NFL Week 14 Power Rankings: Where The Pats Go Tumbling

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NFL Week 14 Power Rankings: Where The Pats Go Tumbling

Stop me if you've heard this before: the Colts and Saints sit atop SB Nation's NFL blogger power rankings. Of course, with both teams threatening history at 12-0, that's not too surprising. They flip-flopped for the third straight week, as New Orlean's semi-miraculous victory (a touchdown off a fumbled interception by the other team? really?) didn't inspire nearly as much confidence among our bloggers as the Colts did in cooling off the Titans.

The Packers were this week's big winner, moving up four spots to 8th, after they shut down the Ravens on Monday night. With the NFC East's three contenders will have to beat each other up, the Packers look set to wrap up one of the conference's wildcard spots.

And the Patriots crashed this week, after their shocking, and humbling, 22-21 loss to the underdog Dolphins. For the first time in the Belichick-Brady era (or at least the first time since 2002), the Patriots just look average: their defense can't stop anyone, and Brady and the offense are good but not good enough.

And, of course, the Rams and Browns are still bringing up the rear. Some things never change.

 

NFL Power Rankings

Team Rank (LW) Record Comments
1 (2) Indianapolis Colts 12-0
Colts players don't want to talk about possibly going undefeated, which isn't surprising because Indianapolis has shied away in recent years from making a run at a perfect record when given the chance to do so. But as SI's Peter King points out, resting players down the stretch may not be the best plan; the Colts' lone Super Bowl win came in 2006, when they were jockeying for position down to the wire.
2 (1) New Orleans Saints 12-0
While the Colts appear ready to take their foot off the gas pedal, Saints head coach Sean Payton has said New Orleans is "going for" an undefeated season -- to the approval of Saints fans at SBN's Canal Street Chronicles. With plays like Robert Meachem's strip-fumble-return off an interception and (now former) Redskins kicker Shaun Suisam missing a chippie 23-yard field goal, the Saints may have the unstoppable combination of a team playing near its peak, and getting all the breaks. Watch out.
3 (4) San Diego Chargers 9-3
Would you be interested in a team that has the  career leader in quarterback rating among active players, and a cast of gargantuan wideouts who are a mismatch against any defensive secondary? If so, let me introduce you to Phillip Rivers and the Chargers' receiving corps. After a slow first month, the Chargers are arguably the hottest team in the league not located in Indianapolis or New Orleans.
4 (3) Minnesota Vikings 10-2
Should Vikings fans be worried about last week's loss to the Cardinals? While Minnesota has coasted through an easy slate for most of the season, the defending NFC champs exposed them a bit, leading SBN's The Daily Norseman to ponder what to make of the team. They do note that three of the past Super Bowl participants (and two of the winners) suffered embarrassing late-season losses that caused many of the pundits to write them off. So a single bad week doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things. But a few bad weeks would be another matter...
5 (5) Cincinnati Bengals 9-3
The Bengals continue to eke out victories over the dregs of the league. That's why their DVOA is a middling 15th (behind the Texans!), despite being 9-3. While their defense has been downright dominating at times, the offense has fallen into a predictable rut. The fans over at SBN's Cincy Jungle are worried, and would like to see offensive coordinator Bruce Bratkowski open things up and get the secondary targets like Andre Caldwell more involved. If the Bengals can't get more out of their passing game, they could easily go one-and-done come playoff time.
6 (9) Arizona Cardinals 8-4
Hello, remember the defending NFC champions? With all the hoopla over the Saints, Colts and Vikes, it's easy to overlook the dangerous Cardinals -- at least until last week's beatdown of Minnesota. Just a reminder: when Kurt Warner is slinging it well, the Cardinals can beat anybody.
7 (8) Philadelphia Eagles 8-4
According to Football Outsiders' DVOA rankings, the Eagles have been the second best team in the NFL so far (behind only the Saints). Now, maybe this is a case of an esoteric statistic failing to capture what's going on, but based on their talent on both sides of the ball, the Eagles should belong among the league's elite. Don't mess it up, Andy Reid.
8 (12) Green Bay Packers 8-4
The Packers defense continues to impress. They continue to lead the league in Football Outsiders' defensive DVOA rankings, and, as SBN's Acme Packing Company highlights, last week they shut down the Ravens' ground game by relying on their five linebacker lineup, daring Joe Flacco to beat them deep (which he did not do regularly enough).
9 (11) Denver Broncos 8-4 Remember when the sky was falling in Denver and they weren't going to make the playoffs after their four-game slide? That was so two weeks ago. With dominating wins over the Giants and Chiefs, the Broncos look like locks for the playoffs (especially with games against the Raiders and Chiefs remaining). Getting big plays out of Brandon Marshall in the passing game is key for them; when he gets the ball, they are dangerous.
