NFL power rankings, Week 13: Seahawks back on top, Patriots ascending

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

A loss to the Patriots took the Broncos out of the top spot this week. That put the Seahawks, the NFL's only 10-1 team, back on top. From there, a wild week of games forced plenty of changes in the weekly rankings.

Another week, another prime-time stunner for the New England Patriots. This time, Bill Belichick's team came out on top, with a dramatic comeback win over the Broncos. That put a new team on top of the power rankings this week. It's Thanksgiving week, and even the Jaguars have something to be thankful for in this week's power rankings.

1. Seattle Seahawks

A week of R&R -- and its presumably salubrious effect on the healthy of Messrs. Okung, Giacomini, Unger, Harvin and Bryant -- has the Seahawks nesting in the #1 spot in this week's Rankings. The Legion of Boom's reduction to the Trio of Boom isn't too well-timed with Drew Brees and the Saints coming to town. But a combo of the Clink and New Orleans' ho-hum road play should see the Hawks victorious on Monday night, which would give Seattle a stranglehold on home field throughout the playoffs. (Last Week: 2)

2. Denver Broncos

The threat of global warming brings the specter of widespread coastal flooding, societal upheaval and environmental chaos. Denver fans, however, may fire up their gas guzzlers and burn some leaf piles to hasten the effect after Peyton Manning fell to 3-8 lifetime in games where the mercury was below 32 degrees. With no warm-weather venues among the AFC playoff slate and a New York Super Bowl to boot, the Broncos had best hope that Manning's record is a product of statistical aberration and the Belichick/Brady combo rather than a definite decline in cold-weather play. Of course this hope does hinge on ignoring the visual evidence from last year's playoff loss to the Ravens ... and Sunday night's game ... and the fact that Belichick and Brady are still around. (Last Week: 1)

3. New Orleans Saints

Whether the Saints' lackluster win over the Falcons was simply a "meh" effort against an overmatched foe or a further example of their inability to excel on the road is up for debate. They'll have a chance to prove that they're more than just Superdome Supermen against the Seahawks, as a win in the league's most hostile environment will cement them in the top tier of Super Bowl contenders. Seattle and a pair of dates against the Panthers will put New Orleans' newfound resolve against the run to the test, along with Brees' ability to handle a ton of middle pressure. If the Saints are hosting playoff games this season, they will have earned it. (Last Week: 3)

4. Carolina Panthers

There was a lot of press about the Panthers this past week, and it looks like the Panthers read all of it. But a funny thing happened on the way to an all-too-typical "young team gets full of itself and loses focus" loss -- the Panthers actually rallied and won. Which is oddly impressive. Sunday's foibles should provide plenty of butt-chewing opportunities for the coaching staff and have Carolina focused to stomp the Bucs prior to a Sunday night showdown with the Saints. Bad Cam will need to stay on the shelf down the stretch, but if Good Cam can stay front and center, the NFC South figures to be the league's most entertaining race. (Last Week: 4)

5. New England Patriots

Kutuzov, Zhukov and Brady can all agree on one thing -- whether you're facing the brilliance of Napoleon and his Grande Armee, the might and ferocity of the Wehrmacht or the precision passing of Peyton Manning, General Winter is one heck of an ally. Winter and Brady combined for yet another cold-weather conquest of Manning, though the halftime court-martial and execution of Private Fumbleitis and second-stanza contributions of Rear Admiral Edelman and Marshal Gronkowski also played major roles. You can punish the Pats on the ground, but with his full complement of passing weapons, Brady will ensure that New England is a tough out in the playoffs. (Last Week: 6)

6. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are hoping that the bye week was a tonic for their depleted defense and Gio Bernard's ailing ribs. They're also hoping that a week off was enough to get Andy Dalton's head right. Unless, of course, right-headed Andy is the one who chucked eight interceptions over their last three games. In that case, they'll be more than happy for Imposter Andy or whoever impersonated Dalton for that scintillating three-game stretch in October to come back with no questions asked. (Last Week: 8)

7. Kansas City Chiefs

Injuries to to pending Pro Bowlers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston crippled the Chiefs pass rush and helped cost them a golden opportunity to gain a much-needed game on the Broncos. Even a lacking pass rush wasn't a complete excuse for some terrible coverage from a normally excellent secondary -- the 60-yard TD to Ladarius Green was low comedy -- but it certainly didn't help. The good news was that Alex Smith and Andy Reid managed another game of actually calling and executing downfield throws, albeit against one of the NFL's most pathetic pass defenses. With Houston likely out for the Broncos' Sunday visit to Arrowhead, the Chiefs defense faces a real struggle to right itself in time. Kansas City's offense has leaned on the D for much of the season -- it'll need to do some heavy lifting of its own (to the tune of at least 27 points) to keep the Chiefs' hope of a division title alive. Of course, a timely visit from General Winter wouldn't hurt, either. (Last Week: 5)

8. Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinal Crescendo has been one of the league's most intriguing stories over the last month. While that run did include three bottom feeders, Arizona gained even more street cred with its 40-11 demolition of the Colts. The Cardinals' No. 1 DVOA defense already had stat-nerd cred from the Football Outsiders boys, and young studs like Andre Ellington and Michael Floyd are teaming with old warhorses Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer to legitimize Arizona's once-moribund offense. This team could very easily carry a 10-4 record into its final two showdowns with the Seahawks and Niners. (Last Week: 10)

9. San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers shook off some recent struggles to post a stark Monday night reminder of the difference between NFL haves and have-nots. The 49ers have a punishing ground game, a robust defense with talent at all three levels and the ability to protect their quarterback and set him up for success. The Redskins have not a one of these things, so Monday's result wasn't earth-shattering. It's a reminder of San Francisco's overall roster strength -- just as upcoming games against the Seahawks and Cardinals will be reminders that stubbornly eschewing pistol sets and the read option as an option is an iffy plan for a Crabtree-free offense. (Last Week: 9)

10. Detroit Lions

Though he's got the requisite puffy cheeks for a good Saint Nick impersonation, Lions fans would probably prefer that Matthew Stafford not take this whole "season of giving" thing to quite these extremes. Not all the turnovers were Stafford's fault, but he had a couple of howlers as the Lions once again missed a golden opportunity to run away and hide in the NFC North -- which is starting to look a lot like the NFC East. (Last Week: 11)

11. Indianapolis Colts

After Week 7, the Colts' victories over the 49ers, Seahawks and Broncos seemed like the real deal with slip-ups against Miami and San Diego looking like odd outliers. In Week 13 the script has flipped, and we're left wondering how a team with two above-average defenders and a porous OL managed to fake its way to beating three of the league's elite. Andrew Luck is lacking both the time in the pocket and the targets downfield to elevate the Colts offense, and at this point he can all but sue the run game for lack of support. With a scrappy Tennessee team coming to town, a division that was seemingly locked down might well be up for grabs. (Last Week: 7)

12. Baltimore Ravens

Welcome, Baltimore, to the AFC's least exclusive club -- The 5-6 Bunch! The Ravens join the Titans, Dolphins, Jets, Chargers and division rival Steelers in this less-than-august assemblage that will fight it out for the AFC's final Wild Card berth. They boast the best all-around defense of those teams, along with a pedigreed QB, but their run game is dreadful and the QB's pedigree is built on six years of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed along with a four-game hot streak in the 2012 playoffs. That's still the best resume of anyone in the Bunch, however, and three more home games should help the Ravens seal the deal. (Last Week: 13)

13. San Diego Chargers

The Chargers claimed their spot in The 5-6 Bunch in dramatic fashion, outshooting the Chiefs at Arrowhead. They also claimed it in hilarious fashion, forcing radio and TV color men to try to remember how to pronounce "Ajirotutu" in a climactic moment. The Chargers boast far and away the best passing attack of the Bunch, as Philip Rivers' rejuvenation project proved far too much for a previously outstanding Chiefs defense. Winning weekly shootouts is dicey business, however, and San Diego's utter inability to cover anyone will likely bring the team up short by season's end. (Last Week: 17)

14. Philadelphia Eagles

Coming out of their bye week, the Eagles find themselves tied at 6-5 with their Bizarro twins -- the Cowboys. They're a perfect Bizarro couple:

- Their fan bases loathe each other

- Philly currently has a young QB in a creative offense, Dallas has an older QB in a stagnant offense

- Philly is awful at home and great on the road, Dallas is strong at home and blah on the road

- Philly lost its original QB to a hamstring injury, Dallas has lost everyone BUT its starting QB to hamstring injuries

- Just as Superman and Bizarro shared blue and red color schemes, Philly and Dallas share horrendous secondaries

The Cowboys overcame their struggles with Green Kryptonite in their Week 7 win over Philly, and the Eagles get their shot at Red Kryptonite with the red-hot Cardinals on the docket for Sunday. It's likely that Peterson, Abraham, Campbell and Badger uncover a few weaknesses. (Last Week: 15)

15. Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys, well on their way to dropping the (approximately) 4,345th winnable road game of the Jason Garrett era, stunned audiences by mounting an impressive closing drive for a game-winning field goal. Tony Romo was out of sorts for good stretches of the day and Dez Bryant appeared determined to drop or fumble every single touch early, but the two made enough music together to keep the Cowboys offense rolling while setting up a couple of vintage Romo-Witten TDs. In the battle of Resistible Force vs. Burnable Object, the 2013 Manning Malaise proved too powerful to allow Eli to torch the league's most accommodating secondary. (Last Week: 18)

