The three best teams in the NFL have been consistent throughout the 2018 season: the Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs. The intrigue heading into Week 14 begins with the third of those teams, as the Kansas City Chiefs face a hot Baltimore Ravens team at home.
Also relevant to the Chiefs are the 9-3 Los Angeles Chargers, who have won eight of their last nine and most recently defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh. With the Chiefs and Chargers facing off at Arrowhead in Week 15, the AFC West is still a question mark.
Another division still up in the air is the NFC East, even though the contenders aren't as strong. At the top sits Dallas. The Cowboys are riding a four-game winning streak and fresh off a surprisingly strong 13-10 win over New Orleans on Thursday Night Football in Week 13.
The Cowboys are the hot team of late in the NFC, but the defending Super Bowl champions Philadelphia Eagles looked to be snapping out of their funk on Monday night in a 28-13 win over an injury-riddled Washington team. Week 14 will see Dallas and Philadelphia face off in Texas, in a machup that could go a long way in deciding which team takes the division crown.
League-wide, Week 14 presents clinching opportunities. To name a few: the Chiefs and Chargers can each clinch a playoff berth with a win; the Patriots can clinch the AFC East with a win or tie; Houston can clinch the AFC South with a win and Tennessee loss; Pittsburgh can clinch the AFC North with a win or tie.
In the NFC, the Rams can clinch a first-round bye with a win, and New Orleans clinches the NFC South with a win or tie and Carolina loss.
Here's a look at power rankings, playoff standings and the teams trending up or down ahead of Week 14.
2018 NFL Power Rankings:
1. Los Angeles Rams (11-1)
2. New Orleans Saints (10-2)
3. Houston Texans (9-3)
4. Kansas City Chiefs (10-2)
5. New England Patriots (9-3)
6. Los Angeles Chargers (9-3)
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4-1)
8. Dallas Cowboys (7-5)
9. Chicago Bears (8-4)
10. Seattle Seahawks (7-5)
11. Baltimore Ravens (7-5)
12. Denver Broncos (6-6)
13. Minnesota Vikings (6-5-1)
14. Indianapolis Colts (6-6)
15. Tennessee Titans (6-6)
16. Philadelphia Eagles (6-6)
17. Carolina Panthers (6-6)
18. Washington Redskins (6-6)
19. Miami Dolphins (6-6)
20. Cleveland Browns (4-7-1)
21. Green Bay Packers (4-7-1)
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-7)
23. Detroit Lions (4-8)
24. Atlanta Falcons (4-8)
25. Buffalo Bills (4-8)
26. Cincinnati Bengals (5-7)
27. New York Giants (4-8)
28. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8)
29. Arizona Cardinals (3-9)
30. New York Jets (3-9)
31. Oakland Raiders (2-10)
32. San Francisco 49ers (2-10)
AFC Playoff Standings
1. Kansas City Chiefs (10-2, AFC West leader)
2. New England Patriots (9-3, AFC East leader)
3. Houston Texans (9-3, AFC South leader)
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4-1, AFC North leader)
5. Los Angeles Chargers (9-3, first wild-card spot)
6. Baltimore Ravens (7-5, second wild-card spot)
7. Miami Dolphins (6-6)
8. Indianapolis Colts (6-6)
9. Denver Broncos (6-6)
10. Tennessee Titans (6-6)
11. Cincinnati Bengals (5-7)
12. Cleveland Browns (4-7-1)
13. Buffalo Bills (4-8)
14. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8)
15. New York Jets (3-9)
16. Oakland Raiders (2-10)
Trending Up: Los Angeles Chargers
There's a strong case for the Houston Texans to be listed here, but the counter is that, while, Houston has been trending upward for weeks, the Texans don't necessarily have a statement win. The Chargers got that win on Sunday Night Football in Week 13 at Pittsburgh.
Most impressive about it was they were down 23-7 at halftime. The Chargers came from behind in the second half, which shows that down the line, L.A. can stick around with other high-powered, fast-scoring offenses like Kansas City.
If running back Melvin Gordon can return healthy heading into the postseason, this team can be as scary as any. Wide receiver Keenan Allen is on his way to another 1,000-yard season, which helps free up Travis Benjamin, Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams for Phillip Rivers.
On defense—a strength that Kansas City and the L.A. Rams don't necessarily enjoy—the slow return of Joey Bosa, who made a game-changing sack against Pittsburgh, can be huge.
Trending Down: Pittsburgh Steelers
This team has all the talent in the world, even without Le'Veon Bell. When the offense is clicking, weapons such as James Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown are unstoppable. But the best illustration of the Steelers this season is their aforementioned Week 13 loss to the Chargers.
