NFL Power Rankings Week 17: Even With Loss, Colts Still Team to Beat

Kevin Roberts@BreakingKevinSenior Writer IDecember 29, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - DECEMBER 27:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts is pictured during the NFL game against the New York Jets at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 27, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Manning and many of the starters were pulled from the game in the second half and the Colts went on to lose their first game of the season 29-15.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

We learned a few things in Week 16 .

The New Orleans Saints didn't just trip up against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 15. They got exposed, and quite clearly, in a big way. If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can sneak by them, the question is begging to be asked, "Who can't?"

Speaking of former unbeaten teams, the Indianapolis Colts made a controversial decision when head coach Jim Caldwell benched Peyton Manning and the rest of his starters in the third quarter against the New York Jets, when his team was leading, 15-10.

The Colts proceeded to lose the game, 29-15, causing the entire football world to wonder what the heck Caldwell and Co. were thinking.

With a fairly easy route to 16-0, Caldwell's decision-making could suddenly be in question. Although, considering his decisions up until Week 16 had the Colts going 14-0, we'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Those are just two storylines in the NFL for Week 16. Read on to see what else is brewing for your favorite team, as well as where they rank, in the Week 17 NFL Power Rankings:

1. Indianapolis Colts (14-1)

Why is everyone getting in a fuss over Jim Caldwell resting his starters? When this team is in the Super Bowl, the guy will look like a genius.

2. San Diego Chargers (12-3)

Make it ten straight wins and counting. Really, how scared are the Colts right now?

3. New Orleans Saints (13-2)

They got a mulligan for their loss to the Dallas Cowboys. But losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Well, that's a whole different story.

4. Philadelphia Eagles (11-4)

They're playing for the division and the No. 2 seed in Week 17. That's saying a lot for a team that no one really thought too highly of less than five weeks ago.

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5. Minnesota Vikings (11-4)

Don't blame Brett Favre . It's not even close. This Vikings defense is downright pathetic on the road.

6. Dallas Cowboys (10-5)

That "December curse" is almost gone. A win against Philly next week, and the Cowboys steal the division.

7. Green Bay Packers (10-5)

Mike McCarthy deserved an ice shower after that 48-10 romping over the Seattle Seahawks. This is the look of a hot team racing into the playoffs. First-round bye team, be very afraid.

8. New England Patriots (10-5)

They dismantled a spiritless Jacksonville team, and won their division. I'm still not sure they get too much credit for either of those achievements.

9. Arizona Cardinals (10-5)

They crushed a bad St. Louis team, as they should have, and locked up their division last week. They're right where they should be.

10. Cincinnati Bengals (10-5)

They got past the Chiefs to get their 10th win of the season. Congratulations?

11. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7)

After all this team has been through, they've roared back and can safely finish no worse than .500. They should be able to get past a now-lifeless Miami team in Week 17, and then will need some help to get into the playoffs.

12. Baltimore Ravens (8-7)

Despite blowing a big game against the Steelers, they still have a strong shot at the playoffs. If they win, they're in.

13. Houston Texans (8-7)

They got past the Dolphins and remain alive in the Wild Card race. However, they need a lot of help, in addition to a victory over the Patriots. Too little, too late.

14. Atlanta Falcons (8-7)

Despite many injuries to star offensive weapons and a leaky defense, the Falcons will still finish the season no worse than 8-8. The playoffs are gone, but closing the season with a win could be some nice momentum toward 2010.

15. New York Jets (8-7)

Were they just handed a playoff spot by the Colts? And since the answer is undeniably "yes," when can Jim Caldwell expect a "Thank You" card in the mail?

16. Carolina Panthers (7-8)

Is there any question that they could make some noise in the NFC if they were in the playoffs? Steve Smith suffered a bad break (pun intended), but has to like the direction this team is headed in.

17. New York Giants (8-7)

How do you lose to a non-playoff team that badly? With the season on the line, and it being the final game at Giants Stadium, you'd think the players and coaches could have mustered more than nine lousy points.

18. Miami Dolphins (7-8)

Despite losing to Houston and falling out of the playoff race, you have to hand it to this Miami team. They fought hard all season, and should have the makings of a contending team in 2010.

19. Tennessee Titans (7-8)

They didn't even show up for the biggest game of the season. Still, you have to credit this team for the heart and will to keep fighting. The fact that they're even thinking about finishing at 8-8 is amazing.

20. Denver Broncos (8-7)

This writer predicted this Denver team would go 10-6 and miss the playoffs, only to be laughed at and mocked. Looks like it was worse than I thought.

21. San Francisco 49ers (7-8)

They beat the Lions, which isn't a big deal. But getting to 8-8 could be just what this team needs to work towards chasing the division in 2010.

22. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-8)

A week after giving the Colts everything they had, they appeared lethargic against New England in a 35-7 beating. Jack Del Rio, consider your job at risk.

23. Chicago Bears (6-9)

Did we just see Jay Cutler save Lovie Smith's job, and how incredibly painful is that for Minnesota fans to swallow?

24. Oakland Raiders (5-10)

Just when you thought they were gaining some ground, they lose to the Cleveland Browns. Does J.P. Losman get a chance in Week 17, and if he doesn't, why the hell not?

25. Buffalo Bills (5-10)

That was a poor showing against Atlanta in Week 16. If Brian Brohm doesn't do something magical in the season finale, is he done with this team, too?

26. Cleveland Browns (4-11)

Hey, Derek Anderson, congratulations on not throwing an interception, and in that same breath, not losing the game for the Browns. Don't look now, but this Cleveland team is on a winning streak.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-12)

If there was any question about bringing Raheem Morris back for a second season, it's gone. This team just beat the New Orleans Saints, folks. Write that down.

28. Seattle Seahawks (5-10)

Is there really any question that Matt Hasselbeck is no longer a consistent NFL quarterback?

29. Washington Redskins (4-11)

Hey, Daniel Snyder, who's replacing Jim Zorn, and how quickly can you hire him?

30. Kansas City Chiefs (3-11)

They gave the Bengals a solid fight. But considering how mediocre Cincy has been overall for the past month, is that really that impressive?

31. St. Louis Rams (1-14)

Can we commit to Keith Null not being the quarterback of the future, already?

32. Detroit Lions (2-13)

Is it just me, or is this team incredibly uninteresting to watch without Matthew Stafford under center? No offense, Drew Stanton, but you just don't do it for me.

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