10 (7) Dallas Cowboys   8-4 This time it wasn't Tony Romo's fault. This time it was the defense (and special teams), giving up too many big plays for the offense to overcome. So with another December loss, is it panic time in Big D? SBN's Blogging the Boys tries to dispel some of the fear percolating in Dallas, but the fact remains that the Cowboys face a murderous slate of games down the strech: vs. San Diego, at Washington, at New Orleans and vs. Philadelphia. Could be another long December for Romo and Co.
11 (6) New England Patriots 7-5 Are the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick Patriots simply (gasp!) just not very good anymore? With a defense that has been exposed in recent weeks (seriously, giving up over 300 passing yards to Chad Henne?), and an offense not clicking well enough to cover for their defensive deficiencies, the Patriots appear to be just another also-ran team at this point. The folks at SBN's Pats Pulpit blame the coaching, namely that Belichick is trying to do too much, since he doesn't have coordinators he trusts enough to delegate to. Whatever the case, this is how dynasties end: not with a bang, but with a 22-21 loss to a mediocre Dolphins squad.
12 (15) New York Giants 7-5 And just like that, they're back...sort of. But as Adam Caplan of Scout.com explains, despite the win last week, Eli Manning looked very limited physically throwing the ball, and missed a handful of potential deep plays. With the Packers rolling, only two of the three NFC East contenders figure to make the playoffs. Next week's game against the Eagles
13 (10) Pittsburgh Steelers 6-6 So much for unleashing hell. After one week, December is feeling a lot like November for the Steelers, as they dropped yet another game they were leading in the fourth quarter. What's the problem in Pittsburgh? As SBN's Behind the Steel Curtain points out, they miss Troy Polamalu -- badly. Is it too late to retroactively give him the MVP award for 2008?
14 (14) Tennessee Titans 5-7 Tennessee's dream of running their last ten games and making the playoffs may be over (although if the rest of the AFC wildcard hopefuls get faltering, 9-7 could still get them in), but there is plenty of reason to be optimistic for next year. Some time off seems to be just what the doctor ordered for Vince Young, and there aren't enough superlatives in the English language to describe what Chris Johnson does on a weekly basis. The future is bright in Tennessee.
15 (13) Baltimore Ravens 6-6 Are the Ravens passing the ball too much? That's the question SBN's Baltimore Beatdown tackles, comparing Joe Flacco's numbers from the past two seasons. Aside from yards per game, his stats are remarkably similar, leading the folks at Baltimore Beatdown to conclude that Baltimore should get back to its run-first, grind-it-out offense that has worked so well in the past. The one problem? The Ravens defense is no longer the Ravens defense. They are vulnerable at cornerback, and good offensive teams have taken advantage. Simply put, the Ravens need to score more than they did in the past, and that means taking the training wheels off for Flacco. .
16 (18) Jacksonville Jaguars 7-5 If a potential playoff team wins in an empty stadium, does anyone care? While it's easy to dismiss the Jags because of their negative point differential on the season, SBN's Big Cat Country notes that they've improved defensively, and once they get top corner Rashean Mathis back, they figure to be even better, putting a playoff run not entirely out of the question.
17 (19) Miami Dolphins    6-6 Well that was unexpected. Just when it looked like the Patriots would cruise to the win, and all but lock down the AFC East, Chad Henne and Davone Bess connected to bring the Dolphins back into the land of the relevant. Speaking of Bess, SBN's The Phinsider wonders if he might have a little Wes Welker in him, just needing the deep threat next to him to create the space for him to operate out of the slot. Hyperbolic? Definitely. But definitely possible.
18 (16) Atlanta Falcons 6-6 No Matty Ice, no Michael Turner, no hope for the Falcons -- especially with the Saints on tap. SBN's The Falcoholic wonders how many of the Falcons' injured players would have to be healthy for the team to have a chance this weekend. Correct answer: it doesn't matter, not with Drew Brees playing the way he is and the crazy mojo the Saints have going for them.
19 (17) Houston Texans 5-7 The hits keep coming for Houston -- the latest being that running back Steve Slaton will miss the rest of the season due to a neck injury. But really, this is par for the course for Houston. From their inability to punch it in from the goal line costing them two games, to missed field goals leading to two other losses, to losing star tight end Owen Daniels for the year, the Texans have been plagued by boneheaded mistakes and bad luck. Add it all up, and it should spell another seven or eight win season in Houston, as usual.
