Week 14 NFL Power Rankings: Gronk-less Patriots tumble three spots

2:19 | NFL
SI's NFL Power Rankings: Week 14
Wednesday December 9th, 2015

Oh, what a strange season it has been.

The NFL has an undefeated team (the Panthers) but no one-loss or three-loss teams at the moment. It has a division leader at .500 (the Colts and Texans) and another below .500 (Washington/Philadelphia/New York). Just one team, Cleveland, has been eliminated from playoff contention through 13 weeks. 

What’s to come? Who knows. But this is how it all shakes out for now ...

  • 1
    1Carolina Panthers
    last week: 1
    record: 12–0
    The 2009 Colts started 14–0 before pumping the brakes midway through a Week 16 game against the Jets. They lost that one (and again in Week 17) but later took a relatively healthy roster to the Super Bowl. With the NFC South locked up and the No. 1 seed possibly soon to follow, is Carolina willing to chase 16–0?

  • 2
    2Cincinnati Bengals
    last week: 3
    record: 10–2
    Since a reported sitdown with offensive coordinator Hue Jackson two weeks ago, Jeremy Hill has regained a little momentum—he rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown Sunday after a 5.4 yards-per-carry effort in Week 12. The more he can do in December and January, the less there is to fall on Andy Dalton’s plate.

  • 3
    3Denver Broncos
    last week: 5
    record: 10–2
    Danny Trevathan’s pick-six Sunday was the Broncos’ fourth interception return for a TD this season, putting the 2015 defense one shy of matching the franchise record. QB talk is all the rage in Denver, but so long as that defensive unit stays healthy, the Broncos probably could win a game or two with Cooper Manning under center.

  • 4
    4Arizona Cardinals
    last week: 4
    record: 10–2
    The St. Louis Cardinals won 10 or more games for three straight seasons from 1974 to ’76, under coach Don Coryell. The franchise never pulled off the trick during its time in Chicago, nor had it accomplished the feat after moving to Arizona. That is, until last Sunday. One more win in 2015 would make this the best three-year stretch in franchise history.

  • 5
    5New England Patriots
    last week: 2
    record: 10–2
    Peyton Manning crumbled, Aaron Rodgers hit a rough stretch and now Tom Brady is throwing costly interceptions. It’s like the quarterback ghosts are visiting us for some NFL version of “A Christmas Carol,” and, oh, Matt Ryan will wake up tomorrow realizing he needs to change his game.

  • 6
    6Seattle Seahawks
    last week: 8
    record: 7–5
    Can you guess who’s leading the league in receiving yards over the past four weeks? Nope, not Odell Beckham Jr. or A.J. Green. Allen Robinson, Larry Fitzgerald and Antonio Brown are up there, but not any of them either. The answer: Doug Baldwin, with 433 yards and six touchdowns from Weeks 10 to 13.

  • 7
    7Kansas City Chiefs
    last week: 6
    record: 7–5
    This should be the second 1–5 team since the merger to reach the postseason. If they can avoid an upset from here on out, the Chiefs will head into the playoffs riding a 10-game win streak ... and they’ll likely draw the AFC South’s mediocre champ in the opening round.

  • 8
    8Pittsburgh Steelers
    last week: 9
    record: 7–5
    The Colts put up as much resistance against Pittsburgh’s passing attack as the air keeping a falling leaf from hitting the ground. This has become a recurring theme, too. When Ben Roethlisberger is in the lineup, the Steelers are absolutely explosive on offense.

  • 9
    9Buffalo Bills
    last week: 13
    record: 6-6
    Over the next three weeks, Buffalo plays two first-place teams and another team that's just a game back. Sounds daunting ... except all three of those clubs reside in the NFC East (Philadelphia, Washington and Dallas). If the Bills can’t make a run against that division, they deserve to stay home for the playoffs.

  • 10
    10Green Bay Packers
    last week: 12
    record: 8–4
    Was there an official verdict on what we’re calling the Packers’ Hail Mary? If not, allow me to suggest “The Rainbow Connection,” since Aaron Rodgers arced that pass so high that it looked like it might clip the sky (or at least the Ford Field roof). The ball also came down amidst a pot of green and gold. And ... something about how leprechauns are lucky. I lost the analogy.

  • 11
    11New York Jets
    last week: 15
    record: 7–5
    Every playoff qualifier produces a season-defining win or two, and the Jets might have found theirs by rallying past the Giants. Ryan Fitzpatrick targeted Brandon Marshall 13 times in the overtime win. The results: 12 completions for 131 yards and a game-tying touchdown.

  • 12
    12Minnesota Vikings
    last week: 7
    record: 8-4
    Sunday’s loss to Seattle marked just the second time since the turn of the millennium that Minnesota fell short of 10 first downs. Teddy Bridgewater could hide inside a pillow fort and have more protection than his O-line gave him.

  • 13
    13Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    last week: 18
    record: 6–6
    The prospective 2016 free-agent running back class is high on talent—Matt Forte, Chris Ivory, LeGarrette Blount, Lamar Miller. Could Doug Martin wind up commanding the most cash? He rushed for 95 yards and a TD Sunday, the latest strong showing in a sensational bounce-back season.

  • 14
    14Indianapolis Colts
    last week: 10
    record: 6–6
    By almost all statistical metrics, this Colts team is below average, to the point that its 6–6 record could be considered overachieving. Fortunately for them, Sunday’s humiliating loss in Pittsburgh only counts once. Indianapolis still has the driver’s seat in the AFC South, with the Texans set to visit in Week 15.

