By Chris Burke
December 24, 2013
The Broncos are likely headed for a first-round bye and homefield, but questions remain.
Scott Halleran/Getty Images
NFL Power Rankings
1 Denver Broncos
Last Week: 3
That the Broncos are No. 1 here speaks to the general uncertainty surrounding the NFL as the playoffs approach. Yes, Denver is 12-3 and likely headed for home-field throughout the AFC playoffs, but this is a flawed team -- even more so with Von Miller done and Wes Welker still out.
2 Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 5
A brief moment of appreciation here for the Panthers' offseason pickup of Ted Ginn Jr., which has proven to be one of the more underrated additions any team made. Ginn helped put Carolina in position to beat New Orleans with a critical catch-and-run in the game's final minute.
3 Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 1
There was a play early in Sunday's loss to Arizona where Russell Wilson escaped trouble in the pocket but then threw a horribly ill-advised jump ball into traffic. It was a very un-Wilson-like decision ... and an omen for what was a very un-Wilson-like performance.
4 San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 2
The 49ers needed some defensive heroics to slide past a four-win Atlanta team on Monday night, so feel free to debate this spot. Here's the thing, though: San Francisco has lost just twice since Sept. 23, and that was a top-three defense putting the icing on the cake versus the Falcons.
5 Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 14
The last time that the Colts defense held back-to-back teams under 300 yards before doing so in Weeks 15 and 16 was way back in Weeks 3-4. The Colts are 4-0 in those contests.
6 New England Patriots
Last Week: 6
Rarely has Tom Brady been as ... well ... nonessential as he was in the Patriots' 41-7 rout of Baltimore on Sunday. Brady was solid -- 172 yards passing, one touchdown -- but it was the run game and opportunistic defense that really shouldered the load. Heck, Brady couldn't even get anyone to high-five him after a late touchdown.
7 Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 12
Too bad for the Cardinals that the NFL playoff participants are not chosen by committee, like March Madness or the new college football final four. Arizona would be an absolute lock for an at-large bid.
8 Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 16
It had been three years since Matt Cassel had a performance like the one he delivered against Philadelphia in Week 15, so maybe we just chalk that whole game up as an anomaly. That's the only time since September the Eagles have allowed more than 21 points.
9 Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 15
Am I crazy or do the Bengals look like a legitimate threat to win the Super Bowl all of a sudden? They stunk up the joint at Pittsburgh in Week 15, but they're 4-1 in their last five, and Andy Dalton has 10 touchdowns to one INT in December.
10 San Diego Chargers
Last Week: 9
Between them, Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead now have combined for 2,263 yards from scrimmage. That's akin to what Mathews and Mike Tolbert used to churn out together. Or what LaDainian Tomlinson did by himself back in his heyday.
11 New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 4
At what point should the Saints be concerned about Drew Brees and the offense? Brees was totally out of whack -- again -- for most of Sunday's loss, and the offense has scored 17 or less in four of its last five (with a 31-point showing in the lone home game during that stretch).
12 Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 7
Three straight losses at home for the Chiefs, who now will open the playoffs on the road. And maybe that's not the worst thing in the world, given that they're 7-0 outside the friendly Kansas City confines.
13 Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 8
The Dolphins have allowed a staggering 58 sacks, which matches the league-high number allowed by Arizona last season (and Miami has a game left). That is also the most given up since Oakland coughed up 72 in 2008. It's shocking Ryan Tannehill was not hurt before Sunday.
14 Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 17
This franchise did not really bat an eye when Mike Wallace left town, and Antonio Brown is the reason why. With one week left in the regular season, Brown is No. 3 in the league in both receptions (101) and yards receiving (1,412).
15 St. Louis Rams
Last Week: 18
The thought of this team having the No. 1 or No. 2 pick in the draft (plus another first-rounder) should scare the rest of the league. St. Louis is not far off from being a true playoff contender.
16 Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 11
The Ravens might not mind Justin Tucker's made-FG streak coming to an end in the midst of a blowout loss, as it did Sunday. At least that will keep them from feeling like Tucker's due to shank one should he come up with the playoffs on the line.
17 Chicago Bears
Last Week: 10
Here's the list of teams that have allowed more points than the Bears this season: Minnesota and Washington. That's it. Those teams have a combined seven victories, so Chicago's 8-7 record is a borderline Christmas miracle.
18 Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 13
The Packers obviously would have loved to have Aaron Rodgers in the lineup the past few weeks. But playing him for half a season, then resting him until the division's on the line might keep him around as the starting QB for about three decades.
19 Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 21
Overlooked amid all the Cowboy-related talking points is that this team is 5-0 within the division -- one of just two teams that can boast such a thing. (Indianapolis, in the brutal AFC South, is the other.)
20 Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 27
The Bills will not be satisfied -- nor should they be -- with their 6-9 record so far. That said, the teams they've beaten hints at the ability here: Carolina, a sweep of the Dolphins, the Jets, Jaguars and Ravens. All but Jacksonville have a shot to get into the postseason.
21 New York Giants
Last Week: 29
New York hung two touchdowns on the board en route to a 23-20 overtime win in Detroit. One by cornerback Will Hill, who had never scored in the NFL (nor at college at Florida); the other by WR Jerrel Jernigan, who entered Sunday with more fumbles in his NFL career (two) than TDs (zero).
22 New York Jets
Last Week: 22
Rex Ryan reportedly told his players last week that he was going to be fired at the end of the year, and they responded with a win in a must-have game. This week, Rex will threaten to take their Christmas presents away if they don't get another victory.
23 Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 26
Remember when the Titans were 3-1 and looked like they would challenge the Colts in the AFC South? No? Me neither.
24 Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 23
Pretty fitting loss for the Falcons on Monday night, given that they have the talent to compete and simply have not been able to put it all together often in 2013. There's little doubt that 2014 will be better.
25 Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 19
Turns out a team can only take the whole "play for pride" thing so far. The Vikings hit their breaking point in Week 16, with a humiliating loss to a Cincinnati team in the hunt for the playoffs.
26 Detroit Lions
Last Week: 20
Jim Schwartz turning to shout at the home fans Sunday will get a lot of play as Schwartz's tenure likely ends. The more telling issue within that moment is that Schwartz apparently did not have enough confidence in Matthew Stafford to let the high-priced QB turn it loose with the division -- and Schwartz's job -- on the line.
27 Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 24
More or less copy and paste the Vikings' write-up here. The Jaguars deserve credit for rebounding from that 0-8 start to win four of their next five. Back-to-back home losses to the Bills and Titans, however, will take a little shine off.
28 Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 28
The offense has been under the microscope for much of the season, but the Browns have been let down by a few disappointing performances on defense. Neither the linebackers nor the defensive backs have been good enough to help stop the bleeding.
29 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 25
The needle has drifted back to "Probably" from "Maybe not" on the Greg Schiano Dismissal Scale. There hasn't been much to get excited about in Tampa Bay over the past couple of weeks.
30 Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 30
Not sure I understand the seemingly growing urge to can Dennis Allen. The Raiders did not try to hide the fact that 2013 would be a season focused on getting their cap and roster in order so that things would be better in '14 and beyond.
31 Washington Redskins
Last Week: 32
Who exactly is the No. 2 option in the passing game behind Pierre Garcon? The injured Jordan Reed had a case, as does 34-year-old Santana Moss. But Washington might want to spend a little energy finding some help there.
32 Houston Texans
Last Week: 31
The Astros finished the season on a 15-game losing streak, so at least the Texans can't match that. Are they printing Teddy Bridgewater jerseys down there yet?

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