NFL Power Rankings: Hottest Teams Heading into Week 17

Austin GreenCorrespondent IDecember 30, 2012

SEATTLE, WA. - DECEMBER 23: Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks prays with a group after the game against the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field on December 23, 2012 in Seattle,Wa. The Seahawks won the game 42-13. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Week 17 is an odd time in the NFL, as some teams will go all out to secure playoff spots or continue momentum, while others will simply be going through the motions. 

Although every coach would like to finish the season strong, only a few actually do. Every year a few teams surge at the end, while others flounder to disappointing finishes.

In today's power rankings, we'll be focusing on the teams who are ending 2012 on a positive note. Without further ado, let's go.

32. Kansas City Chiefs (2-13)

The Chiefs' terrible season will likely end with another loss against Denver. At least they've got that high draft pick to look forward to.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13)

The Jaguars put a scare into Tom Brady and the Patriots last week, jumping out to a 10-0 lead. Unfortunately, they couldn't sustain their success the entire game, as they lost 23-16. 

30. Oakland Raiders (4-11)

The most dysfunctional franchise in the NFL. But you already knew that.

29. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11)

It's been an incredibly disappointing year in Philly, but don't be surprised if Michael Vick and Andy Reid upset the Giants in their swan songs with the Eagles.

28. Detroit Lions (4-11)

Tied with Philadelphia for Most Disappointing Team of 2012. At least we got to watch Calvin Johnson all year.

27. Arizona Cardinals (5-10)

Somebody PLEASE get this team a legitimate quarterback. I'm beginning to worry about Larry Fitzgerald's mental health. He must have nightmares about John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, etc. throwing him the ball.

26. Buffalo Bills (5-10)

Bills have lost three in a row, but they have a very winnable game today against the Jets.

25. Cleveland Browns (5-10)

Pat Shurmur and Tom Heckert will likely be fired on Monday. I don't know how this team expects to improve when they change coaches every two seasons.

24. Tennessee Titans (5-10)

Chris Johnson is inconsistent, but if he returns to Tennessee next season, the Titans could be a surprise playoff team in 2013-14.

23. New York Jets (6-9)

That is all.

22. San Diego Chargers (6-9)

The Chargers picked up a nice win last week. Unfortunately, it doesn't mean much since it came against the self-destructing Jets.

21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-9)

Don't be shocked if Doug Martin and Co. beat the Falcons on Sunday. Atlanta has wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the NFC and has nothing left to play for.

20. Carolina Panthers (6-9)

With a couple key offseason acquisitions, this team could be a force next year.

19. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8)

After starting 6-3, the Steelers have lost three straight and five of their last six. Not exactly how Big Ben and Pittsburgh wanted to end the year.

18. Miami Dolphins (7-8)

Miami has now won two straight, notching double-digit victories over Jacksonville and Buffalo. This team will be dangerous next season.

17. St. Louis Rams (7-7-1)

The Rams won't be in the playoffs, but they've finished the season very strong. They have won four of their last five games, including last week's 28-13 victory over Tampa Bay.

16. New Orleans Saints (7-8)

The Saints have looked excellent the last two weeks, beating Tampa Bay 41-0 and surviving a 34-31 overtime thriller in Dallas last Sunday.

15. New York Giants (8-7)

The Giants still have an outside chance at making the playoffs, but they certainly don't deserve a postseason berth. The Giants have been terrible the last two weeks, getting outscored 67-14 by Atlanta and Baltimore.

14. Chicago Bears (9-6)

The Bears picked up a solid win last week in Arizona. They don't control their own destiny, but they could still make the postseason with a win today in Detroit.

13. Dallas Cowboys (8-7)

The Cowboys lost last week, but they've still won five of their last seven and they will win the NFC East if they beat the Redskins this Sunday. With the way Tony Romo and Dez Bryant are playing, you have to like their chances.

12. Cincinnati Bengals (9-6)

The Bengals have been excellent in the second half of the season. They've won six of their last seven games, including their last two. Their only loss was by one point to the Cowboys, and they haven't allowed more than 20 points since Week 9.

Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and the rest of the Bengals could be very dangerous in the postseason.

11. Indianapolis Colts (10-5)

Indianapolis is taking care of business, going 8-2 in their last 10 games. With head coach Chuck Pagano returning for Week 17 and beyond, look for an inspired Colts team to do some damage in the playoffs.