  • 15
    15Houston Texans
    last week: 11
    record: 6–6
    No great mystery here. When the defense plays a dominant game, the Texans win; when it doesn’t, as was the case Sunday against Buffalo, the Texans lose. And the offense is just sort of there, like decorative parsley on top of a steak.

  • 16
    16Chicago Bears
    last week: 14
    record: 5–7
    Just when the Bears were joining the playoff conversation, they turned in one of their worst performances of the year. They’re not mathematically eliminated, but I believe there was a bylaw added in the last CBA that blocks a team from the postseason if it loses at home to Blaine Gabbert.

  • 17
    17Washington Redskins
    last week: 16
    record: 5–7
    Any dream that Washington was the clear class of the NFC East vanished, yard by yard, as DeSean Jackson raced backwards toward his own goal line after fielding a punt late in Monday night’s loss. The Redskins still have yet to win two in a row this season.

  • 18
    18Oakland Raiders
    last week: 17
    record: 5–7
    The Raiders are a team without much margin for error right now, so their three turnovers Sunday—and, specifically, Derek Carr’s late pick-six—predictably led to a loss. Finishing with seven or eight wins may not be all that important in the long run, but it feels necessary for Oakland to carry over some momentum.

  • 19
    19Philadelphia Eagles
    last week: 30
    record: 5–7
    So, which Eagles team are you buying: the version that was hammered by Tampa Bay and Detroit in back-to-back games, or the one that stole a critical win at New England? Most of this season’s evidence would point for the former. If it’s the latter, this will be your NFC East champ.

  • 20
    20Miami Dolphins
    last week: 25
    record: 5–7
    Among the most frustrating developments of this season is Ryan Tannehill’s stalled progress, bordering on debilitating regression. He hit on 9 of 19 passes in Sunday’s win, placing him along with Colin Kaepernick and Peyton Manning as the only QBs this season to attempt 19-plus throws and finish with single-digit completions.

  • 21
    21Dallas Cowboys
    last week: 22
    record: 4–8
    “I would never have dreamed it,” Jerry Jones said Monday of being just 4–8 and within a game of first place. It is the rest of the league’s nightmare, although no doubt preferable to Jones living out that dream where he accidentally shows up to a game without pants on.

  • 22
    22Detroit Lions
    last week: 21
    record: 4–8
    After Devin Taylor facemasked Aaron Rodgers with no time left Thursday, there was a distinct air of unease at Ford Field, as if the fans anticipated Green Bay’s miracle. A long history of heartbreak is required to get to the point where people almost expect you to give up a 61-yard, game-winning Hail Mary.

  • 23
    23New York Giants
    last week: 19
    record: 5–7
    The Giants now have led in the fourth quarter during five of their seven losses, which speaks both to their competitiveness this season and their ineptness at closing out games. Unless they can seal the deal a couple more times, their season is going to end in Week 17.

  • 24
    24New Orleans Saints
    last week: 24
    record: 4–8
    The worst defense in NFL history, the 1981 Baltimore Colts, allowed 533 points. Right now, the Saints are on pace to give up 506. But that projected mark is on the rise—in four of the past five games, New Orleans has allowed more points than its season average (currently 31.7).

  • 25
    25San Francisco 49ers
    last week: 29
    record: 4–8
    This is not a good team by any stretch of the imagination. The 49ers deserve some credit, though, for their last four games—wins over Atlanta and Chicago, close losses to Seattle and Arizona. Still doubt they sell many copies of “The Story of the 2015 49ers: Good effort and ... wait, Blaine Gabbert?!”

  • 26
    26St. Louis Rams
    last week: 20
    record: 4–8
    The number of the day is five, as in how many consecutive losses St. Louis has as well as how many points it averaged in Weeks 12 and 13. Five also would be the number of years Jeff Fisher has held his current post, should the Rams bring him along to whichever city they play in next year.

  • 27
    27Atlanta Falcons
    last week: 23
    record: 6–6
    Matt Ryan is the fourth-best quarterback in the NFC South right now, which is a problem given that NFL divisions have four teams. He tossed another killer pick Sunday, sealing his team’s fate in a back-breaking loss to the Buccaneers.

  • 28
    28San Diego Chargers
    last week: 26
    record: 3–9
    The way San Diego’s offense lined up heading into the season, it would have been unimaginable for it to struggle the way it has at times. The Chargers gave up more points when they had the ball Sunday (seven, on an interception return) than they scored (three).

  • 29
    29Tennessee Titans
    last week: 31
    record: 3–9
    Picking in the top five at this year’s draft, a year after holding the No. 2 spot, probably isn’t the pace of improvement Tennessee had in mind. Pairing another potential superstar with Marcus Mariota should help make everyone feel better.

  • 30
    30Jacksonville Jaguars
    last week: 27
    record: 4–8
    The Jaguars have improved enough that it’s more noticeable when they screw up. On the competency scale that lands them somewhere between truly awful (see: the 2012–14 Jaguars) and disappointingly mediocre (see: the 2015 Rams).

  • 31
    31Baltimore Ravens
    last week: 28
    record: 4–8
    Chalk up another close loss for the Ravens, who have taken eight defeats by an average of just 4.25 points. Odds are that figure climbs over the closing four weeks. Baltimore wraps its throwaway season with games against Seattle, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

  • 32
    32Cleveland Browns
    last week: 32
    record: 2–10
    Johnny Manziel is back in at QB for the Browns, as they steamroll toward the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft. Given how the franchise’s front office functions, they would have equal shot of using that selection on a bona fide contributor or losing it in a poker game at the NFL combine.

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