NFL Power Rankings Week 14: Initial Standings Post-Thursday Night Football

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVDecember 5, 2014

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 4: Orlando Scandrick #32 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates after a fourth quarter interception against the Chicago Bears during the game at Soldier Field on December 4, 2014 in Chicago, Illinios. The Cowboys defeated the Bears 41-28. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Week 14 of the NFL season got off to a high-flying start as the Dallas Cowboys stomped the Chicago Bears in a Thursday Night Football showdown that will inevitably shake up the league's power rankings.

It remains to be seen whether the 9-4 Cowboys will have enough down the stretch to wrap up a playoff spot, but one thing became certain—the Bears are a mess. Save for a couple of late touchdowns that made the score a bit more respectable, Chicago was blown out at Soldier Field.

That's only Game 1 of an enticing Week 14 slate, but before Sunday comes, let's take a glance at how Thursday Night Football impacted the power rankings.

32. Oakland Raiders

ST. LOUIS, MO - NOVEMBER 30: Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders passes against the St. Louis Rams in the second quarter at the Edward Jones Dome on November 30, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Rams beat the Raiders 52-0.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Get
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Just as the Raiders showed signs of life with an upset over Kansas City that marked their first win in more than a calendar year, they were throttled 52-0 by the St. Louis Rams the following week. There's simply no fight in this team from week to week, a byproduct of a roster lacking in talent that needs a heap of changes when a new coaching staff is hired.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Somehow, some way, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still technically alive in the playoff race. That has more to do with their hailing from the NFC South than anything. Head coach Lovie Smith has undergone a nightmare of a first season, and it will take a big turnaround in 2015 to save his job. 

30. Tennessee Titans

Speaking of teams that have looked lifeless with a new coaching staff, the Titans remain unable to compete against the league's mediocre squads. After a 45-21 beatdown at the hands of Houston, the NFL's worst rushing defense is reeling and there's little firepower on the offensive side to remedy their defensive struggles.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars

Nov 30, 2014; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks (99) celebrates in the final seconds of the fourth quarter against the New York Giants at EverBank Field. The Jaguars won 25-24. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA
USA TODAY Sports

The Jaguars stepped out of the league's cellar with a shocking 25-24 comeback win over the New York Giants last week, but only just. Jacksonville's 2-10 squad can look toward a brighter future with rookie Blake Bortles and an improving defense, but the team as a whole is still a few high draft picks away from contending. 

28. New York Jets

The ineptitude is at an all-time high in New York, as the Jets fell to 2-10 with a loss to Miami at home on Monday night. Head coach Rex Ryan is almost certainly finished at the end of the season, and the new staff should be looking toward either Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston to peg as the new franchise quarterback in the upcoming draft. Geno Smith just isn't getting it done.

27. Washington Redskins

It's hard to get a gauge on exactly where the Redskins stand with Robert Griffin III, as The Washington Post's Jason Reid reported the team is all but done with the quarterback while ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the following:

Either way, Washington is reeling after four straight defeats and head coach Jay Gruden faces a myriad of tough decisions over the offseason.

26. New York Giants

While their fellow New York team is taking most of the headlines, the Giants haven't done much to steer the attention away from them with a 3-9 record. Hopes have rarely been lower around the franchise after a 25-24 loss at Jacksonville dropped the Giants to a seven-game losing streak.

Conventional wisdom would suggest they will get back to the win column Sunday in Tennessee, but you never know with this unit—especially after last weekend's debacle.

25. Chicago Bears

Dec 4, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) after throwing an interception in the end zone against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half of their game at Soldier Field.  The Cowboys won 41-28.  Mandatory Credit: Matt  Marto
USA TODAY Sports

If the rest of this season wasn't enough to prove the Bears are in serious trouble, a paltry showing on national television Thursday against the Cowboys showed just that. Quarterback Jay Cutler just can't do enough with an ineffective offensive line to overshadow Chicago's horrible secondary. Changes could be coming for the 5-8 Bears at the end of 2014 after failing to contend in the NFC North.