16. Miami Dolphins

Despite losing three-fifths of their offensive line to E! News and E. coli, the Dolphins turned in a hard-fought effort against the surging Panthers before succumbing ... and joining The 5-6 Bunch! Their offense is more or less middle-of-the-road for a Bunch team, while a solid secondary has been let down by surprisingly lame run defense. At least there were signs of life from the vertical passing game -- in the immortal words of Joel Goodson in Risky Business, "Sometimes you just gotta say ... throw it deep to Mike Wallace. And you might consider saying it more than once a game." (Last Week: 14)

17. St. Louis Rams

While they're not eligible to join the AFC's 5-6 Bunch, the Rams have plenty of individuals establishing memberships of their own. Robert Quinn has joined All-World 4-3 Defensive End Club. Chris Long looked to be joining Fight Club against his own brother before it became clear that he was just being Responsible Big Bro and keeping Kyle out of a fracas. Tavon Austin is working his way out of the First-Round Bust Club and applying for membership in the Holy *#&^ Did You See That Club. Running backs are getting pulled out of the stands to join the 100-Yard Rusher Club. And, finally, Sam Bradford has joined Jay Cutler in the "So, Why Do We Pay You So Much When The Offense Looks Just As Good Without You?" Club. Membership in that one ... can cost you a pretty penny. (Last Week: 21)

18. Chicago Bears

The Chicago D turned back the clock last week with a critical defensive score. This week, it just turned stomachs among the Bears faithful en route to surrendering a horrifying 258 rushing yards and 42 points. Josh McCown continues to ball out in relief of Jay Cutler and the Lions keep refusing to pull away from the pack in the North, but they'll be hard-pressed to keep pace down the stretch with their defense burning down around their ears. (Last Week: 12)

19. Tennessee Titans

The Titans had to endure a death battle with a scrappy but undermanned Raiders squad and required a couple of whiffs from Sebastian Janikowski to secure the victory. While it was an ugly win, it featured plenty of pinpoint passing from Ryan Fitzpatrick and the emerging 1-2 wideout punch of Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter. It also kept Tennessee alive in the AFC South, and if Akeem Ayers and Jurrell Casey can terrorize Andrew Luck next week, then the Titans' division title hopes will be very much alive. (Last Week: 20)

20. Pittsburgh Steelers

It's another member of The 5-6 Bunch! The Steelers are enjoying the second-best QB play of anyone in the Bunch, as Ben Roethlisberger has been lighting it up ever since having to shoot down trade request rumors. The Steeler D has been a shadow of its former self, however, and the loss of Steve McLendon along with Josh Gordon taking the torch to Ike Taylor's Shadow Corner Funeral Pyre don't herald great improvement down the stretch. This week's showdown in Baltimore is probably do-or-die for the Steelers' playoff chances, and it probably takes 150 yards from Antonio Brown to keep them out of the "die" half of that equation. (Last Week: 24)

21. Cleveland Browns

The Browns' midseason friskiness may be a thing of the past, as their turnover-filled loss to the Bengals was followed by a listless effort against the Steelers and -- far worse -- the return of Brandon Weeden. While he excels in the role of Josh Gordon Stat Generator, he fails at just about every other aspect of functional quarterbacking and dooms even the modest aspiration of the Browns keeping company with The 5-6 Bunch. But they'll fight Buffalo and Oakland for supremacy of the 4-7 Squad any day of the week. (Last Week: 16)

22. New York Giants

Whatever the cause of the Manning Malaise, it's very real and entrenched at this point in the season. If you can't light up the Cowboys secondary in any weather, you've got problems, and the Giants got themselves some problems. Hakeem Nicks' mysterious late scratch is one more piece of evidence that his time is winding down in New York. On defense, Cullen Jenkins was at least able to whip an over-drafted rookie center with a junior high swim move, so he's got that going for him. Which is nice. (Last Week: 19)

23. Green Bay Packers

I'm not sure what you get when you cross a stork, a dreidel and a 13-year-old Cam Newton, but it probably looks a lot like Scott Tolzien's TD run against the Vikings. Hopefully you caught that highlight, since it was the Tolzien's only one of the day. A furious Matt Flynn-led comeback (what?) salvaged a tie -- at home -- with a two-win Vikings team. Ted Thompson assembled one of the league's deepest (and most snake-bitten) rosters, but neglect at the backup QB position will likely have cost the Pack their season if Aaron Rodgers can't deliver a Thanksgiving miracle and make it back against the Lions. (Last Week: 22)

