolina's passing attack elite, but I would say that about the Rams' pass game, and the Rams carved up the Saints two weeks ago.

    Regardless, the Saints defense is better than we've seen in years past.

    The strength of this team is the offense. Brees, of course, is a future Hall of Famer. When the Saints can run the ball like they did against Carolina, they're almost unstoppable offensively. The way Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram run the ball is incredible, but they're also an asset in the pass game. That makes it hard to match up with either one of them.

    When Brees and Sean Payton know they have a mismatch, they're quick to exploit it.

    I'm not sure the Saints are on the level of the Eagles, but they're in the conversation for being the second-best team in the conference.

4. Los Angeles Rams

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 4

    One thing that jumps out at me about the Rams is the fact they create pressure. Sean McVay's creative offense puts pressure on opposing defenses. Wade Phillips and his defense put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

    Even the special teams unit puts pressure on opponents. John Fassel is one of the best special teams coaches in the game, and his guys execute and force you to execute against them.

    The Rams are a really good football team, and they're going to be in this right until the very end. L.A. will be in the hunt for the No. 2 seed in the NFC all season long, and even if they don't get it, this is a team that is capable of making a run in the postseason.

3. Minnesota Vikings

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 3

    Hopefully everyone realizes that this Vikings team is a legitimate Super Bowl contender. It's certainly checking all the boxes. Awesome defense? Check. Dynamic offense? Check. Strong running game? Check. Quality quarterback play? Check.

    If you don't think this team can win the Super Bowl by now, you might as well give up and stop watching football. At least, don't watch the Vikings anymore.

    Minnesota has an extremely balanced offense. It can control the line of scrimmage up front and make big plays in the run game and in the pass game—and please shut up about bringing in Teddy Bridgewater. Case Keenum is playing great. He had a bit of a down game (just 227 yards) against the Falcons and was still 25-of-30 with two touchdowns and zero turnovers.

    The Minnesota defense, as we know, is special. It shut down the Atlanta passing attack and managed to do it without sacking Matt Ryan. That just tells you how special the secondary can be in coverage. Heck, Julio Jones only had 24 yards against it.

    The Vikings are for real, and they're one of the best teams in football.

2. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 2

    This was the worst Carson Wentz has played all year, and this was the worst the Eagles defense has looked all season. Yet, it was still a seven-point game on the road in Seattle in the fourth quarter. That's how good Philadelphia is.

    I'd actually blame a lot of this loss on coaching. The defense was too aggressive and played too much man coverage. It's risky to do that against Wilson because no one is better at buying time and allowing his receivers to win their individual matchups.

    Of course, this will be a learning experience for the Eagles if they have to play Seattle in the playoffs. Practice cannot emulate what Wilson does.

    The offensive game plan was too conservative, and Wentz was off. Several of his throws were low, and his fumble while in scoring position was a game-changer. That's not like him, and one bad game shouldn't cause Eagles fans to panic.

    Philadelphia is still awesome and still the best team in the NFC.

1. New England Patriots

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 1

    The first thing we have to talk about is the Patriots defense. Sure, it gave up a few big plays in the run game, but as a whole, it was once again fantastic. People might not realize New England has the league's best scoring defense since Week 5—11.6 points per game allowed.

    The New England defense is one of the most improved units we've seen all year, and the trend continued against Buffalo.

    Offensively, Tom Brady wasn't as sharp as we've seen him this year, but he was dangerous enough. More importantly, the Patriots got their run game going with Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis. This offense is already hard to stop as it is; if the ground game keeps rolling like it did against Buffalo, it's going to be impossible to defend.

    The interior of New England's offensive line is one of the best run-blocking groups in football, which is allowing the Patriots to dominate on the ground.

    The Patriots are the best team in the AFC, and they're becoming more balanced and more dangerous each and every week.