24. Carolina Panthers

The Panthers might just try to lose the next time they're about to tie an overtime game, seeing as they have dropped six straight games since their draw against Cincinnati. A banged-up stable of backs have done nothing to take the pressure off Cam Newton, who has been a shell of his former self all season long.

23. St. Louis Rams

No team has been more inconsistent than the Rams over the last few months, as they have traded wins and losses every week since their upset over Seattle in Week 7. Jeff Fisher finally has a squad that can go toe-to-toe with teams in their division, but they've still failed to show that they can contend for a playoff spot.

22. Minnesota Vikings

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 30: Kony Ealy #94 of the Carolina Panthers puts pressure on Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the Minnesota Vikings during the third quarter of the game on November 30, 2014 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defea
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Don't look now, but the Vikings are 3-2 in their last five games and playing well alongside rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Keeping him upright has been a big problem, but as long as Mike Zimmer continues to put his fingerprints all over a vastly improving defense, Minnesota will continue to make the climb toward contention in 2015 and beyond.

21. Houston Texans

If only the Texans could play the Titans and Raiders every week. In three games against the two lowly clubs, Houston has outscored its opposition by two touchdowns or more. But other than that, J.J. Watt and crew have been mired in mediocrity as Bill O'Brien continues to search for a franchise quarterback to groom.

20. Cleveland Browns

The Browns are sticking with Brian Hoyer at quarterback as they chase an elusive playoff spot, but soon Cleveland will have reasons to start building for 2015. The blueprint for success is there and the talent is on the roster, but it will eventually be Johnny Manziel—not Hoyer—that leads them to the postseason. And it won't be in 2014.

With Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Baltimore left on the slate, the Browns will be fortunate to finish 8-8.

19. Buffalo Bills

The Bills have been a force to be reckoned with in the last few weeks, stomping the Jets 38-3 in Detroit before toppling Cleveland 26-10 in their return to Buffalo. The 7-5 Bills have made a slew of improvements over the last year, and turning to quarterback Kyle Orton looks to have been the right choice.

But with upcoming games against Denver, Green Bay and New England, Buffalo will fall outside of the playoff picture down the stretch.

18. Atlanta Falcons

The 5-7 Falcons are in first place in the NFC South entering Week 14—yes, you read that right. But while Atlanta has been written off all season due to its ineptitude, a shocking 29-18 win over Arizona at home has folks dreaming of a playoff run in Atlanta despite a paltry season thus far.

17. Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore sacrificed a huge chance to make a move up the AFC North standings with a late 34-33 loss at home to San Diego, but the Ravens remain tied with Pittsburgh and Cleveland in the AFC North. However, a four-game suspension of Haloti Ngata could put their defense behind the eight ball down the home stretch as they chase a playoff spot.

16. Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins notched a must-win victory over the Jets in a late stretch that will feature many must-wins, and the comeback could be just what Miami needs to make a playoff push. They failed to close out the season last year and thus gave up a postseason spot, but Ryan Tannehill's growth suggests the Dolphins can crack the code this time around.

15. New Orleans Saints

New Orleans has done the unthinkable this season, losing three straight games in the Superdome. But right when the Saints were being counted out, they grabbed a big road win over Pittsburgh in Week 13. 

Drew Brees and the Saints are just 5-7, but that might be enough at this point to grab the NFC South title if they can win their three divisional games to close out 2014. 

14. Pittsburgh Steelers

Nov 30, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) is sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (right) during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Saints won 35-32. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClai
USA TODAY Sports

Ben Roethlisberger is in the midst of one of his best seasons, and Le'Veon Bell has emerged as an elite every-down back. But after a tough loss at home to the Saints last weekend, Pittsburgh enters two late-season showdowns with Cincinnati that will decide whether the Steelers will be playing in January. 

13. Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs were making a heck of a push toward contending with Denver in the AFC West before losses to Oakland and the Broncos put them in a hole. Kansas City's top-rated passing defense is being held back by an inept run defense, and Alex Smith doesn't have the offensive weapons to keep up. 