24. Buffalo Bills

After a week to heal up, a strong stretch run would be just the thing to set the Bills up for good vibes in 2014. Some good decisions, deep completions to Marquise Goodwin and read-option runs would be just the thing for E.J. Manuel. Continued havoc from the defensive front and wild tackle stats from Kiko Alonso would be just the thing for the Bills defense. And 650 yards from scrimmage in the last five games would be just the thing for C.J. Spiller's fantasy owners to shoot themselves. (Last Week: 25)

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It took Lions receivers literally tossing the ball to their secondary on two separate occasions, but the left-for-dead Buccaneers are proud owners of a three-game win streak. Mike Glennon is making hay with the trio of Vincent Jackson, Flotsam and Jetsam in the passing game, and Gerald McCoy is continuing a weekly terror campaign against the league's centers and guards. The Panthers, Niners and Saints may curtail many more feel-good moments down the stretch, but full marks to Schiano and the Bucs for restoring some pride to their season after a first-half horror show. (Last Week: 27)

26. Oakland Raiders

Pegged as a preseason laughingstock, the Raiders' motley crew of castoffs has turned in a performance to be proud of this season while working with two-thirds of a full salary cap. Their defensive front is constantly disruptive and guys like Denarius Moore, Rod Streater and Rashad Jennings have turned in their share of offensive highlights. Another solid showing from Matt McGloin wasn't enough to overcome the secondary's foibles against Tennessee, but the Raiders are fighting their tails off every week. Nice work, guys. (Last Week: 26)

27. New York Jets

It was the Jetsiest of Jets games. The run defense was ferocious while the ground game cranked out some tough yards. It was all undone by dubious defensive back play and another dreadful Geno Smith performance. Sporting by far the worst quarterbacking of anyone in The 5-6 Bunch, the Jets will squander any shot at the postseason without a change under center. Can David Garrard ride to the rescue with Jason Campbell-caliber play? Admittedly that's not much of a rescue, but it would still represent a big improvement over Smith's shoot-the-hostage level of play. (Last Week: 23)

28. Washington Redskins

The Skins' three games against contending teams (the Pack when they still had Rodgers, the Broncos and the 49ers) have seen them go down by a combined score of 110-47. Washington is miles from prime time, and its fall from grace this season points up its Transcendence Dependence on RGIII last year -- as well as how far from transcendent Griffin has been this season. The idea of Washington with $40 million in spare cap room was terrifying in 2012, and now it seems like that won't be nearly enough to fill all of the team's holes. It certainly won't be enough if Griffin is unable to recapture his rookie magic. (Last Week: 28)

29. Minnesota Vikings

The Christian Ponder Hunt n' Peck Passing Experience was operating close to its theoretical maximum efficiency, AP turned in some 2012-caliber running and the defensive line had one of its best games of the season. All that still wasn't enough, though, to keep a 16-point lead from devolving into a sister-kisser with the Packers. Not the Aaron Rodgers Packers -- the Matt Flynn Packers. Some stretch-run frisk from Ponder and the team's defensive woes could exert a Siren-like temptation on the Vikings' front office to do something besides "grab the best QB available" with their first-round pick. Minnesota fans should melt their own wax if need be and jam it in the GM's ears to block out this temptation and keep the Vikings' longship out of the shoals. Ponder ain't gonna cut it. (Last Week: 31)

30. Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta put forth a game effort against the hated Saints, but its appalling lack of difference-makers on either side of the ball put the upset out of reach. Matt Ryan has been trying to make Falcon salad out of Falcon scratch, but even the best efforts of Harry Douglas and probably wistful non-Chief Tony Gonzalez can't keep the results from turning decidedly scratchy. The beleaguered defense actually put on a credible show against the Saints, but the Falcons will be adding to their list of 30-point games before the season is out. (Last Week: 30)

31. Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jags are on the move! Proud winners of two of its last three games, Jacksonville surges to 31st while likely ceding the No. 1 overall pick to Houston. The Jaguars could even win one or two more down the stretch to position themselves for a strong foundational player who still won't generate enough fan excitement to gum up the works for their LA/London move in 2017. Just as planned ... (Last Week: 32)

32. Houston Texans

Wow. When you lose to the worst in fairly convincing fashion, you are the worst. After a pair of absolutely flaccid home losses to the Raiders and Jaguars, the Texans claim the least coveted spot in the Power Rankings and pole position for the first overall selection in the 2014 draft. The slack-jawed softness of Wade Phillips, Head Coach can be tough to overcome in the best of circumstances, but outside of a few guys this team looks to be playing pride-free football. It's a death march from here on in. (Last Week: 29)

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