The Broncos beat the Patriots on Sunday Night Football to knock them out of the top spot in these Power Rankings, a spot they held continuously since Week 2. The still-unbeaten Carolina Panthers assume the crown with their Thanksgiving Day win over the Cowboys.
In reality, the Panthers might have been playing the best football of any team in the NFL over the last few weeks, so it's an overdue honor to come in at No. 1 here, and with the way the season shakes out for them, they could run the table here on out. Carolina plays the Saints, Falcons (twice), Giants, and Buccaneers to close out the year, and imagining them finishing 16-0 isn't really all that tough. Not with the way that defense has been playing. Not with the way that Cam Newton has been balling out.
After beating the Patriots in overtime, the Broncos move up, as well. They've overcome adversity in the past couple of weeks with the benching of Peyton Manning and the injury to Demarcus Ware, but won their second in a row over a quality opponent to move to 9-2 on the year. Down the line, the win over New England could be a big factor when it comes to playoff seeding. With Rob Gronkowski out another week or two due to a knee injury, the already injury-depleted Patriots have a real challenge on their hands, particularly in two weeks when they face the red-hot Texans.
The Bengals moved to 9-2 as well with a blowout victory over the Rams. Tyler Eifert caught his league-leading 12th touchdown pass and their defense snuffed out any semblance of fight St. Louis could muster. Meanwhile, the Cardinals survived an uncharacteristically sluggish day on offense to beat the 49ers in Santa Clara, improving to 9-2 on the year.
Moving on up
Kansas City might be the hottest team in the NFL right now outside of Carolina. They won their fifth straight game, overcoming a huge first half by Tyrod Taylor, Sammy Watkins, and the Bills, outlasting Buffalo at home. Jeremy Maclin proved the Chiefs right for investing in him with a nine-catch, 160-yard, 1-touchdown performance, and little-known Spencer Ware continued to fill in nicely for Charcandrick West (and Jamaal Charles, remember him?) in the run game.
The Vikings won convincingly, as well, dispatching the struggling Falcons in Atlanta, 20-10. Adrian Peterson is having an MVP-caliber season, leading the league in rushing and forming the foundation for a run-based offense. The defense is quietly second in the NFL in opponent points per game (17.6), and Anthony Barr continues to play well. This is a well-rounded team.
The Seahawks won a big game at home over the high-octane Steelers, improving to 6-5 and above .500 for the first time this season. Seattle seems to be finally finding their groove at the right time -- Russell Wilson in particular -- and the diminutive signal caller threw five touchdowns, a career high, to lead Seattle to the win. The Hawks have a tough test this week in Minnesota, which should be a key game when it comes to Playoffs seeding.
The Bears are the real deal, and they went into Lambeau Field and stole a big win from the Packers on Thanksgiving, no easy task even with Green Bay struggling at the moment. Adam Gase has Jay Cutler functioning efficiently in the spread-style Chicago offense and getting Matt Forte back for the stretch run won't hurt matters. The defense is playing surprisingly well also under Vic Fangio. The Bears, after starting out the year as one of the favorites for the first overall pick in the next draft, are knocking on the door for the Playoffs this year.
The Packers continue to have issues on offense and don't appear to have a real answer for the loss of Jordy Nelson. There's still a lot of time to turn things around, but they've lost four of their last five games and have struggled to find an identity.
The Steelers drop slightly as well with a loss in Seattle. Big Ben threw for 456 yards but could only find the end zone one time. Giving the ball to Seattle four times really hurt their chances of winning this game, and the defense showed some major signs of vulnerability. They'll look to bounce back this week against the Colts.
The Bills, Giants and Bucs all drop with tough losses this week.
Still in the hunt
The Texans just keep on winning. With their fourth straight victory, this week over the literally defenseless Saints, Houston stays notched in a tie with the Colts for the lead in the AFC South. They say defense wins championships, and Houston looks like it has a defense that could at least make them contenders.