In the first half, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Brown were unstoppable. Brown had 10 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown, however, he was targeted zero times in the second half. In that period the Steelers score seven while giving up 26.
More than anything plaguing the Steelers of late are mistakes. The game ended on two consecutive offside penalties on the Steelers, which allowed L.A. to attempt what would be the game-winning field goal three times. The week before, Pittsburgh fell to Denver on a last-gasp goal-line pick by Roethlisberger.
With New England and New Orleans still on the schedule, Pittsburgh needs to decide which team they want to be.
Dark Horse: Denver Broncos
Two words: Phillip Lindsay. The headlining offseason move for the Broncos was bringing in then-Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum on a two-year deal. The game-changing offseason move, however, was signing undrafted rookie running back Phillip Lindsay out of the University of Colorado.
Lindsay is moving the Broncos offense in the way Keenum was supposed to. The 5'8", 190-pound back is averaging an NFL-best 6.1 yards per carry after Week 13. With four games left to play, Lindsay has 937 yards and eight touchdowns. When Von Miller calls him "out of this world," you know he's legitimate.
The question is how legitimate Denver is.
With Lindsay on offense and rookie first-round pick Bradley Chubb on defense, who has 10 sacks on the season alongside Miller, the Broncos young talent could usher this franchise back into the playoffs sooner than expected.
NFC Playoff Standings
1. Los Angeles Rams—z (11-1, NFC West champion)
2. New Orleans Saints (10-2, NFC South leader)
3. Chicago Bears (8-4, NFC North leader)
4. Dallas Cowboys (7-5, NFC East leader)
5. Seattle Seahawks (7-5, first wild-card spot)
6. Minnesota Vikings (6-5-1, second wild-card spot)
7. Carolina Panthers (6-6)
8. Philadelphia Eagles (6-6)
9. Washington Redskins (6-6)
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-7)
11. Green Bay Packers (4-7-1)
12. Atlanta Falcons (4-8)
13. Detroit Lions (4-8)
14. New York Giants (4-8)
15. Arizona Cardinals (3-9)
16. San Francisco 49ers (2-10)
Trending Up: Dallas Cowboys
Since acquiring wide receiver Amari Cooper, complementing quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, the Dallas offense has found its stride. More impressive, though, is the defense—currently led by rookie middle linebacker Leighton Vander Esch who has 102 tackles on the season, good for fourth in the NFL.
After a 28-14 Monday night loss to Tennessee in Week 9, Dallas looked done at 3-5. The chronic narrative about head coach Jason Garrett's job security reappeared. Prescott looked average at best. Elliott wasn't being utilized enough or properly.
A month later, Dallas unexpectedly looks dangerous. The hope surrounding the team's playoff chances surged dramatically after beating the Saints, especially in a low-scoring affair. Again, the Cowboys are the rare example this season—along with Chicago—of a team finding success through its defense first.
Trending Down: Carolina Panthers
What in the world happened? In Week 10, everybody had Thursday Night Football circled between Carolina and Pittsburgh. At the time, Carolina was 6-2 and looked daunting. Pittsburgh blew them out, 52-21, and the Panthers have not won a game since.
On Sunday in a 24-17 loss at Tampa Bay, former league MVP quarterback Cam Newton threw four interceptions. Three of those picks went to the same player, safety Andrew Adams. Newton appears to be dealing with some shoulder soreness, with head coach Ron Rivera confirming as much.
Tight end Greg Olsen's season is over due to a ruptured plantar fascia. Outside of dual-threat running back Christian McCaffrey—who could eclipse 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving—Newton doesn't have any major offensive weapons.
Waiting on the schedule for the Panthers are the New Orleans Saints—twice!—and sneaky good Cleveland Browns. Don't expect January football in Carolina.
Dark Horse: Seattle Seahawks
Chatter was far and wide early this season about how quickly Seattle's window had closed. Make no mistake, this is not the same team that looked to be a dynasty in 2013. But it is a contender.
The major difference has been the emergence of second-year running back Chris Carson. He only has four touchdowns on the year, but he's taking pressure off a notoriously pressured quarterback in Russell Wilson. And when Wilson has time, he's able to find the likes of Tyler Lockett, Doug Baldwin and Jaron Brown.
With the Rams having already locked up the NFC West—the Seahawks played L.A. as close as anybody in two games this season—Seattle is depending on a wild-card berth. Remaining on their schedule are the Chiefs and Vikings, both at home. Those don't look like must-win with San Francisco and Arizona also on the schedule, but in a murky NFC, every game is a must-win.
Also not for nothing: The Seahawks are the best celebrators in all of football. Good juju is in Seattle.