12. San Francisco 49ers

Despite posting a 7-5 record, the 49ers are in an awfully tough spot down the stretch. Dallas, Detroit and Seattle all look like more realistic NFC wild-card teams, especially considering San Francisco still has to travel to Seattle and face Arizona at home to close out the season.

11. Cincinnati Bengals

Nov 30, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) throws the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half  at Raymond James Stadium. Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14-13. Mandatory Credit:
USA TODAY Sports

Somebody had to make a run in the cutthroat AFC North, and it looks to be the Bengals, who have won three straight and stand a game-and-a-half over each of their divisional rivals. Andy Dalton has had a rough year, but the surging Bengals defense is doing more than enough to make up for that.

10. San Diego Chargers

The Chargers entered their Week 10 bye coming off three straight losses and needing a serious push to get back into contention. That's just what they did. San Diego has now rattled off three straight wins, and as long as the Chargers secondary continues to make plays, Philip Rivers will have them sneaking into the playoffs.

9. Dallas Cowboys

Coming off an uninspiring loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving Day, the Cowboys took care of business by throttling the Bears on Thursday Night Football. Dallas is now 9-4, which means the .500 records are officially a thing of the past, as SportsCenter demonstrated:

The Cowboys still have their work cut out for them with a road game at Philadelphia upcoming. They also have to hold off the likes of Detroit and the NFC West teams for that final wild-card spot.

But with the way Tony Romo's offense is clicking, Dallas should be able to make a playoff push.

8. Arizona Cardinals

Once well in control of the NFC West, Arizona is now reeling after two straight defeats. The Cardinals still control their own destiny in the division, but a tough duo of season-ending games against the Seahawks and 49ers could plummet the Cardinals even further and possibly put them on the cusp of a playoff spot altogether.

7. Detroit Lions

The Lions grabbed the Thanksgiving win over Chicago that they desperately needed and are now sitting pretty as the season winds down. They have some serious competition for a wild-card spot with Green Bay likely to win the division, but close-out games against Tampa Bay, Minnesota and Chicago should put Detroit in the postseason.

6. Indianapolis Colts

The 8-4 Colts are on the verge of wrapping up the AFC South, which is due more to the division's incompetence than anything else. With that said, Andrew Luck has morphed Indianapolis' passing attack into one of the most feared in the game, and their offensive dominance is more than enough to overshadow a shaky defense.

5. Philadelphia Eagles

It's never wise to assume one game is indicative of another in the parity-stricken NFL, but Andrew Brandt of ESPN noted what Dallas' victory over Chicago means to the Eagles—who throttled the Cowboys the week before:

Even without Nick Foles, the Eagles offense hasn't really skipped a beat as Mark Sanchez has stepped in and made winning plays. The defense is still enough of a question mark to wonder if the Eagles can make a playoff run, but Chip Kelly's offense will at least get them to January.

4. Seattle Seahawks

Championship-caliber teams make their surge late in the year, which is just what the Seahawks have done. A pair of 19-3 wins over NFC West rivals Arizona and San Francisco have put Seattle in position to come from behind and grab the division, which should be a scary thought for whatever wild-card team they inevitably draw.

3. Denver Broncos

Even after Peyton Manning's historic 2013 season, he has never been on a more complete Broncos team than this 2014 version. The defense has stepped up to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks with Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, and Manning has all the weapons around him to make another Super Bowl run.

2. New England Patriots

The Patriots are the class of the AFC, as told by their lopsided beatings of the Broncos in Week 9 and the Colts in Week 11. Aaron Rodgers may have exposed a New England secondary that isn't as feared as it once was, but that same defense also got it done against the AFC's elite quarterbacks. 

Doing so again versus Rivers and San Diego in Week 14 will be even more proof of that.

1. Green Bay Packers

Green Bay answered the championship test brought by the Patriots to Lambeau Field in Week 13, and the only question left is whether anyone in the NFC will be able to go into the Packers' home stadium and breed different results. Rodgers has been on fire throughout 2014 as he wraps up his Most Valuable Player award, which could be just the beginning to a memorable season in Green Bay.