The Colts won, as well, led by the 40-year old Matt Hasselbeck once again, taking out the Bucs and an improved Jameis Winston. Hasselbeck has performed admirably in Andrew Luck's stead (4-0 this year as a stater, in fact), but there's no quarterback controversy there. Getting Luck back for a run at the playoffs soon should make things interesting in that division.
Oakland and Washington rebounded from losses last week to win matchups against the Titans and Giants, respectively, and both kept their playoff hopes intact. In fact, Washington (albeit at 5-6) is currently leading the mess of the NFC East.
SB Nation presents: The Raiders' desperate lateral play goes very wrong
Jockeying for that first pick
Well, leave it to Monday Night Football to preview two teams that likely feature into the race to the bottom this year. Cleveland and Baltimore should be in the running for the first overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, but keep an eye on the Titans, Chargers, Cowboys, and Niners as well.
|RANK||WEEK 13||SB NATION BLOG|
|1||Carolina Panthers, 11-0 (Last Week: 2)||Cat Scratch Reader|
|2||Denver Broncos, 9-2 (Last Week: 4)||Mile High Report|
|3||New England Patriots, 10-1 (Last Week: 1)||Pats Pulpit|
|4||Cincinnati Bengals, 9-2 (Last Week: 5)||Cincy Jungle|
|5||Arizona Cardinals, 9-2 (Last Week: 3)||Revenge of the Birds|
|6||Kansas City Chiefs, 6-5 (Last Week: 7)||Arrowhead Pride|
|7||Minnesota Vikings, 8-3 (Last Week: 9)||Daily Norseman|
|8||Seattle Seahawks, 6-5 (Last Week: 10)||Field Gulls|
|9||Pittsburgh Steelers, 6-5 (Last Week: 6)||Behind the Steel Curtain|
|10||Green Bay Packers, 7-4 (Last Week: 8)||Acme Packing Company|
|11||New York Jets, 6-5 (Last Week: 12)||Gang Green Nation|
|12||Houston Texans, 6-5 (Last Week: 13)||Battle Red Blog|
|13||Indianapolis Colts, 6-5 (Last Week: 14)||Stampede Blue|
|14||Chicago Bears, 5-6 (Last Week: 18)||Windy City Gridiron|
|15||Buffalo Bills, 5-6 (Last Week: 11)||Buffalo Rumblings|
|16||Oakland Raiders, 5-6 (Last Week: 19)||Silver and Black Pride|
|17||Washington, 5-6 (Last Week: 20)||Hogs Haven|
|18||New York Giants, 5-6 (Last Week: 15)||Big Blue View|
|19||Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 5-6 (Last Week: 16)||Bucs Nation|
|20||Detroit Lions, 4-7 (Last Week: 24)||Pride of Detroit|
|21||Atlanta Falcons, 6-5 (Last Week: 17)||The Falcoholic|
|22||Miami Dolphins, 4-7 (Last Week: 21)||The Phinsider|
|23||St. Louis Rams, 4-7 (Last Week: 22)||Turf Show Times|
|24||New Orleans Saints, 4-7 (Last Week: 23)||Canal Street Chronicles|
|25||Philadelphia Eagles, 4-7 (Last Week: 26)||Bleeding Green Nation|
|26||Dallas Cowboys, 3-8 (Last Week: 25)||Blogging the Boys|
|27||San Francisco 49ers, 3-8 (Last Week: 25)||Niners Nation|
|28||Baltimore Ravens, 4-7 (Last Week: 26)||Baltimore Beatdown|
|29||San Diego Chargers, 3-8 (Last Week: 31)||Bolts from the Blue|
|30||Jacksonville Jaguars, 4-7 (Last Week: 27)||Big Cat Country|
|31||Tennessee Titans, 2-9 (Last Week: 30)||Music City Miracles|
|32||Cleveland Browns, 2-9 (Last Week: 32)||Dawgs by Nature|