20 (21) New York Jets 6-6 This is what you call a roller coaster year. After starting 3-0, they dropped five of their next six, before salvaging the season with back-to-back wins to suddenly get themselves back into playoff contention. While Mark Sanchez will miss this weeks' game, there shouldn't be too big a drop off with Kellen Clemens, and -- more importantly -- the Jets shouldn't have any trouble running on the suspect Bucs defense.
21 (20) San Francisco 49ers 5-7 While the Niners certainly haven't reached the Redskins' level of losing, their latest defeat at the hand of Seattle has their fans contemplating whether just isn't very good or is just unlucky. It's an interesting and timeless philosophical question: where does talent end and luck begin? Unfortunately for the Niners, this is all they have left to ponder, now that they're all but out of the NFC West chase.
22 (22) Carolina Panthers    5-7 Here's all you need to know about how bad the Patriots' secondary has been lately: our Panthers fans are eagerly anticipating the chance for Matt Moore to get a shot against New England. Years of Jake Delhomme inexplicably throwing it to the other team will do that to a fan base. But they do have a point: aside from his single interception, Moore was efficient last week, and could have a big day on Sunday against the Pats. As long as he doesn't turn the ball over, he'll be an enormous improvement over Delhomme.
23 (23) Chicago Bears 5-7 Who's to blame for the Bears' running woes? SBN's WIndy City Gridiron asked whether it was Matt Forte's fault, the offensive line's or the playcaling -- to which Bears fans resoundingly answered: all of the above! Really, to be the worst running team in the league, you need a perfect storm of ineptitude, which Chicago has had this year. Of course, this only puts more pressure on Jay Cutler to try to make plays and force passes...which hasn't ended well this year.
24 (25) Seattle Seahawks 5-7 Last year the Seahawks reportedly flirted with taking Mark Sanchez to be their heir apparent at quarterback. With the team struggling once again, and few building blocks in place for the future, might they make a move for one for one of the elite quarterbacks in this year's draft...like Washington's Jake Locker? The Seahawks would almost certainly have to trade up to get him, but considering his physical tools and the sizzle he would bring to a sizzle-less franchise, it could well be worth it. Seattle fans can dream, right?
25 (24) Buffalo Bills 4-8 With the season essentially over, the fans at SBN's Buffalo Rumblings lay out the case for why the team should stick with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback the rest of the year, as opposed to giving recent pickup Brian Brohm a look. Bottom line: if Brohm couldn't beat out Matt Flynn for the backup job in Green Bay, what hope does he have of playing well in a new system? Fitzpatrick at least gives them a chance in the passing game, albeit a marginal one.
26 (26) Washington Redskins   3-9 There's not much to say for the Skins. They're simply unlucky, cursed, on the short end of the karmic stick. Over the past month they've undergone a metamorphosis from a team that lost excruciating games to bad teams to a team that loses excruciating games to good teams. I guess that's progress?
27 (29) Oakland Raiders 4-8 Has a 4-8 team ever had three more impressive wins than Oakland? The Raiders have beaten the Eagles, Bengals and Steelers this year, all solid playoff contenders. And they might -- just might -- have found a quarterback in ex-Buc castoff Bruce Gradkowski. They could be frisky down the stretch.
28 (27) Kansas City Chiefs 3-9 Sometimes a team loses so thoroughly that there's nothing really to say about it or glean from it. Last week was one of those weeks for the Chiefs.
29 (28) Tampa Bay Bucs 1-11 After his silly, dominating performance in the Big 12 title game, Bucs fans are hoping to nab Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh with the first pick in the draft. The problem? Even with only a single win, there's no guarantee the Bucs will get the top pick. That's life at the bottom of the NFL -- sometimes you aren't even good enough at losing.
30 (30) Detroit Lions 2-10 At this point, having rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford tough out his shoulder injury doesn't make too much sense, as SBN's Pride of Detroit points out. He's clearly struggled with it the last two weeks, and he's already demonstrated to his teammates and the fans that he's a man. And that's enough to give the Lions more hope for the future than they've had in a decade.
31 (31) St. Louis Rams 1-11 SBN's Turf Show Times reports on the proposed change in the league's revenue sharing provision (don't let your eyes glaze over) that could hamper the ability of small-market teams to field competitive teams -- not that the Rams need any help on that front. Of course, the Rams haven't been helped by the fact that they have more good players on IR (free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe was the latest) than they do on their active roster.
32 (32) Cleveland Browns 1-11 SBN's Dawgs By Nature seems at least mildly pleased that the team's offense "bordered on respectability" in their 30-23 loss last week. It's been that kind of year for Cleveland.
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