10. Minnesota Vikings (9-6)

I love what I've seen from Minnesota the last few weeks. Yeah, they're one-dimensional, but when your one dimension is Adrian Peterson, it doesn't really matter who your quarterback is. Just feed the man and watch him carry you to victory.

The Vikings have followed that strategy for most of the season and it's paying off. They've won three straight games over quality opponents and they control their own playoff destiny. Life is finally good for Vikings fans.

9. Baltimore Ravens (10-5)

The Ravens ended their three-game skid last week, but a win over the Giants doesn't mean as much as it would have earlier in the season. This team is still dangerous, but I think they get knocked out in the first round.

8. Washington Redskins (9-6)

The Redskins continued their hot streak last Sunday, downing Philadelphia to win their sixth consecutive game. Washington has been very impressive during their run, and if they beat the Cowboys again tonight, they will secure a playoff berth.

With Robert Griffin III under center and Alfred Morris running like a man possessed, this team could make some real noise.

But, as talented as they are, I would be cautious about hopping on the Super Bowl bandwagon just yet—their last six wins have come against teams with a combined 39-51 record.

7. Houston Texans (12-3)

The Texans have just three losses this season, but two of them have come in the last three weeks.

After getting blown out 42-14 by New England in Week 14, they recovered to beat the Colts 29-17. Unfortunately, they lost again last week, falling to Minnesota 23-6 in a game where they were completely dominated physically.

Houston is a good team, but I'd be very surprised if they make it out of the AFC this year.

6. San Francisco 49ers (10-4-1)

The Niners still have a great shot to make the Super Bowl, but after getting destroyed by Seattle last week, I just can't put them higher than No. 6 right now.

San Fran lost 42-13 to Seattle, effectively embarrassing them on primetime TV. Colin Kaepernick was inefficient, their ground game never had a chance to get going, and Russell Wilson made a mockery of their supposedly fearsome defense.

Add in their Week 13 loss to St. Louis, and the 49ers aren't exactly finishing the regular season the way they wanted.

5. New England Patriots (11-4)

The Patriots have gotten off to poor starts in each of the last two weeks, which is a real concern heading into the postseason. They fell down 31-3 in the third quarter against San Francisco in Week 15, then Jacksonville (Jacksonville!!!!) jumped out to a 10-0 first quarter lead last Sunday.

New England made ferocious comebacks in both, beating the Jaguars and almost upending the 49ers. Still, the Patriots must solve their early-game problems if they want to win another Super Bowl.

4. Green Bay Packers (11-4)

Despite winning nine of their last 10 games, I feel like the Packers are flying under the radar. Maybe it's because the Giants blew them out 38-10 in Week 12. Whatever the reason, don't sleep on these Packers.

Since Week 6, Green Bay has some quality wins (Houston, Chicago, Minnesota) and they're disposing of the teams that they should (Jacksonville, Detroit, Tennessee, etc.).

Aaron Rodgers is having another amazing season (leads the league in QB rating), and their defense hasn't allowed more than 20 points in each of the last four weeks.

As of right now, I'm leaning towards Green Bay as my NFC Super Bowl pick.

3. Atlanta Falcons (13-2)

The Falcons have to be the least-respected 13-2 team in history.

That's likely because they've only beaten four playoff-caliber teams (Broncos, Redskins, Cowboys, Giants) and they didn't face any of them when they were playing their best football (or close to it).

While I like Matt Ryan and the Roddy White-Julio Jones tandem at receiver, I just don't think this team is as good as their record suggests. If they get the right matchup, they will win one playoff game, but that's it.

2. Seattle Seahawks (10-5)

This team is straight up scary right now. They've won four straight games and six of their last seven, but the most impressive thing about them is how they're winning.

After hanging 42 points on the 49ers, the Seahawks have now outscored their last three opponents 150-30. Two of those games were against terrible teams (Arizona, Buffalo), but their win over San Fran showed how legitimate this team is.

Their defense is terrifying, Russell Wilson is an animal, their running game is unstoppable and they still haven't lost at home. Other NFC teams are going to be praying that they don't see Seattle in the playoffs.

1. Denver Broncos (12-3)

The No. 1 team right now has to be the Denver Broncos, seeing as how they haven't lost since Week 5.  

During their winning streak, the Broncos are averaging 30.8 points per game and Peyton Manning is playing some of the best football of his illustrious career. This season Manning has completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 4,355 yards, 34 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions.

Add in their solid run game and quality defense, and this team has Super Bowl written all over it.


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